The Corner

Re: Europe’s New Religion

Pete Wehner has seen what happens when national political leadership fails to present real alternatives to the rhetorical excesses of climate change activists. This is not some mystical European problem created by a cultural vacuum – it is what we should assume will happen in the U.S. without effective political opposition to legally-mandated emissions reductions.

Most conservative politicians, in my view, are not doing a good job on climate change. They seem to be skipping directly from a now-discredited argument that there is a scientific debate about whether global warming is a hoax, to a technical debate about whether a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system is more of a “market solution”, and whether a 50 percent or an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 is a more appropriate target.

What I believe would be both better policy and better politics, would be to call the question of whether mandated emissions reduction is the right response at all. Conservatives should ask this question in a way that is intellectually honest and that voters will find believable coming from them: How much would forcing us to use a lot less oil, gas and coal cost, and what would we get in return?

You might be surprised at the answers from the U.N. IPCC and most academic economists. As I’ve written about ad nauseam, if we use current climate science as a guide, forced emissions reduction is a terrible deal. We should reject the whole framework: carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, this percentage emissions target and that one. None of it generates benefits in excess of costs. What we need is a technology-focused insurance policy in case the problem turns out to be much worse than currently anticipated.

I suspect that Pete Wehner is correct when he says that:

Once McCain, Obama, or Clinton become president, the general agreement that climate change needs to be addressed will quickly give way to a debate about specific solutions and even underlying philosophies — and at that point, things will get very intense very quickly.

Unfortunately Senator McCain has already joined Senators Clinton and Obama in supporting cap-and-trade. Many conservatives have surrendered on the key question in advance of the debate. Without some change in course and speed, we are sailing right into Brussels.

Jim Manzi is CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company.

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