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In the Wake of the News

Is CO2 the God of Weather?

Many ancient cultures attributed the significant events occurring around them to the “gods”. Some had individual gods for each type of event. Many had religious ceremonies created to appeal to or to appease the various gods. In some cases, these ceremonies involved human sacrifices.

The consensed climate science community uses climate models to produce potential future climate scenarios; and, to attempt to explain observational information from the real current climate. They suggest that increased atmospheric CO2 would result in climate change, which would then result in the following:

  • more tropical cyclones;
  • stronger tropical cyclones;
  • more tornados;
  • stronger tornados;
  • more frequent droughts;
  • more severe droughts;
  • longer droughts;
  • desertification;
  • increased crop failures;
  • greening of the globe;
  • more heavy rainstorms;
  • more flooding;
  • more heat waves;
  • colder winters;
  • more snow;
  • less snow;
  • ice free Artic;
  • melting permafrost;
  • shrinking glaciers;
  • climate refugees;
  • increased crop failures;
  • more rapid plant growth;
  • animal range shifting;
  • plant range shifting;
  • more rapid sea level rise;
  • more frequent wildfires;
  • coral bleaching;
  • ocean acidification;
  • widespread hunger;
  • unrest and conflict; and,
  • resource wars.

Some sources assert that these effects of climate change are already manifesting in various parts of the globe; and, that they will become more pervasive in the future. However, the only documented effects to date are minimal warming, continued progressive sea level rise, slightly reduced ocean alkalinity and the greening of the planet.

The proposed approaches to avoiding, minimizing or reversing the purported effects of climate change resulting from increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations involve various forms of human sacrifice. None appear to require the sacrificing of virgins on ceremonial altars so far, though some have suggested that fate for “deniers”. However, population control of some undefined form is an integral component of the overall approach. Abandonment of fire is another integral component, as is the abandonment of animal husbandry. Return to a hunter/gatherer existence is currently not advocated, at least publicly. Some appear to mourn the passing of the age of the “noble savage”.

There is no shortage of individuals and organizations willing and anxious to lead and/or participate in the effort to appease the “God of Weather”, for several hundred billion dollars per year. There does appear to be a shortage of sources willing and anxious to provide the desired funding.

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples' money.” --Margaret Thatcher

 

Sources:

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects

https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/effects-climate-change

https://www.edf.org/climate/climate-changes-effects-plunder-planet

https://ec.europa.eu/clima/change/consequences_en

http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/cli_effects.html

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/impacts/impacts-of-climate-change/

http://www.businessinsider.com/terrible-effects-of-climate-change-2014-10

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/impacts/

https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/global-warming-climate-change/threats-solutions/

https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/global-warming-climate-change/threats-solutions/

http://www.noaa.gov/resource-collections/climate-change-impacts

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/are-effects-global-warming-really-bad

 

Tags: Bad Science, Sea Level Rise, Severe Weather, Drought, Climate Models, Agriculture, Climate Change Debate

A Stake Through the Heart – Trump’s View of Existing Climate Change Activities

The Trump Administration has raised a number of questions regarding the US and global efforts to limit climate change. Each of these questions must be addressed calmly, carefully, and comprehensively. The Administration must be extremely aware of potential legal challenges to its actions, even when those actions are clearly within the scope of its constitutional authority, as has been the case with the travel ban and sanctuary cities actions.

The key issues with regard to climate change are:

  • the Paris Accords, which were ratified by the previous administration without the advice and consent of the US Senate;
  • the EPA Clean Power Plan, which was issued based on a ruling by the US Supreme Court that EPA was authorized to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act;
  • the EPA Endangerment Finding which asserted that CO2 emissions represented a threat to public safety and health;
  • the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) analysis prepared by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases;
  • the future EPA and DOE budgets in support of climate change action;
  • future US involvement in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and,
  • future participation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The US participation in the UNFCCC essentially underlies all of the other climate change issues. The Heritage Foundation recommended that the US withdraw from the UNFCCC in 2016. This action is within the authority of the Executive Branch. The withdrawal would become effective one year after the Administration provided notice. Withdrawal would terminate any US financial and performance obligations under the Convention.

The second obvious step was to withdraw the US from the Paris Accords. The previous Administration assured that the obligations to which it agreed in the Paris accords were non-binding, since otherwise the Paris Accords would have required the advice and consent of the US Senate, which would have been extremely unlikely to ratify the Accords as a treaty. Again, the withdrawal will become effective one year after the Administration provided notice. The withdrawal will terminate any non-binding US financial and performance obligations under the Accords.

The Administration has already issued an Executive Order to the participating agencies to disband the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases. One of the most crucial issues with the current SCC is that there is no recognition of the benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, although these benefits are real and might well exceed the costs, now and for the foreseeable future. The other crucial issue is that the SCC is based on modeled scenarios produced by unverified models; and, thus, the actual SCC is unknown and arguably unknowable.

