Biden’s Bogus Climate Report

scc-working-group

The latest criticism comes from James Broughel writing at Real Clear Politics Biden’s Climate Report Is Based on Personal Values, Not Science. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Late last month, the Biden administration quietly released an update of the government’s “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimate, a metric used to value the benefits of global warming policies, especially regulations. The update hasn’t received much attention yet, but it will be important in justifying the administration’s climate agenda in the months ahead.

There are numerous shortcomings with the Biden team’s calculations. Some may be due to the report being rushed, but others reflect misunderstanding of economic principles, and, more simply, poor judgment.

Biden’s People Get the Units Wrong

First, numerous tables in the document released by the administration are mislabeled. The interagency working group that produced the update claims its primary estimate of the SCC is 51 dollars per ton. But the models the working group uses calculate the figure in terms of social welfare — not dollars. Thus, 51 is a measure of the amount that the current generation’s “welfare” is reduced by carbon pollution. Even assuming that number is credible (and measuring welfare is no easy task), the administration doesn’t get the units right.,

This is a big deal because the numbers in the new report shouldn’t be used in cost-benefit analysis unless further adjustments are made. Cost-benefit analysis is supposed to measure impacts in dollars, not the Biden administration’s social welfare units. So any analysis that tries to compare these numbers to financial costs will be nonsensical. These problems with units extend to estimates of the social cost of methane and of nitrous oxide, which also appear in last month’s report.

Misleading Social Discount Rate

There are other misleading parts of the document. For example, there is extensive discussion about the correct “social discount rate” to use in cost-benefit analysis. The social discount rate describes how much less a future benefit from a policy should count relative to a present benefit. For example, many economists generally assume a life saved in 100 years is far less valuable than a life saved today — which is, of course, controversial and has implications beyond economics.

The report makes a number of dubious claims about the social discount rate, but here are just a few worth highlighting.

First, Biden’s team argues that risk-free market interest rates have declined in recent years, and that this provides a basis for using a lower social discount rate. However, claims like this reflect a misunderstanding of the discounting concept.

The decision of how much to weight future health, wellbeing, and lives saved is an ethical choice. One cannot find the correct social discount rate by opening up the Wall Street Journal and turning to the page on interest rates. Ultimately, we need some philosophical compass to guide our choice. Yes, one could choose to base an ethical decision on market criteria, but one could just as easily choose an alternative paradigm, like introspection. Nor should this issue be conflated with the rate of return on capital, which is a separate issue that is sometimes confused with social discounting.

In fact, it would be just as legitimate to pick any plausible number out of a hat (you might laugh, but some approaches do draw a discount rate from a distribution of rates based on surveys of economists). Whatever method is chosen, the choice of the social discount rate is inevitably a value judgment.

Similarly, the report tries to justify lower discount rates in the future by pointing to “Ramsey discounting,” a method named after the early 20th century mathematician Frank Ramsey. Under this approach, analysts assume a benevolent dictator — a proxy for our whole generation’s social welfare — centrally plans the economy. Economists have concocted various mathematical schemes to estimate how the dictator discounts the future.

Again, because the choice is an ethical one, there is no particular reason to believe this Ramsey discounting approach is wrong. But there’s no reason to believe it’s right, either.

Personal Preferences, Not Science

The problem with the government’s report is that it presents these various approaches as somehow scientific. In fact, they conceal what is fundamentally a question about values and make it appear as though the answer can come from technical measurement.

Perhaps most concerning is that the administration is already violating its own principles of social justice. In a memo signed by President Biden on his first day in office, he identified promoting the interests of future generations as a top priority, which is a noble goal, to be sure.

But the SCC is calculated using a version of the Ramsey model. In it, the present generation functions as the dictator whose welfare is measured, while the welfare of future generations counts for basically nothing. Present citizens may display some empathy for future generations — for example, the administration’s climate policy is probably motivated by their concern for the future — but the analysis doesn’t consider the welfare of future generations in a direct way.

The new social cost of carbon report comes across like an attempt by experts to ram through a political agenda, while trying to pass off their efforts as scientific. But the public should not be fooled. What’s behind the updated numbers is the administration’s personal values, for better or worse, not science.

Background from Previous Post Biden’s Arbitrary Social Cost of Carbon: What You Need to Know

The news on Friday was Biden signing another order, this one restoring the so-called “Social Cost of Carbon” to Obama’s $51 a ton, along with threats to raise it up to $125 a ton.  The whole notion is an exercise in imagination for the sake of adding regulatory costs to everything involving energy,  that is to everything.  A background post below describes the history of how this ruse started and the manipulations and arbitrary assumptions to gin up a number high enough to hobble the economy.

Background from 2018 post: US House Votes Down Social Cost of Carbon

The House GOP on Friday took a step forward in reining in the Obama administration’s method of assessing the cost of carbon dioxide pollution when developing regulations.

The House voted 212-201, along party lines, to include a rider blocking the use of the climate change cost metric to an energy and water spending bill.

The amendment offered by Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert bars any and all funds from being used under the bill to “prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation that relies on the Social Carbon analysis” devised under the Obama administration on how to value the cost of carbon. (Source Washington Examiner, here)

To clarify: the amendment in question defunds any regulation or guidance from the federal government concerning the social costs of carbon.

Background: 
The Obama administration created and increased its estimates of the “Social Cost of Carbon,” invented by Michael Greenstone, who commented on the EPA Proposed Repeal of CO2 emissions regulations.  A Washington Post article, October 11, 2017, included this:

“My read is that the political decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was made and then they did whatever was necessary to make the numbers work,” added Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who worked on climate policy during the Obama years.

Activists are frightened about the Clean Power Plan under serious attack along three lines:
1. No federal law governs CO2 emissions.
2. EPA regulates sites, not the Energy Sector.
3. CPP costs are huge, while benefits are marginal.

Complete discussion at CPP has Three Fatal Flaws.

Read below how Greenstone and a colleague did exactly what he now complains about.

Social Cost of Carbon: Origins and Prospects

The Obama administration has been fighting climate change with a rogue wave of regulations whose legality comes from a very small base: The Social Cost of Carbon.

The purpose of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimates presented here is to allow agencies to incorporate the social benefits of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that impact cumulative global emissions. The SCC is an estimate of the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year. It is intended to include (but is not limited to) changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services due to climate change. From the Technical Support Document: -Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis -Under Executive Order 12866

A recent Bloomberg article informs on how the SCC notion was invented, its importance and how it might change under the Trump administration.
How Climate Rules Might Fade Away; Obama used an arcane number to craft his regulations. Trump could use it to undo them. (here). Excerpts below with my bolds.

In February 2009, a month after Barack Obama took office, two academics sat across from each other in the White House mess hall. Over a club sandwich, Michael Greenstone, a White House economist, and Cass Sunstein, Obama’s top regulatory officer, decided that the executive branch needed to figure out how to estimate the economic damage from climate change. With the recession in full swing, they were rightly skeptical about the chances that Congress would pass a nationwide cap-and-trade bill. Greenstone and Sunstein knew they needed a Plan B: a way to regulate carbon emissions without going through Congress.

Over the next year, a team of economists, scientists, and lawyers from across the federal government convened to come up with a dollar amount for the economic cost of carbon emissions. Whatever value they hit upon would be used to determine the scope of regulations aimed at reducing the damage from climate change. The bigger the estimate, the more costly the rules meant to address it could be. After a year of modeling different scenarios, the team came up with a central estimate of $21 per metric ton, which is to say that by their calculations, every ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere imposed $21 of economic cost. It has since been raised to around $40 a ton.

Trump can’t undo the SCC by fiat. There is established case law requiring the government to account for the impact of carbon, and if he just repealed it, environmentalists would almost certainly sue.

There are other ways for Trump to undercut the SCC. By tweaking some of the assumptions and calculations that are baked into its model, the Trump administration could pretty much render it irrelevant, or even skew it to the point that carbon emissions come out as a benefit instead of a cost.

The SCC models rely on a “discount rate” to state the harm from global warming in today’s dollars. The higher the discount rate, the lower the estimate of harm. That’s because the costs incurred by burning carbon lie mostly in the distant future, while the benefits (heat, electricity, etc.) are enjoyed today. A high discount rate shrinks the estimates of future costs but doesn’t affect present-day benefits. The team put together by Greenstone and Sunstein used a discount rate of 3 percent to come up with its central estimate of $21 a ton for damage inflicted by carbon. But changing that discount just slightly produces big swings in the overall cost of carbon, turning a number that’s pushing broad changes in everything from appliances to coal leasing decisions into one that would have little or no impact on policy.

