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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Risky Business: The Best Global Warming Alarmism Money Can Buy

August 06, 2014, 10:04 AM

It’s been a month since the billionaire triumvirate of Tom Steyer (pictured), Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg introduced their ballyhooed Risky Business report on the climate, and after all the op-eds, blog posts and public interviews so far, all that can be said about it is that it is already an empty, meaningless PR campaign upon which the financial hot shots have wasted their money.

There is no there, there.

Logical scrutiny of the project, from its genesis to its outcome, would reveal how deeply flawed and biased it is. Given every contributing factor, there is no other verdict that would have been reached other than “we must all do something about global warming!” Yet the legacy media has treated Risky Business as something that was objectively conceived, and which has delivered perfectly reasonable conclusions. That is to be expected from pack journalists who don’t look beyond the climate crystal balls (also known as “models”) spoon-fed to them by big government scientists, but that doesn’t mean (and hasn’t in the past) that the public will swallow it.

Let’s start with the founders of Risky Business. They portray their effort as nonpartisan (Fortune called it “scrupulously nonpartisan”), striving to show the project is represented by Democrats and Republicans alike. At the co-chairmen level the Democrats are Steyer and Bloomberg, and the Republican is Paulson.

A tip for discerning public policy consumption: If the proponents use the word “nonpartisan” as part of the pitch for their work, then they are likely pushing a controversial agenda that they have attempted to sell with personalities drawn from both major political party affiliations. Unfortunately there is no shortage of crony capitalists, government interventionists, and science ignoramuses in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and finding the players from both sides is pretty easy. So a peek under the packaging is necessary.

Steyer is the driver. Risky Business is staffed by his nonprofit group Next Generation, whose primary mission is to mitigate the “risk of dangerous climate change.” Besides the “educational” nature of his think tank, Steyer has thrown his considerable wealth into the election (or re-election) of Democratic candidates via his SuperPAC NextGEN Climate. His policy priorities, in the context of the global warming fight, are the revival of cap-and-trade and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. He pledged (but so far has miserably failed) to raise $50 million to match his own $50 million in contributions to climate-conscious candidates.

Bloomberg is the quintessential nanny-statist, so he’s perfect to join the leadership of a group that seeks to dictate what kinds of energy the masses may use. As Mayor of New York City he sought to control how citizens consumed soda, trans-fats and cigarettes, and since then has poured millions of dollars into gun control initiatives. As politician Mike he said “that big cities must take the lead in reducing the threat of climate change,” and pushed the well-worn “green” and “sustainable” themes.

That leaves Paulson the Republican to enable Risky Business to allegedly fulfill its claim to “nonpartisanship,” at least among the co-chairmen. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs pushed for the government bailout of failing financial institutions, when he was Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush.

Paulson’s nomination was opposed by National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty in May 2006, over an apparent conflict of interest in chairing both Goldman Sachs and the Nature Conservancy. As NLPCalleged at the time, in part:

In November 2005, Goldman Sachs adopted an “Environmental Policy” that closely parallels the Nature Conservancy agenda on key issues like global warming. Moreover, Paulson’s son Merritt is a trustee of a Nature Conservancy-related group that was the recipient of a Goldman Sachs donation in the form of a tract of land totaling 680,000 acres in Chile.

In his remarks at the annual meeting, Flaherty also noted that the Nature Conservancy has been mired in scandal in recent years, as detailed in a Washington Post series and in Senate hearings. The group sold ecologically sensitive land at a discount to its own trustees on which they built multi-million-dollar vacation homes, and structured land donations so wealthy donors could improperly receive tax breaks.

Flaherty said, “There remain unanswered questions about Paulson’s personal and business ethics. At Goldman Sachs, Paulson promoted his own personal interests at the expense of shareholders. As Treasury Secretary, will he promote the public interest, or his own?”

