The discussion about the costs of climate change legislation occurred Wednesday at the House Agriculture Committee, and the projections from the USDA were surprisingly tame. According to USDA projections, fruit and vegetable growers don’ t have all that much to worry about from “cap and trade” legislation. Modestly higher fuel prices, true, but that’s about it.

However, the USDA study did not provide the full supply chain evaluation that the industry had asked for in the climate change analysis. Without measuring the impact throughout the distribution systems, the numbers don’t mean all that much.

Behind the practical matter of what climate change legislation “means” to agriculture, the back story is about whether the science can be trusted. As it turns out, we Americans are more skeptical about global warming (climate change) than most of the rest of the world.

The “climategate” story is one reason I don’t completely trust in the environmental movement. As an open minded Midwesterner, I don’t “completely distrust” environmentalists, but I have a healthy amount of skepticism about motives and big government agendas behind the startling contention that the earth “hangs in the balance.” When scientists say “the argument is over” about the reality of global warming, it sounds like they have vested interest in the debate. And it appears they do.

In shorthand, “Climategate” involves several incriminating emails were hacked from an e-mail server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. The emails appeared to point to doctoring of temperature series to mask a decline in temperatures.    From the New American, the accused wonders about the timing:

While skeptics accuse him of conspiracy in concealing and manipulating data, Jones has fired his own accusations of conspiracy against the unidentified hacker(s). He doubts it is a coincidence the e-mails were published just prior to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, from December 7 – 18. “This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks,” he said in a CRU press release.

No, Mr. Jones you are wrong. The people involved in putting the question mark in front of global climate change are proponents like you. The Wall Street Journal writes that “Climategate: Science is Dying” in this Dec. 2 piece:

Global warming enlisted the collective reputation of science. Because "science" said so, all the world was about to undertake a vast reordering of human behavior at almost unimaginable financial cost. Not every day does the work of scientists lead to galactic events simply called Kyoto or Copenhagen. At least not since the Manhattan Project.

Beneath this dispute is a relatively new, very postmodern environmental idea known as "the precautionary principle." As defined by one official version: "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically." The global-warming establishment says we know "enough" to impose new rules on the world's use of carbon fuels. The dissenters say this demotes science's traditional standards of evidence.

The Environmental Protection Agency's dramatic Endangerment Finding in April that greenhouse gas emissions qualify as an air pollutant—with implications for a vast new regulatory regime—used what the agency called a precautionary approach. The EPA admitted "varying degrees of uncertainty across many of these scientific issues." Again, this puts hard science in the new position of saying, close enough is good enough. One hopes civil engineers never build bridges under this theory.

The Obama administration's new head of policy at EPA, Lisa Heinzerling, is an advocate of turning precaution into standard policy. In a law-review article titled "Law and Economics for a Warming World," Ms. Heinzerling wrote, "Policy formation based on prediction and calculation of expected harm is no longer relevant; the only coherent response to a situation of chaotically worsening outcomes is a precautionary policy. . . ."

But wait, now House Republicans have asked the U.S. EPA to hold up. From the LA Times:

Citing e-mails that critics say cast doubt on global warming, congressional Republicans called on the Obama administration Wednesday to suspend efforts to combat climate change until the controversy is resolved.

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, the lawmakers requested that a pending move to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act be halted, along with plans to limit emissions from vehicles, power plants and other sources, "until the agency can demonstrate the science underlying these regulatory decisions has not been compromised."

While politicians and activists may have their own reasons for the global warming agenda – revenue streams, greater control and redistribution of wealth come to mind – the WSJ also notes that scientists themselves have a vested interest in the drumbeat of doom.

From “The Economics of Climate change” at the WSJ, comes this thought:

To keep this money flowing, climate scientists needed to keep the fear going. Anything that called into question their most dire predictions of climate catastrophe would put all that funding at risk. On the other hand, the bigger the climate calamity, the more willing governments became to fund global-warming research. Keeping the dissenters on the outside was not simply a matter of academic jealousy. It was in many cases a question of professional survival.

In 1988-1989, the U.S. ponied up 199,500 Swiss francs ($198,995) to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. By the end of Bill Clinton's and Al Gore's tenure in the White House, America's annual offering to the international global warming authority had ballooned more than 2,600%—to 5.42 million Swiss francs in 2000-2001. The very earth hung in the balance, after all.

The gusher of money that has flowed into climate research does not, by itself, impeach the conclusions reached by the scientists. But it does make clear just how much their professional fortunes became tied to the notion of climate catastrophe. It was the fear of catastrophic climate change, after all, that unleashed the rising ocean of money by which their research came to be funded. Findings that might call the hysteria into question would also, perforce, put at risk the flow of funds into their field.

So is climate change another classic example of “follow the money?” One gets the idea, however, that President Obama is not deterred in the least about his goals for climate change legislation and the U.S. responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In the book “Green Hell,” Steve Milloy writes: “The goal of the greens’ global warming scare campaign is to create an overpowering sense of fear and urgency that we must act now no matter what the cost.”

Milloy pointed out the government bailouts have provided leverage to the Obama Administration to insist that recipient bank, automakers and other key industries toe the green line.

Those bailouts, plus the cap and trade carbon cutting regime and the stimulus package that promotes green infrastructure development, create what Milloy called a “once in a generation” opportunity for Obama.

But do we really have to do something, NOW, about climate change? What’s the rush?  Let’s leave room for some skepticism.  
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Frank Lucas of Oklahoma said:

"It is expected that higher energy prices and higher operating costs will decrease farm income anywhere from $5 billion to $50 billion per year.  This means that all of us can expect a reduction in our domestic supply of agricultural products and higher food prices.   

"My friends, the agriculture industry and rural America cannot afford the devastating economic effects of cap and tax."

I tend to agree with Lucas. Agriculture and fruit and vegetable growers should not go along to get along.

In my view,  If President Obama is hell-bent on making carbon based fuels prohibitively expensive, let him show the commitment to develop a new generation of nuclear power plants in the U.S.  Let him state the case for free trade and how he plans to expand global economic growth, not place limits on growth.