According to a 2013 government update on the SCC, by applying a discount rate of 5 percent, the cost of carbon in 2020 comes out to $12 a ton; using a 2.5 percent rate, it’s $65. A 7 percent discount rate, which has been used by the EPA for other regulatory analysis, could actually lead to a negative carbon cost, which would seem to imply that carbon emissions are beneficial. “Once you start to dig into how the numbers are constructed, I cannot fathom how anyone could think it has any basis in reality,” says Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance and a member of the Trump transition team focusing on the Energy Department.

David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow in energy economics and climate change at Heritage and a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, laid out one of the primary arguments against the SCC. “Believe it or not, these models look out to the year 2300. That’s like effectively asking, ‘If you turn your light switch on today, how much damage will that do in 2300?’ That’s way beyond when any macroeconomic model can be trusted.”

Another issue for those who question the Obama administration’s SCC: It estimates the global costs and benefits of carbon emissions, rather than just focusing on the impact to the U.S. Critics argue that this pushes the cost of carbon much higher and that the calculation should instead be limited to the U.S.; that would lower the cost by more than 70 percent, says the CEI’s Mario Lewis.

Still, by narrowing the calculation to the U.S., Trump could certainly produce a lower cost of carbon. Asked in an e-mail whether the new administration would raise the discount rate or narrow the scope of the SCC to the U.S., one person shaping Trump energy and environmental policy replied, “What prevents us from doing both?”

See Also:

Six Reasons to Rescind Social Cost of Carbon

SBC: Social Benefits of Carbon

drain-the-swamp

Biden’s Arbitrary Social Cost of Carbon: What You Need to Know

The news on Friday was Biden signing another order, this one restoring the so-called “Social Cost of Carbon” to Obama’s $51 a ton, along with threats to raise it up to $125 a ton.  The whole notion is an exercise in imagination for the sake of adding regulatory costs to everything involving energy,  that is to everything.  A background post below describes the history of how this ruse started and the manipulations and arbitrary assumptions to gin up a number high enough to hobble the economy.

Background from 2018 post: US House Votes Down Social Cost of Carbon

The House GOP on Friday took a step forward in reining in the Obama administration’s method of assessing the cost of carbon dioxide pollution when developing regulations.

The House voted 212-201, along party lines, to include a rider blocking the use of the climate change cost metric to an energy and water spending bill.

The amendment offered by Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert bars any and all funds from being used under the bill to “prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation that relies on the Social Carbon analysis” devised under the Obama administration on how to value the cost of carbon. (Source Washington Examiner, here)

To clarify: the amendment in question defunds any regulation or guidance from the federal government concerning the social costs of carbon.

Background: 
The Obama administration created and increased its estimates of the “Social Cost of Carbon,” invented by Michael Greenstone, who commented on the EPA Proposed Repeal of CO2 emissions regulations.  A Washington Post article, October 11, 2017, included this:

“My read is that the political decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was made and then they did whatever was necessary to make the numbers work,” added Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who worked on climate policy during the Obama years.

Activists are frightened about the Clean Power Plan under serious attack along three lines:
1. No federal law governs CO2 emissions.
2. EPA regulates sites, not the Energy Sector.
3. CPP costs are huge, while benefits are marginal.

Complete discussion at CPP has Three Fatal Flaws.

Read below how Greenstone and a colleague did exactly what he now complains about.

Social Cost of Carbon: Origins and Prospects

The Obama administration has been fighting climate change with a rogue wave of regulations whose legality comes from a very small base: The Social Cost of Carbon.

The purpose of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimates presented here is to allow agencies to incorporate the social benefits of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that impact cumulative global emissions. The SCC is an estimate of the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year. It is intended to include (but is not limited to) changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services due to climate change. From the Technical Support Document: -Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis -Under Executive Order 12866

A recent Bloomberg article informs on how the SCC notion was invented, its importance and how it might change under the Trump administration.
How Climate Rules Might Fade Away; Obama used an arcane number to craft his regulations. Trump could use it to undo them. (here). Excerpts below with my bolds.

scc-working-group

In February 2009, a month after Barack Obama took office, two academics sat across from each other in the White House mess hall. Over a club sandwich, Michael Greenstone, a White House economist, and Cass Sunstein, Obama’s top regulatory officer, decided that the executive branch needed to figure out how to estimate the economic damage from climate change. With the recession in full swing, they were rightly skeptical about the chances that Congress would pass a nationwide cap-and-trade bill. Greenstone and Sunstein knew they needed a Plan B: a way to regulate carbon emissions without going through Congress.

Over the next year, a team of economists, scientists, and lawyers from across the federal government convened to come up with a dollar amount for the economic cost of carbon emissions. Whatever value they hit upon would be used to determine the scope of regulations aimed at reducing the damage from climate change. The bigger the estimate, the more costly the rules meant to address it could be. After a year of modeling different scenarios, the team came up with a central estimate of $21 per metric ton, which is to say that by their calculations, every ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere imposed $21 of economic cost. It has since been raised to around $40 a ton.

Trump can’t undo the SCC by fiat. There is established case law requiring the government to account for the impact of carbon, and if he just repealed it, environmentalists would almost certainly sue.

There are other ways for Trump to undercut the SCC. By tweaking some of the assumptions and calculations that are baked into its model, the Trump administration could pretty much render it irrelevant, or even skew it to the point that carbon emissions come out as a benefit instead of a cost.

The SCC models rely on a “discount rate” to state the harm from global warming in today’s dollars. The higher the discount rate, the lower the estimate of harm. That’s because the costs incurred by burning carbon lie mostly in the distant future, while the benefits (heat, electricity, etc.) are enjoyed today. A high discount rate shrinks the estimates of future costs but doesn’t affect present-day benefits. The team put together by Greenstone and Sunstein used a discount rate of 3 percent to come up with its central estimate of $21 a ton for damage inflicted by carbon. But changing that discount just slightly produces big swings in the overall cost of carbon, turning a number that’s pushing broad changes in everything from appliances to coal leasing decisions into one that would have little or no impact on policy.

According to a 2013 government update on the SCC, by applying a discount rate of 5 percent, the cost of carbon in 2020 comes out to $12 a ton; using a 2.5 percent rate, it’s $65. A 7 percent discount rate, which has been used by the EPA for other regulatory analysis, could actually lead to a negative carbon cost, which would seem to imply that carbon emissions are beneficial. “Once you start to dig into how the numbers are constructed, I cannot fathom how anyone could think it has any basis in reality,” says Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance and a member of the Trump transition team focusing on the Energy Department.

David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow in energy economics and climate change at Heritage and a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, laid out one of the primary arguments against the SCC. “Believe it or not, these models look out to the year 2300. That’s like effectively asking, ‘If you turn your light switch on today, how much damage will that do in 2300?’ That’s way beyond when any macroeconomic model can be trusted.”

Another issue for those who question the Obama administration’s SCC: It estimates the global costs and benefits of carbon emissions, rather than just focusing on the impact to the U.S. Critics argue that this pushes the cost of carbon much higher and that the calculation should instead be limited to the U.S.; that would lower the cost by more than 70 percent, says the CEI’s Mario Lewis.

Still, by narrowing the calculation to the U.S., Trump could certainly produce a lower cost of carbon. Asked in an e-mail whether the new administration would raise the discount rate or narrow the scope of the SCC to the U.S., one person shaping Trump energy and environmental policy replied, “What prevents us from doing both?”

See Also:

Six Reasons to Rescind Social Cost of Carbon

SBC: Social Benefits of Carbon

drain-the-swamp

Biden’s Bizarre Climate Charade

David Krayden explains in his Human Events article Joe Biden Thinks He’s Tackling Climate Change, but He’s Really Sacking the U.S. Economy.  Excerpt in italics with my bolds and images.

The Paris Accords and cancelling Keystone is just the beginning of life under the new climate regime.

President Biden’s vision is to “lead a clean energy revolution” that will free the United States from the “pollution” of carbon dioxide by 2035 and have “net-zero emissions” by 2050.

Of course, the President himself will likely not be around to see if the United States achieves either target, even if his insane plan survives successive administration. Instead, he sits in his chair like a languorous old man assiduously reading his speaking notes from his desk, looking like he is under house arrest. Still, he is governing—or at least, appearing to do so—by executive order, and the sheer mass of those dictates is not just staggering but terrifying.

The new President had barely warmed his Oval Office seat when he announced that the U.S. would return to the Paris climate accord—a job-destroying bit of global authoritarianism that is not worth the diplomatic paper it is printed on, let alone the lavish parties staged while it was being negotiated. Then, he quickly produced an executive order to cancel the XL pipeline. With the flash of another one of those pens that Biden runs through on a daily basis, he canceled 10,000 jobs in the U.S., along with another 3,000 in Canada. And this in the midst of a pandemic that even Biden has called our “dark winter!” Even uber-environmentalist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports the XL pipeline, and promptly said so.

Has President Biden discovered the miracle fuel that is going to make petroleum obsolescent and put the oil industry out of business—even before his administration decides to do it for them? Is that what he was up to during all those months when he cowered in his basement instead of campaigning for the presidency? Clearly, the Biden administration has not thought this through beyond the talking points.

