July 1, 2009

The Risk of Impacts from Climate Change is Growing

The risk of impacts from climate change is rapidly growing—not from potential future changes in the weather, mind you, but instead, from potential massive government oversight in how we generate and consume energy. The governemnt is seriously considering rules that will impact the daily lives of each and every one of us—in the name of protecting the earth’s climate.

The past week has been quite a busy one on this front.

Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) depending on whether you think that it is climate change or government intervention that needs mitigating:

• Last Tuesday (June 23, 2009) public comments were due on the EPA’s Proposed Endangerment finding (that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger the public health and welfare). By the deadline, the EPA had received more than 4,000 comments. A quick glance through the public record seems to indicate that most were offered in opposition to EPA’s proposal. If you want to have a gander at the myriad comments yourself, they are available at the website regulations.gov, (search under “EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171″, or here to go directly to them). For starters, a particularly thorough set of comments were submitted jointly by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Deseret Power Electric Cooperative and Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (comment id: EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171-3596), which includes an attachment of comments made by the good folks at World Climate Report.)

• In its filing to the EPA, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) revealed the existence of an internal EPA document that was critical of the EPA’s Proposed Endangerment finding but which the EPA swept under the rug. Here is how CEI introduced its comments:

CEI is submitting a set of four EPA emails, dated March 12-17, 2009, which indicate that a significant internal critique of EPA’s position on Endangerment was essentially put under wraps and concealed. The study was barred from being circulated within EPA, it was never disclosed to the public, and it was not placed in the docket of this proceeding. The emails further show that the study was treated in this manner not because of any problem with its quality, but for political reasons.

CEI hereby requests that EPA make this study public, place it into the docket, and either extend or reopen the comment period to allow public response to this new study. We also request that EPA publicly declare that it will engage in no reprisals against the author of the study, who has worked at EPA for over 35 years.

CEI did make public the suppressed document, which, as it turns out, reveals that the document’s authors were big fans of World Climate Report (but then, who isn’t!?), relying heavily on many of our own complaints about the EPA’s Proposed Endangerment. This whole issue has garnered a lot of attention both in various places around the web and in the more traditional media.

• On Friday June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill by a vote of 219-212. The bill requires that U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases be reduced by the year 2050 to a level that is 83% below our emissions in 2005. Currently, the know-how to meet such a target and keep our economy chugging along at the same time doesn’t exist. And what’s worse, the bill would have no scientifically meaningful effect on the projected course of global climate anyway. So the House has cast its support for risking a lot while gaining a little. Next step, on to the Senate…

• Despite the fact that the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill would have virtually no impact on the climate, the bill’s supporters were overjoyed. Some, such as New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman even got a little carried away suggesting that most of the 212 Representatives who voted against the bill had committed “treason against the planet” as he suggested that there were few legitimate reasons to have cast a ‘no’ vote. Krugman’s support for this supposition was atrocious. Other, more level-headed columnists in the New York Times’ organization provided plenty of reasons why opposition to the Waxman-Markey provision was justified. Perhaps Krugman ought to at least talk to his colleagues before setting science and logic aside.

We’re sure that the rest of the year will have many more climate change highlights. In what form they take is still uncertain, but more than likely they will be announced by politicians rather than weathermen.

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