The US Supreme Court has stayed the enforcement of the EPA Clean Power Plan to allow several lawsuits filed by the Attorneys General of several states (including the current EPA Administrator) to move through the courts. The Administration has determined that it will not act to defend the CPP in the ongoing proceedings.

Finally, there are a series of issues with the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding. The Administration has not yet taken any action to rescind the Endangerment Finding, but such steps might well be crucial to achieving its overall objectives.

 

 

Tags: Cost of Carbon, United Nations, Clean Power Plan, Paris Agreement, EPA Endangerment Finding, Donald Trump

Who Is To Blame for Cronyism?

Clever humans can be endlessly inventive in corrupting government powers: bribes, kickbacks, nepotism, insider tips, selective enforcement of rules, threats … the list is long.

Cronyism is the practice of using government power to benefit those with special connections—usually politicians and special interests in business, unions, environmental groups, friends, and family members.

For example, the nephew of a politician will receive a subsidy for his business, or two politicians will trade favors that enrich both, the head of an opera association will give free tickets to an opera-loving regulator to induce a tax-exemption, the head of an environmental organization with a lovely home will induce a regulator to declare a neighboring parcel of land off limits to development.  

Everyone officially condemns those practices, yet our success at preventing them is limited. That’s because we typically get the source of the problem wrong.

The most common blame-label is “crony capitalism.” Note that label assumes the corruption occurs within capitalism. When the abuses occur under socialism—as in Cuba, Venezuela, or North Korea—we call them “crony socialism.”

But our system is neither capitalist nor socialist, so we need a better label.  

Free-market capitalism on principle separates government and the economy as much as possible—for the same reasons that religious freedom requires separating the government from religion as much as possible.

Socialism, by contrast subsumes the economy under the government as much as possible—for the same reasons that it makes all human activities, religion included, matters of government control.

Our system, by contrast, tries to split the difference and deliberately integrates the government and the economy—but without nationalizing most property as socialist systems do.

We use various labels for the unwieldy hybrid: Interventionism, the Administrative State, the Mixed Economy, or the Third-Way, which was the preferred label of President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 1990s, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt in the 2000s, and current British Prime Minister Theresa May in the 2010s. What they all have in common is urging that business power and government power work hand in hand.

Simple logic predicts that cronyism will increase in the Third-Way systems. Give politicians control over more of the economy, and of course more businesses will try to influence those politicians and of course more politicians will use their power to benefit themselves and their friends. The system incentivizes corruption from both sides.

When former President Obama’s administration put $700 billion of TARP funds on the table for distribution, it caused a feeding frenzy.  In that ensuing feeding frenzy, how many of those billions went to the connected and the unscrupulous and how many went to businesses that had a genuine economic case to make? President Trump arrived in the government’s chief executive office as a billionaire businessman. How many of the administration’s decisions will be made exclusively on the basis of what’s best for American interests and how much will be influenced by personal business interests?

The point is that crony capitalism is a misnomer. We currently have an economy characterized by zones of semi-free markets within a giant regulatory system. And, not coincidentally, we have a lot of corruption. So when we are investigating corruptions it should at the outset be an open question whether a particular corruption emanated from the business side or the government side. Businesses can offer bribes, and government officers can demand bribes—and in a mixed economy they are expected to be working together, so both sides have further opportunities to work out mutually beneficial but corrupt arrangements.

International data also bear out the correlation between amount of corruption and amount of government control over the economy. US companies investing in foreign countries are found guilty of bribery at a rate that more-or-less matches the degree of the various foreign government’s economic management. 

In the relatively free-markets, by contrast, where politicians have less control over economic decision-making, cronyism is much less and necessarily has to go underground.

So let’s just call it cronyism, and recognize that further empowering government control over the economy is a devil’s bargain.

 

Tags: Crony Capitalism, Cronyism

Natural Variability Exists

The consensed climate science community attributes the approximately 1°C increase in global annual temperatures since 1880 to anthropogenic CO2 emissions; and, discounts the effects of natural climate variability. Great concern is expressed over the rate of change of the global average temperature anomaly (~0.7°C/century), which is claimed to be the most rapid rise in the historical record.

However, as shown in the graph below from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, natural variability still exists; and, it can result in changes in the global average temperature anomaly far more rapid than the change attributed largely to human influences. The seven months of daily anomalies cover the emergence from the 2015/2016 Super El Nino.

The two most dramatic features of the graph are the rapid temperature anomaly excursions in January, 2017 and April, 2017. In early January, the global anomaly declines rapidly by slightly more than 0.5°C, then rapidly rebounds by approximately 0.6°C. In April, the global anomaly again declines by approximately 0.5°C. These rapid changes, which are each equal to or greater than half the anomaly change over the past 135 years, occurred over a period of 15-30 days, or at a rate of approximately 600 times the rate of change attributed to human influences.

These two features are even more dramatic when only the Northern Hemisphere is considered. The Northern Hemisphere anomaly declines by slightly more than 1°C in early January, then rapidly rebounds by more than 1.2°C in mid-January. In April, the anomaly again declines rapidly by more than 1.1°C. These anomaly changes occurred at a rate approximately 1200 times the rate of change attributed to human influences.

