September 2009

Today’s Greenwire (subscription required) reports that Nike, the sports shoe king, is resigning its position on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. Nike supports cap-and-trade legislation, a national renewable portfolio standard, a moratorium on new coal power plants lacking carbon capture and storage, and EPA regulation of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. The Chamber opposes all of the foregoing.

Although the Greenwire story is not slanted, neither is it particularly informative. The reporter makes no effort to ascertain what bottom line interest might account for Nike’s decision to quit the Chamber, or for the company’s decision to join the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition, a project of Ceres, the Gorethodox investor network.

The vast majority of Nike’s production facilities are in China and other Asian developing countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. (I can’t find exact numbers — Nike appears to be coy about the details.) Nike factories in developing Asia would not be subject to CO2 controls from either Waxman-Markey or EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act.

What’s more, if the G-77 Plus China hang tough at the Copenhagen climate conference, and the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol continues to exempt developing countries from legally binding emission limits, then the comparative advantage (lower energy costs) those countries already enjoy under Kyoto will increase, making Nike factories even more profitable to invest in.

Here’s what an honest Nike press release might say: 

Nike believes U.S. policymakers should use law, regulation, and the Copenhagen treaty to hobble domestic firms in favor of the Asian economies where our facilities are located. In contrast, the U.S. Chamber opposes policies that would offshore more U.S. jobs and investment to China and developing Asia. A truly carbon-constrained world would destroy jobs and growth in Asia, too. However, that’s years away, and Nike cares only about its short-term bottom line. Therefore, we are pulling out of the Chamber. 

Instead, Nike tut-tutted about the need for “urgent action” on climate change. When will the sanctimony end?

Divide et Impera — divide and conquer — is perhaps the oldest strategic maxim of war, politics, and diplomacy. Businesses succumb to it time and time again. Why?

It is in the general interest of business to preserve an open and competitive marketplace, and to limit tax and regulatory burdens. However, it is often in the special interest of particular firms to expand the size and scope of government in order to collect political “rents” – windfall profits created by market-rigging subsidies, preferences, or mandates. 

When only a few firms engage in rent-seeking, the rent seeker’s concentrated benefits will far outweigh his portion of the diffuse costs imposed on the economy as a whole. But each rent seeker’s success encourages others to get in the game. In time, the costs of government adversely affect millions of bottom lines. Worse, interventionist policies (for example, subsidized lending via Freddie Mac and Fannie May) can create systemic risk and crash entire economies.

V.I. Lenin basically viewed all capitalists as rent seekers. Capitalists are so fixated on short-term gain, he mused, that they will “sell the rope” by which their enemies will hang them. This much is clear — there is no honor among thieves. The more businesses depend on political predation, the easier it is for anti-market interventionists to divide and conquer.

This brings us to the topic of cap-and-trade, a form of energy rationing. There’s money to be made in energy rationing — OPEC proves it! The emission permits in a cap-and-trade program are like the oil production quota in OPEC, the only difference being that they’re tradable. The cap makes the permits a valuable commodity, and Waxman-Markey in the early years would distribute about 85% of all permits free of charge to various industries and interest groups.

So it should come as no surprise that some corporations love Waxman-Markey. Indeed, the corporate coalition known as the United States Climate Action Partnership (US CAP) outlined the main features of the Waxman-Markey bill months before it was introduced in a January 2009 report titled A Blueprint for Legislative Action. US CAP members don’t worry that Waxman-Markey might destroy millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in cumulative GDP. They expect to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

US CAP member PG&E pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week citing “irreconcilable differences” over climate change policy. Today’s Bloomberg.Com reports that US CAP member Exelon has announced it will not renew its membership in the Chamber, and that US CAP member Duke Energy will not renew its membership in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). 

PG&E, Exelon, and Duke preen themselves as progressive companies who put principle (planetary rescue) ahead of profit. In reality, they seek political rents at the expense of the public interest in limited government, economic growth, and affordable energy. Waxman-Markey sets aside the biggest chunk of free emission permits — 35% — for electric utilities. And their industry representative, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), is lobbying the Senate to increase the booty to 40%.

How much boodle can a rent seeker make these days? A recently leaked non-public report reveals that Exelon expects Waxman-Markey to generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the company.

On June 9, 2009, four days after Waxman-Markey was marked up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Hugh Wynne, a senior analyst with BernsteinResearch, led a group of investors to meet with Exelon’s senior management at the company’s headquarters in Chicago. Wynne summarized Exelon’s thinking in a non-public report prepared for Bernstein’s clients:

If passed, [Exelon Chairman] John Rowe calculates the Waxman-Markey bill will add $700 to $750 million to Exelon’s annual revenues for every $10 per metric ton (Mt) increase in the price of CO2 allowances. Such a revenue increase would contribute $0.67-0.72 to earnings per share. Exelon estimates that the price of CO2 allowances, when the law takes effect in 2012, will range from $15 to $18/Mt, implying a positive earnings impact of $1.00 to $1.30 per share.

The Chamber and NAM oppose Waxman-Markey because they promote the general interest of business in a free and healthy economy. Green groups are putting pressure on other companies to leave Chamber and NAM, my colleague Christopher Horner notes. Divide and conquer is, alas, a pathetically easy game to play in an era of big government and climate hysteria. 

The real story is that so many Chamber and NAM members are standing firm, and that most observers do not expect the Senate to pass a cap-and-trade bill this year.

Mr Krugman in Sunday’s New York Times is worried.

In  his article “Cassandras of Science” he says, “What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.”

