How will the new Congress handle world pressure on the “dire” threat of global warming? If the media had their way, the United States would give in and join programs that are proven failures – costing taxpayers up to $180 billion per year in the process.
World leaders are meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss a new climate change agreement, and the idea du jour is to make the United States pay up.
The existing Kyoto Protocol, which the United States did not endorse, doesn’t expire until 2012, but the United Nations climate conference aims to decide where the world goes from that pact. Greenhouse gases’ contribution – indeed, humans’ contribution – to global warming remains very much in dispute, but that hasn’t stopped the left-wing crusade against carbon dioxide and other gases.
U.S. media have embraced a recent British study that calls for American taxpayers to pay at least 1 percent of gross domestic product or even more – up to $180 billion per year toward a new emissions-lowering system. That works out to a minimum of $400 for every man, woman and child in the United States – per year. If we don’t pay, they say, calamity ensues.
“A dire prediction today from the British government,” said “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric on October 30. “Global warming could devastate the world economy.”
“‘Pay now or pay a lot more later’ is the report’s stark conclusion,” CBS’s Mark Phillips declared, echoing the report’s warning of a “planet-wide slowdown of 20 percent due to drought, floods and general economic collapse.” “That's a catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s,” Phillips said over actual footage from the Great Depression.
The Los Angeles Times sounded similar in an October 31 article. “The study concluded ‘without rapid and substantial spending, global warming will reduce worldwide productivity on the scale of the Great Depression, devastate food sources, cause widespread deaths and create hundreds of millions of refugees,’” wrote the Times’ Kim Murphy.
The call for global warming spending has been heard before. In 1997, the U.S. Senate spoke out 95-0 against the Kyoto treaty, which was designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions of the world’s nations. If the United States had joined that agreement, it was estimated to cost up to $440 billion per year.
Kyoto has been a widespread failure, with most countries’ gas emissions continuing to rise in spite of the treaty. China, which will surpass America as the world’s largest source of emissions by 2009, wasn’t even included in the Kyoto treaty. Neither was high-population, energy-hungry India.
The overwhelming Senate resolution on Kyoto – with 64 bipartisan co-sponsors – stated that the United States should not sign on to any agreement, in 1997 “or thereafter,” that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States” or that would exempt developing countries from emissions cuts.
Overwhelmingly One-Sided Coverage
While the media ignored or downplayed the massive costs emissions cuts would impose on the U.S. economy, critics of the British study were either ignored or marginalized in the news coverage.
On October 30, The New York Times found room for only one critic in two articles about global warming – including one piece nearly 3,000 words long.
When an alternate viewpoint was expressed, the media worked hard to counteract it by labeling the skeptics. “Economics and energy experts” who disagreed with The New York Times’ push for global warming spending were labeled as working for “anti-regulatory research groups.”
The Times also buried critics’ remarks and made sure everyone knew why the Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor was skeptical: because he works for a “libertarian research group.” The Washington Post also quoted Taylor, but tarred him by explaining that Cato “accepts some contributions from fossil-fuel companies.”
On November 7, the Times buried another expert. A story quoted Myron Ebell, director of Energy & Global Warming Policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in the very last paragraph after saying his employer was critical of emissions limits and that it “receives financing from energy companies.”
Evaluation of how a carbon tax would affect Americans was absent from the coverage, despite the huge ramifications it would have. As a Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out on November 2, imposing a carbon tax would “reduce global GDP and thus leave fewer resources to fight the consequences of any warming.”
Cost to the World: Hand over Your GDP
The thrust of the British report was that the cost of waiting to fix global warming is so high – 5 percent to 20 percent of global GDP – and the cost of a solution so small – 1 percent of global GDP – in comparison that countries should work immediately to set emissions limits, impose carbon taxes and set up carbon trading on a global scale.
But if history is any indicator, the future doesn’t look bright for a global “cap and trade” approach. Overall emissions are barely being reduced if at all in Europe, according to Ebell. In Germany, consumers were greeted with higher utility costs by companies who sold their emissions credits to make money and raised prices to force consumers to use less, as the Business & Media Institute reported.
Each story focused on the immense damage predicted by the British study, but most did not even explain the cost of the proposed solutions.
In the case of the United States, the cost would be at least $120 billion to $180 billion per year. Contrast that with China, which will likely pay nothing and was already exempt from Kyoto. Despite the world focus on the United States, energy-hungry China is on track to overtake the U.S. as the highest-emitting nation by 2009 – “nearly a decade ahead of previous predictions,” reported The New York Times on November 7.
Overlooking the costs isn’t anything new – the news media didn’t tell viewers the cost of adopting Kyoto’s mandates, which were estimated to be as high as $440 billion a year along with the loss of millions of jobs for the United States alone, the Business & Media Institute documented.
Soak the Rich (Countries)
In fact, out of 14 stories BMI analyzed, only an October 31 Los Angeles Times article included that the study said “rich countries must bear 60% to 80% of the responsibility for emissions reductions.”
If the 1-percent GDP estimate turned out to be workable, and everyone in the United States paid equally, the cost would be a little more than $400 a year per person – but as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “rich countries” would have to pay more. If the three dozen “rich countries” included in the original scope of the Kyoto treaty took up the slack and paid proportionately for 60 percent of the burden, that would cost every man, woman and child in America $450 per year. Eighty percent would cost $605 – meaning the United States would be on the hook for a full 30 percent of the worldwide obligation.
Those numbers are close only if Stern was correct about the possibility of stabilizing carbon emissions with 1 percent of world GDP. But many experts have their doubts.
Ebell said the cost of stabilizing emissions would actually be much more than 1 percent of GDP.
“I think he [Stern] just makes up the 1 percent. There is no analysis of this and there is a lot of recent evidence that the costs of addressing global warming are extremely high,” Ebell said. “The economic community has reacted with skepticism.”
Another expert argued in The Wall Street Journal on November 2 that the report “is selective and its conclusion flawed.” That was Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. The consensus is a gathering of economists who meet to prioritize world problems and report on how money should be spent globally. Lomborg went on to say the estimate of damage that could be done by global warming is “a ‘worst-case scenario’ even worse than any others on the table.”
Lomborg disagreed with Stern’s estimated cost of stabilizing global warming. He cited U.N. figures that say it could cost between 0.2 and 3.2 percent of GDP and made the point that Stern certainly provided the low-end cost estimate.
If Lomborg was correct and the cost was closer to 3 percent than 1 percent of GDP, the cost to every single American could be a hefty $1,350 per year.