Proper financial stewardship includes avoiding the tendency to buy trouble. By President Biden’s reckoning, it means getting a handle on financial risks to the nation posed by climate change. Given the uncertainty of even near-term weather forecasts, betting the American economy on temperature trends decades from now would make the boldest of soothsayers blanch.
Mr. Biden issued an executive order last week directing federal agencies to study the financial perils of climate change and take steps to ease their impact. In it, the president ordered his White House advisers to devise a plan within 120 days for, among other things, “the measurement, assessment, mitigation, and disclosure of climate-related financial risk to Federal Government programs, assets, and liabilities in order to increase the long-term stability of Federal operations.” All is meant to bolster the Biden strategy for achieving net-zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“Our modern financial system was built on the assumption that the climate was stable, and today it’s clear that we no longer live in such a world,” said National Economic Council Chairman Brian Deese. Hailing from New England environs once frozen beneath a mile-high glacier, Mr. Deese is surely wise to Mother Nature’s climate vagaries. As baseball philosopher Yogi Berra famously put it: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
That is why it’s passing strange that Mr. Biden is anxious to bet the nation’s economic future on climate predictions, even while a clear understanding of the relationship between atmospheric greenhouse gases and global temperatures remains elusive.
Physicists William van Wijngaarden of Canada’s York University and William Happer of Princeton University reported in 2020 findings that the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 2015’s 400 parts per million to 800 ppm over time would only increase its “radiative forcing,” or climate effect, by 1 percent.
It means additional greenhouse gas emissions would have little warming effect and, consequently, upending the U.S. economy to prevent a presumably toasty future could prove a monumental waste of time and money.
Moreover, the president’s incipient policies are already battering Americans’ finances. In the four months since his Inauguration Day cancellation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the average price of gasoline has risen 27 percent. And each penny increase takes more than $1 billion out of the pockets of working families. The recent hacking-induced shutdown of the East Coast’s Colonial Pipeline demonstrated how critical fossil-fuel conduits are to the nation’s economic well-being.
At the same time, the president has given a thumbs-up to completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, designed to transport billions of cubic meters of Russian natural gas to Germany. By doing so, Mr. Biden is compounding his impoverishment of Americans with the enrichment of Russians.
If Mr. Biden seems determined to pursue climate-change policies that jeopardize the U.S. economy, it’s because he is.
Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter