NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 3, 2009

What should be done about the threat of global warming?  Unfortunately, many proposals -- including mandatory limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -- would be much more costly to society than the danger it seeks to avert.  Fortunately, there are policies that could be adopted that are desirable in their own right and are commendable, even if there were no threat of global warming, say Iain Murray, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

These policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, reduce harms associated with global warming or increase the world's capabilities to deal with climate-change-associated problems, say Murray and Burnett.

For example:

  • Eliminating all subsidies for fuel use; subsidies for energy research and development, as well as the production, transportation, marketing and consumption of energy, encourage greater energy use and raise emissions levels.
  • Reducing regulatory barriers to new nuclear power plants; regulatory delays add substantially to the cost of nuclear power, which is the only proven technology that can provide enough reliable emissions-free energy to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Liberalizing approval of biotechnology; through biotechnology we are developing faster growing varieties of trees that can absorb and store large amounts of CO2 as well as drought-resistant crops that can thrive despite climate change.
  • Repealing the National Flood Insurance Program; subsidized flood insurance is responsible for much of the development in coastal areas and in flood plains -- eliminating this subsidy would make us less vulnerable to higher sea levels and increased rainfall.


  • Increasing use of toll roads with congestion pricing; toll lanes with rates that vary according to time of day can reduce traffic delays that increase energy use and emissions.
  • Removing older cars from the road; subsidizing the replacement of older vehicles with newer ones would increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
  • Reforming air traffic control systems; allowing pilots to fly more direct routes and avoid lengthy holding patterns and runway delays would save fuel and reduce aircraft emissions.
  • Removing regulatory barriers to innovation; environmental regulations often increase the costs of replacing older, dirtier facilities with newer, cleaner ones.

Source: Iain Murray and H. Sterling Burnett, "10 Cool Global Warming Policies," National Center for Policy Analysis, Study No. 321, June 3, 2009.

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