How EPA Seeks to Unilaterally Impose GHG Emission Regulations Using UN “Science” Whether Anyone Likes It or NotAlan Carlin | January 24, 2010
(Additional sources added January 30, 2010)
The Obama Administration decided in its first month in office to try to use the authority given to EPA by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts vs. EPA to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. Instead of conducting its own independent analysis of the science, as I had strongly recommended and as it has traditionally done, however, EPA decided to basically use the summary reports issued by the United Nations under its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and reports based primarily on these reports by the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). They claim that these reports represent a comprehensive analysis of the science and that there was no need to conduct its own analysis given the “rigorous” guidelines issued by these organizations.
In this way, EPA both expedited its task by using “ready made” external reports, and avoided any real discussion of the many scientific uncertainties surrounding climate change. The net result of EPA’s action thus far on climate change has been to avoid a vote by any legislative body as well as an independent analysis of the science. So no pesky legislators or skeptical scientists to placate. An explanation given by the Obama Administration was that they would prefer that GHGs be regulated under “cap and trade” legislation, but that perhaps the threat of administrative regulation would spur Congressional action. Since there has not been and is unlikely to be any major legislative action on cap and trade over the next few years due to strong opposition in the Senate, the US response to climate change is likely to largely come down to the actions that EPA takes.
US Public May Resent Such EPA Efforts
It has been my view that the American public would resent attempts by EPA to unilaterally impose regulations that would have the effect of greatly increasing the costs of energy use or imposing other constraints on energy-related activities without a new legislative mandate for this purpose, particularly without meticulous and truly independent EPA review of the science rather than depending on UN science. There is increasing evidence that the UN reports relied on by EPA are at best questionable in some of their major conclusions and may even be fraudulent in important aspects. But EPA has had such apparent faith in the UN science that they proceeded without carefully checking either the plausibility of the science or even its honesty.
Whether EPA’s decision was based on expediency or as an end run around the normal bureaucratic process is not known, but both motivations appear plausible. As a result of recent disclosures of the Climategate Emails (for a detailed analysis see here) and computer files it is now evident that not only are important parts of the science questionable but those who were primarily responsible for it may have been less than professional in their conduct and quite possibly engaged in scientific fraud. This was actually known prior to the release of the final EPA endangerment decision on December 7, 2009, but did not stop their finding on endangerment, perhaps out of the belief that this would somehow “save” the ill-fated UN Copenhagen conference. This finding became effective a week ago on January 14, so this seems an appropriate time to review the overall situation.
EPA’s Basic Argument Is that the UN Has Already Considered All Viewpoints
A review of EPA’s responses to public comments to the endangerment finding that their basic argument (see response 1-2) is that by using IPCC and other reports largely based on it that they have by proxy considered all relevant viewpoints. Generally speaking, any other ideas proposed by commenters that were inconsistent with the UN viewpoints were downplayed using various UN-based arguments and then rejected. They justified doing this primarily on the basis of the guidelines stated to have been used by the IPCC (see Appendix A of the EPA responses) and others in reviewing their reports. The very comprehensive 888 page skeptic NIPCC report was dismissed (see response 1-12) primarily on the basis that it does not detail an elaborate review process that had been followed. In other words, EPA appears to believe that stated procedure is more important than scientific substance.
Nowhere that I have found does it say how EPA verified that the UN reports were not biased and actually did consider all relevant viewpoints, or even that they tried to do so. Apparently the UN guidelines were sufficient in EPA’s view. But what if the UN guidelines were not carefully implemented and certain viewpoints were excluded, either by accident or perhaps even on purpose, as suggested by some of the Climategate Emails and the alleged disappearing Himalayan glaciers? What did EPA do to verify that this did not happen? Since the ultimate costs of EPA’s actions could run into many trillions of dollars, it is really important to be certain as to the science, something which EPA has not demonstrated.
The answer is that EPA did not do much if any verification in their headlong rush to respond to the new Administration or even under an earlier abortive effort during the Bush Administration. They were and are convinced that the UN science is reliable despite the many questions raised by skeptics. They accepted the assertions of the UN and other groups that their procedures were carefully implemented. But maybe these groups had conflicts of interest not covered, of course, by EPA ethics rules? And we are beginning to see evidence that less than careful implementation of these guidelines is a major problem with at least the IPCC reports, on which all the others are largely based. See, for example, the Climategate Emails, the Himalayan glacier problem referenced above and analyzed in terms of its implications for IPCC procedures here, the references here, Steve McIntyre’s analysis of some instances where the reports EPA relied on do not meet EPA’s requirements for such reports, and Chip Knappenberger’s summary of some of the instances where the IPCC did not follow its own procedures, to mention just a few.
But the UN Appears Not to Have Really Considered all Viewpoints, Particularly Those Held by Skeptics
Even before Climategate there were many indications that the IPCC might be less than objective in its reports. Consider, for example, the resignation letter by Chris Landsea from the preparation of the AR4 IPCC report which concluded that: “I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.” After Climategate there can be little remaining doubt that Landsea was correct.
Dr. Benny Peiser, a long time and informed observer of the climate change scene, expressed it very clearly a few days ago as follows: “The IPCC review process has been shown on numerous occasions to lack transparency and due diligence. Its work is controlled by a tightly knit group of individuals who are completely convinced that they are right. As a result, conflicting data and evidence, even if published in peer reviewed journals, are regularly ignored, while exaggerated claims, even if contentious or not peer-reviewed, are often highlighted in IPCC reports. Not surprisingly, the IPCC has lost a lot of credibility in recent years. It is also losing the trust of more and more governments who are no longer following their advice – as the Copenhagen summit showed.”
Surely even if it used the UN science it was incumbent on EPA to carefully check whether the elaborate guidelines of the IPCC and CCSP were carefully and faithfully implemented. But it appears that they could not find time for this or perhaps more likely, did not want to, even after Climategate.
So EPA Apparently Intends to Proceed Unless Stopped by Congress or the Courts
Yet it appears to be the intention of EPA to regulate GHG emissions in the United States on the basis of this UN science, presumably as soon as they are able to finish the paperwork and observe some of the bureaucratic requirements. In these circumstances, only Congress and the courts have the authority to prevent this from happening, but would have to take one of several actions to bring this about. So far Congress has not chosen to do so, and it will take some time to see whether or not the courts may decide to block the implementation of various EPA regulations. I see no indication to date that EPA plans to back off its announced determination to impose its regulations without any serious independent analysis as to whether they are needed or would actually promote the purposes of the Clean Air Act. Whether Americans will be happy buying smaller, lighter-weight, less crash-worthy vehicles or paying more for energy remains to be seen. But they will not be given any real choice in the matter on the basis that EPA believes the UN science without the bother of careful, extensive, and particularly independent review. In other words the UN knows best and EPA must implement what they recommend as rapidly and with as little examination as possible.