It is interesting to note that the Southern Hemisphere, which contains far less land surface and thus far more ocean surface than the Northern Hemisphere, experiences far more tightly constrained variations; and, that these variations are out of phase with the larger variations in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere anomaly is less than 60% of the global anomaly during the period.

It is also interesting to note that the 2017 year-to-date anomaly is averaging approximately half the global anomaly increase attributed to human influence.

The consensed climate community has also concluded that the pause in global temperature anomalies over the past 20+ years did not happen, based on a reanalysis of sea surface temperature estimates reported in Karl et al 2015. However, as illustrated by the graph below, natural variability continues to exist in the earth’s oceans as well.

There is no known human influence which would cause sea surface temperatures to decline precipitously, as they did in the last few months shown in the graph above, nor is there any human influence capable of causing the rapid increases and decreases shown in the remainder of the graph.

The consensed climate science community has been very quick to attribute increases in global temperature anomalies to human influence; and, to minimize the impacts of natural phenomena, such as El Nino and La Nina events, on those anomalies. They have been far less forthcoming with explanations of declines in the anomalies, such as those discussed above.

 

Tags: Temperature Record, Global Temperature, Natural Variability

Future World – How Many Windmills Would We Need?

The US currently consumes approximately 97 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTU) of energy in all forms each year (97 Quads). Since this quantity of energy and the forms of energy which constitute it vary over time, this analysis will use rounded numbers to avoid the impression of unjustified accuracy or precision.

Current US energy consumption, by fuel source, is approximately:

  Natural Gas 29 Quads
  Coal 14 Quads
  Oil 36 Quads
  Renewables 10 Quads
  Nuclear 8 Quads

 

Current US electricity consumption is approximately 12 quads.

 

 

The objective of the climate change movement is to eliminate fossil fuel consumption by the end of the century, if not before. The climate change movement is also not supportive of nuclear power generation or additional hydroelectric generation. Achieving their goal would require replacing the useful energy services provided by approximately 87 quads of current US energy consumption with renewable sources of energy. As shown above, current US energy consumption produces only approximately 31 quads of useful energy services. The balance of the energy consumed is rejected as the result of process inefficiencies. Therefore, approximately 21 quads of additional renewable energy would be required to replace the useful energy services currently provided by fossil fuels and nuclear, assuming 100% utilization efficiency. At a more realistic utilization efficiency level of 60%, approximately an additional 35 quads of renewable energy would be required.

One scenario would provide the entire 35 quads of additional renewable energy with wind generation. If we assume a mix of onshore and offshore wind generation, an average wind turbine capacity of 3 MW and an average wind turbine capacity factor of 35%, the incremental generating capacity required would be approximately:

35,000,000,000,000,000 BTU/yr

3MW/WT * 0.35 * 1,000,000 W/MW * 3.413 BTU/Whr * 8766 hours/yr. = 35,000,000,000,000,000 BTU/yr

31,000,000,000 BTU/yr = 1,200,000 wind turbines

Normal electric industry practice would provide a capacity reserve margin of approximately 20%, to allow for weather extremes and equipment outage for maintenance and repair. This would increase the number of additional wind turbines required to approximately 1,450,000.

Hourly variations in electricity demand can average approximately 60%, which would require either additional generation capacity or storage capacity equal to approximately 30% of peak demand. Seasonal demand is also higher in summer and winter than in spring and fall, requiring additional, longer term, storage.

Current US electric generating capacity is approximately 1,000 Gigawatts (GW), of which 70 GW is wind generators and 80 GW is hydroelectric generators. Replacing the remaining 850 GW with 3 MW wind turbines at a 35% capacity factor would require approximately 800,000 wind turbines.

Therefore, it would require approximately 2.3 million wind turbines to replace existing fossil and nuclear generated electricity and the current direct uses of coal, oil and natural gas. That is approximately 30 times the current installed wind generation capacity. Other scenarios might rely on a combination of wind and solar initially, with later additions of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion and Wave Energy. Regardless, this would be a monumental task.

 

Tags: Renewable Energy, Wind Energy

Endangered Species – Reconsideration of the EPA Endangerment Finding

President Trump’s Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth instructs the EPA Administrator to “review and, if appropriate, as soon as practicable, take lawful action to suspend, revise, or rescind, as appropriate and consistent with law, the "Legal Memorandum Accompanying Clean Power Plan for Certain Issues," which was published in conjunction with the Clean Power Plan.”

The legal underpinnings for the Clean Power Plan(CPP) are: the April 2, 2007 US Supreme Court ruling that CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act; and, the EPA December 5, 2009 Endangerment Finding and Cause or Contribute Finding for greenhouse gases. This Endangerment Finding requires that EPA establish and promulgate a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for the greenhouse gases which are the sources of the endangerment. This NAAQS has not been issued in the 7+ years since the Endangerment Finding; and, an internet search provides no links to any documentation of EPA activity to develop and promulgate this NAAQS.

Several sources have called for reconsideration of the EPA Endangerment Finding:

           (HT: The Science and Environment Policy Project www.sepp.org)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt questions whether EPA has either the authority under the Clean Air Act or the ability, as currently structured and staffed, to regulate CO2 emissions. Congress considered and explicitly rejected including CO2 as a criteria pollutant when considering the Clean Air Act and its later amendments.

Democrat members of the US Senate have written to Administrator Pruitt, expressing their concerns about the future of the CPP; and, demanding responses from EPA regarding EPA decisions relating to the future of the CPP.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the effort to rescind the CPP will be challenged as long as the Endangerment Finding remains in place. Therefore, as difficult as it might appear, the Endangerment Finding must be challenged; and, either substantially revised or rescinded.

Recent climate research suggests that climate sensitivity to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations is at the lower end of the range of values estimated by the IPCC, or even below that range. These results suggest that humanity is not as “endangered” as the studies used to support the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding indicated. Therefore, it appears that the first approach to revising or rescinding the EPA Endangerment Finding should be a thorough review of the recent climate sensitivity research by non-EPA “tiger teams”, to determine whether the “endangerment” identified by EPA is real and of sufficient magnitude to justify regulatory programs such as the CPP.

Absent the requirements of the CPP, electric utilities and non-utility power plant owners and the state utility commissions which regulate them would be free to continue to pursue expanded natural gas combined-cycle power plant and renewable generation options, applying Best Available Current Technology, consistent with maintaining system reliability and controlling consumer energy costs.

 

Tags: Clean Power Plan, EPA, Endangerment Finding

Enlightened Self-interest – Opposition to Trump’s Environmental Policies

Prior to the US election in November 2016 the UNFCCC, the IPCC, the signatories to the Paris Accords and numerous environmental NGOs were quietly confident that the expected future Clinton Administration would continue the environmental policies of the Obama Administration. Since the election of President Trump, those organizations and their progressive allies in the US have attempted to convince the then President-elect and now President to modify the positions he espoused during his campaign regarding climate change.

They have also attempted to convince themselves and others that the momentum produced by the Paris Accords would continue regardless of the positions taken by the Trump Administration; and, they attempted to halt or slow the approval of Scott Pruitt as the new EPA Administrator. Their progressive allies in and out of government have resisted and continue to resist the changes being pursued by President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. They even organized a March for Science to demonstrate their opposition to the Administration’s climate agenda.

Several recent events have clearly demonstrated to these groups and their progressive allies that they have been unsuccessful in slowing the Administration’s pace or changing its direction.

The NGOs and others have now begun efforts to convince US businesses that they “must” take the lead in moving the US toward a clean energy economy, since the Administration has decided not to force the US economy down that path. The Environmental Defense Fund document linked above goes into significant detail regarding what they believe is in the enlightened self-interest of US businesses, apparently under the impression that those businesses would be incapable of identifying courses of action which would be in their best interests on their own; or, that they can shame the businesses into courses of action which the businesses do not see as being in their best interests.

The Administration actions so far have no impact on the climate change positions taken by several states in the Northeast and California, which have established state goals and state cap & trade programs designed to achieve those goals. The Administration actions also have no effect on the Renewable Portfolio Standards established by state legislatures and regulatory bodies regarding electric power generation. They also have no impact on state incentive programs for on-site generation, including net metering programs available from regulated utilities. However, the Administration has begun efforts to free the states from the CO2 emissions reduction requirements which would be imposed by the EPA Clean Power Plan, which has currently been stayed by the US Supreme Court.

The US “commitment” to reduce its CO2 emissions under the Paris Accords is not the only issue of discussion regarding the Accords. The developing nations have begun their “show me the money” chorus regarding the Climate Fund agreed to in Paris. It appears exceedingly unlikely that the desired $100 billion per year funding level will be achieved, despite the best intentions of the intended funders and the fondest desires of the intended recipients.

 

Tags: Clean Power Plan, Donald Trump, EPA, United Nations, IPCC, Paris Agreement

Hyperbolic Reaction to Trump’s Executive Order

The general reaction of the consensed climate science community, the environmentalist community, the progressive political class, and the “mainstream” media to the Trump Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth has been marked by a degree of hyperbole bordering on the unhinged. The EO has been accused of doing several things which it does not do, nor even intend to do.

One major focus of the reaction has been aimed at the Administration’s intent to remove support for the Clean Power Plan. This is viewed as an attempt to reinvigorate the US coal industry, though the intent is actually to allow operators of existing coal-fired electric generating plants to continue to operate those plants to meet their customers’ electric needs; and, to allow the construction of new coal-fired generating stations, if approved by the State Utility Commissions with jurisdiction over the serving utilities. The EO does not affect existing State Renewable Portfolio Standards, nor does it reduce or eliminate existing federal programs to encourage wind and solar generation development and use. The EO does not require a reversion from current environmental dispatch protocols to economic dispatch. The EO does not affect any existing federal emissions regulations regarding criteria pollutants. The EO merely states the intent not to enforce the proposed CO2 emissions limits imposed by the CPP, which are not currently economically achievable on either new or existing coal generators with commercially available and demonstrated control equipment.

