In his speech today, President Obama laid out his plan—formulated around executive action—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of mitigating future climate change.
Funny thing is, absent his Climate Action Plan, the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been on the decline for a decade, and now are at about the same level as our emissions in the early 1990s. In fact, the decline in emissions is taking place at a rate faster than the one sought by the president.
So why mess with a good thing? There is no way that introducing a bunch of new government regulations is going to improve the situation. If the Great Recession is any indication, the outcome of government involvement in the energy industry will be a poor one.
And to what end? As I have repeatedly shown, reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions has no significant impact on the future course of climate change.
On top of that, new science is accumulating that indicates that the future course of climate change is likely to be less steep than our current climate model-based estimates.
And despite the president’s long list of supposed climate wrongs that are consistent with human-caused climate change, there is an equally long list of climate wrongs that have been averted for reasons “consistent with” climate change.
Taken together, declining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and declining estimates of climate change, should have been enough to convince the president that things were already on the proper track—no government intervention necessary.
But this administration is characterized by intervening where it is not necessary. The president’s Climate Action Plan is more of the same.
Following the dubious example set recently by U.S. legislators, French politicians have informally proposed slapping punitive tariffs on goods from countries who refuse to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The German State Secretary for the Environment has, quite rightly, called foul:
There are two problems -- the WTO (World Trade Organization), and the signal would be that this is a new form of eco-imperialism," Machnig said.
"We are closing our markets for their products, and I don't think this is a very helpful signal for the international negotiations."
I have a paper forthcoming on the carbon tariff issue, but in the meantime here's a recent op-ed (written jointly with Pat Michaels) on climate change policy mis-steps.