What's The Real Cost Of Global Warming?


November 2, 2009 - Churchville, VA - PipeLineNews.org - The leftish Brookings Institution and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce basically agree that the energy taxes in the House Waxman-Markey bill could total $9 trillion over ten years. As an economist, I look at these forecasts and wonder "How can we possibly know?"

These estimates cover only the costs of the "user permits" that companies will have to buy. They don't even try to measure the massive reduction in our economic output as energy costs double and triple with scarcity.

Let's look at a couple of "case studies":

First, we use a lot of natural gas to make fertilizer, pulling 90 million tons per year of natural nitrogen from the air (which is 78% N). The world has only about one-third of the cow manure needed to nourish today's crops, so nitrogen fertilizer is feeding 2 billion of the world's 6.5 billion people through higher food yields per acre.

Imagine that ten years from now the carbon taxes have eliminated half of the nitrogen fertilizer: global food production has fallen massively— say by 25–30 percent; world food prices have tripled; and storage bins are empty. What price would we pay to keep the other half of the nitrogen fertilizer so our kids won't starve?

Would farmers and the public defend the remaining fertilizer factories with roadblocks—or even firearms? Will governments overcome the "fertilizer fanatics" with force? How would the governments convince troops to fire on their own people? By giving the troops food the public can't get?

Moreover, the BBC has just admitted what careful observers already knew—the planet hasn't warmed since 1998! Many climatologists say we're in a 30-year cooling driven by Pacific Ocean cycling. Will "global warming" come to be viewed as just a "weapon of mass taxation"?

Second case: Britain is supposed to lose 40 percent of its electrical generating capacity in the next eight years. All but one of its nuclear plants is due for decommissioning, and the EU declares that nine of its big coal-fired plants emit too much CO2. As the blackouts spread across a shivering winter countryside, will the UK government carry through its fossil-reduction commitments while elderly people are dying in their homes?

None of the taxes, remember, will bring fossil fuel use down enough to actually forestall man-made global warming—even if the embattled Greenhouse Theory was valid. The energy taxes will be "all pain and no gain."

Remember, too that the "Green alternatives" aren't working out well.

  • Denmark's massive investment in wind turbines has produced electricity mainly at night, when no one wants it.
  • Biofuels nearly doubled world food prices when the U.S. corn ethanol plants were all running. The proposed energy taxes will quickly drive gasoline and corn back up to food-inflation levels again. They're supposed to. M
  • Meanwhile, the natural, moderate 1,500-year climate cycle predicts only 0.5 degree C of warming over the next several centuries. The ice cores and seabed fossils tell us this has all happened many times in the past—including five natural global warmings in the last 9,000 years.

    Politicians can pass fossil fuel taxes through today's "tame" legislatures—but they can't make the public obey those laws after they clearly begin to violate human rights and common sense.

    ©2009 Dennis T. Avery. All rights reserved.

    DENNIS T. AVERY is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net