The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill has engendered tremendous
controversy. Concerns abound about the legislation's adverse
economic consequences as well as skepticism of its affects on world
climate trends. Faced with mounting opposition, the bill's
supporters are increasingly making the case that creating a new law
is a national security imperative. They are wrong.
Indeed, passing the bill would create far more severe,
dangerous, and imminent global crises. A better approach is to
simply allow nations to adapt to the national security challenges
implied by long-term global climate changes.
The premise behind Waxman-Markey is that the United States must
create a government-run program to reduce the emission of
"greenhouse gases,"including carbon dioxide (CO2). The bill would
establish a complex energy tax scheme to penalize businesses and
industries that emit these gases.
Despite passage in the House, the bill has become increasingly
controversial as the economic consequences of the legislation have
become more apparent. For example, a study by The Heritage
Foundation's Center for Data Analysis finds that the law would make
the United States about $9.4 trillion poorer by 2035. Much of this
decline would be from reduced economic productivity and job loss.
In particular, under Waxman-Markey there would be 1.15 million
fewer jobs on average than without a cap-and-trade bill.
Faced with mounting opposition, proponents have turned to
arguing that passing the bill is an imperative for national
security. Without the law, proponents argue, adverse climate
changes will cause nations to fail, natural disasters that will
yield unprecedented humanitarian crises, and states chronically
going to combat over the remaining resources.
The problem is that the catastrophic predictions--such as
massive sea-level increases and declining food production that
would lead to global unrest--are poorly supported by the evidence.
To make the national security arguments, global warming legislation
advocates must embrace the most alarmist scenarios.
Nonetheless, connecting the dots between human-caused global
warming and global conflict has become a popular theme as
proponents prepare to take up the bill in the Senate. Last week,
Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) called a hearing on
the subject. This tactic is nothing new. Last year, Congress
directed the Pentagon to address the national security impacts of
climate change in its Quadrennial Defense Review, due this
The more opposition grows against the bill, however, the
shriller these warnings have been become. "Global warming
alarmists,"notes Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), "see a future plagued
by catastrophic flooding, war, terrorism, economic dislocations,
droughts, crop failures, mosquito-borne diseases, and harsh
weather--all caused by man-made greenhouse gas
emissions."Proponents of Waxman-Markey conclude that without such
laws, the world will become unmanageable.
Arguing that the law will make the world safer is deeply flawed.
First, there are significant doubts that the cap-and-trade system
described in the 1,500-plus-page bill will even have a significant
and positive impact on global climate trends. According to
climatologist Chip Knappenberger, Waxman-Markey would moderate
temperatures by only hundredths of a degree after being in effect
for the next 40 years and no more than two-tenths of a degree at
the end of the century.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concurred, recently saying, "U.S.
action alone will not impact world CO2 levels."
Additionally, the impact of "managing" greenhouse gases on the
environment also remains a subject of great controversy. For
example, as Senator Inhofe noted in a floor speech, S. Fred Singer,
an atmospheric scientist at the University of Virginia, who served
as the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and
more recently as a member and vice chairman of the National
Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, said that "no one
knows what constitutes a 'dangerous' concentration. There exists,
as yet, no scientific basis for defining such a concentration, or
even of knowing whether it is more or less than current levels of
Additionally, viewing climate change as a national security
crisis makes little sense. The global climate has always been
changing. Adapting to these changes and human efforts to manage
their surrounding environment is a permanent feature of human
competition. The environment does not cause wars--it is how humans
respond to their environment that causes conflicts.
Thus, climate change does not necessarily ensure that there will
be more or less conflict. For example, as the Arctic ice melts and
the environment becomes more benign, Arctic waters will become more
available for fishing, mineral and energy exploitation, and
maritime transport. Nations will compete over these resources, but
it is how they choose to compete--not the change in the
weather--that will determine whether war breaks out.
Furthermore, any changes in the climate, for better or for
worse, will occur gradually over decades. Thus, there will be ample
time to adjust national security and humanitarian assistance
instruments to accommodate future demands.
Finally, if the Senate really wants to get serious about how
global warming affects national security, it should closely examine
the rules and regulations under Waxman-Markey and similar
government-driven efforts. These rules would stifle economic
growth, create energy scarcity, and make fragile states even more
For example, a collapse in U.S. economic growth would result in
even more draconian cuts to the defense budget, leaving America
with a military much less prepared to deal with future threats.
Indeed, if America's military power declines, there would probably
be more wars, not fewer. Likewise, a steep drop in American
economic growth would lengthen and deepen the global recession.
That in turn will make other states poorer, undermining their
ability to protect themselves and recover from natural
World Without Peace
Congressional proponents continue to press for the passage of
Waxman-Markey. If they are successful, they will almost certainly
create the world they want to avoid. The law would ensure a steep
decline in U.S. economic competitiveness and military preparedness.
The consequences of a weak America would inevitably lead to a
string of national security crises and an undermining of the
nation's capacity to deal with natural disasters here and
Congress should reject climate change legislation that creates
national security problems rather than strengthening the
capabilities of the U.S. to deal with the challenges of the
Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior
Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The