By Ronald Bailey
The Washington Post writes today about the contrasting climate change views of Texas Gov. Rick Perry vs. his rival for the GOP presidential nomination Mitt Romney. First, Perry's view:
At his New Hampshire campaign stop on Wednesday morning, Perry said: “I do think global warming has been politicized. ... We are seeing almost weekly or even daily scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing our climate to change. Yes, our climate has changed. It has been changing ever since the Earth was formed. But I do not buy into a group of scientists who have, in some cases, been found to be manipulating data.”
Next, Romney's view:
At a June 3 town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., Romney was asked about climate change. He said: “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past, but I believe we contribute to that.”
So what do Republican voters believe about climate change? A March, 2011 Gallup Poll reports that while 72 percent of Democrats say that they worry about global warming, only 31 percent of Republicans do. Similarly, only 22 percent of Democrats believe that global warming has been exaggerated in the news, whereas 67 percent of Republicans do. As it turns out 51 percent of Americans claim to be personally worried about climate change.
The real question is: Do these divergent views on climate change result in significant policy differences. From Perry's 2010 book Fed Up:
Despite overwhelming majorities of Democrats in Congress, environmental statists could not (yet, thankfully) shove their climate security bill designed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases -dubbed cap-and-trade - through this past session. Moderate Democrats recognized the economic devastation that would visit their states if they slapped a de facto energy tax on the entire economy. The statists are now asking the administrative state to do through regulatory fiat what they could not persuade enough elected legislators to do through the constitutionally appropriate lawmaking process. It appears that the Clean Air Act will be the vehicle used to regulate carbon emissions. Applied to carbon - which it was never intended to cover - the economic effects could be absolutely devastating.
With regard to Perry's complaint about EPA overreach, see my column, Carbon Rationing by Other Means.
Looking over Romney's 2010 book, No Apology, one finds an analysis of various greenhouse gas reduction policies including cap-and-trade, energy efficiency mandates, subsidies to new enegy technologies, and a carbon tax that coincides with the reduction of other taxes, e.g., the payroll tax. On cap-and-trade:
Cap-and-trade is an energy tax, disguised in the sheep's clothing of market terminology. And it is an energy tax that would have little or no effect on global warming.
As bad as a well-crafted cap-and-trade program may be, what was passed in 2009 by the House of Representatives was worse. Even cap-and-trade proponents like Senator McCain voted against it.
Interestingly, while Romney mentions the Northeastern states' cap-and-trade scheme - Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative - he fails to mention that, as the governor of Massachusetts, he was initially planning to join it.
In any case, both would-be Republican presidential candidates are commendably opposed to cap-and-trade carbon rationing. I think that Perry is wrong on the science (and I know many H&R readers disagree), but also think that what government is likely to do about man-made global warming isprobably worse than the future effects of global warming. As I have written:
Man-made global warming may simply be a negative externality for which the transaction costs are too high. In other words, any benefits achieved from trying to mitigate global warming will most likely be swamped by the costs of distributing the corporate welfare used to buy the political acquiescence of various industries. As much as one might hope to implement good public policy to deal with the problem, policy nihilism might be the only rational response to global warming.
So back to the earlier question: Do these divergent views on climate change result in significant policy differences?
From Perry's Fed Up:
I also see an America with abundant energy, a generous mix of wind, solar, and hydroelectric power; fossil fuels; and many other resources of which we are blessed with large quantities. There is no reason we cannot lead the world in developing clean energy while continuing to fuel our economy with the energy it needs to create wealth, jobs, and opportunity.
From Romney's No Apology:
In the final analysis, we should aggressively pursue domestic energy sources such as oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and solar. And as we consider game-changing measures and incentives, we should make our choice with three things in mind: Will it actually achieve energy security? Will it strengthen the economy? Will it avoid unfairly creating winners and losers?
When addressing energy and climate policy, both deploy feel-good rhetoric that largely avoids making any thorny trade-offs. However, I interpret Romney's "game-changing measures and incentives" as favoring federal energy mandates and subsidies. Scanning through Fed Up, Perry comes out strongly against federal agricultural subsidies (hooray!), but he curiously takes the Obama administration to task for halting NASA's next-generation space exploration program. Apparently, there is some federal role in supporting science.