TCS Daily

First, Do No Household Harm

By James K. Glassman - October 29, 2003 12:00 AM

The Senate is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would impose mandatory restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases, affecting practically every business and consumer in the country.


While supporters claim that the climate-change legislation, S.139, introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), has been toned down in response to concerns about its negative economic effects, a new study by Charles River Associates finds that the impact would still be dramatic -- a cost of between $350 and $1,300 per family per year through 2020.


At a minimum, the study found, "refined petroleum product prices would rise by 12 percent to 16 percent" even under the milder, amended McCain-Lieberman bill. Under the most optimistic assumptions, "the associated consumer costs are estimated to be $350 per household in 2010, rising to $530 per household by 2020."


Coming on top of separate new research that shows clearly that the 20th Century is not the warmest period on record, the Charles River study should discourage Senators concerned about the uncertain U.S. economic recovery from approving McCain-Lieberman -- which would raise energy costs, reduce consumer spending, and kill jobs.


By 2010, the study says, the cost of coal would rise between 51 and 140 percent, depending on assumptions used in the Charles River Associates model. The cost of natural gas would rise 12 percent to 30 percent; oil, between 12 percent and 29 percent. For end users, electricity bills would jump between 7 percent and 17 percent. The costs would be far higher between 2010 and 2020.


Jobs would be lost, and economic growth would fall an average of one-half of one percent annually, with serious consequences for the stock market and practically all U.S. businesses.


What would be gained?


Good question. In March 2001, President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 but still not ratified, as "fatally flawed." The agreement required the U.S. to bear the brunt of restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions implicated in rising global surface temperatures. Earlier, the Senate voted unanimously to reject any climate deal that inflicted substantial harm on the American economy.


Subsequent studies have shown that Kyoto -- which would roll back emissions to below 1990 levels -- would severely impede economic growth and keep people in poverty worldwide. Restricting emissions of carbon dioxide -- a non-polluting gas created, in among other ways, through human respiration and the burning of fossil fuels -- is a drastic step to take without conclusive evidence.


Lately, some environmentalists, in an effort to win approval for Kyoto-style restrictions, have made radical claims about future warming. Some have pointed to an article published in the journal Nature by Michael Mann and his colleagues, which found that "Northern Hemisphere mean annual temperatures for three of the past eight years are warmer than any other year since [at least] 1400 A.D."


The Mann research is commonly known as the "hockey stick," for the shape of a graph that shows temperatures roughly flat from 1000 through the early 20th century, then rising sharply on the right-hand side, like the blade-end of a hockey stick. The United Nations used Mann's research to declare that "the 1990s has been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium."


A new paper, however, published in the journal Energy and the Environment, repudiates the Mann claims. Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick examined Mann's data and found his research "contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects."


A new computation, with the errors corrected, discovered that the "late 20th Century is unexceptional compared to the preceding centuries, displaying neither unusually high mean values nor variability." In fact, temperatures were higher during periods in both the 15th and 16th Century than they were in the late 20th Century.


The McIntyre-McKitrick article shows why the McCain-Lieberman legislation, with its devastating costs, is so unwise. Research into the extent and sources of climate change -- and its likely future course -- is simply inadequate today. That's why President Bush rejected Kyoto and why the Senate should reject the McCain-Lieberman domestic-Kyoto bill, especially in light of the Charles River study.


That study, written by Anne E. Smith, Paul Bernstein and W. David Montgomery, was commissioned by the Tech Central Foundation. Charles River Associates, a respected publicly traded company with 16 offices worldwide, used its Multi-Region National Model that has been employed in numerous studies to measure the economic costs of climate change policies. The study carefully describes the model, its inputs and assumptions and why results differ from earlier research by others.


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