Brought to You by www.SEPP.org – The Science and Environmental Policy Project
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
“Not With a Bang But a Whimper”: The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22), the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) were held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016. Reuters reported COP-22 began with bluster with the French President Francois Hollande claiming “inaction would be ‘disastrous for future generations and it would be dangerous for peace’”.
“Both he and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Trump, who has called man-made global warming a hoax, to drop a campaign pledge to cancel the global 2015 Paris Agreement that aims to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies.
“’The United States, the largest economic power in the world, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter, must respect the commitments it has undertaken,’ Hollande said to applause. The agreement was ‘irreversible’, he said.
“In such U.N. meetings, it is very rare for leaders to single out others for even veiled criticism. Both Hollande and Ban were among the architects of the Paris Agreement.
“’What was once unthinkable has become unstoppable,’ Ban said at a news conference of the Paris deal, agreed by almost 200 governments last year after two decades of tortuous negotiations. The accord formally entered into force on Nov. 4 after a record swift ratification.”
But sunny Marrakech was apparently very chilly. As Geoff Hill reported in The Zimbabwean: “If an iceberg had fallen from the sky, it wouldn’t have chilled the climate-change conference in Marrakech like news of the US election.”
Bluster and threats may not work on President-elect Trump, especially if they come from international bureaucrats who benefit from false claims that their actions will save the world.
Both Ban and Hollande were major parties to the farce of Paris, when major revisions were made at the last minute at the insistence of the Obama administration. These revisions substantially changed the tone of the Paris Agreement from the appearance of a Treaty to the appearance of a loose agreement. However, is this agreement enforceable under international law?
How enforceable the Paris Agreement is in US law is highly questionable, particularly in that it has not been submitted to Congress for approval as an executive agreement? Further, it has not been submitted to the Senate for approval as treaty.
As Rupert Darwall reports, some in Marrakech realized that: “The Paris Agreement was structured to avoid the test of a two-thirds vote in the US Senate. The strategy depended on American voters supplying a climate-friendly successor to President Obama.” The strategy failed. Now the participants only have themselves to blame.
However, as with World War I generals explaining failed offensives, the international bureaucrats will blame someone else. The Battle of the Somme was fought between July 1 and November 18, 1916, one hundred years ago, without any meaningful success. After the opening day, when the British Army suffered almost sixty thousand causalities with almost one-third dead, General Haig blamed the failure of a major breakthrough on the lack of troops committed to the attack.
COP—22 ended on November 18 with no grand announcements or last minute agreements. The failure of COP-22 can be blamed on the lack of physical evidence that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major cause of global warming/climate change. Climate has been changing for millions of years, and will continue to do so no matter what the UN proclaims. Global climate models which have not undergone the rigorous testing for verification and validation are not the basis for sound policy. Their long-term forecasts may be more imaginary and physical, as were the “state-of-the-art” energy models used by the Club of Rome and the US government to forecast the world would run out of oil by the end of the 20th century. Of course, the participants in COP-22 will blame others. See links under After Paris – COP-22 and After US Election!
Quote of the Week. ““Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard Feynman
Number of the Week: 20 Billion Barrels
What Happens Now? The election of Donald Trump took many political “experts” and pollsters by surprise. His party retained control of the Senate, the House, and took over many governor positions and control of state legislations. This was far beyond what was expected and can be seen as a rebellion against establishment Democrats. One third of the Democrats in the House of Representatives come from three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California.
This week Trump had a surprise for Republicans. He appointed Vice-President-elect Pence as head of his transition team, which sends staffers to agencies for planning the transfer of power from President Obama on January 20. Pence announced that registered lobbyists will not be participating in the transition leadership, unless they deregister under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. This would preclude them from lobbying for clients. This action forced a well-known energy lobbyist, Michael McKenna, to resign from the transition team. The announcement is delaying the transition team, but may indicate that the incoming administration will be a rebellion against establishment Republicans as well. When campaigning, Trump did not receive hearty endorsements from many establishment Republicans.
There are many suggestions over what will happen now that COP-22 ended without a meaningful resolution, except a plea for money. Reiteration of dire consequences from carbon dioxide-caused global warming, now called climate change, seem to have lost their effect and certainly lack substantial physical evidence. Perhaps an indication of what may come is articulated by Kevin Cramer, who represents North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives and has acted as an advisor on energy for President-elect Donald Trump.
