Myron Ebell

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

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…]

Post image for Senators Sessions and Inhofe Come Out Swinging against EPA

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing this week on the nomination of Janet McCabe to be assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for air and radiation that he couldn’t vote to confirm McCabe if she insists on denying the conclusion of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there is no historic trend in the incidence and severity of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons).  Here’s the video clip.

Climate Progress, an especially deranged outpost of the ironically-named Center for American Progress’s Think Progress web site, immediately accused Sen. Sessions of opposing McCabe “because she accepts climate science.”

At the same hearing, Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chairman of the committee, announced that he will start offering resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act for every new EPA air regulation until the agency starts doing ongoing economic and employment assessments for all Clean Air Act regulations on an economy-wide basis.  Such assessments seem to be required by Section 321 (a) of the Clean Air Act, but the EPA has always (during previous Republican and Democratic administrations as well as the current administration) limited its analyses to the economic effects of only the facilities directly regulated.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Secretary Kerry Focuses on Climate Diplomacy While Russia Marches Into Crimea

U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry on 7th March 2014 issued his first official Policy Guidance to all Ambassadors and other heads of missions abroad.  It’s not about Russia’s aggressive takeover of the Crimea, a part of the sovereign state of Ukraine.  It’s not about China’s naval buildup.  It’s not about the implosion of Venezuela’s elected dictatorship.  It’s not about Iran’s ongoing program to build nuclear weapons.  It’s not about the continuing civil war in Syria.  It’s about what Secretary Kerry thinks is the major national security threat facing the United States—global warming!

Here is how Secretary Kerry introduces his Policy Guidance:

Leading the way toward progress on this issue is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State.  That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State.  I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there.  When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more.  President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change.  This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity.  And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.

One thing’s for sure:  there’s no time to lose.  The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before.  That’s why I spoke in Jakarta about the threat of climate change and what we, as citizens of the world, can do to address it.  That’s why I raised this issue at our senior management retreat here in Washington, and why I’ll be raising it again at our Chiefs of Mission Conference next week.  This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.

I’m counting on Chiefs of Mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.  I’ve also directed all bureaus of the Department to focus on climate change in their day-to-day work.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Senate EPW Minority Releases Report on Endemic Use of Private E-mails at EPA

The Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by the ranking Republican, Senator David Vitter (R-La.), last week criticized the Office of the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency for lackadaisical investigations of several areas of continuing malfeasance at the EPA. One area is the OIG’s flawed and incomplete report on the use of private and alias e-mail accounts by high EPA officials to conduct official business.  EPW Republicans note that the “OIG relied solely on interviews of EPA officials willing to co-operate, and never examined in any way actual staff e-mails.”

Their criticism continues: “Additionally, according to the OIG, they have no authority to review the use of private e-mail accounts for agency business beyond asking the employee if they had ever improperly used a private e-mail account, and did not follow-up or fact-check.  Moreover, investigators never spoke to former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson or former General Counsel Scott Fulton, two senior level officials who played central roles in the controversy, nor did the OIG examine or compare the practice of using alias accounts by Administrator Jackson and past Administrators. The OIG also did not review the e-mails showing that EPA officials were inappropriately using their e-mail accounts that were produced in response to multiple FOIA requests.”

Those Freedom of Information Act requests were filed by Chris Horner, my CEI colleague.  The revelations that the EPW Republicans are complaining about resulted primarily from lawsuits filed by CEI because the EPA refused to comply with the law.  In a press release, Horner states: “Although EPA officials, like Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, denied use of private e-mail accounts for business purposes to the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, just this week the EPA produced more than 150 megabytes of supposedly non-existent, EPA-related e-mails from Blumenfeld’s Comcast account.”

Horner continues: “Blumenfeld is only one of numerous officials whose use of private e-mail accounts CEI uncovered.  Others include former Region 8 Administrator James Martin, who has since resigned, and current Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, whose account appears to be the same one she used during previous work at an environmental pressure group.  So far, e-mails from these types of accounts have revealed relationships between EPA officials and special interest groups that are far too close for comfort.”

The EPW Republicans’ statement lists seventeen political appointees at the EPA whose use of private e-mail accounts for conducting private business have been revealed by CEI’s FOIA litigation.

Post image for Ohio Legislature Mulls Repeal of Green Energy Mandate

Several state legislatures are considering bills this year to repeal or eliminate renewable energy mandates for generating electricity.  This week, Greg Lawson of Ohio’s Buckeye Institute arranged for me to testify before the Ohio Senate’s Public Utilities Committee on a bill to repeal their two-part mandate, which was enacted in 2008.  Ohio’s law requires that 12.5% of the electricity consumed in Ohio be generated from renewable sources by 2025 and another 12.5% from “advanced energy technologies,” also by 2025.  A third title requires major increases in energy efficiency, but it is not targeted for repeal in the bill under consideration.

My testimony is posted here. The other witnesses, all in favor of repeal, were Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute, Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute, Travis Fischer of the Institute for Energy Research, and Michael Farrin, a Ph. D. candidate at Ohio State University.  A short summary of the hearing was posted at SaveOurSkylineOhio.

