Skiing down the slippery slope of climate change
January 20, 2014
More than 100 ski areas in the United States signed a Climate Declaration last year, demanding federal government action to avert "catastrophic" human-induced climate change. Instead of cooling the planet, such an approach is likely to create a real anthropogenic problem for ski resorts: Few people will be left with discretionary income to buy lift tickets.
Ski resorts seem undaunted by the prospect of a less prosperous client base. As lift ticket prices rise, ski areas are undertaking expensive renewable energy projects and adding a plethora of personnel to their payrolls to focus on initiatives like recycling and reseeding areas burned by wildfires. Such projects have merit, but the effect on climate is dubious and costs are ultimately borne by skiers.
A primary goal of climate activists is reduction of electricity produced by hydrocarbon resources. Ironically, ski resorts consume unfathomable amounts of electricity for snowmaking, far more than can be provided by renewable technologies. Faced with this contradiction, it would pay for ski resorts to re-evaluate the "scientific consensus" behind climate change politics.
To convince the public that anthropogenic climate change poses an imminent threat, activists rely on a 2007 report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It concludes that global warming due to CO2 and other greenhouse gases is "unequivocal" and that the frequency and intensity of natural disasters will increase. IPCC models ignore critical factors like natural decadal and multidecadal oscillations in ocean temperatures.
Despite shaky science, the Supreme Court entered the climate change fray and ordered the EPA to determine whether CO2 is hazardous to human health and the environment. The EPA used the IPCC report as alleged evidence of human-induced climate change, while rejecting dissenting science. In April 2009, the EPA issued an "endangerment finding" saying CO2 emission poses a serious threat to human health and safety.
With the endangerment finding, the EPA was granted authority to dictate U.S. economic policy through CO2 regulation. Meanwhile, President Obama and congressional allies are pushing cap-and-trade legislation that would punish use of traditional energy technology. Many states have also jumped on the climate change bandwagon, enacting renewable portfolio standards and establishing subsidies for wind and solar energy.
The primary effect of overzealous regulation and misguided legislation is electricity costs that are 20-30 percent higher. Economic analysis indicates more expensive energy correlates to higher unemployment and lower economic growth. Unfortunately, the government approach to climate change (i.e., restrictions on the free market and subsidies from taxpayer dollars) won't even reduce atmospheric CO2.
Industrial growth in China and India will far offset any CO2 reduction possible in the United States. Unilaterally reducing greenhouse gas emissions is all pain and no gain. In fact, economic studies show the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States decreases at least 0.4 percent for every $100 billion that regulations and subsidies redirect to "clean energy."
Environmental quality improves when economic growth leads to prosperity. Ski areas could ensure environmental stewardship and their livelihood with a new declaration: Government must stop interfering with the free market. The Energy Department's own data shows that CO2 emissions in the United States are in decline because the private sector is making domestic natural gas abundant and affordable.
Despite such encouraging news, the natural gas industry is receiving little help from Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats. A Congressional Research Service report reveals natural gas production on federal lands has fallen 33 percent since 2007. The natural gas boom has occurred because production on state and private lands is up 40 percent during the same period.
Thanks to the free market, America is on the verge of becoming an exporter of clean energy. Natural gas and other hydrocarbons are dynamic resources that are a function of technology, economic conditions, and social objectives. In the words of economist Erich Zimmerman, "resources are not, they become." That realization is the key to true sustainability and stewardship.
Ski resorts are free to install solar panels and water bottle filling stations, but those actions miss the mark on clean energy and take money out of the pockets of would-be skiers. Those pockets will be turned inside out if government hamstrings the U.S. economy in response to a Climate Declaration. Then every American will be skiing down the slippery slope of climate change.
James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer, the author of Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller, and the founder of PopCulturePatriots.com. Visit jamesdkellogg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.