Cramer writes: “Arguments that a Trump administration must wait at least three years to withdraw from the Paris agreement – as well as provide a one year notice – are incorrect. For a country to be bound by the Paris agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires a government to complete all national procedures for the agreement’s ratification.
“President Barack Obama’s signing of the agreement in September was not sufficient. Under the U.S. Constitution the authority to ratify treaties lies with the Senate. Until the Senate votes, the United States remains outside of the Paris agreement.
“The White House’s position that Paris is simply an executive agreement and not a treaty has been a matter of political convenience, especially given the level of Republican opposition in the Senate.
“Any reasonable person would find that the State Department’s guidance on determining if an agreement needs Senate approval strongly indicates that Paris is, by definition, a treaty. Both Hillary Clinton’s campaign and environmentalists have treated it as such.
“The other major economies of the world, including the European Union and Japan, have also viewed Paris as a “binding” treaty, one that requires the approval of their legislatures before it can take effect.”
Cramer further writes: “As polls in the presidential race tightened, the international community worked feverishly with the White House to put in place the agreement as quickly as possible before the election – an attempt at “Trump proofing” it and locking in the United States for four years. Unquestionably, those foreign governments were accomplices in the Obama’s administration apparent violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“An unintended but foreseeable consequence of this reckless behavior is the potential U.S. withdraw from the entire UNFCCC. President-elect Trump could decide to end America’s participation in the framework convention, fulfilling a campaign promise to “cancel” Paris and end funding for U.N. climate efforts altogether.
“Because the UNFCCC has been in force since 1994, U.S. withdrawal from the framework could take effect by January 20, 2018, assuming proper notification. A party is considered out of the Paris agreement automatically if it removes itself from the underlying UNFCCC. Unlike ratification, the White House can end America’s participation in a treaty unilaterally – as it did with the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002.”
Myron Ebell of CEI has been pilloried by the Climate Establishment, largely falsely, because he is heading the transition team for the EPA. Contrary to some claims, this is a temporary position, not a permanent one heading the EPA. Ebell suggested that the incoming administration can treat the agreement as a treaty and submit it to the Senate for approval of two-thirds of the Senators. If this is done with a time limit, say six months, then the farce started in Paris last year will end quickly. It would be interesting to see the international bureaucrats argue that Senators are bound to vote for the treaty restricting US CO2 emissions, even though the UN has shown no physical evidence that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is harmful. And the will the Senators agree the US must pay heavily into the Green Climate Fund the UN bureaucrats control, a fund Congress has not approved?
Prior reports by the US Climate Change Research Program stated the US is the major funder of these international exercises. Already COP-23 has been announced to be hosted by Fiji, but held in Bonn, Germany. If the new Congress and new administration pulls the funding, perhaps COP-23 could be called a Circus of Pretenders. See Article # 2 and links under Questioning the Orthodoxy, After Paris! After US Election! and EPA and other Regulators on the March.
Climate Models Are Not Appropriate for Policy: Writing in Climate Etc., Judith Curry has an excellent overview of global climate models written in an understandable manner, or as she states, climate models for lawyers. The Executive summary is worthy of quotation:
“There is considerable debate over the fidelity and utility of GCM climate models. This debate occurs within the community of climate scientists, as scientists disagree about the amount of weight to give to climate models relative to observational analyses. Climate model outputs are also used by economists, regulatory agencies and policy makers. Hence, GCMs have received considerable scrutiny from a broader community of scientists, engineers, software experts, and philosophers of science. This report attempts to describe the debate surrounding climate models to an educated but nontechnical audience.
“Key summary points:
▪ GCMs have not been subject to the rigorous verification and validation procedure s that is the norm for engineering and regulatory science.
▪ There are valid concerns about a fundamental lack of predictability in the complex nonlinear climate system.
▪ There are numerous arguments supporting the conclusion that climate models are not fit f or the purpose of identifying with high confidence the proportional amount of natural versus human causes to the 20th century warming.
▪ There is growing evidence that climate models predict too much warming from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
▪ The climate model simulation results for the 21st century reported by the IPCC do not include key elements of climate variability, and hence are not useful as projections for how the 21st century climate will actually evolve.
“Climate models are useful tools for conducting scientific research to understand the climate system. However, the above points support the conclusion that current GCM climate models are not fit for the purpose of attributing the causes of 20th century warming or for predicting global or regional climate change on timescales of decades to centuries, with any high level of confidence. By extension, GCMs are not fit for justifying political policies to fundamentally alter world social, economic and energy systems. It is this application of climate model results that fuels the vociferousness of the debate surrounding climate models.”
As with the writings of the Apollo veterans on the Right Climate Stuff Research Team, it is refreshing to read a clearly written essay on the weaknesses of global climate models. They should not be relied upon for government policy. See links under Model Issues.
Evidence – Climate Models Are Not Appropriate for Policy: The February 2 written testimony of John Christy to the US House Committee on Science, Space & Technology, page 13, clearly shows that the global climate models tested overestimate warming in the mid-troposphere in the tropics by a factor of three. This is where the hotspot discussed in last week’s TWTW should occur. The only model that comes near to matching the data is the one from the Russian Institute for Numerical Mathematics.
The only plausible explanation suggested to SEPP for this disparity between observations and models is that the modelers adjust to surface temperatures. If so, the models are completely inappropriate for establishing greenhouse gas and CO2 policy because the greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere, not on the surface.
If the UNFCCC and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were financial institutions, the leaders would be held accountable for this gross disparity. Instead, the UNFCCC is demanding more money. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Number of the Week: 20 Billion Barrels of Oil plus 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In 2013, Pioneer Natural Resources estimated that the Spraberry/Wolfcamp formation in the Permian Basin in West Texas contained up to 50 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas. Veterans of the oil patch realize that over optimism, or exaggeration, is common and were skeptical.
The USGS has announced that 20 Billion Barrels of Oil plus 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are technically recoverable – thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This is the largest continuous assessment ever made by the USGS. Over 3,000 horizontal wells have been drilled and completed, some over 10,000 horizontal feet. The basin covered in the USGS report was narrowed and identified as “Midland Basin Wolfcamp A, B, C, and D of the Permian Basin Provence, Texas.
It is doubtful that the political “leave it in the ground” movement will have the same acceptance in West Texas as in New York State. See links under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?
1. A Keystone Resurrection
Trump should drop his royalties demand and revive this job creator.
Editorial, WSJ, Nov 11, 2016
The editorial states:
Donald Trump promised in his victory speech Tuesday that he will “rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.” Allow us to suggest a great place to start: Approving the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama rejected to satisfy his climate friends.
TransCanada’s Keystone could carry some 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to Nebraska, and the company said in a statement this week that it is “fully committed” to building the pipeline. TransCanada said that it is “evaluating ways to engage the new administration on the benefits, the jobs and the tax revenues this project brings to the table.”
In 2015 TransCanada withdrew its route application after seven years of haggling with the Obama Administration, which rejected the pipeline despite favorable environmental reviews from its own State Department. President Obama said that approving Keystone would undercut U.S. “global leadership” on climate change. In other words, the President wanted leverage at the Paris climate drum circle—and Keystone would enrage Democratic campaign donors like Tom Steyer.
TransCanada has challenged the decision in federal court, and it is unclear if the company would be forced to restart the application process. Mr. Trump said in his campaign that he’d approve Keystone, but has also demanded royalty payments, a demand he should drop. By the company’s estimates the pipeline would add $3 billion to GDP, including millions in property taxes and create more than 40,000 jobs. Cost to taxpayers? $0.
Keystone fulfills several of Mr. Trump’s ostensible goals, including energy exploration. The pipeline could carry 100,000 barrels a day from North Dakota, which would encourage more development. And no one benefits more than America: 70% of refined products pumped through Keystone would stay in the U.S., according to a report last year from IHS, and that means consumers will enjoy lower prices. By the way, environmental objections were always bogus: Pipelines emit less carbon than rail systems and result in fewer spills.
All of this is also true for the Dakota Access pipeline, which could carry 500,000 barrels a day from the Bakken Shale to Illinois. The builder altered the route in North Dakota some 140 times to placate concerns from environmental outfits and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which sued. A federal judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had met its obligations under the law. Yet the Administration disregarded the rule of law—a judicial outcome in its favor—and halted construction.
For anyone mystified by Mr. Trump’s victory, these episodes are instructive: Progressives for eight years indulged the pipe dreams of wealthy environmentalists, even at the expense of growing the economy and helping middle-class Americans. Expedited approval for Keystone would be a down payment on the change in political culture that Mr. Trump has promised.
2. Reversing Rule by Regulation
Trump can dismantle much of Obama’s legacy with a pen and phone.
Editorial, WSJ, Nov 16, 2016
The Editorial sates:
President Obama spent his final six years in office—and especially the last two—governing largely by executive fiat. He issued executive orders, and his administrative state issued tens of thousands of pages of new regulations that took on the force of law. He called it rule by pen and phone.
This infuriated millions of Americans and contributed to Donald Trump’s victory, and one irony is that this also means that Mr. Obama’s policy legacy is less durable. Mr. Trump will now have the chance to reverse these orders and regulations often without new legislation. Here are three ways he and Republicans can proceed:
New executive orders. Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute counts more than 250 executive orders signed by President Obama, plus more than 230 “executive memoranda.” These did everything from creating a new investment vehicle called MyRA, which seeks to encourage new savers to invest in government debt, to directing federal agencies to demand new data to investigate pay disparity by race and sex at government contractors. The Trump transition should review every one so the boss can rescind them if he wishes.
A related category are orders issued by federal agencies without a formal federal rule-making. Mr. Obama’s regulators made an unprecedented practice of issuing “guidance” that allowed agencies to duck rule-making while still forcing targets to comply—or risk enforcement action.
A classic of this genre is the Education Department’s rewrite of Title IX telling universities how they must handle accusations of sexual assault. Other examples run from auto lending to drug discovery to housing rentals. The President’s order legalizing four million illegal immigrants that is currently tied up in court can also be dropped at the stroke of a pen.
Mr. Trump can instruct his new cabinet secretaries to immediately void all such Obama guidance or else put it through the lawful rule-making process. He can also order federal agencies to immediately cease work on regulations in process or due to be sent for publication in the Federal Register.
Congressional Review Act. This legacy of the Gingrich era allows Congress to kill the many last-minute regulations now making their way through Mr. Obama’s agencies. For items enacted in the last 60 working days of this Congress—which probably will mean since late May this year—lawmakers can consider them in January without threat of a Senate filibuster.
That’s how Republicans dismissed Bill Clinton’s last-minute ergonomics rule in 2001. GOP lawmakers put four of these resolutions on the President’s desk during this Congress, but he vetoed them.
Republicans can now use this mechanism to kill the Treasury Department’s misguided effort to punish businesses that Treasury thinks might move their headquarters overseas. Other potential targets include a pending IRS rule to raise estate-tax collections and a Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposal to strip regulated companies of their due-process rights to challenge federal demands for information.
Mr. Obama’s agencies have also been moving rules on truck emissions, fracking, food labels and more on the expectation that President Hillary Clinton would protect them. All of these could be quickly killed.
New Regulations. The third leg of this regulatory reversal is the most difficult: Repealing Obama regulations that went through a formal rule-making.
Ground zero is the Environmental Protection Agency. William Beach of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center says the EPA is America’s most expensive regulator and its Clean Power Plan alone will cost the economy more than $7 billion a year. The power rule is being challenged in federal court as unconstitutional, and Mr. Trump’s Justice Department can tell the court that it is changing its position on the law’s legality. This is what the Obama Administration did with Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act.
Other Obama rules, such as the EPA’s much-loathed Waters of the United States regulation and the FCC’s Title II Internet takeover, may require new rule-makings to reverse. These new rules probably will be challenged in court, which could delay implementation. But this is all the more reason to start immediately.
Beyond fulfilling a campaign promise, all of this would amount to a huge, low-cost economic boost. Mr. Beach says a recent Mercatus study modeled a scenario in which the U.S. had simply maintained the level of regulation it had in 1980. The U.S. was hardly free of red tape at the time. Yet researchers at Mercatus and Duke University found that keeping the 1980 regulatory burden would have made the U.S. economy $4 trillion larger in 2012. That’s roughly $13,000 per capita.
Rarely do new Presidents get a chance for such readily achievable policy victories. Thanks to Mr. Obama’s pen and phone, Mr. Trump will have it.