Skip Navigation

Trump Changes Threat Level for Climate

December 22, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #272

As one might expect with all the policy differences between President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama, the focus of Trump’s first National Security Strategy document differs markedly from Obama’s. Nowhere is the difference more pronounced than on climate change.

In announcing his National Security Strategy in 2015, Obama said, “Today, there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change.” Consistent with that view, by September 2016 Obama had issued a memorandum requiring federal agencies to consider the effects of climate change in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans. In addition, Obama pushed the development of the Paris climate agreement, under which the United States and other developed countries agreed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions through domestic legislation limiting fossil fuel use.

By contrast, Trump has repeatedly said climate change does not rank among the most important threats facing the United States, and he withdrew America from the Paris climate agreement. He has removed climate change from the list of national security threats, instead emphasizing energy security and advancing U.S. economic and national security interests through increased access to and sharing of energy, including fossil fuels.

Trump’s National Security Strategy focuses on conventional and immediate national security risks, listing by name border security, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Iran’s support for terrorist groups, Jihadist terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al Qaeda, and state and non-state actors, including terrorists and criminal cartels, who undermine social order and contribute to crime with drug and human trafficking networks.

As for climate change, the draft report says:

The United States will remain a global leader in reducing traditional pollution, as well as greenhouse gases, while growing its economy. This achievement, which can serve as [a] model to other countries, flows from innovation, technology breakthroughs, and energy efficiency gains – not from onerous regulation. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.

In a press release discussing Trump’s decision to deemphasize climate change and instead stress energy dominance, Heartland Institute President Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D. noted Trump’s move would promote freedom and prosperity both within the U.S. and abroad.

“For far too long, America has been governed by politicians who seem ashamed at our nation’s exceptionalism,” said Huelskamp. “President Trump is different. He understands a strong America is vital not only to our people, but to the entire globe. By promoting American prosperity, national defense, the use of U.S. resources and talents, and the principles of liberty, democracy and the rule of law, this national security strategy is an inspirational outline for strong American leadership in the world.”

Trump was right to shift the focus of America’s national security from the highly uncertain, ephemeral threats posed by climate change to the much more immediate, concrete threats posed by terrorists and the actions of various rogue regimes around the world.

The best policy to further U.S. security interests vis-à-vis developing countries is to help them secure the energy they need to feed their growing populations and modernize their transportation and electric power systems. History shows nothing advances good relations and peace better better than policies that promote freedom, economic growth, and prosperity. Obama didn’t understand this. Trump does.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Watts Up With That and The Federalist


IN THIS ISSUE …

Court blocks Washington state climate programResearchers alter data to show sea levels risingSun, cosmic rays affect clouds and climateClimate target trouble in EU, UK


COURT BLOCKS WASHINGTON STATE CLIMATE PROGRAM

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon invalidated major portions of Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) climate agenda, determining the state Department of Ecology (DE) lacked authority to impose without legislative approval Clean Air Rules requiring greenhouse-gas cuts by refineries, fuel distributors, and other major industrial emitters.

Inslee had ordered DE to implement regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions after he failed in 2015 to get the legislature to enact either a carbon tax or a carbon cap-and-trade program. DE’s rule required dozens of industries to cap and gradually reduce their carbon emissions by an average 1.7 percent a year, or pay for equivalent reductions elsewhere.

Mary Catherine McAleer, a lobbyist for the Association of Washington Business, which challenged the rule in court, said “For the purposes of carbon reduction, the rule has lost its relevance.”

SOURCE: Governing


RESEARCHERS ALTER DATA TO SHOW SEA LEVELS RISING

Two new studies by Australian researchers Albert Parker and Clifford D. Ollier, published in the journal Earth Systems and Environment, call into question estimates used by the United Nations (UN) to back its claim human-caused climate change is increasing the rate of global sea level rise.

One study, using sea level measurements in three locations around the Indian Ocean dating back to the 1800s, discovered the raw sea level measurements show no rise in sea levels. This contrasts with UN claims Indian Ocean sea levels have risen dramatically. The UN’s sea level rise estimates rely on data from the UK’s Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL). PSMSL claimed raw data were insufficient for accurate coverage, and thus it “adjusted” the data to reflect measurements at other locations. Parker and Ollier show the adjustments were done in “arbitrary” ways, using methods that consistently show higher sea levels than are actually measured.

“The adjustments are always in the direction of increasing the alarm,” Ollier told Fox News. “If the raw data show no alarming rise, and you want to create an alarm, you have to alter the raw data.”

Parker and Ollier’s second study shows the UN often uses data from locations with only short-term records, which miss large scale, long-term, decadal and multi-decadal oscillations that shift sea levels upwards and downwards. Using multiple analyses of tide gauges along the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the researchers show when these oscillations are accounted for sea levels have experienced on average a much more modest rise since the beginning of the twentieth century than estimated by the UN.

