Climate Change Weekly #214
In an interview with Reuters, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump threw climate alarmists into a tizzy by saying he would renegotiate the conditions for America’s involvement in the United Nations’ global climate accord reached in Paris in December 2015.
It’s no secret Trump is a climate skeptic. In an appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number-one problem of the world today, and I think it’s very low on the list … we have much bigger problems.” Trump is also no fan of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the stump promising to cut its budget dramatically and review all its regulations, eliminating many because, “Over-regulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive.”
Trump’s views on the Paris climate treaty thus should come as little surprise. “I will be looking at that [the Paris climate agreement] very, very seriously, and at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements, at a minimum,” the billionaire developer told Reuters.
“[T]hose agreements are one-sided agreements and they are bad for the United States,” Trump said, adding he does not believe China, the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide, would adhere to its pledge under the Paris deal. “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it, and China doesn’t adhere to it, and China’s spewing into the atmosphere.”
The Obama administration pledged a 26 to 28 percent domestic reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 compared to 2005, while China’s emissions will continue to grow unabated at least until 2030, when it believes its emissions will plateau.
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If Trump pulls the United States out of the agreement, it could mean the end of the accord.
Former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who helped broker the deal, said in early May the U.S. election was critical to the agreement’s future. “If a climate change denier was to be elected, it would threaten dramatically global action against climate disruption,” Fabius said.
Built into the Paris agreement is a provision meant to keep countries in the accord in the event a new government comes in and wants to withdraw. The clause says any nation wanting to withdraw will first have to wait four years.
However, no country is bound by the agreement unless it actually legally adopts the accord – that is, until the accord has been ratified by the country’s government body. Congress has not ratified the Paris accord, and so the United States can drop out. In addition, since there are no legally binding penalties for not adopting or dropping out of the treaty, or for a country missing its climate targets, moral suasion is the only tool member countries would have to keep in the Paris agreement countries that wish to withdraw.
Good luck with that!
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
Europe shows forced shift to renewable energy is costly … Seismic activity tied to global warming … Skepticism warranted concerning ocean acidification … Dams bad for environment, climate … Groups object to DOD climate funding
The aggressive policies adopted by the European Union to fight climate change have resulted in dramatic increases in electricity costs for residential and industrial consumers. For instance, between 2005, when the E.U. adopted its emissions trading scheme, and 2014, residential electricity rates in the E.U. increased by an average of 63 percent. In addition, E.U. countries intervening the most in their energy markets – Germany, Spain, and the U.K. – have seen their electricity costs increase the fastest.
Higher energy costs are undermining European companies’ international competitiveness. In 2013, the Center for European Policy Studies found European steelmakers were paying twice as much for electricity and four times as much for natural gas as U.S. steel producers. A 2014 International Energy Agency (IEA) report warned continued energy imports, along with expensive climate policies, will likely hurt European industry for the next two decades or more, predicting the E.U.’s share of “the global export market for energy-intensive goods, especially for chemicals, is expected to fall (by around 10% across all energy-intensive goods, i.e., cement, chemicals, pulp and paper, iron and steel).” By contrast, IEA expects the United States and emerging economies to be able to increase their shares of the global export markets for these goods.
The study also found Europe’s sacrifices failed to affect global carbon dioxide emissions. Since 2005, while the E.U. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 600 million tons per year, the combined emissions of four developing countries – Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia – increased by 4.7 billion tons per year.
SOURCE: Manhattan Institute
A recent study in the Journal of Earth Science and Climatic Change purports to show geothermal forcing is highly correlated with average global temperatures from 1979 to 2015. The author, Arthur Viterito, professor of geography at the College of Southern Maryland, notes both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change ignore geothermal flux as a variable affecting global climate changes.
According to the study, seismic activity in high geothermal flux areas is a significant, and better, predictor of global temperatures than changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The author argues geothermal heat can strengthen oceanic overturning, an important mechanism for transferring ocean heat to the atmosphere, and seismic activity precedes global temperature changes.
