Cooler Heads Digest 12 June 2015

12 June 2015

In the News

Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 12 June 2015

Inhofe: “We’re Winning” the Global Warming Debate
Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 11 June 2015

Attacks on Skeptics Do a Disservice to Scientists and Their Profession
Anthony J. Sadar, Washington Times, 10 June 2015

Why the Left Needs Climate Change
Steven Hayward, Forbes, 9 June 2015

Ex-Im Is Not the Key to Nuclear Industry’s Competitiveness
Jack Spencer & Katie Tubb, The Daily Signal, 9 June 2015

A Climate Campaigner (Bill McKibben) and Climate Change Critic (Anthony Watts) Meet in a Bar…
Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, 8 June 2015

Global Warming: The Theory That Predicts Nothing and Explains Everything
Robert Tracinski, The Federalist, 8 June 2015

NOAA Plays “Hide the Pause”
James Delingpole, Big Government, 5 June 2015

Harvard Researchers Caught Lying To Boost EPA Climate Rule
Steve Milloy, Breitbart, 4 June 2015

News You Can Use
Study: EPA’s Clean Power Plan's Disparate Impact on Minorities

According to a study published this week by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, EPA’s Clean Power Plan would cause cumulative job losses for blacks and Hispanics of roughly 7 million and 12 million, respectively, over the next 20 years. Over the same time period, black families can expect their annual incomes to fall by $455, while Hispanics will take home $515 less per year.

Inside the Beltway
William Yeatman

AEI Carbon Tax Event: Niskanen Center Puts Its Cards on the Table (and it’s a terrible hand)

On Wednesday afternoon, the American Enterprise Institute hosted a debate on the merits of a carbon tax between Niskanen Center’s Jerry Taylor and AEI’s Benjamin Zycher. Video is available here.

For some time now, Taylor has been trying to convince conservatives to embrace a carbon tax. Originally, his case for the carbon tax was based on a hypothetical political compromise. That is, he urged conservatives to embrace a carbon tax as a bargaining chip that could be traded for a relaxation of EPA’s climate regulations. There are a lot of holes in this thesis, and Taylor’s line of reasoning has proved unsteady, as has been expertly explained by Robert Murphy at the Institute for Energy Research.

Evidently, Taylor’s original thesis (i.e., trading a carbon tax to stop EPA rules) does not withstand scrutiny well, because he ditched that argument during his presentation on Wednesday. Instead, he focused on the conservative appeal of a carbon tax implemented as the centerpiece of a prudent risk mitigation strategy.

Implausibly, Taylor claimed to have divined the precise odds of “catastrophic climate change.” According to Taylor, there is a 10 percent chance of climate change causing temperature increases of 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 on a business-as-usual trajectory. To be fair, he conceded some uncertainty: He said that the chance of an “unimaginable disaster” may be “8 percent or 12 percent.”

Wednesday’s debate was the first I’d heard that there’s a 10 percent chance of climate catastrophe by 2100, and I’m skeptical of its worth as a “fact” on which public policy should be rendered. Moreover, it strikes me as being alarmist even by the hyperbolic standards shared by Joe Romm and his ilk on the eco-freak fringe.

There are other problems with Taylor's argument. For example, he couches his risk management proposal in the familiar terms of hedging and insurance in the financial sector. Such a comparison is, however, inapposite. Given our near total reliance on fossil fuels, the only way to fight global warming is to completely transform the global economy. Anything short of that won't save us. So we’re not talking about insuring our position within the current market; rather, we’re talking about completely remaking the current market. Those are markedly difference risk management strategies.

Another problem with his reasoning is that the putative danger undercuts the impetus for his grand political bargain. If we face a certain 10 percent chance of catastrophe, wouldn’t that warrant EPA regulations, in addition to a carbon tax? There are other problems with his argument, foremost among them being his unwillingness to proffer a price, which is no small component of his plan.

To recap: Jerry Taylor’s original argument for a carbon tax—that it could be traded for a rescission of EPA climate rules—seems to have gone by the wayside, likely due to the effectiveness of criticisms leveled by IER’s Robert Murphy. On Wednesday, at an AEI-sponsored debate, Taylor presented his new and improved argument—that it’s a “moral and ethical” imperative for conservatives to support a carbon tax as a mitigation strategy, because there is a 10 percent chance (maybe 8 percent, maybe 12 percent) that climate change will be catastrophic. For the reasons I set forth above, his new focus is no less unreasonable than the original.

Taylor’s opponent, Benjamin Zycher, did a great job, to no one’s surprise. Michael Bastasch penned an excellent write-up of the event, available here.

D.C. Circuit Court Disappoints (but there is a silver lining)

On Tuesday, a three judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge brought by industry and 15 States to check EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The court ruled that the challenge was premature, because the rule hasn’t yet been finalized. Because the judges ruled on jurisdictional grounds, the court did not tip its hand regarding the merits of the petitioners’ challenge to the rule, which was based on the argument that EPA lacks the authority to issue the Clean Power Plan. (For more on the merits of the case, see here and here.)

EPA is expected to publish the final rule in august. Thereafter, opponents of the Clean Power Plan will seek a stay of the regulation, the success of which would be based in part on the likelihood of their winning on the merits. The D.C. Circuit likely would render a decision whether or not to stay the regulation in late fall or early winter.

While Tuesday’s ruling was a disappointment, environmental lawyer Brian Potts points to a possible silver lining. In an excellent Forbes op-ed published on Thursday, Potts notes that under the D.C. Circuit Court’s rules, there’s a substantial likelihood that the same panel of judges that heard Tuesday’s case will adjudicate the next challenge. This bodes well for opponents of the rule, as the three judges are all known to be sensitive to EPA overreach.

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,