Hard to see why when we have three of those already. Deciding on the answer before you do the research makes the research of negligible credibility. It would not surprise me if this group were acting to cut off a call for a real unbiased assessment. Anthony Watts and Pielke Sr. have now looked into it and think it's on the level, however
Muller calls his latest obsession the Berkeley Earth project. The aim is so simple that the complexity and magnitude of the undertaking is easy to miss. Starting from scratch, with new computer tools and more data than has ever been used, they will arrive at an independent assessment of global warming. The team will also make every piece of data it uses - 1.6bn data points - freely available on a website. It will post its workings alongside, including full information on how more than 100 years of data from thousands of instruments around the world are stitched together to give a historic record of the planet's temperature.
Muller is fed up with the politicised row that all too often engulfs climate science. By laying all its data and workings out in the open, where they can be checked and challenged by anyone, the Berkeley team hopes to achieve something remarkable: a broader consensus on global warming. In no other field would Muller's dream seem so ambitious, or perhaps, so naive.
"We are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious," Muller says, over a cup of tea. "We are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find." Why does Muller feel compelled to shake up the world of climate change? "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close," he says.
Muller is moving into crowded territory with sharp elbows. There are already three heavyweight groups that could be considered the official keepers of the world's climate data. Each publishes its own figures that feed into the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City produces a rolling estimate of the world's warming. A separate assessment comes from another US agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The third group is based in the UK and led by the Met Office. They all take readings from instruments around the world to come up with a rolling record of the Earth's mean surface temperature. The numbers differ because each group uses its own dataset and does its own analysis, but they show a similar trend. Since pre-industrial times, all point to a warming of around 0.75C.
You might think three groups was enough, but Muller rolls out a list of shortcomings, some real, some perceived, that he suspects might undermine public confidence in global warming records. For a start, he says, warming trends are not based on all the available temperature records. The data that is used is filtered and might not be as representative as it could be. He also cites a poor history of transparency in climate science, though others argue many climate records and the tools to analyse them have been public for years.
Then there is the fiasco of 2009 that saw roughly 1,000 emails from a server at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) find their way on to the internet. The fuss over the messages, inevitably dubbed Climategate, gave Muller's nascent project added impetus. Climate sceptics had already attacked James Hansen, head of the Nasa group, for making political statements on climate change while maintaining his role as an objective scientist. The Climategate emails fuelled their protests. "With CRU's credibility undergoing a severe test, it was all the more important to have a new team jump in, do the analysis fresh and address all of the legitimate issues raised by sceptics," says Muller.
This latest point is where Muller faces his most delicate challenge. To concede that climate sceptics raise fair criticisms means acknowledging that scientists and government agencies have got things wrong, or at least could do better. But the debate around global warming is so highly charged that open discussion, which science requires, can be difficult to hold in public. At worst, criticising poor climate science can be taken as an attack on science itself, a knee-jerk reaction that has unhealthy consequences. "Scientists will jump to the defence of alarmists because they don't recognise that the alarmists are exaggerating," Muller says.
The Berkeley Earth project came together more than a year ago, when Muller rang David Brillinger, a statistics professor at Berkeley and the man Nasa called when it wanted someone to check its risk estimates of space debris smashing into the International Space Station. He wanted Brillinger to oversee every stage of the project. Brillinger accepted straight away. Since the first meeting he has advised the scientists on how best to analyse their data and what pitfalls to avoid. "You can think of statisticians as the keepers of the scientific method, " Brillinger told me. "Can scientists and doctors reasonably draw the conclusions they are setting down? That's what we're here for."
For the rest of the team, Muller says he picked scientists known for original thinking. One is Saul Perlmutter, the Berkeley physicist who found evidence that the universe is expanding at an ever faster rate, courtesy of mysterious "dark energy" that pushes against gravity. Another is Art Rosenfeld, the last student of the legendary Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi, and something of a legend himself in energy research. Then there is Robert Jacobsen, a Berkeley physicist who is an expert on giant datasets; and Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, who has raised concerns over tribalism and hubris in climate science.
