So Called “Climate Science”

Norman Rogers writes at American Thinker The ‘Science’ of Climate Change.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

The science surrounding COVID has been hijacked for political purposes. People who recovered from the disease are pushed to get vaccinated, even though they have a natural immunity that is stronger than vaccine immunity. People are required to wear masks even though masks are essentially useless for preventing infection. People that die are reported as dying of COVID even though they died of something else. The government demands that children be vaccinated even though they are naturally resistant to the disease and suffer disturbing side effects from the vaccine. Schools are closed for no good reason.

The “science” of climate change is also BS. That should be easier to accept after seeing what the government did to COVID science. Why do politicians want to hype a nonexistent climate crisis? In a word: power. By claiming that there is an urgent climate crisis the politicians can spend billions to fight the imaginary foe. Those billions create political allies and reward friends. H.L. Mencken put it nicely in 1918:

The parade of imaginary environmental catastrophes during the last 70 years is very long. Here are some books predicting this or that environmental disaster: Our Plundered Planet (1948), Road to Survival (1948), Silent Spring (1962), Famine 1975! (1967), The Population Bomb (1968), The Limits to Growth (1972), An Inconvenient Truth (2006), This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate (2014), The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (2019).

Richard Lindzen, one of the most accomplished climate scientists in the world by virtue of his discoveries, does not have to kowtow to the global warming mob. In an essay, he pointed out that scientific data that challenge the global warming hypothesis are simply changed. He cites examples of how environmental extremists have infiltrated scientific organizations. [See Climate Science Was Broken]

Tony Heller, an engineer and geologist, operates a long-running website, Real Climate Science. He specializes in exposing the changed data mentioned by Richard Lindzen. The promoters of climate change cherry-pick data when they are not changing it. Heller exposes the lie in the National Climate Assessment that heatwaves are becoming more common. He exposes “adjustments” to the U.S. temperature record to bring it into line with climate change predictions.[See Man Made Warming from Adjusting Data]

In her book The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, Donna Laframboise exposes the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN organization that pretends to produce very careful and serious reports on the Earth’s climate. Most climate hysteria traces back to the IPCC’s reports. The IPCC does not follow its own procedures and is populated by environmental activists with limited scientific credentials. Its reports are masterful examples of wordy expositions that circle around scientific problems rather than presenting solid ideas backed by facts. The IPCC is a political organization, not a scientific one.

Amusingly, the longtime head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian railroad engineer, is also the author of a porn novel: Return to Almora. The 75-year-old bureaucrat was forced out of an Indian environmental organization for making persistent and improper advances to young women that worked for him. But, of course, that is irrelevant to his accomplishments as head of the IPCC.

The predictions of climate doom are based on complex computer models of the Earth’s atmosphere. Kevin E. Trenberth, an accomplished climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said this about these models:

“None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of the IPCC models.”

The method of the IPCC is to average together the results from dozens of computer models to make their predictions. They don’t actually say “predictions,” they say “projections,” but the rest of the world sees predictions. The model developers try to make their models fit climate history on the assumption that if they fit the past, the models might have predictive value for the future. There are a few problems. The models are so complex and have so many adjustable parameters, that fitting the past becomes an exercise in curve fitting. Further, the modelers are each permitted to have their own climate history. Parts of climate history that are poorly known, such as aerosols, can be fiddled to make a particular model fit better. [See Climate Models: Good, Bad and Ugly]

Figure 8: Warming in the tropical troposphere according to the CMIP6 models. Trends 1979–2014 (except the rightmost model, which is to 2007), for 20°N–20°S, 300–200 hPa. John Christy et al. (2019)

This method, applied to the stock market, would be to make a model and adjust it so that it explains past gyrations of the market. Then wahoo… the modeler can make billions. It doesn’t work, as the scarcity of mathematicians that are billionaires testifies.

I spent 10 years going to the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I spoke with many climate scientists including many who freely admitted in private that global warming is a very dubious enterprise.

I remember a Danish guy who visited beaches in northern Greenland by dog sled. He discovered 6,000-year-old driftwood on a beach always blocked by ice, year-round. That was clear evidence that the Arctic Ocean was summer ice-free during a time called the Holocene Optimum. Present-day global warmers claim that our coming climate disaster will again make the Arctic Ocean summer ice-free, something that happened 6,000 years ago with no help from SUVs or belching cows. Of course, the guy was afraid to make too much of his discovery because it challenges the climate doom theory.

There is no such thing as an early career climate scientist that is skeptical concerning global warming. I actually tried to find one and did a poster at a scientific meeting on the subject. The reason is simple. It is not because the science is so clear that only an idiot would question it. It is because our early-career climate scientist would soon be looking for a new job. Interfering with the flow of money from Washington is grounds for dismissal.

I still believe in science and I feel sorry for all the closeted climate scientists. Like the Soviet geneticists forced to cheer for Lysenkoism, these academics must cheer the global warming racket. They have wives, children, and mortgages.

Twin Failed Projects: Afghanistan and Climate Change

Rupert Darwall explains the similarity in his Spectator article Afghanistan and climate change: the West’s twin failures. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and some added images.

Both have the same cause: a failure to accept reality

The West’s humiliation in Afghanistan has an older brother: climate change.

As siblings, the two share characteristics, most obviously an inability to confront unwelcome facts. In Afghanistan, there was a large constituency led by the Pentagon invested in the mantra of proclaiming progress in the fight against the Taliban. Climate has its own industrial complex of NGOs, climate scientists, renewable energy lobbyists profiting from the energy transition, eager helpers in the media, and politicians posing as world saviors.

Energy experts tell us renewable energy is cheaper than building new fossil fuel power stations. If they’re right, why did China build the equivalent of more than one large coal plant a week last year? Its slave labor camps help produce materials for Chinese solar panels, which make them the cheapest in the world. This led the Biden administration to ban their importation. In 10 years, India — a country more susceptible to Western fads — increased the amount of electricity it generated from coal nearly six times faster than from wind and solar. In 2020, fossil fuels accounted for almost 90 percent of India’s primary energy consumption.

These facts help explain the biggest fact of all. The first 20 years after the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change saw carbon dioxide emissions rise 60 percent. From 2012 to 2019, they rose a further 5.4 percent. However this is dressed up, it’s failure. Meanwhile, the West’s energy emissions have been more or less flat for nearly three decades and on a downward trend since 2007. Emissions from the Rest of the World account for all the growth in global emissions, suddenly accelerating in 2002 from an average of around 1 percent a year to nearly 5 percent a year in the 12 years until 2014.

As a matter of simple arithmetic, the West’s declining share of global emissions means that whatever it does or doesn’t do is of diminishing relevance to the future of climate change. The West’s solipsism of ‘we’ — as in ‘we must act’ — is a profound self-deception.

Foolishly, the West swallowed the claims of small island states that they would sink beneath the waves unless the rise in global temperature was kept below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This was how ‘pursuing efforts’ to meet the 1.5°C limit ended up in the Paris agreement. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) later confirmed, there was no scientific basis for this. ‘Observations, models and other evidence indicate that unconstrained Pacific atolls have kept pace with S[ea] L[evel] R[ise], with little reduction in size or net gain in land,’ the IPCC said. Instead, the IPCC argued that the 1.5°C target and net zero emissions by 2050 — a target set by the IPCC and not in the Paris agreement — provide the opportunity for ‘intentional societal transformation’.

Stamped all over the West’s two decades of failure in Afghanistan are the words ‘societal transformation’.

‘It has been the hubristic belief that Western values should be universally applied that has led to the folly of nation-building in Afghanistan,’ Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador in Washington, has written. Climate involves a double dose of hubris. Western politicians expect other countries to turn their backs on the development paths that made the West wealthy. Yet the same politicians seek to transform their own societies in ways that will make many people — especially the middle class and working families — poorer without having won an honest, democratic mandate to do so. They will thereby invite a populist backlash.

Realism disappears on the shoreline of climate change on the presumption that other nations share the Western belief that climate transcends geopolitics.

It wasn’t a pretty sight when John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, met China’s gimlet-eyed realists earlier this month. In a blunt statement, they told Kerry that Washington should correct its ‘wrong policies’ on China if the US wanted a dialogue on climate. The requirement to appease China could not have been clearer.

In all likelihood, Kerry will probably get off more lightly than Boris Johnson and the British government, the hosts of this year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow. They naively built up expectations that the talks would produce a deal to save the planet. It showed great ignorance of three decades of UN climate diplomacy: there was never going to be a deal to cut emissions at Glasgow. The last time that happened was at the Kyoto climate conference 24 years ago.

The UN climate convention was a product of a different era. Nato’s Afghanistan operation occurred at the apex of the America’s unipolar moment. The short era of George H.W. Bush’s new world order is over. We live in a time of renewed great power rivalry. China and Russia act in ways Otto von Bismarck would recognize. Of the great powers, they are the principal winners from the West’s humiliation in Afghanistan and they are the biggest winners from the Paris agreement. China keeps its coal-based economy while America runs down its oil and gas industries, only recently having become the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbons.

As Europe phases out coal, so too does it becomes more dependent on the Kremlin for natural gas. The lessons of Afghanistan and climate are the same: the West won’t be defeated by its enemies, but by its refusal to see the world as it is.

Biden Preaches Climatism

Spencer Brown reports at TownHall Biden Declares Climate Change a Pressing Issue After 48 Years in Government.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Flanked by New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), and other local officials, President Biden stood atop Ida’s flotsam to call for radical policies allegedly aimed at addressing climate change.

Beginning with some confusion as to whose congressional district he was in, Biden said “It’s about time we step up” to confront climate change, despite his more than four decades serving in the Senate and White House that apparently failed to accomplish anything meaningful on the climate change front.

“People are beginning to realize this is much much bigger,” he explained of the weather that he says is the result of climate change before he criticized “a whole segment of our population” that he believes is denying climate change. “They don’t understand,” he added. “I think we’ve all seen even the climate skeptics are seeing” that so-called extreme weather is proof of climate change.

“Climate change poses an existential threat,” said Biden, raising his voice. “It’s here, it’s not going to get any better,” he added while insisting “we can stop it from getting worse.” If the Left’s climate agenda isn’t accomplished, Biden threatened, “the storms are gonna get worse and worse and worse.”

For his own record, then-Senator Biden voted against more stringent fuel efficiency standards a handful of times. And Biden’s words Tuesday suggest his time as Vice President in the Obama administration accomplished little to nothing. After all, if American policy could save the planet, wouldn’t eight years of Obama and Biden in the White House — which included negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement — have mitigated damage like that he spent Tuesday surveying?

“We’ve gotta listen to the scientists and economists,” Biden admonished. “They tell us this is code red.”  “The world is in peril,” Biden claimed, insisting “that’s not hyperbole.”

Among Biden’s recommendations to solve the climate change he lamented is to, “by 2020, make sure all of our electricity is zero emissions,” a deadline we passed nine months ago.

“We’re here, we’re not going home until this gets done, we’re not leaving,said Biden shortly before departing to board Air Force One to travel home to the White House.

Earlier during his Tuesday tour of damage from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Biden was heckled by a local resident who yelled “Resign, you tyrant” as Biden walked nearby.

 

Climate Hysteria is a Global Psy-Op

Iron triangle Crisis

Iron Triangle of Public Crises

Alasdair Macleod writes at Goldmoney The problem with climate change politics. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Climate change bears all the hallmarks of a state-sponsored crisis, useful to shift attention from other political failures. But the absence of financial accountability which characterises government actions also introduces behavioural errors.

The absence of a profit motive in any state action exposes the relationship between governments and their electors to psychological factors. We all know that governments use propaganda and other tools to manage crowd psychology and influence their electorates. What is less understood is that governments themselves are misled by a crowd psychology in its own ranks which contributes to policy failure.

This article does not question the climate change debate itself. Instead, it examines the debate in the context of the psychology driving it. The release of government-sponsored propaganda on climate change in the form of a unanimous IPCC report predicting the end of the world as we know it is the latest example of a political and bureaucratic phenomenon, making the timing of this article highly relevant.

Six psychological factors

 In Chapter 6 of Desrochers & Szurmak’s work, they identify six distinct psychological factors which we will take in turn to enhance our understanding of the psychology of climate change. I list them under the following headings:

♦ The iron triangle of crisis
♦ The psychology of entrenched arguments
♦ Motivated reasoning
♦ The core theoretical theme
The anointed elite and
♦ Optimism and pessimism

The Desrocher and Szurmak reference is to their book Population Bombed.  My synopsis with links is Control Population, Control the Climate. Not.

The iron triangle of crisis

Even from before the time of Malthus, there have been political influencers and activists who have promoted pessimistic assumptions about uncontrolled population expansion, and the ability of the planet’s resources to feed them. Despite these fears being subsequently proved to be unfounded they continue to prevail among those who don’t need to pursue profits for a living. It is a bias to which politicians and their advisers are especially vulnerable.

