My love of nature began with a deep appreciation for the magnificent landscapes of the intermountain West. Growing up on a cattle ranch in eastern Oregon, I came to highly value people who are good environmental stewards and learned from experience that, typically, private landowners do a better job of taking care of what they own than the federal government does. Primarily, this is because federal land managers must work in a system that does not provide the incentives for responsible stewardship in the same way that private property does. And it’s with this understanding that I have dedicated my career to fighting for the best policies to promote energy affordability and protect both our environment and our climate.
Spending more than two decades working on environmental and energy policy in Washington, I have been frustrated by the leadership of the modern environmental movement. I have a great deal of respect for the people who belong to environmental groups and share their concerns and goals. However, in my experience, the leaders of these groups are more concerned with concentrating power in Washington than in improving the environment outside the Beltway.
I have spent the last sixteen years working at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) on climate and energy policies. My CEI colleagues and I agree that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing as a result of human activities–primarily burning coal, oil, and natural gas—and that this means the global mean temperature is likely to rise.
Where we disagree with global warming alarmists is whether this amounts to a crisis that requires drastic action. There is a huge divide in the climate debate between those who believe the climate models and those who look at the data. The models, according the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have no predictive capacity; and yet the models are relied upon to predict rapid temperature increases. For example, the data show variable and modest warming since the mid-1970s that is far below the model predictions.
In my view, global warming could pose challenges over the long term. But there is much evidence that the mild global warming that has occurred since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-nineteenth century has been largely beneficial for humanity and the biosphere. Earth is greening, food production has soared, and human longevity has increased dramatically.
CEI believes strongly that the policies being proposed by climate alarmists to deal with global warming pose much greater threats to human flourishing than do the impacts of global warming. Abundant, affordable energy is a necessary condition of human well-being but the global energy-rationing policies being pursued, like those in the Paris Climate Treaty, threaten to consign billions of people around the world to energy poverty and perpetual economic stagnation. In the United States, President Obama’s climate action plan and other proposed energy-rationing policies will have negligible effects on greenhouse gas levels, but pose a grave threat to our economy and especially to the health and well-being of poor people.
There is serious scientific debate about the magnitude, rate, and potential impacts of global warming, and the policies appropriate to address it. And, I believe that we should pursue energy policies based on the scientifically-supported view that abundant energy makes the world safer and the environment more livable, as well as the humanitarian view that affordable energy should be accessible to those who need it most, particularly the most vulnerable among us.