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Post image for Dueling Opinion Polls: Is Climate Change the Top Global Concern — or Lowest?

 

A Pew Research Center survey of 45,435 respondents finds that “publics in 19 of 40 nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry, making it the most widespread concern of any issue included in the survey.” Climate change ranks particularly high “in Latin America and Africa, where majorities in most countries say they are very concerned about this issue.”

Pew Survey Global Concerns July 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The survey, conducted during March 25-May 27, asks respondents whether they are “very concerned,” “somewhat concerned,” “not too concerned,” or “not at all concerned” about climate change, global economic instability, the Islamic Militant Group in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Iran’s nuclear program, Cyber attacks on governments, banks, or corporations, Tensions between Russia and its neighbors, and Territorial disputes between China and its neighbors.

But this just in, reported Friday on WattsUpWithThat. The United Nations “My World” Initiative, a global survey of citizens from all countries with votes totaling 7,679,273, finds that climate change “is dead last in the list of concerns queried.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Is Carbon Capture and Storage a ‘System of Emission Reduction’?

 

 

Picture in your mind a house of cards or a row of dominoes. Pull out the base card and the structure collapses. Knock over the first domino and the rest fall down. Either image is a suitable metaphor for President Obama’s climate policy agenda.

EPA’s so-called Carbon Pollution Standards rule for new fossil-fuel power plants is the first domino in the row, the base of a multi-tiered greenhouse of cards.

The rule would establish “partial” carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the “adequately-demonstrated” (commercially-viable) “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) for new coal-fired power plants.

The jerry-built logic works like this.

  1. The Carbon Pollution rule is the legal prerequisite for EPA’s carbon dioxide (CO2) performance standards for existing power plants, the so-called Clean Power Plan.
  2. The Clean Power Plan, in turn, is the core component of the President’s emission-reduction pledge – the U.S. Government’s “Independently Determined National Contribution” or INDC — in UN-sponsored negotiations aimed at adopting a new climate treaty at the December COP 21 conference in Paris.
  3. Finally, the President hopes the new climate pact, which he will not submit to the Senate for a vote on ratification, will focus international pressure on the next president and Congress to honor the U.S. INDC, thereby locking in the Carbon Pollution and Clean Power rules as legacy policies.

Each link in the chain has severe structural weaknesses. Using a non-ratified treaty to dictate U.S. domestic policy raises profound separation of powers concerns. The Clean Power Plan is unlawful on at least 10 separate counts. Evidence mounts that CCS technology is not adequately demonstrated because it is unaffordable absent lavish subsidies – hence the Carbon Pollution rule would not survive judicial review.

The point I want to emphasize in today’s post is that in actual commercial practice, CCS would increase net CO2 emissions. Thus what EPA is proposing is not even a system of emission reduction, much less the “best system of emission reduction” required by the Clean Air Act. [click to continue…]

Post image for Climate Change and Health: What Does the Gray Lady Say?

 

In a recent article, New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise asks: “Is climate change a serious threat to human health?” To my surprise, this was not a rhetorical question but the opener for an inquiry assessing the balance of evidence.

Tavernise even suggests that a recent White House report exaggerates climate change health effects to “build support” for the President’s domestic and international climate policy agenda.

As summarized by Tavernise, the report predicts that “Asthma will worsen, heat-related deaths will rise, and the number and traveling range of insects carrying diseases once confined to the tropics will increase.” But, she comments, those “bullet points convey a certainty that many scientists say does not yet exist.”

For one thing, some health effects attributed to climate change may actually be due to social factors:

For example, scientists note that global travel and trade, not climate change, brought the first cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne tropical disease, to Florida.

Sometimes even when climate change may affect health, it is difficult to quantify how important a factor it is. For example, Lyme disease is spreading into Canada — a development apparently linked to climate change because warmer weather lengthens tick breeding seasons. “But,” Tavernise points out, “Lyme disease is also an example of just how difficult it is to draw broad conclusions about how climate change affects health.”

The disease is also moving south, with large sections of Virginia and parts of North Carolina now inundated with ticks that carry the disease. But that pattern appears to have little to do with climate.

Dr. C. Ben Beard, associate director for climate change at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said reforestation in the eastern United States and the expanding populations of deer and people appear to be factors.

What’s more, wealth and technology can greatly diminish climate-related health risks:

A study comparing Laredo, Tex., and a city just across the border in Mexico found the incidence of dengue fever was far higher in Mexico, even though the mosquitoes that carry it were more abundant in Texas. Researchers attributed the Texan advantage to economics — air conditioning and windows that shut — not climate.

Tavernise also notes that, despite global warming, heat-related deaths in the United States are not increasing:

Temperatures may be rising, but overall deaths from heat are not, in part because the march of progress has helped people adapt — air conditioning is more ubiquitous, for example, and the treatment of heart disease, a major risk for heat-related mortality, has improved.

In fact, U.S. heat mortality risk is declining:

A recent review of heat mortality in the United States found that the rate of heat-related deaths declined by more than half from 1987 to 2005. (For more on this topic, see these previous posts.)

Tavernise even seems to recognize some additional warming may have net health benefits because far more people die from extreme cold than extreme heat:

A study in The Lancet in May analyzed 74 million deaths from 1985 to 2012 in more than 10 countries, including the United States, and found that about 8 percent of the deaths had been caused by abnormal temperatures. Of those, the rate of death from cold — more than 7 percent — far outnumbered that from heat, about 0.42 percent. [click to continue…]

Post image for If You Only Read One Commentary on the Papal Encyclical . . .

 

The recent Papal Encyclical on “care of our common home” calls for “changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat [global] warming,” and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, based on the assessment that fossil-fueled economies are “unsustainable” and “can only precipitate catastrophes.”

If that assessment were correct, population would be smaller today, and worse off, than in previous decades and centuries. The exact opposite is the case, observes economist Indur Goklany in a concise, by-the-numbers, rebuttal. The world’s population “is at a record level,” and human well-being “is at or near its peak by virtually every objective broad measure.”

The chart below shows a strong long-term correlation between carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and increases in population, life expectancy, and per capita income — the best overall indicators of human health and well-being.

Goklany Population Income Life Expectancy Carbon Emissions July 2015

 

 

 

 

Those correlations are causal, not accidental.

The improvements in human well-being have been enabled directly or indirectly through the use of fossil fuels or fossil-fuel powered technologies and economic growth. This is because every human activity — whether it is growing crops, cooking food, building a home, making and transporting goods, delivering services, using electrical equipment for any purpose, studying under a light or going on holiday — depends directly or indirectly on the availability of energy (see below) and, in today’s world, energy is virtually synonymous with fossil fuels; they supply 82% of global energy used. [click to continue…]

Post image for PNAS Study Implicitly Confirms Climate Treaty Threatens Developing Country Economies

 

A study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) frets that the “carbonization” of energy resulting from the “renaissance of coal” in developing countries could render “ambitious” emission stabilization goals “infeasible.” Gee, really — who’da thunk it?

Although the main takeaway conclusion is obvious, the study provides lots of information about the factors (population, GDP per capita, energy intensity of GDP, carbon intensity of energy) driving global and regional emission trends.

As illustrated in the chart below, the big drivers of emissions growth, especially in recent years, are increases in GDP per capita, primary energy consumption, and the carbon intensity of energy. Population growth is not a significant factor. Decreasing energy intensity of production has worked to restrain emissions growth.

Kaya identity factors 1971 to present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The authors recognize that coal consumption in developing countries is strongly correlated with high rates of economic growth. Moreover, they find that the upsurge in consumption since 2000 is due to coal’s competitive price in global markets rather than domestic resource availability.

In summary, in recent years non-OECD countries have relied increasingly on coal to meet their energy needs. The poorer a country is and the higher its rate of economic growth, the stronger is this effect. Both effects become more pronounced over time, suggesting that increasing coal use is a general trend among poor, fast-growing countries and is not restricted to a few specific countries. These results confirm the hypothesis of a global renaissance of coal. This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that excluding China and India from the regression hardly affects the results (see SI Appendix for details), indicating that these two countries are not driving the results but rather are representative for the global sample. . . .This renaissance of coal has even accelerated in the last decade; this acceleration can be explained by the low prices of coal relative to other energy sources.

