Climate Change

The most significant environmental policy initiatives that legislators will face in North Carolina in the coming two years will be related to attempts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions ostensibly to ward off future global warming.

N.C. Cannot Affect Global Warming

In 2005, the legislature created a global warming commission, the N.C. Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change (LCGCC) to evaluate the issue and to determine what, if any, policies the state should pursue. As of April 15, 2008, the time expired on the commission's legislative mandate without completing its work, after already being extended by more than a year in 2006. An extension has been voted on and passed during the 2008 session.

In addition to the LCGCC the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) established its own study group made up of various special interests, from environmental advocacy groups to public utilities and other companies. This group is called the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG). The goal of CAPAG has been to devise policy proposals meant to reduce CO2 emissions.

In order to facilitate this process DENR hired a consulting group called the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS), primarily with funds from private foundations. All of these foundations have invested heavily in left-of-center environmental groups who espouse the view that global temperature increases since 1975, which leveled off after 1998, were caused by CO2 emissions. These emissions are generated by humanity's use of energy to light, cool, and heat their homes, power their automobiles, run their factories, and facilitate their leisure activities. CCS is among these organizations. It should be noted that CO2 is what humans exhale and what plants need to grow. It has no toxic effects.

As part of its work for the state, CCS devised a set of 56 policies meant to curb energy-using activities of all kinds. CAPAG has adopted these policies, and the LCGCC is now examining them with the expectation that most or all of them will be recommended to the General Assembly for possible adoption.

It should be noted that CAPAG, in discussing these policy recommendations made by CCS, was not allowed to bring up any of the scientific issues surrounding global warming. Its mandate was to assume the same scientific assumptions made by CCS regarding human activities and global warming.

For example, the hypothesis that much of the global warming from the last century is due to natural causes, such as changes in the sun's intensity, were not allowed to be considered. Indeed no scientific opinions that contradicted those held by CCS and the foundations that have paid it for its North Carolina work were allowed into the process.

Analysis

An important point — one that has not been disputed by any testimony before the climate commission — is that there is nothing North Carolina can do, either by itself or in conjunction with other states, that will have any noticeable impact on the climate.

If all 56 CAPAG proposals were adopted by not just North Carolina but all states in the Union and all countries of the world, there would be no noticeable impact on the climate. Dr. Thomas Wigley at the U.S National Center for Scientific Research, an adviser to Al Gore, in a 1998 Geophysical Research Letter article calculated that if there were 100 percent compliance by all countries that were party to the original United Nations treaty on global warming (the "Kyoto Protocol"), the effects would be "small" and "undetectable for many decades."

Wigley calculated that by by 2100, with 100 percent compliance from all Kyoto Protocol parties, global temperatures would increase by only 0.27 degrees F less than they would if nothing were done at all.

This scientific fact should be considered alongside the conclusions of economic analysis done by a team of economists from Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute in Boston.

That analysis estimated that by adopting only a portion of the 56 CAPAG/CCS recommendations, North Carolina would lose more than 33,000 jobs and more than $4.5 billion in gross state product. The real disposable income of North Carolina's citizens would fall by $2.2 billion. All this would occur in a three-year period. These policies would be all costs and no benefits for the citizens of North Carolina.

Recommendation

The best thing the state of North Carolina can do to help citizens to cope with the vagaries of future climate-related problems, whatever their cause and however severe, is to implement policies that promote economic growth and prosperity for the citizens of the state. This means lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a policy that promotes inexpensive energy. None of the 56 proposals being offered by CAPAG should be adopted.