February 2016

Post image for Warren Buffett on Climate Change Risk

In a recently filed shareholder resolution, an activist group called the Nebraska Peace Foundation (NPF) asks Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance division to prepare a report describing the division’s responses to climate change risks. The report “should include specific initiatives and goals relating to each risk issue identified.” In a letter to shareholders dated February 27, 2016, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett explains why Board of Directors unanimously opposes the resolution.

Today’s post examines Buffett’s argument, which straddles fences in ways you might not expect. Before diving into it, I should note that NPF owns exactly one share of Berkshire Hathaway stock. That’s enough to entitle NPF to submit a shareholder resolution but nowhere near enough to give those ‘investor activists’ a stake in the company’s financial health.

For years climate campaigners have used shareholder resolutions to demand that companies with fossil-fuel investments or customers confess their unsustainability in the supposedly inevitable carbon-constrained future. The classic case is Campaign ExxonMobil. In the name of protecting shareholder value, the campaigners tried to persuade Exxon to scare away its own investors–a tactic that, if successful, would bankrupt the company and harm shareholders. NPF is part of the same movement, although its goal may simply be to turn Berkshire Hathaway into yet another multi-billion dollar mouthpiece for the so-called climate consensus.

The remainder of this post reproduces the portion of Buffett’s letter that explains why the Board opposes the NPF resolution (pp. 24-25). Buffett’s text is in maroon and preceded by the initials WB. My comments are in standard black and indented.

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Post image for Exxon Bashing, the AGU, and the Folly of Position Statements

In a joint letter yesterday, more than 100 scientists, including Kerry Emmanuel (MIT), James Hansen (Columbia University), and Michael Mann (Penn State University), urged American Geophysical Union (AGU) President Margaret Leinen to “reconsider” (i.e. terminate) ExxonMobil’s sponsorship of the association’s Fall meetings. Climatewire ($) provides some useful context:

AGU’s meeting is the largest earth science conference in the world. It attracts tens of thousands of scientists and requires a conference space so large that it is used by Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for their yearly developer meetings. There are hundreds of sessions on the science of climate change. Exxon Mobil is a prominent sponsor and recruiter at the meeting and paid AGU $35,000 last year.

Leinen declined to give ExxonMobil the boot. As explained yesterday on her blog (h/t Anthony Watts), AGU’s Board discussed allegations that ExxonMobil is promoting “misinformation about climate change, climate science and the role of human activity in climate change, or actively supporting organizations that do,” and concluded that “ExxonMobil’s current public statements and activities were not inconsistent with AGU’s positions and the scientific consensus.” However, expulsion remains an option if, in the future, the company deviates from AGU’s positions:

As the leaders of AGU, we welcome questions and requests from our members and others in the scientific community, and we assure you that if verifiable information becomes available that proves ExxonMobil is currently engaging in the promotion of misinformation about science or adopting positions that are in conflict with AGU’s own, or supporting groups that do, we will end the relationship, as dictated by our policy–at least until the company is able to demonstrate that such actions have ceased.

Hardly a profile in courage. Indeed, Leinem and the Exxon bashers tacitly agree that AGU’s role is not to facilitate debate of competing scientific viewpoints but to define and enforce a party line. [click to continue…]

Will EPA Abide by the Stay?

by Marlo Lewis on February 16, 2016

in Blog

Post image for Will EPA Abide by the Stay?

Will EPA abide by the stay placed on the agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan last week by the Supreme Court? Or will EPA continue to implement the rule–albeit in the guise of providing assistance to states?

The question is legitimate because the Power Plan itself exposes EPA as a rogue agency. As attorneys David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman explain in the Wall Street Journal:

It’s one thing for a rule to be unlawful—which happens, and rarely merits a stay—but another for it to be lawless. This one was lawless. That is why the court had to act: to reassert the rule of law over an executive who believes himself above it.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy equivocated when explaining the agency’s policy regarding the stay. As my colleague Myron Ebell noted in the Cooler Heads Digest:

She told the House Agriculture Committee during a three-hour grilling that “Nothing is going to be implemented while the stay is in place. It is clearly on hold until it resolves itself through the courts.” But when McCarthy addressed state air regulators, she said that the EPA would work with any State that wanted to keep working on implementing the rule. Several reporters described her attitude in the speech as defiant. 

Here are McCarthy’s exact words, as reported in The Hill:

“Are we going to respect the decision of the Supreme Court? You bet, of course we are,” she said.

“But it doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we’re working on and it doesn’t mean we won’t continue to support any state that voluntarily wants to move forward.”

That doesn’t cut it. The stay requires EPA to cease implementing the Power Plan until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court, renders a final decision on litigation to overturn the rule. That process may take years to complete. If, in the interim, EPA supports state efforts to implement the rule, whether by providing advice, technical assistance, coordination, or mere cheer leading, it will itself participate in implementation. Exactly what the stay prohibits. [click to continue…]

Post image for Peabody Energy: New York Times Blames Victim for Shareholder Losses; Ignores Obama Duplicity

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an article that not-so-subtly takes the side of 35 Senators and 62 institutional investors who want the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) to force fossil-energy companies to confess their unsustainability in a carbon-constrained world.

It’s the old self-fulfilling prophesy trick. Adopt lawless regulations aimed at bankrupting fossil-energy companies, lock in those regulations through a non-ratified treaty that dare not speak its name, then coerce those companies into scaring away shareholders, and presto, many will in fact go bankrupt. As their numbers and resources decline, so will their ability to defend themselves against further regulatory attack.

