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Energy

Happy Birthday, Global Warming: Climate Change at 33

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Monday, August 9, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) will release its sixth assessment report to the public.   The IPCC says “the report will provide the latest assessment of scientific knowledge about the warming of the planet and projections for future warming, and assess its impacts on the climate system.”

In the lead up to this much anticipated report, analyst Rupert Darwall published an article outlining the history of global warming science and the associated political / environmental movement.   

From  Google Books: “Rupert Darwall is strategy consultant and policy analyst. He read economics and history at Cambridge University and subsequently worked in finance as an investment analyst and in corporate finance before becoming a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has written extensively for publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator and is the author of widely praised The Age of Global Warming: A History (2013).”

This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy.org

RealClearEnergy provides an extensive resource for those seeking to educate themselves on all aspects of energy policy and markets.  Click here for more information.

Please click here to read the original article

On June 23, 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified that the greenhouse effect had been detected. “Global Warming Has Begun,” The New York Times declared the next day. Indeed, it had. A year older than Alexander the Great when he died, climate change took less than one-third of a century to conquer the West.

Four days earlier, the Toronto G7 had agreed that global climate change required “priority attention.” Before the month was out, the Toronto climate conference declared that humanity was conducting an uncontrolled experiment “whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.” In September, Margaret Thatcher gave her famous speech to the Royal Society, warning of a global heat trap. “We are told,” although she didn’t say by whom, “that a warming of one degree centigrade per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope,” an estimate that turned out to be a wild exaggeration. Observed warming since then has been closer to one-tenth of one degree centigrade per decade. Two months later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its inaugural meeting in Geneva.

The tendency to catastrophism was present at the outset of global warming. The previous year, at a secretive meeting of scientists that included the IPCC’s first chair, it had been recognized that traditional cost-benefit analysis was inappropriate, on account of the “risk of major transformations of the world of future generations.” The logic of this argument requires that climate change be presented as potentially catastrophic—otherwise, the cure would appear worse than the putative disease.

Although catastrophism gave climate change emotive power, the most consistent feature of climate change is the failure of predictions of catastrophe to materialize. In 1990, Martin Parry, a future cochair of an IPCC working group, produced a report claiming that the world could suffer mass starvation and soaring food prices within 40 years. Yet the prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries has been on a downward trend since the 1970s and was nearly halved, from 23.3% in 1991 to 12.9% in 2015.

Although global warming conquered the West, it failed in the East. The model for international environmental cooperation was the 1987 Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer. Its negotiation and ratification was led by the Reagan administration, which recognized that the U.S. would be the biggest beneficiary from having a strong treaty. Thanks to U.S. leadership, the negotiations were conducted quickly (in a matter of months) and the protocol has teeth, containing strong incentives for countries to join and the threat of trade sanctions for those that do not.

This path was quickly blocked for climate change. At the end of 1988, the Maltese government sponsored a resolution of the UN General Assembly on the conservation of the climate as mankind’s common heritage, the subtext being that rich countries shouldn’t negotiate a climate change treaty and then impose it on the rest of the world. The advantage of going down the UN route was that it led to the creation of a permanent and growing bureaucratic infrastructure with annual meetings to keep global warming’s place in public discourse. The downside is that negotiating texts must be agreed by consensus, foreclosing the possibility of a Montreal-like negotiating process and outcome. In 1990, the General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change, which produced a final text in time for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

The most important features of the 1992 climate convention are its ground plan, carving the world in two, with the developed North listed in Annex I, and the doctrine of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (the first principle listed in the convention and arguably its governing one). The bifurcation was made concrete in 1995 at the first conference of the parties in Berlin. Presided over by Angela Merkel as Germany’s environment minister, the Berlin Mandate stipulated that Annex I parties should strengthen their commitment to decarbonize on condition that non–Annex I parties did not, preparing the way for the Kyoto Protocol two years later.

The Clinton administration hadn’t given much thought to the implications of the Berlin Mandate. The Senate did. In July 1997, by 95 votes (including those of then-senators Biden and Kerry) to zero, it adopted the Byrd-Hagel resolution: America should not sign any protocol that imposed limits on Annex I parties unless it also imposed specific, time-tabled commitments on non–Annex I countries. Although the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, the Senate had killed U.S. participation; it was left to the incoming president, George W. Bush, to garner the opprobrium for stating the obvious. Both he and Barack Obama pursued essentially the same post-Kyoto strategy of trying to get China and other major emerging economies to make treaty commitments to decarbonization, an attempt that failed at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, when China, India, South Africa, and Brazil vetoed a new climate treaty.