Whether the President chooses to acknowledge it or not, oil will continue to be the principal source of energy for American consumers for quite some time to come—at least until perpetual motion is discovered. That oil that the XL pipeline was supposed to transport from America’s closest ally—Canada—will now have to be brought in by rail, a potentially more dangerous and far less environmentally friendly method than a pipeline.

Fossil fuels remain the overwhelming source of all of America’s energy needs: petroleum and natural gas account for 69% of energy usage, coal 11%, and nuclear power 8%. Renewable energy accounts for 11%, and that includes the wood you burn in the fireplace or woodstove every winter. Solar and wind power account for only a fraction of that 11%.

So clearly, with all his activist policy around climate change, President Biden has America on track for a return trip to the Middle Ages.

And like they did in the Middle Ages, the President expects Americans to have blind faith in the climate change priests who will be integral to his administration. If you don’t think the climate change movement is a religion or at least a passable cult, just listen to how its adherents talk about environmental policy. When Democrats were trying to convince us that the California wildfires were somehow the result of climate change, and not just bad forestry management, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sounding more like a pagan devotee than the good Catholic she claims to be, exploded: “Mother earth is angry, she is telling us. Whether she’s telling us with hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, fires in the West, whatever it is, the climate crisis is real.”

So if climate change is the culprit for every Act of God, will President Biden’s plan for Americans to live in caves and shut off the heat actually work? Not without China’s cooperation, where 29% of greenhouse gasses are emitted. Without addressing that reality, we’ll continue to spend untold trillions, lose the energy independence that we gained under former President Donald Trump, and sit in the dark, while China continues to play by its own rules—just as it has throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

What is so undemocratic about President Biden’s climate change plan is that it has been served up as an executive order, without debate, and without Congressional approval. What is so ominous about it is not its specificity—which sounds relatively harmless—but its vagueness and political potential. It’s a veritable environmental Enabling Act that can be used to justify any economic dictate, any security violation, or any foreign policy entanglement. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) publicity advised Biden to “call a climate emergency … He can do many, many things under the emergency powers… that he could do without legislation.”

Even the President’s promise to replace the federal government’s gas-operating vehicles with electrical-powered versions is contained in another executive order to “buy American.”

The Biden administration is lying about the economic opportunities embedded in green energy, and its decision to “tackle” climate change is a blatant attempt to appease the left-wing Democrats who see Biden as their puppet. In the process, as he is doing with so many of these executive orders,

President Biden is destroying the American economy and naively trusting that brutal dictatorships like China will surrender before a bourgeois fetish like a greenhouse gas reduction target.

So much will be lost for nothing except America’s further prostration to China.

Latest Court Ruling re EPA and CO2

There is the story of the court’s decision, and the back story told by one judge dissenting partly from the other two on the panel.  The overview comes from courthousenews DC Circuit Rejects Trump Rollback of Power Plant Emission Rules.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Overview of Ruling on Affordable Clean Energy Rule

The federal appeals court’s 182-page opinion released Tuesday was unsigned, written by a mostly unanimous three-judge panel. U.S. Circuit Judge Justin Walker, a Trump appointee who joined the court just a month before the case was heard, penned only a partial dissent.

The panel found the outgoing president’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, adopted in 2019 as part of Trump’s effort to roll back what he considered anti-business regulations, is based on an “erroneous legal premise.” The ACE rule dropped all statewide emissions caps, giving state regulators greater autonomy and more time to reduce pollution.

The court held Tuesday that there is “no basis—grammatical, contextual, or otherwise—for the EPA’s assertion” about source-specific language in federal law that it claims limits its oversight of fossil fuel power sources.

While the ruling was welcomed by health and environmental groups, it only returns things to the status quo.  Litigation tied up Obama’s Clean Power Plan shortly after it was passed and it never took effect thanks to a Supreme Court stay in 2016.

The Trump effort to roll it back started in 2017 before culminating with the ACE rule in 2019. Now the ACE rule too will be bound up in legal purgatory, if not scrapped entirely by the incoming Biden administration.

Walker was joined on the panel by U.S. Circuit Judges Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett, both Obama appointees.  While the Trump appointee mostly concurred with his colleagues, Walker filed a partial dissent saying he took issue with both Obama and Trump’s regulatory efforts.

The Back Story–How We Got Here

Judge Walker wrote an interesting essay on the twists and turns with climate change, the EPA and CO2 emissions.  His statement is at the end of the court document (here).  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

WALKER, Circuit Judge, concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part: This case concerns two rules related to climate change. The EPA promulgated both rules under § 111 of the Clean Air Act.1

A major milestone in climate regulation, the first rule set caps for carbon emissions. Those caps would have likely forced shifts in power generation from higher-polluting energy sources (such as coal-fired power plants) to lower-emitting sources (such as natural gas or renewable energy sources). 2 That policy is called generation shifting.

Hardly any party in this case makes a serious and sustained argument that § 111 includes a clear statement unambiguously authorizing the EPA to consider off-site solutions like generation shifting. And because the rule implicates “decisions of vast economic and political significance,” Congress’s failure to clearly authorize the rule means the EPA lacked the authority to promulgate it.

The second rule repealed the first and partially replaced it with different regulations of coal-fired power plants. Dozens of parties have challenged both the repeal and the provisions replacing it.

In my view, the EPA was required to repeal the first rule and wrong to replace it with provisions promulgated under § 111. That’s because coal-fired power plants are already regulated under § 112, and § 111 excludes from its scope any power plants regulated under § 112. Thus, the EPA has no authority to regulate coal-fired power plants under§ 111.

Background Concerning EPA and Carbon Dioxide

In its clearest provisions, the Clean Air Act evinces a political consensus. For example, according to Massachusetts v. EPA, carbon dioxide is clearly a pollutant, and the Act’s § 202 unambiguously directs the EPA to curb pollution from new cars.

But for every carbon question answered in that case, many more were not even presented. For example, does the Clean Air Act force the electric-power industry to shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources? If so, by how much? And who will pay for it? Even if Congress could delegate those decisions, Massachusetts v. EPA does not say where in the Clean Air Act Congress clearly did so.

In 2009, Congress tried to supply that clarity through new legislation.

The House succeeded.
The President supported it.
But that effort stalled in the Senate.

Since climate change is real, man-made, and important, Congress’s failure to act was, to many, a disappointment. But the process worked as it was designed. In general, Senators from small states blocked legislation they viewed as adverse to their voters. And because small states have outsized influence in the Senate, no bill arrived on the President’s desk.

Nor have dozens of other climate-related bills introduced since then. So President Obama ordered the EPA to do what Congress wouldn’t. In 2015, after “years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement” — including 4.3 million public comments (about 4.25 million more than in Massachusetts v.EPA) — the EPA promulgated a rule aimed at “leading global efforts to address climate change.”

Entitled the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s rule used the Clean Air Act’s § 111 to set limits for carbon emissions that would likely be impossible to achieve at individual coal-fired power plants because of costs, unavailable technologies, or a need to severely reduce usage. In that sense, the limits required generation shifting: shifting production from coal-fired power plants to facilities that use natural gas or renewable resources.

To be clear, the 2015 Rule did not expressly say, “Power plants must adopt off-site solutions.” But it did set strict emission limits in part by considering off-site solutions. And those emission limits would likely have been unachievable or too costly to meet if off-site solutions were off the table.

A political faction opposed generation shifting. It challenged the 2015 Rule in this Court, arguing that § 111 does not allow the EPA to consider off-site solutions when determining the best system of emission reduction. The faction included about twenty-four states, represented by many Senators who opposed the 2009 legislation. Conversely, a political faction of about eighteen states defended the rule. Many of their Senators had supported the stymied legislation.

At that litigation’s outset, our Court refused to stay the rule’s implementation. But in an unprecedented intervention, the Supreme Court did what this Court would not. And through its stay, the Supreme Court implied that the challengers would likely succeed on the case’s merits.

Taking the Supreme Court’s not-so-subtle hint, in 2019 President Trump’s EPA repealed the 2015 Rule and issued the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.

Like the rule it replaced, the 2019 Rule relies on the Clean Air Act’s § 111 to reduce carbon emissions. But unlike its predecessor, the 2019 Rule did not include generation shifting in its final determination of the best system of emission reduction.

A new faction then challenged the 2019 Rule. It looked a lot like the faction that had defended the 2015 Rule. Arrayed against that faction were many states and groups that had opposed the old rule. And so once again, politically diverse states and politically adverse special interest groups brought their political brawl into a judiciary designed to be apolitical.

