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Post image for Winter: Worse than They Thought

“According to the National Weather Service, the low temperature Sunday at Dulles Airport was about 6 degrees at 7:30 a.m. That breaks the record for the date of 7 degrees set in 1965,” the AP reports.

In addition, “At BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport outside Baltimore, the low of 6 degrees Sunday matched a record set in 1943.”

Yet as of September 2014, global annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were on track to hit a record 40 billion metric tons – 4 billion more than the previous record set in 2013 of 36 billion tons – and roughly 3.5 times more emissions than in 1965 (11.487 billion tons) and 10 times more than in 1943 (4.007 billion tons).

More importantly, atmospheric CO2 concentration today is 399.85 parts per million (ppm), compared to just 320.23 ppm in 1965 and 310.5 ppm in 1943.

Although only halfway through, February is Boston’s “snowiest month on record,” the NWS reported on its Twitter feed. The city has received 58.5 inches of snow, breaking the previous monthly record of 43.3 inches in January 2005.

And who can forget the Buffalo-area snowstorm of November 2014. The town of Cowlesville, New York, about 25 miles south of downtown Buffalo, got 88 inches of snow (7.3 feet) in just five days — an amount approximately equal to the average Buffalo snowfall in an entire winter.

Although 2014 was supposedly the warmest year on record, in the USA between Nov. 10 and Nov. 19, “there were 4,163 record low temperatures set or tied compared to just 465 warm record temperatures set or tied.”

This year’s winter conditions contributed to at least 10 deaths, suspended or delayed train service, cancelled more than 1,800 flights, and closed schools, businesses, and non-essential government offices.

None of this is intended to deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming. The point, rather, is to put things in perspective. [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…]

On EPA’s FY16 Budget

  1. EPA’s FY16 budget unabashedly avows that the President’s Climate Action Plan is the agency’s lodestar.* This is an unfortunate (and unwise) state of affairs, because the centerpieces of the President’s Climate Action Plan are discretionary regulations. (Indeed, the whole regulatory regime could’ve been avoided). Meanwhile, the agency remains woefully out of compliance with hundreds of non-discretionary duties as stipulated by Congress in the Clean Air Act. These regulations—the mandatory ones that EPA refuses to perform—pertain to conventional pollutants of the sort that could pose a threat to living human beings. By contrast, EPA’s climate regs would stave off sea-level rise equal to the thickness of three sheet of paper, a century from now. To recap: The EPA is ignoring its non-discretionary responsibilities regarding regulations that might achieve a human health benefit; instead of addressing this glaring and ongoing problem, the administration wants to pour resources into discretionary climate regulations that wouldn’t actually impact the climate.
  2. E&E PM’s Jeremy Jacobs reports ($) that EPA is seeking 3.5 million in order to hire 20 full-time-equivalent layers and associated staff “to provide legal counsel in support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan.” WOW! For starters, they might as well call this the ‘NRDC Full Employment Fund,’ because the green group obviously stands to win big were this provision to see the light of day. After all, what better lawyers to hire than the NRDC staffers who wrote the rule? Setting aside the special interests who stand to benefit, $50 million for 40 lawyers’ yearlong service seems steep to me, especially given that the agency doesn’t have nearly enough resources to perform its non-discretionary duties (see above). [click to continue…]
typical FOIA production by 'most transparent admin. ever'

typical FOIA production from ‘most transparent admin. ever’

[Editor’s Note: Yesterday, the Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch reported that Republican lawmakers are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency fork over documents relating to text messages to and from the agency’s chief administrator that were allegedly deleted rather than preserved for federal records, or simply because as “correspondence” they are regularly the subject of Freedom of Information and oversight requests and therefore must be preserved. Their request stems from the work of my colleague Chris Horner, who literally wrote the book on the opacity of the Obama administration (The Liberal War on Transparency). Below, Horner discusses the latest developments in this burgeoning transparency scandal.]

We have gotten to this point in a far too long and winding way, requiring numerous FOIA requests, first for text messages, then phone bills, then metadata, more text messages once we learned the ones we had requested were destroyed, and now for emails discussing all of this.  Developments along this way include:

The most recent step pertains to emails sent between EPA’s Office of General Counsel and Ms. McCarthy which mention texting.  This request was followed by, what is even in my experience, an unprecedented series of delays; a cynic might suspect that this was intended to avoid these emails, described below, from emerging until a federal court in DC rules on our efforts to depose Ms. McCarthy, among others, about EPA destroying its senior advisors’ text correspondence.

Here is why.   [click to continue…]

Perhaps the hottest debate raging today in administrative law circles regards Article III court deference to federal agency interpretations of their own rules. Such deference is known as “Seminole Rock” or “Auer” deference (after Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand, Co., 325 U.S. 410 (1945) and Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997)).