Paulson’s wife, Wendy, also has served on the board of The Nature Conservancy. In 2011 he established The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, which promotes economic growth and “environmental preservation” in the United States and China. He is a “longtime conservationist,” and told Bloomberg News (yes, owned by the former mayor) in October 2013 as Risky Business was launched, “Climate change is every bit as big a risk to our economy as it is to the environment. With any complex issue, we can never know with certainty what the timing and the impact will be, but we know from the data that the climate risk is very real.” Compare that to the most recent findings about the issue in a Rasmussen poll, in which 57 percent of all voters think the debate isnot over, and 64 percent of Republicans think the media makes climate change appear worse than it actually is. So to uphold Paulson as representative of the GOP, in a “nonpartisan” consensus on global warming, is a stretch.

It is now 2014, so we know the answer to Flaherty’s 2006 question about what kind of Treasury Secretary Paulson would be. As Treasury Secretary, he made sure that Goldman Sachs survived the financial crisis, by banning the short selling of Goldman shares, while Main Street businesses went under. The financial bailouts, and related policies, resulted in the largest transfer of wealth from working people to the rich in history. It also set back the fortunes of the Republican Party for years. (Yes, Obama and Democrats supported the bailouts, but thanks to Paulson, Republicans took the blame. No wonder Paulson gets along so well with Democrats. )

Paulson now seeks to jack up electricity rates and the cost of everything else, which will have absolutely no affect on his lifestyle. He walked away from Goldman with almost a half-billion dollars. He would, however,reduce the standard of living for just about everyone else.

Another layer of leadership to which the faux adjective “nonpartisan” is applied is to Risky Business’s “Risk Committee Members,” which includes prominent Democrats Henry Cisneros, Robert Rubin and Donna Shalala, and Republicans George Shultz (who served in President Nixon’s cabinet and was President Reagan’s Secretary of State) and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Here also the GOP participation can hardly be classified as the conservative mainstream of the party.

From this cast of characters – the co-chairs to the “Risk Committee” – we are expected to acknowledge their authority based upon their wealth and power, apparently. Accepting that, we are expected to swallow the research they’ve produced, which is “an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S.” The possibility that there might be no “risk” (at least, not any more “risk” than there has been in the past) is not a consideration – of course, because then we wouldn’t have a project called “Risky Business.”

So it isn’t a surprise that they called upon two firms that are all about hazards and consequences. According to the Risky Business Web site, Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson “tasked” the Rhodium Group, a firm whose expertise is analysis of “disruptive global trends,” to evaluate the economic effects from climate change. They also called upon Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the “world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world.”

Again, forecasting for no disasters as the result of global warming was not an option. Nor was challenging the premise that there has been a planetary temperature increase in the first place – even though there hasn’t been warming for nearly 18 years. It follows that Rhodium Group chose alarmist climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University as lead scientist for Risky Business.

“My scientific and policy research interests are guided by the recognition that, over the last two centuries, human civilization has become a geological force,” Kopp writes in his autobiographical information. “We are inducing planetary environmental conditions like those that Earth has not experienced for millions of years.”

Those are the kinds of things you hear from the alarmist world, despite facts that – for example – show there’s been no change in Arctic sea ice for 40 yearsrecords for cold temperatures are being shattered; and thedisappearance of hurricanes – all which confound the predictions made by the “experts” in decades past (thanks to those taxpayer-funded computer climate models). Nonetheless, this is the foundation upon which Risky Business builds economic extrapolations in order to convince the business world to account for global warming.

Those deductions are based upon – you probably guessed it – econometric models. So the thesis of global warming leads to all kinds of assumptions in the Risky Business report about yields for various (but not all) crops, mortality (but not quality of life), labor production, and even violent crime! Thanks to the collaborative nature of the Internet, a (complete) list of things supposedly caused by global warming – supported by source links – has been compiled. Revealing that to the experts behind Risky Business could send them back to fiddle with their models.

But all the “scholarliness” doesn’t matter – there is no humanly possible way to account for all the variables and contingencies, climatically or economically, to accurately forecast the future. The point of Risky Business is not to deliver sound conclusions based upon reliable data, but only to appear to be doing so. Putting out reports with lots of formulas, coefficients, technical jargon and footnotes accomplishes that task.

It is with that “authority” that Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson (but mostly Steyer) hope to apply pressure to the business world. On the Risky Business Web site that takes the form of the “Next Steps” they advocate: Business adaptation, investor adaptation, and public sector response. In all the categories the goals are clear: businesses and governments must spend exorbitant amounts of money for adaptation to, and mitigation of, the effects of global warming. As a result the co-chairs want greater demands for reporting on these “actions” in boardrooms and shareholder meetings across the country.

The Risky Business co-chairs have taken their message to the public over the last month, with Steyer trying to hit up donors, Paulson writing for theNew York Times, and Bloomberg promoting it through his media business. They’ve thrown gobs of money to create the appearance of an intellectual, scientific authority on both the science and economics of global warming. Investors and corporate executives should be aware of this scheme to distort their companies’ financial reporting and bottom lines.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes, an aggregator of North Carolina news.


[Originally Published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Time for a More Robust National Missile Defense Program

August 06, 2014, 8:55 AM

Since the Reagan administration, the United States has, under various guises, sought to develop technology that would render enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles non-threatening to its people and interests. The national missile defense program has been aimed at bringing about the end of foreign missile threats from rogue states and geopolitical foes alike. Missile defense systems have grown exponentially more effective and sophisticated, and have culminated in an interceptor system that will soon make missile attacks on areas shielded by such systems pointless.

Much of what has held back the wider development and roll-out of missile defense systems in the United States and in the territories of its allies has been a degree of skepticism about their effectiveness. The strategic fear has been that missile defense systems might prove scary enough to rivals to spark aggression while being insufficiently effective to actually halt that aggression. In the past several weeks, we have seen the practical vindication of such systems (on a smaller scale) in Israel.

The Proof is in the Iron Dome

The missile defense shield of Israel, known as the Iron Dome, is an extremely sophisticated missile interceptor system based on American technology. It has successfully knocked most of the missiles fired into its territory by Hamas out of the sky. It is actually quite astounding how rapidly the technology has improved. T

The United States has, for several years, been developing the most extensive and complete ballistic missile shield ever devised. When fully armed with a complement of anti-ballistic missiles both within the United States itself, and in allied nations in Europe and Asia, the shield will be virtually impregnable to external missile attack. This means the chance of a nuclear attack (the worst-case scenario and original raison d’etre of the missile defense program) succeeding against it will be very unlikely, reducing the chance not only of a full-scale nuclear war between the United States and another nuclear power, but also against missiles fired by rogue states or terrorists, the biggest threats in terms of actual use of nuclear weapons.

The Iron Dome has shown that nuclear weapons are not the only potential targets of a missile defense system. They provide a powerful defensive tool against missiles and ordnance. American military technology is the most advanced and prodigiously financed in the world, so it is good that its military investments are directed toward the development of weapons platforms that are by their nature defensive. Missile defense technology is one of the great hopes for the defense of America and its allies.

Under America’s Aegis

The system currently being put into operation by the United States is the Aegis combat system, designed for deployment on American naval vessels. Basing a missile system on specially modified destroyers is serving to sidestep somewhat the problems associated with ground and space-based missile defense arrays, due to the slow response time of ground missiles, and the still unfeasible orbital deployment. Most important to geostrategic thinking is the fact that the sea-based defense array lacks the problem of the land-based system in that it does not need to be placed on the soil of countries other than the United States in order to be effective.

A flaw with this latter reasoning has been revealed by the recent events in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Russia has been bellicose toward its former Soviet neighbors for several years, yet the United States and NATO have largely sought to ignore or underplay the threat the Putin regime represents. It has taken Putin’s tremendously brazen aggression in annexing Crimea and backing pro-Russian separatists to galvanize the West to lay sanctions on Russia. Putin has been able to exploit the relative inattention of America and the EU and has gambled on their unwillingness to take the steps necessary to stop him and bolster Eastern Europe against the resurgent Russia. A missile defense system operational in these border nations could serve to dampen Russia’s ambitions.

For Peace, Prepare for War

The United States should seek to build further missile defenses on the soil of its vulnerable allies. It is a less costly endeavor than maintaining huge foreign bases and puts fewer American lives at risk while at the same time guaranteeing the security and providing an essential moral boost to embattled allies. Russia could not act with such impunity if its air and missile power were neutered by a missile defense screen courtesy of the United States. In an Eastern Europe that is ever more terrified of Russia and more and more unsure of whether America and NATO would come to their aid, this policy would be a simple way to shore up support for liberal democracy.

Military spending and “entangling alliances” certainly rub against the conventional grain of free market, small government ideology. But sometimes we must face the ugly realities of a world in which thugs try to push free nations into servility. The United States has an interest in preserving a world order that believes in the values of free trade and limited government. That means being willing to support allies in that cause who are under threat.

An operational national missile defense system renders intercontinental ballistic missiles more obsolete. When a country can shoot down all enemy missiles, those weapons lose their power. The future of war, once countries have access to missile shields, will no longer be marked by fingers held over the proverbial red button. Rather, the incentive for conflict between states armed with effective missile defenses will be to seek diplomatic solutions to problems.

The technology will likely be in the hands of many nations very soon, as the United States has already provided the technology to Japan and Australia, and will be building defense batteries in Romania from 2015. With missile defense, war will be less likely and, should it occur, less destructive. To secure a safer world, America must show leadership. If our ideals are to survive and thrive, we must be willing to defend them.


Categories: On the Blog

Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities

August 06, 2014, 7:05 AM

Many American cities, described commonly as urban cores, are functionally more suburban and exurban, based on urban form, density, and travel behavior characteristics. Data from the 2010 census shows that 42.3 percent of the population of the historical core municipalities was functionally urban core (Figure 1). By comparison, 56.3 of the population lived in functional suburbs and another 1.3 percent in functionally exurban areas (generally outside the urban areas). Urban cores are defined as areas that have high population densities (7,500 or per square mile or 2,900 per square kilometer or more) and high transit, walking and cycling work trip market shares (20 percent or more). Urban cores also include non-exurban sectors with median house construction dates of 1945 or before. All of these areas are defined at the zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) level, rather than by municipal jurisdiction. This is described in further detail in the “City Sector Model” note below.

The Varieties of Central Cities

Of course the “urbaneness” of central cities vary greatly. Some, like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco experienced much of their growth before the 20th century, well before the great automobile oriented suburbanization that occurred after World War II. Others, that experienced early growth, such as Milwaukee and Seattle, annexed substantial areas of suburbanization after World War II, so that their comparatively large functional urban cores have been overwhelmed by suburbs within the city limits. Los Angeles, with a large functional urban core, annexed huge swaths of agricultural land that later became suburban. Finally, a number of other central cities, such as Phoenix and San Jose, have developed since World War II and are virtually all suburban,

Moreover, central cities comprise very different proportions of their respective metropolitan areas (the functional or economic definition of “city”). For example, the central city of San Antonio comprises 62 percent of the San Antonio metropolitan area population. Conversely, the city of Atlanta comprises only 8 percent of the Atlanta metropolitan area population. Obviously, with such a large differential, the term central city describes jurisdictions that are radically different.

This difference is caught by examining the functional urban cores by historical core municipality classifications. The Pre-World War II Core & Non-Suburban central cities have functional urban cores comprising 72 percent of their population. The Pre-World War II Core & Suburban central cities have functional urban cores that are only 14 percent of their populations. The Post-World War II Suburban central cities have very small urban cores, representing only 2 percent of their population (Figure 2).

Among the 54 historical core municipalities, the share of central city population in the functional urban cores varies from a high of more than 97 percent (New York) to virtually zero (Birmingham, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Bernardino, San Jose, and Tampa).

Core Cities with the Strongest Urban Cores

It is not surprising that the central cities with the largest share of their populations in the functional urban cores are in the older, established are concentrated in the Northeast Corridor (Washington to Boston) and the Midwest. Only one of the 14 central cities with the highest population share in functional urban cores is outside these areas is San Francisco, the first large city to be built on the American West Coast Among the 25 central cities with the highest functional urban core share, only seven are outside the Northeast Corridor or the Midwest (San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City).

It is not surprising that the city of New York has the largest function urban core population share, at 97.3 percent. Nearly one-third of the total urban core population in the 52 major metropolitan areas lives in the city of New York (nearly 8,000,000 residents).

Two other central cities have functional urban core population percentages above 90 percent. Buffalo ranks second, at 94.5 percent. San Francisco is third at 94.0 percent.

The next three highest ranking cities are in New England. Boston has an 89.7 percent functional urban core population, followed by Hartford (87.4 percent), and Providence (86.5 percent). These are all of the major metropolitan areas in New England.

Three Midwestern central cities have more than 80 percent of their populations in functional urban cores, including St. Louis (84.1 percent), Minneapolis (83.5 percent), and Cleveland (80.1 percent). Washington (83.4 percent) and Philadelphia (83.4 percent), in the Northeast Corridor also have greater than 80 percent functional urban core shares.

Pittsburgh (76.9 percent) and Chicago (76.6 percent) have functional urban core population shares between 70 percent and 80 percent. At 67.7 percent, Baltimore (67.7 percent) is the only central city in the Northeast Corridor that with less than 70 percent of its population in the functional urban core.

Oakland (54.7 percent), at 15th, is the highest ranking central city outside the Northeast Corridor and the Midwest other than San Francisco. Cincinnati, Rochester, and Milwaukee also have more than 50 percent of their population in functional urban cores.

The top 25 is rounded out by Seattle (37.5 percent), New Orleans (36.8 percent), St. Paul (36.7 percent), Portland (35.2 percent), Detroit (31.3 percent), Los Angeles (29.9 percent) and, somewhat unexpectedly, Salt Lake City (27.1 percent).

The central cities with the largest functional urban core percentages have overwhelmingly suffered large population losses. Among the 25 with the largest urban core shares, only seven were at their peak populations at the 2010 census, and only two of the top 18 (New York and San Francisco). Overall the cities with large functional cores lost more than 35 percent of their population and 8 million residents.

“Other” Principal Cities

Starting in 2003, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) retired the term “central city” and replaced it with “principal city,” which includes the 54 former historical core municipalities and approximately 160 additional cities. The adoption of principal city terminology recognized as OMB described it, that metropolitan areas were no longer monocentric, but had become polycentric. OMB specifically rejected the use of geographical terms other than “principal city” within metropolitan areas, including “suburb.” Indeed, the very employment of polycentricity that justified abandonment of the central city designation was the suburbanization of employment. Yet some popular usage (even in some Census Bureau documents), considers any area that is not a principal city as suburban. The more appropriate term would be “not principal city.”

Some principal cities that are not historical core municipalities (“other” principal cities) have strong urban cores, especially in metropolitan areas where the urban core stretches well beyond the core municipality’s city limits, especially in New York and Boston. Four such principal cities have urban cores larger than 100,000 and urban core population shares exceeding 90 percent, including Cambridge in the Boston area (97.0 percent, and the New York area’s Newark (94.7 percent) and Jersey City (100.0 percent), which is higher even than New York City itself. None of these cities was at its population peak in 2010.

Even so the vast majority of the “other” principal cities are overwhelmingly suburban, comprising less of the functional urban core population than areas that are not principal cities (1.5 million compared to 4.1 million outside the principal cities). Overall, the other principal cities are 7.9 percent urban core (compared to 42.3 percent for the historical core municipalities). If the 11 municipalities with cores larger than 50,000 are excluded, the share living in functional urban cores for the remaining more than 150 cities is 1.5 percent. (Figure 4).

Crude Measurement

The perhaps stunning conclusion is that the average difference between the historical core municipality population and the functional urban core population is 73 percent. Core cities — themselves 57 percent suburban and exurban — are a crude basis for classifying urban cores and suburbs. Principal cities — 92 percent functionally suburban or exurban — are even worse. The bottom line: America is fundamentally more suburban in nature than commonly believed.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog