December 2009

The arrival of President Barack Obama and over one hundred other heads of state in Copenhagen for a photo op at the UN global warming conference has buried the really big story here.  No, it’s not the fact that no agreement will be reached on a new international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  That outcome was foreseen months ago.

The big news is that the grand alliance pushing global warming alarmism and energy-rationing policies has started to break apart here in a spectacular way.  The official United Nations global warming bureaucracy have thrown out the twenty to thirty thousand environmentalists who traveled to Copenhagen to attend the meeting as officially-accredited delegates of non-governmental organizations (or NGOs).  The environmentalists are extremely angry and have every justification for being angry.

This is potentially momentous because the two wings of alarmism are totally dependent on one another.  The UN’s Kyoto bandwagon has been pushed along by the environmental movement and no new treaty to follow the Kyoto Protocol, when it expires at the end of 2012, will have a chance of being adopted without the continuing and unremitting backing of the environmentalists whom the UN has unceremoniously booted out this week.  For the environmental groups, Kyoto and its successor treaty are the only viable vehicles for achieving their goals of reducing emissions and putting the world on an energy starvation diet.

What has happened this week in Copenhagen is not based on any ideological disagreements.  It’s all the result of four things: the size of the room, the number of attendees, total incompetence, and poor manners.  The UN chose to hold what was billed as “the most important meeting in the history of the world” in a conference center that only holds fifteen thousand people.  The environmental NGOs sent lists of delegates that added up to over thirty thousand.  The UN looked at these two numbers and decided everything would work out fine.

Everything hummed along fine last week because it was the first week of the conference, which is devoted to technical meetings.  The majority always come for only the second week because that’s the glamorous part.  The second week is when the heads of delegations arrive to begin high-level negotiations and when the media arrive in huge numbers to cover them.

Over the weekend the United Nations organizers of the meeting realized they had a big problem.  They announced that each NGO was going to be limited in the number of its delegates that would be allowed into the conference center beginning Tuesday.  A total of seven thousand passes were to be handed out.  Thus for example the World Wildlife Fund sent approximately 120 delegates to Copenhagen and was going to be given 23 passes.

Then on Monday, thousands of people waited for up to nine hours outside in the cold to get into the building.  They were trying to register and get their ID badges.  In the huge crowd were the heads of a couple major environmental organizations.  At the end of the day, the UN let in a few to register and told the rest to go home.

Luckily, I didn’t arrive until Tuesday and it took only ninety minutes standing in the cold and another ninety inside to get registered.  That’s only partly because the UN started processing people much more quickly.  It’s also because a lot of people gave up–and are probably still trying to get warm.

The reason given for restricting the NGOs to seven thousand attending at any one time was that it was necessary to keep the total below the conference center’s capacity of 15,000.  It’s baffling that the UN’s global warming secretariat didn’t think of this weeks ago and send e-mails to the NGOs telling them that they couldn’t send so many people to the most important meeting in the history of the world (which it might be from the perspective of the environmental NGOs).

That was only the beginning, however.  On Tuesday, it was announced that only 1,000 NGO delegates would be allowed to attend on Thursday and Friday and that the method for choosing the lucky few would be announced later in the day.  A notice was posted that said the decision would be made by 6 PM.  At 6, another notice said come back at 7.  At 7, we were told that NGO representatives would meet with Yvo De Boer, the head of the Secretariat, at 7:30 and to watch our e-mails for an announcement of when we would meet.  At 7:45, we were told to assemble at 8 to find out which lucky thousand would be allowed to attend the last two days of the conference.  At 8, the meeting with Mr. de Boer was still going on.  So we sat and waited.  Ditto 8:30.  Ditto 9.  At 9:35, our NGO representatives appeared.

By this time, enough people had given up that I thought I had a good chance.        of getting a pass (and I should explain that CEI for whom I work is one of the few accredited NGOs not on the global warming bandwagon).  Then the NGO representative told us that UN security had advised Mr. de Boer that no NGO delegates should be allowed to attend the last two days, when over one hundred prime ministers and presidents, including President Obama, would be in the building. But de Boer had insisted on the rights of “civil society” to be represented and had secured a compromise. Instead of a thousand passes for NGOs, there would be three hundred.

