Sunday, October 18, 2020

Rep. Westerman Hopes to Steer GOP in Right Direction on Conservation Issues

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stands out in Congress as the lone registered forester. The third-term congressman representing Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District has emerged as a leading conservative voice on conservation issues.

And for good reason. He recently told me his thoughts on forest management, why he supports market-based conservation, why conservatism isn’t at odds with conservation, and more.

Forestry: A Calling

Congressman Westerman said his love of the Great Outdoors greatly influenced his decision to pursue a career in natural resources.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with an engineering degree, he obtained a Master of Forestry from Yale University in a program established with help from Gifford Pinchot—a seminal conservation figure who served as the inaugural U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Director under President Theodore Roosevelt.

Pinchot helped pioneer the “wise use” approach to public lands management. Today, this “multiple-use, sustained yield” view is administered on national forests under the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960.

Like Pinchot, Westerman strongly adheres to this public lands philosophy.

“I think people are gun shy about any time you cut a tree or you extract minerals from the land,” he said. “They think that the land [is] being raided, and that's really not the case if you use scientific-base[d] management.”

True Cause of Wildfires and Need for Management

Westerman warned both the economy and environment could suffer immensely with poorly-managed forests.

“If we do a good job with forest and have healthy forest, we're automatically going to have a healthier environment,” he stressed. “And the really cool thing about forest is we can also have a strong economy.”

“I would contend that without a strong economy, you're going to have a worse environment.”

Rep. Westerman also stated climate change isn’t the outright cause of intense wildfires out West. He said poor management is. In turn, he believes two short-term solutions can help address the issue.

One “pragmatic approach,” he said, is the One Trillion Trees Initiative—a global initiative pledging to “grow, restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world.” President Trump has touted it and recently affirmed his support for it through an executive order creating an interagency council to coordinate the federal government’s cooperation.

“It looks not only at planting more trees, but taking care of the forest that we've got,” he added.

A second solution? Reducing and eliminating fuel load created by buildup in areas highly susceptible to burning. If done correctly, he said, fires will weaken and occur less frequently.

Free Market Environmentalism is the Path Forward

I asked the House Natural Resources Committee member about his support for free market environmentalism—a view embraced by a growing number of Americans.

Why did it take nearly 40 years for market-based conservation and free-market environmentalism to become mainstream? Westerman said this could be attributed to misinformation.

“I think people saw an abuse of the environment and they often connected that to capitalism—to growth in the economy—and they saw the pendulum swing too far to use it,” he offered.

“...We've got to focus on market-based conservation—implementing these free-market environmentalism ideas—so that the economy and the environment wins.”

Conservation is Conservative

The avid waterfowler and angler is delighted to see his fellow Republicans having more stake on wildlife management, habitat restoration, and sporting issues.

“We should never shy away from the word conservation,” he said.

“Conservation is a derivative of the word conservative. And it was Republicans that started the conservation movement. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt is considered the father of conservation in our country. You look at the bedrock environmental laws passed in this country. Most of them happen in the Nixon administration with [the] Clean Air Act, Clean Water [Act], the EPA, Endangered Species Act—all well-meaning, good laws. And now we've got the Great American Outdoors Act, which was a Republican Senate initiative that President Trump pushed for.”

“As a conservative, I believe that I have an obligation—the blessing to the past, for the blessings I received— to be here today. Plus, I have an obligation to the future: to leave what we've got in better shape for the next generation.”

“It's something that Republicans should be leading on. And we can't allow this idea of political environmentalism to come in where you think you can just regulate everything into this state of utopia, because you can't do it.”


Westerman told me the story of his grandmother, an avid gardener, who helped plant the seeds of conservationist ethics into his mind.

“When I was a little kid, I would go down and help her work in the garden,” he said excitedly.

“And she took gardening to a new level. She tried to grow as much as she could in that garden space and she let nothing go to waste. She either ate it, canned it, froze it, gave it away, fed it to an animal, or saved it for seed. Literally nothing that [the] garden produced was allowed to be wasted.”

“It's [conservation] where you take care of the land knowing the land is going to take care of you and you're not wasteful with what the land produces. And that idea can be expanded all across the great resources that we have in this country.”

Environmental groups campaign against EU’s potential ‘veggie burger’ name ban

Environmental groups across Europe have hit out at an EU proposal to ban plant-based products from using terms such as “veggie burger”, saying it contradicts the bloc’s objective to encourage sustainability.

a cut in half sandwich sitting on top of a table© Provided by The Independent
The organisations’ grievance concerns two amendments proposed by Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) which would restrict the naming of meat and dairy alternatives to avoid consumer confusion.

Under the measures, plant-based products would be banned from being advertised using words such as “burger”, “sausage”, “yoghurt style” and “cheese alternative”.

Critics say this will favour the meat and dairy industries and will unfairly affect the growing plant-based food sector, which provides more sustainable products.

If MEPs vote in favour of the amendments next week, they could become part of the Common Agricultural Policy that would come into effect at the start of January 2023.

In a letter sent by 13 leading environmental organisations to MEPS on 8 October, the proposals were criticised for contravening the European Green Deal, which seeks to reduce the agricultural sector’s environmental footprint.

The groups argue that the move goes in the “completely opposite direction” to scientific evidence showing the harmful effects of the meat and dairy industries, and against growing demand for plant-based products.

Marco Contiero, the EU agriculture policy director at Greenpeace who was one of the letter’s signatories, told The Independent that there was “no justification” for amendments which go against environmental, health and economic considerations.

Mr Contiero added that they constituted an “attempt to prevent a new, very important business from actually conquering the market”.

Referring to the proposals, Mr Contiero said: “They are coming from a prehistoric age. And they are justified in a ridiculous way by stating that this will confuse consumers.”

Echoing this sentiment, Asger Mindegaard, a policy officer for agriculture with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: “The Commission’s proposal is likely to confuse European consumers who are already accustomed to terms such as ‘veggie burger’ or ‘plant-based steak’. In many cases, people buy such products specifically because they want to replace one specific meat product with a healthier alternative.

“The common goal of governments, businesses and institutions should be to encourage the uptake of sustainable solutions and alternatives. Instead, in this case we are all wasting time debating a superfluous regulation that will benefit only a few big players in the meat industry.”

ProVeg International, a food awareness organisation, is also against the “veggie burger ban” and has started a petition calling on MEPS to vote against the proposed restrictions. It has so far gained more than 139,000 signatures.

Jasmijn de Boo, the Vice President of ProVeg International, said: “The proposals are in direct contradiction of the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy to create healthier and more sustainable food systems.

“The Farm to Fork Strategy explicitly states the need to empower consumers ‘to choose sustainable food’ and to make ‘it easier to choose healthy and sustainable diets’.”

Next week’s vote comes one month after the UN released a report that people should eat more plant-based diets as part of a drive to halt “unprecedented” losses to the natural world.

According to the European Commission’s Plant Protein report, meat and dairy products are growing each year at a rate of 14 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The Great Energy Non-Transition

By Bruce Everett, Ph.D.

One of the troubling characteristics of today's civic discourse is the tendency to confuse predictions with reality. Nowhere is this problem more severe than in the debate over climate and its associated issues.

The last hundred years have seen increasing emissions of carbon dioxide - a benign gas. In reality, this slight increase in atmospheric CO2concentrations (from 0.03% in the nineteenth century to 0.04% today) has brought nothing but beneficial effects, including increased crop yields and greater drought resistance. Nonetheless, climate alarmists argue that rising temperatures are bringing catastrophic storms, flooding, disease, inundation, extinction and general misery. Unlike the benefits of CO2 which are clear and measurable, climate catastrophe remains nothing more than a prediction generated by computer models which have never produced meaningful forecasts of climate impacts.

A frequent corollary of climate alarmism is that the world has undertaken a radical transformation of the global energy system away from fossil fuels toward zero-carbon, renewable energy. A Google search of the term "energy transition" yields over 5 million hits, many accompanied by terms such as "unstoppable" and "irreversible". But is this transition actually taking place? Three arguments are generally offered - none of them valid.

First, "energy transition" supporters point to the high growth rates for renewable energy sources with wind increasing at over 20% annually since 2000 and solar at over 40% per year, compared to less than 2% for fossil fuels. Sounds great, but the absolute numbers tell a different story. In 2019, despite forty years and trillions of dollars of subsidies, wind energy contributes about 2% of total global energy use and solar just over 1%. Fossil fuels accounted for 84%, down just two percentage points over the last 20 years.

Second, even highly respected publications such as the Financial Times run articles questioning whether oil companies can survive the tidal wave of renewables. The oil industry is indeed in serious financial trouble today as a result of the pandemic-driven collapse of oil demand and the oversupply brought about by technological production advances such as fracking. But oil is a transportation fuel with very few points of competition with renewables, which are primarily used to generate electricity. Renewables may be profitable today, but only because their profitability is supported by captive markets and massive subsidies, while oil companies live or die by the market. It remains to be seen what will happen with oil company profits when the pandemic ends, but the issue will be oil supply and demand, not renewables.

Finally, the advent of electric cars is increasingly touted as the death of oil. The US private vehicle fleet is currently on the order of 250 million vehicles, of which approximately 1 million or 0.4% are battery electric vehicles. Electric cars are at present about twice as expensive to produce as comparable gasoline models, and, like renewable power generation, depend on massive subsidies for their viability. Take Tesla, for example, which is currently the darling of the auto industry. In addition to direct subsidies for manufacturing facilities and purchase credits ranging from $2,500-7,500 per vehicle, Tesla sells emissions credits to other car companies to meet California regulatory requirements. These credits have totaled over $1 billion over the last year and account for Tesla's entire free cash flow over this period. Tesla loses money on each car it manufactures.

California Governor Gavin Newsome has banned the sale of new gasoline cars beginning in 2035. As with many such political promises, this "ban" is simply a goal, not a policy. Governor Newsome is 53 years old and will be long gone from office by 2035, and the media will lose interest in whether his objective was met or not. For the moment, however, the Governor can bask in the glory of his signaled virtue.

The world may someday transition away from fossil fuels, but it's not happening yet. All we have so far are predictions, wishful thinking and the waste of large amounts of money for a small impact on a non-problem. I predict that the public will grow tired

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Home Extreme Weather Floods Sinking Land, Not Faster Sea Level Rise, Is Causing Delaware Flooding

A letter to the editor in the Lewes, Delaware Cape Gazette, “Delaware in jeopardy due to climate change,” asserts human caused climate change is causing increased flooding in Delaware. This is wrong. Data demonstrate land subsidence, not accelerated sea level rise, is responsible for Delaware’s coastal woes.

In the article, Claire A. Simmer, a professor emeritus in the field of management, says climate change is causing the people of Sussex County (Delaware) “to have firsthand experiences with flooding due to global warming ….” Simmer’s claim is false.

Delaware has the lowest mean elevation above sea level in the United States. To the extent Delaware is losing slightly more land to the sea than many other states, Dan Leathers, Delaware’s state climatologist, reports it is not due to an accelerated rate of sea level rise or more intense storms. One must look for another cause to Delaware’s increased flooding, which Leathers provides: land subsidence.

Seas have been rising off the entire Atlantic coast, sometimes more rapidly and sometimes more slowly, since the end of the last ice age. Delaware has experienced approximately 13 inches of “sea level rise” over the past century. Only part of that rise is due to higher sea levels. Leathers says the rate of sea level rise is relatively steady at approximately four to eight inches over the century. Simultaneously, Delaware is experiencing approximately 1.7 millimeters of land subsidence each year, or nearly 7 inches over the century. So, land subsidence, due to the tectonic plate Delaware sits upon sinking, makes up at least half of the state’s sea level rise.

As explained in Climate at a Glance: Sea Level Rise, data from both the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NASA show sea levels have risen a global average of approximately 1.2 inches per decade since the middle of the 18th century. There has been only an approximate 0.3 inch acceleration in sea level rise in recent decades. Assuming all of the modest increase in sea level rise is due entirely too human-caused global warming, it is only a fraction of natural sea level rise.

Human civilization has successfully dealt with sea level rise across the centuries. It will be able to adapt to rising sea levels even more successfully in the coming decades by utilizing twenty-first century technologies.

Climate change is not making Delaware’s coastal flooding worse. City, county, and state governments of Delaware have long battled rising seas through a combination of beach replenishment, altering zoning ordinances to reduce damage from flooding, and hardening infrastructure. There is no reason for believing these same efforts won’t improve in the future, reducing the impacts of rising seas on Delaware’s growing coastal population.




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