In a thinly disguised assault on coal and hydrocarbons, the Obama Administration would have us believe that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a threat to life itself.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a recent study by my company for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that the benefits of carbon dioxide to all of us are far greater than its costs.
The government bases many of its regulatory positions on the so-called social cost of carbon, an estimate of climate change damages in a given year. However, our study showed the government positions were based on flawed science:
There is no scientific evidence for significant climate effects of rising CO2 levels, and there is no evidence that global warming will produce catastrophic climate changes.
There has been no global warming for two decades, during which CO2 emissions increased significantly. The only “evidence” comes from invalidated climate models that disagree with each other and that are increasingly inaccurate.
The government is exaggerating climate sensitivity and relies on unsubstantiated claims of international reports.
The government data, we believe, are artificial constructs designed by the Obama Administration to penalize fossil fuels and allow it to achieve by executive mandate what it cannot via Congress, such as a carbon tax.
In fact, we found the “social cost of carbon” to be a concept dependent on assumptions and allows its user to arrive at almost any desired result. Dire climate-related occurrences are not happening. For example:
—Sea level rise is modest, and there is no cause and effect from CO2.
—There is no indication of increased extreme weather events.
—Sea ice is not melting; rather, it has increased to a record high in the Antarctic.
—There has been no change in the frequency or severity of floods worldwide.
—Nor are droughts becoming more severe.
Carbon dioxide is the basis of life on Earth. It facilitates plant growth and enhances agricultural productivity. It is the primary raw material utilized by plants, which are the food source for animals and humans. The more CO2 there is in the air, the better plants grow.
Our study found that the economic value of this carbon dioxide benefit totaled $3.2 trillion from 1961 to 2011. It also forecast that over the period 2012-2050, these CO2 benefits will total $10 trillion.
Finally, there are obvious benefits of using fossil fuels. These fuels facilitated successive industrial revolutions, launched the modern world and ensure the livelihoods, living standards, health and longevity we all currently enjoy.
Over the past 200 years, largely due to hydrocarbon energy, world population increased eight-fold, incomes rose 11-fold, and life expectancy more than doubled. At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions increased and atmospheric concentration rose from 320 parts per million to 400 parts per million.
Hydrocarbons provide 81 percent of world energy and the positive relationship between fossil fuels, economic growth and CO2 emissions is strong — supporting $70 trillion per year in world GDP. Our study verified previous research that concluded, “Ours is a high energy civilization based largely on fossil fuels.”
How do carbon dioxide’s benefits compare to potential damage? Our study compared CO2 costs and benefits based on the government’s SCC estimates. We found that carbon dioxide’s benefits outweigh costs by literally, orders of magnitude — anywhere from 50-to-one to 220-to-one.
Normally, benefit/cost ratios of 2-to-one or 3-to-one are considered very favorable. In other words, our research concluded that CO2 benefits overwhelmingly outweigh estimated CO2 costs.
All major forecasts predict that, for decades to come, there will continue to be a close link between energy and the economy and that fossil fuels will continue to provide about 80 percent of world energy. Our study found that the benefits of fossil fuel utilization will continue to outweigh — by orders of magnitude — any conceivable costs.
The government estimates are wrong. If the world is serious about economic growth, poverty reduction, higher living standards and affordable energy, fossil fuels are essential. Restrictions on hydrocarbon energy based on flawed science only undermine progress in these areas.
Roger H. Bezdek is president of Management Information Services, Inc. in Washington, D.C. and an internationally recognized energy economist with 30 years’ experience in research and management in the energy, environmental and regulatory areas.