Thus the approximately thirty thousand NGO delegates who traveled from around the world to Copenhagen to attend COP-15 were limited to seven thousand on Tuesday and Wednesday and to three hundred for the last two days.

The reason that UN security advised banning the NGOs altogether is that some of the environmentalists had been behaving badly. On Monday, there had been a small demonstration inside the conference center. I wasn’t there, but from television coverage it looked like the demonstrators were shouting at official government negotiators walking down the hall past them and that the demo was close to turning into a small riot.

Now, world leaders don’t like demos or riots close to them. Instead of glowing news reports all about them meeting with their fellow important world leaders, the stories from COP-15 would be about the protesters who are angry at them. One thousand NGO delegates in the building might include just enough malcontents to cause an ugly and highly televisable ruckus.

Consequently, there are many thousands of environmental activists in Copenhagen without a lot to do. Many of them are extremely angry. It snowed Wednesday night and gusting winds have made Thursday bitterly cold. The news reports say that four thousand protesters tried to push their way past police barricades and into the conference center. Two hundred sixty were arrested. I don’t know what might happen on Friday outside.

Inside everything will no doubt run smoothly where the heads of state are having their photos taken and making their speeches about how important it is to save the world from the ravages of global warming by agreeing to a new treaty. We will be expected to overlook the fact that after two years of negotiations begun at COP-13 in Bali, the major nations are further apart than they were then. The news from the conference center will be that these hundred-plus heads of state have pulled the world back from the brink of failure and a new treaty is now within sight. Sure.

The real news is that there is now a tremendous amount of animosity and distrust between the UN establishment and the environmental establishment. They know that they need each other, which is why the mainstream environmental NGOs have not made a stink and why the establishment press hasn’t made it a front-page story. But the fissure arising out of the UN’s incompetence is going to take a long time to heal and could easily grow much wider.

That is the very good news coming out of Hopenchangen.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced today that he plans to introduce a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recently finalized endangerment finding on greenhouse gases.

This is  huge. It means that Republicans are going to insist that climate and energy policy be made by the people’s elected representatives rather than by non-elected judges, litigators, and bureaucrats. It means that EPA regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) under the Clean Air Act (CAA or Act) will be an issue in the 2010 elections. It means that citizens will be able to hold accountable — and punish at the ballot box — any Member of Congress who votes against Barton’s resolution of disapproval and in favor of the compliance burdens, rising energy costs, and litigation risks to the economy that EPA regulation of CO2 unavoidably entails.

In a press release issued today, Barton stated:

“I want to announce that I and others on the Republican side will ask the House of Representatives to consider and pass a resolution strongly disapproving the discreditable decision by the Obama administration to outlaw carbon dioxide and with it, millions of jobs in America.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding plainly was intended to make the president’s policies look good in advance of his visit to the Copenhagen global warming conference, not to advance any public good in America, but it also has policy implications that threaten serious damage to the economy for generations to come.

“The EPA’s finding accurately reflects the thousands of candid, outrageous e-mails that EPA’s allies in the global warming community sent to each other by demonstrating that public relations priorities rather than straightforward science are driving U.S. policymaking on global warming, and no where did anyone demonstrate a whiff of concern for who pays the bill or how they earn their living.

“Everybody also understands that the endangerment finding is supposed to prod Congress into resuscitating cap-and-trade legislation that is dying from overexposure to public scrutiny. The social cost of this public relations effort, however, will dwarf the hundreds of billions of dollars already spent by the most profligate administration in history.

“Worst of all, the policy envisioned by the Obama administration will treat the recession by committing the country to living with fewer jobs instead of more, and to taking even more money out of the pockets of those lucky enough to have jobs so that radical environmentalists can wage a war against nature.

