Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center explains why those who pretend government programs will work as expected and are the only option are engaging in wishful thinking to the extreme
Washington Policy Center
My new book, “Time to Think Small” is out and there have been several good reviews.
One letter to the editor in the Seattle Times, however, took issue with my argument that empowering people, rather than politicians, is the most effective way to address difficult environmental problems. The claims in the letter are worth examining because they are typical of the mindset that has put our focus on political approaches that have repeatedly failed.
In response to my op-ed in the Seattle Times, Jim Little of Seattle sent this letter to the editor, with the headline “Climate action: We need governmental spending, regulations.” The letter is inaccurate, confuses opinion for fact, and ignores a long history of failed government programs.
For example, the letter claims, “Todd Myers in his recent Op-Ed falsely claims that innovation and free markets are sufficient.” This one sentence has so many problems.
I never claimed that innovation and personal efforts would be “sufficient,” in part because the word “sufficient” assumes there is a specific temperature goal we must achieve. That is not the case. The most common target mentioned by climate activists and politicians is keeping temperature increases to below 2 degrees C. But that is a political number, not based on any objective metrics. Science doesn’t deal in perfectly round numbers.
He also claims that I “falsely” said innovation could achieve the emissions targets he wants. This confuses opinion with objective reality. It may turn out that we need government intervention to achieve the arbitrary emissions targets, but to declare that innovation can’t meet the goals is an opinion, not a fact. It is typical of a mindset that believes only big government can solve problems. This leads too many on the Left to double down on failed policies believing there is no alternative.
Next, he points to several pieces of legislation adopted by Congress this year, claiming “Three independent studies project that these legislative achievements will cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.”
As we have noted many times, projections about the effectiveness of government climate policy are routinely inaccurate. Projections about the impact of Washington state’s climate policies are a case in point.
Staff at the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) in Washington state have repeatedly claimed that climate policies would result in lower CO2 emissions, only to have emissions increase.
In 2019, then-director of Ecology Maia Bellon claimed the 2017 emissions data showed, “our state’s carbon reduction strategies are beginning to pay off.” The agency’s press release claimed, “More reductions are on tap in the years ahead.” The opposite was the case.
When the 2018 data were released, they showed an increase in emissions. Ironically, the 2018 announcement again claimed the policies were working, but hedged this time, writing, “they are phasing in slowly.” The Department of Ecology is late in releasing data for 2019 but early indications are that state emissions will again increase.
Claiming that government programs will perform as promised ignores all the history of the failure of governments at the federal, state, and local level.
There are many good potential critiques of my book. One of them is that I am too hopeful about the power of small technology and empowering people as a way to solve big environmental problems. But those who pretend government programs will work as expected and are the only option are engaging in wishful thinking to the extreme.
Todd Myers is the director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center.
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