On June 30 I made a presentation at the Sixth International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute in Washington, DC, entitled “Obama’s Multifaceted Global Warming Doctrine Agenda and What Might Be Done to Slow It Down.” The slides from the presentation can be downloaded here in PDF format. They provide an overview of many aspects of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive but ill-advised efforts to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions and what might be done to slow down/stop these efforts. Heartland may soon post the video from the presentation on their conference website.
On June 30 and July 1, the Heartland Institute will present an International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-6) in Washington, DC, entitled “Restoring the Scientific Method.” The theme acknowledges the fact that claims of scientific certainty and predictions of climate catastrophes are based on unvalidated atmospheric models and post-normal science, which tries to substitute claims of consensus for the scientific method. This choice has had very adverse consequences for science and society. Abandoning the scientific method led to the Climategate scandal and the errors and abuses of peer review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The Conference will be kicked off by Senator James Inhofe with a breakfast keynote address on June 30. There will be a debate between an Anthropogenic Global Warming supporter and a skeptic at noon on June 30. There will also be presentations by about two dozen other scientists and economists, including me, on the latest research on the causes, consequences, and policy implications of climate change. The full agenda can be found here. The Conference is open to the public or can be viewed live on the Web here.
Today my new paper on climate change science and economics was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a peer-reviewed journal. The paper is unusual from a number of different perspectives.
Some Unusual FeaturesFrom a policy perspective, the paper’s conclusions include the following:
· The economic benefits of reducing CO2 emissions may be about two orders of magnitude less than those estimated by most economists because the climate sensitivity factor is much lower than assumed by the United Nations because feedback is negative rather than positive and the effects of CO2 emissions reductions on atmospheric CO2 appear to be short rather than long lasting.
· The costs of CO2 emissions reductions are perhaps an order of magnitude higher than usually estimated because of technological and implementation problems recently identified.
· CO2 emissions reductions are economically unattractive since the few benefits remaining after the corrections for the above effects are quite unlikely to economically justify the much higher costs unless much lower cost geoengineering is used.
· The risk of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming appears to be so low that it is not currently worth doing anything to try to control it, including geoengineering.
From a historical perspective, the paper builds on my Comments on Draft Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act, prepared for the US Environmental Protection Agency in early 2009, by presenting an expanded version of a few portions of that material in journal article format, incorporating many new or updated references, and explaining the implications of the science for the economic benefits and costs of climate change control. It is also particularly noteworthy for appearing in a peer-reviewed journal rather than the “gray literature,” such as a report to EPA, where many skeptic analyses end up–something that warmists never fail to point out. Although this article was not written for EPA, it has major implications for the scientific validity (or lack thereof) of the December 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding and the economics that EPA and many economists have used to justify current efforts to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, cap-and-trade schemes, and other approaches to controlling climate change.
From a scientific perspective, the paper starts with a detailed examination of the scientific validity of two of the central tenets of the AGW hypothesis. By applying the scientific method the paper shows why these two tenets are not scientifically valid since predictions made using these hypotheses fail to correspond with observational data. (See primarily Section 2.)
From an economic perspective the paper then develops correction factors to be used to adjust previous economic estimates of the economic benefits of global warming control for these scientifically invalid aspects of the AGW hypothesis. (See primarily Section 2.) It also briefly summarizes many of the previous analyses of the economic benefits and costs of climate control, analyzes why previous analyses reached the conclusions they did, and contrasts them with the policy conclusions reached in this paper. (See primarily Section 5.) It also critically examines the economic costs of control. (See primarily Section 3.)
From a methodological perspective, the article argues that economic analyses of interdisciplinary issues such as climate change would be much more useful if they critically examine what other disciplines have to say, insist on using the most relevant observational data and the scientific method, and examine lower cost alternatives that would accomplish the same objectives. (See primarily Section 1.) These general principles are illustrated by applying them to the case of climate change mitigation, one of the most interdisciplinary of public policy issues. The analysis shows how use of these principles leads to quite different conclusions than those of most previous such economic analyses.
How Big Brother Is Using the National Parks and Other Agencies to Promote His Climate Religion Using Your Tax DollarsAlan Carlin | September 28, 2010
The Obama Administration has made many efforts to support its climate religion (climatism). Since this viewpoint has no basis in the scientific method, it is not science and would seem best characterized as religion. For a list of what the Administration believes they have done see page 27 here. The first item listed is $80 billion (with a “b”) for “clean and efficient energy in ARRA” (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly called the stimulus bill). Since most of this expenditure will not stimulate anything except the income of politically favored alternative energy providers and their suppliers and future higher cost energy for rate-payers, it is highly unlikely to be very stimulative for the economy as a whole.
