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Save the Humans!

Beware the government's latest climate change power grab

David Harsanyi
April 22, 2009

Get ready for a dazzling display of environmental alarmism this week as Washington takes up the evils of modern living.

When it comes to the Earth's demise, no one is innocent. Take, for instance, the recent story about a group of scientists who are wagging their scrawny fingers at our rotund brothers and sisters for contributing to the planet's demise by relentlessly stuffing their pudgy faces. (Eat green; be green!)

You see, eating more means humans must produce more food—and more carbon dioxide. It means we must raise more soon-to-be juicy steaks that have a tendency to emit greenhouse gases that reek. You might find the thought of regulating food intake and livestock flatulence a bit bizarre, but hey, if it means saving the Earth, why not?

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency bravely moved forward by finding that things such as smokestacks and breathing, or things related to greenhouse gases, endanger public health and welfare. And because the EPA can regulate CO2, it can have a say in nearly everything we do, with little regard for silly distractions, such as economic trade-offs.

We're not talking about your cars or soon-to-be-extinct trucks; we're talking about your scooters and toasters, your dryers and pets (do you really need two dogs? Come to think of it, do you really need two children?), your coffeehouses and Subaru dealerships and organic-produce collectives.

It's not going to be easy. Climate change is the cause of—and caused by—everything. Reputable news pieces regularly allege, without any evidence, that climate change is the culprit in hundreds of dreadful events. From the decline of outdoor youth hockey to the scourge of teenage drinking to the massacre in Darfur, you guessed it; global warming is often the boogeyman.

Who knew that a shift of 0.04 degrees Celsius in a decade could be so terrible?

What's worse than the EPA grabbing power over CO2? Well, leading Luddite and congressman Henry Waxman is worse. His proposal sets carbon reduction goals of 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050 and, with cap and trade, effectively nationalizes energy.

This incremental destruction of prosperity is probably going to have to be modified as soon as citizens get a taste of reality. But how could any reasonable or responsible legislator suggest an 83 percent cut in emissions without any practical or wide-scale alternative to replace it or any plan to pay for it all?

When people are on a crusade, I guess, logic rarely plays a part. And when Waxman and friends hold climate change hearings this week, it will feature more than 50 witnesses, the majority, no doubt, prepared to spin some exceedingly (non) chilling tale to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

I suspect that few of them will mention the recent report from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation on cap and trade policy that illustrates all American households would face an annual cost of nearly $144.8 billion per year—"disproportionately borne by low-income households, those under age 25 and over 75 years ... and single parents with dependent children."

Even fewer will mention the new Rasmussen poll that shows that only 1 in 3 voters now believes global warming is caused by human activity—the lowest number ever. Forty-four percent of likely voters attribute climate change to long-term planetary trends, while 7 percent blame some other reason.

This shift in public opinion may be a blip, or it may be a trend. But if we're ever to enact energy policy that is both environmentally responsible and economically reasonable, we're going to need a rational discussion. We haven't come close yet.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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