December 9, 2009
With the publication of damaging e-mails from a climate research center in Britain, the radical environmental movement appears to face a tipping point. The revelation of appalling actions by so-called climate change experts allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue.
"Climate-gate," as the e-mails and other documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have become known, exposes a highly politicized scientific circle -- the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference. The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won't change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse.
The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to "hide the decline" in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What's more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate.
This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics. As governor of Alaska, I took a stand against politicized science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population had more than doubled. I got clobbered for my actions by radical environmentalists nationwide, but I stood by my view that adding a healthy species to the endangered list under the guise of "climate change impacts" was an abuse of the Endangered Species Act. This would have irreversibly hurt both Alaska's economy and the nation's, while also reducing opportunities for responsible development.
Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits -- not pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate -- far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to create a subcabinet to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska's communities and infrastructure.
But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs. And those costs are real. Unlike the proposals China and India offered prior to Copenhagen -- which actually allow them to increase their emissions -- President Obama's proposal calls for serious cuts in our own long-term carbon emissions. Meeting such targets would require Congress to pass its cap-and-tax plans, which will result in job losses and higher energy costs (as Obama admitted during the campaign). That's not exactly what most Americans are hoping for these days. And as public opposition continues to stall Congress's cap-and-tax legislation, Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats plan to regulate carbon emissions themselves, doing an end run around the American people.
In fact, we're not the only nation whose people are questioning climate change schemes. In the European Union, energy prices skyrocketed after it began a cap-and-tax program. Meanwhile, Australia's Parliament recently defeated a cap-and-tax bill. Surely other nations will follow suit, particularly as the climate e-mail scandal continues to unfold.
In his inaugural address, President Obama declared his intention to "restore science to its rightful place." But instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante. He plans to fly in at the climax of the conference in hopes of sealing a "deal." Whatever deal he gets, it will be no deal for the American people. What Obama really hopes to bring home from Copenhagen is more pressure to pass the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal. This is a political move. The last thing America needs is misguided legislation that will raise taxes and cost jobs -- particularly when the push for such legislation rests on agenda-driven science.
Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference. The president should boycott Copenhagen.
The writer was the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president and governor of Alaska from 2006 to 2009.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
What do the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission, a handful of liberal academic elites and Google all have in common? Answer: a radical plan to regulate the Internet that may totally upend the free market in today's massive information economy.
Recently, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski publicly proposed new net neutrality rules that flip the existing role of government in the net neutrality debate from a hands-off, free market enabler of consumer choice to a new, heavy-handed regulator of private companies and entrepreneurs.
With broadband providers in his sights, Genachowski announced a series of "principles" he claimed were geared toward consumer protection.
Four of these principles were similar to existing FCC practice, but with the added twist of applying only to broadband providers, thus imposing government sanctions on just one segment of the broader information economy.
Unfortunately, this one segment is one of the few bright spots in our otherwise moribund economy.
A fifth, and brand new, principle is equally discriminatory against broadband providers and even more damaging to the free market and the Internet economy. This principle of "nondiscrimination" will make illegal any attempt by broadband and content providers to offer the advanced services consumers want prioritized high-definition movies, games, television shows and music.
All of these principles combined are but one more step to water down the concept of ownership on the Internet. The FCC may not believe this, or won't let on if they do, but that's certainly the agenda of many of net neutrality's most vocal backers in elite academia and the "public interest" community.
It is some of these voices influential with the Obama administration who believe that for-profit companies have no business charging for information or services in a digital environment.
In their utopia, "information equality" doesn't allow for such capitalist behavior because, as they say, "all information wants to be free." Think of it as the Internet version of rent control.
Rest assured, these FCC principles will radically transform the way business is done in our information economy, and taken to their logical conclusion could do extraordinary damage to the information economy itself.
And this is where Google comes into the picture.
With for-profit broadband providers the target of the government assault, Google stands to make windfall profits as its competition is handcuffed by federal regulators and its dominant advertising-content business model is supported and vindicated by official policy.
Nevermind that Google was the sixth-largest contributor to President Obama's campaign, or that a number of current and former Google executives sit as high-level advisers to the president and the FCC. The FCC in the name of consumer "fairness" has gerrymandered long-accepted broadband principles to target Google's competitors and give one of the administration's strongest political allies a competitive advantage every step of the way.
It appears the FCC has managed to redefine the definition of an Internet Service Provider (ISP), excluding Google from the category and thus also from its regulations. And so, although Google is in fact the largest ISP in the world (accounting for 6% of all Internet traffic according to a recent Arbor Networks study), it can continue with business as usual while Google's broadband competitors are saddled with heavy new FCC regulations.
Essentially, the Obama administration is securing Google's dominance in advertising-supported content on the web, while all but shutting down all other business models including subscription-based, streaming, downloaded and pay-per-view strategies.
This is not, and should not be, the way American government does business. It is a frightening realization of how little technical knowledge and how many political considerations have contributed to the FCC's current stance.
Recent criticisms of the FCC's net neutrality proposal by FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell in this regard are enlightening. "Do you really want five unelected bureaucrats such as myself none of whom have an engineering degree, we're all liberal arts majors making these types of decisions?" he asked.
Political payback for one company at the expense of an entire information economy is impermissible. The old game in Washington of industries lobbying for harmful regulations on their competitors appears to be alive and well.
The fact is that the same free market principles and intense competition that have made the Internet the powerful force it is today and that have constantly pushed America's corporations including Google toward new innovations and services must be allowed to endure.
Neither silly Utopian notions of net neutrality and equality other words for price controls nor political payback can be permitted to interfere. The Internet is a powerful force, and it would be to the detriment of all if the FCC is successful in trying to regulate its potential.
Forbes is president and chief executive officer of Forbes Inc.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/09/2009 09:29:00 AM