Robert Rohde, a young physicist who left Berkeley with a PhD last year, does most of the hard work. He has written software that trawls public databases, themselves the product of years of painstaking work, for global temperature records. These are compiled, de-duplicated and merged into one huge historical temperature record. The data, by all accounts, are a mess. There are 16 separate datasets in 14 different formats and they overlap, but not completely. Muller likens Rohde's achievement to Hercules's enormous task of cleaning the Augean stables.
The wealth of data Rohde has collected so far - and some dates back to the 1700s - makes for what Muller believes is the most complete historical record of land temperatures ever compiled. It will, of itself, Muller claims, be a priceless resource for anyone who wishes to study climate change. So far, Rohde has gathered records from 39,340 individual stations worldwide.
Publishing an extensive set of temperature records is the first goal of Muller's project. The second is to turn this vast haul of data into an assessment on global warming. Here, the Berkeley team is going its own way again. The big three groups - Nasa, Noaa and the Met Office - work out global warming trends by placing an imaginary grid over the planet and averaging temperatures records in each square. So for a given month, all the records in England and Wales might be averaged out to give one number. Muller's team will take temperature records from individual stations and weight them according to how reliable they are.
This is where the Berkeley group faces its toughest task by far and it will be judged on how well it deals with it. There are errors running through global warming data that arise from the simple fact that the global network of temperature stations was never designed or maintained to monitor climate change. The network grew in a piecemeal fashion, starting with temperature stations installed here and there, usually to record local weather.
Among the trickiest errors to deal with are so-called systematic biases, which skew temperature measurements in fiendishly complex ways. Stations get moved around, replaced with newer models, or swapped for instruments that record in celsius instead of fahrenheit. The times measurements are taken varies, from say 6am to 9pm. The accuracy of individual stations drift over time and even changes in the surroundings, such as growing trees, can shield a station more from wind and sun one year to the next. Each of these interferes with a station's temperature measurements, perhaps making it read too cold, or too hot. And these errors combine and build up.
This is the real mess that will take a Herculean effort to clean up. The Berkeley Earth team is using algorithms that automatically correct for some of the errors, a strategy Muller favours because it doesn't rely on human interference. When the team publishes its results, this is where the scrutiny will be most intense.
Despite the scale of the task, and the fact that world-class scientific organisations have been wrestling with it for decades, Muller is convinced his approach will lead to a better assessment of how much the world is warming. "I've told the team I don't know if global warming is more or less than we hear, but I do believe we can get a more precise number, and we can do it in a way that will cool the arguments over climate change, if nothing else," says Muller. "Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have."
He will find out soon enough if his hopes to forge a true consensus on climate change are misplaced. It might not be a good sign that one prominent climate sceptic contacted by the Guardian, Canadian economist Ross McKitrick, had never heard of the project. Another, Stephen McIntyre, whom Muller has defended on some issues, hasn't followed the project either, but said "anything that [Muller] does will be well done". Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia was unclear on the details of the Berkeley project and didn't comment.
"No consensus". Just what is Muller up to?
In the article above Muller speaks as an unwavering Warmist -- e.g. "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close" -- but below he admits that there is no consensus. The two positions are not strictly contradictory but are a surprising combination
An article in the Guardian this weekend [see above] tells about a Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who has assembled a team of scientists for an initiative he calls the Berkeley Earth project. His goal is to do research on climate change by essentially starting over and creating new models from scratch. He intends to use different methods than the ones that have already been used to produce findings currently hailed as evidence for global warming.
Muller acknowledges that as of now, there is still no consensus on the state of warming, and that the skeptics have made legitimate criticisms of the methods used in research so far. He seeks to produce results untainted by political influence and, according to the Guardian, is strictly interested in scientific accuracy. "Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have," he said.
The corruption of climate science
Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
Politicians formed the IPCC over 20 years ago with an endgame in mind: to regulate CO2 emissions. I know, because I witnessed some of the behind-the-scenes planning. It is not a scientific organization. It was organized to use the government-funded scientific research establishment to achieve policy goals.
Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But when they are portrayed as representing unbiased science, that IS a bad thing. If anthropogenic global warming - and ocean `acidification' (now there's a biased and totally incorrect term) - ends up being largely a false alarm, those who have run the IPCC are out of a job. More on that later.
I don't want to be misunderstood on this. IF we are destroying the planet with our fossil fuel burning, then something SHOULD be done about it.
