Cooler Heads Digest 6 June 2014

6 June 2014


Registration is now open for the Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, July 7-9, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Click here to learn more.

In the News

How the Climate Crusade Came to Resemble a Cult
Steven Hayward, Weekly Standard, June Issue

Does EPA’s Left Hand Know What Its Far-Left Hand Is Doing to Fight Fracking?
Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, 6 June 2014

CASAC Sows Confusion on Ozone by Playing Legal Word Games
William Yeatman,, 5 June 2014

EPA’s Next Wave of Job-Likking CO2 Regulations
David Rothbard & Craig Rucker, Watts Up With That?, 5 June 2014

Our new Climate Strategy: Jump off Cliff, Ask China to Follow
Christopher Prandoni, Forbes, 4 June 2014

National Climate Assessment Doubles Down on Climate Doom
Fred Singer, American Thinker, 3 June 2014

James Hansen to Obama: Cap-and-Trade Is a Special Interest Boondoggle
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 2 June 2014

Obama’s Cold Political Calculus on Global Warming
Patrick Michaels, Washington Times, 2 June 2014

How Fracking Helps America Beat German Industry
Reuters, 2 June 2014

Europe’s Gas Power Capacity at Risk as Utilities Turn to Coal
Isis Almeida, Bloomberg, 1 June 2014

News You Can Use
Polar Bears International Admits It’s Only Guessing

Polar Bears International, which claims to be “the pre-eminent resource for all things polar bear” and which provides widely-used teaching materials for schools, long has asserted that climate change would wipe out 2/3 of polar bears by the end of the century. This week, the group conceded that the claim was “simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand,” and agreed to put a disclaimer on all its educational materials.

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

Obama's EPA Touts Asthma Benefits of Higher Electric Rates and Job Losses

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy introduced the proposed rule for limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants in an extraordinary speech to the media at the EPA's headquarters on Monday, 2nd June. It turns out that the main selling point of cutting CO2 emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 is that one of the alleged co-benefits is up to 150,000 fewer childhood asthma attacks per year. That should be a great comfort to the millions of children whose parents lose their jobs and can't afford to keep the lights on because of a policy that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) concisely described as “nuts.”

Five years into the most sluggish economy since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama has taken the biggest step yet in fulfilling his 2008 campaign promise that under his plan electricity rates “will necessarily skyrocket.” The sad fact is that the president knows so little about how the economy works that he might actually believe the new report from his White House Office of Management and Budget that claims that major regulations promulgated since 2003 have cost only $57 billion, but have produced $863 billion in benefits. Clearly, the road to prosperity is paved with red tape.

The EPA proposes to achieve a 30 percent cut in emissions from existing coal and natural gas power plants by requiring electric utilities to use a variety of tools, most of which Congress rejected in 2009-10, when the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate by wide majorities. The Waxman-Markey bill, H. R. 2454, failed in the Senate, but cap-and-trade, renewable standards, and demand-side management apparently do not need to be enacted by the Congress, but can be required by administrative ukase.

The formulas used to apportion the CO2 reductions among the states are complicated and will require considerable analysis. The 2005 baseline is much easier to understand. It rewards the states that have already undertaken significant energy-rationing regimes, such as California and the members of the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And it punishes the states that have had significant economic and population growth. These are largely states that have pursued policies that result in affordable energy from coal and natural gas power plants. Cynics may notice that the former states are mostly controlled by Democrats and the latter states by Republicans. has several posts by my CEI colleagues William Yeatman and Marlo Lewis that provide expert analysis of many of the details in the proposed rule. See here, here, here, and here.

Across the States
William Yeatman

West Virginia Judge Issues Suspect Ruling on "Conductivity"

In a ruling delivered Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chambers sided with West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club, and the Ohio Valley Coalition, and found that coal mines operated by subsidiaries of Alpha Natural Resources committed “at least one violation” of Clean Water Act permits. The alleged violation pertained to discharges of saline effluent into West Virginia waterways.

