On Friday, October 30th, the Cato Institute will hold an all day conference on “What to Expect from the UN’s 2015 Climate Change Conference.” Speakers include: Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, Richard Tol, Peter Glaser, Andrew Grossman, Harlan Watson, Chip Knappenberger, and more. RSVP or watch online here.
In the News
Inside the Supreme Court Case That Could Change How America Gets Its Power
Andrew Follett, Daily Caller, 22 October 2015
Leading Feminist Gloria Steinem: Pope Causing Global Warming by “Forcing Women to Have Children”
Katie Yoder, NewsBusters, 22 October 2015
Wishful Thinking Meets Hard Realities in Energy Production
Joseph Verruni & Patrick Michaels, Newsweek, 22 October 2015
When Enron, NYT Declared Solar “Competitive” with Fossil Fuels…in 1994
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 21 October 2015
Paris Climate Pledges Would Cost $13.5 Trillion by 2030
Alex Morales, Bloomberg Business, 21 October 2015
Solyndra Redux: Another Government Funded Green Company on the Brink
Rob Nikolewski, Daily Signal, 21 October 2015
Have We Finally Reached Peak Lie on the Clean Power Plan
William Yeatman, GlobalWarming.org, 20 October 2015
New Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Brings Same Support for Keystone XL Pipeline
Steven Mufson, Washington Post, 20 October 2015
Green Financing Has Hobbled Home Sales in California
Nichola Groom, Reuters, 19 October 2015
News You Can Use
Solar Energy Derided by Villagers in India
Climatewire this week reported on the efforts of Greenpeace activists to set up a solar-powered microgrid in Dharnai, India, which had been without electricity for three decades. According to the report, villagers protested the inauguration of the system by lining up and chanting, “We want real electricity, not fake electricity!” That is, they want reliability power 24 hours a day.
Inside the Beltway
Senate and House Move Quickly To Block EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rules for Coal and Gas Power Plants
The EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules for new and existing coal and natural gas power plants were finally published in the Federal Register on Friday, 23rd October. EPA had released the text of the final rules on 3rd August. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) next week will file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to block the rule for new power plants. The Majority Leader’s office also announced that Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) will file a CRA resolution to block the rule for existing plants.
On the House side, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the energy subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced that he will file CRA resolutions of disapproval for new and existing plants on Monday.
Senate and House votes on these resolutions can be expected in the next few weeks and certainly before COP-21, the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, begins in Paris on 30th November. Both resolutions will pass the House and Senate with votes from an overwhelming majority of Republicans plus a few Democrats.
Although President Barack Obama will veto both CRA resolutions, as Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a press release, the votes will show governments of the other countries involved in negotiating a new climate treaty, which is scheduled to be finished at COP-21, that the Obama Administration’s INDC (or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) is opposed by Congress. That’s because the two power plant rules are the largest part of the administration’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions submitted in the INDC.
The Paris climate treaty negotiators should understand that the rules are unlikely to survive because at some point congressional opposition is likely to turn into congressional action. The first opportunity to act occurs in appropriations legislation for FY 2016. The House and Senate versions of the Interior-EPA appropriations bill contain riders that prohibit implementation of the rules in the current fiscal year. Passage of the CRA resolutions of disapproval will provide strong support for including the riders in any Omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passes to fund the government beyond the current continuing resolution, which expires on 11th December (which is also the day COP-21 is scheduled to conclude in Paris).
Further evidence that the power plant rules may not survive beyond the Obama Administration is provided by the lawsuits that were filed immediately after the rules were published. For more on the lawsuits, see the item in Across the States below.
Across the States
Record Number of States Launch Legal Challenge to Clean Power Plan
Twenty six States today filed legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan in the federal court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As far as I’ve been able to discern, this is a record number of States to challenge a Clean Air Act rule, and more States are likely to join.
The States are seeking to have the court delay implementation of the regulation until the legal challenge to the merits of the rule runs its course. The reason that States are seeking to pause implementation of the rule is the fact that capital-intensive businesses like electric utilities (the regulated entities) have to plan capital allocation years in advance. As such, many utilities don’t have the opportunity to wait until the litigation reaches a conclusion, which would take about three years, before they decide whether or not to comply with the regulation. In this manner, EPA could achieve compliance with the rule, even if the Supreme Court ultimately finds the Clean Power Plan to be illegal. The solution to this problem is to ask the court to pause or “stay” the rule until it decides on the rule's legality.
The bar for achieving a stay is high. However, the rule is unprecedented in the harm it would inflict, so I think the odds of success are relatively good. The D.C. Circuit will likely decide in early 2016. Were the D.C. Circuit to demur on a stay, I suspect that the petitioners would appeal such a decision to the Supreme Court.
Around the World
Bonn Climate Negotiations Still Come Down To One Question: Where’s the Cash?
The last officially scheduled negotiating session before COP-21 (the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Paris concluded on Friday, 23 October. The main achievement of the eleventh part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhancing Action, as the week-long negotiations are officially called, was to expand the draft text of the Paris climate treaty from the 20 pages they began with on Monday to 63 pages by Friday.
Although some slight progress can be seen here and there (for example, on mitigation and transparency issues), wide differences remain between the developing countries and the G-77, the group of 135 developing countries. As always, the G-77 want to know where’s the cash. Or as the BBC’s headline put it, “Questions over cash dominate.” The BBC’s story summarized the core of the disagreements in Bonn this week: “The G77 group are looking for increases on the $100b per annum from 2020 that was previously promised. They have dismissed recent research from the OECD suggesting that richer countries had provided $62bn in 2014-15 as climate finance. The poorer countries want money to come from new public sources and question the reliability of private finance.”
The $100 billion in climate aid was proposed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009 and endorsed by President Barack Obama. The Green Climate Fund was officially created by COP-16 in Cancun the next year. The GCF is now in operation and gearing up to start receiving and distributing $100 billion per year beginning in 2020. You can visit the GCF web site here.
In addition to the $100 billion per year, the developing countries want to be compensated for their losses and damages from the impacts of climate change—typhoons, hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc. COP-19 in Warsaw in 2013 created the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. Negotiations continue on how to compensate for L & D.
Has Global Warming Increased U.S. Hurricane Damages?
Estrada et al. (2015), a study published this week in Nature Geoscience, finds “an upward trend in economic losses between 1900 and 2005 that cannot be explained” by changes in societal factors such as increases in wealth, population, and inflation. The researchers also find “an upward trend in both the number and intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin” that is “consistent with” the global rise in average surface air temperature. They estimate that, in 2005, $2 billion to $4 billion in annual losses “could be attributable to climate change.”
University of Colorado prof. Roger Pielke, Jr. finds the study wrong on all counts.
Pielke provides a graph of North Atlantic hurricane strength, using a metric called the Power Dissipation Index (PDI), from 1950 through 2014. The graph covers the entire basin, not just hurricanes making landfall. Although there is considerable inter-annual and decadal variability, there is no long-term trend in hurricane strength.
More critically, Estrada et al. end their dataset in 2005, a big year for PDI and damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Thus, the researchers leave out of the dataset the record-breaking nine-year (2006-2014) “drought” of major (category 3, 4, 5) U.S. hurricane landfalls.
In other graphs, Pielke shows that U.S. hurricane landfall frequency and intensity have both declined 20% from 1900 to the present. Comparing two fifty-year periods, Pielke notes that there were 23 major U.S. hurricane landfalls during 1915-1954 but only nine major hurricane landfalls during 1965-2015. There were 40% fewer major U.S. hurricane landfalls in the later, globally-warmer 50-year period.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.