But the climate science community has allowed itself to be used on this issue, and as a result, politicians, activists, and the media have successfully portrayed the biased science as settled. They apparently do not realize that `settled science' is an oxymoron.
The most vocal climate scientists defending the IPCC have lost their objectivity. Yes, they have what I consider to be a plausible theory. But they actively suppress evidence to the contrary, for instance attempts to study natural explanations for recent warming.
That's one reason why the public was so outraged about the ClimateGate e-mails. ClimateGate doesn't prove their science is wrong.but it does reveal their bias. Science progresses by investigating alternative explanations for things. Long ago, the IPCC all but abandoned that search.
Oh, they have noted (correctly I believe) that a change in the total output of the sun is not to blame. But there are SO many other possibilities, and all they do is dismiss those possibilities out of hand. They have a theory - more CO2 is to blame - and they religiously stick to it. It guides all of the research they do.
The climate models are indeed great accomplishments. It's what they are being used for that is suspect. A total of 23 models cover a wide range of warming estimates for our future, and yet there is no way to test them for what they are being used for! climate change predictions.
Virtually all of the models produce decadal time scale warming that exceeds what we have observed in the last 15 years. That fact has been known for years, but its publication in the peer reviewed literature continues to be blocked.
My theory is that a natural change in cloud cover has caused most of the recent warming. Temperature proxy data from around the world suggests that just about every century in the last 2,000 years has experienced warming or cooling. Why should today's warmth be manmade, when the Medieval Warm Period was not? Just because we finally have one potential explanation - CO2?
This only shows how LITTLE we understand about climate change.not how MUCH we know.
Why would scientists allow themselves to be used in this way? When I have pressed them on the science over the years, they all retreat to the position that getting away from fossil fuels is the `right thing to do anyway'.
In other words, they have let their worldviews, their politics, their economic understanding (or lack thereof) affect their scientific judgment. I am ashamed for our scientific discipline and embarrassed by their behavior.
Is it any wonder that scientists have such a bad reputation among the taxpayers who pay them to play in their ivory tower sandboxes? They can make gloom and doom predictions all day long of events far in the future without ever having to suffer any consequences of being wrong.
The perpetual supply of climate change research money also biases them. Everyone in my business knows that as long as manmade climate change remains a serious threat, the money will continue to flow, and climate programs will continue to grow.
Now, I do agree the supply of fossil fuels is not endless. But we will never actually "run out".we will just slowly stop trying to extract them as they become increasingly scarce (translation - more expensive). That's the way the world works.
People who claim we are going to wake up one morning and our fossil fuels will be gone are either pandering, or stupid, or both.
But how you transition from fossil fuels to other sources of energy makes all the difference in the world. Making our most abundant and affordable sources of energy artificially more expensive with laws and regulations will end up killing millions of people.
And that's why I speak out. Poverty kills. Those who argue otherwise from their positions of fossil-fueled health and wealth are like spoiled children.
The truly objective scientist should be asking whether MORE, not less, atmospheric carbon dioxide is what we should be trying to achieve. There is more published real-world evidence for the benefits of more carbon dioxide, than for any damage caused by it. The benefits have been measured, and are real-world. The risks still remain theoretical.
Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth. That it has been so successfully demonized with so little hard evidence is truly a testament to the scientific illiteracy of modern society. If humans were destroying CO2 - rather than creating more - imagine the outrage there would be at THAT!
I would love the opportunity to cross examine these (natural) climate change deniers in a court of law. They have gotten away with too much, for too long. Might they be right? Sure. But the public has no idea how flimsy - and circumstantial - their evidence is.
In the end, I doubt the IPCC will ever be defunded. Last night's vote in the House is just a warning shot across the bow. But unless the IPCC starts to change its ways, it runs the risk of being totally marginalized. It has almost reached that point, anyway.
And maybe the IPCC leadership doesn't really care if its pronouncements are ignored, as long as they can jet around the world to meet in exotic destinations and plan where their next meeting should be held. I hear it's a pretty good gig.
Why Britain's £250bn wind power industry could be the greatest scam of our age - and here are the three 'lies' that prove it
By Christopher Booker
Scarcely a day goes by without more evidence to show why the Government's obsession with wind turbines, now at the centre of our national energy policy, is one of the greatest political blunders of our time.
Under a target agreed with the EU, Britain is committed within ten years — at astronomic expense — to generating nearly a third of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly through building thousands more wind turbines.
But the penny is finally dropping for almost everyone — except our politicians — that to rely on windmills to keep our lights on is a colossal and very dangerous act of self-deception.
Take, for example, the 350ft monstrosity familiar to millions of motorists who drive past as it sluggishly revolves above the M4 outside Reading. This wind turbine performed so poorly (working at only 15 per cent of its capacity) that the £130,000 government subsidy given to its owners was more than the £100,000 worth of electricity it produced last year.
Meanwhile, official figures have confirmed that during those freezing, windless weeks around Christmas, when electricity demand was at record levels, the contribution made by Britain’s 3,500 turbines was minuscule.
To keep our homes warm we were having to import vast amounts of power from nuclear reactors in France.
Wind turbines are so expensive that Holland recently became the first country in Europe to abandon its EU renewable energy target, announcing that it is to slash its annual subsidy by billions of euros.
So unpopular are wind turbines that our own Government has just offered 'bribes' to local communities, in the form of lower council tax and electricity bills.
In Scotland, the 800 residents of the beautiful island of Tiree are desperately trying to resist Alex Salmond's plans to railroad through what will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world, covering 139 square miles off their coast, which they say will destroy their community by driving away the tourists who provide much of their living.
So riddled with environmental hypocrisy is the lobbying for wind energy that a recent newspaper report exposed the immense human and ecological catastrophe being inflicted on northern China by the extraction of the rare earth minerals needed to make the giant magnets that every turbine in the West uses to generate its power.
Here in a nutshell are some of the reasons why people are beginning to wake up to the horrific downside of the wind business. And since I began writing about wind turbines nine years ago, I have come to see how the case for them rests on three great lies.
* The first is the pretence that turbines are anything other than ludicrously inefficient. The most glaring dishonesty peddled by the wind industry — and echoed by gullible politicians — is vastly to exaggerate the output of turbines by deliberately talking about them only in terms of their 'capacity', as if this was what they actually produce. Rather, it is the total amount of power they have the capability of producing.
The point about wind, of course, is that it is constantly varying in speed, so that the output of turbines averages out at barely a quarter of their capacity.
Furthermore, as they increase in number (the Government wants to see 10,000 more in the next few years) it will, quite farcically, become necessary to build a dozen or more gas-fired power stations, running all the time and emitting CO2, simply to provide instant back-up for when the wind drops.
This means that the 1,000 megawatts all those 3,500 turbines sited around the country feed on average into the grid is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station.
* The second great lie about wind power is the pretence that it is not a preposterously expensive way to produce electricity. No one would dream of building wind turbines unless they were guaranteed a huge government subsidy.
This comes in the form of the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy scheme, paid for through household bills, whereby owners of wind turbines earn an additional £49 for every 'megawatt hour' they produce, and twice that sum for offshore turbines.
This is why so many people are now realising that the wind bonanza — almost entirely dominated in Britain by French, German, Spanish and other foreign-owned firms — is one of the greatest scams of our age.
We may not be aware of just how much we are pouring into the pockets of the wind developers, because our bills hide this from us — but as ever more turbines are built, this could soon be adding hundreds of pounds a year to our bills.
When a Swedish firm recently opened what is now the world's largest offshore windfarm off the coast of Kent, at a cost of £800 million, we were told that its 'capacity' was 300 megawatts, enough to provide 'green' power for tens of thousands of homes. What we were not told was that its actual output will average only a mere 80 megawatts, a tenth of that supplied by a gas-fired power station — for which we will all be paying a subsidy of £60million a year, or £1.5billion over the 25-year lifespan of the turbines.
* The third great lie of the wind propagandists is that this industry is somehow making a vital contribution to 'saving the planet' by cutting our emissions of CO2.
Even if you believe that curbing our use of fossil fuels could change the Earth's climate, the CO2 reduction achieved by wind turbines is so insignificant that one large windfarm saves considerably less in a year than is given off over the same period by a single jumbo jet flying daily between Britain and America.
