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?
But 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.
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.
U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a commitment by both countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2025-30, at the end of the APEC summit meeting in China on Wednesday. President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce it emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, while President Xi pledged that China’s emissions would peak by “around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the share of non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20% by 2030.” That quote is from the White House fact sheet on the agreement.
The Obama Administration’s long-stated goal has been to reduce emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. That works out to an annual cut of 1.2% from 2005 onward. The new goal would require a much faster rate of cuts. The White House calculated that if the faster rate doesn’t begin until 2020, then the annual cut would work out to 2.3-2.8% from 2020 to 2025.
It is not clear what President Xi’s commitment means, but President Obama’s signature on the deal has no legal force. And it will be up to future Presidents and Congresses after he leaves office in January 2017 to decide whether to require the emissions reductions agreed to.
Leaders of the official climate establishment quickly claimed that the U. S.-China agreement will provide new momentum to the international negotiations on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which will continue at the annual United Nations climate conference in December in Lima. A new international agreement is supposed to be signed at the next UN conference scheduled for December 2015 in Paris.
Here for example is what former Senator Timothy Wirth said in a written statement: “Today’s announcement is the political breakthrough we’ve been waiting for…. If the two biggest players on climate are able to get together, from two very different perspectives, the rest of the world can see that it’s possible to make real progress.” Wirth is the vice chairman of Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation and served as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs during the Clinton Administration, where he prepared the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
However, it doesn’t appear that there is much that is new in the agreement. The Reuters story by David Stanway reporting from the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit in Beijing got it right in the headline: “China, US agree limits on emissions, but experts see little new.” [click to continue…]
The mainstream media have begun to take notice that the environmental movement is spending a lot of money to elect candidates in the 4th November elections. Chris Mooney, an environmental advocate-reporter who was recently hired to write a Washington Post blog, posted an article on 27thOctober with the headline, “Environmental Groups Are Spending an Unprecedented $85 million in the 2014 Elections.” Mooney got his figures from a 24th October memo (posted here) by five leaders of the effort: Joe Bonfiglio of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, Sky Gallegos of NextGen Climate Action (the group funded by billionaire Tom Steyer), Heather Taylor-Miesle of the NRDC Action Fund, Daniel J. Weiss of the League of Conservation Voters, and Melissa Williams of the Sierra Club.
Greenwire (subscription required) headlined its article on the scale of environmental pressure group spending in the election, “Are Money and Power Changing the Environmental Movement?” That may have been a newsworthy topic about twenty-five or thirty years ago. In an excellent front-page article in the Washington Times, Valerie Richardson focuses on a much more timely angle—the fact that all this spending has done little to make climate change and other environmental concerns into major campaign issues.
Richardson writes: San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has spent a staggering $76 million to promote climate change as a political issue in this year’s elections, but the subject isn’t exactly firing up the electorate. Polls show voters continue to rank climate change at the bottom of their priority lists. Even in races featuring the ‘Steyer Seven,’ the Democratic candidates selected by Mr. Steyer as the chief beneficiaries of his largesse, the issue is barely registering on the campaign trail.”
The fact that their issues aren’t resonating with voters has been noticed by the environmental pressure groups trying to maintain a Democratic majority in the Senate. As a result, many of the ads that they are paying for are on other issues, such as abortion, all the money being spent on behalf of Republicans by the Koch brothers, and various economic issues.
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According to an excellent article by Sean Murphy of the Associated Press in Oklahoma, wind farms are becoming politically controversial in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. In the past decade, wind energy in Oklahoma has increased from 113 windmills in three projects to 1,700 windmills in 30 projects.
Murphy writes: “A decade ago, states offered wind-energy developers an open-armed embrace, envisioning a bright future for an industry that would offer cheap electricity, new jobs and steady income for large landowners, especially in rural areas with few other economic prospects. To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks.”
However: “But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms…. Opposition is also mounting about the loss of scenic views, the noise from spinning blades, the flashing lights that dot the horizon at night and a lack of public notice about where the turbines will be erected.”
While “the growing cost of the subsidies could decimate state funding for schools, highways and prisons,” the political establishment in Oklahoma is just starting to wake up to the problems that result from creating a new special interest funded by government largesse. “With the rapid expansion came political clout. The industry now has nearly a dozen registered lobbyists working to stop new regulations and preserve generous subsidies that are expected to top $40 million this year.”
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One of the disturbing aspects of the global warming debate is that so many of the leading public officials who espouse alarmism know so little about the basics of climate science. I have seen many instances of ignorance over the years and have largely gotten used to it, but I recently happened on an example from Secretary of State John Kerry that astounded me.
Reporters and commentators noted that in his major speech on climate change given in Jakarta on 16th February, Secretary Kerry claimed that “climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” But reporters and commentators (including me) overlooked an even more remarkable passage in that long speech in which Secretary Kerry explains some “simple” climate science. According to the State Department’s web site, here is what Secretary Kerry said about the greenhouse effect in Jakarta on 16th February:
In fact, this is not really a complicated equation. I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of science or physics can be tough – chemistry. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this.
Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going. Life itself on Earth exists because of the so-called greenhouse effect. But in modern times, as human beings have emitted gases into the air that come from all the things we do, that blanket has grown thicker and it traps more and more heat beneath it, raising the temperature of the planet. It’s called the greenhouse effect because it works exactly like a greenhouse in which you grow a lot of the fruit that you eat here.
This is what’s causing climate change. It’s a huge irony that the very same layer of gases that has made life possible on Earth from the beginning now makes possible the greatest threat that the planet has ever seen.
For those who followed former-Senator Kerry at committee hearings over the past three decades, his belief that greenhouse gases are “a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity –….way up there at the edge of the atmosphere” is perhaps not surprising. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that Kerry’s explanation, which sets a new standard for utter imbecility, got by the highly-educated State Department officials in charge of vetting the Secretary’s prepared remarks.
Later in his speech, Secretary Kerry made the usual sneering remarks about people who don’t think that global warming is a crisis: “President… Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society.” I suspect that were Secretary Kerry to find the time to attend a meeting of the Flat Earth Society, his presence might lower the level of discourse.