The Administration Has Also Embarked on an Extensive Propaganda Campaign in Behalf of Climatism
Although not mentioned in the list of Administration efforts linked above but perhaps at least as worrisome, the Administration appears to have embarked on an extensive propaganda campaign to promote its climate religion to the general public at taxpayers’ expense. They have gone well beyond trying to defend their proposed greenhouse gas regulations by the US Environmental Protection Agency and are attempting to use other EPA programs and other agencies under their control to promote their viewpoint on this subject without the approval of and perhaps even the knowledge of Congress.
Recent news reports are that EPA is now proposing to require that information on greenhouse gas emissions by new automobiles be added to the mileage labels required on all new cars. Such Federal “educational” efforts are not limited to EPA, however. A recent news item reports that AmeriCorps is funding interns in Marin County Schools in California to assist with a climate change education program also designed to motivate students and their families to take voluntary energy efficiency actions to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Department of Education’s Plans for an “Education” Program
Even more recently, the Secretary of Education announced that his Department plans to “help advance the sustainability movement through education” through Federally subsidized school programs beginning as early as kindergarten that teach children about climate change and prepare them “to contribute to the workforce through green jobs.” His intention is that the Department’s efforts will “explain the science behind climate change and how we can change our daily practices to help save the planet.”
My comment is that one of the reasons that the Federal Government does not have primary responsibility for education is to avoid the possibility that it could directly inculcate the viewpoints of those currently in power on students throughout the country. But when funds for education at the state and local level are short, the Federal Government may believe that it has found a way around this restriction.
A National Park Service Effort
Most of this post, however, will deal with the expansion to the National Park Service (NPS), which may not have been so widely publicized but appears to be further along in its implementation so that it is easier to visualize what the “educational” efforts by other departments may look like when fully implemented. Because the Park Service is often viewed as an impartial source of objective information on natural history subjects, the NPS effort may carry added weight with citizens who view it, although the attempts to teach climatism to children as early as kindergarten may also be viewed as likely to be unusually “effective” by those desiring such an outcome.
The National Park Service’s Traveling Climate Change Exhibit
On a recent visit to the Visitor Center for North Cascades National Park near Newhalem, Washington, I encountered a large “traveling” exhibit panel entitled “Arrange for Change” with NPS and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) symbols indicating sponsorship. Rangers at the Visitor Center reported that it had been there for about a month and had come from Lewis and Clark National Historic Park and would soon move to another park. It was apparently intended as a temporary exhibit since the more permanent exhibit it replaced was still partially visible behind the large new exhibit in front of it. There were no handouts or other written material provided with the exhibit or available from those rangers asked so visitors would necessarily have to go by the exact contents of the exhibit in formulating their views on the subjects raised.
Briefly, the exhibit attempts to summarize the case for climatism with an emphasis on evidence from and impacts on national parks and ends by stating in the fourth of four sections (in the lower right of the written area of the exhibit and in the photograph above) that:
“Perhaps one of the best strategies for coping with change is for each person to become ‘carbon neutral’ in their daily lives. This can be accomplished by reducing energy use and investing in practices and alternate technologies that offset carbon emissons we are generating.”
Although the exhibit adheres closely to the standard climatism religion, and is therefore subject to the many general criticisms (see, for example, here and here) of it, I do have a number of questions and concerns about particular points made in the exhibit. First of all, the recommended strategy assumes a degree of altruism rarely seen in the real world since anyone who adopted the advice would have to engage in less energy-using activities and/or pay others to reduce their emissions through buying offsets. This is the reason that most advocates want mandatory standards so that everyone would have to endure similar losses whether they are altruistic or not.
The Rationale Is the Usual Climatism but without the Usual References
The rationale for all this may be a little hard to understand by those not familiar with the climatism viewpoint. The first of the four sections in the exhibit states that:
“The scientific consensus is that global temperature in now rising at a rate unprecedented in the experience of modern human society (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2004). Scientists also say most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”
Accompanying these words is the Mona Loa CO2 level chart showing steady increases over the years 1960 to about 2004.
This first section has a few problems. It relies almost exclusively on the authority of largely unspecified “scientists.” Since there is some evidence that temperatures rose at a similar rate in the 1920-30s, and, in fact for similar periods in the gradually rising 60 year cycles exhibited by global temperatures since the Little Ice Age (see here and my Comments, which can be downloaded from here), it is difficult to understand how the authors of the exhibit believe that global temperatures are “rising at a rate unprecedented in the experience of modern human society.” Perhaps more important is the lack of a citation (such as perhaps various IPCC reports) for the even more doubtful statement that most warming over the last 50 years is due to human activities. The implication of the Mona Loa chart would seem to be that the increasing levels of CO2 are due to human activities, although this is certainly not stated and highly doubtful. Finally, no mention is made of the alternative hypothesis that the rise in CO2 levels is an effect of rising ocean temperatures sometime in the past rather than anything humans may have done since rising ocean temperatures mean that the oceans cannot hold as much CO2.