The public naturally expects its elected representatives’ unbiased endeavours when bringing national threats to its attention. After all, it is arguably a primary function of government to protect its population from dangers, real and potential. There are government departments tasked with assessing dangers to society, their likelihood, and in their event how government should respond. These are tasks that require unbiased research. But political guidance from the top is rarely neutral, seeking to influence outcomes.

And we now find that climate change science has become heavily politicised.

Climate change is the gift that goes on giving to politicians. It creates an impression of tackling the big issue of our times. And it is a source of crisis giving cover for failings over lesser priorities. Observing how Boris Johnson maintains his popularity through a combination of leading the world in the battle against climate change while seeking every photo opportunity possible and at the same time presiding over the Covid disaster has been a masterclass in practical politics. One is left wondering how vacuous his politics would appear without the prop of climate change.

On his watch, the politics of climate disaster have taken on a new life in the UK. Government spending plans angled at reducing carbon emissions has accelerated, as has the support and credibility given by state-funded scientists producing alarming forecasts. Radical environmentalism is not only embraced, but actively promoted through the media.

This trinity, this iron triangle of crisis as Desrochers and Szurmak put it, is therefore comprised of establishment interests, the promotion of fear, and media management. It focuses the public’s mind on a specific threat to the exclusion of others. It is a feedback loop of career and protectionism driven by the psychology of entrenched arguments, which is our next topic.

The psychology of entrenched arguments

A rational approach to absorbing and understanding new information would be to address it logically and without bias. Clearly, this does not happen. Our brains are still wired as they were in our hunter-gatherer days when our decisions were based on a choice of fight or flight. We therefore have a natural tendency to hold onto a protected position after it becomes untenable.

Imagine being part of a community of primitive cave-dwellers and fight or flight becomes a group decision. We will support each other in uncertainty well after a crisis point has passed, breaking ranks after flight has become the only option. It is survival by inward-looking mutual defence, not attack. It is the deep psychology behind groupthink, or the psychology of entrenched arguments. It leads to the cliff-edge of crisis.

Researchers from Cornell University have examined the phenomenon.[iii] They found that “participants prefer to learn information from in-group sources and agree more with in-group members on moral and political issues”. This takes groupthink into persistence territory after the flight option has long passed, and existing views become defensively entrenched. Awareness of the true situation becomes compromised through self-ignorance of the flaws in the group’s knowledge and judgement. It even has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect.[iv]

To this self-ignorance can be added a group’s overestimation of its understanding of controversial issues, leading to the illusion of “understanding bias”. The more members of a group who debate an issue, the more understanding bias is reinforced. You see evidence of understanding bias in wider politics, particularly when opinions coalesce over time into different political ideologies. In America, the Democrats are as intellectually capable as the Republicans, yet the two parties have retreated into sharply differing understanding biases.

Entrenched arguments are reinforced by naïve realism. A naïve realist assumes he or she personally is both rational and unbiassed in the assimilation and assessment of the facts, and further assumes that those who do not reach the same conclusions are ignorant, biased or both. Naïve realism is the product of a false consensus, under which those that agree with the naïve realist are seen to be more rational than those that do not. Entrenched arguments and naïve realism become the driving force behind motivated reasoning.

Motivated reasoning

We naturally believe in scientific research, on the incorrect assumption that all those PhDs from top universities conduct experiments for the same reasons as we were taught at school in chemistry lessons. Unfortunately, the scientific community’s motivation, in both the natural and social sciences, is not so pure. Scientists are human and need to earn a living, which is far easier to do if they go with the general confirmation bias. In the post-education world, a scientist needs a paid position, recognition and to publish frequently in respected journals. Good ideas become suppressed and poor data to back bad ideas are too frequently the result of this motivated reasoning.[v]

It was best summed up by John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University:

“Scientists in a given field may be prejudiced purely because of their belief in a scientific theory or commitment to their own findings… Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable.”[vi]

Admittedly, Professor Ioannidis was writing about research in the natural sciences, but the methods and empirical evidence extends to the social sciences as well. It describes well the research papers published by central banks and the economist professors in universities. It is also characteristic of the opinion silos in government departments.

Motivated reasoning, such as on climate change and political correctness, is all about building a core theoretical theme.

The core theoretical theme

One way in which experts refute opposing evidence is by sticking to a core theoretical theme. I recall email correspondence I had with a well-known financial journalist in 2016, which ground to a halt when he declared,

“In my view, the record global savings rate (27pc) is the root cause of our problems. Some way must be found to rotate this into consumption to rebalance the global economy.”

