I got a chance to watch some television this past weekend. Amanda, my significant other, and I don't get much of a chance to do that together these days because we are always very busy. On Friday, we caught South Park. I'm a fan mostly because of the distinctly libertarian messages in each episode and because it drives social conservatives like the Parents Television Council and Focus of the Family absolutely crazy.
The particular episode we caught the other day featured Al Gore, who was trying to raise awareness to the threat posed by "ManBearPig," a creature that Gore says, "threatens our very existence and may be the end to the human race as we know it." In case you haven't figured it out, "ManBearPig" is representative of global warming. The whole episode pokes fun at Gore and the hysterics who propagate the greatly exaggerated threat of global warming. At the end of the episode, after Gore nearly kills the four boys from the fictitious Colorado town, one of them angrily tells Al Gore, "You just used ManBearPig as a way to get attention for yourself because you're a loser!" How hilariously true.
It was ironic that this episode aired the weekend before the United States Senate began debate on the America's Climate Security Act or Lieberman-Warner, named after the sponsors of the legislation. This legislation would create a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels and an income redistribution scheme to funnel money to leftist special interest groups creating a free-for-all on taxpayer dollars by lobbyists, turning "big government" into "monster government."
The government would allot credits that give companies the right to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases. Once the company has reached its limit, it must purchase additional credits through auction or from other companies. The results of this legislation could cause serious harm to the economy. Energy prices are already soaring, but this bill further pushes down supply. What happens when supply of a commodity as valuable and in demand as energy is limited or reduced? The price skyrockets, and the effect is felt throughout the economy. Welcome to Economics 101.
The Heritage Foundation estimates that the legislation could cause GDP to drop as much as $4.8 trillion in the next 20 years and that net job losses will be significant, with the manufacturing industry being hit hardest. Backers of the legislation say that businesses will be stuck with the costs. This defies logic. Any costs incurred to a corporation will be recouped in the cost of the goods or services they offer.
Patrick Michaels, a scholar with the Cato Institute, wrote that Lieberman-Warner is "going to cost trillions and do nothing measurable about climate change in the foreseeable future." Michaels adds that the result of the legislation would prevent 0.013 degrees Celsius of warming.
Environmental activists will tell you that Lieberman-Warner does not go far enough in limiting pollution or curtailing global warming. Of course, the inconvenient truths of the economic impact are almost never discussed. When they are discussed, you will often hear the phrase "the common good" or hear about individual sacrifices that need to be made, often through coercion by the government.
There are two points to this column. The first is to point out that Lieberman-Warner is a terrible piece of legislation that would have almost no impact on the environment, but has the potential to do significant harm to the economy. It seems like a hefty price to pay for something that even Greenpeace has dubbed as "insufficient." Greenpeace wants the Kyoto Protocol, which was unanimously shot down in the Senate in 1997 because of the severe harm it posed to the economy and because China and India were excluded for the treaty. Kyoto is essentially Lieberman-Warner on steroids.
The second is to encourage skepticism. I hear the word "consensus" a lot these days. We hear Mr. Gore talk about "consensus" on global warming in the scientific community. Whenever I hear the word consensus used as a rhetorical talking point to drive home a particular point of view, it reminds me of something Ayn Rand once wrote. She called the "rule by consensus," which is exactly what environmental fundies are attempting to put in place, "the new fascism" and she could not have been more accurate.
I don't often agree with him, but Sean Hannity has a clip of Al Gore berating George W. Bush that he'll play from time to time. Gore says, "He betrayed this country! He played on our fears." Gore is absolutely correct, but he is just as guilty. He uses the same tactics to drive fear into the hearts and minds of anyone who will listen. Anyone who disagrees or challenges him is labeled a "global warming denier." Some environmentalists have even floated the idea of holding Nuremburg-style trials against global warming skeptics.
We are too often asked to give up basic civil and economic liberties in order to achieve some measure of security. We have given up liberties to "save" us from an economic depression (though FDR's intervention actually made things worse) or interring individuals because of their ethnicity during a time of war and more recently, we've allowed Congress to curtail some of our most basic rights through the USA PATRIOT Act and NSA wiretapping program in the name of fighting terrorism.
We must remember that government has limits because we are never quite the same after government infringes on our liberties.
For some thoughtful reading on global warming, pick up a copy of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" by Christopher Horner and "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg.
Jason Pye, a Newton County resident, is a columnist for The Covington News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.