He’s worried about the Arctic ice. Here’s the latest, though. Information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows that the Arctic has been rebounding for the past two years. (It hasn’t recovered yet, though.) The minimum sea ice extent in September of 2007 was 4.3 million square kilometers. In 2008, it was 4.7 mill sq km. And in 2009, it was 5.1 mill sq km. If the Arctic ice continues to rebound at this rate of 0.4 mill sq km per year, in two years it will be back to the level seen in 2006 of 5.9 mill sq km. And if it continues at this rate for three years? It will pass the Arctic sea ice minimum in 1995 of 6.1 mill sq km.

Krugman is also worried about the warming tundra releasing carbon dioxide and methane. But CO2Science .org says, “Another scare story came from a scientist who said the last IPCC report underestimated the vast amount of carbon contained in the world’s permafrost, which could be released to the air by rising temperatures. However, a detailed study of this phenomenon (Delisle, 2007) indicates that “permafrost will mostly prevail in this century in areas north of 70°N,” even for an unbelievable warming of 8°C, and that “permafrost will survive at depth in most areas between 60° to 70°N.” This scenario is also supported by the small amount of organic carbon released from permafrost during previous periods of warming, such as the Medieval Warm Period and Holocene Climatic Optimum, when no significant methane excursions were detected in ice core records of either Antarctica or Greenland.” If the Medieval Warm Period, which was warmer than today, didn’t have increased methane, then we won’t see it either.

If Mr Krugman is concerned about the sea bed deposits of methane called clathrates, he would be comforted reading about this six-year study by Petrenko at the University of Colorado, then. Petrenko says, “The results definitely help us to say that it doesn’t seem methane clathrates respond to warming by releasing lots of methane into the atmosphere, which is really good news for global warming.” Petrenko also said that temperatures in Greenland 12,000 years ago had increased about 10 degrees Celsius in 20 years. But it took 150 years for methane levels in the atmosphere to increase by 50 percent. Therefore, the methane did not contribute to that increase.

Arctic hockey stick graphs that claim that the Arctic is warmer now than in the past two thousand years such as this one, rely upon “previously published data from glacial ice and tree rings that were calibrated against the instrumental temperature record.” That tree ring data is now known to have been incorrect. When those graphs are corrected, they will  likely show that around 1000AD the Arctic was warmer but that runaway global warming obviously did not occur.

I can understand that Krugman hasn’t followed the science, but to make comments like this one, Krugman just looks very deceived: “And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.” The money behind “green” is actually enormous.

The Obama administration is sending mixed messages on energy policy.  On the one hand, Obama’s top budget guru Peter Orszag told Congress last year that a cap-and-trade is designed to raise the price of energy.  On the other, the President says a cap-and-trade would spur economic growth.

Taxes and economic growth are mutually exclusive, so it seems as if President Obama is trying to have his cake and eat it, too.

To understand what the Obama administration is really thinking about energy policy, CEI’s Chris Horner filed a Freedom of Information Act request charging the Treasury Department to release all internal communications regarding cap-and-trade.

The Treasury Department responded on September 11th with 5 redacted documents, which were then released to the public by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CBS news reporter Declan McCullagh picked up the FOIA story and the eye-popping cost estimates-“equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation”-soon attracted massive media attention.

It turns out that those were only the low-end cost estimates. On September 18th, the Treasury Department released unredacted and previously withheld documents. These memos suggest that cap-and-trade costs would be “equal in size to the corporate income tax.”

Is there more? That’s a fair question in light of the Treasury Department’s suspicious partial disclosure on September 11th. It’s also curious that Treasury failed to include any e-mails. I would think that economic analysis of a major policy would have generated a few e-mails up and down the chain of command. After all, this is a federal bureaucracy-nothing is spontaneous in a federal bureaucracy.

To find out what the Obama administration is hiding, Mr. Horner today informed the Treasury Department of CEI’s “intent to sue” if Treasury does not come into compliance with its legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.

If President Barack Obama is serious about open and transparent government, he should press Treasury to release all communications on cap-and-trade. Only then will we know what energy rationing actually costs.

To see Mr. Horner’s letter informing the treasury Department of CEI’s intent to sue, click here.

Is 350 the New 450?

by Marlo Lewis on September 28, 2009

in Blog

In today’s New York Times, Lauren Morello of ClimateWire asks, “Is 350 [parts per million] the New 450 [ppm] When It Comes to Capping Carbon Emissions?”

The answer is yes, suggests Morello, a reporter with a keen eye for the shifting fashions of climate chic.

The older viewpoint was that if the world cuts back its CO2 emissions at least 50% by 2050, with industrial countries cutting their emissions by 80% or more, we could stabilize CO2 concentrations at 450 ppm, and that, in turn, would limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But a 45o ppm stabilization target is increasingly regarded as too weak and unacceptably risky.  Twenty scientists, in an open letter to the President and Congress, contend that the Waxman-Markey legislation, with its emission reduction target of 83% by 2050, should be considered “only a first step.”

Then there’s the 350 or Bust campaign led by the Center for Biological Diversity. CBD and its comrades demand that U.S. environmental statutes be “fully implemented” to lower CO2 concentrations to 350 ppm. In June, CBD issued a report advising EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for CO2 set at 350 ppm.

Morello quotes Sanford University scientist Stephen Schneider on why 350 ppm is better than 450 ppm: “We’re betting the planet. There’s no such thing as a safe level [of CO2 concentrations]. There’s a level of very risky, versus mildly risky.”

This is the familiar rhetoric that we’re ”gambling with the only planet we have.” As should be obvious by now (alas, it isn’t), Schneider and other cap-and-traders propose to gamble with the only economy we have. They talk as if there are no risks of climate policy, only risks of climate change. I would paraphrase Schneider as follows: There’s economically hazardous (stabilization at 450 ppm by 2050) and there’s economically ruinous (stabilization at 350 ppm).

