‘Regulation Reality Tour’ Peddles Polluter Lies, Endangering American Prosperity

Our guest blogger is Rick Piltz, founder of Climate Science Watch.

Regulation Reality TourNext week (on March 22) in Arkansas, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) will kick off a nationwide “Regulation Reality Tour” to block U.S. efforts under the Clean Air Act to protect the health and welfare of Americans by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The tour “will feature AFP’s very own EPA Carbon Cops in their environmentally friendly Smart cars,” and offer free donuts, lunch, and dinner along the way.

Americans for Prosperity describes itself as “an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels.” With strong and generous support from Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, AFP claims that actions to address climate change are based on “global warming alarmism” and will wreck the economy. AFP is part of larger network of libertarian organizations with close ties to the Koch brothers that distort climate change science and economics to undermine public support for government action to address the problem.

AFP generally says very little specifically about the science of climate change beyond repeatedly stating that regulatory steps by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and legislation being considered by Congress are based on “global warming alarmism” — weasel wording used to dismiss the scientific basis for action with few specific details on what AFP believes or doesn’t believe about climate change. AFP says the “costly so-called ‘solutions’ to global warming” being considered by government would “have only a miniscule impact on global temperature and would not be detectable against the background of natural variation.”

Peggy Venable, AFP’s State Director for Texas, is less restrained. In an opinion piece titled The Feds are Messing with Texas in The Lone Star Report (29 January 2009), she says:

The scientific establishment has dropped the ball. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide.

She goes on to discuss the science-based finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. Specifically, she praised a response to EPA’s endangerment finding that was being contemplated by the state of Texas and suggested by an AFP ally “who proposes attacking the EPA as a purveyor of bad science under federal statutes that prohibit junk science by agencies.”

When the State of Texas announced a year later that it was taking legal action against EPA over the endangerment finding, Venable wrote “Hats off to Gov. Rick Perry,” along with the state attorney general and the agriculture commissioner. According to a press release from the Texas Governor’s Office posted on the AFP Texas site:

“With billions of dollars at stake, EPA outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Prominent climate scientists associated with the IPCC were engaged in an ongoing, orchestrated effort to violate freedom of information laws, exclude scientific research, and manipulate temperature data. In light of the parade of controversies and improper conduct that has been uncovered, we know that the IPCC cannot be relied upon for objective, unbiased science — so EPA should not rely upon it to reach a decision that will hurt small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and the larger Texas economy.”

On 15 April 2009, AFP joined with other conservative groups in a letter challenging the EPA’s endangerment finding, claiming:

Significant uncertainty persists with regard to climate sensitivity — the core scientific issue. Despite the ongoing increase in air’s CO2 content, various measures of public health and welfare — ;life-expectancy, heat-related mortality, weather-related mortality, air quality, agricultural productivity — continue to improve. Endangerment of public health and welfare is not ‘reasonably anticipated.’

Despite decades of research and thousands of peer-reviewed publications to the contrary, AFP rigidly adheres to the denialist arguments that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities pose no significant danger to Americans — or the rest of the planet.

Alongside its dismissive position on the science, AFP mischaracterizes the economics of action on climate change. The largest economic consequences of unrestrained growth in emissions are related to the impacts of climate change, the costs of which are growing and will be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies later in the century if emissions are not dramatically reduced. AFP ignores those costs. It focuses instead exclusively on the costs of reducing emissions, which are likely to be far less over time than the costly consequences of inaction. Furthermore, AFP exaggerates the costs of reducing emissions, cherry-picking analyses that suggest the largest negative economic consequences.

Finally, AFP argues that other major emitting countries will do little or nothing to effectively reduce emissions. This argument contradicts evidence that governments of other countries are growing increasingly concerned about the economic, social and political disruption that will occur as climate rapidly changes. They in fact are taking steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change and to curb emissions, and in many instances are well ahead of the U.S. on the issue.

Read more about Americans for Prosperity at Climate Science Watch.

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