Myron Ebell

Probably a big carbon footprint

Probably a big carbon footprint

The Vatican released Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, on 18th June.  It is, in general, scientifically ill-informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent, and morally obtuse.  It is also theologically suspect, and large parts of it are leftist drivel, albeit couched in the vocabulary of Catholic social teaching.

It has been reported that Vatican officials in the global warming debate want to make sure they do not put the Roman Catholic Church on the wrong side of science, as in the condemnation of Galileo in 1633 for believing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.  Laudato Si’ fails to get the science right (see paragrahps 2026), and although the Vatican can no longer prosecute heretics, Francis has no hesitation condemning those who oppose the alleged global warming consensus (see, for example, paragraph 54).

The encyclical is a diatribe against modern industrial civilization.  In this, it should be compared to the 1864 encyclical of Pius IX, Quanta cura, and its attached Syllabus of Errors, which constitute a much more impressive diatribe against modern intellectual culture.  Francis believes the industrialized economies are wrecking God’s creation by digging far too much stuff (coal, oil, natural gas) up.  The current level of resource consumption is exhausting and polluting the Earth.

On the other hand, he thinks that the wealthy industrialized countries are doing far too little to help the poor in the unindustrialized Third World.  Paragraphs 48-52 discuss the ills caused by global inequality.  But Francis does not emphasize the need for the rich to share their wealth with the poor.  That is because Francis’s thinking on these issues, as he makes clear in paragraphs 10-12, is based on the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).  It isn’t until paragraph 82 that the Pope mentions the name of Jesus. [click to continue…]

The American Enterprise Institute on 22nd April (the 145th birthday of Lenin and 45th Earth Day) held a seminar on “Implementing a Carbon Tax: Practicalities and Prospects.”  A video of part of the event can be viewed here. The rest of the event can be viewed on the web site of a group promoting a carbon tax and headed by former Representative Bob (“Mr. 70-29”) Inglis (R-SC).

Some of the presentations were based on a collection of essays that grew out of a conference AEI held in 2012.  That book has now been published by Routledge as “Implementing a Carbon Tax: Challenges and Debates.”  For those not lucky enough to have been given a copy at the AEI event, it can be purchased on Amazon for the discounted price of $48.09.

AEI Resident Scholar Aparna Mathur, who was the only AEI scholar to contribute an essay to the book, hosted the event.  The first speaker was Vitor Gaspar, director of the fiscal affairs department at the International Monetary Fund.  He noted several times that getting the price of carbon was crucial and that most existing carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes had put the price too low.

Next on the agenda was a discussion with Representative John Delaney (D-Md.) and former Rep. Inglis, head of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based at George Mason University.  Rep. Delaney used the AEI event to announce that he would soon introduce a carbon tax bill.  The “Tax Pollution, Not Profits” Act will begin with a $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide and then escalate by 4% above the inflation rate every year.

Delaney said that his bill would use 50% of the revenue to reduce the corporate income tax from 35% to 28%.  Another chunk of revenue would be used to offset the higher energy costs of poorer people.  Finally, some of the revenue would be used to compensate coal miners who lose their jobs by paying for retraining, relocation, early retirement, and health care.  Delaney did not say whether the 4% annual escalator would be used for further reductions in corporate tax rates or higher government spending.

Delaney, who was a successful corporate founder and CEO before his election to Congress in 2012, emphasized that carbon was a massive net drag on the economy and that his bill was a free market solution that would spur economic growth and innovation.  Asked by Evan Lehmann of Greenwire whether his bill also repealed the EPA’s Clean Air Act rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Delaney replied that his bill does not do that.  But he went on to say, “I think it would inevitably lead to that.”  If it’s inevitable, then he should put it in his bill.

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New York’s Times republished a Greenpeace press release on the front page of its Sunday, 22nd February edition that attacks Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for obtaining $1.2 million in funding for his research over the last decade from energy corporations, electric utilities, and charitable foundations related to those companies.  The press release, cleverly disguised as an article supposedly written by Times reporters Justin Gillis and John Schwartz, also claims that Dr. Soon did not adequately disclose the sources of his funding in articles published in scientific journals.

"all the news that's fit to print?"

“all the news that’s fit to print?”

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Greenpeace and its closely affiliated so-called “Climate Investigations Center,” Soon received $409,000 from the Southern Company, a major utility, and $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation to fund his research.  The Greenpeace press release as republished in the Times notes that “Mr. Koch’s fortune derives partly from oil refining.”  Yes, and the biggest charitable foundation donor to environmental pressure groups is the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was founded on the Pew family’s Sun Oil Company earnings.  Other major givers to green groups are the various Rockefeller foundations, which are based on earnings from Standard Oil (of which Exxon Mobil and Chevron are among the many successor companies).  So what’s Greenpeace’s point?  And everyone knows that scientists who accept funding from the EPA are never influenced by the source of their funding.  That’s why the EPA funds so much research that contradicts its policies.  Right?

I have known Willie Soon for about fifteen years.  I respect him highly, particularly for the great integrity he has shown in pursuing his politically incorrect research under scurrilous attacks like the one reprinted in the NY Times.  If Willie valued money over science, he would have joined the Global Warming Pep Squad long ago. [click to continue…]

how quickly they forget

how quickly they forget

The UK Climate Coalition announced on Saint Valentine’s Day that British Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband had signed a joint agreement on climate policy. The leaders of the three main political parties—Conservative, Liberal Democratic, and Labor—pledge to work together on three key areas: achieving a new legally-binding UN climate agreement that limits global warming to two degrees Celsius; agreeing on a “carbon budget” that achieves the targets set in the Climate Change Act of 2008; and enacting policies that “accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low carbon economy” and that shut down coal-fired power plants unless they are equipped with carbon capture and storage technology.

London’s political establishment has been in full agreement on global warming and energy-rationing policies for many years.  The Cameron-Clegg-Miliband pact seems to me a potentially significant step beyond the existing consensus for at least two reasons.  First, it means that climate policy will not be an issue between the three parties in the upcoming general election campaign.  It will be up to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) to challenge the establishment consensus.  Polling has shown that most Britons, like most Americans, don’t believe global warming is a crisis that warrants the ruinously costly policies supported by the three major parties. [click to continue…]

On Friday, I participated in an online video interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel regarding the green scandal that engulfed Oregon Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber. After the video, I’ve posted my summary of the situation.

Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation on Friday, 13th February, as the result of revelations that Oregon’s “First Lady” Cylvia Hayes has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs from green energy clients and non-profit groups to promote their interests.  Kitzhaber will be succeeded by Oregon’s elected Secretary of State, Kate Brown, until a special election is held in November 2016 to fill the last two years of his term.

Hayes has been Kitzhaber’s girlfriend for several years and more recently his fiancée.  The governor designated her as Oregon’s official first lady and allowed her to run her clean energy consulting business out of the governor’s mansion and gave her authority to direct state employees on policies related to her clients.  Hayes received payments from some of these clients that were not reported by her in state conflict of interest filings.  These payments included $118,000 from the Clean Economy Development Center in 2011 and 2012 and a further $85,000 in 2013, including $50,000 from the Energy Foundation. [click to continue…]

Leading global warming alarmists often claim that saving the world from global warming will be easy.  Research reports from universities and environmental groups are regularly published that show the costs will be minimal and the costs of not doing it will be astronomical.  As former Vice President Al Gore, Nobel Prize and Oscar winner, puts it, how can it be costly to replace dirty, expensive energy from coal, oil, and natural gas with clean, free energy from wind and solar?

unfccc hqBut every year or two, a leading alarmist lets the cat out of the bag.  At a press conference in Brussels on 3rd February, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that completely transforming the global economy in a few decades “is probably the most difficult task we [the UN? Mankind?] have ever given ourselves.”

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution,” Figueres said. [click to continue…]

The White House Council on Environmental Quality on 18th December released the second draft version of a guidance document on how federal agencies should consider climate impacts in preparing Environmental Impact Assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act.  The first draft version was released in 2010.  CEQ invited public comments for 60 days.

In keeping with NEPA regulations that require Environmental Impact Statements to consider the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of proposed projects and actions, the guidance document recommends that the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions be included in preparing EISs.  This includes “upstream” and “downstream” emissions connected to the project.  Thus a new bridge that would allow the transport of tens of millions of tons of energy-intensive goods over its lifetime could have an enormous carbon footprint.

Reports stated that the guidance document recommends that climate impacts be considered in the NEPA process when any project or action would increase greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent annually.