“Congress has the right and the responsibility to nullify the decisions of the bureaucracy when they run counter to the people’s interests, and a formal Resolution of Disapproval is fully warranted in this instance.”

Why is EPA inaugurating a regime of global warming regulations that Congress never voted for or approved?  Because the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA (April 2007), decided to legislate global warming policy from the bench.

In Mass. v. EPA, eco-litigation groups, led by a baker’s dozen state attorneys general, attempted to do an end run around Congress and impose Kyoto-like policies on the U.S. economy through judicial fiat. They found five willing accomplices on the Court, who essentially ruled that Congress authorized EPA to regulate GHGs for climate change purposes when it enacted the CAA in 1970 — decades before global warming became a public concern. The Court’s decision — an affront to common sense — all but ensured that EPA would issue an endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. That, in turn, would compel EPA, under CAA Sec. 202, to establish first-ever GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles.

However, what none of the principals in the case bothered to mention, is that once EPA adopts the GHG motor vehicle standards sought by plaintiffs, CO2 automatically becomes a pollutant “subject to regulation” under the Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program and Title V operating permits program. Under the CAA, firms must obtain a PSD permit in order to construct or modify a “major emitting facility,” and a Title V permit in order to operate such a facility. A facility is major under PSD if it is in one of 28 categories and has a potential to emit 100 tons per year (TPY) of a regulated pollutant, or 250 TPY if it is any other type of establishment. A facility is major under Title V if it has the potential to emit 100 TPY of a regulated pollutant. As it happens, millions of previously unregulated buildings and facilities — office buildings, apartment complexes, big box stores, enclosed malls, heated agricultural facilities, small manufacturing firms, even commercial kitchens — emit enough CO2 to meet these thresholds.

EPA estimates that if PSD and Title V are applied as written to CO2 sources, the number of PSD permit applications per year would jump from 280 to 41,000, and the number of Title V permit applications would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million! The CAA permitting programs would crash under their own weight, putting a freeze on new construction, and thrusting millions of firms into legal limbo. Thanks to Mass. v. EPA, the CAA is about to become an economic wrecking ball aimed straight at small business.

EPA’s October 2009 proposed Tailoring Rule attempts to avoid these “absurd results” by suspending the PSD and Title V requirements for any source emitting less than 25,000 tons per year (TPY) of CO2-equivalent GHGs. EPA hopes in this way to have its cake (the power to regulate CO2) and eat it (avoid an uncontrollable regulatory cascade that would provoke a backlash against the Obama administration, the eco-litigation fraternity, and the Court). But in order to pull off this trick, EPA must play lawmaker, effectively amend the Act, and violate the separation of powers.

Rep. Barton is right not to put his trust in the efficacy of this solution to the regulatory nightmare the Court conjured up in Mass. v. EPA. For one thing, it is unclear whether the Tailoring Rule will survive judicial challenge, because it flouts clear statutory language. Secondly, to preserve the fiction that EPA is not amending the Act, the Agency claims in the Tailoring Rule that its goal is to apply PSD and Title V to smaller and smaller CO2 sources over time, eventually including sources emitting 250 TPY and 100 TPY. EPA proposes to spend five years developing “streamlined” permitting procedures for smaller sources, but the legality of such contrivances is dubious as well, and at best streamlining would reduce irrational regulatory burdens on small business, not avoid them.

Finally, and most importantly, the Tailoring Rule, even if upheld by courts, would provide no protection from the most “absurd result” of the endangerment finding: Imposition of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for CO2 that essentially require the de-industrialization of the United States.

The endangerment finding that EPA has just finalized substantively satisfies the endangerment test in CAA Sec. 108 that governs the first phase of a NAAQS rulemaking. The endangerment finding asserts that current atmospheric CO2 concentrations endanger public health and welfare, so logically, a NAAQS for CO2 would have to be set below current levels. Two eco-litigation groups, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and, have already petitioned EPA to establish NAAQS for CO2 set at 350 parts per million (PPM). Their motto is “350 or Bust!