I was impressed by the capability of the Senators on the Public Utilities Committee on both sides of the aisle, but was especially impressed by the chairman, Bill Seitz.  He was a major opponent of the renewables mandate when it was passed in 2008 and is now leading the effort to repeal it.  The main sponsor of the bill, SB 34, is Senator Kris Jordan, who is not a member of the committee.  Ohio is home to several of the leading anti-wind activists in the country, including Tom Stacy, who attended the hearing, along with Kevon Martis, an anti-wind leader in Michigan.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on 16th January that he and at least forty other Republican Senators would file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to block the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new coal and natural gas power plants.  EPA finally published its second version of the proposed rule on 8th January.

Sen. McConnell also wrote a letter to the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office asking for a determination that his resolution of disapproval complies with the CRA.  Final rules, not proposed rules, are subject to Senate and House votes under the CRA.  McConnell argues in the letter that the proposed rule falls into a special category because any power plants that begin construction after the proposed rule was published on 8th January will be subject to the rule when it becomes final.  Thus, the proposed rule is in a sense already final.  If the comptroller general agrees with McConnell, then under the provisions of the CRA McConnell and his Republican colleagues can force a floor vote and the resolution will pass if it gets a simple majority.

There is clear majority support in the House of Representatives to block the EPA rule.  This week, the Energy and Power (sic) Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up a bill that would block the proposed rule for new power plants and send the EPA back to the drawing board.  H. R. 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, passed the subcommittee by a vote of 18 to 11.  The bill’s chief sponsor is the subcommittee’s chairman, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).  A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Post image for Obama Names John Podesta as Counselor, Will Focus on Energy and Climate

President Barack Obama on 10th December named John Podesta as counselor to the president.  Podesta has reportedly agreed to help the President in his time of troubles for a year.  The White House announced that Podesta would advise the President on a range of issues, but specifically mentioned climate and energy.

Podesta was a co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2009 and has been an unofficial but highly influential outside adviser to the Obama Administration for the past five years.  In 2003, he founded and became president of the Center for American Progress, the leftist think tank and advocacy organization that provided much of the ammunition to oppose the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.  CAP continues as a major influence on the Democratic Party in Congress and on the Obama Administration.  This fall Podesta announced that he was founding the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which will promote share-the-wealth and other class warfare policies.

Podesta served as deputy White House chief of staff and then chief of staff from 1998 to 2001 in the Clinton Administration.  Before joining the Clinton White House, Podesta was one of then-Senator Tom Daschle’s closest advisers and served in several high level committee and leadership staff positions in the Senate.   Podesta is from Chicago.  Although I don’t know whether Podesta has ever been active in Chicago politics, he knows how politics is played in Chicago.  He is extremely able, politically shrewd, and tough.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Update on COP-19: Tuesday Was Climate Gender Day

Editor’s note: CEI’s Myron Ebell is at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland. Below is his first report.

Tuesday was one of the special theme days at COP-19 in Warsaw. It was Gender Day. I couldn’t go to many of the gender-related events because there were several important sessions that were part of the official negotiating process that I wanted to attend, but I was able to attend the high-level event organized by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UNFCCC has adopted several resolutions on gender equality and women’s participation beginning in 2001. Last year at COP-18 in Doha, Qatar, they committed to gender balance in the Secretariat and member delegations.

The gender event on Tuesday was moderated by the executive director of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. She began by saying that we should keep our feet on the ground but raise our eyes to the stars. She asked the speakers to tell the audience (of several hundred people) what their dreams were and to talk from their hearts and souls rather than their minds.

Bianca Jagger’s remarks were low key and modest. She said that her dream was ending violence against women. Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said that women were more adversely affected by climate change, but could do more to stop it than men.  Helen Clark, the head of the UN Development Programme and former prime minister of New Zealand, seconded that and said that the climate justice agenda included universal access to sustainable energy.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner on human rights, noted that there were more than a billion people without access to electricity and more than two billion whose meals were cooked, usually by women, on open fires. She somehow thought that “doing the right thing on climate” will somehow relieve this widespread energy poverty by creating a more just world with less inequality. She added that fossil fuels are a stranded asset as people have come to realize that, “like asbestos, they are too dangerous to use.”

Tara Holonen, the former president of Finland, introduced the new Environment and Gender Index. It ranks 72 nations according to six performance categories. The gender equality measurements don’t seem to have any connection to the environmental quality measurements, so the index makes little sense. The index was produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which was once a respectable science and conservation group. The IUCN now describes itself as “a leader on gender issues in the environmental arena.” (www.EnvironmentGenderIndex.org)

A young Australian climate activist was invited from the audience to join the panel when one of the speakers was unable to attend. She said that the sole reason she fights for climate justice is to improve the lot of poor women in the developing world.

The highlight of this gender event, which was only one among many held on this special Gender Day, was the singing of a song composed especially for the event. It was sung magnificently by Elizabeth Njorge, who heads a foundation in Kenya that is dedicated to bringing art and music education to some of the poorest children in Kenya. Titled Vision 50/50, the song’s chorus reads: “We have a dream, a dream of hopes to turn a page that marks a golden age, A greener course, a greener course for planet Earth.” Note that the lyricist refrained from calling it Mother Earth, although the word “sustainable” is used in one of the verses.

Post image for COP-19 Starts in Warsaw on November 11

The nineteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, 11th November.  After the failure to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol at COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the 195 parties to the UNFCCC at COP-18 in Doha, Qatar last year extended Kyoto while a new treaty is negotiated.  COP-19 is supposed to be the beginning of those negotiations.  A complete draft is due to be released at COP-20 in Lima, Peru in 2014, and the final version is due to be signed at COP-21 in Paris in December 2015.  The UNFCCC aims to have the “Paris Protocol” ratified and in effect by 2020.

That’s the schedule that has been agreed upon, but so far there is little sign that much progress will be made in Warsaw over the next two weeks.  One obstacle to making substantive progress is an ongoing dispute over procedural issues.  The UNFCCC makes decisions by consensus of the 195 member countries, but Russia objected last year at COP-18 in Doha that the chairman had ruled that a consensus had been reached to extend the Kyoto Protocol even though Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus strongly objected.  At the annual meetings of the subsidiary bodies in Bonn last summer, Russia successfully blocked proceeding with the agenda until the issue of decision making was considered.

Now, Russia has sent a letter to the UNFCCC Secretariat asking that defining consensus be placed on the agenda for Warsaw. On the other side, Mexico and Papua New Guinea in 2011 proposed that when a consensus cannot be achieved, decisions can be agreed by a majority of at least three-quarters.  India and China strongly objected to that proposal.

Assuming that these procedural squabbles don’t take up the whole two weeks, three of the main issues that could be considered are flexibility, inclusivity, and payoffs.  The Kyoto Protocol is a set of mandatory emissions reductions targets and timetables that were initially applied to 37 developed countries.  The United States never ratified Kyoto, and Canada withdrew last year.  United States senior climate negotiator Todd Stern in a speech in London last month said that the successor to Kyoto must be much more flexible. This flexibility could go so far as to allow each country to devise its own plan to lower emissions.  The European Union, on the other hand, supports continuing with legally binding targets.

Inclusivity is a key issue because of the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions in China and India.  China is now the world’s largest emitter by a wide margin over the United States, and India’s emissions have also increased fairly rapidly.  Thus, most developed countries naturally think that China (and India and Brazil) should undertake economically-damaging emissions reductions just as they have.  India, in particular, strongly disagrees.  India argues that the West caused the problem and so must solve the problem.  India recognizes that their continuing economic progress depends on inexpensive fossil-fuel energy.

[click to continue…]

The comically-named Center for American Progress celebrated the tenth anniversary of its founding on 24th October with a daylong policy conference.  The glittering list of heavyweight speakers testifies to CAP’s influence within the political left and on the Obama Administration.  Not much attention was paid to the Democrats’ greatest achievement during the Obama years—enactment of the Affordable Care Act.  On the other hand, climate policies and the Keystone Pipeline got lots of attention.

The intellectual quality of what was said ranged from embarrassing to disgraceful.  I listened to it, so you don’t have to, but if you do want to listen, C-Span archived video of the entire conference here.

Former EPA Administrator and White House climate czar Carol Browner, former White House green jobs czar Van Jones, and billionaire anti-Keystone campaigner Thomas Steyer spoke on a climate panel moderated by CAP founder John Podesta.  Asked to grade the Obama Administration’s climate policies, Browner said that compared to the House of Representatives Obama gets an A-plus.  She said that the EPA was created by President Nixon because the States weren’t up to the job.

Browner was emphatic that some States are not regulating hydraulic fracturing adequately and that the EPA must take over.  She also predicted that President Obama would eventually decide to deny the permit to build the Keystone Pipeline.

Browner compared the Clinton Administration unfavorably with the Obama Administration on climate policy.  She said that when she was EPA Administrator in the Clinton Administration, if she wanted to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, she had to go to the White House and argue for it.  But Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy, Obama’s EPA chiefs, only have to argue about the level of regulation.

Steyer’s remarks were low-key and brief.  He said that we must stop the Keystone Pipeline and must demand that polluters pay for the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels.

Jones was by far the most engaging and provocative.  He began by saying that progressives suffer from low self esteem.  President Obama put $90 billion of stimulus funding into green energy; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 3.1 million green jobs; there are now 100,000 jobs in the wind industry compared to 80,000 coal miners; and yet progressives talk about Solyndra.  He didn’t compare the per capita energy output of wind and coal employees.

Jones went on to say that a majority of the “white community” voted for Mitt Romney for president even in California.  Thus: “So left to the white community by itself, we would have a horrible set of environmental policies in place.  We would be burning and drilling everywhere.”

Jones claimed that the U. S. military is “freaked out” by the national security risks of climate change, which is why they include it in all their planning and are investing heavily in renewable energy.  And he expressed dismay that in 2008 John McCain agreed that global warming was a threat and that we must pass cap-and-trade, whereas today the Republican Party has been taken over by lunatics and crazy people.

[click to continue…]