The Bill That Wouldn’t Die

You may hear the creak of a coffin-lid today as the alarmists' favorite domestic energy suppression measure rises from the grave.  This particularly pungent revenant is the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act 2003, 2004, 2005, an attempt to establish the principle that caps on energy use are the way to combat the threat of global warming.  In fact, the CSA would do absolutely nothing to reduce temperatures, its only effect being to put a few hundred thousand Americans out of a job.  But, hey, it's for a good cause.<?xml:namespace prefix = u1 /> <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

The CSA, or as it has become more widely known, McLieberman, was defeated comfortably on its last outing in October 2003 by 55 votes to 43, with ten Democrats joining the majority of Republicans to reject it.  If anything, the Senate elections last year reduced the number likely to vote for it, so the chances of this undead Bill doing anything more than shambling a few steps before disintegrating in the harsh sunlight of political reality are slim at best.


The same cannot be said of three new Bills on climate change announced this week by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-NE).  He said he would introduce the Bills (one aimed at encouraging international consideration of technological development, one a domestic equivalent, and one making permanent tax breaks for investment in research into the issue) in order to get the White House more 'involved' in the issue.  “We have been out of the game for four years,” he told the liberal Brookings Institution, “That's dangerous.”


The idea that the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />US has been “out of the game” surrounding global warming is somewhat odd.  The US remains a signatory to both the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Treaty itself, even if it has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol.  It has continued to send large delegations to every contrail-spawning global warming meeting around the globe, proposed a ton of regulations and has directly funded most of the science used to justify alarm on the issue, to the tune of $2 billion in 2004.  If anything, the US has been far too involved in the subject.


Senator Hagel's bills stand a very good chance of becoming law, as they actually echo the very same White House policy that has been advanced at those international meetings.  At the same time, however, any Congressional involvement in the issue now is intellectually incoherent.


Why?  Because the only rationale for getting “back in the game” is if there is recognition that anthropogenic climate change is going to be dangerous.  If that is the case, then proposing any action that does not stop that result is going to be futile.  We must have a clear idea of what will stop that result, complete with its full costs.  Saying that the Climate Stewardship Act or Kyoto or whatever is merely a first step is disingenuous.  Nobody sensible starts walking without knowing where they're going to end up.  If we are to take the steps down the energy suppression road, we must know what it will cost us to go the whole way.  Of course, we might well find up that the cost will be so great that we are unwilling to take the journey.  That would be a legitimate choice, but we cannot make that choice if we do not have the full information.  The argument for “doing something” is therefore incoherent, gesture politics at its job-destroying worst.


Yet there is a game we have been sitting out of.  It is genuine discussion of how the world might adapt if global warming does turn out to be a serious problem.  This discussion has been shut off because carbon rationing and energy suppression have been presented as the only game in town, as it were.  If America is to “re-engage” with the world on the issue, as Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested again he thinks will happen, then a discussion of this approach must be included.  


This would include tackling problems that are already serious, which are often advanced as reasons for adopting energy suppression.  People are suffering from hunger, drought, vector-born diseases, and coastal erosion now, and global warming is a minor part at best in that current suffering.  If we solve these problems now, then the exacerbating effects of a warmer world will affect far fewer people than alarmist projections suggest.  Similarly, there are other “no regrets” policies we can adopt that may help avert damaging effects of a warmer world but will benefit us regardless of whether the world warms as much as alarmists claim it will.


Unfortunately, rather than engaging in this positive debate, the next few days are going to be dominated by the sterile arguments surrounding the energy-sucking Kyoto Protocol and the brain-devouring Climate Stewardship Act.  It's all a bit like a bad horror movie.