Testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

June 25, 2008


Chairman Markey, Chairman Eshoo, Ranking Member Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Issa, and Committee Members: Thank you for the opportunity to share my views on global warming and national security.

I am Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free-market public policy group with a strong focus on global warming and energy, among other issues.

CEI has long argued that most public discussions of global warming unwisely ignore the significant health, safety, and environmental risks of climate change policies. This can lead to policy decisions that do more harm than good.

A classic case is fuel economy standards. The new mpg standards enacted in December 2007 will haven no measurable effect on global temperatures. However, those standards will put motorists at risk by forcing auto manufacturers to make the average vehicle smaller, lighter, and, thus, less protective of occupants in collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the current 27.5-mpg standard contributes to an additional 1,300 to 2,600 auto fatalities per year. Congress’s decision to require a 40-percent increase in average fuel economy by 2020 will, at a minimum, limit the safety gains that automakers could otherwise achieve.

A related example is biofuel policy. The European Union’s biofuel directive, although adopted in the name of saving the planet, is bankrolling deforestation and habitat destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. This not only threatens the Orangutan and several other species, it also contributes to the burning and clearing of peat lands, producing large net increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming policies can also adversely affect human health and life expectancy. Rising energy costs are widely viewed as a key cause of the current economic downturn. Policies like Lieberman-Warner, which the U.S. Energy Administration estimates would raise gasoline prices an additional 41 cents to $1.01 per gallon by 2030, would make a bad economic situation worse. The bigger loss, however, could well be in lives. As Harvey Brenner of Johns Hopkins University argues, the most important factors affecting disease and death rates are income, employment, and socio-economic status. Even short-term, year-to-year fluctuations in economic indicators can measurably affect mortality rates. By increasing the costs of goods and services such as energy, and decreasing disposable incomes, global warming “regulation can inadvertently contribute to poor health and premature death.”

Please note, I am not saying that global warming is a myth or that there are no health, environment, and safety risks associated with climate change. What I am saying is that there are also risks associated with climate change policy. Policymakers should assess and weigh both sets of risks before deciding on a course of action. In most public discussions, however, the risks of climate policy are not even acknowledged. We ignore the risks of climate policy at our peril.