Trump’s Kids, Climate Scientists Disagree on Climate Policy
Climate Change Weekly #242
Reflecting his widely cited climate skepticism, presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged to end the United States’ participation in the Paris climate agreement and reverse various domestic carbon dioxide restrictions, including the Climate Action Plan, put into place by the Obama administration. Most of Trump’s cabinet nominees and many of his advisory and transition team members reflect his climate change skepticism.
Trump’s position on climate policy was bolstered recently by a February 23 letter signed by more than 300 prominent researchers – including agronomists, biologists, chemists, computer modelling specialists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, geologists, hydrologists, mathematicians, meteorologists, physicists, statisticians, and a former director of NASA – who have worked in or studied closely the fields of climate science, economics, and politics. They advised Trump to withdraw not just from the Paris climate agreement but from the whole U.N. climate edifice: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Their letter notes actions already taken, and those proposed, to fight climate change are not justified based on the current state of scientific knowledge about the causes and consequences of climate change. The researchers also warn domestic and international climate policies are costly and threatening to leave many of the four billion people in developing countries in poverty for generations to come. The letter and the expertise of those signing onto it could not be clearer. Trump is right: The United States must ditch its efforts to control the weather 100 years from now.
Unfortunately, though a simple signature is all it would take, Trump, president for a month now, has not withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate treaty. There are early indications his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may be to blame. Various news outlets reported an early draft of an expected executive order dismantling Barack Obama’s climate action plan also criticized the Paris climate agreement. Yet, apparently at the behest of his kids, Trump struck the language relating to the Paris agreement.
Ivanka’s disagreement with her father concerning climate change has long been known. A friend of hers reportedly said Ivanka “wanted to make climate change ... one of her signature issues.” After his election and at Ivanka’s behest, Trump met with climate change profiteer and alarmist-in-chief former vice president Al Gore.
Should climate realists like myself be worried Trump will backtrack on this issue critical to the economic well-being of this nation?
I hope Trump will follow the advice of scientists requesting he withdraw entirely from the UNFCCC. If instead of following the science, Trump is led to a more moderate position by his close family, and if he thus doesn’t scrap the climate policies the United States has adopted in response to U.N. climate treaties and agreements, the required emissions restrictions will raise energy costs substantially, making it difficult for the new president to “make America great again.”
IN THIS ISSUE …
Justice Alito condemns judicial deference, carbon dioxide ruling … ‘Green technologies’ are increasing carbon dioxide emissions … Native agricultural societies collapse due to cooler weather … UK’s Lords choose sound energy over climate ... 12th International Conference on Climate Change
Among the topics discussed in his wide-ranging keynote speech delivered at the Claremont Institute’s 2017 annual dinner on February 11, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito discussed the ubiquity of unconstitutional federal regulations using climate regulations as an example. Alito criticized the federal courts for deferring to executive agency interpretations of the scope of their own power when implementing controversial regulations. As a result of federal deference, Alito said there has “been a massive shift of lawmaking from the elected representatives of the people to unelected bureaucrats.”
One case Alito cited as evidence of this shift to administrative law-making was Massachusetts v. EPA, where a majority of the Supreme Court ruled carbon dioxide is a “pollutant” within the scope of the Clean Air Act, allowing EPA to regulate it. Alito dissented from the 5–4 decision.
Alito’s speech was right on the substance but hit the wrong target. Attacking the notion of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, Alito said:
Now, what is a pollutant? A pollutant is a subject that is harmful to human beings or to animals or to plants. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is not harmful to ordinary things, to human beings, or to animals, or to plants. It’s actually needed for plant growth. All of us are exhaling carbon dioxide right now. So, if it’s a pollutant, we’re all polluting. When Congress authorized the regulation of pollutants, what it had in mind were substances like sulfur dioxide, or particulate matter-basically, soot or smoke in the air. Congress was not thinking about carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
While Alito’s discussion of carbon dioxide is spot on, it was in fact the Supreme Court’s majority decision that allowed EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant – an action the agency had steadfastly claimed it did not have the authority to take and in fact had refused to take prior to the Court’s ruling.
There are numerous instances where the executive agencies have gone beyond the bounds of the law they are supposed to be upholding and courts have wrongly deferred to their expanded interpretation of the law. Massachusetts v. EPA is not one of those instances. This error was one of the Supreme Court’s making. Had the Court in fact deferred to EPA, Mass. v. EPA would have been decided much differently.
