May 042009
Authors: Ian Bezek

President Obama made a pledge to fight global warming, and he’s followed through. Sadly, instead of offering a viable proposal, we’ve gotten a half-baked plan that would cause an economic calamity for America’s poor.

While it appears that Americans, as a majority, favor action to fight global warming, we must ask if the cap-and-trade approach is the best. Cap-and-trade would limit carbon emissions by forcing producers to either cut their own emissions or buy credits from other cleaner companies to meet the regulations.

Sounds good, but it is expensive. Obama admitted that his plan was costly when he told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Just how much of a burden would we face from skyrocketing prices?

An analysis from the global consulting firm CRA International laid out the effects of a similar though less powerful piece of legislation in 2007. CRA Vice President Anne. E. Smith presented the findings of the report in front of a U.S. Senate Committee and stated that the expected cost of a cap-and-trade system would be a roughly 60 percent increase in electricity prices by 2020.

By 2020, the plan would, according to Smith, cost the average household more than $1,000 a year.

For that much money, we get a lot of benefits, right? Wrong.

Environmentalist, professor and believer in human-caused global warming Bjorn Lomborg points out in his book “Cool It” that the benefits would be infinitesimal; at best, a plan that drastically limited carbon emissions in America could reduce the rate of global warming by roughly two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit over the next century.

This isn’t just his finding. The IPCC – a United Nations organization created to analyze global warming – admits this much as well.

A study of Obama’s new legislation from a group tied to the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce found that the legislation would cause the loss of 3 million American jobs and cost the average American $2,100 per year. All this to prevent the Earth from heating two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit.

Instead of warming by 4.7 degrees, the earth’s temperature would rise 4.5 degrees over the next century.

Would you be willing to pay $2,000 annually and sacrifice 3 million jobs (quite possibly including your own) to affect this imperceptible change?

Instead of spending tens of trillions of dollars to slightly slow global warming now, Lomborg argues that we should invest tens of billions of dollars to halt global warming permanently by developing clean energy technologies through a Manhattan Project-style research and development program.

For a mere $25 billion, according to Lomborg, we can increase our research capabilities in the field of alternative energy to the point that we can permanently end our addiction to fossil fuels and solve the problem of global warming permanently.

Lomborg argues that our emphasis on stopping all global warming immediately is unnecessary. Global warming will cause almost no harm over the next century.

The effects that we will see such as a one-foot rise in the ocean level and a slight increase in the incidence of tropical diseases are not catastrophic. Global warming alarmists argue that increased temperatures will lead to a spread of global disease.

However, attacking malaria directly is far cheaper.

“With (the) Kyoto (Protocol) we can avoid about 140,000 malaria deaths over the century. At one-sixtieth the cost, we can tackle malaria directly and avoid 85 million deaths,” Lomborg said in his book.

Instead of spending trillions to slow down the growth of malaria incidences due to a warmer climate, we can spend a few billion and bring malaria to a halt.

It’s clear that instead of spending trillions to slightly slow global warming, we should instead spend billions and stop it entirely while also having funds left over to tackle such environmental crises as malaria.

Congress needs to reject this bill and offer us an alternative proposal that addresses climate change without threatening to make electricity unaffordable for America’s working poor.

Ian Bezek is a junior economics major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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