Then, of course, the construction of the turbines generates enormous CO2 emissions as a result of the mining and smelting of the metals used, the carbon-intensive cement needed for their huge concrete foundations, the building of miles of road often needed to move them to the site, and the releasing of immense quantities of CO2 locked up in the peat bogs where many turbines are built.
When you consider, too, those gas-fired power stations wastefully running 24 hours a day just to provide back-up for the intermittency of the wind, any savings will vanish altogether.
Yet it is on the strength of these three massive self-deceptions that our Government has embarked on one of the most reckless gambles in our political history: the idea that we can look to the vagaries of the wind to provide nearly a third of the electricity we need to keep our economy running, well over 90 per cent of which is still currently supplied by coal, gas and nuclear power.
It is true that this target of raising the contribution made by wind by more than ten times in the next nine years was set by the EU. But it is no good blaming Brussels for such an absurdly ambitious target, because no one was keener to adopt it than our own politicians, led first by Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband and now by David Cameron and the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.
To meet this target, our Government wants to see us spend £100billion on building 10,000 more turbines, plus another £40billion on connecting them all up to the grid.
According to the electricity industry, we will then need to spend another £100billion on those conventional power stations to provide back-up — all of which adds up to £240billion by 2020, or just over £1,000 a year for every household in the land.
And for this our politicians are quite happy to see our countryside and the seas around our coasts smothered in vast arrays of giant industrial machines, all to produce an amount of electricity that could be provided by conventional power stations at a tenth of the cost.
This flight from reality is truly one of the greatest follies.
But what turns it from a crazed fantasy to a potential catastrophe is that Britain will soon face a huge shortfall in its electricity supplies, when we see the shutdown of conventional power stations, which currently meet nearly 40 per cent of our electricity needs.
All but two of our ageing nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their useful life, with little chance of them being replaced for many years.
Six of our large coal-fired stations will be forced to close under an EU anti-pollution directive, and our Government is doing its best to ensure that we build no more.
There is no way we can hope to make up more than a fraction of the resulting energy gap solely with wind turbines, for the simple and obvious reason that wind is such an intermittent and unreliable energy source.
Meanwhile, this country will soon be facing a colossal energy gap, while relying on politically unreliable countries such as Russia and Algeria for gas supplies.
What we are seeing, in short, is the price we are beginning to pay for the past two decades, during which our energy policy has become hopelessly skewed by the siren calls of the environmentalists, first in persuading our politicians to switch from coal and not to build any more nuclear power stations, and then to fall for the quixotic dream that we could gamble our country’s future on the 'free' and 'clean' power of wind and sun.
All over the EU, other politicians are waking up to the dead-end to which this madness has been leading us. The Danes, who have built more wind turbines per head than anyone, have realised the idiocy of a policy that has given them the highest electricity prices in Europe, while they have to import much of their power from abroad.
In Spain, their rush for wind and solar power has proved a national disaster. In Germany, having built more turbines than any other country in the world, they are now building new coal-fired stations like crazy.
In Holland, meanwhile, they have now given two fingers to the EU by slashing all their renewables subsidies.
Only in Britain is our political class still so imprisoned in its infatuation with wind that it is prepared to court this dangerously misguided pipedream.
Put the REINS on EPA
EPA’s end-run around democracy — the agency’s hijacking of climate policy via the backdoor of Clean Air Act regulations — is meeting stiff resistance on Capitol Hill.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already held a hearing on the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would overturn EPA’s Endangerment Rule and an assortment of related rules imposing Clean Air Act permitting requirements on power plants, refineries, and other emitters of greenhouse gases. Passing the bill — sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) — is reportedly a top priority of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) have also introduced the “Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act.” This even stronger legislation would prohibit all agencies from “legislating’”climate policy under any existing statute, none of which was ever designed or intended for that purpose.
Not so long ago cap-and-trade advocates, such as Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), warned that if Congress did not enact “comprehensive energy and climate legislation,” opponents would end up with something they’d like even less — a cascade of Clean Air Act climate regulations promulgated by EPA. Cap-and-traders clearly implied that using the Act as a framework for climate policy would be worse for business — less efficient, less predictable, and potentially more costly. They tried to scare industry, Republicans, and coal-state Democrats into supporting cap-and-trade as a lesser evil.
