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Cities Committing Costly Climate Mistakes

June 30, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #254

The 85th annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) in Miami on June 24 passed a series of resolutions related to climate change and green energy, including resolutions urging President Donald Trump’s administration to reverse itself and support the Paris Agreement and the Obama administration’s stalled Clean Power Plan. Additional resolutions called for a quick electrification of the U.S. transportation sector and spending ever-greater sums of money at all levels of government on wind energy. The media response almost uniformly promotes the narrative the mayors are defying Trump and will meet the Paris climate goals, regardless of the federal government’s position on climate change.

The stories are also almost uniformly light on facts and context.

For instance, I have been unable to find a single story reporting what the final vote was on each of the resolutions passed, nor can I find that information on the USCM website. Did an overwhelming majority favor the resolutions, or was it a close vote?  Since I suspect no true count was taken but rather it was all done through a voice vote, a vocal minority of mayors who shouted the loudest could have hijacked the proceedings aided by sympathetic chairs managing the votes, who said the “ayes have it,” claiming the mayors are united in pushing Paris and green energy.

Some measure of the number of mayors who are truly committed to Paris and the green agenda might be found in a poll taken before the conference. As the USCM described the survey, it “found overwhelming interest by cities to accelerate climate efforts,” with:

  • 69 percent of responding cities generat[ing] or purchas[ing] renewable electricity to power city buildings or operations.
  • An additional 22 percent are considering doing so.
  • 63 percent already buy green vehicles, including hybrid, electric, natural gas, and biodiesel, for their municipal fleets.
  • 30 percent are considering it.
  • 71 percent have energy efficiency policies for new municipal buildings, and 66 percent for existing municipal buildings.

Sounds like a significant majority of the membership of the USCM backs spending money to fight climate change and embraces renewable energy … until you learn just 66 of the 1,408 cities who are members of the USCM (that’s less than 5 percent) responded to the survey. Since it’s reasonable to assume mayors most active in promoting green programs would be the most likely to respond to this survey, it seems very few of the total number of USCM members wanted to stand up and have their voices counted in the climate fight.

In addition, just over 200 cities—not 1,408—have committed through various initiatives to pursue the emission reductions demanded in the Paris climate agreement and only 30, not 1,408, have joined an initiative to get 100 percent of the energy used by their communities from “100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2035.”

In short, USCM’s words are not being backed up by the actions of the vast majority of its member cities. This should not be surprising, as we’ve been down this road before.

After then-President George W. Bush decided not to pursue the goals of the Kyoto Protocol signed by the Clinton administration, requiring the United States to cut its carbon dioxide emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, more than 1,000 mayors signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement saying they would meet Kyoto’s targets regardless of the federal government’s cooperation. As detailed by Todd Myers in National Review, despite media hype touting their environmental virtue when they announced they were bucking Bush on Kyoto, almost none of these cities met the Kyoto targets. Most of them missed their targets badly.

Seattle, where the movement started, managed to reduce its emissions by only 1 percent from 1990 to 2012, and that reduction was almost entirely due to the economic downturn beginning in 2007. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg committed the city to making even greater cuts than required by Kyoto, pledging the city’s carbon dioxide emissions would fall 30 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. “Thanks to the economic downturn, NYC got off to a good start. After 2012, however, emissions actually increased. At the current rate, New York will miss Bloomberg’s 2030 target,” writes Myers. Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daley, pledged the city would cut its carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, yet, “the city’s ‘Climate Action Plan’ web page admits: ‘If Chicago continues on its current path ... its emissions would grow to 39.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2020’”—22 percent above 1990 levels, or 62 percent above the promised target.

Having learned nothing from these woefully missed targets the mayors, or their replacements, are doubling down on their climate commitments, in effect saying, “trust us, this time we’ll do better.” Even if they can do better, their constituents should ask, at what cost? How much money and manpower should be diverted from schools, pensions, policing, and potholes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

In fact, mayors, city councils, and cities can do relatively little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and hit the Paris targets. Electric power generation accounts for only about 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, yet that is the only segment of the economy on which cities could have some limited impact. Many municipalities own power stations built when coal was king. I doubt many elected officials will want to go before the voters having closed down a city-owned power station—with its attendant loss of jobs and possibly higher energy costs—but they could, at some cost, convert such power stations from coal to natural gas.

States, not cities, control or regulate the power supply within their borders. Cities can put some solar panels on rooftops of city buildings, purchase wind and solar energy through the grid (or at least buy renewable energy credits that purport to show someone, somewhere is building and purchasing wind or solar power, if not the actual city itself), plant trees, and buy natural gas or electric vehicles to reduce emissions, but none of these policies will really reduce emissions much.

Every thousand megawatts of intermittent renewable energy needs at least 700 megawatts of reliable energy, usually fossil fuel powered, to back it up. In addition, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining all those turbines and solar panels burns a lot of fossil fuel. Few cities have the home rule authority to impose carbon or energy taxes, and of those few with such power, I’d love to see them sell higher energy prices to the voters.

Cities could implement new building codes with stricter energy efficiency standards, but expect the business community to get out the torches and pitchforks if that occurs, especially if they are forced to retrofit existing buildings out of their own pockets.

And it’s important to note all of these policies will impose higher costs on taxpayers, businesses, and/or consumers, with limited payback over time. Wind and solar electricity and electric vehicles cost more than more-reliable fossil-fuel-powered power plants and vehicles. States and European countries that have gone the farthest to cut carbon dioxide emissions pay two to three times more for energy than states and countries that rely primarily on fossil fuels for energy. And frankly, I don’t want my police force (or hospital or fire emergency services) driving electric vehicles that cost 200 to 300 percent more than conventional fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and might run out of juice during criminal chases or emergency calls.

Most importantly, I want to know what the hell these carbon-clown mayors are thinking: climate change as the issue local officials should be tackling, Really? I read daily how Chicago and Baltimore, among many other cities, have growing crime and murder rates. In many places, the relationship and trust between citizens and their police forces are at historic lows, with beat cops increasingly literally under fire. Cities around the country are facing budget crises, their streets are riddled with potholes, their bridges are crumbling, their public transit systems are breaking down, their sewage services are out of date, their school systems are failing (while teachers complain they are underpaid), they lack the funding to open municipal pools during the summer, they are closing libraries and cancelling summer reading programs for kids, and in many places public employee retirement funds are woefully underfunded. In Texas, where I live, the state is bailing out Dallas’ police and fire departments’ pension funds and literally closed Dallas County Schools—not the school district but the county agency that provided bus and others services.

Rather than wasting time and resources fighting a likely non-problem (human-caused climate change), mayors should focus on solving the local issues they were elected to confront.

Rather than raising prices and taxes on citizens and businesses—proven economic growth killers—to pay for green, feel-good programs that will ultimately have no measurable effect on climate, they should take steps to make their cities more attractive to businesses and attract economic growth.

Many of these guys and gals, who have the temerity to lecture Trump, the president of the United States, on climate matters, have run their cities into the ground and are going begging to the federal government for help in avoiding municipal bankruptcy, for increased school and health care funding, and to fix local roads and transit systems.

Despite the hubris USCM’s resolutions display, few mayors, if any, are climate or international policy experts. Mayors were elected to solve local problems … and if there was ever a problem that is not local, if it is a problem at all, it is global warming.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: New York Times; Inside Climate News; National Review; Governing; and Citilab


IN THIS ISSUE …

EU/China joint climate efforts flagNature behind rapid Antarctic 2016 sea ice loss


EU/CHINA JOINT CLIMATE EFFORTS FLAG

The marriage between China and the European Union over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement lasted less than a day—far less than the time it took Cher to file for divorce from Gregg Allman.

Just hours after Trump announced he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, stood before the cameras denouncing Trump’s decision and announcing Europe and China would forge ahead with the Paris climate agreement and work together to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Keqiang, Tusk, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, met in Brussels June 1 through 2 to discuss closer trade ties between Europe and China.

According to the Climate Observer, a draft of the joint communiqué on climate change expected to be announced at the end of the meeting was leaked before the summit. The draft statement said, “‘[the] EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever’ and that they confirm their commitments to the Paris Agreement. The two global players expressed their intent to increase their cooperation and to ‘work together with all stakeholders to combat climate change […] and promote global low GHG emissions, climate resilient and sustainable development.’ They also pledged to set up new policies and measures to implement their nationally-determined contributions [emission reductions].”

Yet, at summit’s end no joint climate statement was released, as conflicts between the EU and China over various trade issues—including the EU’s refusal to drop a WTO investigation into allegations China is dumping below-cost steel into European markets—stymied not just the climate communiqué, but joint agreements on other topics, like North Korea’s nuclear program, as well. As with so many of the climate disasters hyped by alarmists, The supposed joint commitment between China and the EU failed to materialize. National priorities overcame joint action. Of course, stories reporting the failure to agree didn’t make the front page.

SOURCES: Reuters; Irish Times; and Climate Observer


NATURE BEHIND RAPID ANTARCTIC 2016 SEA ICE LOSS

After a steady increase in sea ice extent since the late 1970s, with summer and winter sea ice extent records being broken repeatedly in 2014 and again in 2015, sea ice declined sharply in Antarctica in late 2016. A new study shows, just like the multi-decade increase in Antarctic sea ice, the sharp decline is due to natural causes, not anthropogenic global warming.

The British Antarctic Survey’s John Turner, lead author of the Geophysical Research Letters study, notes Antarctic sea ice is relatively thin, making it extremely vulnerable to strong winds. The researchers found Antarctica was hit with a series of strong storms from September through November 2016, which brought warm air and strong winds from the north, melting 30,000 square miles of ice per day—the equivalent of losing a South Carolina-sized chunk of sea ice every 24 hours. As a result, by March 2017, Antarctica’s sea ice extent reached its lowest recorded levels since satellites have been recording sea ice extent in 1978.

“There’s no indication this is anything but just natural variability,” Turner said, according to Watts Up With That. “It highlights the fact that the climate of the Antarctic is incredibly variable.”\

SOURCE: Watts Up With That

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