This is not correct. The document states that a quantitative analysis is only necessary when emissions exceed 25,000 tons annually.  Considering the impacts of lower annual emissions is required but does not necessarily require quantification. [click to continue…]

It was Climate Action Day at the UN climate conference in Lima, Peru.  A three-hour “high level” session featured a number of prominent elected leaders, UN officials, and climate activists. It gave me a chance to hear former star of stage and screen Al Gore twice more.  Gore said that, “We are designing the future of humankind here in Lima and then Paris” next year.  If that isn’t scary enough, U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew in a few hours later to give a speech in the main press conference room.  It wasn’t an official speech to the COP, but was meant to show the delegates and the world that the Obama Administration is determined to make the negotiations succeed.

Chief State Department climate negotiator Todd Stern introduced his boss.  He said that Secretary Kerry as a Senator had attended nearly every important international climate meeting beginning with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It was at that summit that nations agreed to save the world from global warming by signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. After President George Bush signed it in June 1992, the Senate ratified it with little debate that fall, thereby making the U. S. the first country to ratify it.  Stern went on to say that Kerry as Secretary of State pushes the climate issue with every foreign leader he meets with.  That meshes with Kerry’s claim that climate change is “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Secretary Kerry then gave an articulate but intellectually sloppy speech.  He began by noting that Al Gore, who was seated in the front row, had been warning about global warming since 1992 and yet he woke up this morning to the news that California and Washington state were experiencing torrential, record-setting rains after a record drought.  Kerry said that the science is screaming at us, and it’s therefore astonishing that we have people in the Senate who continue to doubt it.  You don’t need a Ph. D., he said, to see that the world is changing.

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There were official sessions at COP-20 in Lima on Saturday and Monday to assess the progress made by seventeen developed nations to implement policies and programs to address climate change. The seventeen governments earlier submitted written reports, which were then open to questions and comments by all the member parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Then here at COP-20, each of the 17 gave a short slide show summarizing its efforts and plans. Each presentation was followed by an oral question and answer period.  Surprisingly, this is the first such multi-lateral assessment of national climate programs since the UNFCCC was signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

myron's cop image

I wasn’t here on Saturday, but listened to several of the presentations on Monday by New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States. New Zealand’s slide show had the prettiest photos (of new Zealand’s breathtaking scenery), but the U. S. presentation by Rick Duke of the White House Council on Environmental Quality was the most detailed and impressive.  But it did attract several highly critical questions.  To Mr. Duke’s claim that one of three key parts of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan was the the U. S. would lead international efforts, South Africa questioned how the U. S. Could lead when it’s own domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions had been so insufficient.

But no questions were raised about what I consider to be two highly misleading points in the U. S. presentation.  First, Mr. Duke listed the EPA’s proposed rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants without mentioning that they are both subject to serious legal challenges and to serious attempts to block them in the 114th Congress. Second, Mr. Duke attributed significant future reductions in fossil fuel use to the increasing use of cellulosic ethanol.  He then went on to claim that federal government investments in technology research and development had lowered the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol from $13 a gallon to $2.  This claim was backed up on the slide by noting that the $2 per gallon figure was based on modeling projections. [click to continue…]

My first day at the twentieth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-20) in Lima, Peru was pleasant, but a little dull.  The energy level of leaders, delegates, and environmental NGOs seems a little low.  And I missed what sounds like the most interesting event of the day–a side event on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

350.org,  other environmental pressure groups, and indigenous people’s groups from Colombia, Peru, and Canada staged a protest that delayed the event.  They called on the UNFCC to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from attending the COP and all future climate negotiations. Spokesmen for indigenous communities accused Shell and Chevron of environmental crimes and human rights violations.  350.org’s point is that fossil fuels should not be used even with carbon capture and storage.

The event was sponsored by the Global Carbon and Capture Storage Institute.  Speakers from the World Coal Association and Shell were—astonishingly and amusingly—joined by Nicholas, Lord Stern (of Stern Review infamy).  The protesters tried unsuccessfully to convince Stern not to speak.  Perhaps he was being paid.

The session on CCS was part of a series sponsored by the International Emissions Trading Association, whose corporate members hope to get rich off of energy-rationing policies that impoverish people.  IETA is a strong supporter of the UN climate agenda. Shell Oil supports a carbon tax in the U S.