In the smallest of nutshells, critics argue that Seminole Rock deference rests on shaky constitutional ground, because it allows administrative agencies both lawmaking (i.e., writing rules) and law exposition (i.e., interpreting rules) powers.* The other criticism is practical, and alleges that Seminole Rock deference incents arbitrary regulation. To be more precise, this second criticism suggests that agencies take advantage of Seminole Rock deference by writing vague implementing rules, and then issuing subsequent “interpretations” that impose policies outside the notice and comment requirements for administrative procedure.**

Seminole Rock/Auer deference is so hot right now because the Supreme Court is openly reconsidering it. Justice Scalia recently pilloried Seminole Rock/Auer, and, in the same decision, Chief Justice Roberts announced, “that there is some interest in reconsidering those cases.” Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, 133 S. Ct. 1326 (2013) at 1339

In this context, I would like for you, dear readers, to consider a recent EPA proposal to take over Regional Haze programs operated by Texas and Oklahoma, pursuant to the Clean Air Act. The rule is extraordinary for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s the latest from the most arbitrary regulatory regime at EPA during the Obama era—namely, the Regional Haze/§110(a)(2)(D)(i)(II) program. For another, it’s a massive power grab, one with big implications for other States. I will explain these and other flaws in subsequent posts; my purpose today is to draw your attention to page 74829 of the 79th Federal Register, in which EPA attempts to justify the rule’s long reach by notifying the public of the agency’s Seminole Rock/Auer rights! I’ve reposted the offending language after the break. [click to continue…]

Globalwarming.org today sped up its economic doomsday clock to three minutes until midnight, in response to last week’s launch of a green missive that calls to mind the terrifying extent to which the U.S. economy operates under the imminent threat of economic apocalypse engendered by enviro litigation.

doomsday-clock-110516The immediate impetus for alarm is a letter issued Thursday from 5 green groups. Its purpose is to remind EPA of a May deadline to render a decision whether GHGs from airplanes “endanger” public health & welfare. That sounds boring and innocuous, but in fact the letter portends the ominous consequences of the Obama administration’s 2010 decision to trigger Clean Air Act regulations for greenhouse gases. This fateful determination has provided environmental special interests the opportunity to seize the reins of the U.S. economy through litigation, as I explain briefly below.

The problem is that the Clean Air Act regulates like a chain reaction: one provision triggers another provision triggers another, and so on and so forth. So, for example, EPA’s first action—the push that got this regulatory snowball rolling down the hill—was to regulate GHGs from automobiles. Under longstanding EPA statutory interpretation, auto regulations set off Clean Air Act requirements for stationary sources. Henceforth, new major stationary sources must install “best available control technology” to limit GHGs. (Of course, the agency is working on a bundle of climate  regulations that would overhaul the electricity industry, but that’s a discretionary regime.)

First automobiles…then stationary sources…and the next non-discretionary duty brought about by EPA’s opening of a regulatory Pandora’s Box pertains to the airline industry. The statutory tripwire that activated the 2010 auto regulations—the rule that set off this whole mess—was a 2009 EPA determination that tailpipe GHG emissions “endangered” public health and welfare. Under the Clean Air Act, an identical threshold exists for the regulation of airline emissions. That is, if the agency finds that airline GHG emissions “endanger” the public, then it must regulate the sector.  [click to continue…]

“Sue and settle” refers to a phenomenon whereby environmental special interests leverage the legal process to dictate the EPA’s priorities.

GAO watchdogAt heart, sue and settle results from the Clean Air Act’s overabundance of deadlines. Simply put: Congress tasked EPA with far more date-certain duties than the agency can handle. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in a statutory vacuum, but the fact is that the Clean Air Act affords green groups the right to sue EPA to compel the agency to perform its non-discretionary responsibilities. As a result of these dynamics [i.e., EPA doesn’t meet any of its deadlines, and green groups can sue to force the agency to meet its missed deadlines], environmental litigation groups like the Sierra Club can use the courts to set the agency’s priorities.

Of course, priority-setting necessarily entails policymaking—after all, it’s a decision on the use of the agency’s limited resources. Opponents of “sue and settle” argue that EPA should make policy with elected officials in Congress or the States (the regulated entity), rather than through litigation or negotiation with special interests.

Factually speaking, there can be no doubt that greens are employing deadline suits to control the EPA’s regulatory reins. As I demonstrate here, EPA is out of compliance with virtually all its Clean Air Act deadlines, which number well into the hundreds, by an average of more than 5 years. And in this report, on which I collaborated, we list all the Clean Air Act rules and regulations that were galvanized by sue and settle lawsuits.

Nonetheless, despite the evident existence of sue and settle problems, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the matter further. Yesterday, the GAO’s December report was finally released to the public. The document’s unfortunate tone is aptly imparted by its title: “Impact of Deadline Suits on EPA’s Rulemaking Is Limited.”

In this post, I’ll detail the GAO report’s flaws, and why its title is misleading. [click to continue…]

Post image for Some Free Market Talking Points on the Keystone XL Pipeline Amendments

On Monday, the Senate voted 63-32 to end a Democratic filibuster of S.1, The Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Today, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to negotiate a deal with Democratic leaders on a rule for offering amendments to the bill.