In this latest round, the briefing’s word count exceeded a quarter of a million words. The oral argument lasted roughly nine hours. The case’s caption alone runs beyond a dozen pages. And yet, in all that analysis, hardly any of the dozens of petitioners or intervenors defending the 2015 Rule make a serious and sustained argument that § 111 includes a clear statement unambiguously authorizing the EPA to consider a system of emission reduction that includes off-site solutions or that § 111 otherwise satisfies the major-rules doctrine’s clear statement requirement. Neither does the EPA.

In light of that, I doubt § 111 authorizes the 2015 Rule — arguably one of the most consequential rules ever proposed by an administrative agency:
• It required a “more aggressive transformation in the domestic energy industry,” marking for President Obama a “major milestone for his presidency.”
• It aspired to reduce that industry’s carbon emissions by 32 percent — “equal to the annual emissions from more than 166 million cars.”
• Leaders of the environmental movement considered the rule “groundbreaking,” called its announcement “historic,” and labeled it a “critically important catalyst.”

The potential costs and benefits of the 2015 Rule are almost unfathomable. Industry analysts expected wholesale electricity’s cost to rise by $214 billion. The cost to replace shuttered capacity? Another $64 billion. (“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”)

True, you can dismiss that research as industry-funded. But the EPA itself predicted its rule would cost billions of dollars and eliminate thousands of jobs.

On the benefits side of the ledger, the White House labeled the 2015 Rule a “Landmark,” and the President called it “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” With that in mind, calculating the rule’s benefits requires a sober appraisal of that fight’s high stakes. According to the rule’s advocates, victory over climate change will:

  • lower ocean levels;
  • preserve glaciers;
  • reduce asthma;
  • make hearts healthier;
  • slow tropical diseases;
  • abate hurricanes;
  • temper wildfires;
  • reduce droughts;
  • stop many floods;
  • rescue whole ecosystems; and
  • save from extinction up to “half the species on earth.”

These are, to put it mildly, serious issues. Lives are at stake. And even though it’s hard to put a dollar figure on the net value on what many understandably consider invaluable, the EPA tried: $36 billion, it said, give or take about a $10- billion margin of error.

So say what you will about the cost-benefit analysis behind generation shifting, it’s hardly a minor question.

Minor questions do not forestall consequences comparable to “the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.” Minor questions are not analogous to “Thermopylae, Agincourt, Trafalgar, Lexington and Concord, Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, Midway and Sept. 11.” Minor rules do not inspire “years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement.” Minor rules are not “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” Minor rules do not put thousands of men and women out of work. And minor rules do not calculate $10 billion in net benefits as their margin of error.

Rather, the question of how to make this “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” — and who should pay for it — requires a “decision[] of vast economic and political significance.” That standard is not mine. It is the Supreme Court’s. And no cocktail of factors informing the major-rules doctrine can obscure its ultimate inquiry: Does the rule implicate a “decision[] of vast economic and political significance”?

Proponents of the 2015 Rule say it doesn’t. They have to. If it did, it’s invalid — because a clear statement is missing. And according to the Supreme Court, that is exactly what a major rule requires.

To be sure, if we frame a question broadly enough, Congress will have always answered it. Does the Clean Air Act direct the EPA to make our air cleaner? Clearly yes. Does it require at least some carbon reduction? According to Massachusetts v. EPA, again yes.

But how should the EPA reduce carbon emissions from power plants? And who should pay for it? To those major questions, the Clean Air Act’s answers are far from clear.

I admit the Supreme Court has proceeded with baby steps toward a standard for its major-rules doctrine. But “big things have small beginnings.” And even though its guidance has been neither sweeping nor precise, the Supreme Court has at least drawn this line in the sand: Either a statute clearly endorses a major rule, or there can be no major rule.

Moreover, if Congress merely allowed generation shifting (it didn’t), but did not clearly require it, I doubt doing so was constitutional. For example, imagine a Congress that says, “The EPA may choose to consider off-site solutions for its best system of emission reduction, but the EPA may choose not to consider off-site solutions.” In that instance, Congress has clearly delegated to the EPA its legislative power to determine whether generation shifting should be part of the best system of emission reduction — a “decision[] of vast economic and political significance.”

Such delegation might pass muster under a constitution amended by “moments” rather than the “reflection and choice” prescribed by Article V. But if ever there was an era when an agency’s good sense was alone enough to make its rules good law, that era is over.

Congress decides what major rules make good sense. The Constitution’s First Article begins, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” And every “law” must “pass[] the House of Representatives and the Senate” and “be presented to the President.” Thus, whatever multi-billion-dollar regulatory power the federal government might enjoy, it’s found on the open floor of an accountable Congress, not in the impenetrable halls of an administrative agency — even if that agency is an overflowing font of good sense.

Over time, the Supreme Court will further illuminate the nature of major questions and the limits of delegation. And under that case law, federal regulation will undoubtedly endure. So will federal regulators. Administrative agencies are constitutional, and they’re here to stay.

Beyond that, I leave it for others to predict what the Supreme Court’s emerging jurisprudence may imply for those agencies’ profiles. Here, regardless of deference and delegation doctrines, the regulation of coal-fired power plants under § 111 is invalid for a more mundane reason: A 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act forbids it.

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 prohibit the EPA from subjecting power plants to regulation under § 111 if they are already regulated under § 112. The 2015 Rule and the 2019 Rule rely on § 111 for the authority to regulate coal-fired power plants. Because the EPA already regulates those coal-fired power plants under § 112, the rules are invalid.

This case touches on some of administrative law’s most consequential, unresolved issues. What is the reach of Massachusetts v. EPA? What is the meaning of a major question? What are the limits of congressional delegation?

My comment:  I much appreciate Judge Walker’s reprise of the historical journey.  After earning my degree in organic chemistry, I am still offended that a bunch of  lawyers refer to CO2 as a “pollutant” as though it were an artificial chemical rather than the stuff of life.  And it annoys me that the American Lung Association fronted this legal attack, as though CO2 was causing breathing problems in addition to a bit of warming during our present ice age. And that list of ailments solved by reducing CO2 emissions rivals any snake oil poster ever printed.

Observers noted that this ruling produces a kind of limbo: Obama’s Clean Power Plan is out of order, and now Trumps Affordable Clean Energy program is shot down.  Likely Biden will try to return to CPP as though Trump never happened, but the same objections will still be raised.  Clearly Judge Walker sees the issue headed for the Supreme Court as the stakes are too high for anyone else.  After their lack of courage on the 2020 election scandal, who knows what the Supremes will do.

Footnote: See post The Poisonous Tree of Climate Change

The roots of this poisonous tree are found in citing the famous Massachusetts v. E.P.A. (2007) case decided by a 5-4 opinion of Supreme Court justices (consensus rate: 56%). But let’s see in what context lies that reference and whether it is a quotation from a source or an issue addressed by the court. The majority opinion was written by Justice Stevens, with dissenting opinions from Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia. All these documents are available at sureme.justia.com Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007).  The linked post summarized the twisted logic that was applied.

 

Energy: Third Rail of US Politics

This third rail, used to power trains, would likely result in the death by electrocution of anyone who comes into direct contact with it.

Wikipedia:  The third rail of a nation’s politics is a metaphor for any issue so controversial that it is “charged” and “untouchable” to the extent that any politician or public official who dares to broach the subject will invariably suffer politically. The metaphor comes from the high-voltage third rail in some electric railway systems.

On his first day in office Biden canceled the Keystone energy pipeline, and the backlash is immediate from the unions who supported him and now will suffer a punishing loss of middle-class jobs.

“Insulting”- Labor Unions That Endorsed Biden Now Lashing Out At Him is an article at Gateway Pundit.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Joe Biden has already made labor unions regret their support for him. 
He’s only been in office three days.

Several unions that eagerly endorsed President Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election are now learning the hard way what it means to support Democrat policies.

During his first day in office, the newly-inaugurated president revoked the construction permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, thus destroying thousands of jobs.  And not just any jobs — but union jobs.

The Laborer’s International Union Of North America issued this statement:

“The Biden Administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on day one of his presidency is both insulting and disappointing to the thousands of hard-working LIUNA members who will lose good-paying, middle-class family-supporting jobs,”

“By blocking this 100-percent union project, and pandering to environmental extremists, a thousand union jobs will immediately vanish and 10,000 additional jobs will be foregone.”

This comes after LIUNA bragged about pushing Biden “over the top” in 2020.

The North American Building Trades Union said this:

“North America’s Building Trades Unions are deeply disappointed in the decision to cancel the Keystone XL permit on the President’s first official day in office. Environmental ideologues have now prevailed, and over a thousand union men and women have been terminated from employment on the project.

On a historic day that is filled with hope and optimism for so many Americans and people around the world, tens of thousands of workers are left to wonder what the future holds for them. In the midst of a pandemic that has claimed 400 thousand American lives and has wreaked havoc on the economic security and standard of living of tens of millions more, we must all stand in their shoes and acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety this government action has caused.”