Trump’s critics have proclaimed that the Clean Power Plan is the salvation of the future of life as we know it; and, that not enforcing it will make no difference because its objectives will be achieved anyway. There is reasonable likelihood that the truth lies somewhere between these extreme positions.

A second major focus is the intent to abandon or substantially revise the current Social Cost of Carbon calculation. The current SCC estimate of ~$40 per ton is believed to be exaggerated; and, to completely ignore the social benefits of increased atmospheric CO2, such as the NASA-documented “greening” of the planet. Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been experimentally determined to increase plant growth rates and to improve the efficiency with which plants use available water.

The intent of the SCC calculations was to be a precursor to a carbon tax or fee (essentially a “sin” tax) intended to drive up the costs of fossil fuels and produce large incremental federal revenues. One proposal for a “fully refundable carbon tax” is discussed here in all its redistributionist glory.

A third significant focus is the intent to reopen federal lands to fossil fuel exploration and production. Most of the growth of natural gas reserves over the past eight years has been the result of exploration and production on private lands. While this has been effective in dramatically increasing availability and reducing cost, the limitations to E&P on federal lands has taken many highly regarded development prospects “off the table” and led to the development of less attractive prospects because they are on private land and thus accessible.

Perhaps the most shocked reactions to the explanations of the Administration positions which led to this Executive Order have been to the extremely blunt response by Administration Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to questions about climate change funding in the President’s Budget Outline. Mulvaney is quoted as responding that he believed the President had been quite clear that he believed that funding was a waste of taxpayers’ money and that the Administration would not be funding that in the future.

 

Related Articles:

Cornwall Alliance Fights Climate Ugliness

 

Tags: Regulation, EPA, Clean Power Plan, Donald Trump

Whistleblowing and Government Secrets, Chelsea Manning edition

In his final days in office, President Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning. While in the employ of the US Army, Manning had downloaded tens of thousands of government documents and passed them on to Wikileaks.

Among the leaked documents were many State Department cables, reports on incidents during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Some documents revealed information that put US diplomacy into disadvantaged negotiating positions and exposed personnel to increased military risk. Some of the more controversial documents were about arbitrary arrests, the use of torture and the training of torturers, and 2007 video footage showing an Apache helicopter killing civilians in Baghdad, Iraq.

So: Is Manning a traitor who illegally exposed sensitive government secrets -- or a whistleblower exposing corrupt and illegal government activities? Or both?

In the business world, ethicists encourage whistleblowers to set aside the ordinary expectation of confidentiality and loyalty to expose illegalities within their organizations. The US Department of Labor has extensive protections in place for whistleblowers. The employers that whistleblowers expose are prohibited by law from taking adverse actions such as firing, threatening, or reducing the whistle-blowing employee's compensation.

Does anything change when the employer is the government itself? And does it matter that very recent public perceptions are of a government with an increasing number of high officials who lie prodigiously, use power arbitrarily, and then use information-classification procedures to cover-up their misdeeds? Our government officials are constitutionally bound, and they are ultimately responsible to us, the citizens.

Executive Order 13526 says:

“In no case shall information be classified … in order to: conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency … or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.” (Sec. 1.7, Classification Prohibitions and Limitations)

Yet we should also consider the standard procedures whistleblowers should follow.

The first consideration is to whom the problem should be reported. Normally, problems can be reported to a superior officer. But if the superior is the problem, then it can be communicated to the superior's superior. If that is bureaucratically impossible or the illegality is coming from on high, then the whistleblower can appropriately seek an ombudsman or an independent regulatory or judicial office with the authority to investigate.

A second consideration is how much information to release. Whistleblowers should not release information indiscriminately, but rather only information directly relevant to the infraction(s).

So relevant to evaluating Chelsea Manning's actions is whether she respected those two considerations.

Did she discuss her concerns with her superiors? Or if she rightly judged that would be ineffective, did she seek out the Army's or other appropriate watchdog or judicial units, e.g., the FBI? Or did she simply and directly go public to Wikileaks?

And did she review the information she downloaded and release only those documents relevant to her legitimate concerns? Or did she indiscriminately release any documents she was able to acquire?

Illegal activities and cover-ups by high government officials are dangerous to our republic -- but so is the flouting of the rule of law and its specified procedures.

 

Tags: Chelsea Manning, Whistleblower

EPA Endangerment Finding

Several commentators have identified rescission or substantial revision of the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding regarding CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” as the key to achieving the Trump Administration’s environmental objectives, as described in the 2017 Executive Order “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”.

“The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of “sensitive” populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

The US Supreme Court ruled in April 2007 that EPA had the authority to regulate the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended. The Supreme Court decision was based on the potential endangerment which could be caused by climate change driven by CO2 and other GHG emissions, rather than on direct human endangerment resulting from exposure to these gases.

EPA issued an Endangerment Finding regarding greenhouse gases in December, 2009. The language reproduced above states that EPA was then required set an NAAQS for CO2 as well as the other listed greenhouse gases. The contemporaneous EPA Cause or Contribute Finding was limited to new motor vehicles, though they are obviously not the only sources of CO2 and other GHG emissions of concern. For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) has determined that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport.”

EPA was immediately petitioned to set the NAAQS for CO2 at 350 ppm. Others have spoken out for an NAAQS at 270 ppm. Dr. James Hansen of NASA-GISS and others asserted that 350 ppm was the maximum safe atmospheric concentration of CO2. This assertion was based on the outputs of climate models, rather than on any rigorous experimental demonstration of endangerment. EPA could elect to set the NAAQS at some other atmospheric concentration. However, EPA has failed to do so in the intervening 7+ years, for a variety of reasons.

Fortunately, the NAAQS process includes an “escape hatch” for exceedances resulting from “pollution” from non-state sources, including non-US sources such as China and India. Unfortunately, each US state would have to comply with the NAAQS, with the exception of “pollution” from non-state sources, even in the face of continuing increases in emissions from those non-state sources.

An NAAQS set at 350 ppm would arguably require not only the total elimination of CO2 emissions by each US state, but also the installation of facilities deemed capable of reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations by ~50 ppm below current levels during the compliance period. Presumably, the capacity of the US facilities to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere would be limited to the capacity to remove CO2 from “state sources”.

Historic NAAQS compliance periods have been less than 10 years. A similar compliance period for CO2 would make the “83% by 2050″ touted by the Obama Administration pale in comparison. This would be the case, not only because the required investments would have to be made over an extremely compressed time frame, but also because many potential technologies, which might have become economically viable both for producing energy without CO2 emissions and for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, would likely not be commercially available during the dramatically shortened compliance time frame.

Regardless, absent a dramatic change of course by the developing world, the actual atmospheric concentration of CO2 would continue to increase, though arguably at a somewhat slower rate than would otherwise have occurred. That means that an NAAQS set at 350 ppm could not possibly be achieved in reality without rapid and coordinated action by all of the nations of the globe to both halt current emissions and to install and operate facilities to remove CO2 already in the atmosphere. The discussions at COP 15 in Copenhagen in December, 2009 and the Paris Accords announced in December, 2015 suggest that such action is highly unlikely, absent some cataclysmic event(s).

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that the investment required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at ~450 ppm by 2050 would be ~$45 trillion over and above the business as usual scenario; and, could be more than double that amount if technology advances do not occur as rapidly as they project. The investments required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at ~350 ppm by 2050 are not estimated, but would certainly be more than $100 trillion, since the emissions reductions required would become emissions eliminations; and, additional investments would be required to remove carbon already in the atmosphere. A dramatically shortened compliance time frame would increase these investments significantly.

I remain convinced that the ultimate intent of the AGW CO2 “mitigation” effort is the total elimination of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Should EPA actually establish an NAAQS for carbon dioxide at a concentration at or below ~400 ppm, that intent would be confirmed; and, the timeframe for compliance would be dramatically shortened compared with the timeframes contemplated even by the Paris Accords.

The FACT that the atmospheric concentration would not actually be stabilized at that level, since accomplishing that is clearly beyond the capability of the US, would have no bearing on EPA’s enforcement of the NAAQS. The only advantage of an NAAQS which is clearly unachievable in reality would be its susceptibility to being overturned by the courts, which still appear to retain the ability, if not the willingness, to separate fantasy from reality.

 

Tags: EPA, Regulation

Should Politicians Force Diversity at Universities?

By diversity I mean the intellectual kind. Numerous surveys (e.g., here and here) show that university faculties lean left, often far left in humanities departments.

A purely democratic argument says Yes, politicians should force diversity. Government-funded universities are paid for with tax monies, and in a democracy politicians are responsible to their constituents to ensure that their funds are spent appropriately. But biased faculties cannot deliver quality education, especially on important controversial issues about which students need to hear and weigh all sides of the arguments. Therefore, it is democratically appropriate that politicians either withdraw government funding or intervene to mandate intellectual diversity and balanced presentation.

The other side of the argument says No, even state universities should be self-governing institutions free of political pressure. The ideal of liberal education holds that knowledge seeking and transfer require intellectual freedom to pursue politically unpopular lines of thought in research, publication, and in the classroom. But governments are institutions of compulsion, and any thought policing by politicians must be rejected vigorously in the name of academic freedom. So government-funded universities should not be seen in purely democratic terms but—true to their medieval roots—more in feudal terms, as part of an overall political structure but with special privileges and rights not necessarily granted to other sectors.

But what if the universities—or significant portions of them—become captured by professors, administrators, and/or student groups actively opposed to liberal education? That is, what if they willfully engage in biased teaching or even indoctrination? What if they suppress the academic freedom of those they disagree with? What if they tolerate the use of physical threats or engage in acts of compulsion against dissenters and intellectual minorities? If the case for academic freedom is part of the ideal of liberal education, but a university rejects or subverts liberal education, then the politicians who fund the government universities face a dilemma.

Politicians must then choose either (1) to fail in their responsibilities to taxpayers by continuing to spend their money on educationally irresponsible institutions, or (2) to use their political power to interfere with or override the self-governance of universities. The dilemma is worsened by the government's being an institution of compulsion: it either uses compulsion to get people to pay their taxes to fund the universities, or it uses compulsion to force the universities to reform (or it does both).

The tension between liberal education on compulsory funding thus becomes explicit.

If politicians choose the route of imposing reforms on the state universities, they have a number of sub-options:

* Eliminate tenure in order to speed up the process of replacing faculty.
* In the hiring of new faculty, require a kind of affirmative action for under-represented perspectives.
* Threaten to or actually withdraw funds unless specific politically-decided reform targets are met.
* Tie political funding to demonstrated educational responsibility, including ideological balance, but leave it up to the universities how they will achieve that.

But history shows that politicians' controlling education is a worse outcome. In politically authoritarian societies, uniformity and fear replace independent thinking and debate. And in politically democratic societies, political control means that education becomes a football kicked back and forth across the field depending on who won the last election.

Preserving the autonomy of universities should therefore be the priority. And that means that the needed diversity reforms have to be effected by other interest groups that care about education—students, administrators, boards of trustees, donors, accrediting agencies, media, and, perhaps most importantly, those faculty who are genuinely committed to liberal education.

Despite the worrying current trends, there is also encouraging evidence that the pushback against intellectual intolerance has momentum:

* Students marching with their feet to avoid the most politicized universities, e.g, the significantly declining enrollment at University of Missouri in response to out-of-control events the previous year.
* Donors who withhold their much-needed funds when educational bias increases, as the examples of AmherstYale, and other institutions show.
* Reporting by widely-read publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education to highlight the seriousness of the problems.
* National and international groups of professors joining with other professors to reinvigorate the ideal of genuine knowledge-seeking and liberal education.

There's no obvious answer to the question of which side will prevail—liberalism versus authoritarianism is an age-old, multi-front battle. But when there is still hope that the universities can heal themselves, precedence should be given to the principle of keeping separate the spheres of intellectual freedom and political compulsion.

 

Tags: Ideological Diversity, Political Diversity

America First – Trump’s Climate Change Budget

The Trump Administration has released “America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”. The blueprint is long on direction and short on details. The implications of this document for climate change are significant and broad-ranging. Of course, it remains to be seen how and to what extent the direction provided by this budget blueprint will be embodied in the actual Federal Budget.

The impacts of the budget blueprint on climate change would impact primarily the following cabinet departments and executive branch agencies:

            Department of State (UN funding for UNFCCC, IPCC and related activities)

            Department of Commerce (NOAA, NCEI)

            Department of Energy (NREL, energy efficiency programs)

            Environmental Protection Agency (climate related programs, including CPP)

            NASA (GISS activities related to climate change)

These impacts are discussed in more detail below.

Department of State

Eliminates Global Climate Change Initiative. Ceases funding to Green Climate Fund and its two precursors. Probable effects on numerous other UN climate change related activities.

Department of Commerce

Eliminates NOAA grants for coastal and marine management and education, largely related to sea level rise. Retains funding for current polar satellite programs, but proposes savings from future efforts.

Department of Energy

Refocuses Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Fossil Energy Research and Development programs on limited, early stage R&D. Specific impacts on national laboratories are not articulated.

Environmental Protection Agency

Discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs and climate change research and partnership programs.

Energy Star appliance efficiency program is defunded.

NASA

NASA’s efforts will be refocused toward space exploration and away from climate change. Major effect should be on the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, which is currently heavily involved in climate change related activities.

The largest budgetary impacts of the budget blueprint fall on the Department of State (28.7% reduction) and US EPA (31.4% reduction). The major impacts on the Department of State appear to be in UN-related funding for climate change activities, though UN funding for other activities is also identified for elimination or reduction. The major impacts on EPA are focused on climate change, as had been promised.

The detailed negotiations in the Congress regarding the 2018 Federal Budget will occur against the background of both a congressional investigation and a NOAA investigation of allegations surrounding Karl et al adjustments to the global sea surface temperature data; and, EPA efforts to terminate the Clean Power Plan and to question the validity of the 2009 CO2 endangerment finding.

 

Tags: EPA, Budgets, Donald Trump

Parsing Bloomberg – The Dishonest Press

I recently propounded “Reid’s Law”, which is an “observational law” regarding climate.

“As an online discussion regarding climate grows longer, the probability of the term “denier” being used approaches 1.”

Reid’s Law has two corollaries:

“The less scientific and the more political a website is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original blog post.”

“The more liberal / progressive a media outlet is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original editorial, opinion piece or news story.”

A recent article on Bloomberg presents an interesting opportunity to illustrate one of the corollaries to Reid’s Law, as well as to illustrate the subtle changes in messaging which appear between the quoted statement of a public official and the journalistic perception of the official’s message. Bloomberg is generally recognized as a liberal or progressive media outlet.

The Bloomberg article is based on a response to a politically “loaded” question asked of new US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during an interview on CNBC’s "Squawk Box" on March 10th. Pruitt was asked if he agreed that human activity was a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt’s response was as follows.

"Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

The headline of the Bloomberg piece was titled: “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Discounts Carbon’s Role in Warming Planet”; and, subtitled: “Says greenhouse gas is not a ‘primary contributor’ to warming”. The problem is that Pruitt neither said, nor intended to say, what the article’s title and subtitle suggest he did.

What he said is clear in the quote above from the article. Pruitt recognized that it is not currently possible to accurately measure the human impact on climate, no less its individual components, or to measure the impact of natural variation on climate. He also recognized that the degree of human impact is the subject of disagreement. Therefore, he declined to agree with the premise on which the question was based, since he did not believe he had sufficient information on which to base such agreement. Even the IPCC, in its Fifth Assessment Report, assigns 95% probability to the estimate that human activity is responsible for “more than half” of recent warming; and, that “probability” is questionable.

Later in the Bloomberg article, US Senator Brian Schatz (D, HI) is quoted as follows.

"It’s why we should have never confirmed him. It’s why he is unqualified to do that job. He held it together for one hearing, but he is a climate denier. There is no doubt about it."

Schatz accusation is, at the very least, hyperbolic and disingenuous. Some might consider it ignorant and duplicitous. Pruitt clearly does not deny that the earth has a climate, based on the quote above. He also clearly does not deny that the climate has warmed, or that there is human influence on climate warming, or even that the human influence is significant. Bloomberg’s choice of Schatz comment and its inclusion of the portion of the Schatz comment which includes the “denier” accusation is consistent with the distortion of Pruitt’s message earlier in the article.

The CNBC article regarding the interview with Pruitt is quite similar in tone to the Bloomberg article, more extensively quoting Senator Schatz. It also quotes Obama Administration climate negotiator Jeffrey Sachs as follows:

“President Trump dangerously wrong on climate change.”

Neither article bothers to quote or paraphrase anyone supportive of Pruitt, the positions he mentions or the distinctions he makes regarding human influence on climate change. Both Bloomberg and CNBC were even less objective, though far more supportive, in their coverage of prior Obama Administration EPA administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy.

 

Tags: Media, Climate Change Debate

Highlighted Article: Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching!

This is a detailed paper on the 2016 bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. It contradicts the wide spread supposition that global warming is responsible for the bleaching. Instead it details how the effects of extreme low tides because of El Nino is responsible for it, the same as it has been in the past.

Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching!

 

Tags: Sea Level Change, Sea Level Rise

California’s Drought

The past several years featured a never-ending stream of stories about California’s never-ending drought and its supposed roots in climate change. The past few weeks have featured a stream of stories about California’s experience with an “atmospheric river”, which effectively ended the never-ending drought.

Climate models purportedly predicted the never-ending California drought, but not the rains and snows which ended it. Some commentators were critical of California’s failure to increase water storage capacity in the face of rapidly growing population. Other commentators suggested that it made no sense to build additional reservoirs, since there would be no rain and snow available to fill them.

The recent “atmospheric river” event, in the absence of additional reservoir capacity, resulted in the loss of trillions of gallons of water which might have been stored for future use by the state’s residents and by the state’s farmers, ranchers, orchardists and wine grape growers. Those trillions of gallons of water instead flowed unproductively back to the Pacific Ocean.

The “atmospheric river” event also highlighted problems with California’s existing infrastructure, especially the Oroville dam, which was extensively damaged as the reservoir rapidly refilled, followed by massive discharge of water down the dam’s main spillway, damaging the spillway and later the emergency spillway and the downstream channel. More than 185,000 residents of homes downstream of the dam were evacuated as the result of concerns that the dam might fail, inundating their homes.

Reports later revealed that the state had allocated funds from a bond issue for reservoir expansion and maintenance, but that the funds had not been spent on those projects. The state has now requested federal emergency funds to deal with the Oroville dam problem, despite the fact that the state has budgeted and unspent state funds available to make the necessary repairs.

The key issue now is planning for the future water needs of the state’s water consumers. California needs to approximately double its reservoir capacity to match the needs of its growing population, which has roughly doubled since the last reservoir was commissioned. Those construction projects will take years, once construction begins. They might require additional years to obtain the necessary environmental approvals and adjudicate the expected environmental lawsuits and appeals before construction can begin.

California would also be wise to maximize the hydroelectric generating capacity of these new dams, to assist the state in meeting its renewable energy supply goals.

 

Related Articles:

California Snowpack 185% of normal, another big snow on the way - Watts Up With That?

California’s Wasted Winter Rains (paywall) – The Wall Street Journal

What “permanent drought”? New all-time rainfall record set for California - Watts Up With That?

 

Tags: Drought
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