Lord Christopher Monckton, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s science adviser and a leading voice on climate-change skepticism, recently spoke at a Minnesota Free Market Institute event at Bethel University. Though he spoke for close to an hour-and-half refuting the many myths, misconceptions and outright falsehoods perpetuated about man-made global climate change, it was the final four minutes of his presentation that created media buzz. Referring to the proposed 2009 U.N. Copenhagen Climate Conference Treaty, Monckton noted that if President Barack Obama signs the document, the treaty conditions will become part and parcel of U.S. law, irrespective of their constitutionality.
In addition to an international cap-and-trade scheme, the Copenhagen Treaty creates a “world government” among whose purposes is the transfer of wealth from the West to developing countries in the form of “climate debt” — our reparation for creating carbon dioxide. The treaty gives this world government enforcement authority over countries that sign the treaty.
Having read the relevant sections of the treaty, I agree with Monckton that the proposed international cap-and-trade scheme, culminating in the signing of an international treaty that would trump our ability to control energy policy here in Minnesota, is devastating for both our economy and the ideal of America. But that is only part of the story.
Drastic impact on economy, quality of life, protections
The Copenhagen Treaty internationally, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation nationally and the unachievable targets for alternative energy passed by our own state Legislature and signed by the governor are all actions that have no significant impact on climate change but drastic impact on our economy, our individual quality of life, and the fundamental protections Americans are guaranteed by our Constitution.
Energy policy and environmental protection ought not be about picking winners and losers in the market. Sound energy policy frees market forces to provide clean, reliable, low cost energy. For the future, we must lift the ban on nuclear power-plant construction; for today, we must remove the barriers standing in the way of promising new technologies like clean coal; we must forge economically viable alternative forms of energy through market forces, not subsidies. Government should focus its efforts on legitimate environmental concerns — protecting the environment from unsafe levels of toxic pollutants, not from the carbon dioxide we exhale with every breath.
Before imposing any energy or environmental policy, one should ask and answer four key questions.
First, does the problem at hand warrant government intervention? I agree with Monckton that the best available evidence indicates human contribution to climate change is scientifically insignificant. Climate change (hotter and colder) is a naturally and constantly occurring process brought about by factors that dwarf human activity and are beyond human control.
Second, does the proposed solution actually address the defined problem? Even if one accepts that the Earth’s climate is getting warmer, studies have shown that were all of the protocols proposed by the Kyoto Treaty, for example, imposed worldwide, the effect on the average annual global temperature change would be statistically insignificant.
Third, is an energy or environmental policy politically practical, and can it be technically implemented? It is arrogant and ignorant to think that an international government can alter the average temperature of a small planet in a large universe by a few degrees over a century of time. We have neither the technology to do so nor the political clout, the Copenhagen Treaty notwithstanding, to enforce such a treaty on a worldwide basis — without significant force of arms. It is disingenuous and counterproductive to claim such ability and irresponsible to spend precious tax dollars on an unachievable objective.
Fourth and finally, sound energy policy demands that policymakers do not cause more harm than they alleviate. The economic cost of producing less energy at higher costs (the Minnesota solution) is irresponsible governance. The costs of implementing cap-and-trade legislation do not stand against analysis on economic principles; the costs can be “justified” only by the ideological desire that government manage the economy. Wealth transfer does not change the Earth’s temperature.
This brings us back to Monckton’s warning that the Copenhagen Treaty is a threat to American sovereignty. Climate change is vitally important — not for any valid scientific reason, but because it is being exploited to push a progressive political agenda. Co-opting science in support of ideological policy motivates bad science and dangerous policy. The last four minutes of Monckton’s speech highlighted the dangerous policy; in the first 90 minutes he exposed bad science. Armed with the latter, we will defeat the former.
Former State Auditor Pat Anderson is a candidate for the Republican endorsement for governor. She resigned as full-time president of the Minnesota Free Market Institute to campaign. Video of the Monckton presentation at Bethel University is found here.