According to Greenwire ($), The Hill, The New York Times, and Politico, Democrats are expected to offer amendments to ban exports of petroleum products made from Keystone crude (Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts), mandate the use of American materials during construction (Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon), require oil sands producers to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington), require the creation of an equal or greater number of “clean energy” jobs for every job created by the pipeline (Sen. Charles Schumer of New York), and require Senators to declare whether they agree with 97% of climate scientists that man-made global warming is real and dangerous (Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vt.).

KXL proponents should welcome debate on those amendments and look forward to offer some of their own. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he would offer an amendment to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

The amendment to ban Keystone-enabled petroleum product exports would violate U.S. treaty obligations under both the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since the ban would not apply to petroleum imported from OPEC countries, the policy would, in effect, deny most favored nation status to Canada while retaining it for Saudi Arabia. And if preventing American products from competing in the global marketplace is a good way to lower prices and benefit consumers, why don’t we do it for all goods made in the U.S. of A? For more on this topic, see my Six Reasons Not to Ban Energy Exports. Sen. Markey, go put on a dunce cap and sit in the corner.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Will Global Warming Reduce Wheat Production?

Asseng et al. (2014), a study published this week in Nature Climate Change, concludes that global warming “is already slowing yield gains at a majority of wheat-growing locations,” and estimates that worldwide wheat production will “fall by 6% for each °C of further temperature increase.” The study’s basic physical argument is that higher temperatures accelerate plant maturation, allowing fewer days for biomass accumulation and, thus, reducing yields.

The researchers acknowledge that “improvements in technology and management have led to increasing yields around the world.” Nonetheless, they contend, “wheat model simulations over the main global wheat-producing regions can isolate the climate signal by holding inputs and management constant with the exception of climate information.” Their model ensemble indicates that “Simulated yields declined between 1981 and 2010 (Fig. 2a) at 20 of the 30 representative global locations . . . owing to positive temperature trends over the same period.”

Wheat Simulated Global Yield Change 1981-2010

If I get their meaning, Asseng et al. claim that although global yields increased during 1981-2010, yields at those 20 locations would have been larger absent global warming. They also appear to be saying that absolute yield declines would have occurred at all 30 locations under a +2ºC warming scenario with even steeper declines under a +4ºC warming scenario.

A few observations spring to mind. First, the paper does not discuss Asseng et al.’s method for isolating the climate signal from other factors affecting yields. Climate economist Richard Tol cautions that the “signal” of recent climate change is “faint” and “drowned out by all the other things that have changed.” He elaborates:

If one tries to study the impacts of climate change on crops, for example, one must factor in the impact of new seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and a host of other confounding variables such as air pollution and atmospheric deposition of nutrients. If one is interested in commercial agriculture, one needs to consider subsidies and international trade.

Second, there has not been much surface warming of the planet in 18 years, so it may be many decades before global average surface temperatures increase by 2ºC or more. The more gradual the rise in global temperatures, the greater the likelihood that management and technology will improve enough to prevent yield loss.

Third, management and technology have, in fact, boosted yields significantly during the current warm period. The world warmed 0.12ºC per decade during 1951-2012, according to the IPCC (AR5 Summary for Policymakers, p. 5), which implies an overall warming of about 0.72ºC. USDA’s Wheat Data Yearbook contains a chart showing, among other data, crop yield (tons per hectare) and total production (millions metric tons) over the 54-year period from 1960 to 2014.

[click to continue…]

An inconvenient truth encountered by global warming alarmists is voter indifference. Poll after poll suggests that Americans lend ultra-low priority to climate change (rightly so). This is why candidate Obama ran to the right of Romney on energy/environment policy during the 2012 campaign.

Individual agency—antithesis of Prof. Proctor’s take on AGW

Individual agency—antithesis of Prof. Proctor’s take on AGW

Indeed, voter apathy in the face of climate change drives AGW activists batty with frustration, so much so that they refuse to acknowledge the phenomenon. Instead of accepting the truth at hand—that everyday Americans simply don’t care about global warming in a lifetime filled with more pressing matters—climate worry warts, especially those in academia, are given to grand conspiracy theories about how nefarious fossil fuel industries spend untold billions to manipulate the American polity into its current ambivalence regarding the imperative to “do something” about global warming.

Of course, this thesis is belied by a cursory Google News search of the term “climate change,” which reliably engenders a parade of horribles on the impending catastrophic impacts in store for civilization. To wit, here is a representative sampling of first-page headlines from just such a search, conducted this morning:

  • “Risk of dengue fever increases due to climate change” (Fox News);
  • “Climate change could cost US coasts $1 trillion by 2100” (Science Now);
  • “Another threat from climate change: bad-tasting shrimp” (LA Times);
  • “Will global climate change ground commercial airlines?” (Top Secret Writers).

As usual, there weren’t any “denier” headlines. Which raises an obvious question: How is climate messaging almost always alarming, if industry is pulling all the strings?  [click to continue…]