Now that cap-and-trade has so spectacularly failed in the legislature, it is a sure bet that Obama will direct (or has directed) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to issue her own cap-and-trade protocols. Look for something concrete out of EPA before the U.N.’s climate change confab in Copenhagen in early December. (That “something” may even include a new fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles-per-gallon—though it would be lower, of course, for the inefficient cars produced by government-owned General Motors.)

The timing of the Copenhagen conference is really what has been driving Obama’s support for cap-and-trade all along. It would be an embarrassment for a left-hewing “green” president to show up empty-handed at such an event—and it will greatly diminish Obama’s ability to wag his finger at other industrialized countries. For sure, the world’s largest emitter of CO2—China—isn’t going to agree to any mandatory emissions reductions unless the U.S. has something very serious in hand. And if China does nothing, there’s simply not going to be a major slowdown in the growth of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Not that it really matters. The rather large elephants crowding cap-and-trade out of the Senate are the earth’s reluctance to warm in the last decade along with new projections saying that we could go another ten years without much warming.

The current hiatus in warming portends a reduction in potential heating for the entire century. Most computer models produce significant warming as a result of an increase in atmospheric water vapor (a “greenhouse” gas), which comes from an ocean initially warmed by carbon dioxide. When the ocean doesn’t warm much, this “feedback” effect is delayed. Or so goes the myth.

The lack of warming is an embarrassment to any elected official who has been hiding behind “the science is settled” fig leaf in order to promote cap-and-trade. While every scientist will tell you that indeed the surface temperature of the planet is warmer than it was a century ago (that’s the “settled” part of global warming science), very few scientists anticipated as long a period without warming as we are in. In other words, the real science of future warming is completely unsettled.

The bottom line is that Senate Democrats are perfectly happy to kick cap-and-trade under the bus. They’re going to have a hard enough time recovering from the upcoming health care wreck. But the economy, meanwhile, will have an equally hard time recovering from what President Obama is going to do instead.


Patrick J. Michaels

Pat Michaels is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.