In other words, he adhered to a core theoretical theme common to neo-Keynesian economists. By expressing it as his view, he was obviously not prepared to debate why he held that the record global savings rate was the root cause of our problems. We are not judging whether it is correct, only that he holds it, he assumes it. He was signalling he will not be shifted, so further debate is pointless. This is true of all state-funded economics, which this opinion reflects. Numerous papers have been written to justify this stance. We have lived with this view since Keynes published his General Theory in 1936. As in Keynesian economics, a core theoretical theme has emerged in the climate change debate

But if Professor Ioannidis is right about empirical evidence showing expert opinion is extremely unreliable, and which appears to be confirmed in the fields of economics and monetary theory, it explains the closed minds to balanced debate in fields such as climate change. So long as a core theoretical theme is adhered to, it becomes almost impossible to overturn.

A determination to stick to the core Keynesian theme on the savings paradox is my journalist friend’s membership card for the anointed elite.

The anointed elite

Many of us want to belong, to make a difference, to enhance society. We know that to do so we must have influence and the best way to do that is to join and promote a cause that has the establishment’s support. And there is nothing like that comforting feeling of an open invitation into the parlours of the great and the good. Well-known figures in the media with this access use their fame and position to anoint themselves alongside the elite and continue to have a career for so long as they play the elite’s game.

The anointed elite was the description of the economist and political theorist, Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He came up with it in his pithily named 1995 book, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a basis for social policy.

Even though we may not recognise it at the time, we have all come across it: the independent expert frequently called on by the media for comment in a specialist field. These experts rely on being informed by government insiders. They adopt the expert mantle, but it is never made clear that they owe their media status almost entirely to their membership of a government-anointed elite and their support of the elite’s objectives. But if they are stupid enough to turn critic, they will be immediately unanointed and they know it.

It applies to ex-politicians and media correspondents alike. If, say, a correspondent for a national newspaper doesn’t play along, he risks being dropped from background briefings by the elite, while his confrères at other journals continue to be invited. “That journalist from the Daily Screech is unreliable. Best not include him in our off-the-record briefings.” The threat of exclusion is the surest way for the elite to ensure that its message is the one that prevails.

Optimists v. pessimists

The glass-half-full optimists and the glass-half-empty pessimists are not split evenly across two sides of an issue. In practice, the establishment and those with a position in society are protective and pessimistic about change because it is a threat to their established position, while commercially minded outsiders tend to take a more positive view.

Psychologists tell us that as humans we have two personalities. One half of us protects what we have, giving us a sense of location, property, and home. The other half is a traveller in search of new vistas, foreign relationships, and trade. Journalist and activist Jane Jacobs (of New York City and then Toronto) identified and described these two patterns of moral precepts as guardian and commercial syndromes.[vii]

According to Jacobs, we have a different mix of these characteristics as individuals, communities and even at national levels. The two syndromes show different characters, which is why some of us are adventurers and others home birds. Commercial relationships are outgoing, and honesty in business is rewarded, while guardians are protective, favour loyalty and support the establishment. Commercials shun force and come to voluntary agreements, while guardians shun trading and exert prowess. Commercials are collaborative, competitive and respect contracts, while guardians are exclusive, take vengeance and respect hierarchy. Commercials are open to inventiveness and novelty, while guardians expect obedience and discipline. And so on.

The commercials’ activities encompass work in making and trading, while the guardians are political leaders, administrators, educators, and upholders of the law. The two syndromes are a neat explanation for the different mindsets and social duties of the private sector compared with governments.

The consequences of climate change politics

The purpose of this article is not to enter the climate change debate but to examine the flaws in the process. Realistically, it is too late to question the line being pursued, having gone beyond any influencer’s control. It is common knowledge that the science is politically influenced by state funding. But it is not widely appreciated that the process of hyping up climate change into a full-blown crisis has become the consequence of a crowd psychology rather than a pursuit of the facts.

The political advantages of introducing legislative targets for climate policies in 2030 or 2040 is that they are sufficiently far away for current politicians to have dumped the problem onto their successors. Without carbon fuels and having subsidised unreliable wind and solar energy to the point where other energy sources, notably nuclear, are uneconomic, the cost of climate change politics threatens to be ruinous for economic activity in the future, threatening the tax base and therefore the expenditure of the governments which have thoughtlessly promoted it.

brain on climate alarm

This is your brain on climate alarm.  Just say NO!

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.