Exhibit Says Wildland Fires Have Increased–But Is This a Result of a Policy Change?
Lower Left Section of NPS/NASA Exhibit on Arrange for Change (click to enlarge)
The lower left section is entitled “Changes Disrupt Park Use.” The text states that:
“Higher temperatures in spring and summer and earlier melting of the snow pack in recent years have contributed to an increase in the frequency and duration of wildland fires. This increase in wildfires often causes park facilities to close. The 2006 fire season set a 45-year-high in the number of acres burned. 2006 was also the hottest January through July on record in America’s parks. In many parks, wintry weather is beginning later and ending earlier. Although this makes for a longer season of hiking and camping it reduces opportunities for recreational skiing and other winter sports due to inadequate snow cover. These impacts have economic implications.”
This section also has pictures of a plume from a forest fire and a cross-country skier.
No source is given for the temperature statement; it does seem odd that the period January through July was chosen rather than a full year, which would seem to be slightly more relevant (but hardly conclusive for assessing whether there really has been climatic change). Presumably most fires occur in the late summer or early fall, which is excluded from the period referenced. Also, I thought that the Park Service had changed its views concerning the role of fires in parks and now regards naturally-originated fires as good rather than a target for suppression. In some cases it even carries out controlled burns. Could it be that the increase in the number of acres burned was the result of this change in policy rather than climate change? The exhibit does not explain. It should also be pointed out that attempts to control carbon emissions also have economic impacts–and quite likely little, if any, impact.
Exhibit Claims Climate Change Is Happening on the Basis of Two Pictures and a Cute Endangered Pika
The upper right section is entitled “Climate Change Is Happening.” It shows two pictures labelled Northwestern Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, 1909 and 2005, respectively. The former appers to show a much larger glacier and more mountain snow than the latter. No month or day of the year is provided for either photograph. The text states:
“Warmer winters and longer, more intense periods of melting have increased the rate of glacial retreat in many parks, as demonstrated by the Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is estimated by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey that by 2030, many of the glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park will be completely gone. In Yosemite, the pike population is endanger of extinction as warming temperatures are shifting their cool habitat higher and higher on the mountainsides.”
A picture of a pika is provided.
There is undoubtedly some climate change occurring on Earth, just as there has been for billions of years, but this section of the presentation does not make a case for climate change due to human activity as opposed to natural forces. And unless there is change due to human activity, there is no basis for “solving” the “problem” by modifying human behavior. With regard to the claim in the exhibit that there has been climate change in the parks, since no month is given when the two photographs were taken it is not possible to say whether the change in mountain snow levels between them is due to differences in time of year or in climate.
Such is not the case, however, for the extent of the glacier since that is much less dependent on time of the year but is greatly dependent on the amount of precipitation in the form of snow. It is important to note that the year 1909 is at or near the low point in the 60 year natural climate cycle while 2005 is near the top of this natural cycle (see my Comments downloadable from here), so some or even all of the differences in the extent of the glacier may be explainable by the natural 60 year climate cycle or changes in snow precipitation rather than any change in human emissions. If so, there may be climate change, but not necessarily human-induced climate change.
Some Questions About the Appropriateness of Using Public Funds to Directly Influence Public Opinion on a Highly Partisan Issue
In addition to the substantive issues raised above concerning the statements in the exhibit, it is very important to question the appropriateness of having the exhibit in a national park, paying Americorps interns to teach climatism to students, or using Federal subsidies to teach climatism in the schools. The effort appears to be widespread enough in the Federal Government so that it may have been directed from the White House, but it is possible that these various efforts are the result of individual departments attempting to curry favor with the Administration by supporting known Administration viewpoints. It would be interesting, however, to learn just how widespread these efforts are in the Executive Branch and how much is being spent on them.
The critical question, it seems to me, is whether taxpayers should pay for trying to influence the opinions of park visitors or students concerning a highly partisan issue which has split the Democrats in Congress and united the Republicans in the Senate in opposition. The highly questionable views (see my Comments downloadable here) attributed to “scientists” presented by the exhibit make no effort to present a balanced viewpoint by the many scientists who have presented differing views on the subject. And if such attempts are made to influence public opinion is it not the Park Service’s and each school’s responsibility to present all viewpoints in a balanced way, which is presumably what they try to do with their many other presentations to the public/students? Have the Park Service and Americorps and the Department of Education become mere propaganda arms for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government? Since climatism is currently a highly partisan debate in Congress and some state legislatures, should these agencies use taxpayer funds to support one side of the debate with no mention of the opposing viewpoints?