The United Association Of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters released this statement about Biden canceling the Keystone XL pipeline permit

“In revoking this permit, the Biden Administration has chosen to listen to the voices of fringe activists instead of union members and the American consumer on Day 1.”

Unions that backed Biden are finding out Biden works for radical Democrats, not labor unions.

 

America’s Future: Market or Jungle?

This post is about the US at a junction, dramatized by the crisis of a flawed federal election.  The change point is also demonstrated by dictatorial behavior of elected officials claiming to protect the citizenry from coronavirus. As explained below, there are in principle two ways of organizing a society:  a market based on free choices by individuals, or a jungle where the powerful decide and the weak conform.  The US was conceived and operated for 2 centuries upon the market paradigm, but is now facing an activist minority seeking to overthrow that model in favor of autocracy in the form of one-party rule.

Many people have heard of Jordan Peterson due to his battles against post modernism and progressive social justice warfare. Bruce Pardy is another outspoken Canadian professor, belonging to the Faculty of Law, Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario. This post will provide excerpts from several of Pardy’s writings to give readers access to his worldview and its usefulness making sense of current cultural struggles, and the US on the brink of a socio-political revolution.

In 2009 Pardy wrote Climate Change Charades: False Environmental Pretences of Statist Energy Governance
The Abstract:
Climate change is a poor justification for energy statism, which consists of centralized government administration of energy supplies, sources, prices, generating facilities, production and conservation. Statist energy governance produces climate change charades: government actions taken in the name of climate change that bear little relationship to the nature of the problem. Such actions include incremental, unilateral steps to reduce domestic carbon emissions to arbitrary levels, and attempts to choose winners and losers in future technology, using public money to subsidize ineffective investments. These proffered solutions are counter-productive. Governments abdicate their responsibility to govern energy in a manner that is consistent with domestic legal norms and competitive markets, and make the development of environmental solutions less likely rather than more so.

Pardy also spoke out in support of Peterson and against the Canadian government legislation proscribing private speech between individuals. His article in National Post was Meet the new ‘human rights’ — where you are forced by law to use ‘reasonable’ pronouns

Human rights were conceived to liberate. They protected people from an oppressive state. Their purpose was to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and censorship, by placing restraints on government. The state’s capacity to accommodate these “negative rights” was unlimited, since they required only that people be left alone.

If only arm twisting were prohbited beyond the ring.

But freedom from interference is so 20th century. Modern human rights entitle. We are in the middle of a culture war, and human rights have become a weapon to normalize social justice values and to delegitimize competing beliefs. These rights are applied against other people to limit their liberties.

Freedom of expression is a traditional, negative human right. When the state manages expression, it threatens to control what we think. Forced speech is the most extreme infringement of free speech. It puts words in the mouths of citizens and threatens to punish them if they do not comply. When speech is merely restricted, you can at least keep your thoughts to yourself. Compelled speech makes people say things with which they disagree.

Some senators expressed the view that forcing the use of non-gendered pronouns was reasonable because calling someone by their preferred pronoun is a reasonable thing to do. That position reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role of expression in a free society. The question is not whether required speech is “reasonable” speech. If a statute required people to say “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” that statute would be tyrannical, not because “hello,” “please” and “thank you” aren’t reasonable things to say, but because the state has dictated the content of private conversation.

Traditional negative human rights give people the freedom to portray themselves as they wish without fearing violence or retribution from others. Everyone can exercise such rights without limiting the rights of others. Not so the new human rights. Did you expect to decide your own words and attitudes? If so, human rights are not your friend.

These positions derive from bedrock reasoning by Pardy on the foundations of law and legitimacy. An insight into his thinking is his rebuttal of a critic The Only Legitimate Rule: A Reply to MacLean’s Critique of Ecolawgic Dalhousie Law Journal, Spring 2017

Ecosystem as One model of Society

An ecosystem is not a thing. It does not exist as a concrete entity. “Ecosystem” is a label for the dynamics that result when organisms interact with each other and their environment. Those dynamics occur in infinite variation, but always reflect the same logic: Competition for scarce resources leads to natural selection, where those organisms better adapted to ecosystem conditions survive and reproduce, leading to evolutionary change. All participants are equally subject to their forces; systems do not play favourites.

In ecosystems, the use of the word “autonomy” does not mean legally enforced liberty but the reverse: no externally imposed rules govern behaviour. In ecosystems unmanaged by people, organisms can succeed or fail, live or die, as their genetically determined physiology and behaviour allow. Every life feeds on the death of others, whether animal or plant, and those better adapted to their circumstances survive to reproduce. Organisms can do anything that their genes dictate, and their success or failure is the consequence that fuels evolution.

When an antelope is chased by a lion and plunges into a river to escape, that action allows the antelope to survive and thus to reproduce. The offspring may carry a genetic disposition to run into water when chased by predators. There are no committees of either antelopes or humans deciding how antelopes will behave. Autonomy in ecosystems is not a human creation. It is not based upon human history or culture and is not a human preference.

Market as a Different Model of Society

A market is not a thing either. Nor is it a place. Markets, like ecosystems, do not exist as concrete entities. “Market” is a label for the dynamics that result when people exchange with each other. Bargains may be commercial in nature, where things are bought and sold, but they also occur in other facets of life. For example, in Ecolawgic I suggested that marriage is a kind of exchange that is made when people perceive themselves better off to enter into the bargain than not to.

As I said in Ecolawgic, “Laws and governments can make markets more stable and efficient, such as by enforcing contracts and creating a supply of money, but they create neither the activity of trading nor the market dynamics that the transactions create.”  A market is not a place or a legal structure but the dynamics of a collection of transactions. It does not exist before or independently of the transactions within it. The transactions make the market. Transactions are not created by governments but by the parties who enter into them.

People transact whether they are facilitated by governments or not. The evidence is everywhere. If it were not so, human beings would not have bartered long before there were governments to create money and enforce contracts. During Prohibition, no alcohol would have been produced and sold. Citizens of the Soviet Union would not have exchanged goods. Today there would be no drug trade, no black market and no smuggling. Cigarettes would not be used as currency inside jails. People would not date, hold garage sales or trade hockey cards. There would be no Bitcoin or barter. Try prohibiting people from transacting and see that they will transact anyway. They will do so because they perceive themselves as better off. Sometimes the benefit is concrete and sometimes it is ethereal. The perception of benefit is personal and subjective.

Ecosystems are Coercive, Markets are Voluntary

Ecosystems and markets share many features but they differ in one important respect. Violence plays an important role in ecosystems but is not a part of voluntary market exchange. Ecosystems are arenas for mortal combat. Lions eat antelopes if they can catch them. Nothing prevents taking a dead antelope from a lion except the lion’s response. There are no restrictions on survival strategies, and organisms do not respect the interests, habitats or lives of other organisms.

Markets, in contrast, proceed upon the judgment of the transacting parties that they are better off to trade than to fight. The hunter did not shoot the woodworker to get chairs, and the woodworker traded for meat instead of stealing it. They chose to trade because it made them better off than fighting. The reasons are their own. Perhaps they were friends, colleagues or allies. Perhaps they believed that harming other people is wrong. Perhaps they hoped to have an ongoing trading relationship. Perhaps fighting carried risks that were too high and they feared injury or retribution. Perhaps trading was less work than fighting.

For whatever reason, they chose to trade. This choice is not universal. People have traded throughout human history, but they have also fought. I do not maintain that trading is any more “natural” or inbred than fighting, but neither is it is less so. When people choose to fight, they are no longer part of a market. Markets are like ecosystems with the violence removed.  They are the kinder, gentler version of ecosystems.

There are only two models for legal governance and only one legitimate rule.

The logic is as follows:
1. In the wild, organisms compete for scarce resources. Those organisms better adapted to conditions survive and reproduce. Their interactions constitute ecosystems. No legal rules govern behaviour and might is right.

2. Human beings trade spontaneously. Parties enter into transactions when they perceive themselves as better off to trade than to fight. Their transactions constitute markets.

3. Moral values and policy goals are preferences whose inherent validity cannot be established. They are turtles all the way down. Therefore laws based upon those preferences lack legitimacy.

4. When governments use might to impose laws and policies that are illegitimate, they unintentionally imitate ecosystems, where might is right. Political constituencies use whatever means necessary to impose their preferences, and their opponents use whatever means necessary to resist. They are “autonomous” in the ecosystem sense: there are no inherently valid restrictions on behaviour. The result is a social order of division and conflict.

5. The alternative is to model human governance on the other system that exists independently of state preference: markets. If the model for human governance is markets, interactions between people are voluntary. People are “autonomous” in the market sense: they may pursue their own interests without coercion. Instead of imposing illegitimate rules and policies, the state uses force only to prohibit people from imposing force on each other. A plethora of sub-rules follow as corollaries of the rule against coercion: property, consent, criminal offences that punish violence and so on.

6. There is no third choice. Coercion is not right or wrong depending upon the goals being pursued since those goals are merely preferences. Their advocates cannot establish that their goals have inherent validity to those who do not agree. Therefore, giving priority to those objectives is to assert that might is right. If might is right, we are back to ecosystems, where any and all actions are legitimate.

7. If might is right, anything goes, and the model is ecosystems. If might is not right, force is prohibited, and the model is markets. Choose one and all else follows.

When I claim that a prohibition on force is the only legitimate rule, I mean the only substantive rule to govern relations between competent adults. No doubt the administration of a legal system, even a minimalist one, would require other kinds of laws to function. Constitutional rules, court administration, the conduct of elections and procedures to bring legal proceedings are a few of the other categories that would be necessary in order to give effect to the general rule.

No Property, No Market

But the existence of property rights must follow from a general rule prohibiting coercion. If it does not, the general rule is not what it purports to be. When people trade, they recognize the property interest held by the other party. It is that interest that they wish to obtain. When the woodworker trades chairs for the hunter’s meat, she trades “her” chairs for “his” meat. The trade would not occur without a mutual understanding of the possession that both hold over their respective stuff.

Sometimes those interests are recognized and protected by the law, which according to Bentham created the property. However, since markets arise even where no property is legally recognized, the notion of property must be prior to the law. Above I gave examples of markets that have arisen where no legal regime has protected property rights: prehistorical trade, alcohol sales during Prohibition, black markets in the Soviet Union, the modern day drug trade, smuggling of illicit goods, and the internal markets of prisons. Since trading occurs even in the absence of an approving legal regime, the notion of property must exist independently as well.

No Consent, No Market

Autonomy in the market sense means to be able to pursue your own interests and control your own choices without coercion. Consent is part and parcel of autonomy. Without the ability to consent, no trades can be made. Without trades, no markets exist. If one cannot consent to be touched, to give up property, to make bargains, to mate, to arm wrestle, to trade chairs for meat, to sell labour for money, and so on, then one is not autonomous.

If force is prohibited, then corollaries are laws that protect people from having force imposed upon them. Laws apply the force of the state to prevent or punish the application of force. A criminal law that prohibits assault is an extension of the general rule. A tax to finance the police department is legitimate if its purpose is to investigate and prosecute violent crimes. Traffic laws prevent people from running each other over.  Civil liability compensates for physical injuries caused by the force of others.

Illegitimate Laws, No Market

Illegitimate laws use state coercion to seek other ends such as enforcing moral standards, pursuing social goals or saving people from themselves. A criminal law that prohibits the use of drugs uses state force to prevent an activity in which there is no coercion. A tax to fund the armed forces to protect the peace may be legitimate, but one to take wealth from Peter to give to Paul is not. The legal regimes of modern administrative states consist largely of instrumentalist laws and policies that are inconsistent with the general rule, including tax laws, economic development programs, bankruptcy, patent regimes, mandatory government-run pension plans and MacLean’s version of environmental regulation, in which each decision turns on a political determination of the values to be applied.

It is either ecosystems or markets. Either might is right or it is not. If it is, then human society is subject to the law of the jungle where people are at liberty to fight like animals if they choose to do so. If it is not, then human society is a marketplace where people may enter into transactions voluntarily and the state may justifiably use force only to prevent or punish the application of force.

There is no third choice. Some might insist that coercion is not categorically wrong but that it can be right or wrong depending upon the other goals to be pursued. Those goals are merely preferences. They are turtles all the way down. I do not maintain that other rules will not be passed and enforced using the established machinery of government but only that they have no claim to legitimacy, any more than other rules that might have been chosen instead. If force is used to pursue those preferences, why would others not use force to resist? Such a choice results in a free-for-all. If state force is right only because it cannot be resisted, that means that might is right. The administrative welfare state prevails not because it is justified morally or socially but because it has managed to secure a monopoly on violence. The imposition of government preferences is an invitation to those opposed to an arbitrary policy agenda to take up force against it.

Summary

In  a way, Pardy is warning us not to take for granted the free market social democracies to which we were accustomed.  Post modern progressive social justice warriors have decided that society is essentially an endless power struggle, that one group’s rights are gained only at the expense of another group.  In other words, it’s a dog-eat-dog, might makes right ecosystem.  Pardy says there is another way, which has been the basis for the rise of civilization, but can be reversed by governance that destroys the free market of ideas and efforts by imposing values favored by the rich and powerful.

Footnote about Turtles.  Pardy explains the metaphor:

In Rapanos v. United States, Justice Antonin Scalia offered a version of the traditional tale of how the Earth is carried on the backs of animals. In this version of the story, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger.  When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle.  When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies “Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

Postscript on Climate Change and the Paris Accord:

Let the Paris climate deal die. It was never good for anything, anyway
Opinion: Paris is a climate fairy tale. It has always been more about money and politics than the environment.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Paris is more a movement than a legal framework. It imagines the world as a global community working in solidarity on a common problem, making sacrifices in the common good, reducing inequality and transcending the negative effects of market forces. In this fable, climate change is a catalyst for revolution. It is the monster created by capitalism that will turn on its creator and bring the market system to the end of its natural life. A new social order will emerge in which market value no longer determines economic decisions. Governments will exercise influence over economic behaviour by imposing “market-based mechanisms” such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems. Enlightened leaders will direct energy use based upon social justice values and community needs. An international culture will unite peoples in a cause that transcends their national interests, giving way to the next stage of human society. Between the lines of the formal text, the Paris agreement reads like a socialist nightmare.

The regime attempts to establish an escalating global norm that requires continual updating, planning and negotiation. To adhere, governments are to supervise, regulate and tax the energy use and behaviour of their citizens (for example, the Trudeau government’s insistence that all provinces impose a carbon tax or the equivalent, to escalate over time.) Yet for all of the domestic action it legitimizes, Paris does not actually require it. Like the US$100-billion pledge, reduction targets are outside the formal Paris agreement. They are voluntary; neither binding nor enforceable. Other countries have condemned Trump’s withdrawal and reaffirmed their commitment to Paris but many of them, including Canada, are not on track to meet even their initial promises. Global emissions are rising again.

If human action is not causing the climate to change, Paris is irrelevant. If it is, then Paris is an obstacle to actual solutions. If there is a crisis, it will be solved when someone develops a low-carbon energy source as useful and cheap as fossil fuels. A transition will then occur without government interventions and international declarations. Until then, Paris will fix nothing. It serves interests that have little to do with atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Will America’s repudiation result in its eventual demise? One can hope.

On Canadian Watermelons by Conrad Black

Writing in the National Post Conrad Black asks the question: What did Canadians do to deserve this government? Excerpts below with my bolds and images.

Canada is a great country crossing the desert of self-chosen and misguided leadership. There is no vision except platitudes and quixotry

Following the decisive defeat of the international left in the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the collapse of international communism and the defection of China to the virtues of a market economy (though still with a heavy command ingredient), the international left, evicted from power and even intellectual respectability, fetched up in the camp of the conservationists, those who cared most demonstratively for the environment. They shouldered aside the long-standing opponents of untreated effluent and advocates for natural habitats, and assaulted capitalism from a new quarter, waving the green flag of ecological radicalism rather than the red banner of Marx. Capitalism was not to be overthrown in favour of socialism, but rather the more incontestable goal of saving the planet. The left, for once, deserves high marks for improvisation.


In its way, it has been the most pure Leninism: the founder of the Soviet Union said “If you can’t get in the door, use the window.” This is what Marxist Naomi Klein was celebrating with her book “This Changes Everything,” claiming environmentalism would derail capitalism. And the affected militancy of generally respected figures of institutional finance, Mark Carney and Jim Leach and others, in turning themselves into a pressure group for green-friendly investment through the vacuous concept of sustainable finance (though Carney has reservations), are proving the truth of Lenin’s prediction that “The capitalists are so stupid they will sell us the rope we hang them with.” A green test of investment grade will be as complete a fiasco as was the spurious attempt to invest in companies according to the imputable quality of their corporate governance.

Fad follows fad; the only yardstick for measuring the quality of investments is capital appreciation, and those that don’t rise in value will not be sustainable.

Greta Thunberg, the tiresome Swedish teenage scold, has been sailing around the world reproaching the planet’s adult population for failing our progeny by mismanaging the planet environmentally. This is a demonstration of weakness by the environmentalists, not strength. Successive claims of imminent doom by the climate alarmists have consistently failed to materialize. Our oil and gas industries are not being strangled by the irresistible veracity of the climate change movement; the entire world except Western Europe and Canada are carrying on without any obvious sign of believing their carbon emissions are threatening human civilization.

