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Sanders on ARGOCOGLOWARM: Experts Need Not Apply

Updated: Apr 15

Columnist David Sanders’ long-running series—it began in long-ago 2008— on the Arkansas Governor’s Commission on Global Warming (ARGOCOGLOWARM) continues today with a look at how those with experience and expertise in dealing with climate change issues were systematically excluded from the commission’s activities.

Why? Because there was no room for dissent in the pre-cooked agenda of the consulting group that drove the commission, the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). Read the whole thing.

Sanders cites two commission members who were dissatisfied with the ARGOCOGLOWARM approach: Richard Ford, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock economist, and Gary Voigt, president of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives.

As an added Arkansas Project bonus, I’m including the text of an op-ed that Ford wrote for the Electric Cooperatives January 2009 magazine, at the jump. It offers Ford’s objections in a bit more detail. And remember that he’ll be one of the presenters at the “unofficial meeting” on global warming hosted by the Joint Energy Committee today at the Capitol, unless they cancel it again.

Economist discusses commission’s recommendations on global warming By Richard K. Ford, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Originally Published in January 2009 issue of “Rural Arkansas,” publication of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, and reprinted here by permission.

In November, the Governor’s Commission on Global Warming released 54 recommendations, and the publication of its final report. The recommendations will go to the governor and will no doubt be submitted to various committees of the upcoming Arkansas General Assembly. I served on this commission and I feel compelled to share some of the concerns I have about the process and the recommendations.

From the very beginning, some commission members had trepidation about the fashion in which the commission conducted business. Commission members were asked to approve the employment of a consulting firm, the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS), with virtually no consideration for alternatives. After CCS was hired, commissioners learned the decision also meant almost total power over the agenda, proceedings and the policy options considered was relinquished to this advocacy group.

The advocacy position of CCS was clear after the first meeting managed by the consultants. Though promoted as an impartial, nonpartisan group, CCS constrained genuine debate while pushing the same set of questionable positions it sold in many other states. Commissioners were assigned to subcommittees with no input from the commissioners as to which of these Technical Working Groups they thought best fit their respective expertise. Commissioners also had to follow convoluted voting procedures, in that every initiative that was proposed was assumed to be approved, unless enough people voted against it. This created an atmosphere of peer pressure and discouraged open, honest debate.

But the worst part of the process was to ignore the very law that created the global warming commission. Commissioners did not, as Act 696 of 2007 requires, “conduct an in-depth examination and evaluation of the issues related to global warming and the potential impacts of global warming on the state…,” nor did commissioners “study the scientific data, literature and research on global warming to determine whether global warming is an immediate threat to the citizens of the state …” Because commissioners did not deliberate on these issues, it was impossible for the commission to discuss and evaluate the benefits that might be associated with the options presented by CCS for consideration. This left the commission suggesting public policies without even a pretense of conducting a cost/benefit analysis.

Nevertheless, this CCS-dominated commission recommended 54 options with an undoubtedly underestimated $3.7 billion price tag, but with no estimation whatsoever as to how much the citizens of Arkansas might benefit or possibly be harmed. For starters, I am concerned that the commission recommends establishing an entirely new state bureaucracy to track global warming matters.

But perhaps the most egregious idea of all is to require K-12 public schools to teach global warming awareness. Two thoughts come to mind when this proposal is considered: Where does the teaching stop and political activism begin? This issue was considered when an English court prevented schools from showing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” film without proper balance. Plus, since schools are already loaded down with mandated curriculum, what will this proposed mandate replace? Math?

Let us hope that our governor and other political leaders have better judgment than the commission and will reject the most outrageous and expensive proposals, while keeping any that would benefit Arkansas.

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