“Limited data from limited areas of study are … unsuitable for making predictions about the whole world sea level. Yet, people continue to make such predictions, often on an alarming scale,” write Parker and Ollier. “Without incorporating these oscillations, it is impossible to make useful assessments of present global accelerations and reliable predictions of future changes of sea level. Furthermore, it is well known that local sea-level changes occur also because of local factors such as subsidence due to groundwater or oil extraction, or tectonic movements that may be either up or down.”

Ollier estimates sea levels are rising only half as fast (about half a foot per century) as claimed by the UN. He says much if not all of the sea level rise may be due to entirely natural factors.

SOURCE: Fox News; Earth Systems and Environment: Is the Sea Level Stable at Aden, Yemen? and Earth Systems and Environment:  Short-Term Tide Gauge Records from One Location are Inadequate to Infer Global Sea-Level Acceleration


SUN, COSMIC RAYS AFFECT CLOUDS AND CLIMATE

New research published in Nature Communications seems to confirm the sun’s role in climate is underestimated by climate models. Climate models assume solar activity has a direct but minimal effect on global temperatures and climate. This research is the first to use experimental data to confirm a powerful indirect effect of solar and cosmic activity on Earth’s climate.

The data indicate cosmic rays from supernovae, and from fluctuations in solar irradiance, lead to changes in cloud formation on Earth, producing an effect five to seven times stronger than the direct effect of changes solar irradiance alone.

The experiments show as cosmic rays increase so does cloud cover, and visa-versa. As clouds increase, they block the amount of sunlight and solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface and trap some amount of outgoing radiation, with more clouds on balance having a cooling effect. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits the causes and consequences of cloud formation are poorly understood, with climate models’ treatment of clouds being one of the primary weaknesses limiting the accuracy of their projections.

The experiments described in Nature show how cosmic rays affect cloud formation: When solar activity is low, more cosmic rays reach Earth, forming more low clouds, and the world is cooler. When the sun is active, fewer cosmic rays reach Earth, fewer low clouds form, and the world warms.

Lead author Henrik Svensmark told the Global Warming Policy Foundation the new research explains why, over geologic time scales, the correlation between climate variation and changes in cosmic rays is much larger and closer than the correlation between climate variation and shifts in greenhouse gases. The idea that carbon dioxide has been controlling climate on long time scales is wrong.

The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age coincide with changes in solar activity, as does the recent pause in rising global temperatures extending from the late twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries, which has occurred during a time of remarkably low solar activity.

“[This research] gives a physical foundation to the large body of empirical evidence showing that solar activity is reflected in variations in Earth’s climate,” said Svensmark in a media statement accompanying the release of the Nature study. “For example, the Medieval Warm Period around year 1000AD and the cold period in the Little Ice Age 1300-1900 AD both fit changes in solar activity,”

The Australian reports Svensmark concluding, “The logical consequence is that the climate sensitivity of [carbon dioxide] is smaller than what climate models suggest …, since both carbon dioxide and solar activity has had an impact.”

SOURCE: Nature Communications; Global Warming Policy Foundation; and The Australian (behind paywall)


CLIMATE TARGET TROUBLE IN EU, UK

The European Union, already well behind the pace of emission cuts needed to meet its Paris climate agreement targets, is taking steps that make it even less likely the bloc will meet its final goals.

In the United Kingdom (UK) – which will soon no longer be part of the EU but nevertheless has committed to meeting the emission cut targets to which it agreed prior to Brexit – the government withdrew subsidies from new onshore wind farms in 2016. More recently, thanks to a decision by a local council, more than a dozen large wind turbines on the edge of the Lake District will have to be torn down – and others may soon follow – to restore views and the public’s walking rights-of-way. The South Lakeland district council refused the wind farm operator’s application to extend the turbines’ operating lives through 2027, instead requiring the company to remove the turbines according to terms of the original license by August 26, 2018.

When the turbines are removed it will be the first large wind farm dismantled since the national government began pushing their construction across Britain in 1991. Laura Fiske, planning officer for Friends of the Lake District, says the decision establishes a precedent making it easier to prevent other wind farm operators from extended the life of other turbines soon to be up for renewal.

“This decision is a victory for the local communities who live in the shadow of this development imposed on them by the government in the early 1990s,” said Fiske.

Meanwhile, under the new leadership of Under Secretary-General Catherine Day, the European Commission is changing course on renewable energy targets. Since 2010, EU member states have been obligated to meet specific national targets for renewable energy as part of an overall EU goal. Under the new plan, while EU’s overall target for renewables will increase to 27 percent by 2030, up from 20 percent by 2020 under the old plan, individual national governments will not be held to specific legally binding targets, meaning they cannot be punished by the EU for failing to contribute to the overall goal. Environmental groups have bemoaned this change, arguing absent binding national targets, there is no legally enforceable way to ensure the EU meets its goal.

SOURCES: Euractive and The Times (UK)

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

Related News & Opinion View All News