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Trump and Climate Policy

December 2, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #233

In his Contract with the American Voter, President-elect Donald Trump’s “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again,” Trump outlines a number of measures he says he will undertake to create jobs and economic growth. I’d like to suggest three actions Trump could take to jump-start the economy.

In a September 21, 2015 appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list … we have much bigger problems.” If this accurately reflects Trump’s views, the first step he could take to undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s vainglorious attempt to control the weather would be to reverse the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determination carbon dioxide is a pollutant endangering public and environmental health (the “endangerment finding”).

The endangerment finding came about following a five to four decision in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA. A majority of the Supreme Court ruled, if EPA found carbon dioxide emissions were causing global warming and global warming may reasonably be expected to endanger public health or welfare, EPA had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and indeed was required to do so unless it could provide a reasonable basis for not undertaking regulation.

Relying upon unsubstantiated projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, EPA determined carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industry threaten human welfare, and it thus began to adopt regulations limiting emissions from cars and power plants.

The endangerment finding is the basis for the ratcheting up of automobile fuel economy standards to levels that may soon rob consumers of choice in the vehicles they drive, either by forcing all but the smallest cars off the roads or, at the very least, making larger cars and trucks too expensive for all but the relatively wealthy to drive. In addition, the endangerment finding underpins various Obama administration regulations requiring utilities, oil and gas producers, and others to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. If these rules are not overturned by Trump, Americans will pay much more for energy and their supplies will be less reliable.

Trump can’t undo the endangerment finding with the stroke of a pen. Instead, he must charge EPA to demonstrate through independent, validated research that carbon dioxide emissions are toxic (they aren’t at any foreseeable levels) or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of disease, or other harms attributable directly to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. If EPA can’t directly link such problems to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (it can’t), or if EPA can’t show such problems can be alleviated or dramatically reduced by cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (it can’t), EPA should withdraw the endangerment finding.

Withdrawing the endangerment finding would end the legal justification for a range of climate regulations. In the process, it also would end the ability of radical environmental activists to use the courts to impose climate policies on an unwilling public whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate policies.

Trump recognizes to fully reverse President Barack Obama’s harmful climate policies America must withdraw from international climate agreements driving many domestic climate actions and cease diverting billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money from important domestic concerns to United Nations climate programs. As a result, in his Contract with the American Voter Trump pledges to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs, and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.” Trump can unilaterally cease the Obama administration’s illegal shift of state department funds, funds directed by Congress for use in other diplomatic programs, to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.

Finally, the easiest way for Trump to end the United States’ participation in all international climate agreements would be for him, on day one, to remove the country’s signature from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Article 25 of the UNFCCC allows any state party to the convention to withdraw, without further obligation, upon giving one year’s notice. Withdrawing from the UNFCCC would cancel the United States’ obligations to all other U.N.-brokered climate agreements subsequent to it, because they are all built upon it.

These three actions – requiring EPA to justify its endangerment finding, cease diverting funds to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund, and withdrawing the United States from the UNFCCC – would be great first steps to putting America first during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

-- H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Contract with the American Voter and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


IN THIS ISSUE …

NASA says warming = falling seasProtected forests logged for EU climate goalsAntarctic sea ice not meltingHigh probability Europe was hotter in 1540 than present


NASA SAYS WARMING = FALLING SEAS

A new study from researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) indicates climate change is causing sea levels to fall – not rise as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the study slated to be published in the February 2 issue of Science, while many ice sheets and glaciers are melting, changes in weather patterns and water use have resulted in Earth’s continents soaking up an additional 3.2 trillion tons of water. This has slowed or reduced sea level rise by more than 20 percent over the past decade. According to the research, “The water gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world’s seventh largest lake.”

Using satellites, the JPL researchers found increasing amounts of water evaporating from the world’s oceans and seas and falling over land as rain or snow is being captured in the soil, in lakes, and in underground aquifers.