Translating into Borg-speak: “Freedom is irrelevant. Constitution is irrelevant. Your economy will adapt to service us.”

But resistance is not futile. Fossil fuels remain the world’s most affordable energy source for poverty eradication. What’s truly unsustainable is the green project to put an energy-starved world on an energy diet.

The Supreme Court just handed Obama and the EPA a major setback. And for all we know at this point, the next President and Congress will thwart EPA’s Power Grab and Obama’s attempt to bypass Senate review of the Paris climate treaty.

I wrote a short letter to the Times on the S.E.C. article. The editor did not publish it, so I will post it here. [click to continue…]

The Motion that Won the Stay

by Marlo Lewis on February 11, 2016

in Blog

Post image for The Motion that Won the Stay

The Supreme Court’s decision to put a stay on EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan took nearly everyone by surprise. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals had already scheduled an expedited review of the Power Plan, and, as the New York Times observed, “the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.”

The stay is a major setback for the global warming movement. The Power Plan is President Obama’s signature domestic climate policy as well as the sheet anchor of his emission-reduction pledge to the United Nations in the Paris climate treaty negotiations. The stay not only puts the Plan on ice pending final resolution of complex litigation on the merits, a process that could take years, it also indicates that five justices have serious doubts about the Plan’s legality.

The usual suspects were quick to condemn the stay as a partisan decision, a product of coal-fired, oil-fueled Republican politics. A typical Orwellian inversion by rank partisans who would never admit, no matter how overwhelming the evidence, that the Power Plan is an unlawful power grab.

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CEI’s discovery in late 2012 of then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s false-identity “Richard Windsor” email account drew a fair amount of attention at the time.  Some media outlets, realizing they may have been getting the runaround from the “most transparent administration, ever” along with the rest of us, set off on broader campaigns to root out other tricks.  A Windsor-inspired AP inquiry prompted headlines like these.

CEI was forced to sue to get the Windsor emails it at first sought.  The first revelations, from just emails with certain “climate”-related keywords, painted a picture of an agency out of control, sweating the policy sheets with media allies and green group lobbyists…the few they hadn’t brought in-house to ply their trade. We then sought all emails on that false-flag account.   EPA said it would slow-walk this second request to the pitiful tune of 100 emails per month, for the next century.  So we sued.

In the meantime, the Windsor affair became notorious while leaving some in the media confused, possibly unsure that this was such a bad thing so long as it was the right kind of administration doing these things.  As recently as last month it was still being twisted by apologists at the Washington Post, whose reportage of yet another investigation sparked by Windsor included pure invention: “The 2012 request by CREW was sparked by the discovery that Lisa Jackson, then-administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, had been using an alias email at work with the name “Richard Windsor,” largely for personal communication.”

There having been a handful of personal-ish emails among the many tens of thousands of responsive pages— which are largely available, specifically set-aside, online — this is simply made up.  In fact this email account was Jackson’s principal account for corresponding with senior EPA officials, other cabinet officers, White House staff, and the odd lobbyist (CEI’s litigation also revealed that Jackson used her actual personal account, with Verizon, used for corresponding with lobbyists from industry and green pressure groups).

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Post image for Satellites and Global Warming: Dr. Christy Sets the Record Straight

Earlier this week, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) atmospheric scientist John Christy testified at a House Science Committee hearing on the Paris climate treaty. Christy’s testimony covers several important topics including the “low effectiveness” of surface temperature records for detecting anthropogenic global warming, the “curious” procedure NOAA scientist Tom Karl used in his “pause-busting” adjustment of sea-surface temperatures, the “tiny” impact the Paris Agreement is likely to have on global temperatures, and the insufficient empirical basis for claims that climate conditions are worsening.

Today’s post focuses on Christy’s rebuttal of a Yale Climate Connections video designed to discredit satellite data as a reality check on the models used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to forecast global warming and the associated climate impacts.

What’s got the climate establishment in a tizzy is a chart–Figure 1 in Christy’s testimony–that shows a growing divergence between model predictions and observed temperatures in the mid-troposphere (the layer of air from the surface up to 50,000 feet).

Christy modeled versus observed temperatures mid troposphere just trends 1979-2015, Jan 2015






Figure 1: Five-year averaged values of annual mean (1979-2015) global bulk (termed “mid-tropospheric” or “MT”) temperature as depicted by the average of 102 IPCC CMIP5 climate models (red), the average of 3 satellite datasets (green – UAH, RSS, NOAA) and 4 balloon datasets (blue, NOAA, UKMet, RICH, RAOBCORE)

Mid-troposphere (MT) data are a valid test of the models’ accuracy because the MT “overlaps with the region of the tropical atmosphere that has the largest anticipated signature of the greenhouse response by bulk mass – between 20,000 and 50,000 feet.”

Christy notes that in science, the test of whether we understand a natural system is whether we are able to predict its behavior. Thus, “If we are unable to make accurate predictions, then at least some of the factors in the system are not well defined or perhaps even missing.” Hind-casting is no substitute for prediction, because complex hypotheses such as climate models can be adjusted to produce results similar to what has already occurred. Yet Figure 1 shows that the models do not “even reproduce the past climate.”

Indeed, the models “clearly overcook the atmosphere,” overshooting observed warming in the MT by 250%. “The issue for congress here is that such demonstrably deficient model projections are being used to make policy.”

The remainder of this post excerpts Christy’s defense of the satellite data and summarizes his rebuttal of a common criticism of Figure 1.

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