CNN’s Town Hall Full of Hot Air

COMMENTARY Environment

CNN’s Town Hall Full of Hot Air

Sep 9th, 2019 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Nicolas Loris

Deputy Director, Thomas A. Roe Institute

Nick is an economist who focuses on energy, environmental, and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow.
Politicians worried about the future of our children and grandchildren might have second thoughts about saddling them with debt to make no discernible impact on the climate. kamilpetran/Getty Images

Key Takeaways

While the proposals embraced on the CNN stage would, in general, have a negligible effect on global temperature, the costs would be enormous.

Fossil fuels meet about 80% of America’s energy demand for three basic reasons: They’re abundant, reliable and affordable.

It’s one thing when you make these decisions for yourself. It another when Washington forces its decisions on you.

Sixty-three seconds.

That’s how far CNN got into its seven-hour “town hall” on climate change before host Wolf Blitzer mischaracterized the science of climate change.

“We’re seeing firsthand the effects of climate change as a powerful Atlantic hurricane is sitting right now off the coast of Florida,” Blitzer intoned.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration disagrees, saying, “It is premature to conclude ... that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”

The entire CNN production seemed premised on the notion that climate change poses an imminent, existential threat to humanity — an alarmist stance not borne out in the science.

Yes, the world has been warming and sea levels rising since the end of the Little Ice Age. And, yes, human activity is playing a role. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment attributes at least half of the warming from 1951 to 2010 to human activities.

But the panel never concluded the world has only 11 years to avoid a climate apocalypse — a claim least one presidential candidate made during the CNN telethon.

All the candidates endorsed climate policies that would profoundly affect the U.S. economy. But their questioners never bothered to ask: Just how much warming would that policy avert?

For instance, nearly every candidate backed a moratorium on fossil fuel production on federal lands. Yet a climate model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggests that such a ban would ease warming by only 0.08 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. In other words, it would barely move the climate needle.

While the proposals embraced on the CNN stage would, in general, have a negligible effect on global temperature, the costs would be enormous. As the New York Times put it, “All of the candidates want to spend money, and lots of it.”

The run-up in the national debt would be ruinous, both for the nation’s economy and for the nation’s taxpayers who would have to cover the extravagant public spending for generations. Politicians worried about the future of our children and grandchildren might have second thoughts about saddling them with loads of debt to make no discernible impact on the climate.

And policies that prohibit the use of natural resources impose even greater costs — direct and indirect — on individuals, families and businesses. Fossil fuels meet about 80% of America’s energy demand for three basic reasons: They’re abundant, reliable and affordable. Policies that artificially restrict their use would result in higher electric bills and higher prices at the pump.

And that’s just the start. Businesses would, of necessity, pass much of higher energy costs onto consumers, so you’ll pay more at the grocery store, the mall and going out to eat. They would offset the rest of the costs by scaling down wages and hiring and investing less in new products and technology.

Fossil fuels no more?

And the fossil fuel energy sector would, of course, be decimated. Growth in that sector was the only thing that kept the 2008 recession from devolving into a full-blown depression, and it remains one of the brightest flames in the American economy today. The command-and-control style energy policies proposed throughout the CNN town hall would snuff out that flame.

No matter how much the candidates promise to help fossil fuel workers transition or to help families facing higher energy costs, a government-imposed “green revolution” would leave those people much worse off.

And let’s not forget the costs to individual freedom and consumer choice. The town hall featured a lot of talk about cheeseburgers. And straws. Many of the candidates joked about their love of red meat, while dodging the question of how they would tackle agricultural emissions.

But the kinds of energy and environmental policies presented on the stage would, without question, severely limit consumer choice in many areas: from the type of energy you should use, to the kind of car or appliance you should buy, how much meat you should eat. It’s one thing when you make these decisions for yourself. It another when Washington forces its decisions on you.

Perhaps the most puzzling moments of the “climate crisis” town hall came as several candidates flatly ruled out expanding use of the planet’s largest source of emissions-free electricity: nuclear power. If people can’t even contemplate nuclear power in a discussion of climate change, you can pretty much write off the conversation as so much hot air.

Despite its length, CNN’s climate marathon disclosed little new information. While there were differences among the candidates’ plans, what stood out most were the similarities: more government control, more government spending, higher energy prices and no real climate solutions.

This piece originally appeared in Inside Sources