PNAS undoubtedly published the study because the results spell danger for the COP 21 climate treaty conference in Paris. In the authors’ words:

Our results raise the more general question of the role of developing countries in climate-change mitigation. Developing economies now account for such a large share of global energy use that the trend toward higher carbon intensity in these countries cancels out the effect of decreasing carbon intensities in industrialized countries. If the future economic convergence of poor countries is fueled to a major extent by coal, i.e., if current trends continue, ambitious mitigation targets likely will become infeasible.

The same conclusion implies, of course, that ambitious stabilization goals could make developing country efforts to eradicate poverty infeasible. Isn’t that the more important concern and issue? [click to continue…]

Post image for OMB Acknowledges (Most) of Our Comments on the Social Cost of Carbon, Engages None

 

 

Why does any sensible person even bother submitting comment letters to the Obama administration about any matter relating to climate change? I find myself asking that question again and again, because the only ‘error’ the administration will ever admit is that climate change is ‘worse than we thought’ — an implicit boast that ‘we were more right than we knew.’

The administration has a party line and no agency is allowed to deviate from it on any matter of climate science, economics, or policy, no matter how speculative or minor the point at issue.

Nonetheless, I continue to submit comments — as other skeptics and free marketers do — just to ensure that the administration’s groupthink does not go unchallenged on the record.

What brings such thoughts to mind is the Office of Management and Budget’s response to comments, posted just before the July 4th weekend, on the Interagency Working Group’s May 2013 Technical Support Document (TSD) on the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon (SCC) is the cumulative damage to society allegedly inflicted by an incremental ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over an immense span of time (typically out to the year 2300).

Obama officials routinely use SCC estimates to calculate the putative benefits of CO2-reducing regulations. The higher the estimated SCC, the bigger the projected value of CO2 reductions becomes. For example, the 2013 TSD increased the SCC values of an earlier 2010 TSD by roughly 60%. So in just four short years, while climate models increasingly overshot observed global temperatures, climate change somehow got 60% worse and climate regulations 60% more valuable. Your government at work!

OMB reports it received 39,000 form letters and about 150 “substantive comments” on the 2013 TSD. The latter pile includes the comment letter I submitted on behalf of eleven pro-market organizations.

Along with its response to comments, OMB has also posted a revised TSD. True to form, the revised document does not accept any of the “substantive comments.” The only changes are minor technical corrections in how agencies are to run the integrated assessment models (IAMs) they use to estimate carbon’s social cost.

As explained in a recent post and accompanying Power Point, SCC analysis is computer-aided sophistry, an attempt by would-be central planners to hide raw political preferences behind a pretense of knowledge and precision.

Today’s post will briefly identify weaknesses in OMB’s response to our comments.

[click to continue…]

Post image for IER Study: Existing Coal Much Less Costly than New Gas, Wind

 

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) has published a first of a kind study on the levelized cost of electricity from existing power plants. Although not discussed as such, the report corroborates concerns that EPA’s Clean Power Plan would significantly increase electricity prices by replacing low-cost existing coal generation with more costly new generation from natural gas and wind.

How much more costly? The authors, Tom Stacy and George Taylor, estimate that new natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) costs about twice as much as existing coal and new wind costs about three times as much.

IER levelized cost existing coal vs new natural gas new wind June 2015

 

 

 

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Post image for EPA’s Climate Action Flim-Flam Report

 

 

EPA last week released Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action. As summarized by the agency’s press release, the 96-page report “compares two future scenarios”:

a future with significant global action on climate change, where global warming [in 2100] has been limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and a future with no action on climate change (where global temperatures rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit). The report then quantifies the differences in health, infrastructure and ecosystem impacts under the two scenarios, producing estimates of the costs of inaction and the benefits of reducing global GHG emissions.

The report has five main sections (health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agricultural and forestry, and ecosystems). At the end of each section, EPA cites to an underlying technical study. I may examine one or more of those in a later post. Here I will point out a few tricks EPA uses to make its case.