The present atmospheric CO2 level is 390 PPM. Even if the entire world met the emissions reduction target of the Waxman-Markey bill — 83% below 2005 levels by 2050 — this would only “stabilize” CO2 concentrations at 450 PPM. Not even a global depression lasting many decades would be enough to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350 PPM. Yet under established legal interpretation, EPA is prohibited from considering compliance costs when establishing NAAQS.

Clearly, the only solid protection against Mass. v EPA’s “absurd results” is to nip the regulatory mischief in the bud. Barton’s resolution of disapproval would do just that. CBD and its allies have their slogan, and now the friends of liberty have one too: Barton or Bust!

Earlier this week, at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, NASA unveiled new data on atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), notably carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor, from its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) unit on the agency’s Aqua spacecraft. NASA touted two main findings as “breakthroughs” in GHG research.

One supposed breakthrough is the discovery that CO2 is not “well-mixed” through the global troposphere (mid-level atmosphere), but is actually “lumpy” — distributed in higher concentrations in two “belts” circling the globe, especially in Northern hemisphere, which is more heavily industrialized. Now, I suppose this is a breakthrough in the sense that it will allow researchers to improve CO2 “transport models,” which hitherto have assumed that CO2 concentrations are uniform throughout the troposphere. But it would be surprising indeed if scientists did not know until now that industrialized regions have higher CO2 levels than non-industrialized areas.

The second supposed breakthrough is the claim that the AIRS data remove “most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor [feedback]” in climate change.  “AIRS temperature data have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said climate scientist Andrew Dressler of Texas A&M University. According to Dressler, “We are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century, unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in the Earth’s climate system.” Dressler is talking about the assumption, common to all IPCC climate models, that the initial warming from rising CO2 levels increases concentrations of the atmosphere’s main greenhouse gas, water vapor, trapping more outgoing longwave (heat or infrared) radiation (OLR) and increasing global average rainfall.

William Gray of Colorado State University, perhaps the world’s leading hurricane forecaster, offers a different perspective on the NASA water vapor data. Gray’s comment follows:

I have just heard that NASA has a new satellite in orbit that can directly measure CO2 content in the atmosphere and that these new measurements are beginning to show that there is a positive association between increased rainfall (from higher CO2 gas amounts) and Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) suppression. This is to be expected in and around the areas of precipitation — but not necessarily in global areas surrounding precipitation where return flow mass subsidence is driving the water vapor radiation emission level to a lower and somewhat warmer temperature.

I and a colleague, Barry Schwartz, have been analyzing 21 years (1984-2004) of ISCCP (International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project) outgoing longwave radiation on various space scales as related to precipitation differences. We have investigated how OLR changes with variations in precipitation from NOAA reanalysis data on time scales from 3 hours, a day, a month, and up to a year scale.

We find that on a small space scale where rainfall is occurring OLR is greatly suppressed. But on the larger regional to global scales, OLR rises with increasing precipitation. This is due to increased return flow subsidence in the surrounding cloud free and partly cloudy areas. Globally, we are finding that net OLR increases with net increased amounts of global precipitation. This is the opposite of what most GCMs [general circulation models] have programmed into their models and, if I’m interpreting the new NASA announcement correctly, opposite to what they are currently reporting to the media.

Dr. Gray presents a more detailed examination of these issues in his March 2009 Heartland Institute climate conference paper, available here.

[youtube: 285 234]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez couldn’t resist another opportunity to bash capitalism — and the COP15 Copenhagen Conference on global warming gave him a perfect setup. Protesters against globalization, capitalism, energy use, and other aspects of modern life thronged in the streets, while in the conference center, leaders from rich nations that want to “level the playing field” for CO2 emissions and poor countries looking for massive handouts gave Chavez a warm response.

In his harangue posted on YouTube, Chavez hit the “group of countries who think they’re better than us” and that provide a “world imperial dictatorship.” He, of course, made reference and deference to his hero Karl Marx:

There’s a ghost lurking…and Karl Marx said…a ghost running through the streets of Copenhagen.  And I think that ghost is silent, somewhere in this room…amongst us…coming thru the corridors and underneath.  And that ghost is a terrible ghost.  Nobody wants to name him or her…it’s capitalism.  Capitalism is that ghost.  (applause)

Chavez got a lot of applause here too. He tied capitalism to the degradation of the earth: “the destructive model of capitalism is eradicating life.”