But this just means that if EPA’s climate regulations were put to a vote, they’d have even less chance of passing in the 112th Congress than cap-and-trade did in the 111th Congress. It also means that non-elected bureaucrats are “enacting” an economically riskier version of the same agenda that Congress recently rejected.
As noted, Congress may put the kibosh on EPA’s power grab. But things should never have gotten to the point where the friends of affordable energy on Capitol Hill have to hold hearings, build coalitions, and endure vicious calumny just to stop EPA from implementing policies Congress never voted on or approved.
The Rot Runs Deep
EPA’s power grab is, alas, only the most egregious example of a more pervasive disorder undermining our Constitution and endangering our prosperity.
Americans live under a regime of regulation without representation. In the modern regulatory state, elected officials enact broad regulatory statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or the Telecommunications Act. However, Congress and the president then delegate to non-elected officials the tasks not only of developing and proposing but also of enacting the implementing rules.
Administrative agencies such as EPA end up wielding powers that the Constitution reserves to Congress. Article I, Sec. 1 of the Constitution vests “all legislative powers” in the Congress of the United States, and Article I, Sec. 8 gives to Congress the power to lay and collect taxes. Agencies have no constitutional authority to make law or raise taxes. Yet they issue thousands of regulations each year, all having the force and effect of law, and many functioning as implicit taxes that increase the cost of goods and services.
If asked whether bureaucrats should have the power to make laws and raise taxes, most Americans would unhesitatingly say no — and with good reason. In the political theory underpinning the U.S. Constitution, governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This means that all powers — legislative, executive, and judicial — originate with the people, and legitimate government arises from a compact whereby the people agree to delegate certain powers to certain offices or institutions. This means officials are the stewards, not the owners, of power. Just as legislatures have no right to seize powers the people have delegated to the executive, so they also have no right to transfer to the executive branch powers that the people have delegated to them.
John Locke, an English philosopher admired by Jefferson and many other Founders, succinctly explained what later came to be called the non-delegation doctrine:
The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands, for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it on to others.
Similarly, the Supreme Court, in the 1892 case of Field v. Clark, declared:
That Congress cannot delegate legislative power to the President is a principle universally recognized as vital to the integrity and maintenance of a system of government ordained by the Constitution.
None of this is to say that Congress should not create regulatory agencies. Obviously, laws cannot anticipate all the circumstances to which they apply, and specialized knowledge is often required to apply laws even to foreseen or well-known circumstances. It is also obvious that Congress cannot review all the thousands of rules that scores of agencies promulgate each year.
Nonetheless, when an agency issues a rule with major potential impact on society, or when it issues a rule that would initiate a major change in public policy, the people’s representatives should have to approve the rule before it takes effect. Otherwise, we are no longer a self-governing people but a people ruled by bureaucratic elites.
Congress’s excessive delegation of lawmaking authority to agencies not only undermines the separation of powers, it is also a root cause of big, costly, activist government. When Congress and the president deputize agencies to legislate, elected officials escape responsibility for the compliance costs and economic impacts of the laws they enact. “We only approved the statute, not the regulation; don’t blame us!” Those who bear the costs of regulation — ultimately, all of us — are unable to reward or punish anyone at the ballot box for good or bad regulatory decisions.
In short, when elected officials take no responsibility for regulatory decisions, they have little incentive to consider costs when drafting regulatory statutes, and almost none to insist that regulators develop economically sensible rules.
As if that were not bad enough, delegation also enables lawmakers to talk out of both sides of their mouths. They can tout their support for regulatory statutes when addressing corporate rent-seekers and anti-market activists. They can also castigate out-of-control bureaucrats when addressing businesses squeezed by red tape and mandates. And from both groups they can collect big fat campaign contributions!
Restore the Separation of Powers
The good news is that Congress is considering a real solution: the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny” or REINS Act, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY). REINS would require Congress to pass, and the president to sign, a joint resolution before a major agency rule can take effect. If either one or both chambers of Congress do not approve the resolution, or if both approve but the president vetoes, or if he vetoes and Congress does not muster the two-thirds majority required to override, then the regulation does not take effect.
REINS would, in short, end the regime of regulation without representation. For those interested in a detailed explanation of how the bill would work, see the excellent testimony of former CongressmanDavid McIntosh.
Somewhat surprisingly, not all limited-government advocates support REINS. Some worry that making Congress accountable for regulations would preclude judicial review of agency actions and preempt litigation to overturn or modify defective rules. New laws trump old laws. Consequently, these critics warn, if Congress enacts not only the regulatory statute but also the implementing rules, then any rule Congress approves must be legal even if the agency’s actions were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. REINS, they fear, would legalize agency lawlessness.
This concern is certainly worth debating but I think it is unfounded. A joint resolution of approval would simply lift the Act’s pre-existing prohibition on agencies issuing rules of a certain scope or magnitude, namely, major rules. The resolution would not negate or suspend any statutory requirements under which the rule might be challenged in court.
Section 802 (g) of the REINS Act is quite clear on this point:
The enactment of a resolution of approval does not serve as a grant or modification of statutory authority by Congress for the promulgation of a rule, does not extinguish or affect any claim, whether substantive or procedural, against any alleged defect in a rule, and shall not form part of the record before the court in any judicial proceeding concerning a rule.
The concluding words would seem to settle the matter: The joint resolution allowing a rule to take effect “shall not form part of the record” judges may consider when reviewing that regulation.
EPA’s greenhouse regulatory surge may be the most extreme case ever of regulation without representation. Stopping EPA will not be easy, because to succeed, opponents must assemble legislative majorities and, perhaps, veto-proof majorities.
Moreover, while Messrs. Inhofe, Barrasso, Upton, Whitfield, and Walberg must appeal to their colleagues’ uncertain respect for constitutional principle, EPA’s apologists are free to appeal to colleagues’ all-to-human desire to have one’s cake and eat it. Many in Congress want EPA to enact the virtual energy taxes they dare not vote for.
It’s time to un-stack the decks. Administrative agencies should not be able to make the big policy decisions that “We, the People” elect Congress and the President to make. Under the REINS Act, EPA would have to pursue its Kyoto-inspired agenda the old fashioned, small “r,” republican way: through public discourse and persuasion, not regulatory fiat.
Past megadrought about to be repeated?
The only hope for rescue that they hold out is CO2-related global warming. Faint hope!
In a letter published recently in the journal Nature, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers and an international team of scientists report that the Southwest region of the United States undergoes "megadroughts"—warmer, more arid periods lasting hundreds of years or longer. More significantly, a portion of the research indicates that an ancient period of warming may be analogous to natural present-day climate conditions. If so, a cooler, wetter period may be in store for the region, unless it is thwarted by increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere that could warm the planet.
Using a long core of sediments obtained in 2004 from beneath a dry lakebed located on the Valles Caldera National Preserve—an 86,000-acre grassland located on the site of a dormant prehistoric volcano about 20 miles west of Los Alamos—the researchers were able to peer back in time into the climate as it existed between 360,000 and 550,000 years ago. Layers in the 260-foot-long sediment core were easily distinguishable, and were bounded by distinct layers of volcanic ash that allowed for very accurate dating. Researchers looked at chemical constituents trapped within the layers as well as plant and pollen debris to characterize the climate conditions of the time.
The sediment layers from beneath the South Mountain Lake covered two "interglacial" periods. Such periods are significant because they represent a time between ice ages when warmer temperatures mimicked present-day temperatures. The ancient interglacial period, known as Marine Isotope Stage 11—MIS 11 for short—lasted about 50,000 years and included, among several periods of climatic variation, one definitive megadrought period followed by a cooler period. Prior to the study, detailed data about MIS 11 had been scarce because most of the information was gathered from Antarctic ice cores or marine sediments. The terrestrial record obtained beneath South Mountain Lake revealed a bounty of information that nicely details the ancient climate.
The oldest warm period in MIS 11 appears somewhat analogous to the present-day Holocene interglacial period, which has been ongoing for about the past 10,000 years. During MIS 11, the ancient climate warmed dramatically by about 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This warming in the wake of a preceding period of cold gave rise to an abundance of plant life and seasonally wet conditions. As warming continued, grasses and shrubs died off and lakes dried up. The ensuing drought lasted thousands of years before ending abruptly with a cooler, wetter period.
The research could indicate that the Southwest, having been through a present-day drought period that included the historic Dust Bowl, might be due for a change unless increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses interfere.
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