Roper: Climate plan’s costs are real. Savings, not so much

By Rob Roper

Listening to the presentation to the Climate Council on the cost savings they are claiming will be associated with the Climate Action Plan (CAP), I was reminded of the classic scene from Caddyshack where Bill Murray’s character tells the story of his compensation for a round with Dalai Lama: “Oh, there won’t be any money,” says the Lama, “But when you die, on your deathbed you will receive total consciousness.”

Rob Roper is on the Board of Directors of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The reason for my cinematic flashback is that the “savings” being promised by the Climate Council if we spend the multiple tens of billions of dollars necessary to implement their programs are largely based on something called “the social cost of carbon.” What is this? Well, like Murray’s caddying fee, there won’t be money.

The social cost of carbon is a made-up calculation that attempts to affix a price to the negative economic impacts of releasing a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. It is highly subjective. Under the last three administrations it has been officially pegged at $43 a ton (Obama) $3–$5 a ton (Trump), and $51 a ton (Biden). There are as many calculations as there are organizations interested in such things.

According to an explanation provided by Stanford University, “When calculating the social cost of carbon, the main components are what happens to the climate and how these changes affect economic outcomes, including changes in agricultural productivity, damages caused by sea level rise, and decline in human health and labor productivity…. For example, many studies now show very clearly that our productivity at work declines quickly as the temperature gets hot.”

Perhaps you see the problem here: in order to realize the “savings” promised by the Climate Action Plan that come from the social Cost of carbon, the plan would actually have to stop temperatures from increasing, stop sea levels from rising, etc. And we know for a fact that the Vermont Climate Action Plan won’t do this. Ergo, the plan doesn’t actually realize any such savings.

Referring again to the Stanford example, if rising temperatures account for a loss in labor productivity and temperatures still go up despite our “investment,” which they will, we won’t see any savings on labor productivity. Such “savings” should not be counted in an honest cost/benefit analysis — but they are. And this is dishonest.

Now, the case can be made that some actions being pushed or mandated under the CAP could result in some savings over time. Installing solar panels on your roof may, depending upon an individual’s situation, over the lifetime of the panels reduce one’s overall electric bill. (Whether or not it’s government’s role in a free country to mandate such decisions is another argument for another day). But even by the Climate Council’s own generous math, savings from these types of activities add up to less than the costs of the programs.

That’s where the social cost of carbon comes in! Calculated by the Climate Council at $146/ton (because why not?) it adds like a giant dollop of whipped cream on top of the brussels sprouts over $6 billion in “savings” to the overall calculation. And the total savings being promised by the CAP over a 30-year period: $6.4 billion. Nice coincidence!

The up-front costs of the CAP are very real. Big subsidies for electric vehicles, charging stations, weatherizing homes, expanding wind and solar, and a big new state bureaucracy to manage it all that will have to be paid for with high taxes on things like home heating fuel, gasoline and diesel. We can put numbers to this, and they are very big numbers that will have to be paid for now and in the very near future.

But even in a best-case scenario, any savings form this “investment,” real or imaginary, won’t show up until the back end of the plan near 2050, if they show up at all. Cost estimates for implementing new government programs such as those prescribed in the CAP rarely come in under budget, and with labor, supply chain issues, and inflation in play it is a safe bet that the cost estimates put forward in the CAP are lowballs, perhaps very low.

So, when you hear advocates saying that the Climate Action Plan will “save Vermonters money” this is what they’re basing their claims on — a made up number attached to a fuzzy concept called the social cost of carbon. Bill Murray seemed happy with his ethereal return on investment. Personally, I’d rather see actual cash.

Rob Roper is a member of the Ethan Allen Institute board of directors. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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6 thoughts on “Roper: Climate plan’s costs are real. Savings, not so much

  1. The climate council begins their promises and assumptions of cost/benefit, social or otherwise, AFTER other unsubstantiated assumptions have been silently made, behind a curtain no one is supposed to know about.

    First, it must be recognized that atmospheric CO2 is plant food and therefore beneficial to plant life, and as a result, animal life on earth. Next fact, there is no linear correlation between increasing atmospheric CO2 and greenhouse gas temperature elevation. Next fact, compared to water vapor, atmospheric CO2 contributes minimally to greenhouse gas warming.
    Next fact, as to negative effects from elevated atmospheric CO2, what is known is that on the spectrum of atmospheric concentrations, from very low, ie 150 ppm and below, which is below the threshold for plant life to continue, to the very high, ie. 6,000-8,000 ppm and above, which have been shown by ice polar core samples to have existed during much of the intervals between early ice ages, plants and animals do well in times of higher CO2 concentrations. Fact, during ice ages atmospheric CO2 is at the lowest end of the CO2 concentration spectrum, as it tends to correlate with temperature: CO2 down, temperature down; CO2 up, temperature up. Plants, animals and their interdependent systems do better in higher temperature environments. The converse is also true, they do worse in lower temperatures with more famine, disease, lower productivity, and lower comfort.

    So, where do we find ourselves today?While those who cry climate Emergency, climate Crisis, and urgency of all urgencies? Atmospheric CO2 today is approximately 400 ppm.
    150 ppm is the line below which life can not exist on earth. For perspective, during ice ages, these concentrations have dropped below 250-300 ppm. And today we’re hardly much higher. While across the history of the earth, concentrations have been way over 1,000, over 2,000, and much much higher. In fact, we’re colder today than most of the known temperatures earth has experienced. For example, we have ice at both of Earths poles. Most of the history of the earth between ice ages has had either no ice at either pole or only ice at one. And speaking of ice ages, we’re due for the next one. When it will come, no one knows, but by their periodic cycles the next one is due at any time. Just 50 years ago climate scientists thought we were entering into the next ice age and were very concerned!

    So, clambering about atmospheric heating, CO2 elevations, and the fabricated consequences these green spenders would have us change our culture over, it just ain’t so! Not that anyone can or ever has shown with any validity using the scientific method.
    We do know for certain, though, that higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere than we have today have been no problem for plants, animals nor the earth, its been that way for most of our history and we’re here today to talk about it. Trying to force people to reduce CO2 output is just contrary to what’s good for agriculture. We’re relatively close to the low level of plant extinction right now compared to high levels that have existed for the majority of our history, so why on earth would anyone want to expend money, energy or worry to lower it further? On purpose!!
    Thats just nuts. These are natural cycles recurring independent of humans for Earth’s entire history. Worse would be trying to make us pay for releasing CO2. We should be being rewarded!

    Next someone will try to tax us for when it gets dark outside.

    • Yes to CO2 being plant food. The planet gets greener with more thereof. So, the jokester banksters–and I’m being nice–that continue to purport the fear-frenzy are–to myself–not only controlling the narrative, but verge on something akin to traitorous sedition. They think they can get away with their faulty logic, but this is beyond the beyond in relation to what constitutes good governance. In a hybrid war of which we’re in, new definitions are emerging; where they and their minions are going to be held liable, and it’s not going to be pretty.

  2. Rob, you are arguing against religious zealots. They are dogmatists and dogmatists always know they’re right and you’re wrong. Always. Absolutely. Their forebearers threw virgins into volcanoes for the same purpose; it worked just as well, and it didn’t hurt a bit. Hurt them, that is. Now they’re doing the same thing economically: sacrificing the peasants to control the weather. The peasants do the suffering and the weather does whatever it does. Like the prelates of old, the modern AGW cabal inhabits energy consuming mansions in elite communities, sails mammoth yachts, are transported to exotic locales in private jets to discuss how further to burden the peons. It’s a religion; It’s a scam.

  3. They have no clue. Throw tons of money at “it” to pad the pockets of the slime balls that invented it and it’ll all go away. Mans “impact” on earth’s atmosphere is if at all measurable, it’s a scam and most people are dumb enough to fall for it

  4. The money aspects are just the icing. Just try to imaging of life without fossil fuels! They are part of almost everything, including the processes that make our water and air so clean and including the processed that make windmills and solar panels. Try pushing a bill that eliminates them in the next year to call their bluff. If they are going to destroy the world in ten years, then stop them now! It is all a power grab and that is it. Flush them out. Every Vermonter should read Fossil Future, by Alex Epstien and discover how to bring change to Vermont. We live in the most powerful nation on our planet and our nation impacts people all over the globe, so we each have great power, even if just with out vote, to impact the lives of billions of people. Power mixed with ignorance is very dangerous. We have a duty to be knowledgeable on the issues. Knowledge will expose the evil that is in play with this climate change crusade.

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