Policy Documents

Comments of The Heartland Institute in Response to Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases

Maureen Martin –
June 23, 2009

The Heartland Institute submitted the following comments in response to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Notice of Rulemaking entitled Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. For the reasons discussed below, for EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to make this proposed positive finding would be unreasonable, unlawful, and arbitrary and capricious.

The issue in this rulemaking is whether the Administrator should make a finding that six greenhouse gases “cause” or “contribute” to “air pollution” that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare” under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. She has proposed a positive Endangerment Finding. 74 Fed. Reg. 18886. This proposed finding has ramifications well beyond this rulemaking because it will trigger a cascade of regulation of these greenhouse gas emissions under other sections of the Act.

The Clean Air Act provides that the courts may reverse EPA regulations that are unreasonable and arbitrary and capricious. This comment proves that the science cited by EPA as supposedly supporting the proposed positive finding is wholly insufficient, and therefore a positive endangerment finding would be subject to judicial reversal on these grounds. Furthermore, federal guidelines, including those of EPA itself, require that “influential” rulemakings like this one be based on data that is “accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased.” This data must also be collected by the “best available methods.” The data must also be the most recent available. EPA’s data fail to meet these requirements.

As demonstrated below and in the NIPCC Report, EPA has failed to consider a vast body of peer-reviewed academic research relevant to this rulemaking. These studies demonstrate, among other things, that EPA’s computer models are incapable of accurately simulating past temperatures and thus cannot be used to predict future temperatures. EPA even admits there are substantial uncertainties in these models.

EPA’s contentions that the global warming of the twentieth century was caused by human activity and that human emissions will cause future warming are undermined by an extensive body of scientific research pointing to natural forcings and feedback effects that are not taken into account by computer models. Some of these forcings and effects are sufficiently large to entirely explain the warming of the twentieth century or to entirely offset any human effect due to CO2 emissions.

EPA relies on a piece of research – the so-called “hockey stick” diagram by Mann et al., to support its claim that the warming of the twentieth century was unprecedented. But this study is widely discredited in the academic literature. Similarly, extensive observational data contradicts EPA’s contentions that there has been any human effect on the rate at which glaciers have melted since the last Ice Age, sea levels have risen, or precipitation has increased or become more extreme.

The connection between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global temperatures is much more complex, and probably much weaker, than EPA assumes. Many paleoclimatologic studies find warming temperatures preceded rather than followed elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. EPA also fails to consider research by solar scientists who find that temperatures correlate more closely with solar cycles than anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

The Heartland Institute has published a 737-page report, titled Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (“NIPCC Report”) that documents the statements made in this comment and comprehensively refutes the claims contained in EPA’s Endangerment Finding.

The scientific positions described in this comment and in the NIPCC Report are entirely within the mainstream of the scientific community. Besides the thousands of source citations to peer-reviewed scientific journal articles contained in the NIPCC Report is the fact that more than 31,000 scientists have signed a petition saying “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The complete text of that petition, an explanation of how it was circulated, and a directory of all 31,478 American scientists who signed it appears in Appendix 4 of the NIPCC Report. There is no similar summary of alarmist science that has been signed by anywhere near 31,000 scientists. In contrast, the IPCC, upon which EPA heavily relies, lists only 2,400 participants, many of whom are not scientists and many of whom disagree with the alarmist conclusions asserted by the relative handful of lead authors who composed the final documents.

The core issue in this rulemaking is, as noted above, whether man-induced greenhouse gas emissions cause or contribute to a threat to human health or welfare. A fair evaluation by EPA of the entire body of relevant, peer-reviewed academic research should lead it to conclude that they do not, and the proposed finding ought to be withdrawn.