Yesterday the White House release a report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, finding that “Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told The Hill, “The findings released today add urgency to the growing momentum in Congress for legislation that cuts global warming pollution.” Do they really? Is there any evidence in the report that global warming legislation will prevent any of the changes the report identifies? Is there any evidence in the report that the costs of global warming legislation will be offset by its benefits? No and no.
The Obama administration climate report identifies a number of impacts from global warming including “increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level”; “increased heat, pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes”; and increased “heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.” These are all bad. But how bad? The report does not put a price tag on any of these maladies. But the report does identify some benefits from global warming including “thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons”, and “earlier snowmelt.” As Manhattan Institute senior fellow Jim Manzi has noted the U.S. should not expect any net economic damage from global warming before 2100. So the net threat for the United States from global warming over the next 90 years is essentially zero.
Now how about the threat from global warming legislation? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the leading global warming legislation in Congress, the Waxman-Markey bill, would cause a typical U.S. household to consume about $160 less per year than it otherwise would, and about $1,100 less per year by 2050. But the EPA study is wildly unrealistic. First, the EPA assumes a doubling of nuclear power by 2035. But nothing in Waxman-Markey changes the regulatory framework that has strangled the U.S. nuclear industry for the past 30 years. Second, it assumes that all revenue collected by the federal government from Waxman-Markey will be immediately returned to taxpayers through rebates or lowered taxes. This is a nice sentiment, but it does not reflect the reality of what is actually in the Waxman-Markey bill. Finally, it assumes that large numbers of foreign offsets will be available for purchase; without these, costs would be far higher.
The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis has conducted a much more realistic cost estimate for Waxman-Markey and found that by 2035 global warming legislation would inflict real GDP losses of $9.4 trillion, raise an average family’s annual energy bill by $1,241, and destroy 1,145,000 jobs on average.
The American people should not allow the federal government to get away with incomplete reports designed to scare them in to action. The American people deserve real cost-benefit analysis of global warming legislation that clearly lays out what the net economic consequences action and inaction would be. The Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States is not that study.
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