I think the answer to these questions should be for Federal agencies to get out of the climate change education business. Big Brother should not be attempting to sell his religious views to students or park visitors. Since the Administration appears unlikely to do this on its own, probably the easiest way to implement such restrictions is to prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds for the purpose of promoting climatism to the public.
Warmists’ Meager Hopes for a Climate Bill in 2010 Dashed by Lack of Votes for Even Drastically Scaled Down Energy BillAlan Carlin | August 4, 2010
Warmists had little hope for a climate bill this year after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s July 22 decision not to push an energy bill this year containing cap and trade/tax provisions or renewable electricity standards. Reid’s decision yesterday not to bring even a greatly scaled down bill to a vote before the August Congressional recess because of a lack of votes further reinforced his earlier decision since if the Senate does not pass an energy bill soon it will be even harder to bring up a House-Senate “compromise” bill including the House-passed Waxman-Markey cap and trade/tax bill during a possible lame-duck session. This virtually ends any remaining possibility of a climate bill this year.
The future of climate change regulation now rides with what the US Environmental Protection Agency does or does not do. The Senate vote of 47-53 on June 10 on whether to prevent the EPA from pursuing climate regulations suggests that Senate support for EPA in this regard is fragile at best. If EPA should be prevented from pursuing climate change regulation, the worldwide climate regulation movement will probably be largely over as a viable political possibility (see here and here).
July 22 appears likely to mark a significant turning point in the long global warming/climate change control saga. Yesterday, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, announced that the Senate would not consider legislation prior to the August recess that involved either cap and trade/tax or a renewable electricity standard. Although this outcome had been predicted for some time by some Republican senators such as James Inhofe, this amounts to a recognition of this reality by the Senate Democratic leadership. This decision makes it unlikely that such legislation will be approved this year. If, as some Republicans hope, the next Congress has more Republican members, such legislation would be even less likely in the next Congress. There remains a risk that such legislation would be passed in a lame-duck session at the end of 2010, but that may not be a strong possibility given the apparent lack of interest by all Senate Republicans and some Democrats.
So the only remaining realistic possibility for implementation of carbon emission controls is probably through actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On June 10 the Senate failed by a vote of 47/53 to disapprove the EPA Endangerment Finding of late 2009. It is possible, however, that a two year delay in EPA action will be approved by Congress later this year in accordance with a proposal by Senator Jay Rockefeller. But if this or other ways can be found to halt EPA’s efforts the remaining major risk of global “climate control” would be effectively ended in the US.
This development yesterday is likely to sooner or later result in the end of world support for such approaches if a way is found to end EPA’s threatened regulations. Those countries that choose to continue major governmental efforts to reduce carbon emissions will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to those that do not. Few countries are likely to be willing to take such risks with their economies for very long.
President Obama tonight called for a major transition from “dirty” fossil fuels to “clean” energy sources, and claimed that the Waxman-Markey bill was a major step in that direction. He claimed that such a change would help to prevent future oil spills such as that experienced over the last two months in the Gulf of Mexico. So his new argument is not that cap and trade/tax would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which he never mentioned. Instead, his argument is that cap and trade/tax would prevent future major oil spills and other adverse environmental effects of using “dirty” fossil fuels.
This argument is weak to say the least. Conversion to his particular favored energy sources would take many years and prove exceedingly expensive, as the experiences of Spain, Denmark, and Germany with wind/solar energy illustrate. These favored sources each have their own environmental problems. In the meantime fossil fuel use will have to be expanded substantially to meet public and industry demand since the only way to prevent this would be to have a permanent and deepening recession. Finally, it does not really matter whether the proposed conversion starts now (as he said he wants) or many years from now since the alleged reduced risk of oil spills would not be realized for many years, if ever.
Realistic Alternatives to Reduce Dependence on Oil
If the purpose is to reduce major offshore oil spills, the obvious way to do that other than effective regulation (which the Obama Administration has clearly not done) is to prohibit specified types of “risky” offshore drilling until it can be made safe and encourage (not require) and at least not prohibit the development and use of other economical energy sources that will not lead to major offshore oil spills. Such oil-substitutes exist in abundance in the United States, and include land-based heavy oil and oil sands and oil shale and the conversion of coal to oil (for which technology has long existed). It may also prove economical to convert more large vehicle fleets to natural gas, given its falling price. All of these could be accomplished within a few years and with comparatively little cost to US energy users and would actually reduce our dependence on conventional oil and therefore reduce the demand for risky offshore drilling.
The President’s vague call for a change to “clean” energy and praise for the House cap and trade/tax bill as a way to avoid future major offshore oil spills is little more than pie-in-the-sky intended to promote his real aim, which still appears to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is illustrated by his proposal recently to substantially expand off-shore oil drilling apparently as a way to buy votes for cap and trade/tax. Somehow the environmental risks of expanding off-shore drilling did not play any significant role when it came to promoting cap and trade/tax just a few months ago.
Unfortunately, his appeal tonight may result in passage of laws that provide preferences for his favored “clean” fuel sources. Since both coal and oil are currently out of favor, that presumably means solar, wind, and possibly (although he did not specify last night) nuclear. Each of these sources have their own environmental problems and share the common problem of being very expensive. Their use will inevitably lead to much higher energy prices. These problems will not go away by giving them national preferences. Preferences will primarily result in increased energy costs for industry and consumers and increasing non-competitiveness of the US economy in world markets.
Federal Preferences for Particular Energy Sources Would Be a Huge Waste of Resources Needed Elsewhere
So although preferences may be politically “popular,” they are nothing more than gigantic wastes of money which the United States needs for other much more useful purposes. Preferences will not make the technology develop significantly faster and will result in fewer, not more jobs, as shown by studies of the Spanish and Danish experiences with wind/solar energy. Other than providing a few limited incentives for economical alternative sources to oil such as described above, the best course of action for Congress is to keep the Federal Government out of the choice of energy sources (as described in an earlier post), and limit its involvement to effective regulaton of existing health, safety, and environmental laws. Increased concentration on this last but legitimate role for government should more than occupy the Government’s limited resources over the next few years.
As explained in a recent paper, there are only a few ways in which the US Environmental Protection Agency can be prevented from rewriting the Clean Air Act and issuing sweeping regulations to attempt to control emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. These regulations are not based on good science but rather largely on something called an “Endangerment Finding” issued late in 2009, which in turn is based on a US Supreme Court decision of 2007 that effectively expanded the reach of the Clean Air Act beyond anything mentioned in the Act. In other words, EPA is attempting to greatly expand its power and authority without any Congressional approval of what it is doing. The result is an EPA-initiated expansion of its already vast power over the economy and will result in very large adverse economic costs to the American public (especially “necessarily skyrocket”[ing] energy costs in the words of Barack Obama in the related context of cap and trade) with very little if any economic benefits.
This state of affairs is scheduled for its first real Congressional test on Thursday, June 10, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Murkowski Disapproval Resolution (S.J.Res.26), which uses the Congressional Review Act to dispprove the Endangerment Finding. Although further Congressional action would be needed to make the disapproval effective, its approval by the Senate would be a major first step towards this end. As of June 7 the vote was expected to be very close. Those who believe as I do that it is very important to prevent EPA from unilaterally vastly expanding its authority over the economy without approval by Congress can best influence the outcome of the vote by contacting their senators on June 8 or 9 and urging them to vote yes on S.J.Res.26.
Note: This post is the summary of the first section of a paper that I presented at the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois, May 17, 2010. The second section drew heavily on a previous post. The full paper can be downloaded here. The briefing slides used in the presentation can be found here.
This post explores why EPA plays a pivotal role in the worldwide climate change controversy, what should be done about it, and what longer term reforms are needed to prevent similar attempts to subvert public policy on the basis of bad science. This topic is crucial to understanding the current status of the climate change battle.
Why EPA Is Pivotal
The larger world climate change battle now hinges largely on the fate of the efforts by the US EPA to control some greenhouse gases. The rest of world will not commit economic suicide by agreeing to major greenhouse gas emission cuts unless the US does. On the other hand, the Senate will not approve Cap and Tax; so it all hinges on EPA. If EPA is stopped in its determination to impose carbon rationing, the effort to roll back the industrial revolution can and will be stopped since it is the last real possibility that the US might join some other developed countries in the effort. If EPA is not stopped, the world may well witness an attempt to impose the current green agenda. The Obama Administration will apparently ride the Supreme Court decision until its dying days, regardless of the resulting political damage, which may be severe.
In addition to the continuing importance of halting the implementation of the GHG control schemes, the time has come to start defining what policy and administrative changes might be advisable. What I propose is a series of longer-term reforms needed to decrease the chances that bad regulations based on bad science such as those now being proposed for controlling GHGs will be repeated in the future in the US in other regulatory areas. These include the following in the case of EPA: