Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Message from Lima
The China Climate Accord: A Bad Deal for the US
By S. Fred Singer
The world is fascinated by the November 12 climate agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi. Has China finally decided to "fight climate change"? My personal opinion is that China is taking advantage of White House science ignorance and anxiety about future climate change, hoping thereby to gain commercial and strategic advantages against the United States.
The bilateral US-China Climate Agreement, inked in Beijing on Nov 12, makes virtually no demands on the Chinese. It simply states that at or about the year 2030, they will start to reduce their emissions of CO2; in the meantime, they can emit as much as they want. So they have 15 more years to add more coal-fired power plants to any extent they wish. It is very likely that by 2030, China's population will have stopped growing and a large part will be living in urban apartment blocks, having bought all of the gadgets they need: TVs, refrigerators, computers, etc.-and that their demand for electric power will have saturated.
On the other hand, the US commitment is rather severe: an actual reduction of 26-28% in CO2 emissions by 2025, just 10 years away. This goal can only be achieved by the substitution of natural gas for coal-fired power plants, and the eventual replacement of much of natural gas with unreliable and uneconomic "renewables," such as wind and solar. As Obama promised in 2008, electricity costs will "sky-rocket."
Indeed, this seems to be the US plan-as spelled out by the EPA, under the direction of the White House. All the China agreement really does is to make Obama look good to his Green constituency, besides providing a convenient "club" to use for his "war on coal." The expected effect on the global climate is zero, zilch, nada.
From the Chinese point of view, this is an ideal arrangement, and has both commercial and strategic benefits. It makes energy more expensive in the United States and Europe; it cripples the industrial base of the Western World. And hand-in-hand with economic strength goes military strength.
Climate Science is Still Unsettled
In 1988, the United Nations set up the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) to supply the scientific rationale for a global climate treaty, agreed-to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The IPCC is supposed to survey published scientific results impartially, but instead it has ignored research papers that contradict the conclusions of its five Assessment Reports-of 1990, 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2013-14.
For evidence of human influence on climate, the IPCC relies on a supposed agreement between climate models and observations. In fact, the models cannot reproduce the observations and therefore fail to support the IPCC conclusion. This disagreement has now become apparent to many scientists around the world, who have set up a competing, largely self-supported study group called NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change), independent of the UN and of any government.
Contrary to the IPCC, NIPCC finds that natural influences rule the climate and human influences are relatively insignificant. One can give many examples where models and observations disagree. For instance, IPCC admits that there has been no warming observed in the last 15-18 years, but fails to point out that this result disagrees with the results of every climate model.
IPCC is also dismissive of scientific research that cosmic rays from outer space can and do change the climate. The full story is that the cosmic-ray intensity is modulated by solar activity. Ultimately therefore, solar activity affects cosmic rays, which in turn change the earth's cloud cover and thereby affect climate.
One could cite many other examples of credible scientific work ignored by the IPCC. It has been the aim of the NIPCC to restore the balance of evidence necessary to permit informed decisions on policy. Every IPCC report's Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) is approved line-by-line by the nearly 200 participating national delegations. But these delegates are not scientists; they are working with a draft SPM carefully compiled by a handful of politically oriented scientists who "cherry-pick" factoids from the IPCC Report itself and ignore contrary evidence. Unlike the full Report, this draft SPM does not acknowledge the existence of scientific uncertainties. It is on the basis of such an SPM that politicians agreed to adopt the costly, ineffective 1997 Kyoto Protocol (which expired in 2012) and other policies that affect energy use-and therefore have tremendous economic consequences.
Right now, China is beginning to experiment with "cap-and-trade" schemes within three urban areas. The US Congress in 2009 refused to approve such a C&T policy; yet President Obama will attempt to achieve a similar result through regulation-without the Congress. Europeans have tried it, but it has been an economic disaster. Australia had instituted a carbon tax as an alternative, but has now abandoned it. Only the State of California is proceeding with such a scheme, but is using it primarily to raise revenues, like a tax; it will have no detectible effect on global climate.
A cap and trade scheme in China may have some value in improving energy efficiency-in reducing the amount of energy required to produce electricity. That could be a useful objective. But it should not be considered as climate policy.
The Inscrutable Chinese
I can't quite figure out whether or not the Chinese government really believes in anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW); it may all be pretense-just a cynical charade, hoping to mislead the West into adopting drastic reductions of CO2 emissions. There seems to be internal debate among scientists within the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Going along with IPCC climate fears can be quite beneficial for individual scientists: International conferences in Bali, Cancun, Lima, and next year in Paris just sound very intriguing; plus more money and perks at home. Further, some may actually become convinced that their work is "saving the planet" from the imagined ravages of a slightly warmer climate.
On the other hand, the Chinese Academy has translated some of the volumes of the NIPCC, and organized a workshop in Beijing in June 2013 to discuss the NIPCC conclusions, which are very critical of the UN-IPCC claims of AGW.
The latest NIPCC effort is a two-volume publication, called Climate Change Reconsidered-II, Physical Science (2013) and Biological Impacts (2014)-which disagrees strongly with the corresponding IPCC Assessment Reports (2013 and 2014). There is no doubt that there is a constituency within the China science establishment (and perhaps also within their government) that supports NIPCC. An indication is a (hard-bound) volume (in Chinese), co-authored by two Chinese members of the Academy, a member of the French Academy, and myself. Its title is: "Nature-not human activity-rules the climate."
Will We Get Another Kyoto Protocol?
Many in the White House think the agreement with China is an important step in reaching a global treaty at the forthcoming (Dec 2015) Paris meeting. I wouldn't be so sure. A treaty would have to be confirmed by two-thirds of the US Senate, and there is little chance of that. Even back in July 1997, during the Clinton-Gore White House, the Senate voted unanimously for the bi-partisan Byrd-Hagel Resolution against a global protocol to control CO2 emissions. Indeed, Clinton-Gore never submitted Kyoto to the Senate for ratification.
Obama will likely try to achieve his CO2 goal by executive orders and administrative measures. He will find a way, as he has put it, to "skin the cat." Whether his war on coal will succeed in circumventing a hostile Congress is another question. The courts will also have a lot to say on this, including the Supreme Court. When it comes to a global agreement, many nations may vote against any Kyoto-like protocol, including India, Australia, and likely also Canada and Japan.
The next few months are going to be very interesting.
A Quick Word about Carbon Dioxide
CO2 is an odorless, non-toxic, natural constituent of the Earth's atmosphere. As the basic food for all plants, it is absolutely essential for maintaining life on our planet. CO2 should not be called a "pollutant." In the geological past, its level has been ten times higher or more than its present value; in fact, our major food crops developed when CO2 levels were about five times higher. China is now the world's largest emitter of CO2 and thereby making an important contribution to increasing agricultural yields-at a time when much of the global population is still hungry. The world should be grateful to China.
Conservative Coalition Urges State Officials to `Fiercely Resist' EPA Rule
A coalition of 35 conservative and free market groups is urging state officials to "fiercely resist" the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) attempt to force them to implement "ruinous" new greenhouse gas emission rules that could double the current price of electricity or face harsh regulatory repercussions if they refuse.
"You should send a clear message to the federal government that if it insists on pursuing the regulatory equivalent of punitive energy taxes, it must promulgate and implement that policy itself -- and be held solely accountable for the disastrous consequences that will follow," the coalition said a letter sent to governors, state attorneys general and state legislators earlier this week.
The coalition warned state officials that EPA's Clean Power Plan will "destroy thousands of jobs and break the household budgets of millions of American families struggling to make ends meet -- even if states undertake their best efforts to blunt their impacts."
"This is the so-called carbon pollution plan offered under the existing source performance standards for greenhouse gases under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
"And what the administration did with these rules is essentially, they're trying to coerce and draft the states into implementing policies that the EPA does not have the authority to implement themselves," Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, which spearheaded the anti-EPA effort, explained to CNSNews.com, which asked him what states can do to resist.
"Well, there are a number of things of active things that states can do to resist. But the most important thing is simply say `No. We will not do this. If you intend to destroy the electric power sector of our state, you'll need to do it yourselves. We're not going to do it for you.'
"I think that act of defiance is the most important thing, because EPA really has neither the policy tools nor the logistical capabilities to actually implement their desired policy, which is why they are trying to coerce states into doing it for them in the first place," he said.
"It's clear that the sorts of big-government, anti-energy policies are extremely unpopular with the public, and for that reason there's no reason any state-level elected official should want to associate with them by complying with what EPA is asking for. I think the political environment and the [midterm] election confirmed what a bad idea it is to do this."
"In general, we want states to make it very clear that they're going to fight these rules every step of the way," Kerpen added. "The whole EPA strategy is premised on their threat being credible, and that legislators will be scared that something worse will happen if they don't go along.
"We're trying to show them you don't have to play that game, and there are a lot of conservatives out there who will have your back."
The EPA's Clean Power Plan is based on decades-old studies that have never been publicly released or subjected to independent verification and the work of a former EPA official who is now in federal prison, Kerpen pointed out.
"One interesting feature of this so-called Clean Power Plan is they claim $90 billion of benefits from this rule. Only about $30 billion of that comes from global warming. Of course, the real global warming benefit is zero because even if they reach their emissions targets, the rest of the world would make up for it in no time, so you're not going to actually reduce global warming through any U.S. unilateral action. So those claims are specious.
"But the other $60 billion they claim is even more specious. They claim health benefits for reductions in small particulate matter. And it's all based on two studies from the 1970s that they've cited over and over and over again, and the monetized value of the benefits from these two studies keeps going up and up in every single rule.
"And they've never disclosed any of the data underlying those studies. It's total secret science, and in fact the first time they used this strategy of PM 2.5 benefits was on an ozone standard back in 1997.
"And the guy who came up with that strategy, a fellow named John Beale, who you might be aware is now in jail for fraud at Cumberland Correctional Facility because he decided a few years ago that he was going to start flying around the world pretending to be a CIA spy while he stole [close to] a million dollars."
Kerpen compared the current battle to the previous fight over the Obamacare insurance exchanges.
"One of the examples we give in the letter is the similar dynamics of the health care fight from a couple of years ago. A lot of advocates of state health insurance exchanges kept telling state legislators: `Go ahead and pass a state exchange law because you can do it better than the feds.'
"And I don't think there's a single state that decided not to pass a health insurance exchange that regretted that decision. But a lot of the ones that did ended up putting their own fingerprints all over the Obamacare disaster, and a lot of people ruined their political careers doing that."
The new EPA rule amounts to a "backdoor cap-and-trade" program, because any "inclusion in the state plans render those measures federally enforceable," according to language EPA published in the Federal Register.
"The president himself, of course, famously described this cap-and- trade policy as a way to make electricity prices `necessarily skyrocket,' so that's the ultimate objective here. It's not just 10, or 15, or 20 percent price increases but 50, or 100, or 200 percent. And it would really force people to use much less energy," Kerpen told CNSNews.com.
"That's part of what makes this so objectionable," Kerpen added. "One of the president's signature pieces of legislation barely got through the House back when Nancy Pelosi had a huge majority. And the Senate never even took it up because they were scared of the politics of spiking everyone's electric bill.
"Now we've got a situation where the same Obama administration that couldn't even get a 60 member Democratic Senate majority led by Harry Reid to take up this bill wants to coerce states into adopting cap-and-trade legislation. But no good comes from doing the EPA's dirty work for them on the state level," he added.
Kerpen pointed out that state resistance was not futile when the Obama administration was trying to get the states to set up their own health care exchanges.
"When the sort of parallel fight occurred over health care, nobody expected 35 states would end up saying `No thank you' to implementing Obamacare and force the feds to do it. And that had a very powerful impact on the whole health care debate because the federal government was totally ill-equipped to do it, as we saw in that disastrous rollout.
"EPA can't do cap-and-trade themselves," he told CNSNews.com. "The actual policy tools at their disposal are considerably more limited than what they're trying to tell the states to do."
Kerpen added that it's "stunning" that "this whole regulatory push runs counter to the biggest positive story in the U.S. economy for the last several years, which is the boom in fossil fuel production. The whole regulatory program of the EPA is designed to shut down energy production and use in this country at the same time we have Saudi Arabia trying to do exactly the same thing" because they fear the U.S. will become a major exporter of oil and gas.
"So the biggest enemies of fossil fuel energy right now are Saudi Arabia and the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency."
India says won't sacrifice growth at climate talks
India will not sign any deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions at UN climate talks in Lima that threatens its growth or undermines its fight against poverty, the environment minister said Friday.
Speaking ahead of his departure to a key round of talks in the Peruvian capital, Prakash Javadekar said he was heading into the negotiations with "an open mind" but warned the Indian delegation would not "shy away" from tough debate.
"Any agreement... will be by consensus," Javadekar told reporters in New Delhi. "Our growth cannot be compromised."
The minister branded poverty as the worst kind of environmental disaster which "needs to be eradicated immediately", adding that no one should dispute the right of the poorest members of society to have access to energy.
"Poor people have aspirations we must fulfill them, we must give them energy access," he said.
Negotiators from 195 countries are gathering in Lima for talks which end on Dec 12, hoping to agree on a draft agreement to address climate change that will be adopted in Paris next December.
Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have already set an outside target of limiting global warming to 2 deg C over pre-industrial levels.
China, the United States and Europe have also unveiled emissions pledges.
Energy-starved India is seen as one of the major obstacles to a deal as it is heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants and millions suffer regular power cuts.
Alarming levels of pollution in the Indian capital over the last few weeks have raised fresh questions about the new right-wing government's commitment to battle climate change.
But Javadekar said "climate change is a subject that concerns all of us" and that India had already set itself targets to increase its use of solar power.
"We will tell the world in Lima with confidence about the steps we have already taken" to combat global warming, the minister added.
Warmist deceit in Scotland
Reading the words of Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables (Friends of The Scotsman, 20 November), reminded us all that Christmas was surely not too far off. There were the usual fairy stories, requests for further financial support for its members and pledges of the impossible. We have already had to stomach the fanfare and trumpeting of the wind lobby telling us wind contributed to 25 per cent of our energy needs on one particular date this year.
On closer inspection it appears there was a moment on 19 October when wind supplied 25 per cent of our electricity.
However, demand was not particularly high when it happened at around 5:30am. What an outcry there would be if conventional power stations reported that, as an unusual occurrence, coal, gas or nuclear managed to scrape together a quarter of our energy needs for the briefest moment of time when most of us were asleep.
The wind supporters never hold their hands up when wind is performing at way below the expected and the promised levels - which is more often than not. The begging bowl is out and without the merest mention of fuel poverty and how the renewables subsidies are funded by the poorest in our society, an already highly subsidised sector is saying: "Please sir, can I have some more."
Warmist elitism decried
There is cloud hanging over climate science, but one Cornell University expert on communication and environmental issues says he knows how to help clear the air.
In the December issue of Nature Climate Change, Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication, argues that only by creating a "science of climate diversity" can climate science and the larger climate change movement overcome a crippling lack of ethnic and racial diversity.
"There is an invisible, but very real barrier to climate engagement," Schuldt said. "We need to engage with all kinds of diverse folks if we're going to face this challenge. It will be a problem if the perception, and the reality, is that it's a bunch of white male scientists at the table."
The commentary, "Facing the diversity crisis on climate science," was born when Schuldt and co-author Adam Pearson, an assistant professor of psychology at Pomona College, began talking about University of Michigan Professor Dorceta Taylor report, "The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations." In the report, Taylor examined non-profits, government agencies and grant-making foundations and found that non-white minorities comprised no more than 16 percent of staff in these institutions, in spite of constituting 29 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce and 38 percent of the American population. The report found that this "white Green Insiders club" narrows research and limits public engagement.
Schuldt agrees, but thinks more than just institutional changes are needed. "What is missing is science-based solutions that focus on the fundamentally social nature of this problem," the authors state. "Research from social psychology offers insight into factors that can powerfully influence participation."
Schuldt and Pearson argue that early successes in diversifying other STEM research fields, and expanding the role women play in the environmental movement, point to three immediate and essential steps for climate research and outreach organizations.
First, boosting racial and ethnic diversity in climate research and outreach leadership can have an instant impact - provided this leadership is represented in how institutions present themselves. Put simply, Schuldt said, climate science "needs to present a more diverse face."
Next, the authors urge all those who communicate around climate science to confront lingering stereotypes about environmentalism and minority engagement. Schuldt said one of the most pernicious fallacies needs to quickly be dismantled: that concern for climate issues is lacking in America's non-white population. He notes recent work by social science researchers has shown this "underrepresentation by choice" idea to be false, and said climate leaders need to highlight the reality of deep minority community concern.
Lastly, the authors insist organizational messages can help bridge this gap. Among the most destructive ideas that needs to be abandoned, Schuldt said, is that communication around climate science should be "color blind."
"Color-blind communications are, paradoxically, ineffective," Schuldt said. "What it implies to minority individuals is that their unique perspectives and experiences don't matter."
Instead, Schuldt suggested, messages that highlight diversity while pointing toward a common goal are key: "We are all different, but we're all in this together."
The long-range goal, Schuldt and Pearson state, needs to be the creation of a new science of climate diversity. Climate scientists must collaborate with psychology and the social sciences, and these research partnerships need to be supported by academic, public and private institutions alike.
Once that is done and a "new nexus of research" begins to form around how climate science and the climate change movement can increase racial and ethnic diversity, those fact-based findings can be used to guide public climate advocacy and policy reform efforts. That, Schuldt said, is the only way a problem as complex and far-reaching as climate change can effectively, and equitably, be addressed.
"Diverse teams are better at solving complex problems, and there's every reason to believe this is the same, if not more important, when facing climate change," Schuldt said.
Yippee! Australia ranked worst-performing developed nation on climate policy
And Canada is not far behind
Australia is the worst-performing developed nation when it comes to climate-change action, with the Abbott government's scrapping of the carbon price cementing its lowly ranking, a survey by European non-government organisations shows.
Australia ranked 57 out of 58 nations reviewed by the survey, which has been done each year since 2005 by Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch. Only Saudi Arabia fared worse.
The ranking is based on indicators ranging from carbon dioxide emissions per capita to share of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Australians emitted about 16.7 tonnes of CO2 per person in 2012.
"While the developed world is going in one direction, Australia is going in the opposite," said Guy Ragen, a climate change campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, which helped compile the findings.
Mr Ragen, who was formally an adviser to Labor's Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, said Australia's relatively modest emissions reduction goals and high per capita pollution made the country a poor performer even before the carbon price was scrapped in July.
That move caused Australia's policy rating to slump 21 places in the latest survey.
The government has also been attempting to win Senate support to cut the Renewable Energy Target, set at 41 tarawhata-hours a year by 2020.
"You'll have to assume [the policy rating] will get worse," Mr Ragen said.
The introduction of the carbon price had led to a reduction of emissions from the power sector, a process being reversed now. Pitt & Sherry, an energy consultancy, estimated last week the rise in emissions from the electricity industry since the end of the carbon prices would lift the nation's CO2 pollution level by 1.4 per cent if the increase was to continue for a year.
The report's release comes as key talks take place in Lima, Peru, on getting a climate treaty finalised by late next year. Australia will be represented during this week's high-level section of the talks by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
Fairfax Media sought comment from Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who was not sent to the Lima talks.
Because emission indicators account for about 80 per cent of the evaluation, Australia has tended to be among the laggards on the survey. The introduction of the carbon tax in 2012 only resulted in Australia's ranking improve to 50th among the nations.
Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom are the top-ranked nations in the survey. Australia and Saudi Arabia share the bottom four slots with Canada and Kazakhstan.
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Posted by JR at 1:44 AM