The ruling is flawed on a number of counts. For starters, the permits at issue were issued by West Virginia, acting pursuant to its EPA-approved Clean Water Act authority, and the state doesn’t regulate saline effluent (which is more commonly referred to by its primary physical property—electric “conductivity”). As such, this would appear to be a case of an activist judge imposing his will on an entire state. This perception is not aided by the fact that Judge Chambers used to be a member of one of the plaintiff organizations (the WV Highlands Conservancy), and has, moreover, issued controversial, anti-coal rulings in the past. Finally, it is worth noting that the putative “victims” of saline “pollution” is a short-lived order of insects, the mayfly, which isn’t an endangered species.

Alpha Resources said it will appeal the ruling to the 4th Circuit.

Around the World
William Yeatman

Media Evinces Knee-Jerk Bias by Running with Fake “News” on China Carbon Cap

On Tuesday morning, a number of prominent reporters allowed wishful thinking to get in the way of their jobs by running with a mistaken Reuters report that China would cap its CO2 emissions in 2016. It turns out that the Reuters report was based on a misquote that got lost in translation, but before the article was retracted, reporters at the New York Times and New York magazine, among others, concluded that President Obama’s climate plan was the cause for China's about-face on climate policy. These reporters’ evident absence of skepticism, and also their willingness to give to credit to EPA’s new climate plan, is telling.

Science Update
Marlo Lewis

Richard Tol Challenges 97% Consensus Claim

How many times have you heard there is a 97% “consensus” among climate scientists?

The claim comes from a study by John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli of the misnamed ‘Skeptical Science’ blog and colleagues, who examined 11,944 abstracts of climate papers published during 1991-2011.

Supposedly, Cook et al (2013) found that 97% of climate scientists agree with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that most of the 0.7°C of global warming since 1951 is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases. Skeptics, they suggest, are a fringe element, unworthy of public attention.

But the Cook study does not really prove what the spinners claim it proves.

Nearly two-thirds of the 11,944 abstracts expressed no opinion on the supposed “consensus” position. So for all we know, many of the authors may doubt the consensus view.

 Of the abstracts that expressed an opinion, Cook et al. claim that 97.1% (less than one-third of the original total) agree with the IPCC consensus position. That too is more than the Cook team can possibly know.

University of Delaware Prof. David Legates and three colleagues examined Cook et al.’s database, and found that less than 1% of the 11,944 abstracts explicitly endorse the so-called consensus.

Is the 97% figure made up out of whole cloth? Not quite. It turns out that 97% of about one-third of the abstracts affirms or implies that humans are responsible for some portion of global warming since 1951.

And guess what? Just about every prominent skeptic agrees with that as well. As an attempt to discredit contrarians, the Cook study is a bust.

A new study by climate economist Richard Tol, published this week in Science Direct, dumps more cold water on the Cook et al. 97% consensus study. Tol, you may recall, withdrew his name from the IPCC climate impacts report summary for policymakers because of its alarmist hype.

Tol accepts the IPCC view that most warming of the past six-plus decades is anthropogenic. Nonetheless, as an assessment of what most scientists think, he finds Cook et al. To be deeply flawed. From the abstract:

“A claim has been that 97% of the scientific literature endorses anthropogenic climate change (Cook et al., 2013. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 024024). This claim, frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand. A trend in composition is mistaken for a trend in endorsement. Reported results are inconsistent and biased. The sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook׳s validation test shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so that key results cannot be reproduced or tested.”

The consensus-mongers should stop wasting our time. The key science question for climate researchers today is not whether greenhouse gas emissions warm the planet but whether state-of-the-art computer models are accurate enough to forecast climate change and inform policy decisions. As it turns out, the IPCC’s latest ensemble of climate models produce estimates that overshoot the warming of the past 20 years by 100% and of the last 15 years by 400%.

The key science question for citizens and their representatives is not whether most recent warming is man-made but whether climate change, as Al Gore put it, is a “planetary emergency – a crisis that threatens the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth.” This doomsday view of global warming is not credible (see here, here, and here).

Finally, the key issue for policymakers is not whether climate change poses risks but whether the proposed “solutions” – carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and other schemes to rig the market against plentiful, affordable, reliable fossil fuels – would do more harm than good. There are many compelling reasons to regard those so-called solutions as either all cost for no benefit or a cure worse than the alleged disease.

The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads