The Case for Pulling the U.S. Out of the Paris Climate Accord

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt has argued that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is a bad deal for the U.S. because it doesn’t bind China and India. But that implies it could be fixed by imposing the same ruinous terms on developing countries—which would in fact just spread the damage. The real reason for pulling of the Paris Accord is that it is a futile gesture based on empty and dishonest premises.

The first thing to note is that the same computer models that say global warming is a problem also say that Paris will not fix it. If one were to graph the standard warming projections over the next century with and without Paris, the two lines overlap almost exactly. Whatever greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration we would have reached in the year 2100 without Paris, we will reach it shortly thereafter with. For all its costs, the Paris treaty will have almost no effect on global warming, and by depleting global income it will make it harder for countries to adapt and innovate in responseto whatever changes occur. Thus not only does Paris not solve the problem, it arguably makes it worse.

This, by the way, was equally true of the earlier Kyoto Protocol: all cost and no benefit. Under current technology and economic realities we have only two options: do nothing and adapt to whatever changes the climate will undergo over the next century, or take a lot of costly and futile actions today and adapt to whatever changes the climate will undergo over the next century. There has never been a third option involving costly actions today that stop the climate from changing.

Paris binds countries to meet their self-imposed Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. The Obama Administration submitted an NDC that committed the U.S. to a twenty six percent reduction in GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2025 through specific regulatory measures, all of which were enacted by Executive Order rather than by passing laws in Congress. It amounts to an attempt by one Administration to bind all future Administrations despite lacking legislative warrant. If the U.S. NDC was supposed to be legally binding then it should have gone through Congress. And now that some of those measures have been repealed by the current Administration, it is dishonest to keep the existing NDC as part of the Paris Agreement.

Paris embeds an inconsistency between calling for the use of the “best available science” while also prejudging what that science is allowed to say. The Accord’s preamble calls climate change an “urgent threat” even though mainstream climate science and economics does not imply this, instead placing global warming rather low on the list of problems confronting the world. The Agreement enshrines the ill-defined and arbitrary target of holding “the” global average temperature to 2oC above pre-industrial levels while completely ignoring the critical question of how it should be measured. Nor does it say how much of the warming is natural and should not be counted against the 2oC limit. This omission alone makes the overall target absurd, since it could bind the world to taking actions to prevent the sun from shining brighter.

The Paris Agreement also veers into absurdity by its political and ideological language, requiring countries to address extraneous themes like gender equity, biodiversity, poverty eradication, migrants, disabled persons, a “just transition of the workforce,” “creation of decent work,” and so on. Having larded the treaty with social justice slogans, its authors cannot be surprised if they become points of contention. It is not surprising that conservative governments will dislike these items, and if the authors respond that they can simply be ignored, then they should not have been in the treaty to begin with.

Finally, a proponent might acknowledge all these problems yet still defend Paris as a “good first step” in the expectation that later steps will yield big benefits.  But this is flawed reasoning. In any well-structured policy transition the first step yields the highest benefits at the lowest cost—the so-called low hanging fruit. Subsequent steps cost more and yield less, until the point is reached where costs exceed benefits and the process stops. Paris, like Kyoto, cost too much to implement while yielding unmeasurably small benefits. Subsequent steps will only be worse. It is a bad first step on a road to nowhere.

Pulling out of the Paris treaty would send a signal that the U.S. will not bind itself to bad deals based on hype and empty slogans. If this is the best global climate diplomacy could come up with then it is time to pursue other options.

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And What Is The Scientific Basis For Imposing Energy Poverty On The Masses?

Yes, I’m old enough to remember when governments thought it was a big part of their responsibility to enhance the well-being of the people.  In the area of energy, that meant pursuing policies that would lead to lower prices and greater availability for things like electricity and gasoline.  Crazy, eh?  But then everything got turned on its head.  In 2009 we got a President who, shortly after taking office (March 18, 2009), promised “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”   And he clearly thought that that was a good idea, even a moral imperative.  Henceforth we will use the force of government to pursue the intentional impoverishment of the people!  When Congress declined to act on the “cap and trade” plan, Obama then proceeded via executive actions and regulations with efforts designed to increase the cost and decrease the availability of energy — things like the Clean Power Plan, refusing to grant permits to pipelines, hobbling the coal industry, and so forth.

And thus we come to the big demonstrations by the Obama/Democratic/progressive factions this past weekend that I have called the March for Poverty.  But, to be fair to them, they called their demonstrations the “March for Science.”  If you have read yesterday’s post, you will know that I think that “science” is a process of challenging hypotheses, rather than a body of fixed and  unchallengeable established knowledge.  Is there any sense in which the people asserting a moral necessity of “saving the planet” through impoverishment of the people can legitimately claim the mantle of “science”?

It’s not particularly easy to pin down everything that the march itself might have stood for, given the profusion of groups and spokespersons associated with it.  So, to get a handle on the deep thinking behind the legal end of the climate movement, I thought to listen in today to a webinar put on by the Harvard Law School Open Lecture Series, featuring Professor Jody Freeman.  She’s the Director of the Harvard Law School Environment Law and Policy Program, and previously worked for the Obama administration, among other things in designing the (failed) cap and trade legislation.  She’s the Zeke Emanuel Obama’s climate regulations!

I’ll bet you think that a Harvard-sponsored webinar on environmental policy would be conducted at a high and sophisticated level, so high indeed that humble you probably couldn’t even understand it.  Don’t be silly!  This program was really an insult to the intelligence of any listener who knew anything at all about the subject matter.  From all you could tell, poor Ms. Freeman was completely uninformed about the state of the science that underlies all Obama-era climate and energy regulation, in particular EPA’s Endangerment Finding.  (The alternative hypotheses, no better for Ms. Freeman, is that she was being intentionally deceptive.)  Although she did not address the EF directly in her prepared remarks, in a Q&A portion Ms. Freeman got a specific question as to the state of the science underlying the EF, and the prospects for its being revoked.  Her answer was that the EF will be very hard to impossible to revoke, because the “science” is “extremely strong” and the underlying evidence “overwhelming.”  The one source she mentioned for her confidence was the IPCC (whose latest report dates from 2013).  Of course, she completely failed to address the major challenges to the EF that are out there and well-known to everybody familiar with the issues.

So, what is the latest on the actual, real science?  The answer is that the EF has been totally invalidated by the accumulation of empirical real-world evidence.  Many readers here may be familiar with my post from last September, “The ‘Science’ Underlying Climate Alarmism Turns Up Missing.”   There, I reported on the issuance of a major Research Report from Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo asserting that, using basic statistical techniques applied to empirical evidence, they had invalidated each of the three “lines of evidence” on which EPA claimed to base its EF.  And now, just yesterday, it so happens that Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo have released a new, updated and expanded version of the Research Report.  Here is a link to the Report itself.  Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller was the first to report on the story, headline “New Study Calls EPA’s Labeling Of CO2 A Pollutant ‘Totally False.'”  Excerpt:

A new study published by seasoned researchers takes aim at the heart of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to issue regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions.  The study claims to have “proven that it is all but certain that EPA’s basic claim that CO2 is a pollutant is totally false,” according to a press statement put out by Drs. Jim Wallace, John Christy and Joe D’Aleo.  Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo — a statistician, a climatologist and meteorologist, respectively — released a study claiming to invalidate EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding, which allowed the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.  “This research failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 14 temperature data sets that were analyzed,” the authors say in the release for the second edition of their peer-reviewed work.  “Moreover, these research results clearly demonstrate that once the solar, volcanic and oceanic activity, that is, natural factor, impacts on temperature data are accounted for, there is no ‘record setting’ warming to be concerned about,” the researchers say. “In fact, there is no natural factor adjusted warming at all.”

And the Research Report is just one — although perhaps the most important — of many demonstrations of the invalidity of the EF.  In his testimony before Congress on March 29, John Christy (one of the authors of the Research Report) also pointed, for example, to the fact that after some thirty years of collecting temperature data, the level of temperatures measured by satellites and weather balloons falls far below the level predicted by the IPCC climate models.

In actual science, when there is a credible demonstration that a hypothesis has been falsified, it becomes incumbent upon the proponents of the hypothesis either to explain or distinguish the claimed falsification, or to abandon the hypothesis.  When the “ether” hypothesis was falsified by the Michelson/Morley experiment, it was rather quickly abandoned.  But then, the “ether” hypothesis was not invested with particular political baggage.  By contrast, when Galileo expounded on the Copernican heliocentric view of the universe, that was viewed as a challenge to his authority and prestige by Pope Urban VIII, who had Galileo tried and imprisoned.  Fortunately the facts, and the scientific method, won out in the end.  Does anybody today have a good word to say for Urban VIII?

The scientific method will also win out in the end in the matter of the current climate hysteria.  It will not help the climate hysterics that they have attempted to claim the label of “science,” when in fact they have no idea even what science is.  And, unfortunately, “the end” may not come all that quickly, and many, many people stand to be impoverished by the craziness in the meantime.

Elimination of Clean Power Plan Restores Balance to EPA Policymaking

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Electrical power lines as sun sets in background

With his presidential executive order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, President Trump took an important first step to restore balance in environmental regulatory policymaking through his order that the Environmental Protection Agency review and withdraw the Clean Power Plan. In its stated purpose, the executive order calls for environmental regulations that “comply with the law, (and) are of greater benefit than cost.”

This balance is not new policy, but dates back to the original legislative intent when federal environmental laws were first adopted. During his 1971 testimony in support of passage of the Clean Air Act, Ralph Nader testified that to “simply enforce the pollution laws” without examining the “problem of environmental layoffs or closedowns” “would be too narrow a policy and a cruel one at that for workers” and could lead to a “regime of fear and economic insecurity … spread(ing) through the blue-collar labor force.”

Nader’s concern became a reality with the EPA’s adoption in 2015 of the CPP — largely considered the most sweeping regulation in EPA history. The CPP mandated overhaul of competitive electricity production in the United States by imposing aggressive new standards on power plants and prioritizing carbon content over affordability, reliability and safety. Under the premise of climate change, former President Obama sought to impose a regulatory burden that would have resulted in punishing costs to the poor and working class without achieving any substantive benefit addressing worldwide temperatures.

Using the EPA’s own data, the most optimistically calculated returns the CPP was predicted to deliver were a 0.01 degree Celsius decrease in global temperature by 2100 and a reduction of global sea level rise by 0.01 of an inch — less than the thickness of three sheets of paper. In her testimony before Congress, former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy sought to justify the CPP as “enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership.” The EPA’s uplifting of symbolism over real impact isn’t new. A year earlier, confronted with the “one-one hundredth of a degree” benefit from the CPP, McCarthy responded in saying that “the value of this rule is not measured in that way (by temperature data). It is measured in showing strong domestic action which can actually trigger global action.” The executive order recognizes that environmental regulatory policymaking should accomplish much more than mere symbolic gestures.

These anemic returns are in sharp contrast to the projected annual $29 billion regulatory cost for the CPP. In Texas alone, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas estimated that the CPP would increase energy costs for consumers by up to 16 percent by 2030. These additional costs would hurt some more than others — increases in energy prices are disparately burdensome on the poor.

On average, low-income households spend more than three times the percentage of their income on electricity, heating and cooling than higher-income families do. And it doesn’t stop there. Energy price and availability are directly tied to human health and welfare. According to a 2011 survey of low-income households, high energy bills saw 24 percent of households go without food for a day, 37 percent went without medical or dental care, and 19 percent had a member become sick due to lack of heating in the home.

A 2015 National Black Chamber of Commerce study estimated that the increase in electricity rates caused by the CPP would severely affect “low-income groups, blacks and Hispanics,” and would cost U.S. consumers $284 billion more for energy in 2020 than they did in 2012. Household electricity prices under the rule would rise an average of $1,652, or about $240 more per year.

Besides failing to deliver meaningful improvement in environmental quality, the CPP failed as a policy because of the cost of the regulatory burden not only on the economy as a whole but upon each individual American. Access to reliable, affordable electricity in today’s society is a necessity, not a luxury. Across the world, primitive energy systems still shackle 1.3 billion people to crushing poverty. Clean, stable power and electricity, delivered at scale and on demand is fundamental to human thriving.

The president’s executive order recognizes that the foundation of good environmental regulatory policymaking requires finding the balance between substantive benefit and cost. The order protects against the Clean Power Plan’s radical regulations for the purpose of a merely symbolic gesture — a gesture that would have left little benefits, punitive harm and forgotten Americans in its wake.