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The futility of climate change mitigation

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Photo - 393713 08: Smoke billows from a coal powered steel plant August 26, 2001 in western, PA. The coal mining industry, once nearly extinct in Pennsylvania, has made a recent comeback as a centerpiece to President Bush''s energy plan. Since February of 2001 the price of coal has doubled to more than $40 a ton and over a thousand miners have gone back to work in Pennsylvania this year alone. Coal mining, while dangerous, dirty work, is still one of the best paying occupations in western Pennsylvania, with the average wage over $18 an hour with up to $6 an hour more in benefits. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
393713 08: Smoke billows from a coal powered steel plant August 26, 2001 in western, PA. The coal mining industry, once nearly extinct in Pennsylvania, has made a recent comeback as a centerpiece to President Bush''s energy plan. Since February of 2001 the price of coal has doubled to more than $40 a ton and over a thousand miners have gone back to work in Pennsylvania this year alone. Coal mining, while dangerous, dirty work, is still one of the best paying occupations in western Pennsylvania, with the average wage over $18 an hour with up to $6 an hour more in benefits. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It is now July 31, 2018. You are sitting by a stream, thinking back to Nov. 23, 2012 -- the day the U.S. stopped emitting carbon dioxide altogether, permanently. It's been a very rough six and a half years without carbon, and it's about to get a lot rougher. Because today is the day you realize that it's all been for naught -- the day that someone explains to you that all of the emissions America was making in 2012 have been completely replenished by new emissions from rest of the world's growing nations.

What do you do? Do you gloat because you got even with all those evil corporate polluters who were destroyed when the carbon days ended? Or do you scream and shout, realizing that we have sacrificed our nation for nothing? Or do you take comfort in the mitigation we achieved through self-immolation? Are you proud that, by 2050, our act of total national self-destruction prevented the global temperature from going up by an additional 0.083 degrees Celsius, and sea levels from rising by 0.6 centimeters? It only cost the world its biggest economy and a people their entire livelihood.

Now wake up from this nightmare. Last week, the Virginia-based Science and Public Policy Institute released a report showing, in chart form, the above results of Big Green's dream scenario. The SPPI study sports a cover graphic of a flaming dollar sign and a long title beginning "Analysis of US and State-by-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions," but readers are already just calling it "The Futility Report."

The report's author, Paul Knappenberger, made his assumptions "based on the [United Nations] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports." He ran a scenario in which "the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions immediately," and found that "the ultimate impact on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a 'savings,' of approximately 0.08°C by the year 2050 and 0.17°C by the year 2100--amounts that are, for all intents and purposes, negligible." Under this wild scenario, not only do the rest of the world's new emissions completely replace ours in just 6.6 years, but China's growth alone replaces them in less than 11 years.

Bob Ferguson, president of SPPI, told me, "The whole mission of CO2 control has been touted as staving off catastrophe, but we haven't paid enough attention to 'What catastrophe?' " The Futility Report connects those dots: The first CO2 catastrophe is rapid temperature rise, or global warming, and the second is the dreaded melting of the polar ice caps with sea level rise inundating world coastlines.

"Such focus on measuring the results of mitigation programs can be expected to rouse loud scorn and "debunking" from the likes of Al Gore and a league of crony capitalists intent on making millions selling "carbon offsets" -- the environmental equivalent of selling indulgences as forgiveness for carbon sin.

"To these Enron clones, global warming is about money and power," Ferguson remarked. "It has nothing to do with measuring the effectiveness of devastatingly expensive mitigation efforts. It requires unquestioning belief and confessing your CO2 sins, which justifies you in demanding that everybody else confess and pay up."

Ferguson concluded that Big Green is "not about to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to try measuring the results of spending billions in mitigation money, because the results are negligible if they exist at all."

The SPPI has also kept on hand a 37-page 2009 publication edited by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, and titled "UN Climate Scientists Speak Out on Global Warming." It's full of blunt quotes from respected scientists suggesting that global warming is a power grab racket.

For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Richard Lindzen, who was a U.N. IPCC lead author and reviewer, said, "Controlling carbon is kind of a bureaucrat's dream. If you control carbon, you control life."

Hatch thinks his compendium is still timely. He told me, "We're only a few weeks removed from this year's presidential election, but already the environmentalist Left is signaling its desire to try to pass job-destroying cap-and-trade legislation, despite the fact it failed resoundingly in Congress a few years ago. The actual scientists who wrote the U.N. climate reports spoke out and debunked their claims. It's important that groups like SPPI continue to highlight this issue and stand up to climate change alarmists."

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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Ron Arnold

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The Washington Examiner