AFEC Addresses Climate Progress, Threats
Climate Change Weekly #295
The Heartland Institute has been leading the fight against politicized climate science and harmful energy policies, in part through our 12 International Climate Change Conferences, for more than a decade. Our efforts bore fruit with the election of Donald Trump, a climate skeptic, who is promoting policies informed by a rational assessment of the relative risks of climate change combined with his desire to put Americans and our energy security needs first. This allowed Heartland to refocus our conferences beyond climate change to expanding energy freedom. Thus, Heartland just hosted its second America First Energy Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 7.
Although the bulk of the panels focused on what the Trump administration and the states are doing to promote U.S. energy dominance, The Heartland Institute did not abandon its roots, with three of the panels specifically addressing climate issues.
The panel on “Why CO2 Emissions Are Not Creating a Climate Crisis” discussed the current state of climate science. This panel, moderated by Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr, included presentations by physicist Amanda Maxham, University of Delaware Professor of Climatology David Legates, and Roy Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Maxham described fossil fuel development and use as a life-enhancing set of technologies which help human beings overcome the limits of and threats posed by the natural world to human life and civilization.
Legates’ presentation disabused the audience of the claim carbon dioxide is a pollutant, describing in great detail how increasing carbon dioxide levels are providing myriad benefits to plant and animal life, including but not limited to increased food production and the reclaiming of desert lands.
Spencer, who, with his colleague Dr. John Christy, developed and managed NASA’s climate satellite system, was awarded the Fredrick Seitz Memorial Award by the Science and Environmental Policy Project, “in recognition of his work … [and] the exceptional courage [he] has shown in the quest for knowledge and the great contribution he has made to science.”
Spencer discussed how the quest for political power and increased funding drives climate research. Concerning the impact of federal funding on the climate research, Spencer noted President Dwight Eisenhower warned the increasing federal government funding of scientific research would corrupt the direction of research, the conclusions researchers come to, and the technologies developed.
A second panel examined the support some so-called conservatives have given to imposing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. Each of the three panelists noted any such tax is essentially a tax on energy, which, by raising energy prices, would slow the economy; result in lost jobs and higher prices for food, fuel, and other goods and services; and would especially harm the poor.
Ben Zycher, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, showed the idea a tax on carbon dioxide should be considered an insurance policy against dangerous future climate change “can’t pass any plausible cost/benefit analysis.” Zycher said even if the rest of the world cooperated with the United States and adopted similar restrictions on or price hikes for fossil fuels, and all the interventions worked as planned, “you wind up with temperature reduction in the year 2100 of about half a degree,” which is insufficient to prevent any imagined climate problem.
Paul Blair, director of strategic initiatives with Americans for Tax Reform, said a carbon dioxide tax would be a “policy disaster with extremely negative consequences to consumers and businesses but also the political consequences. … Support for carbon taxes not only in the United States but around the world is political suicide; a horrible idea for conservatives … who want to get elected or stay elected.” Blair said activists pushing carbon dioxide taxes have no interest in any environmental policy that doesn’t grow government and its control over the private sector—in other words (mine), environmental protection is really about controlling people.
Rounding out the panel was California state Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R–Lake Elsinore), who recounted California’s experience with a backdoor carbon dioxide tax: cap-and-trade. Melendez pointed out California has some of the highest poverty levels, electricity costs, and gasoline prices in the nation. She said the state’s cap-and-trade law is making a bad situation worse by piling on additional costs. Melendez resigned her position from the Republican leadership team in the state assembly when some of its members joined with the Democratic caucus to support a bill extending the cap-and-trade program beyond 2021, when it was set to expire, to 2030.
The third climate panel, “Climate Lawsuits Against Energy Companies and the Government,” addressed what I believe is the biggest current threat to the Trump administration’s quest for U.S. energy dominance. Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for legal affairs with The Heartland Institute, discussed two recent federal court decisions in which judges dismissed lawsuits—one from Oakland and San Francisco, a second from New York City—against five major oil companies to force them to help pay for the cities’ purported costs of dealing with climate change.
As I’ve noted in previous issues of CCW, The Heartland Institute contributed to the cities’ defeat in the California case, with Ferrara filing a friend of the court brief on behalf of five prominent climate researchers disputing the science used by Oakland and San Francisco to justify their claims oil companies were causing dangerous climate change. Ferrara spoke about U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit out of California. Alsup concluded Supreme Court precedent precluded cities from suing oil companies for carbon dioxide emissions because Congress delegated the power to regulate carbon dioxide to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. Alsup said if he allowed the lawsuit to continue and the plaintiffs won, he would essentially enable two cities to set U.S. domestic and international economic policy, which would violate the Constitution’s division of powers and federal law.
