The social costs of carbon cancellation
Fearing that incessant warnings about manmade climate cataclysms would not be enough to end US fossil fuel use, the Obama-Biden Administration instructed a special Interagency Working Group to concoct a “social cost of carbon” concept. The SCC would “scientifically” calibrate the dollar value of damages that a ton of carbon dioxide emitted today in America would inflict on the USA and world in the future.
The price tag was set at $22/ton in 2010, raised to $36/ton in 2013, and just as arbitrarily increased to $40, before finishing the Obama era at $51/ton. President Trump disbanded the IWG and had the SCC slashed to less than $10/ton. Within hours of taking office, President Biden resurrected the working group, reinstituted $51/ton as a starting point, and directed federal agencies to devise a definitive SCC by 2022.
This “updated” version will reflect “recent developments in the science and economics” of climate change, including the costs of other greenhouse gases, the White House said. It will also factor in US commitments under the Paris climate treaty, and especially “considerations of environmental justice and intergenerational equity.” Climate “scientists,” economists, “ethics experts” and “diverse stakeholders” will all participate in the process, which many expect will devise a final SCC of $100 or even $200/ton.
The IWG methodology for developing SCC estimates is so infinitely flexible, so devoid of any rigorous standards, that it could produce almost any estimates that Biden and his climate czars feel is needed. Adding “justice” and “equity” to the mix makes it doubly malleable, doubly prone to abuse by an administration and Democrat Party that are obsessed with “manmade climate change” (even Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Defense appointees must be committed to ending the “climate crisis”) and are determined to make America “carbon neutral” by 2050.
Social cost of carbon is intended to advance that agenda and a 981-page “CLEAN Future” bill requiring that electricity generators provide 80% carbon-free energy by 2030 and 100% “clean” power by 2035.
Right now, over 80% of all US and global energy come from fossil fuels – and China, India and other countries are building thousands of new coal-fired power plants, on top of the thousands they already have. So even total cancelation of fossil fuel use and CO2/greenhouse gas emissions by the United States would be imperceptible and irrelevant amid the world’s enormous and increasing levels of both.
Social cost of carbon is a key tactic in a war on reliable, affordable American energy; on jobs, human welfare and human rights; and on US and global lands, wildlife and environmental quality. It will be used to justify raising carbon taxes and prices to at least $160 per ton of CO2 and imposing Covid-on-steroids lockdowns every two years, supposedly to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial/post Little Ice Age levels, which alarmists claim would be catastrophic.
The SCC enables agencies and their allies to attach any price they wish to every conceivable cost of using fossil fuels: hotter and colder, wetter and drier climate and weather; more frequent and intense hurricanes; reduced agricultural output; forest health and wildfires; floods, droughts and water resources; “forced migration” of people and wildlife; worsening health and disease; flooded coastal cities; even “reduced student learning and worker productivity,” due to warmer planetary temperatures.
The SCC also lets practitioners completely ignore the obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels, and emitting carbon dioxide – such as enhanced productivity via affordable air conditioning in summer and heating in winter; improved forest, grassland and crop growth (and greening deserts) due to more CO2 in the air; greater home and human survival rates amid extreme weather events; and having the jobs, mobility, living standards, healthcare and longevity of modern industrialized life.
In fact, hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide benefits outweigh costs by 50:1, 400:1 or even 500:1! Will Team Biden and others in the anti-hydrocarbon movement acknowledge any of this?
Unless compelled to do so by our courts, the odds are probably 500:1 against it. They won’t even admit that the sun and other natural forces still play dominant roles in climate and weather, as they have throughout history. In their minds, every SCC cost is directly and solely due to fossil fuels. (For a reality check, read Indur Goklany, Patrick Moore, Gregory Wrightstone, Marc Morano and Jennifer Marohasy.)
In fact, eliminating carbon-based energy and carbon dioxide emissions will impose far greater human and ecological costs. It is fossil fuel replacements that will inflict incalculable damage to people and planet.
Replacing coal, oil, natural gas and internal combustion vehicles would require millions of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, billions of battery modules, millions of acres of biofuel plantations, a complete overhaul of electrical grids and infrastructures, on millions of acres. That will require billions of tons of steel, aluminum, copper, lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, concrete, plastics and other materials – which will require digging up and processing hundreds of billions of tons of ores and minerals.
Under Team Biden, Democrats and Big Green, little of this will take place in the US, under our rigorous laws and regulations. It will be done overseas, in China, Mongolia, Africa, Bolivia – often with slave and child labor, and with few or no workplace safety, air and water pollution, toxic substances, endangered species or other rules. Don’t their health, human rights and environmental quality mean anything?
The technologies may be clean and emission-free in the USA – but won’t be in any of these countries.
Even manufacturing the turbines, panels, batteries and other technologies will be done overseas – again with few or no pollution, health, safety or fair wage rules – because expensive, unreliable, weather-dependent, blackout-prone electricity will send America’s manufacturing and other basic industries into oblivion, along with millions of good jobs. Minority and blue-collar families will be hammered hardest.
The proliferation of “clean, climate-friendly” wind and solar energy will pummel wildlife and habitats. Wind turbines already slaughter a million birds and bats annually in the USA – far in excess of what Big Wind admits to – and that’s from a “measly” 60,000 turbines. The same thing is happening in Europe.
With the best wind sites being along migratory bird flyways, raptor hunting grounds, bat habitats, and Great Lake and sea coasts, the slaughter will get worse with every passing year. I just put new bluebird, hummingbird and wood duck nest houses around my home and neighborhood. It is terribly depressing that such efforts in suburban areas will be overwhelmed by a tsunami of death in our wildlife kingdoms. As forests, grasslands and deserts get torn up for turbines and blanketed by solar panels and biofuel crops, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and wild plants will also disappear.
Team Biden, Democrats, Big Green and Big Media will loudly deny these realities. They will insist that any wildlife losses are “inadvertent.” As though the wildlife are less dead because it was inadvertent; as though negligible inadvertent deaths from fossil fuel extraction and pipelines were bad, but these are OK.
Wind turbines, solar panels and batteries have short life spans – and are difficult or impossible to recycle. Where will we bury millions of 300-foot-long fiberglass-composite turbine blades? Billions of solar panels? Will we just keep sending solar panels overseas, where parents and children burn them in open fires to recover the metals – breathing toxic fumes all day long?
This is just the tip of the iceberg of adverse impacts from SCC/Green New Deal policies. Any honest, accurate, complete social cost of carbon analysis would require that every one of them be fully accounted for, before we make any decisions on fossil fuels. Will oddsmakers even take bets on that happening?
Will courts step up to the plate? Will state attorneys general? Will Republicans become better informed about our energy lifeblood, better organized, less focused on less critical issues – and more willing to mount passionate, principled opposition to this irresponsible insanity?
Or will Democrats just ram this through, because they can, because they control the House, Senate, White House and Deep State Executive Branch – perhaps with bare 1-10 majorities, but arrogant totalitarian control nonetheless?
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for CFACT and author of Cracking Big Green and Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death.