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December 4, 2015

Paris Power Ploys

December 4, 2015
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With the Paris “climate negotiations”—which make it sound as if diplomats are bargaining with Zeus—underway, Americans get to suffer a stream of pundits and political officials telling them what a no-brainer it is for the U.S. to participate. Indeed, President Obama’s own remarks would lead Americans to believe that a deal emerging from the conference will “save our planet” (his actual phrase), and some vocal analysts have been saying that a carbon tax will not only reduce emissions, but boost the economy.

Ironically, in this post I can quote climate alarmists from Vox who let the cat out of the bag: any Paris agreement will be inadequate to the stipulated problem, and progressives will not be satisfied with a mere carbon tax—they want ever more regulations on the energy and transportation sectors.

Forget Paris

Regarding the impact of the actual Paris talks, Brad Plumer writes:

These climate talks, by themselves, won’t fix global warming. They can’t do that. They’re not designed to do that. The actual goal is much more modest: to add structure and momentum to efforts that are already underway, in legislatures and laboratories and cities and boardrooms around the world, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [Bold added.]

Plumer goes on to explain that rather than a top-down deal from previous climate conferences, the new approach is to elicit bottom-up pledges from individual countries. Sounds more “sustainable” (ha ha), but will it work, according to the computer models that Plumer and other alarmists put so much currency in? Here’s how Plumer answers that question:

These individual pledges, which have already been designed and submitted, are the backbone of any new global agreement; they’ll do virtually all the heavy lifting. They also have two notable features:

First, the pledges are plausible. They weren’t dreamed up by remote UN bureaucrats. They were all freely submitted by national governments, based on what was deemed politically realistic and technologically feasible…

Second, these pledges are laughably inadequate to the task of preventing severe global warming[I]t means we’ll likely be zipping past the 2°C global warming mark, which has long been deemed unacceptably risky. Not good. [Bold added.]

And so we see a familiar pattern: Political officials and their sycophants in the press telling Americans just how urgent a particular piece of legislation—or, in this case, an international “agreement”—is to fight a huge problem, and then the actual wonks in the corner admit that the remedy won’t solve the ostensible problem, even using their own framework. Call it “global warming theater.”

A Carbon Tax Won’t Get Rid of Other Regulations

There are some analysts telling conservatives and libertarians that they might as well get on the climate change solution bandwagon, because a properly implemented carbon tax would obviate the need for inefficient regulations like vehicle economy mandates and smokestack rules. Why, some go so far as to say the introduction of a carbon tax would be good for the conventional economy.

Yet this has always been a seductively false promise. With two Cato climate scientists, we give several real-world examples in this Working Paper, showing that in practice governments around the world do not phase out other regulations with a new carbon tax.

But for evidence from “the other team,” consider Vox writer—and climate alarmist—David Roberts writing back in September an article titled, “Climate economists are coming around to the idea that a carbon tax isn’t enough.”

In the piece, Roberts explains how a new commentary in Nature from several economists (and other academics) comes to this conclusion:

The declining cost of renewable energy, which has been accelerated by policy, lowers political barriers and makes carbon pricing an easier political lift.…Therefore, economists and other fans of carbon pricing ought to support policies that further accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. (The piece mentions time-of-use pricing for utilities, modernizing grids, the Clean Power Plan, various renewable energy subsidies, and more.)

Is this some major new aspect in interventionist thinking? No, Roberts tells us:

“When I first read this, my reaction was, “Yeah, no s***.” This is something clean energy activists and (some) analysts have been banging on about for a long time.”

It is absurd to think that any carbon tax low enough to achieve passage will satisfy those who have been preaching that humanity itself faces destruction in just a few decades if governments around the world do not act. Americans should not believe any pundit promising them that if they hold their nose and support a modest carbon tax, then progressives will agree to laissez-faire in the rest of the economy. The progressives themselves have been telling us for years that they will do no such thing.

Conclusion

The Paris climate talks underscore a familiar pattern: Americans are bombarded with scary rhetoric telling them the end is near, but that political officials are there to save them—they just need more power and a whole lot more money.

Of course, sober Americans never bought into the end-times rhetoric. Yet it is interesting to note that the alleged political solutions don’t even work on their own terms. This is the smoking gun evidence that the Paris talks and agitation for domestic measures are not really about saving the planet. If you don’t believe me, just look at what author Naomi Klein, UN Secretary on climate change Christina Figueres, and former EPA official John Beale are saying: the push for “climate policies” is ultimately about rolling back capitalism itself.

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