Panelist Greg Walcher, president of the Natural Resources Group, discussed ongoing cases in all 50 states by what he called “an environmental industry group,” Our Children’s Trust, supposedly on behalf of youth plaintiffs who are suing the federal government claiming its actions and inactions allow and foster the use of fossil fuels. Speaking against the backdrop of a photo of a large banner at a climate change rally which read, “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself,” Walcher said, “for many, many years, environmental activists have been pushing Americans to adopt policies that would create a lower standard of living for future generations based on the dubious theory that our pursuit of the good life is destroying our environment if not the very planet itself.”
The panelists unanimously agreed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must review and rescind its finding carbon dioxide endangers human health and the environment (the endangerment finding). As long as EPA maintains the endangerment finding, based on past court rulings, it is likely judges will overturn many of the regulations enacted by the Trump administration, requiring the government to impose carbon dioxide restrictions.
Panelist Harry MacDougald, co-managing partner with Caldwell, Propst & Deloach, LLP, who has been battling in court since 2009 to challenge the endangerment finding, said, “[The endangerment finding] is a direct threat to the president’s energy dominance agenda. And the next Democratic administration—and there will be one—will turn the screws.”
I encourage my readers to view the entire conference online at their leisure. Anyone who does so will be better armed with facts, data, and arguments to challenge climate alarmism.
—H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
An analysis of satellite imagery by participants in the CoalSwarm project reveals China is restarting many coal-fired power plant projects it halted before the Paris climate negotiations. The satellites show China is building approximately 46.7 gigawatts of new and restarted coal-fired power plant construction. The Chinese government halted construction on many of the plants closest to completion as part of an effort to reduce overcapacity as its economy slowed down and to reduce air pollution. Since late 2016, when China’s economy began to rebound, these companies and local governments have pressured the national government to allow these projects to be completed, China Dialogue reports.
Li Fulong, director of the department of development and planning at the National Energy Administration, announced at a July 30 press conference coal consumption in China, mainly for power generation, increased approximately 3.1 percent in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show electricity use during the same period surged by 9.4 percent. Despite this increase, a shortage of power plants resulted in many regions in China experiencing temporary electricity shortages early in the summer of 2018.
Coal use for energy is booming in Pakistan as well. In an effort to stabilize and increase its electric power supply and boost manufacturing of goods for export, Pakistan’s government is using a $35 billion loan from China to build approximately 9.5 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity. Pakistan has long suffered from rolling blackouts in its cities, and many rural areas lack electricity altogether. Meanwhile, electricity costs are higher in Pakistan than in neighboring economic competitors. The Financial Times reports the average cost of electricity for Pakistan manufacturers is approximately $0.13 per kilowatt-hour, compared with $0.12 in India and $0.09 in Bangladesh.
The government estimates high electricity prices are at least partly responsible for the fact Pakistan exported goods worth only 8.2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. By comparison, 15 per cent of Bangladesh’s GDP and nearly 19 per cent of India’s GDP came from exports.
“Manufacturers in India and Bangladesh get cheaper electricity than those in Pakistan do,” Ehsan Malik, chief executive of the Pakistan Business Council, told the Financial Times.
New research published in Nature Climate Change indicates efforts to prevent climate change by limiting fossil fuel use could cause 300 percent more people to suffer from hunger than the (dubious) estimated damage from climate change.
The study shows measures likely to be taken by countries to meet their commitments under the Paris climate agreement—such as imposing carbon taxes, expanding biofuel plantations, and planting trees—would increase the cost of food production and take vital agricultural land out of production. As a result, climate policies could put 78 million more people at risk of hunger and malnutrition by 2050, compared to an estimated 24 million who might face hunger caused by climate changes, the authors calculated.
The lead author of the study, Tomoko Hasegawa of the Center for Social and Environmental Systems Research at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan, told Reuters food prices would increase dramatically under carbon dioxide restrictions.
“It will become difficult for the poor and vulnerable people to buy enough food,” Hasegawa told Reuters. “Some people may also shift from nutrition-rich products to less nutritious food.”