Howard Brownman, a marine scientist with the Institute of Marine Research’s Austevoll Research Station in Norway, is the author of the lead paper, a review of the literature, in the February/March edition of ICES Journal of Marine Science, an edition devoted entirely to the topic of ocean acidification (OA). The theory of ocean acidification says as the ocean absorbs a growing amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the pH level will become more acidic, harming sea life, especially corals.
Brownman demonstrates the threat OA poses is overhyped. He notes journals are biased, favoring papers that find evidence of a measurable impact of increasing carbon dioxide levels on ocean pH while rejecting papers showing no effect. He writes scientists have a woefully incomplete understanding of the relationships between carbon dioxide absorption and its effects on ocean water and sea life. In addition, he notes, predictions made concerning a dangerous OA resulting in negative effects on sea life have so far failed to materialize. Brownman “call[s] for a heightened level of organized (academic) scepticism to be applied to the body of work on OA.”
Even if the oceans were “acidifying,” there are several reasons for thinking this would not be a disaster. A recent paper by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore shows: calcifying marine species (e.g., corals) have survived through millions of years when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were much higher; marine species are more than capable of adapting, even in the short term, to environmental change; seawater has a large buffering capacity preventing dramatic shifts in pH; and if oceans do become warmer due to “climate change,” they will “outgas” (that is, emit) carbon dioxide, not absorb more of it.
A number of countries are planning large hydropower projects to meet their emission reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement.
Hydropower currently provides 76 percent of electricity generated from renewable sources worldwide, according to the World Energy Council. In the past decade, the number of hydropower plants has increased by 27 percent. Worldwide, more than 3,700 hydropower dams are under construction or in the planning stage.
In Asia, a number of large dams are being built. China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is increasingly relying on hydropower to meet its energy needs as it moves away from coal. Along the Mekong River delta, Laos plans to develop more than 60 hydropower plants to supply 7,000MW to Thailand, 5,000MW to Vietnam, and 1,500MW to Cambodia by 2020. Cambodia and Myanmar expect hydropower to meet more than 75 percent and 98 percent of their energy needs, respectively, by 2030.
A coalition of more than 300 non-governmental organizations from 53 nations, including the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Carbon Market Watch, Oxfam International, and Rivers Without Boundaries, are calling for a halt to large dam construction, citing humanitarian and environmental concerns. They note people in thousands of communities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam are fighting dam construction, saying dams threaten the Mekong River ecosystem, their main source of food, livelihood, and water.
Ame Trandem, the Southeast Asia program director for the non-profit group International Rivers, reports, “Communities which depend on the rivers for their survival have been particularly hard hit with the hydrological changes in the Mekong has led to a decrease in fishing stock, more river bank erosion and changes in water quality and temperature.”
Resettlement of affected communities is one of the biggest challenges facing hydropower projects. While advocates argue any resettlement should ensure displaced communities are left no worse off than before a dam is built, this goal is rarely met, especially in countries where authoritarian governments do not have to answer to voters. In some cases, native groups displaced by dams built more than 50 years ago still await the provision of land for resettlement and farming and other promised compensation.
Research cited by those who fear humans are causing dangerous climate change shows dams may not be as climate-friendly as advertised. While hydropower plants can displace the need for coal-fired power plants, thus reducing or preventing carbon dioxide emissions, the potential methane emissions arising from the reservoirs created behind hydropower dams, especially in tropical regions, can be considerable and are not well accounted for in countries’ greenhouse gas emission inventories.
Professor Philip Fearnside of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus, warns countries will be unable to meet their Paris climate commitments if they fail to account accurately for the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from hydropower projects.
A letter signed by representatives of 26 leading free-market think tanks and conservative or libertarian activist organizations supports an amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment aims to prevent the Department of Defense (DOD) from continuing to implement Executive Orders 13653 and 13693 requiring DOD to establish a number of climate change programs and policies throughout the department.
The letter notes DOD climate programs have nothing to do with the mission of the United States’ Armed Services, and continued funding of them is likely to undermine military readiness by diverting scarce resources from programs critical to ensuring the country’s national security to extraneous programs such as “meeting targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, meeting a variety of green energy quotas, meeting fleet requirements for low and zero emissions vehicles, and incorporating climate resilience and preparedness as principal aims of land and water management.”
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