President Robert Mugabe, credited with destroying the economy of his own country,  Zimbabwe, also railed against Western countries and capitalism:

“When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it’s we, the lesser mortals of the developing sphere who gasp and sink and eventually die.”

And this is the conference where “world leaders” are supposedly coming together to plan the world’s energy future?  It’s a scary thought.

Liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson today writes about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s policy flip-flop on global warming and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He notes her current recommendation — expressed in her own Post op-ed last week — that President Obama boycott Copenhagen, citing the Climategate scandal as reason enough to skip the climate conference. But while she was governor she held a slightly different view, as Robinson explained:

Back then, Palin was the governor of a state where “coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, record forest fires, and other changes are affecting, and will continue to affect, the lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans,” as she wrote (in a 2007 administrative order creating the state’s Climate Change Sub-Cabinet). Faced with that reality, she sensibly formed the high-level working group to chart a course of action.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue,” wrote Palin. “It is also a social, cultural, and economic issue important to all Alaskans….”

In her administrative order, Palin instructed the sub-Cabinet group to develop recommendations on “the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning.” She also instructed the group to look into “carbon-trading markets.”

Robinson is right about Palin’s seeming switch, but he leaves out context and cuts no slack on how the Climategate scandal has been a game-changer. For context, the idea of setting up a blue-ribbon panel to study climate issues likely came from Tom Chapple, a greenie envirocrat in her administration who left not long after she created the Subcabinet. The responsibility for managing the project fell to his successor, Larry Hartig, who has had to juggle the interests of environmentalists and the oil industry up there.

As director of Climate Strategies Watch I studied how the Subcabinet was put together, and specifically how and why they hired the global warming alarmist Center for Climate Strategies as technical advisers and consultants to run all the Subcabinet’s activities. I had written a long narrative — linking public documents and emails — explaining the developments and the less-than-transparent process, for the CSWatch Web site last year. However, that project has been folded into the activities of the Heartland Institute — my current employer — as CSWatch (we believe the site was victimized by a hacker) was only planned to last a year (it lasted about 18 months).

For those who want to plow through the story, I am reproducing the original CSWatch narrative below with links (some of which may not work) to documents embedded. You’ll see at the end that I tend to believe that then-Gov. Palin was doing the politically correct thing at the time by signing the administrative order, but left the major decisions to Chapple, Hartig, and the Subcabinet itself. I think the views she’s expressed now only serve to confirm that theory, but I could be wrong.

The story, posted late August/early September last year:

I hate to be the Baby Ruth in the punchbowl at the celebration over John McCain’s choice for a running mate, but since it’s my job to follow these things, I’ve got to highlight one area where Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has aligned with the GOP candidate on an issue that makes many conservatives cringe: global warming.

Gov. Palin signed an administrative order last September that created the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet. Her order is perhaps not as strident on greenhouse gas emissions as some other governors, but she still buys into the argument that GHGs must be reduced.

Unfortunately her Department of Environmental Conservation hired the Center for Climate Strategies as their climate commission management team. I requested documents pertaining to the CCS hire from DEC and was sent some records, but others were identified as “deliberative” and therefore withheld from me, which officials said was allowed under state law. I still have my doubts, because other records sent to me appeared to fall into that category but were sent anyway. Regardless, the withholding of several documents with regard to an issue that does not fall under “highly-sensitive” or “security-related” undermines the governor’s reputation for greater government transparency.

As for CCS, it all began last August when DEC’s Tom Chapple (now working in the private sector) reached out to CCS’s executive director (PDF) Tom Peterson, “to discuss the opportunities and the possibility of CCS interest in helping Alaska.” In fact, it appears that Chapple was the driving force behind the state’s hiring of the Pennsylvania-based advocacy group, to manage Alaska’s development of their greenhouse gas emissions policy.

