Replacing the Clean Power Plan with less harmful ACE rule does not fix faux CO2 science.
As the Punic Wars dragged on, Cato the Elder reportedly concluded every speech to the Roman Senate by proclaiming “Carthago delenda est” – “Carthage must be destroyed.”
Ample evidence suggests that the Obama era Environmental Protection Agency’s “Endangerment Finding” was devised in violation of basic scientific and transparency principles that ignored or excluded extensive evidence that contradicted its preordained outcome. The EF was then used to justify anti-fossil fuel rules that seriously harmed the energy security, jobs, health and welfare of millions of Americans.
The Finding must be reexamined. If these contentions are validated, it must be reversed and demolished.
In its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that EPA must determine whether emissions of carbon dioxide and certain other atmospheric gases “cause or contribute” to “air pollution” that may be “reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” If the agency found the answer was yes, then it had to regulate those emissions. The Bush EPA failed to take action.
However, candidate and President Obama had promised that he would eliminate coal-based electricity generation and “fundamentally transform” America. It was thus a foregone conclusion that his EPA would quickly find a dire threat existed. On December 7, 2009, EPA issued its Endangerment Finding (EF): that carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) were pollutants that did indeed “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations” of Americans.
The Obama EPA then promulgated its “Clean Power Plan,” which shut down numerous coal mines and coal-fired power plants, eliminated thousands of jobs and severely impacted factories, families and communities across the United States. The CPP also spurred the shift to unreliable wind and solar power.
However, any CPP climate change, health and welfare benefits are at best undetectable, in part because the rest of the world – from China, India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia to Australia, Germany and Poland – continue to build thousands of coal-fired power plants and put millions of vehicles on the road.
Recognizing this, President Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris climate treaty. His EPA has proposed to replace the Obama Clean Power Plan with an “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) plan that lets states take the lead in devising GHG emission reduction programs that best serve their individual energy needs.
These are important steps. But they are not enough, because they perpetuate the false claim that plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide is a “dangerous pollutant.” Even worse, leaving the EF in place would enable any future anti-fossil fuel administration to impose new economy-strangling, welfare-degrading rules.
Worst of all, leaving the Finding unchallenged and ignoring the way it was concocted and implemented would sanctify some of the most fraudulent and dictatorial Deep State bureaucratic actions in history.
In devising its EF, the Obama EPA did no new research and made no effort to examine the full range of studies and evidence readily available on natural versus manmade climate change. It just cherry-picked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports; deliberately excluded studies that contradicted its predetermined finding; and relied on temperature and extreme weather predictions by computer models.
The IPCC itself had long ago ended any pretense of trying to understand the interplay of natural and human influences on Earth’s climate. Instead, for political reasons, it had decided to focus on human fossil fuel use and GHG emissions as the only important factors influencing modern climate change. Its reports reflect that approach – and ignore the growing and readily available body of contrary studies and evidence, such as volumes of studies summarized by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.
The Obama EPA team even removed one of its most senior experts, who had prepared a contrarian report. EPA consulted with alarmist scientists and environmentalist groups, but ignored moderates and IPCC critics.
The computerized climate models relied on by EPA are programmed to reflect the assumption that rising atmospheric CO2 levels are the primary factor determining climate and extreme weather. However, the average prediction by 102 models is now a full 1 degree F above what satellites are actually measuring.
In fact, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels climbed well above the supposed 350 ppm “tipping point” (they reached 405 ppm in 2017), except for noticeable short-term temperature spikes during El Niño ocean warming events, there has been virtually no planetary warming since 1998 or at least 2002.
Moreover, Harvey finally ended a record 12-year absence of Category 3-5 hurricanes making U.S. landfall. Tornados are no more frequent than in the 1950s. Droughts differ little from historic trends and cycles. Seas are rising at just seven inches per century, and Antarctic and Arctic ice are largely within “normal” or “cyclical” levels for the past several centuries. Indeed, reports of vanishing Arctic ice go back nearly a century and low ice levels were documented by Francis McClintock and other explorers long before that.
In many cases, older temperature records were adjusted downward, modern records got bumped upward a bit, and government-paid scientists relied on measurements recorded near (and contaminated by) airport jet exhausts, blacktop parking lots, and urban areas warmed by cars, heating and AC vents.
Humans might well be “contributing” to temperature, climate and weather events, at least locally. But there is no real-world evidence that “greenhouse gases” have replaced natural forces or are causing unprecedented climate chaos or extreme weather; no evidence that those emissions are “endangering public health and welfare” or that humans can control Earth’s perpetually fickle climate by controlling emissions.
Far from being a “pollutant,” carbon dioxide is the miracle molecule without which most life on Earth would cease to exist. The more CO2 in the air, the faster and better crop, forest and grassland plants grow, and the more they are able to withstand droughts, diseases, and damage from insects and viruses.
In fact, a slightly warmer planet with more atmospheric CO2 would be tremendously beneficial for plants, wildlife and humanity. A colder planet with less carbon dioxide would greatly reduce arable land extent, growing seasons, wildlife habitats, crop production and our ability to feed humanity.
Equally important, over 80 percent of U.S. energy still comes from fossil fuels – and the countless benefits of those abundant, reliable, affordable fuels (and their CO2 output) exceed the EPA’s alleged “social costs of carbon” and “human health and welfare impacts” by at least 50 to 1, and perhaps as much as 500 to 1.
On a closely related matter, contrary to the “97% consensus” myth, scientific debate continues unabated over recent and future global warming, cooling, storms, droughts, sea levels and other “adverse effects” from oil, natural gas and coal use. Computer models and alarmist climate specialists say the threats are serious. Real-world observations and moderate to skeptical climate experts vigorously disagree.
The Obama EPA’s Endangerment Finding ignored all of this. It likewise dismissed the extravagant raw material requirements of expensive wind, solar and biofuel “alternatives” and their adverse impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitats. That makes the 2009 process even more suspect and fraudulent.
There is no demonstrable, much less dire or unprecedented, danger to American health and welfare from continued CO2 emissions. The danger is from anti-fossil fuel policies justified by the EF and IPCC.
Simply put, in concocting its Endangerment Finding, the Obama EPA violated the cost-benefit analysis policies and basic standards for honest, open, informed, replicable science. With so much of America’s energy, economy, environment, health and welfare at stake, this cannot be allowed to continue.
The Trump Administration must disavow the “CO2 drives climate change” tautology and stop viewing the Endangerment Finding as “established” law and policy. It is no more established or acceptable than were the Supreme Court’s reprehensible 1857 Dred Scott and 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decisions.
It is time to reexamine the Endangerment Finding, give it the intense Red Team scrutiny it deserves, and relegate it to the dustbin of history. The Endangerment Finding delenda est.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of books and articles on energy, climate change, economic development and human rights.