Republicans Vow to Assert Their Authority over Obama Climate Commitments

Published October 2, 2015

Climate Change Weekly #188

Politico reports a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Neil Chatterjee, has been making the rounds at foreign embassies making it clear Republicans intend to fight President Barack Obama’s climate agenda.

Chatterjee has met with ambassadors representing developed and developing countries reiterating the message McConnell delivered last spring, according to Politico, to “‘proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal’ with Obama, noting that ‘two-thirds of the U.S. federal government’ – Congress and the Supreme Court – hasn’t signed off on the president’s plans.”

Absent Senate ratification of any climate agreement coming out of Paris in late November/early December, any commitments Obama makes can be undone by his successors. The same is true for his executive orders and climate regulations imposed by his agencies.

Congressional Republicans also have vowed to deny Obama’s request for a $500 million downpayment on the initial $3 billion he promised for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). GCF was proposed by Obama to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries make a transition to clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change, and to compensate those countries for climate harms imposed on them by developed countries’ use of fossil fuels. Developing nations have indicated filling the fund’s coffers is a necessary condition for them to sign onto any climate deal in Paris.

Voice of America quotes Ronny Jumeau, UN ambassador of the Seychelles, a member of the Association of Small Island States negotiating bloc, as saying, “Obama cannot come to Paris and not put money on the table. He’s got to put his money where his mouth is.” French President Francois Hollande said earlier in September, “If there’s not a firm commitment to financing, there will be no accord, because the countries of the [global] south will reject it.”

The House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill this summer directly prohibiting the United States from funding GCF. In the Senate, some Republicans see the president’s desire for GCF funding as a way to get Congress included in climate negotiations. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate panel that oversees multilateral agreements, told Reuters he will push legislation to require congressional approval for any international aid related to climate change. With his hopes for climate funding on the line, dare the president veto such a bill if it passes?

Republicans are also working to stymie Obama’s domestic climate efforts and thus undermine his negotiating position in Paris. Just hours after Pope Francis challenged Congress to take “courageous actions” to tackle climate change, House Republicans took up a bill to block the government from measuring the carbon dioxide emissions from construction projects.

Politico reports Republicans also are considering using the Congressional Review Act to overturn the president’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan, thus undermining Obama’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy by 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Republicans also are considering a resolution expressing their opposition to any climate deal coming out of Paris. This move would be similar to the 95–0 vote the Senate took in 1997 to repudiate the Kyoto climate agreement the Clinton administration was negotiating at the time.

While Obama would almost certainly veto the former and could safely ignore the latter as non-binding (as Clinton did before him), either action by Congress would serve to underscore the president’s limited ability to actually deliver on any promised emission reductions or funding commitments he makes in Paris.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Politico; Politico; and Voice of America


Independent review finds IPCC work flawedPoll shows few in U.S., Europe believe climate change a serious threatArctic ice reboundsOceans cool Earth more than realizedModels, IPCC predictions get less accurate over time


Biologist and oceanographer Alan Longhurst has written a powerful review of the scientific literature surrounding the question of humankind’s influence on climate. Longhurst concludes, among other things:

the global archives of surface air temperature measurements are unreliable estimators of the consequences of atmospheric CO2 contamination, because they are already themselves contaminated by the effects of deforestation, land use change, urbanization and the release of industrial particulates into the lower atmosphere; users of these data are not able to judge the consequences of the adjustments that have been made to the original observations of surface air temperature …; surface air temperatures respond to cyclical changes within the Sun, and to the effect of changing orbital configurations in the solar system; the evidence for an intensification of extreme weather events and, in particular, tropical cyclones is very weak and is largely due to the progressively increasing reliability and coverage of weather monitoring …; the recent melting of arctic ice cover over larger areas than 20 years ago in summer is not a unique event, but is a recurrence of past episodes and is the result of cyclically variable transport of heat in warm North Atlantic water into the Arctic basin through the Norwegian Sea.

Longhurst warns against dramatic actions to fight human-caused global warming based on the oft repeated claim “the science is settled,” stating, “The science of climate change – like many other complex fields in the earth sciences – does not function so that at some point in time one can say ‘now, the science is settled:’ there are always uncertainties and alternative explanations for observations.”

SOURCE: Climate etc.


Concern about climate change is relatively low in the United States and Europe according to a 40-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in spring 2015. Just 42 percent of Europeans and Americans report being very concerned about climate change. The Pew poll found Europeans are more concerned about the Islamic State (ISIS) and tensions between Russia and its neighbors than other issues, including climate. Americans view ISIS and Iran’s nuclear program as the most critical international threats. The only global issue raising less concern in the U.S. than climate change is territorial disputes between China and its neighbors. Consistent with previous polls, Middle Easterners are the least likely to say they are very concerned about global climate change with a median of less than a third (35 percent) saying it is a serious concern.

SOURCE: Pew Research


Contrary to what has been reported recently by the press, Arctic ice has not begun to decline again; rather, it continues to rebound. While the press routinely reported sea ice extent in 2015 had reached the “fourth lowest minimum in history,” data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) show sea ice extent in 2015 was merely middle-of-the-pack: Over the past decade, four years had a lower minimum and five had a higher minimum. The data show, on average, Arctic sea ice has grown relatively steadily over the decade.

While sea ice extent expands and contracts a great deal seasonally, with September having the annual low extent and March reporting the annual high, the year-to-year annual average variation of sea ice extent – the amount of ice recorded each day of the year averaged over the year – has varied only approximately plus or minus 4 percent over the decade. In 2006, the average sea ice extent was 10.667 million kilometers squared (M km2). Based on the year-to-date data, 2015 will have the highest average sea ice extent for the decade, at 11.263 M km2. According to NSIDC data, every year since 2011 the average annual Arctic sea ice extent has exceeded the 2006 average, with only two years since 2006 falling below the 2006 average.

SOURCE: Science Matters


New research has emerged showing the world’s oceans are cooling the planet by emitting vast amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. These VOCs are not presently accounted for by climate models and may explain in part or in whole the growing gap between the temperatures predicted by the models and those actually measured by satellites, weather balloons, and surface temperature stations.

The VOC isoprene, which like all VOCs tends to cool the planet, has long been known to be produced by plants and trees on land and plankton in the sea. Now, atmospheric chemists from France and Germany have discovered huge amounts of isoprene are also produced in the “microlayer” at the top of the ocean by sunlight acting directly on floating chemicals – no life being necessary. Global models presently assume total emissions of isoprene from all life-form sources – trees, plants, plankton – of around 1.9 megatons per year. The new research shows “abiotic” processes occurring in the oceans release as much as 3.5 megatons on their own.

SOURCES: The Register and


Climate models consistently fail to accurately track actual temperature measurements. Satellites provide the most rigorous, comprehensive data on global temperatures, closely corresponding to four sets of direct temperature measurements from weather balloons. While the satellite and weather balloon measurements largely agree, there is a wide disparity between the measured temperatures and model projections – a disparity that is increasing over time.

Satellites and weather balloon data show no upward trend in temperatures for nearly 20 years, despite a more than 5 percent increase atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Ken Haapala, executive vice president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, points out, “Ironically, the ‘gap’ between models and observations grew wider, as successive Assessment Reports (AR) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expressed increasing certainty in the existence of dangerous carbon dioxide caused warming: namely, greater than 50% [AR2 1996], greater than 66% [AR3 2001], greater than 90% [AR4 2007], and greater than 95% [AR5 2013].”

SOURCE: Science and Environmental Policy Project

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