Climate Change 12: Reasonable Balance is Needed. How Over-Regulation Kills People.

epa-torture-600-aea-550x393Former NASA climatologist Roy Spencer, who continues to compile and maintain one of the global satellite temperature records, is one of the leading skeptics of climate alarmism.  As with much of his writing at, his recent piece on over-regulation made many important and reasonable points that never seem to be considered when the Environmental Protection Agency makes decisions that “weaken our economy and destroy jobs, with no measurable benefit to the climate system.”

The overarching goal of every regulatory agency is to write regulations. That’s their reason for existence.

It’s not to strengthen the economy. Or protect jobs. It’s to regulate.

As a result, the EPA continues the push to make the environment cleaner and cleaner, no matter the cost to society.

How does the EPA justify, on scientific grounds, the effort to push our pollution levels to near-zero?

It comes from the widespread assumption that, if we know huge amounts of some substance is a danger, then even tiny amounts must be a danger as well.  …

It is assumed that any climate change is bad, as if climate never changed before, or as if there is some preferred climate state that keeps all forms of life in perpetual peace and harmony.

But, if anything, some small amount of warming is probably beneficial to most forms of life on Earth, including humans. The belief that all human influence on the environment is bad is not scientific, but religious, and is held by most researchers in the Earth sciences.  …

Since CO2 is necessary for life on Earth, an unbiased scientist would be taking that into account before pontificating on the supposed dangers of CO2 emissions. That level of balance is seldom seen in today’s research community. If you don’t toe the line, getting research results that support desired government policy outcomes, you won’t get funded.

Over-regulation kills people

You might ask, what’s wrong with making our environment ever-cleaner? Making our food ever-safer? Making our radiation exposure ever-lower?

The answer is that it is expensive. And as any economist will tell you (except maybe Paul Krugman), the money we spend on such efforts is not available to address more pressing problems.

Since poverty is arguably the most lethal of killers, I believe we have a moral obligation to critically examine any regulations which have the potential of making poverty worse.

And that’s what is wrong with the Precautionary Principle, a popular concept in environmental circles, which states that we should avoid technologies which carry potential risk for harm.

The trouble is that you also add risk when you prevent society from technological benefits, based upon your risk-adverse worldview of its potential side effects. Costs always have to be weighed against benefits. That’s the way everyone lives their lives, every day.

Are you going to stop feeding your children because they might choke on food and die? Are you going to stop driving your car because there are 40,000 automobile deaths per year?

Oh, you don’t drive? Well, are you going to stop crossing the street? That’s also a dangerous activity.

Every decision humans make involve cost-vs-benefit tradeoffs. We do it consciously and subconsciously.

We are an over-regulated society. Over-regulation not only destroys prosperity and jobs, it ends up killing people. And political pressures in government to perform scientific research that favors biased policy outcomes is part of the problem.  …

Yes, we need regulations to help keep our air, water, and food reasonably clean. But government agencies must be required to take into account the costs and risks their regulations impose upon society.

Just as too much pollution can kill people, so too can too much regulation of pollution.  …

While any efforts to reduce the regulatory burden will be met with claims that the new administration is out to kill your children, I would counter these objections with, “No, expensive regulations will kill our children, due to the increased poverty and societal decay they will cause. 22,000 children die each day in the world due to poverty; in contrast, we aren’t even sure if anyone has ever died due to human-caused global warming.”

Using a simple analogy, you can make your house 90% clean and safe relatively easily, but if you have to pay to make it 100% clean and safe (an impossible goal), you will no longer be able to afford food or health care. Is that what we want for our children?

The same is true of our government’s misguided efforts to reduce human pollution to near-zero.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.