The core bias that predetermines all the alarming forecasts in EPA’s report is the assumption that, in the reference (“no action”) scenario, global temperatures will increase by 9°F (5°C) between 2010 and 2100 (the red line in the chart below).

EPA CIRA Global Temperatures References vs Mitigation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average U.S. temperatures are projected to rise even higher. In the reference scenario, EPA projects a 14ºF increase above present temperatures in the Mountain West and a 12°F increase in the northern regions. In contrast, temperatures rise no more than 4ºF in any state under the “global action” scenario.

EPA CIRA US Temperatures References vs Mitigation

 

 

 

 

Unsurprisingly, in EPA’s assessment, unmitigated warming produces terrible and terrifying climate impacts whereas “global action” reduces such impacts to manageable and non-threatening levels. For example, EPA claims significant global action would reduce U.S. urban heat-related mortality by 93% in 2100, saving approximately 12,000 lives in that year.

EPA CIRA US Urban Heat Related Morality Reference vs Mitigation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How reasonable is it, though, to suppose that average global temperatures in 2100 will be 9°F higher than they are today? Not very. [click to continue…]

Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on the H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act. The bill well-deserves every vote it gets on the way to passage.

It’s a commonsense measure that basically codifies how EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act for three decades before the Obama administration. In the late 1970s, EPA promulgated a rule that allowed States to exempt sources from regulation under the “existing source performance standards” program, which is the same provision that authorizes EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan. EPA, however, made no mention of these variances in its proposed Clean Power Plan. The Ratepayer Protection Act would reintroduce this practice by allowing Governors to opt out the rule if he/she determines it would have an unacceptable impact on energy prices or electric reliability.

In addition, the bill would delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan until judicial review ran its course. This is necessary to correct a potential injustice attributable to the slow wheels of justice. On the one  hand, capital-intensive businesses like utilities must plan on 4+ years horizons. On the other, it takes about three years for Clean Air Act rules to endure judicial review (brashly assuming SCOTUS grants cert). The unfortunate result is that utilities, in the name of certainty, may lock in implementation of the Clean Power Plan, before we know whether or not the rule is illegal.**The Ratepayer Protection Act would preclude this unfair outcome***

Below, find a coalition letter in support of the legislation. It’s signed by 14 organizations, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

Coalition Letter in Support of H .R. 2042 Ratepayer Protection Act – Jun 23 2015

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Post image for Computer-Aided Sophistry: My Power Point on the Social Cost of Carbon

Today I participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation titled “Social Cost of Carbon: A Controversial Tool for Misguided Policy.” Heritage Foundation economist David Kreutzer moderated the panel. He also introduced Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who spoke on climate science and policy for about 20 minutes before the panel began. Cato Institute scientist Patrick Michaels and Heritage Foundation economist Kevin Dayaratna also gave presentations as panelists.

To watch the entire event, click on http://www.heritage.org/events/2015/06/carbon

My Power Point presentation includes a lot of material I did not have time to cover. So I am posting it here.

My argument may summarized as follows:

  1. Social Cost of Carbon — the cumulative damage allegedly inflicted by an incremental ton of carbon dioxide emitted in a particular year — is an unknown quantity, discernible in neither meteorological nor economic data.
  2. The SCC is a product of speculative climatology combined with speculative economics. By fiddling with inputs in complex computer models, SCC analysts can get just about any result they desire.
  3. What EPA and climate campaigners desire are ever-bigger SCC values to justify ever-more costly anti-carbon taxes and regulations.
  4. However interesting as an academic exercise, when used to guide policy, SCC analysis is computer-aided sophistry. Its political function is to make renewable energy look like a bargain at any price and make fossil fuels look unaffordable no matter how cheap.
  5. Even if SCC analysis were an exact science, it would still be biased unless paired with rigorous assessment of the social benefits of carbon energy and the social costs of carbon mitigation. It never is.
  6. The economic and social costs of carbon mitigation in all likelihood greatly exceed the social costs of carbon.
  7. By promoting regulatory excess, pseudo-scientific groupthink, and noble cause corruption, SCC analysis has become a menace to society.