In the News: National Journal blog - Sensenbrenner: Climate Costs Would Add to Mounting U.S. Debt

December 17, 2009

In the News: National Journal blog - Sensenbrenner: Climate Costs Would Add to Mounting U.S. Debt

By: F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
December 17, 2009

In the coming days, the United States is expected to reach its debt limit of $12.1 trillion. House Democratic leaders have said at least an additional $200 billion in credit is needed for the U.S. Treasury to make it through the year, and it looks as though that they will eventually try to raise the debt ceiling by at least another $1.8 trillion.

Already we're spending our grandchildren's tax dollars on bank bailouts and wasteful stimulus packages. But as climate talks heat up in Copenhagen, Denmark, I worry that President Obama will commit the U.S. to more wasteful spending. What's worse, this money won't be spent here in the U.S., but in countries like China, India, Iran and even North Korea.

Climate talks have already stalled over the demands of poor countries who expect rich nations to provide between $100 billion and $200 billion each year for energy technology and other climate mitigation costs. In contrast, developed nations, including the U.S., have proposed a $10 billion "starter fund."

Countries like China and India have said nations like the U.S. need to provide funding in the neighborhood of 1 percent of GDP. For the U.S., that price tag is $140 billion a year, which is in addition to the $28 billion a year the U.S. already spends in foreign aid. For a U.S. family of four, China's demand comes to nearly $1,900 in yearly taxes. And that's just the beginning.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study forecasts the international costs to reduce greenhouse gas emission could be as much as $3 trillion by 2050, with the U.S. likely bearing responsibility for at least $1 trillion of what the study called "international financial transfers of an unprecedented scale." Of course, while China and other developing nations are making demands for this money, they won't agree on how to spend it.

None of this factors in the costs for the cap-and-tax system that Democratic leaders say is needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The National Association of Manufacturers says the price tag to implement cap-and-tax could be upwards of 2.4 million lost jobs by 2030, a nearly 50 percent spike in electricity rates and a loss of $1,248 in yearly income for the average American family.

The recent scandal known as "climategate" shows that many climate researchers went to great lengths to ensure dire climate forecasts that would seem to necessitate immediate and expensive action. In one e-mail, a climate research describes a "trick" to "hide the decline" in some temperature readings. This sounds more like scientific fascism than the scientific method. This scandal doesn't undercut all climate science, but before President Obama and the Administration commit huge sums of money towards climate change, they should act on my request to investigate the reach and scope of this scandal.

Given the mounting debt and deficit, and mounting questions over the science, can the U.S. afford to make huge international and domestic financial commitments in Copenhagen?


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