Global Warming’s Trillion-Dollar Turkey

A trillion dollars doesn’t buy what it used to — at least when it comes to global warming, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last July, this column reported that the latest global warming bill — the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007, introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. and Arlen Specter, R-Pa. — would cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion in its first 10 years and untold trillions of dollars in subsequent decades.

This week, the EPA sent its analysis of the bill’s impact on climate to Bingaman and Specter. Now we can see what we’d get for our money, and we may as well just build a giant bonfire with the cash and enjoy toasting marshmallows over it.

For reference purposes, the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 380 parts per million. The EPA estimates that if no action is taken to curb CO2 emissions, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would be 718 ppm by 2095.

If the Bingaman-Specter bill were implemented, however, the EPA estimates that CO2 levels would be 695 ppm — a whopping reduction of 23 ppm.

The EPA also estimated that if all countries — including China, India, Brazil and other developing nations — curb CO2 emissions, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would be 491 ppm in 2095, including the above-mentioned 23 ppm reduction from the implementation of the Bingaman-Specter bill.

So it appears that no matter how you slice it, Bingaman-Specter is worth a 23 ppm-reduction in atmospheric CO2 by 2095. But what are the climatic implications of this reduction in terms of global temperature? After all, we are talking about global warming.

Although the EPA didn’t pursue its analysis that far, figuring out the implications are readily doable using the assumptions and formulas of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Under the no-action scenario (718-to-695 ppm), the IPCC formulas indicate that the multitrillion-dollar Bingaman-Specter bill might reduce average global temperature by 0.13 degrees Celsius.

Under the maximum regulation scenario (514-to-491 ppm), Bingaman-Specter might reduce average global temperature by 0.18 degrees Celsius. Actual temperature reductions are likely to be less since these estimates rely on the IPCC’s alarmist-friendly assumptions and formulas.

The question, then, becomes this: Is it really worth trillions of taxpayer dollars over 90 years to perhaps reduce global temperatures by 0.13-0.18 degrees Celsius? If you can’t answer that question, consider this.

Under the no-action scenario, average global temperature might be 1.2 degrees Celsius higher in 2095 than it is today, once again using conservative IPCC assumptions and formulas. Under the maximum-regulation scenario, average global temperature might be 1.03 degrees Celsius higher than today. (For reference purposes, the estimated total increase in average global temperature for the 20th century was about 0.50 degrees Celsius.)

So what’s the difference in mean global temperature between the no-action scenario and the maximum-regulation scenario? Could it be a whopping 0.17 degrees Centigrade? Is that what global warming hysteria is all about?

The Bingaman-Specter bill, then, would cost taxpayers trillions of dollars and produce virtually nothing in terms of temperature outcome. But the pain of Bingaman-Specter doesn’t stop with trillions of taxpayer dollars. The heart of the Bingaman-Specter bill is a so-called cap-and-trade system in which CO2 emission limits (caps) would be decreed and certain businesses and other special interest group emitters (such as farmers and states) would be given permits to emit CO2.

Emitters that have extra permits could sell them in the open market to emitters that weren’t lucky enough to get free permits and that need permits. Extra permits, as such, are essentially free money.

Proponents of the cap-and-trade scheme — generally speaking, conniving environmentalists who want to appear to be business-friendly and special interest emitters who want to feed at the taxpayer trough — portray it as a “market-based” approach to addressing global warming concerns.

Not only is cap-and-trade not “market-based,” highly respected economists, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Arthur Laffer and Harvard University’s Greg Mankiw, say cap-and-trade will cause significant economic harm.

In a recent paper sponsored by the Free Enterprise Education Institute, a think tank with which I am affiliated, Laffer said that a cap-and-trade scheme would act as a constraint on the energy supply — much like the 1970s-era Arab oil embargoes and other energy crises. He estimates that cap-and-trade would shrink the U.S. economy by 5.2 percent and reduce family income by $10,800 by 2020.

So the Bingaman-Specter bill not only would waste taxpayer money, but it would harm economic growth and reduce family income — all without affecting global temperature in any sort of meaningful or even detectable way.

Although the EPA acknowledged, “Since the variation in cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions are small under [Bingaman-Specter], the variation in the resulting CO2 concentrations are small,” this only hints at the bill’s futility.

There can be little doubt as to why the EPA failed to carry through the ultimate implications of the 23 ppm impact of Bingaman-Specter. The agency would have “officially” exposed the bill and global warming alarmism as utterly absurd.