NAS Panel Backs Manufactured Crisis to Tame Climate Change
House Energy and Commerce Committee members Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) have requested a climate-science hearing in light of a just-released report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This report, “America’s Climate Choices,” however, presents no new science.
Instead, as climate scientist Chip Knappenberger explains below, the NAS document lays out a strategy for manufacturing a crisis by exaggerating the climate threat and artificially raising fossil-fuel prices in an effort to compel American’s to emit less greenhouse gases.
Congress has heard all of this before and has been unmoved to pass legislation which will raise the price of living and doing business in America by taxing our primary energies–Editor.
Plentiful and inexpensive fossil fuels are the preferred energy source, whether it be to run your car, heat your home, or generate electricity. Oil, gas, and coal are relatively safe, readily portable, fairly efficient, and relatively energy dense. While fossil fuels perhaps are not the perfect energy source, they do go a long way towards meeting our current needs, and the infrastructure (and know how) is in place to allow for rapid expansion into the future. So, all in all, fossil fuels are pretty darn good now–and as far as the eye can see.
Hydrocarbon supplies are not depleting–just the opposite. New technologies (such as those used for hydraulic fracturing, tar sands, and deepwater drilling) are expanding our ability to retrieve fossil fuels from the earth, As a consequence, the supply is keeping up with the growing demand and more—a demand driven not only a growing population of humans, but a growing number of existing humans who are wanting more energy to improve their standard of living. Julian Simon lives!
But the final report from a just-completed investigative effort from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) seeks to interrupt and reverse the natural improvement of human ingenuity applied to the master resource. Theirs is a manufactured crisis—and one that elevates concerns over climate change above energy reality and concern over the energy-dependent economy.
There are other forms of crisis however, such as that posed by an existing (or perceived) threat. From such crises, new technologies can emerge faster than they would have otherwise. Take the atomic bomb or the space race as an example.
For fossil fuels, the potential for a threat-based crisis arises from their role in climate change and the possible risks to our health and welfare there from. Alas (for some anyway), climate change does not carry the same sense of threat as, say that of a foreign enemy with its sights set on U.S. soil. So the notion of a climate crisis, either now or in the near future, has been slow to (widely) catch on.
The NAS Strategy
A committee assembled by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), seeks to remedy that situation.
The final of a series of reports has just been released by the NAS from its America’s Climate Choices project—an effort commissioned by Congress back in 2008 to “investigate and study the serious and sweeping issues relating to global climate change and make recommendations regarding what steps must be taken and what strategies must be adopted in response to global climate change, including the science and technology challenges thereof.”
In their final report, the NAS reveals the need to manufacture a crisis to drive Americans away from their overwhelming reliance on using fossil fuels to meet their energy needs, and lays out a strategy for lawmakers and policy makers to do so.
The NAS strategy is a hybridization of two types of crises. Establish a threat from climate change resulting from our use of fossil fuels, and at the same time simulate a fossil fuel shortage by artificially driving up the price of fossil-fuel based energy.
A sort of 1-2 punch.
The NAS strategy first leads with an uppercut:
Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems. Each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted commits us to further change and greater risks. In the judgment of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices the environmental, economic, and humanitarian risks of climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare to adapt to its impacts.
And then follows with a roundhouse aimed for the knock-out:
Emission reductions can be achieved in part through expanding current local, state, and regional-level efforts, but analyses suggest that the best way to amplify and accelerate such efforts, and to minimize overall costs (for any given national emissions reduction target), is with a comprehensive, nationally uniform, increasing price on CO2 emissions, with a price trajectory sufficient to drive major investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies. In addition, strategically-targeted complementary policies are needed to ensure progress in key areas of opportunity where market failures and institutional barriers can limit the effectiveness of a carbon pricing system.
The problems of this strategy are immediately obvious:
1) Not everyone buys into the idea of an impending climate crisis,
2) It is virtually impossible to prove that any actions have alleviated the crisis,
3) It is impossible to even theorize alleviating the crisis from the actions of Americans alone,
4) Not everyone wants the price of their energy to go up.
In fact, currently, there are probably many more Americans who are more concerned with the price that they are paying for gasoline than about trying to manipulate the climate to produce some undocumentable alteration that may or may not have any direct impact on their lives. Sure, the April 26th-28th tornado outbreak was a tragedy, as is the ongoing flooding along the Mississippi river. So too was hurricane Katrina. But the role of anthropogenic climate change in those and every other weather event is largely unknowable. Even more unknowable is the role that any reduction in fossil fuel will play in future climate catastrophes. When the next Cat 4 or 5 hurricane makes direct landfall in Miami (just as one did in 1926 and 1992), what will mankind’s role in the meteorological conditions be and how will that role be influenced by the which type of fuel is used to meet our daily energy needs? Are we to be blamed or credited?
The answer is, is that it will be impossible to know. As it will be for all future tornado outbreaks, floods, droughts, heat waves, etc.
But the NAS committee sees things this way:
In the committee’s judgment, the risks associated with doing business as usual are a much greater concern than the risks associated with engaging in strong response efforts. This is because many aspects of an “overly ambitious” policy response could be reversed if needed, through subsequent policy change; whereas adverse changes in the climate system are much more difficult (indeed, on the timescale of our lifetimes, may be impossible) to “undo.”
Great. In their opinion, it is easier to fix the economy than it is to fix the climate (not sure that the current Administration would agree). But, in the eyes of many, the economy needs fixing, while the climate may or may not. I would imagine that for the majority of Americans (as well as folks the world over), the former is more pressing than the latter, and likely always will be.
In the opinion of the NAS committee, which is primarily aimed at lawmakers and policymakers, concerns over climate risk should supercede those of risks to the economy.
But other folks get to offer their own opinions to lawmakers and policymakers as well.
Come future elections, I am sure many will be offered to those running for office who have, or have not, taken the NAS recommendations to heart. The outcome will be telling.