Research is once again showing so called “green” or “low carbon” energy sources are as bad or worse for the environment than the fossil fuel power they are meant to replace. A report out of the United Kingdom written by Duncan Brack of Chatham House, an international affairs think tank, shows Britain’s biggest power station received more than £450 million in subsidies in 2015 for burning wood pellets, imported primarily from the United States and Canada.
The problem is two-fold. First, most of the wood pellets come from virgin wood, not waste or wood residue. Burning the trees for fuel puts carbon dioxide and pollutants such as particulate matter into the atmosphere immediately, but carbon removed from the atmosphere (sequestration) by reforestation efforts takes place over decades. Second, since the vast majority of the trees cut down and turned into wood pellets come from America and Canada, the transportation and processing of wood into pellets also increases carbon dioxide emissions.
Brack calculated burning biomass for fuel in Britain using current sources and technologies produces substantially more greenhouse gas emissions than burning less expensive coal.
Elsewhere, a new study in Nature Energy finds household battery storage for solar power doesn’t reduce costs or emissions. When the energy used to charge and discharge a home battery system is counted, overall household electricity consumption increases. This results in increased emissions, as the energy used to charge and discharge such systems in the majority of locations comes from fossil fuel-driven power stations. The researchers report the increase in electric power use tops 591 kilowatt hours per household annually.
Using data from 100 households in Texas, Robert Fares and Michael Webber, two University of Texas researchers, found where the majority of electricity from the grid is powered by fossil fuels, emissions of regulated pollutants (including sulfur and nitrogen dioxide) as well as carbon dioxide emissions increase as the number of rooftop solar systems with battery storage systems expand.
“I expected that storage would lead to an increase in energy consumption, but I was surprised that the increase could be so significant – about an eight to 14 percent increase on average over the year,” said Fares.
A recent study in Scientific Reports finds climate change that occurred during the Little Ice Age caused the collapse of the large Native American urban/agrarian culture, the “Mississippians,” who occupied and dominated the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys before European landfall in the New World.
Researchers reconstructed and analyzed 2,100 years of temperature and precipitation proxy data, as captured in finely layered lake sediments. The evidence indicates catastrophic climate change, in the form of colder conditions and extended droughts, doomed food production, resulting in the civilization’s decline.
According to study co-author Jeremy Wilson, “Archeologists have recognized that from 1300 onward, Mississippian villages started disappearing – one after the other – almost like lightbulbs in a string, but the question has always been ‘why?’ Dr. Bird [Broxton Bird, paleoclimatologist and lead author] and his students have shown from the lake-sediment evidence that during the period known as the Little Ice Age, from 1300 to 1800, there was a profound change in climate to colder and drier conditions, which would have negatively impacted the growing of maize in and around Mississippian villages.”
One more study showing nature, not man, rules the climate roost and colder eras are worse for civilization than warmer times.
U.K. government interventions in energy markets to decarbonize electricity production have substantially raised energy costs and reduced reliability, according to a new report by the Economic Affairs Committee of Britain’s House of Lords. The study, “The Price of Power: Reforming the Electricity Market,” notes in 2014, 10 percent of electricity costs were due to climate change policies, a figure that is expected to rise to 25 percent of the average consumer’s electric bill by 2020 if current policies are continued. According to the House of Lords’ report, electric power prices for businesses and households have risen 58 percent since 2003 due to policies enacted by successive governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. At the same time, spare capacity has fallen dramatically, threatening grid reliability.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Economic Affairs Committee chairman Lord Hollick said, “Poorly designed government interventions, in pursuit of the decarbonisation, have put unnecessary pressure on the electricity supply and left consumers and industry paying too high a price. The government must make sure that the security of the UK’s energy supply is the priority of its energy policy.”
To secure a more affordable, reliable energy supply the report recommends slowing the pace of decarbonization and reducing government interventions in the market.
The Heartland Institute will host the 12th International Conference on Climate Change – carrying the theme “Resetting U.S. Climate Policy” – on Thursday and Friday, March 23–24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. The conference will feature the courageous men and women who spoke the truth about climate change during the height of the global warming scare. Now, many of them are advising the new administration or joining it in senior positions.
Since 2008, more than 4,000 people have attended one or more ICCCs. Seats for this one are filling up fast, so if you’re able to attend, register today!
If you’re unable to attend but nevertheless would like to support sensible public policy on climate and energy, you might consider making a donation to help offset the conference expenses, which will be considerable. Heartland has established an Indiegogo funding site – please consider becoming a backer today, and forward the site link to your like-minded friends, family, and colleagues.