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Turnabout Is Fairplay: Climate Subpoenas Issued to Green Groups

July 29, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #220

CCW 220

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has evidently decided “what’s good for the goose, it good for the gander,” issuing subpoenas on July 13 to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and eight environmental organizations “to obtain documents related to coordinated efforts to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists, and scholars of their First Amendment rights.”

In a press release announcing the subpoenas Smith wrote, “The attorneys general have appointed themselves to decide what is valid and what is invalid regarding climate change. The attorneys general are pursuing a political agenda at the expense of scientists’ right to free speech.”

He continued, “The Committee has a responsibility to protect First Amendment rights of companies, academic institutions, scientists, and nonprofit organizations. That is why the Committee is obligated to ask for information from the attorneys general and others.”

Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) said, “Since March, these attorneys general have attempted to use questionable legal tactics to force the production of documents and communications from a broad group of scientists, companies, and non-profit organizations. These actions are an attempt to chill the scientific research of those who do not support the attorneys’ general and environmental groups’ political positions.”

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) added, “Instead of upholding the constitution, protecting citizens, and putting real criminal behind bars, these attorneys general are using taxpayer dollars to manufacture charges to send a political message.”

Subpoenas were also sent to attorneys representing the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Climate Accountability Institute, the Climate Reality Project, the Rockefeller Family Fund and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Global Warming Legal Action Project. The subpoenas request documents relating to the “assistance provided to the attorneys general” in their investigations of climate change skeptics.

Using freedom of information laws the Energy & Environment Legal Institute discovered members of Schneiderman’s staff secretly collaborated with environmental activists to attack companies and groups publicly challenging their climate change claims, even though being a “climate denier” is protected speech under the First Amendment. The documents also showed the attorneys general tried to hide the role environmentalists played in targeting companies and groups for prosecution.

CNS News quotes University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds pointing out under federal law, it is a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States.”

-- H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: CNS News and House Science Committee


IN THIS ISSUE …

Human activities greening the Northern Hemisphere … Philippines chooses progress over Paris … House rejects dollars for global climate fund … German climate policy threatens economy and the poor … Drought not worsening in China


HUMAN ACTIVITIES GREENING THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE

New research published in Nature: Climate Change, conducted by a multinational team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Climate Change Science Institute has found a positive correlation between human activity and improved plant growth.

The research used new environmental data and statistical methods to discover a significant human-vegetation interaction roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the North Frigid Zone above the Arctic Circle. Remote-sensing data from satellites and computer simulations found a significant “greening” trend over vegetated areas in the northern extratropical latitudes between 1982 and 2011, indicating increased plant growth. After accounting for internal climate variability and responses to natural forcings such as volcanic eruptions and incoming solar radiation, it became clear the greening could only be explained by the increased greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities.

The researchers believe their methodology and detection and attribution algorithm could be applied to study broad-scale terrestrial ecosystem dynamics, to help with making effective decisions concerning ecosystem management, agricultural planning, and conservation.

SOURCE: Terra Daily


PHILIPPINES CHOOSES PROGRESS OVER PARIS

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced on July 18 his administration would not honor the December 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, calling agreement “stupid” and “absurd.” The Philippines signed the Paris agreement but has yet to ratify it, which now seems unlikely based on Duterte’s statements. Duterte says the international treaty would stymie the country’s industrial growth. The issue arose when a foreign ambassador reminded Duterte of the country’s commitment to limit its carbon emissions. Duterte told the ambassador the climate change agreement was forged just when the Philippines was on its way to develop its own industries, stating, “Now that we’re developing, you will impose a limit? That’s absurd. ... They [industrialized countries] think that they can dictate the destiny of the rest of the [world].” Going further Duterte said, “We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here. That’s stupid.... That was not my signature. I will not honor that.”

SOURCE: Philippine Daily Inquirer


HOUSE REJECTS DOLLARS FOR GLOBAL CLIMATE FUND

On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) to the House State Department and foreign operations spending bill to let the federal government contribute to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF). Texas Rep. Kay Granger (R) objected to the amendment, noting it would “strike language preventing the administration from carrying out its harmful climate change policies.” Lowey’s proposal failed on a 20–29 vote.

Although the Obama administration has pledged $3 billion for the GCF, Congress, which constitutionally controls the purse, has rejected such spending. The 2015 year-end spending deal didn’t include the $500 million Obama wanted for the GCF, but the State Department provided the funding anyway, arguing, because the deal didn’t explicitly prohibit GCF spending, it could shift the $500 million from other accounts to contribute to the GCF.

To prevent such fund- shifting in the future, Appropriations Committee Republicans in both the House and Senate included GCF funding prohibitions in their 2017 State Department spending bills.

Granger, chairwoman of the State Department appropriations subcommittee, said she received more member requests to block GCF spending than for any other program.

SOURCE: The Hill


GERMAN CLIMATE POLICY THREATENS THE ECONOMY AND THE POOR

Germany’s much-ballyhooed green energy transition, “energiewende,” has proven to be a costly disaster, making Germany’s electric prices the second highest in the European Union, bankrupting power companies, and providing a huge incentive for heavy industries and manufacturing to flee the country for lands with cheaper, more reliable electric power.

In an attempt to kick-start fledgling renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, the German government guaranteed producers locked-in, long-term, above-market rates called feed-in tariffs. Their policies worked well, forcing unreliable technologies onto the grid at high costs in the form of a green surcharge on peoples’ power bills.

Out of concern for its economic competitiveness Germany attempted to shield its large companies from the high energy costs created by green energy policies by offering them an 80 percent discount on the green energy fee charged to fund renewable power subsidies. While the large companies benefit from the lower surcharge, they still face the high electric power prices brought about by heavy use of wind and solar power. In addition, small businesses and individual households end up paying more to cover the discounted fees payed by big business.

The deputy head of the Christian Democrat Party (CDU), Michael Fuchs, noted green surcharges added about 23 billion euros or approximately $25.5 billion to power bills. He also pointed out expensive power amounts to a pernicious sort of regressive tax, felt most keenly by society’s poorest members.

The ruling government seems unconcerned about the plight of the poor or German competitiveness, as evidenced by its new “Climate Protection Plan 2050,” offered by Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendrick, which CDU says amounts to “proscribing a command economy.”

Under the plan, Germany would “decarbonize” by 2050. The plan would end the use of coal while converting the entire transportation system to electrical cars by 2030. Under this plan, at a time when Germany is converting to an all-electric fleet – demanding more electric power – it will be shutting down its two most reliable sources of electricity, nuclear power, which is already being shuttered, and coal power. The plan also would ban central gas and oil heating systems for new buildings, promotes cycling and organic farming, encourages consumers to reduce their meat consumption by at least half by 2050, and increases taxes – all to fight climate change.

If this plan becomes law – and CDU is fighting it – I predict a further steep decline in the German economy with businesses fleeing these mandates that lock in government favored inefficient technologies.

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Forum and The American Interest


DROUGHT NOT WORSENING IN CHINA

Research examining drought conditions in Southwest China across the past three centuries finds no evidence instances of drought are becoming more frequent, longer lasting, or more severe when they occur, despite significantly higher greenhouse gas concentrations since the middle of the twentieth century and climate models’ predictions droughts will get worse.

Research published in the International Journal of Climatology analyzed tree ring cores from Picea likiangensis trees from southwest China to reconstruct spring-season Palmer Drought Severity Index (PSDI) values for the region. The researchers determined there have been multiple wet (positive PSDI values) and dry (negative PSDI values) periods over the 361-year record, with extremely dry periods occurring in 1736–37, 1758, 1762, 1766, 1768–69, 1819, 1969, and 2008.

Although the 2000s was a relatively dry decade, the researchers write, “our study reveals that spring drought events during this period were not as extreme as in some other periods within the time scope of our study.” In other words, in one more part of the globe, reality is once again confounding climate model projections because nothing unusual, unnatural, or unprecedented from a drought perspective can be detected in Southwest China.

SOURCE: Cato Institute

Article Tags
Environment
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

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