In September, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore repeated that we have 12 years to prevent irreparable climatic damage to life; he said much the same thing a decade ago, and a decade before that. At least he got a Nobel Prize and became a centimillionaire for being so repetitive. Every informed person in the world has realized for over 50 years that we had to be careful to reduce environmental pollution and protect endangered areas and species. The sudden injection of far-left militancy drove the argument to anti-capitalist hysteria and hijacked a vehicle formerly filled with virtuous ecologically minded people. And useful idiots are telling resistant groups like the benighted province of Alberta to enjoy their martyrdom and adjust to impoverishment.

The chief meteorologist of Japan disembarked from the climatist movement several months ago, saying it was unclear what was happening to the climate, if anything unusual. The whole policy of dismantling and discouraging most of the energy industry except the hopelessly inadequate and horrendously costly solar and wind power boondoggles has been officially rejected as based on unproved suppositions by all major governments except the principal Western European countries and Canada. Since the science is divided and the proportions of the whole climate question are impossible to judge, Canada should devote itself to neutral and exacting research to seek, urgently, to ascertain what is happening, instead of singing our hearts out in the chorus of doom, like catechism students, as we strangle our greatest potential source of export revenue and greatest manufacturing cost advantage, our oil and gas industry.

Countries that are not defined by an exclusive culture, like Poland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Japan and many others are, and cannot claim a unique secular-evangelical mission and mythos, as the United States claims as the redeemer, exemplar, champion and guardian of democratic government and the free market, must define a community of interest, amplify and equitably distribute prosperity, treat its different component regions and cultural groups fairly, and endow themselves with a distinct purpose. What is needed is a vision, without which, as is recorded in Proverbs and is engraved at the entrance to the Canadian House of Commons, “the people perish.”

The current federal government defines its first priority to be fighting climate change, which is nonsense, making a shambles of matters of gender, and inciting egregious myths and practices in native issues.

We are embracing a false national objective to oppress Alberta and Saskatchewan while encouraging charlatans and misfits to claim that there are more than two sexes and that the right of everyone to work out their own sexuality in perfect freedom is a matter for state coercion, and while inciting the inference that those of European ancestry invaded, occupied and oppressed this country in a manner morally indistinguishable from what Hitler and Stalin did to Poland in 1939. There is no vision except platitudes and quixotry. We are driving Alberta to the consideration of extreme remedies and are stuck with the authors of this visionless miasma for four more years. Canada is a great country crossing the desert of self-chosen and misguided leadership. In a democracy, a people gets the government it deserves; we must solemnly consider what we did to deserve this.

 

The Greta/Davos Collusion

For those wondering why Greta is so welcome at Davos, an article at Spiked explains Why Davos loves Greta. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The super-rich and powerful politicians love being told off by supposedly radical greens.

Many people think Davos is a case of greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians meeting in dark rooms filled with cigar smoke – or, more realistically, with the scent of organic chai – and talking among themselves about how to become richer. Of course, big business and powerful politicians may well be plotting in Davos, and some crony deals will probably be on the agenda. But the real challenge they are engaged in is rather different – they are searching for a sense of purpose, of moral legitimacy.

Most capitalists have been convinced that making money and producing stuff is not purposeful enough. Apparently, it is too selfish and materialistic. Thus, they are constantly searching for a deeper meaning in their work, such as going greener, eliminating poverty or saving us from ‘fake news’ and online ‘hate speech’.

Politicians, meanwhile, feel more and more alienated from the ordinary people they are supposed to represent. They know that the average Joe does not share their cultural values or social-engineering goals. This is why they end up feeling more comfortable with activists like Greta Thunberg: she shares many of their views and celebrating her gives them a sense of legitimacy they cannot get from the likes of us.

Her constant berating of them, on a stage they happily provide for her, is a price worth paying for their desire to appear important and driven.

Today’s ‘radical activists’, including Greta, don’t tell politicians to get out of our lives. Instead, they call on them to play a bigger role in our lives, whether by changing our eco-behaviour, censoring hateful speech or managing our health. And that is music to the political class’s ears. The ‘1%’ needs these activists.

And the activists need the 1%. Social movements have been a force for good when they have demanded more freedom and less discrimination from the powers-that-be. But they tend not to do that anymore. Now, many social activists ask the state to take freedom away from ordinary people.

The anti-globalisation movement, Occupy and modern environmentalism all fall into this category. They have some legitimate concerns, such as the struggles of people in developing countries or the challenges of a changing climate. But behind these concerns, we can see an agenda whereby these supposed representatives of ‘the 99%’ turn to the 1% to ask them to make sure the rest of us change how we live. Be it consuming less, going local, cutting down on read meat, not flying with budget airlines, or substituting cheap and reliable sources of energy for expensive and unreliable ones, what started as campaigns to ‘raise awareness’ have become demands that the powerful force ordinary people to change.

The activists in Davos are really lobbyists. Only where the average corporate lobbyist tries to get a tax cut or favourable regulation, these activist-lobbyists are campaigning for changes that will have negative effects on all of us, especially on the less well-off in the global south. Alienated from the masses, these activists feel more comfortable with technocrats, bureaucrats and administrators who are happy to ordain them as legitimate representatives of ‘civil society’.

The world is indeed facing many critical challenges. Yet the solution does not lie in the elites meeting in mountain chalets and deciding what is good for the rest of us. The solution lies in trusting in human agency and ingenuity, and giving it the breathing space of freedom to flourish.

We can be certain this is one thing that Greta and the other activists in Davos will not be campaigning for.

Summary

There you have it. It’s not a mutual admiration society, but a dance of virtue signaling with a twist of SM theatrics: Greta playing Sadist to Billionaire Penitents. The activists get leverage for their agenda and the powerful get a veneer of legitimacy for imposing their will on the rest of us. Kabuki anyone?

Of course, someone else was there and not playing the game:

Greta’s Glittering Generalities

The term “glittering generality” was impressed on me by an English teacher who red-circled several expressions in my essay with the label “GG”. When I asked what was wrong, she told me pretty much what Wikipedia says:

A glittering generality is an emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason. Such highly valued concepts attract general approval and acclaim.

Background on Greta’s Pretences

In September Greta spoke to the UN Climate Summit in NYC and attempted to browbeat the world’s leaders into doing something about global warming/climate change. However, she came off as a whiny, spoiled brat throwing a tantrum in public to get her way. Her speechwriters took note of the negative responses and regrouped for her speech to the Madrid COP. The new approach was to elicite the audience’s concern by appealing to a bunch of glittering generalities. H/T to Patrick Moore for leading in the effort to challenge her platitudes. After all, it is irresponsible to let a child get away with telling falsehoods; that only spurs them on to become liars as adults. And teenage is the critical period to learn the dfference between imaginary things and realities, to engage with life’s school of hard knocks rather than retreat into wishdreams and fantasies, drug-induced or othewise.

Greta Thunberg UN speech at COP25 in full

The title links to a transcript of the climate activist’s message to the UN’s climate conference on Wednesday, December 11, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid, Spain. Excerpts in italics with my bolds, images and comments.

Greta Thunberg: “Hi. A year and a half ago, I didn’t speak to anyone unless I really had to but then I found a reason to speak. Since then, I’ve given many speeches and learned that when you talk in public, you start with something personal or emotional to get everyone’s attention. Say things like, ‘our house is on fire, I wanted to panic or how dare you’.

“But today I will not do that because then those phrases are all that people focus on. They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place, we no longer have time to leave out the science.“For about a year I have been constantly talking about our rapidly declining carbon budgets over and over again. But since that is still being ignored, I will just keep repeating it

“In chapter two, on page 108 in the SR 1.5 IPCC report that came out last year, it says that if we ought to have a 6 percent to 7 percent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5C degrees, we had on January 1, 2018, 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that budget. And of course, that number is much lower today as we emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 every year including land use.

“With today’s emissions levels, that remaining budget will be gone within about eight years. These numbers aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best available science.

Heat Waves Compared to Atmospheric CO2

“Though many scientists suggest these figures are too moderate. These are the ones that have been accepted through the IPCC, and please note that these figures are global and therefore do not say anything about the aspect of equity, which is absolutely essential to make the Paris Agreement to work on a global scale.

“That means that richer countries need to do their fair share and get down to real zero emissions much faster and then help poorer countries do the same, so people in less fortunate parts of the world can raise their living standards. These numbers also don’t include most feedback loops, nonlinear tipping points, or additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution.

Atlantic Storm Activity Compared to Atmospheric CO2

“Most models assume, however, that future generations will somehow be able to suck hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 out of the air with technologies that do not exist in the scale required and maybe never will. The approximate 6 percent to 7 percent chance budget is the one with the highest odds given by the IPCC. And now we have less than 340 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that budget to share fairly.

[Let’s deconstruct Greta’s cabon budget “science.” It is math alright, but she apparently lacks the will or critical intelligence to challenge the stack of suppositions underneath.

