David Harsanyi

The carbon footprint of Barack Obama's inauguration could exceed 575 million pounds of CO2. According to the Institute for Liberty, it would take the average U.S. household nearly 60,000 years of naughty ecological behavior to produce a carbon footprint equal to the largest self-congratulatory event in the history of humankind.

The same congressfolk who now are handing out thousands of tickets to this ecological disaster mandated only recently the phased elimination of the incandescent light bulb -- a mere carbon tiptoe, if you will. The whole thing seems a bit unfair.

And on the day millions of Americans were freezing their collective backside off, the new Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Henry Waxman, announced that Congress would fast-track climate change legislation. Waxman claimed, as The Associated Press put it, "Inaction on the climate issue is causing uncertainties that make it more difficult to emerge from the recession."

Waxman's methane emission merely would reek if it weren't so catastrophically sad. I learned long ago that any dissent on climate alarmism will be met with unflinching fury, but is there anyone who can argue genuinely that inaction on "climate issues" (formerly known as global warming) has had a fundamental impact on the economic downturn?

Our plight, in actuality, likely will be exacerbated if Waxman gets his way. Playing on the public's fear of climate change, we almost certainly are about to see a nationalized energy policy and price controls through cap and trade.

The late economist and journalist Henry Hazlitt once wrote that those who attempt "to lift the prices of particular commodities permanently above their natural market levels have failed so often, so disastrously and so notoriously" that no one admits to wanting to try it. Then again, in those heady days, the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman's job was actually of assisting Americans with their energy needs, not making it more expensive.

I've been informed, quite forcefully, that "climate change" can induce weather to warm, make it colder and, miraculously, produce whatever climate condition we happen to be experiencing at that very moment. So I wholeheartedly concur with my environmentalist friends: Climate does indeed make weather fluctuate.

The day Waxman delivered his statement, the National Weather Service issued a warning for Chicago about the wind chill index being somewhere in the vicinity of 25 to 40 below zero. In Maine, citizens expected temperatures to be about 40 below zero. And Iowans were warned that it could drop to 27 degrees below zero. In many places across the nation, there was record-setting cold.

So in other words, Waxman expects these unfortunate glacial souls to pay higher energy prices to shield themselves from Arctic chills in the name of global warming?

That's quite a trick.

Still, politically, the time is right for progressives to pass any legislation they please. But Democrats also may be setting themselves up for failure. This kind of central planning, after all, has a winning record envied only by the Detroit Lions.

Conserving energy, acting responsibly and cultivating technological advances are positive, whether global warming is as dangerous as the alarmists claim or not. But implementing ideas conjured up in environmentalists' imaginations could bring massive economic consequences.

You've told me the debate over climate change is over. But even if I concede it is, the debate over the worthiness, practicality, feasibility and trade-offs necessary to live in a vibrant and free economy should not be over.

Is warming by 0.74 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years really enough to make us panic? I mean, we probably could make that up by canceling the inauguration.