A Free-Market Energy Blog

Waxman-Markey Clothier for the Emperor: A Climate Parable (response to RealClimate)

By Chip Knappenberger -- May 23, 2009

[Editor Note: This is a response to the commons analogy of Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate to Mr. Knappenberger’s temperature analysis of Waxman-Markey]

“Hear ye, hear ye, the Emperor is parading by with his new wardrobe of ideas to save the world from global warming—a wardrobe painstakingly crafted for him by the tailor shop of Waxman-Markey—and which all of you will soon have to adopt. All hail the Emperor!”

“But he has nothing on!” cried a small, but persistent voice. “His expensive ideas do nothing to change the climate!”

“Hush, little boy.” “Quiet!” “Shhhh.” “Shut up!” “That kid doesn’t see the whole picture!”

“The whole picture?” the little voice persisted. “What more is there to see, the Emperor is standing bare in front of us and wants us all to think otherwise!”

“But that is not the point, little boy,” the crowd jeered. “It is not just our Emperor and all of us that the Waxman-Markey tailors intend to outfit, but once the other emperors of the world see the duds that our Emperor is sporting, they will all clamor to insist that their subjects do the same thing. In time, what seems as bare now, will be transformed into something glorious!”

“Not so fast,” counters a foreign voice. “If the question is whether India will take on [a wardrobe of] binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity.”

Another studied voice rises “Binding emissions targets for the developing nations are out of the question.”

As the Emperor starts to squirm in front to the now more insightful crowd, the Waxman-Markey tailory comes to the rescue. “Maybe we took a little too much off here.” “Maybe we could let that out a bit there.” “It’ll be OK, we can pretty everything up, trim a little off the bottom line, and make it more acceptable to everybody.”

“Fiddling with nothing still leaves nothing,” pointed out the boy. naked.”

And so it went. Waxman-Markey scrambling to patch things up, while their supporters urged them not to do too much, lest the new wardrobe look too much like the old one.

In the meantime, the rest of the crowd was starting to see the real picture—not just the fish tales and illusions set up by the purveyors of the Waxman-Markey climate shop.

But no matter what the Waxman-Markey tailors ultimately come up with and no matter how much the Emperor (via all his subjects) ends up paying for it, the Emperor’s new fashion line alone will have no impact future course of global warming—in essense he will stand naked even though appearing extravegantly robed.

If our Emporer ultimately chooses to accept what Waxman-Markey provides him and insists that we all embrace his new fashion line, expect that for a long while our new wardrobe is going to seem like a closet full of hairshirts. Let’s just hope that the expense of these burdonsome and uncomfortable garments will someday be worth what we’ve all had to pay and that eventually we will grow accustom to them.

In the meantime, we must hope that the rest of the world, and their traditional sense of style, isn’t more appropriately outfitted for the future.


  1. Ed Reid  

    W-M is about raising revenue, not about “saving the globe”. The tailors will make money on the new wardrobe, even if the emperor’s “floppy bits” are “blowin’ in the wind”.

    The discussion of W-M is focused on allowance auction revenue, rather than the investments which would have to be made to actually reduce carbon emissions by 83% by 2050.

    For a refreshing change of perspective, contemplate which carbon emissions would likely compose the 17% of 2005 carbon emissions remaining after 2050.


  2. Andrew  

    The point does seem more and more to collect some way to pay for the massive expense of the liberal social programs the administration is pushing, along with the “stimulus”. They pay their debts by making us serfs.


  3. Richard W. Fulmer  

    Mr. Knappenberger’s statement that Waxman-Markey “will have no impact future course of global warming” may well be incorrect. The program could, in fact, make matters worse by shifting energy-intensive production out of the United States and into low energy-cost countries that are less sensitive to the environment.

    If the risks associated with global warming are as dire as the alarmists claim, then any actions we take to combat it should, at a minimum, do no harm. The more serious the problem, the more critical it is that our “solutions” do nothing to make it worse.

    This argument is irrelevant, of course, if the real point of Waxman-Markey is to raise revenues with global warming serving only as a pretext.


  4. Andrew  

    Or, given the suggestion just made, it may be a pretext to reverse the tide of trade liberalization:


  5. Charles G. Battig, M.S.,M.D.  

    We are witnessing the playing out of a classic “good cop” vs. “bad cop” drama. The “good cop” is the Obama Administration and its Congressional supporters of a tax-and-charade (cap-and-trade) make-energy-more-expensive scheme. The “bad cop” is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has managed to define the natural, trace gas, carbon dioxide as a legal “pollutant.” This bad cop threatens to come knocking at doors of all types throughout the land in enforcement of ill-defined new limits on emitters of a gas necessary to the life cycle off most all life, plant and animal. Humans emit about 800 pounds a year in the life sustaining process of food metabolism. Plant life needs it to live and thereby produce the oxygen we need.
    The bad cop EPA threatens total bureaucratic control of carbon emissions at every level of U.S. economic activity, unencumbered by legislative oversight. Some might call that totalitarian.
    To the rescue, comes the “good cop” in the form of the Obama Congressional leaders, such as Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, offering the sweet deal of tax-and-trade. How can one refuse? Choose the totalitarian Waxman bill or choose the totalitarian EPA intrusions.
    In this process, little is mentioned as to why either choice is necessary. An enlightened Congress could revisit the Clean Air Act and correct the language which was used by the Supreme Court to make a legal, but not scientific, ruling.
    Will any of this affect the much proclaimed climate crisis? Four independent authoritative global temperature monitoring centers (the Haley Centre, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, Remote Sensing Systems, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville) all confirm a definite, significant, and continuing global cooling for the past six plus years.
    Other actions by the Obama administration in the automobile industry, banking sector, health care, and even in the federalization of formerly voluntary public service all show the intrusive hand of government in attempting to exert near total control of large segments of our economy.
    If all these totals are totaled up, is the sum not approaching totalitarianism, or at least as the saying goes: “close enough for government work”?


  6. Richard W. Fulmer  

    If Waxman-Markey’s real goal is to raise revenue and not to reduce CO2 emissions, then arguing that the bill will have no meaningful impact on global warming is irrelevant to the bill’s supporters. While we should not abandon this line of reasoning, we should also start making the point that the net effect of W-M might well be to reduce overall government takings.

    As W-M pushes production to low energy-cost countries, the loss of businesses and jobs will reduce income tax revenues while increasing unemployment insurance and welfare payments. Such loses could dwarf any proceeds from the sale of carbon emission rights. A trade war – launched with the intent of keeping the country competitive with its trading partners – will devastate the economy, further reducing government income.

    If, on the other hand, the bill’s purpose is to concentrate power in Washington regardless of the impact on either revenue or emissions, then I have no counter argument to suggest. The bill will increase government power – though at the cost of greatly weakening the nation itself.


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