Assume that Global Mean Temperatures (GMT) are driven by rising CO2 in the air.
Assume that Rising CO2 comes entirely from burning fossil fuels.
Assume that keeping CO2 below 450ppm limits warming to 2C over preindustrial.
Assume that keeping CO2 below 430ppm limits warming to 1.5C over preindustrial.
Assume that GMT warming over 1.5C will cause dangerous weather events.
Assume that future warming of 2C will not benefit mankind as did the last 2C since the LIA.

The Longest Temperature Record compared to CO2 Emissions.

“Why is it so important to stay below 1.5 degrees? Because even at one degree people are dying from the climate crisis. Because that is what the United Science calls for to avoid destabilising the climates.

[What’s this, a new US?  The United States is a thing, United Science, not so much.]

In Fact, fewer and fewer people are dying from climate events.

“So that we have the best possible chance to avoid setting off irreversible chain reactions such as melting glaciers, polar ice and thawing Arctic permafrost. Every fraction of a degree matters. So there it is, again. This is my message. This is what I want you to focus on.”

“So please tell me, how do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic? How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger? And how do you communicate this without sounding alarmist? I would really like to know.

“Since the Paris Agreement, global banks have invested 1.9 trillion US dollars in fossil fuels. One hundred companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions.

The G20 countries account for almost 80 percent of total emissions. The richest 10 percent of the world’s population produce half of our CO2 emissions, while the poorest 50 percent account for just one-tenth. We indeed have some work to do but some more than others.

“Recently, a handful of rich countries pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by so-and-so many percent by this or that date or to become climate neutral or net zero in so-and-so many years. This may sound impressive at first glance but even though the intentions may be good, this is not leadership.

“This is not leading. This is misleading because most of these pledges do not include aviation, shipping, and imported and exported goods and consumption. They do, however, include the possibility of countries to offset their emissions elsewhere.

“These pledges don’t include the immediate yearly reduction rates needed for wealthy countries, which is necessary to stay within the remaining tiny budget. Zero in 2050 means nothing, if high emission continues even for a few years, then the remaining budget will be gone.

“Without seeing the full picture, we will not solve this crisis. Finding holistic solutions is what the cup should be all about, but instead, it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.

Area Burned by Forest Fires Compared to CO2 Emissions.

“Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action. Like double-counting emissions reductions and moving their emissions overseas and walking back on their promises to increase ambition or refusing to pay for solutions or loss of damage. This has to stop.

“What we need is real drastic emission cuts at the source but of course, just reducing emissions is not enough. Our greenhouse gas emissions has to stop. To stay below 1.5 degrees. We need to keep the carbon in the ground. Only setting up distant dates and saying things which give the impression of the action is underway will most likely do more harm than good because the changes required are still nowhere in sight.

“The politics needed does not exist today despite what you might hear from world leaders. And I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

US Droughts and Flooding Compared to Atmospheric CO2.

“I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel around the world. And my experience is that the lack of awareness is the same everywhere, not the least amongst those elected to lead us. There is no sense of urgency whatsoever. Our leaders are not behaving as if we were in an emergency.

“In an emergency, you change your behaviour. If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed, you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child.

“And without that sense of urgency, how can we, the people understand that we are facing a real crisis. And if the people are not fully aware of what is going on, then they will not put pressure on the people in power to act. And without pressure from the people, our leaders can get away with basically not doing anything, which is where we are now. And around and around it goes.

“Well, I’m telling you, there is hope. I have seen it but it does not come from the governments or corporations. It comes from the people.

“The people who have been unaware but are now starting to wake up. And once we become aware, we change. People can change. People are ready for change. And that is the hope because we have democracy and democracy is happening all the time.

“Not just on election day but every second and every hour. It is public opinion that runs the free world. In fact, every great change throughout history has come from the people. We do not have to wait. We can start the change right now.

“We the people. Thank you.”

Update Dec. 2019 Yes PM Pokes Fun at Climatism

GWPF published today a letter from the late Sir Antony Jay, co-creator of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minster, attacking the BBC for its blatant bias on climate change 8 years ago.  It seems timely to repost the final episode from the last season addressing the topic of global warming/climate change.  As you see, climate politics have not changed very much.

Part 1 of the program is here:

Part 2

Previously I posted this:

A humorous look at why the global warming campaign and the triumphal Paris COP make sense.

Yes Minister explains it all in an episode from 2013.

h/t to Peter S.

This is an all-too-realistic portrayal of political climatism today.

Then I realized that BBC had blocked the viewing of the video.  So I sought and found the subtitles for Yes Prime Minister 2013, Episode 6, “A Tsar is Born”.  That final episode for the series began with the dialogue in yesterday’s post Climate Alarms LOL.

Today I provide the dialogue that formed the episode conclusion, and which was the content of the blocked video.

The Characters are:

Sir Humphrey Appleby
Cabinet Secretary

Jim Hacker
Prime Minister

Claire Sutton
Special Policy Adviser

Bernard Woolley
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister

(Dialogue beginning at 20:16 of “A Tsar is Born”)

Humphrey I have returned with the answer to all your problems.
Global warming.

Jim I thought you were against it?

Humphrey Everybody’s against it, Prime Minister.
I suddenly realised that is the beauty of it.
We can get a unanimous agreement with all of our European partners
to do something about it.

Jim But how can we do something about
something that isn’t happening?

Humphrey It’s much easier to solve an
imaginary problem than a real one.

Jim You believe it’s real?

Humphrey Do you? I don’t know.

Jim Neither do I. Haven’t got the faintest idea!

Humphrey But it doesn’t matter what we think.
If everyone else thinks it’s real, they’ll all want to stop it.
So long as it doesn’t cost too much.
So the question now is, what are we going to do about it?

Jim But if it isn’t happening, what can we do about it?

Humphrey Oh, there’s so much we can do, Prime Minister.
We can impose taxes, we can stiffen European rules about
carbon emissions, rubbish disposal.

We can make massive investments in wind turbines.
We can, in fact, Prime Minister, under your leadership, agree to save the world.

Jim Well, I like that!
But Russia, India, China, Brazil, they’ll never cooperate.

Humphrey They don’t have to. We simply ask them to review their emissions policy.

Jim And will they?

Humphrey Yes. And then they’ll decide not to change it.
So we’ll set up a series of international conferences.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister, you can talk about the future of the planet.

Jim Yes.

Humphrey You can look statesmanlike.
And it’ll be 50 years before anybody can possibly prove you’re wrong.
And you can explain away anything you said before by saying the computer models were flawed.

Jim The voters will love me!

Humphrey You’ll have more government expenditure.

Jim Yes. How will we pay for it? We’re broke.

Humphrey We impose a special global warming tax on fuel now,
but we phase in the actual expenditure gradually. Say, over 50 years?
That will get us out of the hole for now.

Bernard The Germans will be pleased.
They have a big green movement.

Claire And we can even get the progs on board!

Bernard As long as they get more benefits than everyone else.

Jim My broadcast is on Sunday morning.

Humphrey You have a day to get the conference to agree.

Jim That’s not a problem.
The delegates will be desperate for something to announce
when they get home.
There is one problem.
Nothing will have actually been achieved.

Humphrey It will sound as though it has.
So people will think it has.
That’s all that matters!

(Later following the BBC interview, beginning 27:34)

Bernard Oh, magnificent, Prime Minister!

Humphrey I think you got away with it, Jim,
but the cabinet will have been pretty surprised.
We’ll have to square them fast.

Jim Bubbles!

Humphrey We’re not there yet.
After that interview, you’ll need to announce some pretty impressive action.

Jim An initiative.

Humphrey Yes.

Claire A working party?

Humphrey Bit lightweight.

Bernard A taskforce?

Humphrey Not sure.

Jim Do we have enough in the kitty?

Claire It could be one of those initiatives that you announce
but never actually spend the money.

Jim Great. Like the one on child poverty.

Bernard Maybe it should be a government committee?

Jim Well what about a Royal Commission?

Humphrey Yes!
It won’t report for three years, and if we put the right people
on it, they’ll never agree about anything important.

Jim Right! A Royal Commission!
No, wait a minute, that makes it sound as if we think
it’s important but not urgent.

Claire Well, what about a Global Warming Tsar?

Jim Fine! Would that do it?

Humphrey No, I think it might need a bit more than that, Prime Minister.
It’ll mean announcing quite a big unit, and an impressive salary for that Tsar,
to show how much importance you place upon him.

Jim No problem. Who would it be?

Humphrey Ah, well, it can’t be a political figure.
That would be too divisive.
It has to be somebody impartial.

Jim You mean a judge?

Humphrey No, somebody from the real world.
Somebody who knows how to operate the levers of power,
to engage the gears of the Whitehall machine,
to drive the engine of government.

Jim That’s quite a tall order.
Anybody got any ideas?

Humphrey… Could you?

Bernard Oh!

Humphrey Yes, Prime Minister.

The End.

Footnote

CO2 hysteria is addictive. Here’s what it does to your brain:

Just say No!