Climate Change Weekly #177
States and Congress are challenging the Obama administration’s clean power plan. Pennsylvania and West Virginia, for example, have enacted laws requiring legislative approval of any plan developed by their states’ environmental agencies to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).
In a letter to the National Governors Association in early April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged states to fight CPP in any way they can until court challenges are fully exhausted. Answering McConnell’s call, Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) issued an executive order directing the state not to develop a CPP implementation plan. Fallin said the CPP regulations “go beyond … [EPA’s] traditional authority and regulates all aspects of state energy systems.”
In a June letter to President Barack Obama, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said his state will not comply with CPP unless the administration dramatically rewrites the proposal floated so far. Pence says CPP “fails to strike the proper balance between the health of the environment and the health of the economy.” He wrote,
As Governor of Indiana, I am deeply concerned about the impacts of the Clean Power Plan on our state, especially our job creators, the poor, and the elderly who cannot afford more expensive, less reliable energy. I reject the Clean Power Plan and inform you that absent demonstrable and significant improvement in the final rule, Indiana will not comply.
Pence added Indiana will “reserve the right to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.”
On Capitol Hill, Congress and the Senate are using the power of the purse to prevent CPP from being finalized or enforced.
On June 24, the House voted 247 to 180 to allow governors to opt out of adopting state plans for implementing CPP if such plans would negatively affect electricity rates, reliability, or important economic sectors. The bill also would delay enforcement of CPP until all court challenges are resolved. According to The Hill, “The GOP believes that the rule will not withstand judicial review, so the delay is designed to ensure that the regulation never takes effect.”
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) argued, “This ‘just say no’ bill would effectively give governors the power to sabotage EPA’s proposed clean power plan …” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) agreed with Rush’s characterization, saying, “Earlier we heard the gentleman from Illinois say that this was a ‘just say no’ bill. You bet it is. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a ‘just say no’ bill. No to a weaker electric grid. No to fewer jobs, particularly in manufacturing and also in the coal and energy industries.”
The 2016 Interior Department and EPA spending bill developed by the Senate Appropriations Committee goes even farther than House efforts to restrain CPP. Besides reducing EPA’s budget by $538 million from its 2015 level, the bill also allows a state to opt out of CPP if its governor determines CPP would hamper economic growth or competitiveness, slow job creation, or result in job losses. The Senate bill also would repeal EPA’s rule and reinterpret the Clean Air Act in such a way as to make it extremely difficult for the agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
A new paper by Indur Goklany, Ph.D., a former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delegate and reviewer, argues Pope Francis has been led astray concerning climate science and the ethical response to climate change. Goklany notes, “The academies say that sustainability and resilience are being destroyed by over-consumption and that fossil fuels are to blame, yet almost every indicator of human well-being from life-expectancy to health to standard of living has improved beyond measure largely because of our use of fossil fuels.” Fossil fuel use also has benefitted the environment. Because fossil fuel use has allowed more intensive land uses, despite rising population, the amount of wilderness diverted to agricultural use has slowed and reversed.
Goklany acknowledges climate change is a moral issue. Concerning fossil fuel use, Goklany says, “it is a strange ethical calculus that would justify wiping out the gains we have made in human well-being over the last few centuries at the same time devastating the natural world. The Vatican’s advisors appear to have lost their way.”
SOURCE: Global Warming Policy Foundation
A recent paper from Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, shows trends in America demonstrate a striking recovery of nature, a rebound. Ausubel traces the beginning of the recovery to approximately 1970: “Contrary to the expectations of many professors and preachers, America began to spare more resources for the rest of nature, first in relative and more recently in absolute amounts,” Ausubel reports. “A series of decouplings is occurring, so that our economy no longer advances in tandem with exploitation of land, forests, water, and minerals. American use of almost everything except information seems to be peaking, not because the resources are exhausted, but because consumers changed consumption and producers changed production. Changes in behavior and technology liberate the environment.”
SOURCE: The Rockefeller University
Nature Communications has published new research led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office indicating a new little ice age might be on the way due to a sharp decline in sunspot activity. The Met office reports sunspot activity has experienced the fastest decline Earth has seen in the past 9,300 years. According to the report, the decline in solar activity could result in significantly cooler winters in Europe and America during the next 50 years. The authors argue the decline in solar activity would have only regional climate effects and would not overcome the global impacts from theoretical human-caused climate change. The human impacts they cite are based on computer model projections. The models do not reflect the growing gap between model temperature projections and actually measured temperatures, nor do the model projections account for the 18-year-long pause in rising temperatures.
Global climate models fail to accurately simulate regional climate variability on decadal time scales, suggesting natural factors dominate greenhouse gas emissions as a driver of regional temperatures. In a paper in PLOS One, researcher Bruce Kurtz demonstrates multidecadal ocean current oscillations, including the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), have played a dominant role in determining climate variability in the United States over the past century. Kurtz compared climate model projections, which don’t account for AMO and PDO, to U.S. temperature trends with AMO and PDO superimposed on the nine contiguous climate regions in the U.S. His research demonstrates the small decrease in U.S. temperature from 1938 to 1974, and the relatively significant increase in U.S. temperatures from 1980 to 2000, are almost entirely explained by shifts in oceanic oscillations. In particular, “the AMO was responsible for about 72% of the entire contiguous U.S. temperature increase over that time span with the contribution varying from 86 to 42% for individual climate regions.” One might expect similar comparisons for other continents or regions could produce similar results.
Fearing significant opposition from its influential agriculture industry, the European Union appears to be dropping plans to limit methane emissions. Methane comes from a variety of sources, including swamps, wetlands, or any still waters where algae can grow, as well as cows, pigs, termites, and humans. On a molecule-for-molecule basis, methane is a much more powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Defense Fund notes methane is “84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
EU countries had intended to include methane, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ammonia as five air pollutants whose emissions would be restricted along with carbon dioxide. Limits on methane would hit the agriculture and livestock sectors hard. Louise Duprez, senior policy officer for air pollution and noise at the European Environmental Bureau, reports, “The farm lobby is pushing to remove emission limits which affect agriculture.”
Their efforts appear to have borne fruit. If methane emissions are exempted from mandatory greenhouse gas emission cuts, steeper cut will have to be made in the remaining greenhouse gas emissions to meet any overall cap.
SOURCE: International Business Times
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