Chapple learned some about CCS from the Washington Dept. of Ecology’s Janice Adair — as his handwritten notes show (PDF) – which include a discussion about how to work out a sole source contract for CCS, and that “some states have paid some, some have paid nothing” (Washington state paid CCS $200,000). Other notes (PDF) from a conference call, presumably that included Ken Colburn of CCS, show that the typical CCS cookie-cutter process was explained, and that as elsewhere CCS would handle everything, once hired: Meetings, scheduling, technical information, Web site, preparation of pre-meeting documents, meeting minutes, etc. Oh, and we can’t forget CCS’s own grant-funding service.

In the meantime Gov. Palin signed her administrative order on Sept. 14, 2007.

A month later negotiations between Chapple of DEC and CCS representatives intensified, as they began to discuss what the typical CCS “process memo” would contain. A draft (PDF) of the agreement said, “Although additional research may be needed to help the public and policymakers better understand Alaska’s changing climate and how to anticipate and respond to its effects, the time for climate debate is over; it is now time for climate action.” Also, the document states on page 13 clearly what is off-limits: “Participants will not debate the science of climate change….” Private funders are identified as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Marisla Foundation, the Energy Foundation, and others. The opening negotiating cost (PDF, see second page) for the process was set at $480,000.

As if total control over the process wasn’t enough for CCS either, though, there’s this: CCS recommended who would be appointed (PDF) to the climate commission. Read the list and note how strongly the representation is that they want from environmentalism and government. Meanwhile private business gets short shrift, as do climate scientists, taxpayer activists, property rights activists, and other protectors of individual rights.

On November 6, 2007 the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet held its third meeting, in which CCS was allowed to make the case (PDF) for being hired as its management consultant. Ken Colburn, in his PowerPoint presentation (PDF), promoted CCS’s nonsensical economic analysis from Arizona (285,000 new jobs and $5.5 billion in net savings to the state!) and New Mexico ($2.1 billion in savings to the state). As I’ve reported in the past, those claims by CCS have been thoroughly debunked.

But unsurprisingly the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner swallowed the Colburn claims (PDF), unchallenged. The newspaper reported that Larry Hartig, Palin’s commissioner of environmental conservation, expressed interest in CCS: “If it’s not them, we should do something similar to that.” Also, Colburn explained that CCS’s services typically cost about $500,000, “but states generally pay only about 10 percent of the cost,” the News-Miner reported. “CCS covers the rest with funding from various foundations” – that is, Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Later in November DEC’s Chapple sent out a plea (PDF) – and forwarded to Colburn — to various state departments asking for help “in shaping up the scope of work for the proposed contract with (CCS).” The message was met with enthusiasm from Colburn: “This is a remarkable email, carrying precisely the right content and precisely the right tone.” Translation: “I won’t stop kissing your rump until you hire us.” More negotiations and contract details were addressed (PDF) in a conference call Nov. 29.

In early December 2007 DEC’s Hartig, with Chapple and Colburn in the loop, considered engaging the National Commission on Energy Policy (PDF) to help on climate adaptation strategies. NCEP is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is also paying the total cost for Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s climate and energy policy advisers.

As the February meeting approached in which CCS would be formally approved as manager by the Sub-Cabinet, questions were raised (PDF) about why the cost for Alaska’s portion of CCS’s services rose from $49,000 to $180,000. No other documents were provided to me that addressed this situation and its resolution, but the final contract (PDF) shows that the state is indeed contributing the $180,000. However, the full budget (see pages 36-37 of the contract) for the process is double what any of these have cost in other states: $972,196. This could be attributed to the distance of the state from the lower 48, but it’s hard to believe that could account for that great an increase in the average CCS budget.

As for the holes in my story, Alaska DEC’s Gary Mendivil sent a letter with the documents that were provided, but also explained that some records were withheld (PDF) from me. My original request was received by DEC on Dec. 27, 2007, and according to an email from Mendivil on Feb. 1, 2008, he “was told that the stack of records that was sent to the (State of Alaska) attorney for review was four inches thick….” The CD containing records was mailed to me on Feb. 20 (according to DEC’s response letter), and the documents therein did not even measure a half-inch, much less anything close to four inches. Even with the documents they listed as withheld (PDF), it would be hard to believe they could measure four inches.

When asked why any records needed to be withheld in the first place, Mendivil provided a minimal explanation: “We’ve claimed a privilege under AS 40.25.120(a)(4) (“records required to be kept confidential by a federal law or regulation or by state law”).” Not satisfied, I asked which federal or state laws DEC was citing to justify keeping a lid on certain records. His answer:

“The Alaska Supreme Court has adopted the common law recognition of a deliberative process privilege. Because Alaska’s statutory definition of “state law” encompasses common law as well as positive law, the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the deliberative process privilege is one of the judicially recognized state law exceptions to public access under the public records act. This is the privilege that the State has claimed on certain documents identified on the privilege log that was most recently given to you. In other words, the documents withheld as “deliberative process” show the mental processes of government decision makers, and are thereby protected from disclosure.”

If you review the list of withheld records, and compare it to the documents DEC did provide, you might wonder what criteria they used to determine “deliberative” vs. non-deliberative. It seems clear that many of the records they did supply could have also fallen under “deliberative” status as well.

I would say it’s pretty odd that the State of Alaska could withhold documents from the public about a commission that will go a long way towards influencing its policies on energy, environment, property rights, taxes, the state budget, land use, education, and just about every other public policy area. The DEC has not given a clear explanation why, nor clearly cited a law that allows them to make a “deliberation” exception. And even if they could, what possible reason would they have to do so when there are no national or state security issues at stake, or any other sensitive issues?

DEC’s decision, as has been the case in other states where CCS is working, undermines the claim in their contracts and process memos that their “process is fully transparent.” There is no clear indication that Gov. Palin is behind these DEC decisions – on the face it looks like all she has done is sign the administrative order creating the Sub-Cabinet, then depended on her environmental agency leaders (Chapple and Hartig) to make the rest of the decisions. But the way this has played out sure does foul up her reputation as a reformer in pursuit of greater government transparency.

An article by environmentalist journalist Fred Pearce about the “public relations disaster” that is Climategate is getting a lot of attention for Yale Environment 360, as it should. But the Web site, a clearinghouse for eco-Left points of view, crossed into bizarro territory last week with an “analysis” piece co-written by Michael Northrup and David Sassoon that touts “ambitious actions” by U.S. states to push “toward climate goals.” And the centerpiece of their “expert” analysis about the “great” things states are doing on climate policy? The Center for Climate Strategies:

Twenty-four policies and measures account for 85 percent of the states’ emissions reduction potential, touching every sector of the economy. The majority of the policies save money or expand the economy; the remainder either cost money or require investment, but overall they create new economic opportunity.

“Every macroeconomic analysis of state climate action that we have done has shown an expansionary effect,” Tom Peterson, the CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS), told us. “It should not be a big leap to figure out how to nationalize it.”

Peterson’s group has worked with governors and elected officials on both sides of the aisle in dozens of states and is completing an economic analysis of state climate action for presentation at a series of events at the Copenhagen meetings.

The laughable, undisclosed thing about this article is that Northrup, one of the co-authors and program director for sustainable development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, probably has a conversation with Peterson every day. Why? Because RBF funds a substantial majority of their work, as I explained earlier this year:

While (CCS’s) Peterson and (Ken) Colburn have been far from transparent about their origins (they also hide how much they get paid), the work CCS does has also been thoroughly discredited. They forbade any debate or discussion about global warming science. As they wooed states out of as much money as they could (not much, it turns out) to reduce the burden on their subsidizers — mainly the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — they peddled incompetent economics (Green jobs! Cost savings!) in every state where they worked. They could not produce analysis in any state that showed the effect their policy recommendations would have upon climate — ostensibly the purpose for their state commissions. And besides their disregard for recent observed climatological trends, they continue to promote obsolete technologies like biofuels, which recent studies show have increased greenhouse gas emissions rather than reduced them.

So when I asked in the comments section (scroll, baby, scroll) of the Yale 360 article why the authors didn’t disclose the RBF-CCS funding relationship, the answer from co-author Sassoon was that they were disclosed — in RBF’s annual reports! That Leftist version of “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” transparency was then followed by, “So what!” In other words, “you idiot readers ought to be well-acquainted with funding specifics of our multi-million-dollar foundation.”

Then, in keeping with the global warming alarmist playbook, they suggested I disclose who my funders are. So in response I asked if they could share some of that Standard Oil/Exxon slathered Rockefeller dough they enjoy with little ‘ol me. That comment hasn’t been posted at Yale 360 as of this writing.

Update 4:45 p.m.: I forgot to mention that CCS is over in Copenhagen delivering advice about how to further wreck state economies by raising energy costs. Surprise, surprise — RBF’s Michael Northrup is on their honored guest list. Payback is not a bitch at all!

Update 5:24 p.m.: Just noticed that the Yale Environment 360 editors posted the following at the end of the article sometime today:

The original posting of this article should have noted that the Center for Climate Strategies — whose CEO, Tom Peterson, is quoted in the story — has received funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. One of the article’s co-authors, Michael Northrop, is program director for sustainable development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Likely a result of an email I sent them last night. I would have put it at the beginning of the article, but at least it’s there.

Or somewhere new, anyway. By necessity. So says Al Gore.

In a speech at the Copenhagen climate summit he declared: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

We’re talking a massive relocation of elves, folks.

In a curious twist, Dr. Maslowski thereupon claimed that Gore had distorted his views. ““It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” he told the Times of London. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Another Gore fibbery! But apparently not.

Climate Depot’s Marc Morano obtained a Danish government handout citing the Monterey, California professor’s modeling and reaching the same conclusion as Gore. “Projecting the trend into the future indicates that autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016 (Maslowski, 2009).”

Which simply means Gore didn’t intentionally misrepresent Maslowski, not that either the professor or the former veep is right. Still, you can’t blame Santa for being just a bit nervous.

The hypocritical, inefficient anti-Greens at the United Nations, who will be responsible for the deaths of millions if they don’t change their behavior, have now far surpassed the simple wastefulness of selling out Copenhagen’s fuel-slurping limos instead of riding mass transit. As the National Center for Public Policy Research reported today, the U.N. has denied entrance to two-thirds of the NGO representatives they credentialed for the climate summit:

The restriction was announced today outside the Copenhagen conference center after several thousand accredited NGO conference delegates, including three from the National Center for Public Policy Research, waited outside for eight hours or longer in 32-degree F temperatures for admission.

NGOs apparently are being banned because the United Nations accredited 45,000 people for a building with a capacity of 15,000, although the stated reason was “security concerns.” The “security concerns” may be related to the fact that, after waiting several hours in the cold, delegations began to chant, “Let us in! Let us in!”

“To be an “accredited” or “admitted” NGO to a COP conference, NGOs must apply months in advance, and typically only make travel plans to attend after receiving complete credentials from the United Nations,” said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, an accredited COP-15 NGO organization that is as of now banned from the conference. “To give credentials to 45,000 people while choosing a building that holds 15,000 people is insane, though the United Nations, to be fair, has never been known for competence.”

As Ridenour noted, about 30,000 humans-worth of greenhouse gases were blasted into the atmosphere for no good reason. Remember, these are the people who want you to trust them with tracking carbon emissions and carbon offset coupons, not to mention enforcement of such.

Your hosts Richard Morrison and Jeremy Lott team up with special guest co-host Tim Carney to bring you Episode 73 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We start with happenings at COP-15 in Copenhagen and the suppression of Phelim McAleer’s Climategate questions (segment runs 0:45-7:00). We end with an interview with Tim Carney, author of the new book Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses (available online and at fine booksellers everywhere).