On October 29, almost out of the public eye, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) gave final approval to a dreadful regulation, mandating all energy in the state be produced with zero carbon emissions by 2050. Arizona has its own mini-Green New Deal!
The consequences will be devastating to Arizona’s economic competitiveness. A mere 15% mandate imposed in 2007 had a $1 billion impact on ratepayers and that was low-hanging fruit. Voters in 2018 soundly defeated a ballot proposition similar to the Commission’s.
The absurdity of legislating (by regulation) 30 years into the future was apparently lost on the three commissioners (two Republicans) who voted for the measure. Policymakers in 2050 will be elected to enact their own current priorities, not ones from 30 years ago. Attempts to gain credit for future emissions reductions without bearing the economic consequences are mere virtue signals on the cheap.
To be slightly fair, Commissioners are relentlessly targeted by environmental activists, known for their cult-like hysteria. Wildly impractical, poverty-inducing and ineffective solutions are common in today’s climate politics.
Hysteria production was the obvious goal of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who wowed the UN and the Davos Economic Forum, sternly warning that we have only 12 years to avoid turning our planet into an uninhabitable hellhole.
Several prominent scientists and no less an expert than AOC herself confirmed her claim. Al Gore and others have made a handsome living proclaiming alarmist deadlines, most of which have already passed.
Fear of the End of Days isn’t the only driver of environmental radicalism. It’s also another social justice movement. Global Climate Strike, known for organizing massive demonstrations worldwide, demands that we “ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart”.
These self-appointed experts aren’t searching for the most feasible ways to limit carbon emissions. They demand instead “non-corporate solutions that recognize the traditional knowledge, practices and resilience of indigenous people”.
Climate change thus conceived incorporates rejecting capitalism and technological innovation while implementing a wish list including, among other items, minimum wages, forgiveness of international debts and “access to nature for all”.
But the mother of all proposals to zero out carbon emissions is the federal Green New Deal. As outlined in a report produced by congressional Democrats, it would “mobilize every aspect of American society on a scale not seen since World War II.“
Every building in America would be upgraded or replaced for “state of the art energy efficiency”. High speed rail would replace air travel. The report proclaims nothing less than “a massive mobilization of all our resources into renewable energies.”
The GND would completely transform how we produce and consume energy, harvest crops, drive cars and manufacture goods. But all this coercive transforming would not come cheap.
The net cost of the GND is difficult to pinpoint, but credible estimates are in the 50 to 90 trillion range, an unimaginable sum many times our total GDP. But don’t worry. According to the report, “the investments will be paid for with public money appropriated by Congress”. Isn’t that nice?
But here’s the clincher. Even a fully implemented GND would have only a negligible effect on the earth’s climate. Using the methodology developed by the UN Climate Panel, eliminating all U.S. carbon emissions would make the globe only 0.138°C cooler by 2100. If the entire developed world also went to zero, the effect would only be 0.278°C by 2100. For this we would devastate our way of life?
Even some prominent left-wing intellectuals realize that this is laughingstock material. As Peter Franzén put it in the New Yorker, “to prepare for the coming climate apocalypse, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it “.
Each dollar we waste on pipe dreams is one less dollar we have to spend on what humans always do in the face of threatening change: adapt accordingly. Climate change is a problem and anthropogenic warming is real but the wisdom of the crowd is also correct: we have other equally vexing, expensive problems to deal with.
We can get through this if we use human intelligence to stay calm and thoughtful – not like the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Thomas C. Patterson, MD is a retired Emergency Medicine physician, Arizona state Senator and Arizona Senate Majority Leader in the ’90s. He is a former Chairman, Goldwater Institute.