News: White and Horner Debate at CCU

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Experts Debate Responsibility vs. First Do No Harm

On April 8, 2009, climatologist James White (INSTAAR, University of Colorado-Boulder) debated author and attorney Christopher Horner (Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.) on policy responses to global warming. The topic -- "Is the Kyoto Agenda Warranted?" -- explored the Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental treaty signed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Intended to curb worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, the protocol has been criticized in recent years as flawed, especially along political and economic lines.

A crowd of nearly 400 from Colorado Christian University and the Denver Metro area packed the 300-seat auditorium at the Lakewood Cultural Center for this debut event in the Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by CCU's Centennial Institute.

President Obama, like Clinton and Bush, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, yet he has strongly lobbied for Congress to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), one part of which involves a nationwide "cap-and-trade" system. His administration argues that ACES represents the United States' intention to more fully align with the global effort against emissions. Others have suggested that a cap-and-trade solution will slow U.S. economic growth and lead to the largest tax hike in national history -- a somber prognosis for the many Americans barely enduring today's financial climate.

On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed ACES, and now it's on the Senate floor for consideration. Proponents hope for a decision before December's U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Moderated by Centennial Institute Director John Andrews, the April debate featured forceful but respectful arguments from both nationally known experts. White insisted that human activity is massively and adversely modifying the biosphere, but he stopped short of Al Gore-esque doomsday dialogue. Change on earth is normal, he expressed, "but unlike bacteria, we can control our actions...we have a sense of responsibility. What is our responsibility to the Earth?" Horner countered that, with 155 countries already indicating non-cooperation on emissions, the proposed cap-and-trade legislation would have a negligible effect on climate change while simultaneously violating the principle of "first do no harm" by introducing a job-killing tax, further reducing America's economic ability to "deal with what's coming anyway."

For more information about the Centennial Institute, visit