According to a NASA press release, “‘We always assumed that people’s increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,’ said lead author J.T. Reager of JPL, who began work on the study as a graduate student at UC Irvine. ‘What we didn’t realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge – at least temporarily.’”

SOURCE: NASA.Gov


PROTECTED FORESTS LOGGED FOR EU CLIMATE GOALS

Research from the European conservation organization Birdlife shows protected forests in Europe and around the globe are being intensively logged to satisfy the European Union’s (EU) demand for renewable energy required to reach its climate commitments. Birdlife estimates as much as 65 percent of Europe’s renewable output currently comes not from wind or solar but from bioenergy, turning forest material into wood pellets and chips to burn as fuel. Although under EU law biofuel for power plants is supposed to come from forest residue or forest waste, it turns out much of the raw material is coming from trees felled specifically to provide fuel, often in protected forests. Birdlife found logging has taken place in protected forests such as in the Poloniny national park in eastern Slovakia and in Italian riverside forests around Emilia-Romagna.

The problem is large-scale biofuel power plants require more fuel than can be consistently provided from forest waste alone. Logging trees for energy releases all of their stored carbon in a single instant as they are burned for fuel, while trees planted to replace those logged absorb carbon dioxide only slowly over time. Largely due to its biofuel demand it is estimated Europe’s carbon sink will decline approximately 100 million tons between 2020 and 2030.

EU’s demand for biofuels, both for transportation and electricity, is also contributing to logging beyond Europe. One plant in Vyborg, Russia produces 800,000 tons of wood pellets annually from trees logged from Russian forests in part to meet demand from various EU countries. In addition, Colombia “has doubled its number of palm oil plantations in less than a decade, while tripling exports to Europe. Half a million hectares of the country’s forest land – including former tropical rainforest areas – have been cleared for agricultural exploitation since 2006.”

Commenting on the report, Sini Eräjää, Birdlife’s bioenergy officer, said: “This report provides clear evidence that the EU’s renewable energy policies have led to increased harvesting of whole trees and to continued use of food crops for energy. We are subsidizing large-scale environmental destruction, not just outside Europe, as in Indonesia or the US, but also right in our own backyard.”

SOURCE: The Guardian


ANTARCTIC SEA ICE NOT MELTING

Contrary to projections made by the general circulation models used by IPCC, which predict a dramatic decline in sea ice levels in Antarctica due to anthropogenic climate change, observations made in ships’ logbooks from expeditions by Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, Erich von Drygalski, and others show Antarctic sea ice levels in the early 1900s were similar to where satellites show they are today, between 5.3 and 7.4 million square kilometers. These records, combined with recent satellite observations, indicate Antarctic ice levels are much less sensitive to the effects of climate change than climate models suggest.

Jonathan Day, Ph.D., lead author of the study published in the journal Cryosphere, said:

The [data from] missions of Scott and Shackleton ... and other explorers could profoundly change the way we view the ebb and flow of Antarctic sea ice. We know that sea ice in the Antarctic has increased slightly over the past 30 years, since satellite observations began. Scientists have been grappling to understand this trend in the context of global warming, but these new findings suggest it may not be anything new.

SOURCE: The Sun


HIGH PROBABILITY EUROPE WAS HOTTER IN 1540 THAN PRESENT

A new paper from researchers at various universities in Switzerland and Germany published in the journal Environmental Research Letters finds temperatures in Europe during the mid-1500s were as high as or higher than today. Various studies have claimed the summer in Europe in 2003 was likely the warmest for centuries. Yet, in part using historical documents discussing the number of dry days in the spring and summer of 1540 combined with climate models, the team of European researchers finds strong evidence Central Europe in 1540 was probably dryer and warmer than during 2003.

[The model] results show medium confidence that summer mean temperatures and maximum temperatures in Central Europe in 1540 were warmer than the respective present-day mean summer temperatures (assessed between 1966 and 2015). The model-based reconstruction suggests ... with a probability of 40%–70%, the highest daily temperatures in 1540 were even warmer than in 2003 ...

SOURCE: Environmental Research Letters

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org