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    It's Not Gridlock That is Blocking a Carbon Tax, It's Science and Economics

    08/23/2013

    This is an open letter to William D. Ruckelshaus, Lee M. Thomas, William K. Reilly and Christine Todd Whitman. You, the former directors of the EPA who were appointed by Republican presidents, recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled, A Republican Case for Climate Action. In this opinion piece, the four of you write of your conviction that action can no longer be delayed on the climate, and that the only reason we don't have a chance to pass a carbon tax is because of partisan gridlock. With all due respect to your years of service to our nation, I wish to remind you all of one inconvenient truth: you are political appointees. You are experts in neither science nor economics - your only expertise is in the political arena.

    Your opinions, therefore, are formed neither in a scientific nor an economic framework. Let me be blunt: not one of you has ever actually pursued any rigorous scientific or economic course of academic study. Your educational backgrounds are wholly unrelated to the relevant fields when discussing climate science and carbon taxing schemes.

    In your NYT op-ed, you write,

    There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.

    The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in.”

    A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington. Dealing with this political reality, President Obama’s June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver real progress. He will use his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants and spur increased investment in clean energy technology, which is inarguably the path we must follow to ensure a strong economy along with a livable climate.

    Given your lack of background in the rigors of scientific study, it is inconceivable that the four of you can claim any knowledge of what debate exists in the scientific community. There is strong evidence that the warming trend to which you refer either has stopped or was, at least in part, manufactured by prominent scientists who earn enormous federal grants to come up with data supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

    Your claims that sea levels are rising and Arctic sea ice is "melting years faster than projected" are so full of holes that it causes one to wonder if you've ever read a peer-reviewed scientific study. And calling a new tax on energy a "market-based approach" ignores the enormous effects on our economy such a scheme would cause.

    Conservatives do not oppose carbon taxes because they are anti-science or do not care about the environment. Quite the contrary, in fact. Conservatives oppose carbon taxes for two very strong reasons that you would do well not to dismiss so blithely:

    1. Any carbon tax would have a far-reaching and compounding negative impact on our economy, and is regressive in nature - carbon taxes disproportionately hurt the poor in a wide variety of ways; and
    2. The science, despite what Al Gore may have told you, is far from conclusive. Consensus is irrelevant to the scientific process. The scientific process, when properly utilized, fits a theory to the facts as observed - NOT the other way around.

    In closing, you all would do well to listen to all the voices in your party, as well as all the voices in the fields of science and economics, before casting judgment on Conservatives who oppose such an economically inhumane policy.

    Sincerely,
    A Conservative with an actual degree in science (Zoology, Connecticut College, 1993)

    Follow Jeff on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

    1 comments
    Stephen Ortman
    08/23/2013

    "There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts..."

    There is plenty of scientific debate about the basic facts. There's little debate that the earth warmed over that last 30 years of the 20th century, but how much of that was due to man's activity, what will be the effects of a doubling of atmospheric CO2, and whether costly mitigation efforts or adaptation (or some combination) is the best policy, are very much in debate. It's disingenuous to assert that the least important part of the theory - past temperature trends - garner broad agreement and use that to imply the most controversial and parts do as well. There's very little evidence that the predictions about future temperatures will be accurate, and what little historical record has been produced since they were made indicates they've over estimated climate sensitivity to CO2.

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