In 2009, in the immediate aftermath of Climategate—a leak of emails showing some of the world’s top climate scientists had been acting in bad faith to promote the message that manmade greenhouse gases were destroying the planet—it was tempting to hope “cap and trade” enthusiasts would pause to check their premises. Those invested in regulation, however, have continued to push for both national and worldwide government solutions.
Luckily Climategate was taken seriously by serious minds and the most prominent of those convened at the Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago, just days after the latest “clean energy” proposal in U.S. Congress became public. The event gives forum to the latest academic and policy work on climate change science and economics. The organizers extend invitations to scientists representing a variety of viewpoints, but sadly almost no one from the pro-regulation camp accepts. The exception this year was climate scientist A. Scott Denning who, after addressing conference attendees on the link between carbon dioxide and climate change, requested a follow-up opportunity to speak at the closing luncheon during which he lamented the unwillingness of his colleagues to engage with dissenting voices.
Several Atlas partners presented their latest research, including Fisher Venture Grantees, Gabriel Calzada of Instituto Juan de Mariana in Spain and Carlo Stagnaro of Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy. Both have discovered a high cost in their respective countries associated with government-subsidized green energy premised on fighting climate change and creating new jobs. In Spain, Calzada found a loss of 2.2 private sector jobs for every green job created. In Italy, the ratio is worse—4.8 jobs lost for every green job created. It’s a bad deal that gets worse. Spain has seen mass layoffs in the solar energy sector as its policies have overinflated its green energy bubble. These findings have shaken up the pro-rationing elites in the U.S. including President Obama who liked to cite European nations as models for green energy development, Spain in particular.
As an alternative to government action to reduce greenhouse gases, Oregonian Todd Wynn of the state-based Cascade Policy Institute presented his latest paper showing a strong link between economic freedom and energy efficiency. Using data from 165 countries, Wynn found that countries with higher levels of economic freedom use less energy per unit of output (and emit fewer greenhouse gases) and that this trend continues to improve over time. Wynn’s report follows up on his influential 2009 documentary, Climate Chains, which exposed the fallacy of using cap and trade legislation to improve the environment. The lesson from think tanks is greenhouse gas regulation is a lot of economic pain with no promise of environmental gain. Its appeal lies in the inherent opportunity it presents to control the economy and the lifestyles of the world’s people.