The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-12) was a rousing success. This issue of Climate Change Weekly is devoted, with one important exception, to highlighting some of the research presented at the conference.
More than 300 scientists, economists, politicians, and other climate-realist fellow travelers attended and/or spoke at the event, with more than 7,000 others watching live online. While shedding light on new discoveries in the fields of climate science and environmental economics, ICCC-12 was really focused on how the election of Donald Trump as president changes the dynamics for making progress on shaping a rational response to climate concerns and the need for expanded energy use.
A number of speakers lauded Heartland for its leadership in the fight against climate alarmism, leadership also recognized by The Economist magazine, which called Heartland “the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism toward man-made climate change.” Having fought for years, ultimately triumphantly, to publicize a realistic understanding of climate science and the costs of climate policies, both proposed and enacted, at ICCC-12 Heartland took the offensive to “explain the benefits of ending Obama’s war on fossil fuels and what policy changes are needed to do this.”
Heartland was honored to have Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), long a leader pushing climate realism in Congress, record video remarks for the event. Inhofe noted a number of regulatory and legislative victories the nation has seen or should expect to see in the coming months and years with Trump at the helm.
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) spoke live at ICCC-12, lauding Heartland for being the best fact-checker of the Obama administration’s alarmist claims. Smith detailed his battles to force scientists working for Obama administration executive agencies to carry out their research in a transparent, open, testable fashion. Although the Science Committee has legal oversight over the relevant science agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), former President Barack Obama’s scientists regularly stonewalled the committee’s requests for documents supporting the administration’s claims the Earth was warming dramatically, posing a threat to America and the world. As a result, Smith noted, the Science Committee issued its first subpoena in 21 years to compel the disclosure of taxpayer-funded data and research. The committee issued 25 such subpoenas in the last Congress. Smith said, “I don’t anticipate issuing near that many in the current Congress.”
“The days of trust-me science are over,” said Smith, discussing his Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act requiring EPA to base its regulations on publicly available science.
Several awards were given out at ICCC-12. Apollo 7 Astronaut Walter Cunningham received the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow’s “Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award.” In addition, Becky Norton Dunlop of The Heritage Foundation presented the “Political Leadership on Climate Change Award” to Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who was unable to attend. Heartland presented the “Lifetime Achievement Award in Climate Science” to Professor J. Scott Armstrong for his decades of research showing climate researchers consistently ignore and violate the scientific principles of forecasting when making their predictions.
The award I was most thrilled with was the “Speaks Truth to Power Award,” given to my friend and colleague of 20 years, Myron Ebell. No one could be more deserving of that award. Myron is the long-time director of Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and leader of the Cooler Heads Coalition. Having led Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron was uniquely situated to give an insider’s perspective of the lines along which climate policy might be reset.
The entire ICCC-12 conference is online for posterity for anyone who was unable to attend or view it live online to view at their leisure. I encourage those interested in the truth regarding climate science, the benefits of fossil fuels, and the forces shaping Trump’s climate policies, to watch the videos and share them with intellectually curious, open-minded, family and friends.
– H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
EPA defines the social costs of carbon as “the economic damages per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions.” Speakers at the ICCC-12 session titled “Cost-Benefit Analysis & the Social Costs of Carbon (SCC)” pointed out a number of weaknesses or flaws with the models the federal government used to calculate the SCC.
First, all the models assume the science is settled: Humans are causing dangerous global warming. If this base assumption is wrong, then the SCC calculation is an unnecessary waste of resources.
Even assuming humans are responsible for some climate change, and there could be some costs, the models still err in a number of ways. According to economist Ross McKitrick’s presentation, “SCC is never the right number for use in policy decisions” because:
- “It (purposely) ignores the social benefits of activities that generate [carbon] emissions …
- “It should include the social benefits of carbon dioxide fertilization and warming but some of the models assume these are zero.
- “The SCC needs to be adjusted to take into account distortions arising from the tax [and regulatory] system before translating it into a tax rate.
- “A positive SCC does not automatically mean fossil fuel use should be reduced, much less eliminated.”
McKitrick concludes, even if the federal government’s SCC calculations are correct, most carbon regulations/taxes would impose higher costs on the economy than the harms they are meant to prevent.
The Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Dayaratna highlighted the fact federal SCC calculations were made using outdated models that grossly overstate the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to additional units of carbon dioxide. Those models also use discount rates much lower than the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) suggested or are commonly used in the market. This means the government’s SCC overstates the present-day costs of carbon dioxide emissions and thus overstates the benefits of taking dramatic action now to curtail emissions.
Using realistic sensitivity estimates and the 7 percent discount rate recommended by OMB, some models used by the government estimate the social costs of carbon are actually negative – meaning increasing carbon dioxide concentrations are beneficial – through 2050. Dayaratna concludes even if the federal government’s SCC calculation is accurate, because the benefits of restricting carbon dioxide emissions by the amount suggested by the SCC would be negligible – almost indistinguishable from a policy of doing nothing at all to restrict emissions – the costs of imposing regulations or taxes to restrict emissions far outweigh the benefits.
The panelists in the session I moderated on “Sustainability” universally condemned the concept as it is being used to restrict fossil fuel use and carbon emissions to prevent purported global warming and supposed resource depletion.
Paul Driessen, a senior fellow with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, says ensuring sustainability and preventing climate change have become the primary justifications for pushing policies to block fossil fuel development and other natural resource use, deindustrializing developed countries, and restricting economic development in developing countries. This politicized notion of sustainability, when combined with the precautionary principle – which says no new technology, product, or activity should be allowed to be used in society until it is proven to pose no threat of harm to society, people, or the environment – is the biggest threat to continued human progress, especially to raising billions of people in developing countries out of poverty. Sustainability advocates focus all their attention on the harms current fossil fuel uses cause and new innovations might cause, while ignoring the tremendous benefits they currently do or might in the future provide. Policies pushed by sustainability advocates harm people and the environment. Driessen said, “They are not just wrong, they are unethical. … They are an insult to human dignity … inhumane, and even genocidal.”
Independent scientist Indur Goklany showed how the development and use of fossil fuels actually benefits the environment by making humanity’s use of it more sustainable. Goklany points out the Earth is greener and more productive due to fossil fuel use. Gross plant productivity increased 14 percent between 1982 and 2011 due to increased carbon dioxide, nitrogen deposition, and warming. In addition, Goklany showed habitat loss is the greatest threat to wildlife. As a result, because fossil fuel use has made farming more productive – enabling farmers to produce more crop yields per acre and reducing the overall amount of acreage needed to feed present and future populations – fossil fuels are conserving species. Had the use of fossil fuels in agriculture not become widespread, the amount of habitat needed to feed present populations would have put an additional 70 to 78 percent of all species at risk of extinction. In addition, fossil fuels account for 70 percent of global fiber production for clothing, upholstery, etc., and they provide plastics and other materials displacing the use of timber and other plant-based materials for construction.
James Taylor, president of the Spark of Freedom Foundation, delivered an informative presentation as part of the ICCC-12 panel on the cost of fossil fuels. Taylor’s presentation shows:
- In states with renewable power mandates, electricity rates rose 50 percent faster than in states without renewable power mandates.
- In individual states that enacted renewable power mandates:
- Kansas households paid an extra $130 per year in electricity costs
- Ohio households paid an extra $190 per year
- North Carolina households paid an extra $190 per year
- Colorado households paid an extra $350 per year
- New Mexico household paid an extra $400 per year
Taylor cited a 2014 report from the Brookings Institution that found wind power is 50 percent more expensive than electricity generated by coal, while solar-produced electricity is 300 percent more expensive than coal.
On March 28, President Donald Trump signed a multipart executive order rolling back numerous climate policies the Obama administration had enacted to restrict fossil fuel development and use. One part of Trump’s “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” executive order ends the moratorium on new coal leases on federal land. The executive order also says federal agencies should not consider climate change when developing federal contracts, issuing permits, or formulating federal land use plans and requiring environmental impact statements.
In addition, Trump’s executive order disbands the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and withdraws the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon calculation from use by federal regulators.
Arguably the most significant section of Trump’s order directs EPA to conduct an expedited review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and, if appropriate, rescind or significantly reshape federal limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing and new power plants, as soon as practical. As former President Barack Obama was fond of saying, “elections have consequences.” Indeed they do.