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The Leaflet: Climate Change and the States

September 28, 2017

This week's Leaflet examines policies and regulations enacted by climate change fears.

This week, The Heartland Institute sent out a press release from its environmental policy experts regarding the supposed exclusive leak in The New York Times of a draft of the “Climate Science Special Report” by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program. On Tuesday, the Times, in a front-page article, claimed it was the first to release the draft report and that scientists feared the Trump administration “could change or suppress” the report, which is a part of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. However, the report has been publicly available online since January, and four co-authors of the report told the Associated Press they were not aware of any suppression attempts by the current administration.

The special science report claims stronger evidence supports the theory global warming of the atmosphere and ocean has been rapid and is largely the effect of human activity since the mid-20th century. According to the report, natural variability is not a “convincing alternative explanation” for global temperature rise and “limited to a small fraction of observed climate trends.”

Many environmental experts disagree with the analysis, concluding the report uses flawed computer models and inaccurate data to scare the non-scientific community into “doing something” about the climate change crisis.

Heartland Research Fellow Isaac Orr, commenting on the climate change debate, said recently, “The recent story by The New York Times … demonstrates how politicized the debate over human influences on global temperatures has become.” 

Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, made a similar point, arguing, “It makes no sense to claim temperatures in the United States have risen by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 150 years when meteorologist Anthony Watts’ Surface Stations study showed only 7.9 percent of existing stations achieved accuracies better than +/-1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Many scientists and researchers believe humans’ carbon-dioxide emissions are not to blame for global warming. Professor of geography Arthur Viterto, wrote, for instance, “increasing mid-ocean seismic activity” contributes to global temperature rise more than CO2. Heartland Policy Advisor Donn Dears believes in the Svensmark hypothesis: “It’s very likely the Sun is the primary cause of global warming and has probably caused … temperatures [to rise] higher than today multiple times over the past 10,000 years.”

Solutions to any environmental or climate problem should not rely on the heavy hand of the government to mandate and regulate humans’ activities. Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are just one example of how misguided state policies can harm people. RPS mandates require a certain percentage of a state’s electricity development to come from renewable-energy sources, such as wind, water, or solar. RPS policies have resulted in retail electricity price increases in Delaware, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

Another example of costly government regulation is statewide hydraulic fracturing bans, which have been enacted in Maryland, New York, and Vermont and have contributed to those states’ lagging economic conditions.

Free-market innovations have proven to provide ways to curb carbon-dioxide emissions while also expanding the U.S. job market. For instance, the booming fracking industry has led to record oil and natural gas production in the United States, resulting in energy independence, thousands of new jobs, and ever-declining carbon-dioxide emissions.

 

What We’re Working On

Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Washington, DC’s Pushback Against Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines civil asset forfeiture laws and recent efforts at the federal level to solidify rules allowing seizure to occur, which Glans argues could have a negative effect on property rights. “Many federal legislators disagree with the recent efforts to expand civil asset forfeiture. In a May 2017 letter to the U.S. attorney general, a bipartisan group of legislators asked the Department of Justice to revise its civil judicial forfeiture policies and address the controversial Equitable Sharing Program. Congress should reject these new rules and implement reforms to remove incentives for police to seize assets and to require a conviction before property is taken,” Glans wrote. Read more

Health Care
Health Care Reform: A Toolbox for Patriots and Policymakers
In this opening chapter to The Patriot’s Toolbox, authors Joseph Bast and Matthew Glans examine the current state of health care reform and outline 10 principles that can guide reform efforts. “The good news is that policymakers can make health care more affordable and higher quality without increasing state budgets or the national debt, and without violating the freedoms of patients or health care providers. Enlightened legislators across the country are embracing parts of this ‘fresh start agenda.’ They offer guidance and leadership for elected officials elsewhere and for everyone interested in improving health care in the United States,” wrote Bast and Glans. Read more

Education
Research & Commentary: Just by Existing, Charter Schools Are Helping Public Schools Improve
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a new peer-reviewed study in the journal Education and Finance Policy that found charter schools in New York City are helping their neighboring public schools improve—just by existing. The report examined data gathered from 1996 to 2010 on close to 900,000 students, in grades 3 to 5, who attended traditional public schools in attendance zones that also contained a charter school. Students in these traditional public schools performed 0.021 standard deviations (a statistical measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean) higher in math and 0.020 higher in reading if their schools were located within half a mile of a charter. These gains were even more pronounced if the charter was located in the same building as the traditional school, with students performing 0.083 standard deviations higher in math and 0.059 higher in reading. Proximity to a charter school also saw boosts in student engagement and safety at traditional schools, with fewer students being held back. Read more

Energy & Environment
Wisconsin Legislature Passes First State REINS Act
In this article for Environment & Climate News, Bonner R. Cohen, senior fellow with the Center for Public Policy Research, writes that with the enactment of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, Wisconsin will become the first state to require any major regulation proposed by administrative agencies be approved by the state’s legislature and signed by the governor before it may take effect. Under REINS, any agency proposing a regulation hitting the $10 million threshold must request the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) to introduce a bill in the Assembly to authorize the rule, modify it to lower its costs, or withdraw the rule altogether. REINS also empowers JCRAR to request a public hearing during the rulemaking process, even before economic costs are determined. JCRAR is also able to request independent review of a proposed regulation’s economic impact. Additionally, Wisconsin’s REINS Act requires the state’s Department of Administration to determine the agency’s legal authority to create a proposed new regulation, making it more difficult for unnecessary, burdensome rules to be formulated by runaway executive agencies. Read more

From Our Free-Market Friends
Nebraska Debates Job Licensing
Adam Weinberg of the Platte Institute writes about a Nebraska licensing reform bill, Legislative Bill 343, that would ease restrictions and red tape in the cosmetology industry. Nebraska currently suffers from some of the “nation’s most costly and time-consuming requirements” for professional licenses, with training potentially costing more than $20,000 and taking longer than one year to finish. LB343 faces opposition from beauty and barber schools, which stand to lose business if licensing reforms pass. Read more