In “We Can’t Get There From Here” (Mar. 14, 2009), Newsweekcolumnist Sharon Begley describes what it would take to stabilize CO2 concentrations at 450 ppm by 2050:

[Cal Tech chemist Nate] Lewis’s numbers show the enormous challenge we face. The world used 14 trillion watts (14 terawatts) of power in 2006. Assuming minimal population growth (to 9 billion people), slow economic growth (1.6 percent a year, practically recession level) and—this is key—unprecedented energy efficiency (improvements of 500 percent relative to current U.S. levels, worldwide), it will use 28 terawatts in 2050. (In a business-as-usual scenario, we would need 45 terawatts.) Simple physics shows that in order to keep CO2 to 450 ppm, 26.5 of those terawatts must be zero-carbon. That’s a lot of solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and nuclear, especially since renewables kicked in a measly 0.2 terawatts in 2006 and nuclear provided 0.9 terawatts. Are you a fan of nuclear? To get 10 terawatts, less than half of what we’ll need in 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d have to build 10,000 reactors, or one every other day starting now. Do you like wind? If you use every single breeze that blows on land, you’ll get 10 or 15 terawatts. Since it’s impossible to capture all the wind, a more realistic number is 3 terawatts, or 1 million state-of-the art turbines, and even that requires storing the energy—something we don’t know how to do—for when the wind doesn’t blow. Solar? To get 10 terawatts by 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d need to cover 1 million roofs with panels every day from now until then. “It would take an army,” he says. Obama promised green jobs, but still.

The sacrifices required of developing countries would be immense, because 90% of the growth in global CO2 emissions is expected to occur in developing countries. Here’s a graph former CEQ Chairman Jim Connaughton prepared for the December 2007 major emitters conference:


Stephen Eule of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that to lower global emissions 50% below today’s levels by 2050 (the minimum reduction required to stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm), developing countries would have to reduce their emissions 62% below the baseline projection even if developed countries magically reduce their emissions to zero. They’d have cut emissions 71% below baseline if developed countries cut their emissions “only” 84% below current levels (essentially the Waxman-Markey reduction target).

Absent technological miracles (which in their nature can’t be planned or predicted), lowering CO2 to 350 ppm by 2050 would probably require a global depression sustained over several decades.

Along with the push to make 350 the new 450, I detect a shift in climate alarmist rhetoric.

 If I’m not mistaken, there is a new and greater emphasis on the so-called precautionary principle. We don’t really know that limiting CO2 concentrations to 450 ppm would keep a safe lid on global warming, so we should err on the side of caution; 350 ppm is a more protective goal, argue NASA’s James Hansen and Gavin Schmidt. Again, this completely ignores the perils of the political interventions and fossil-energy restrictions required to achieve either of those targets. 

Another rhetorical shift is a subtle revision in the concept of climate sensitivity. Climate sensitivity used to mean how much global warming you get from a given increase in CO2 concentrations. However, since 2001, although CO2 concentrations have increased at an accelerating rate, global temperatures have been stagnant or even declined slightly. To my knowledge, no scientist in the late 1990s predicted a roughly 10-year period of no warming at the start of the 21st Century. This suggests that the climate is less sensitive (less reactive to CO2 emissions) than the alleged “scientific consensus” has been telling us.

That’s inconvenient if the only way to sell energy rationing to a reluctant populace is to claim, over and over again, that climate change is “even worse than scientists previously predicted.”

So the new rhetoric emphasizes the alleged damages of global warming — melting Arctic sea ice, drought in Australia, species migration. And we’re told that these impacts are occurring faster than climate models have predicted.  Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists argued along those lines at a Ways and Means Committee hearing earlier this year on “Scientific Objectives in Climate Change Legislation.” 

Climate sensitivity is thus redefined to mean climate impacts per a given increment of warming rather temperature change per a given increment of CO2. In short, we’re supposed to believe that less warming than the IPCC predicts leads to worse impacts than the IPCC predicts. Hence the need to make 350 ppm the new 450 ppm.

All of which is obviously question-begging, because if the world isn’t warming, how do we know that, say, drought in Southern California is due to CO2 emissions rather than to ocean cycles or some other factor not related to the greenhouse effect? Indeed, if a change in weather or climatic conditions occurs faster than greenhouse climate models project, that is prima facie evidence that the change is not due to greenhouse gas emissions. 

The older view of climate sensitivity – that X amount of CO2 produces Y amount of warming — is the correct one, because it alone allows scientists to frame testable hypotheses. Scientists can measure CO2 concentrations, and they can measure global temperatures, and they can test whether a given increment in CO2 concentrations does or does not yield a hypothetical increase in global temperature.  

As discussed in a previous post, a recent observational study by Richard Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi of MIT indicates that the actual climate is about six times less sensitive to CO2 emissions than the IPCC’s “best estimate.”

Okay, this time they’ve gone too far!

Now, says the Washington Post, environmentalists are trying to wipe out plush toilet paper!

They say that’s because plush U.S. toilet paper is usually made from older trees – though not what’s defined as “old growth” by any means. And older trees, they say, are better for absorbing carbon dioxide and thereby slowing global warming.

(Have you noticed that there’s nothing that can’t be tied into global warming?)

They want us Americans to wipe with the same stuff Europeans use, made from recycled paper goods.

Well, I’ve been to Europe a lot and while I’m no xenophobe I must say their toilet paper is just one grade above sandpaper. No, ifs, ands, or butts about it.

They’ll get my soft toilet paper when they pry it from my cold dead hands!

(Though I really don’t want to be found dead sitting on “the throne” . . . )

American law has moved in a leftward direction over the last 20 years, steadily restricting use of the death penalty and criminal sentencing, and expanding lawsuits against businesses, thanks largely to the Supreme Court.

But to some left-leaning journalists who write about the Supreme Court, none of this has ever happened, and the Supreme Court, which is responsible for many of these liberal changes, remains a conservative boogeyman.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, America’s most famous Supreme Court reporter, writes today that in the Supreme Court, “big business always prevails, environmentalists are always buried, female and elderly workers go unprotected, death row inmates get the needle, and criminal defendants are shown the door.”

This is breathtakingly inconsistent with reality. Over the last dozen years, the death penalty has been dramatically cut back in cases like Roper v. Simmons (2005), as the Supreme Court has invalidated the death penalty when imposed on the “retarded” (even the mildly retarded) or juveniles (even 16 to 18 year-olds), or when imposed by judges rather than juries (as state laws long provided).

The Supreme Court overturned thousands of sentences given to criminal defendants in cases like U.S. v. Booker (2005), based not on their guilt or innocence, but on the fact that judges, rather than juries, had made findings related to those sentences (the so-called Booker/Apprendi line of cases). The supposedly “right-wing” justices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas joined in these decisions.

Environmentalists won many cases, including perhaps the most economically-significant decision ever — Massachusetts v. EPA (2003) — which potentially opened the door to EPA regulation of virtually every human activity, on the grounds that virtually all activity (from industrial production to farming to cars) emits carbon dioxide and thus allegedly causes global warming. That decision also created a special rule of standing to allow state attorneys general to bring lawsuits that would otherwise be thrown out as meritless for lack of standing.

The Supreme Court recently allowed businesses to be sued even for products the FDA deems to be safe and effective, in Wyeth v. Levine (2009).

The Supreme Court progressively expanded businesses’ liability for discrimination against female and elderly workers. It continuously expanded the definition of sexual harassment, overturning earlier limits on vicarious liability (in Faragher v. Boca Raton (1998)), allowing institutions to be sued based on the acts of non-employees (in Davis v. Monroe County (1999)), and rejecting longstanding lower-court limits on lawsuits where there is no economic or psychological harm (in Harris v. Forklift Systems (1993)). It also allowed businesses to be sued for discrimination against elderly workers even absent any showing of discriminatory intent or differential treatment (in Smith v. Jackson (2005)). All of these decisions reversed lower court rulings in favor of businesses.

In short, Dahlia Lithwick’s perception of the Supreme Court bears no relation to reality. But it is shared by most of the nation’s leading court reporters, at publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, who promote a similar caricature of the Supreme Court.

As a result of such reporters ceaselessly peddling this perspective to their readers, it is also the perception of much of the newspaper-reading public, especially in the so-called Blue States, many of whom view the Supreme Court as “too conservative.”

For example, factually inaccurate and dishonest reporting on recent Supreme Court decisions also contributed to recent election results.

A classic example is the Supreme Court’s recent Ledbetter decision, which many reporters wrongly claimed required discrimination plaintiffs to sue within a rigid 180-day deadline — when in fact, most pay discrimination cases could legally be brought for at least 3 years after the discrimination allegedly occurred, under laws unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision (like the Equal Pay Act), and the 180-day deadline, even when applicable, had lots of common-sense exceptions to keep employers from escaping justice (such as tolling to protect hoodwinked employees)

(Regardless of whether the death penalty is good or bad, it is very clear that it is not unconstitutional).

In today’s New York Times, John Broder strains to belittle Alan Carlin, the “whistle blower” whose skeptical comments on EPA’s proposed endangerment finding the Agency tried to suppress. Most of the piece is larded with innuendo and spin.

Below is the text of Broder’s article and my running commentary in bold italics.

Behind the Furor Over a Climate Change Skeptic

WASHINGTON — Alan Carlin, a 72-year-old analyst and economist, had labored in obscurity in a little-known office at the Environmental Protection Agency since the Nixon administration.

Slant from the get-go. Why not be factual and say Carlin has worked at EPA since 1971, or since shortly after the Agency opened its doors? Why instead associate him with the tainted Nixon Administration? Also, what’s this bit about Carlin “laboring in obscurity”? That raises suspicion that Carlin is a disgruntled employee.

In June, however, he became a sudden celebrity with the surfacing of a few e-mail messages that seemed to show that his contrarian views on global warming had been suppressed by his superiors because they were inconvenient to the Obama administration’s climate change policy.

Broder hints that Carlin may be a ”celebrity” seeker trying to break out of the “obscurity” in which he “labored.” Such cynical innuendo ignores an obvious fact: Carlin would never have come to anyone’s attention outside of EPA had the Agency not traduced its own professed commitment to “overwhelming transparency” in science-based policymaking.     

Conservative commentators and Congressional Republicans said he had been muzzled because he did not toe the liberal line.

Yup, they said that — because it’s true!

But a closer look at his case and a broader set of internal E.P.A. documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act paint a more complicated picture.

Actually, the New York Times set of EPA documents is “broader” by only one document, an email from Dr. Carlin to Dr. Al McGartland dated 03/13/2009 10:17 AM. It does “complicate” the picture somewhat, but in a way that undercuts the contrarian image of Carlin that Broder is trying to paint.

In this email, Carlin says, “I suggest you forward our comments, perhaps removing the name NCEE [National Center for Environmental Economics] from the cover page, to Paul and OAR [Office of Air and Radiation] with a note that at the very least this represents a summary of the principal viewpoints that OAR is likely to encounter to their TSD [Technical Support Document], and therefore would appear to be useful in revising the TSD to try to meet these arguments ahead of time.”

This email raises the distinct possibility that Carlin was attempting to strengthen EPA’s endangerment proceeding. As he goes on to explain: “It is unbelievable that John and I have been able to poke so many holes in the orthodox view in so short a time with so little manpower.”

It is true that Dr. Carlin’s supervisor refused to accept his comments on a proposed E.P.A. finding, since adopted, that greenhouse gases endangered health and the environment, and that he did so in a dismissive way.

Hold on there! Carlin’s superior (Al McGartland) did not merely refuse to “accept his comments,” he forbade Carlin to discuss endangerment with anyone outside their immediate office, refused to transmit Carlin’s comment to EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and forbade Carlin to spend any more time on climate change.

But the newly obtained documents show that Dr. Carlin’s highly skeptical views on global warming, which have been known for more than a decade within the small unit where he works, have been repeatedly challenged by scientists inside and outside the E.P.A.;

There’s a whole lot of misinformation in this sentence fragment.

(1) The newly obtained documents say nothing about Carlin’s views being “repeatedly challenged.”

(2) Even if they did, so what? Most opinions about climate science and climate policy have been “repeatedly challenged” by someone. It is expected that people commenting on proposed agency actions will disagree on many issues big and small. That’s the reason for inviting public comment in the first place!  

(3) Nothing in these documents suggests that Carlin has been a skeptic for “more than a decade.” Carlin’s skepticism appears to be of recent vintage. For example, in a 2007 Penn Law Review article, Carlin argued that the most effective and efficient way to control climate change is with geo-engineering strategies, not emission-control regulations. The article presupposes that anthropogenic global warming is a serious problem.

that he holds a doctorate in economics, not in atmospheric science or climatology;

We needed newly-released “EPA documents” to find out that Carlin’s Ph.D. is in economics, not climate science? Nonsense. The documents say nothing about Carlin’s educational credentials. Besides, Carlin has never pretended to have a Ph.D. in climate science.

Broder overlooks several obvious points here.

(1) Carlin holds a B.S. in physics from Cal Tech. So, even if a science credential were a prerequisite for commenting on endangerment — it manifestly is not, since the vast majority of the 20,000 or so unique comments EPA has received were not submitted by scientists — Carlin meets that standard by virtue of his Cal Tech degree.

(2) Whatever happened to ‘lifelong learning’? Carlin has been analyzing environmental issues at EPA for 38 years. During at least 7 of those years Carlin did research in the physical sciences and supervised the production of reports similar to EPA’s Technical Support Document. Broder has no business suggesting that Carlin is unqualified to offer comment on the endangerment proposal.

(3) Most importantly, Carlin’s job at EPA is to analyze the economics of environmental issues. That means evaluating the costs and benefits of environmental policies. There is no way to evaluate the benefits of an environmental policy without understanding the relevant science.

For example, what are the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by X number of tons over Y number of years? The answer to that question depends on a host of assumptions about various scientific issues (e.g. climate sensitivity). A drone might accept somebody else’s assumptions as “settled science,” but a conscientious analyst with degrees in physics and economics would do exactly what Carlin did — try to provide the Agency with a genuinely independent assessment.

that he has never been assigned to work on climate change;

Actually, Dr. Carlin’s FY2009 performance standards, which were signed by Dr. McGartland, explicitly require work on climate change.

and that his comments on the endangerment finding were a product of rushed and at times shoddy scholarship, as he acknowledged Thursday in an interview.

Yes, of course, the product was rushed, and not ready for publication in an academic journal. Broder makes it sound as if Carlin confessed to an embarrassing fact in the Thursday interview. In fact, Carlin’s comment states that it was written in haste, does not meet normal scholarly standards, and was barely edited. Shame on Broder for suggesting that Carlin kept this hidden until the New York Times dragged it out of him, or that Carlin rather than the ridiculously short deadline (4.5 days) was to blame for the work’s defects.

Dr. Carlin remains on the job and free to talk to the news media, and since the furor his comments on the finding have been posted on the E.P.A.’s Web site. Further, his supervisor, Al McGartland, also a career employee of the agency, received a reprimand in July for the way he had handled Dr. Carlin.

Puh-leaze! Carlin remains free to talk because of the furor over his previous muzzling! EPA posted the comment to appease public and congressional anger at the comment’s being suppressed in the first place. Broder suggests that EPA damage-control efforts mean there was no problem in the first place. Is he a reporter, or a flak-catcher for EPA?

Dr. McGartland, also an economist, declined to comment on the matter. But top officials of the agency said his decision not to forward Dr. Carlin’s comments to the E.P.A. office that would be writing the final report had been his own and not directed by anyone higher up in the agency.

That top officials might be using McGartland as a scapegoat to protect their jobs, avoid a bigger scandal, and keep the endangerment proceeding on track is a possibility Broder never considers. 

Of course, McGartland may well have acted without the knowledge of his higher-ups. But that just raises another question: What is it about the political culture of EPA in the age of Gorethodoxy that prompted McGartland to suppress an analysis relevant to an important Agency action and censor a colleague at the NCEE? Broder does not seem at all curious to find out.

Adora Andy, the agency’s chief spokeswoman, called the accusation that Dr. Carlin had been muzzled for political reasons “ridiculous.”

But Carlin was, in fact, muzzled from March 12 through June 23, and although the reasons have never been made clear, the political points stated in McGartland’s email of 03/17/09 08:12 AM could be the reason: “The administrator and the administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

“There was no predetermined position on endangerment, and Dr. Carlin’s work was not suppressed,” Ms. Andy said in an e-mail response to questions.

Preposterous. McGartland’s email of 3/12/09 02:40 PM specifically forbade Carlin to discuss endangerment with anyone outside of their office. Since McGartland later declined to submit Carlin’s comment with OAR, he did his best to send it down the memory hole.

“There was no predetermined position on endangerment, and Dr. Carlin’s work was not suppressed,” Ms. Andy said in an e-mail response to questions. “This administration has always welcomed varying scientific points of view, and we received much of it over this process.”

EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is nothing but a “predetermined position on endangerment.” The main point of Carlin’s comment is that EPA’s proposal and associated Technical Support Document do not even acknowledge data and scientific research inconsistent with EPA’s assumptions.  

Dr. Carlin said he was concerned less about how he had been treated than about what he described as the agency’s unwillingness to hear the arguments of climate change skeptics. He said there was an obvious “imbalance” between the billions of dollars the government had spent building a case for dangerous climate change and the lack of attention to a handful of skeptics like him.

Finally, some real reporting. Well, almost. The “handful” of skeptics comment is editorializing, and grossly inaccurate.

The affair began in March as the E.P.A. was rushing to document the scientific justification for its proposed finding that emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases endangered public health and the environment. The finding was largely an updated version of a similar report, prepared last year under the Bush administration, that came to the same conclusion. But the Bush administration never acted on the research or issued an actual finding.

The agency’s officials were acting in March under severe time constraints to prepare the finding for the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, who was planning to issue it in mid-April, fulfilling a presidential campaign pledge by Barack Obama.

Broder neglects to note that these severe time constraints were entirely self-imposed, not ordered by the Supreme Court. Because the Agency was rushing to get its proposal out the door, Carlin had to rush to apprise the Agency of his concerns. So again, why bother mentioning that Carlin’s 93-page comment was in no shape to be published in an academic journal?

The finding set the stage for the government to regulate greenhouse gases for the first time, an initiative that will resonate through the economy for decades.

Dr. Carlin, long known as a skeptic on global warming, was not invited to submit comments on the document. But he was determined that his views be heard.

Two points here. (1) Earlier Broder said Carlin “labored in obscurity.” So how could he be “long known” as a skeptic? Also, as noted above, Carlin’s first published work on climate policy — in 2007 — assumes the seriousness of anthropogenic global warming. (2) According to Dr. Carlin, he attended a meeting where everybody in the room was “invited” to comment on the endangerment proposal.

He rushed out a 93-page report that cited a variety of sources in raising questions about global warming and the usefulness of government action to combat it. In an accompanying e-mail message to superiors, he said the belief in global warming was “more religion than science” and warned that regulating carbon dioxide would be “the worst mistake that E.P.A. has ever made.”

Hear, hear!

Agency officials and outside experts who reviewed his report as a result of the outcry over the episode have said they found it wanting in a number of ways. It included unverified information from blog posts, they found, quoted selectively from journal articles, failed to acknowledge contradictory information and may have borrowed passages verbatim from the blog of a well-known climate change doubter.

This misses the point. EPA shirked its duty, under Sec. 202 of the Clean Air Act, to exercise its “judgment” in deciding endangerment. Instead, the Agency uncritically accepted the judgment of two externally-produced literature reviews — the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and the work of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s explanation of this problem). Carlin’s comment was designed to summarize data and research that EPA’s endangerment proposal and Technical Support Document did not even address. To call it “selective” is thus to take it entirely out of context. The comment was not meant to be a comprehensive overview of climate science but a corrective to EPA’s one-sided assessment.

In the interview Thursday, Dr. Carlin admitted that his report had been poorly sourced and written. He blamed the tight deadline.

“There are numerous problems with it,” he said. “I wouldn’t dream of sending it to a journal in its current form. It is totally unacceptable for that type of thing. But it was either do it in four and a half days or don’t do it. I had to take some shortcuts.”

Does Broder dispute that Carlin had 4.5 days to complete his comment? If not, then why bother comparing the comment to a scientific paper prepared for a refereed journal?  

According to e-mail messages that were among the documents obtained this week under the Freedom of Information Act, Dr. McGartland had earlier tried to discourage Dr. Carlin from filing comments on the proposed finding and told him that whatever he submitted was not likely to affect the final report, implying that the decision had already been made. After receiving Dr. Carlin’s comments, Dr. McGartland told him that he would not forward them to the office preparing the final report.

Two things to notice here.

(1) McGartland’s statement implying that EPA’s decision “had already been made” calls into question top officials’ denials that the outcome of EPA’s endangerment proceeding is ”predetermined.” 

(2) McGartland did not merely imply that endangerment was a done deal, he also implied that people upstairs might be upset with comments that “do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

“The time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round,” he wrote on March 17. “The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

Finally a relevant quotation, but Broder offers no analysis.

A few minutes later, he instructed Dr. Carlin to “move on to other issues and subjects.” He also told Dr. Carlin not to discuss climate change with anyone outside his immediate office.

The e-mail messages most embarrassing to the E.P.A. came to light in late June, when someone sympathetic to Dr. Carlin leaked them to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative group that regularly produces studies critical of research that advances a case for climate change and government actions to address it.

For the record, CEI is a free-market or libertarian public policy group. We also do not publish studies critical of climate change but of climate change alarmism.

The institute distributed the material widely, and a number of conservative commentators and Republican lawmakers seized on it as an example of what they called Democratic suppression of science.

Dr. McGartland was “counseled” by his superior “to assure that professional differences are expressed in appropriate and considered ways,” according to one of the newly released documents.

I do not find this statement in the documents linked to Broder’s column.

Dr. Carlin said he and Dr. McGartland had not spoken to each other since June.

The new documents linked to Broder’s column are not newsworthy. They do not advance public understanding of the issues one iota. I can only conclude that Broder published them in order to have a hook to engage in pro-EPA apologetics at the expense of a courageous and learned civil servant.

Fisking Paul Krugman

by Iain Murray on September 25, 2009

in Blog

In today’s New York Times, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman preens about intellectual dishonesty while presenting the most intellectually dishonest case about the cost of climate change policies I have seen this side of Joe Romm.  It moved me to do something I have not done for some time, and Fisk the entire article.  Krugman’s words are in italics.

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

And Mr Krugman is about to demonstrate his level of civility and intellectual honesty in what only can be described as a pre-emptive strike.  Is this the Krugman Doctrine?

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sharp reductions? The Breakthrough Institute, which strongly champions action on global warming, says that the way the bill is structured “U.S. emissions in capped sectors could rise for much–if not all–of the next two decades.” Krugman protects himself against the accusation of outright lies by using the word “eventually,” but without disclosing the ineffectiveness of the bill over the next 20 years, Krugman is already being intellectually dishonest.

But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin – as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Krugman condenses a very complex argument over the nature of global warming into one statement and then dismisses it out of hand.  There are very few who deny the heat-trapping properties of greenhouse gases.  There are many who suggest that the influence of these gases on the climate as a whole has been significantly exaggerated.  For instance, I wonder what Mr. Krugman thinks of the recent research of Lindzen and Choi, published in August, which uses actual observations to find that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases has been overestimated by a factor of six.

As for the Arctic, it has been melting since the end of the Little Ice Age two hundred years ago.  In fact, The Washington Post published a story on a government report that described “a radical change in climatic conditions,” “unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone,” and the melting of ice as long ago as November 2, 1922.  The fact that the North-East Passage, a holy grail for traders for hundreds of years, is now open might also warrant some balancing mention of its benefits.

Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.

PG&E made an odd member of the Chamber of Commerce to begin with, as its profits come about not by commerce but by government regulation.  PG&E’s profits are “decoupled” from the amount of energy it sells.  There are suggestions, by the way, that companies are coming under pressure in the way of threats of activism directed against them if they continue to support the Chamber’s efforts to protect the interests of its members.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

If the estimated costs rise, that is because people like the bloggers at Climate Progress keep persuading politicians to go for more ambitious programs, which of course cost more. Auctioneers only respond to bids, and it is the bidders who are out of control.

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.

Here we are getting to the nub.  Having succeeded in chilling the speech of those who are doubtful about the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate, Mr. Krugman now wants to make it unacceptable to say that policies designed to raise the cost of energy will have any detriment to the economy.

How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living – a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

Well of course there is waste involved in generating energy.  If there wasn’t so much regulation of energy generation right now, which has the perverse effect of locking in old technology, then we’d actually be a lot more efficient than we are.  However, being more energy efficient does not mean we use less energy.  Mr. Krugman’s own newspaper just recently published an excellent story about the Jevons Paradox, first formulated in 1865, which states, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”  This really is Energy 101.

Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  The government studies most emphatically did not find that the bill will cost a postage stamp a day in 2020.  They can only arrive at that figure of $160 a year by discounting twice.  They took the nominal cost – the actual out-of-pocket cost – of the increases in energy prices and worked out what that would be in today’s dollars.  Then they discounted back to find the present value of that figure.  In other words, $160 a year is what you’d have to lock away in a bank account with a guaranteed interest rate today in order to pay your bills in 2020.  If you didn’t do that, the figure from the EPA’s study in today’s dollars (ie not accounting for inflation) is above $2700 a year for a family of four.  The CBO study, meanwhile, admits that it did not attempt a comprehensive study of lost income.

Mr. Krugman also ignores polling evidence that finds that only 10 percent of respondents would be willing to pay more than $100 a year to achieve the supposed benefits of the Waxman-Markey bill.  So even if the cost was just a postage stamp a day, people would still find that cost expensive.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.

The same argument can be made about global warming itself.  Even with all the supposed dramatic effects of global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that people all over the world – even in the poorest countries – will be many times richer than they are today as a result of the economic activity sustained by fossil fuels. This demonstrates that a warmer-but-richer world is better off than a cooler-but-poorer world, and we will in fact be best off in the warmest world.  Krugman’s argument here in fact suggests that we shouldn’t do anything about emissions at all.

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

The Heritage Foundation has updated its report and recently defended its methodology in a panel of other modelers, who did not raise significant objections to it (so much for its obvious absurdity).  If Mr Krugman hasn’t seen it cited it is the same way that Pauline Kael didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon.  But the Heritage Report is not the only one.  The American Council on Capital Formation found job losses of 1.8 to 2.4 million in 2030.  The research of the left-leaning Brookings Institution has found that “Achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is a costly endeavor.”  Once one strips away the discounting tricks, even the government studies demonstrate the truth of this statement.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Thus, last week Glenn Beck – who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. – informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  He is correct only in so far as the recently revealed documents simply summarize the real effects of the other studies that have been disguised using economic trickery.  Here is what the Treasury documents say will be the effect of the President’s policies:

Given the administration’s proposal to auction all emission allowances …a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 to $200 billion annually. … Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1% of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation. …One advantage of auctioning allowances is the potential for generating large revenues (perhaps $300 billion annually). … Domestic policies to address climate change and the related issues of energy security and affordability will involve significant costs and potential revenues, possibly up to several percentage points of annual GDP (i.e., equal in size to the corporate income tax).

These documents are available for viewing here.  The fact that the Treasury initially redacted the most embarrassing sentences suggests strongly that they wanted to hide this.  That sounds like burying the truth to me.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar – and similarly false – claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

The claims are the claims of the US Treasury Department, available now for all to see.  We show, while Mr. Krugman tells.

A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides – and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.

Mr. Krugman is hoist by his own petard.

In the News

Have Increases in Population, Affluence and Technology Worsened Human Well-Being?
Indur Goklany, Journal of Sustainable Development, September 2009

Can Paul Krugman Read?
Chris Horner, Planet Gore, 25 September 2009

The Military-Industrial-Environmental Complex
Iain Murray & Roger Abbott, Washington Examiner, 25 September 2009

Gore-Backed Car Company Gets Big U.S. Loan
Josh Mitchell & Stephen Power, Wall Street Journal, 25 September 2009

Behind the Furor over a Climate Skeptic
John Broder, New York Times, 24 September 2009

The Dog Ate My Global Warming Data
Patrick J. Michaels, National Review Online, 23 September 2009

Obama’s Climate Fantasies
Myron Ebell, National Post, 23 September 2009

Cap-and-Trade Depresses Home Prices
Ryan Young, Politico, 23 September

Peer Review or Old Boy Network?
Marlo Lewis,, 23 September 2009

Obama’s Anti-Energy Policy
Dan Kish, Washington Examiner, 23 September 2009

Rep. Sensenbrenner Scoffs at China’s UN Climate Speech
Stephen Power, Wall Street Journal, 23 September 2009

Redact and Withhold
Washington Times
, 21 September 2009

Green Groups Open War Room
Mike Allen & Jim Vandehei, Politico, 21 September 2009

The United States Is the World’s True Energy Superpower
Donald Hertzmark,, 18 September, 2009

News You Can Use

Antarctic Ice Expanding

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research this week noted the South Pole had shown “significant cooling in recent decades,” according to the Australian. The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate ice is expanding in much of Antarctica.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Boxer & Kerry To Introduce Climate Bill Next Week

It was reported this week that Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) will release a draft of their energy-rationing/cap-and-trade bill on September 30th and that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing or hearings on the bill during the week of October 5th.  The starting point of their draft is the Waxman-Markey bill, which was passed by the House on June 25th by a vote of 219 to 212.  It will be interesting to see what changes Boxer and Kerry make.

EPW Chairman Boxer has the votes to pass any version of cap-and-trade in her committee, so I expect she will move quickly to mark up the bill and send it to the floor.  After that, my guess is that there will be no more action on the bill this year.  The public have reacted so strongly against passage of Waxman-Markey by the House that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is nowhere near having the sixty votes necessary to pass it on the Senate floor.  But the Obama Administration will be able to take the House vote and the Senate committee vote to Copenhagen as evidence that energy-rationing is moving forward in the Congress.

Climate Diplomacy Fizzles

It was a big week for global warming showmanship on the international stage.  On Tuesday, United Nations held a climate summit.  About 100 heads of state attended and a half dozen or so gave speeches.  I didn’t think much of President Barack Obama’s speech.  My initial reaction was posted here.  Then on Thursday the President addressed the UN General Assembly and again mentioned the urgent need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday afternoon, Obama and the other G-20 leaders went to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit meeting.  Again, energy-rationing and global warming are on the agenda.  It has been reported that a deal has been struck to end subsidies of fossil fuels.  That sounds promising.  Let’s hope that they will next agree to end subsidies of renewable fuels.

Court Rules that Affordable Energy Is a Public Nuisance

Two lawsuits in federal court against electric utilities for the damage done by their greenhouse gas emissions have been re-instated by a ruling of the Second U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  The plaintiffs include Connecticut, New York, California, Iowa, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York City, and three land trust organizations.

Their suit claims that greenhouse gas emissions constitute a public nuisance and can therefore be controlled under common law.  The utilities named as defendants are American Electric Power, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, Cinergy (now merged into Duke Energy), and the Tennessee valley Authority.  The appeals court ruling found that the plaintiffs had alleged credible claims of current and future injuries due to global warming and had tied the cause adequately to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the utilities.

Across the States

A Platform We Can Support

Former E-bay CEO and Republican candidate for Governor of California Megan Whitman this week slammed the Global Warming Solutions Act, a 2006 California law that calls for 25% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  Whitman called the legislation a “job killing regulation,” and she even promised to “immediately issue an executive order calling for a one-year moratorium on most of AB32’s rules,” if she becomes Governor.

Around the World

Cap-and-Trade Falters in Europe

The European Union’s marquee climate change policy-an international cap-and-trade energy-rationing scheme-suffered a major set back this week after the EU’s second highest court ruled that the European Commission “exceeded its powers” by establishing energy-rationing quotas far below what sovereign nations had requested.

Under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, individual nations submit emissions reductions targets for domestic industry to the European Commission for review. The Commission rejected proposals for 2008-2012 by Estonia and Poland, and issued lower targets in their stead. Estonia and Poland sued and the European Court of First Instance ruled that the Commission overstepped its jurisdiction.

The decision likely will affect pending cases brought against the ETS by other Central and Eastern European States, including Slovenia and the Czech Republic. These countries are largely dependent on coal, and they are more worried about the prospect of switching to natural gas from Russia (their former Soviet masters) than they are about rising temperatures.

The ruling threatens to destabilize the EU’s cap-and-trade. If the supply of energy ration coupons is constantly subject to litigation, then they will have little value, and the ETS will fail.

The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary check out the Coalition’s website,