By NICOLAS LORIS
The Heritage Foundation
Man-made greenhouse gas emissions already are causing gloom and doom and adversely affecting our way of life. That's the conclusion of the National Climate Assessment just released by the Obama administration.
But before we trade our Buicks for bikes, it's important to highlight the climate realities and show that the administration's proposed policy solutions will drive up the cost of energy for Americans and have no meaningful impact on climate.
Although the planet has warmed over the past six decades, and a broad consensus exists that part of that warming is attributed to man-made emissions, what we're seeing and where we're headed is not toward climate catastrophe. The climate threats do not match up with reality.
Sea levels are rising, but not as fast as projected. There have been no significant trends for floods, droughts, hurricanes or tornadoes. Although the report does not address hurricanes, it does admit that "other trends in severe storms, including tornadoes, hail, and thunderstorms, are still uncertain."
The report has a variety of serious problems. Many of the models the federal government relied on to promulgate these regulations projected a 0.3-degree Celsius warming over the past 17 years, when in reality no warming occurred (although CO2 emissions have increased). Since 2011, 16 experiments published in peer-reviewed literature found the equilibrium climate sensitivity (the effect that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have), is 40 percent lower than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the NCA project.
In other words, a lot of variability exists in projecting what impact increased GHGs will have on the planet, which has serious implications not just for future temperature projections but all the other scary scenarios NCA outlines.
What's most troubling is, even if climate change were occurring at an unsustainable rate, the administration's policy prescriptions will not fix anything but will further harm the economy.
The proposed limits for carbon dioxide emissions essentially would prohibit the construction of new coal-fired power plants and force existing ones into early retirement, driving up the cost of energy on American families and businesses. Higher energy prices shrink production in consumption, resulting in less income for families, more people in the unemployment line and less economic growth.
And even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gas emissions entirely, we would not moderate the Earth's temperature more than a few tenths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century.
Some of the NCA's policy solutions are even more invasive. The report says greenhouse gas reduction is one of the co-benefits of replacing short vehicle commutes with biking or walking and reducing your red meat intake to reduce the amount of methane emitted from the animals we eat.
Not that federal government nudging and taking away choice from consumers and businesses is new. Over several decades the Department of Energy now has set efficiency regulations for more than 50 commercial and industrial products, including everything from dehumidifiers to illuminated exit signs. DOE touts these regulations not only as ways to save energy and money for consumers but as greenhouse gas reducers as well.
What this week's report and the latest data show are that the cure for climate change, as envisioned by the Obama administration, is far worse than the disease. Congress needs to step up and stop the administration's costly and ineffective solution to a non-problem.
Nicolas Loris is the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow in energy and environmental issues at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
Readers may write to the authors in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: www.heritage.org.