How a Court Threw Out a Major Obama Environmental Regulation and EPA Refused to Say How Global Temperatures Would Change under the Paris TreatyAlan Carlin | June 24, 2016
One of perhaps the two major climate-related events this week was a court decision in Wyoming overturning a Department of the Interior regulation setting stricter standards for fracking on Federal lands. The judge (an Obama appointee) said that Congress had never given the Department authority for such regulations. The importance of this ruling is that once again the Obama Administration is being challenged by the courts on whether it has the authority to impose environmental regulations when Congress has either not given them them authority to do so or has even said that they may not do what they have done.
The best known climate example is the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which has been stayed in an unusual action by the Supreme Court. The best known is the immigration decision by the Supreme Court also announced this week. The Wyoming court decision will no doubt be appealed, however, so the ultimate decision may depend on the future makeup of the Supreme Court.
EPA Will Not Say What the Paris Treaty Would Actually Accomplish
The second major event was an interchange between Representative Lamar Smith and the USEPA Administrator during a hearing. The Administrator repeatedly evaded Smith’s questions as to what the temperature change would be if the Paris protocol/treaty were somehow fully implemented. The interchange was as follows:
CONGRESSMAN LAMAR SMITH: “If the Paris Climate Agreement involving 177 countries was completely implemented, okay, the entire climate agreement completely implemented, you have distinguished scientists including Bjorn Lomborg and twenty-seven other top climate scientists including three Nobel laureates have concluded that the reduction in global warming would only be one-twentieth of a degree Celsius by 2030, one-sixth of a degree Celsius in the next eighty-five years. It sounds to me like if they’re anywhere close to being right, then this Paris Climate Agreement is almost all pain and no gain. Why is that not the case?”
ADMINISTRATOR GINA MCCARTHY: “Well, no sir. The Paris Agreement was an incredible achievement that changed the direction of the world and is going to ultimately allow us–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Do you disagree– Do you think the Paris Climate Agreement will have a greater impact on climate change then I just said and that these twenty-seven scientists said?”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “I think it sets us on a course to work together on a planetary scale to address the biggest environmental–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Understand. As far as the actual impact on climate change do you disagree with these twenty-seven top climate scientists–”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “I disagree with the way in which you’re characterizing it, Mr. Chairman. With all due respect, it is a tremendous step in the right direction.”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “No, no.”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “The numbers you’re talking about–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “I know those are wonderful words. I’m talking about quantifying the impact. The impact is one-sixth of a degree over then next 85 years. If every country all 177 countries, implemented–”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “Sir, there is not a single country that signed that expecting that the 2020 goals would get us where we need to be. It is a step in that direction–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “But, you don’t disagree with the conclusion of these scientists as far as the climate agreement goes in Paris, as it stands right now?”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “The agreement itself was designed as a step forward.”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Understand.”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “It was not designed to produce all of the action–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Understand. But, as far as the step forward goes, the step forward was as I described it?”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “Well sir, you can’t make a marathon without getting across the starting line.”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Okay. It’s clear you don’t disagree with their conclusion. You may think it’s a beginning, but you can’t disagree with their conclusion.”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “I don’t even know what their conclusion– the context of their conclusion. What I do know sir–”
CONGRESSMAN SMITH: “Again, it’s reducing global warming one-sixth of a degree Celsius over the next 85 years.”
ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: “It’s better than we were before and it’s only the first step.”
Hearing: Ensuring Sound Science at EPA
House Science Committee
June 22, 2016
Based on a ClimateDepot.com report.
Obviously whether “it’s better than we were before” depends on whether doing what the Treaty requires is worth the huge cost. I have strongly argued that it is not. The refusal of the EPA Administrator to say what these benefits might be suggests that she may think they are not very impressive. If the current Treaty is only the first step, this is even worse since the ultimate cost would be far higher than has so far been announced. That makes it even less worth the ultimate cost given the declining effectiveness of added expenditures for such purposes.