News: CJ Exclusives

State Climate Commission Needs to Shift Focus

JLF analyst urges changes as lawmakers consider reauthorization

RALEIGH – Legislators should allow North Carolina’s climate commission to disappear, unless the group refocuses its efforts on its original mandated mission. That’s the recommendation from a John Locke Foundation analyst who has monitored the group’s work.

State law authorizing the N.C. Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change expired April 15. The group cannot meet again without a vote from the General Assembly.

The commission’s co-chair, Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, filed House Bill 2529 to extend the commission’s work through April 1, 2009. The House Environment and Natural Resources Committee had been scheduled to consider the bill today. Work on the House’s budget plan prompted the cancellation of that committee meeting.

“There’s still plenty of useful work the climate commission could pursue,” said Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar. “But its track record is poor. Instead of following its original mandate to study the facts of the global warming debate, the commission has engaged in a one-sided effort to push the agenda of global warming alarmists. If this group is going to continue meeting, lawmakers should spell out in clear detail the final product that’s expected from the commission’s work.”

The General Assembly formed its climate commission in 2005. Cordato lodged his first public complaints about the group in February 2007. “Lawmakers ordered the commission to conduct an in-depth examination of scientific and economic questions linked to global climate change,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that idea. If North Carolina is going to consider taking steps to address climate change, lawmakers should know the scientific and economic facts, not just the alarmist spin.”

Commission members have ignored key items spelled out in the original 2005 legislation, Cordato said. “This group has avoided any discussion of possible non-human causes of global warming, a critical piece of information for any group worried about the world’s temperature.”

The 2005 law also mandated that the commission determine whether proposed climate change policies would have any impact on the temperature, Cordato said. “Isn’t this the whole point of setting up this commission: to determine whether North Carolina could take any steps to reduce global warming?” he asked. “Yet this is a topic that has received absolutely no attention from the climate commission. The group has not discussed whether North Carolina could do anything to reduce temperatures.”

Instead of addressing lawmakers’ 2005 mandate, the climate commission has pursued other goals, Cordato said. “The commission’s agenda has been pretty clear,” he said. “Discussion of the science has been limited to favor arguments from global warming alarmists. Once trained climatologists like Robert Balling and Pat Michaels started presenting commission members a more balanced approach to the science, the commission tried to scuttle further discussion by arguing that ‘the science is settled.’”

Commission leaders also have relied too heavily on consulting work from an alarmist group called the Center for Climate Strategies, Cordato said. The center took the lead role in drafting 56 policy proposals for North Carolina to address climate change through cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. “CCS pretends to be an honest broker in the climate change debate,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this group has been infiltrating state after state with proposals that would advance the alarmist agenda.”

Once CCS helped the state’s Climate Action Plan Advisory Group draft proposed climate policies for North Carolina, the legislative commission shortchanged discussion of the potential economic impact, Cordato said.

“At first, the climate commission completely ignored the economics of the global warming debate,” he said. “Once critics started asking economic questions, the commission trumpeted a fatally flawed report from Appalachian State University that grossly exaggerated potential economic benefits. This spring, the ASU researchers, who were not economists, admitted that their original numbers were off by at least 900 percent.”

Only one real economic analysis of these climate change policies has been produced to date, Cordato said. “It did not come from ASU, from a state agency, or from the legislative commission,” he said. “Instead, the John Locke Foundation asked a team of trained economists from the Beacon Hill Institute at Boston’s Suffolk University to take a serious look at these policies. The Beacon Hill Institute report shows the potential for 33,000 lost jobs and a $4.5 billion loss in Gross State Product.”

North Carolina cannot afford to allow the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change to continue its work without some changes, Cordato said. “This commission could compile valuable data and conduct important studies,” he said. “In fact, the 2005 law establishing the climate commission demanded that type of work. It hasn’t happened so far, and there’s no evidence to suggest the commission plans to start engaging in a serious discussion and debate.”

“If lawmakers see some value in allowing this group to continue working, the General Assembly needs to set clear demands in the legislation reauthorizing the commission,” Cordato added. “First, the commission should be forced to report whether its proposed policies would have any impact on temperature. Second, the commission should be forced to provide a credible economic analysis of those policies. Without these mandates, I fear this group will simply continue along an alarmist path. Ignoring the science and economics of the climate change debate would yield a final product that’s useless to North Carolina voters and taxpayers.”