NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 28, 2010

The cap-and-trade bill that the House passed last summer aims to force Americans to reduce carbon emissions by 83 percent in less than four decades -- to the same per-capita level as 1867.  Yet, the bill would do nothing to stop global warming, and simply drives up the price of fossil-fuel based energy so high that the nation will have to somehow get along with only 17 percent of the gasoline and fossil-fuel-powered electricity that it uses today, says Patrick J. Michaels, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute. 

  • The median guess from the United Nations (UN) is that, if we do nothing to change our ways, the average world surface temperature will rise about 5 degrees Fahrenheit this century.
  • If only the United States changes its ways, by adopting something like the House bill, we would prevent about two-tenths of a degree of that warming, according to the UN's climate calculator.
  • That is, the temperature in 2100 gets reduced to what it would otherwise be in 2096.  

In other words, the bill would be all pain and no gain, says Michaels. 

Why would such drastic action on the part of America, Europe and Japan do so little to change the world?  Because the older industrial nations are fast becoming bit players when it comes to global CO2 emissions.  America has been stagnant in the last decade -- while China's emissions have been staggering.  In eight years, China's annual totals will be equal to what they emit now plus everything we emit.  So if we stopped emitting completely, China completely counters our effort, explains Michaels. 

Add to that a simple fact which no cap-and-trade bill admits: That legislation would push even more of our industry into migrating to China, India and other nations that have no intention of reducing emissions by making energy more expensive, says Michaels. 

Source: Patrick J. Michaels, "Bam's Climate Rx: All Pain, No Gain," Cato Institute, June 21, 2010. 

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