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.
James O’Keefe today released a twenty-minute video at the Cannes Film Festival that shows Hollywood environmental activists Ed Begley, Jr., and Mariel Hemingway and environmental propaganda documentary producers Josh and Rebecca Tickell talking about getting $9 million in funding from a phony Middle Eastern oil sheikh to produce an anti-fracking documentary.
The Hollywood Reporter ran an exclusive on O’Keefe’s sting last night, and the video has been posted on YouTube.
The Tickells appear eager to accept the offer of $9 million, but both stress that the source of the funding from Middle Eastern oil interests must be kept secret. “Money to us, it’s money. We have no moral issue,” says Josh Tickell on the video.
Rebecca Tickell comments, “But if people think the film is funded by Middle Eastern oil it will, it will not have that credibility.”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing this week at which it was revealed that one senior civil servant at the Environmental Protection Agency spent much of his office time watching pornography over the internet. The career employee admitted to the EPA’s Inspector General’s Office (OIG) that he spent two to six hours a day watching porn videos. This included four straight hours at a site called, Sadism Is Beautiful, according to news reports. The OIG discovered 7,000 pornographic videos downloaded to the employee’s computer.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the EPA officials testifying whether this conduct was illegal and whether the civil servant had been fired. Yes, it is illegal, but Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe admitted that he had not been fired and confirmed that he was still being paid over $120,000 a year and in addition had received performance awards in cash.
Deputy Assistant Inspector General Allan Williams also testified about other misconduct that has been revealed by the OIG’s wider investigation launched after the John Beale scandal came to light. For example, the director of the EPA’s Office of Administration, Renee Page, ran a retail business out of her office and had hired 17 family members over the years as paid interns. Page received a $35,000 Presidential Rank performance award.
These are some of the juicy bits, but the really explosive testimony came from Deputy Inspector General Patrick Sullivan:
The EPA OIG’s Office of Investigations is being impeded from fulfilling its responsibilities by actions of the EPA’s internal Office of Homeland Security (OHS), a unit within the Office of the Administrator. OHS is overseen by Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, who serves as Chief of Staff to Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Sullivan continued in no uncertain terms:
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The federal government’s third National Climate Assessment was released yesterday with one message that was repeated throughout the media. That message is: Climate change is already disrupting the economy, people’s lives, and ecosystems across the country. IT’S REAL! IT’S HERE! IT’S NOW! AND IT’S BAD!
Here are the first few paragraphs of a story from the Washington Post.
The government’s newest national assessment of climate change declares that increased global warming is affecting every part of the United States.
The report released Tuesday cites wide and severe impacts: more sea-level rise, flooding, storm surges, precipitation and heat waves in the Northeast; frequent water shortages and hurricanes in the Southeast and the Caribbean; and more drought and wildfires in the Southwest.
“For a long time, we have perceived climate change as an issue that’s distant, affecting just polar bears or something that matters to our kids,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University professor and a co-author of the report. “This shows it’s not just in the future; it matters today. Many people are feeling the effects.”
The federal climate assessment — the third since 2000 — brought together hundreds of experts in academia and government to guide U.S. policy based on the best available climate science.
A quick internet search produced several hundred similar stories.
There are two obvious problems with the National Climate Assessment. The first is the fact that the global mean temperature has not increased in the past seventeen years. This means that the Assessment is claiming that the effects (disruption) are preceding the cause (warming). I guess the disruption will really be bad if temperatures do actually start to go up.
Global Mean Surface Temperatures 1997-2014
The second problem with the Assessment is that it does not recognize that all climate disruptions are not created equal. Does the Obama Administration really think that Americans have already forgotten the past five months of winter? The fact is that cold, snowy weather is much more disruptive to people’s lives and the economy than hot weather.
As a reminder, here are a few highlights from the winter just past: [click to continue…]