In picking up the pieces, Todd Stern, President Obama’s climate negotiator, had the twin objectives of crafting something that China would accept but that didn’t require the Senate’s advice and consent. The outcome was the Paris climate agreement. It embodies the climate equivalent of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine of allowing individual parties to the agreement to “do it their way.” Hailed as a game changer in the fight to save the planet, the reality of Paris was rather different. Just as Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine was an admission that the Soviet Union had lost the Cold War, the Paris agreement signaled that the West had given up on having a global decarbonization regime, with credible sanctions against free riding.

Although the Obama administration played an essential role in its gestation, the U.S. is the biggest loser from the Paris agreement. America is to forfeit its recently won position as the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbon energy. For what?

The story of carbon dioxide emissions is acceleration in the declining share of Western emissions. The year 1981 was the last one in which the West’s energy and cement manufacture carbon dioxide emissions were greater than the rest of the world’s (the latter includes Japan—culturally non-Western, ambivalent about climate change, and the only nation to have hosted a major climate conference presided over by a foreign national). By 1988, despite the economic expansion of the 1980s, the West’s emissions had grown by only 3.8%, while the rest of the world’s had grown by 27.0%.

After 2002, non-Western emissions grew even faster. In the 12 years before 2002, non-Western emissions grew by 21.2%; and in the subsequent 12 years, by 76.8%. By 2014, with Western emissions broadly flat over the 24-year period, Western emissions had shrunk to 26% of the total, and the share of non-Western emissions had risen to 74%. In less than a decade and a half, the increase in non-Western emissions outstripped the combined total of U.S. and E.U. emissions. In terms of affecting the physics of global warming, it doesn’t really matter what the West does any more.

William Nordhaus, the world’s preeminent climate economist, offers a brutal assessment of climate policy. “After 30 years, international policy is at a dead end,” he said in a little-noticed October 2020 presentation to the European Central Bank. “We have policies, but they have not been effective, and they’re getting us basically nowhere.” The culprit, in Nordhaus’s view? The free-rider problem. Nordhaus’s solution is to replace the current structure with a “club” whose members agree on a uniform price for carbon dioxide (he suggests $50 per ton of CO2) plus a straight 3% penalty tariff on imports from non-club members. What Nordhaus proposes, in essence, is the Montreal Protocol structure adapted for climate change.

Joe Biden campaigned to restore U.S. climate leadership and rejoin the Paris agreement. The two are contradictory. Following the Europeans down the dead end of a three-decade-old UN process hardly constitutes leadership. Heeding Nordhaus’s advice and abandoning the UN process is something that only an American president can do. But that would be to assume that the purpose of the UN is to moderate global warming.

Days before the Paris conference, Maurice Strong died. A committed environmentalist, no person did more to put environmentalism on the international agenda, leading the 1972 Stockholm UN conference on the environment and the Rio Earth summit 20 years later. A small gathering was held at the Paris conference to share reminiscences about Strong and his achievements. One of his aides at the Stockholm conference recalled asking him what the policy of the conference should be. “The process is the policy,” Strong replied.

Strong’s genius was to understand that a self-perpetuating UN process would continuously accrete money, influence, and, above all, power. Environmentalism would not have become the dominant ideology in the West without the deployment of the UN’s climate apparatus: the annual cycle of climate conferences spliced periodically with ones that are going to save the planet (Kyoto in 1997; Bali in 2007; Copenhagen in 2009; Paris in 2015; and Glasgow in 2021). Then there’s the IPCC, set up by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, and its five—soon to be six—generations of assessment reports.

“Embedded in the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius is the opportunity for intentional societal transformation,” the IPCC says in its scientific assessment of the 1.5°C target. All ideologies seek power. Seen in this light, global warming gave environmentalism the means for it to conquer the West and become the dominant ideology of our age. Environmentalism’s attitude toward nuclear power provides a test for this proposition. If the paramount concern of environmentalists had been to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and slow down climate change, they would campaign to keep existing nuclear power stations and build new ones. Yet viable nuclear power stations are being prematurely closed in California, New York, Germany, and Belgium. Why?

Nuclear power is a Promethean crime of humanity stealing the deepest secrets of nature to release unlimited quantities of energy, in the eyes of environmentalists—a crime far worse than global warming. Instead, humanity must live within the rhythms and constraints decreed by nature; hence environmentalists’ belief that power stations should be replaced by inefficient, weather-dependent wind and solar farms.

The growth of wind and solar generation is not a market-driven phenomenon of a superior technology displacing an obsolete one. It’s what happens when governments heavily subsidize zero-marginal cost output, flooding wholesale markets with unwanted electricity when there’s too much sun and wind and risking power failures when there’s too little. The ubiquity of wind and solar symbolizes environmentalism reversing the logic of the Industrial Revolution in transforming predominantly agrarian societies at the mercy of climate to weather-resistant ones and helps explain the contrasting fortunes of environmentalism and Marxism. Environmentalism succeeded in the West and has become part of the political mainstream, to the extent that it defines politically acceptable opinion. Marxism lost in the West but thrived in preindustrial societies, because the political priority remains economic development. In practical terms, this is synonymous with industrialization and carbonizing their economies.

The outcome has been to shift the balance of climate power from the West to the rest of the world and the major emerging economies, in particular. Yet the lopsided arithmetic of the West versus the rest’s emissions has not softened the effectiveness of global warming as an ideological weapon because it is not based on any rational calculus but derives from its threat of planetary catastrophe. The future, as it had been in Marxism, again becomes “the great category of blackmail,” as the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner writes in “The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse.”

Climate change does represent an existential threat to Western civilization, although not in the way environmentalists say. Net-zero climate policies threaten to undermine the internal cohesiveness of Western societies and drain them of economic vitality. Externally, they will accelerate the redistribution of power away from the West to those nations that decide not to decarbonize, especially to China. Decarbonization will see the progressive elimination of high-paying, high-productivity blue-collar employment such as coal mining, oil and gas, steelmaking, and energy-intensive manufacturing. The aristocracy of labor will become an extinct social class; instead, as social mobility stagnates and class stratifications solidify, social geographer Joel Kotkin foresees the coming of neo-feudalism.

Accompanying these regressive social developments is the atrophying of democratic politics. Net-zero climate policies require reorganizing society around the principle of decarbonization—not through a couple of election cycles but over the next three decades. Net-zero must therefore be put beyond the reach of democratic politics so that voters cannot reverse a decision that was taken for them. This provides a better fit for a post-democratic polity such as the European Union. Britain has a statutory climate change committee to hold the government to account for meeting decarbonization targets.

Although the Biden administration has adopted a target of net-zero by 2050 and of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Congress has not passed—and is unlikely to pass—climate legislation mandating these targets. Nonetheless, American corporations in droves are pledging their own net-zero targets. Wall Street and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing and climate disclosures, which the SEC intends to mandate, have opened an alternative route on the basis of what gets measured gets managed.

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, candidly admits that forcing companies to disclose their emissions isn’t transparency for transparency’s sake: “disclosure should be a means to achieving a more sustainable and inclusive capitalism.” This collusion between the administrative state and climate activists to bypass Congress has been condemned by Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee. “Activists with no fiduciary duty to the company or its shareholders are trying to impose their progressive political views on publicly traded companies, and the country at large, having failed to enact change via the elected government,” Senator Toomey and his colleagues wrote in a letter to SEC chair Gary Gensler earlier this month.

In addition to this usurpation of the political prerogatives of democratic government, forcing business to take on governmental functions to address societal problems will see them, over time, acquire the modes and culture of government bureaucracies. This subtracts from the core economic function of the business corporation in a capitalist economy. “The capitalist economy,” in the words of the growth economist William Baumol, “can usefully be viewed as a machine whose primary product is economic growth.” What distinguishes it most sharply from all other economic systems are free-market pressures that force firms to engage in a continuous, competitive process of innovation. “This does not happen fortuitously,” writes Baumol, “but occurs when the structure of payoffs in an economy is such as to make unproductive activities such as rent-seeking (or worse) more profitable than activities that are productive.”

If CEO remuneration is aligned with ESG objectives and decarbonization targets and if directors risk being voted off boards for not having them, businesses will increasingly focus their efforts on meeting these non-business objectives. As this incurs costs and impairs business performance, businesses will turn to politicians to seek protection from their antisocial competitors that refrain from doing the government’s work. Capitalism’s legitimacy rests on its record of raising living standards through its prodigious capacity to generate productive wealth. Should that slow down to a trickle, capitalism becomes hard to justify, even though the explanation is that the system is no longer a capitalistic, free-market one.

Global warming flourished during a period when the world had taken a holiday from geopolitics. It had entered the world as geopolitical tensions were easing. Six months earlier, in December 1987, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty, eliminating intermediate nuclear missiles. By the time of the Rio Earth Summit, the Soviet Union was gone. Geopolitics is now back. There is a broad consensus in Washington that President Xi’s China is a strategic rival to the U.S. Yet the new strategic realism ceases when it comes to climate change.

According to the IPCC, net-zero requires “transformative systemic change” that involves “unprecedented policy and geopolitical challenges.” The International Energy Agency calls decarbonizing the energy sector “perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has faced.” The West embarking on this process when China does not is akin to signing a strategic arms-control treaty binding on only one side: it can only be to China’s strategic advantage. So far, the grip of environmentalism on Western policymakers lulls them into the belief that global warming operates in a strategic vacuum, insulated from the factors that constitute geopolitical weight and ambition. It is in that sense that climate change constitutes an existential threat to the West.

Rupert Darwall is a senior fellow of the RealClear Foundation and author of Capitalism, Socialism and ESG.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Economy

Biden environmental agenda under fire for increasing costs for Americans

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From The Center Square

By Casey Harper

The Biden administration’s energy policies are increasingly costly for Americans, a newly released report says.

U.S. House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., released the report, which argues Biden’s energy policies have increased costs for Americans and hurt the economy.

“The Biden Administration weaponized the power of the executive branch to wage a war against American-made energy production and cement in place radical, far-left energy policies that jeopardize domestic energy development, overload America’s power grid, and raise costs on all American consumers and businesses,” Comer said in a statement.

In particular, President Joe Biden’s recent pause on liquefied natural gas exports, elevated gas prices, and the aggressive push toward transitioning toward electric energy are among the main criticisms lobbed at Biden.

Comer’s office cites analysis from the right-leaning American Action Forum released in April. AAF reports that in 2024 alone, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency, as of the end of April, had proposed 38 new rules and finalized 63 rules. According to AAF, those rules total 33,138 pages and will cost the U.S. economy over a trillion dollars.

The report also highlights the cost of pushing America’s energy needs increasingly to the electric grid.

From the report:

Even as use efficiency improves, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects U.S. utility-generated electricity demand to continue growing at an average annual rate of one percent through 2050. But radical new policies and regulations promulgated by the Biden Administration seek to transform power generation and electricity markets. The Biden Administration is moving to replace highly reliable and affordable existing sources of energy with new sources that are typically less reliable and more expensive. For consumers, the results of these initiatives will predictably be higher costs on utility bills, higher costs for goods and services that consume electricity, invisible energy subsidy costs paid through income and other taxes, as well as economic costs as high electricity prices push some business opportunities overseas.

The White House has cited climate change concerns as it rolled out several policies, including a pause on new export sites for liquefied natural gas.

That LNG pause has been particularly controversial, with a coalition of state and Congressional leaders rallying opposition against it. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality has been filed by a coalition of states.

Biden’s Department of Energy has defended the decision and stressed that it will not stop any currently existing sales. The White House has also argued that the U.S. is already a leading exporter without new sales.

“Before issuing any new LNG export decisions, DOE is embarking on a transparent process to ensure we are using the most up-to-date economic and environmental analyses to determine whether additional approvals of LNG exports to non-FTA countries are in the ‘public interest,” the DOE said in a February post defending the decision.

Meanwhile, federal climate-related spending has come under fire.

During a news conference last week, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sparked headlines by exposing that federal funds went to a climate group that was actively supporting the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, an attack that included rape, killing children, and hostage-taking.

“We went to the website of Climate Justice Alliance. This is what we found on the website that our taxpayer dollars are going to organizations such as this,” she said, referencing a pro-Hamas photo reportedly found on the group’s website.

Comer’s reports come as Biden’s Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, took questions from lawmakers last week about Biden’s energy policies.

Republicans took her to task for the increased costs Americans are facing. Energy costs have risen over 35% since Biden took office, according to federal data.

During the hearing, Granholm defended her agency’s work, including Biden’s decision to drain the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve earlier in his term to help address soaring gas prices.

“The Administration remains committed to maintaining a robust and well-functioning SPR. In 2022, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting disruptions in the oil market, the President directed the sale of 180 million barrels,” Granholm said in her written testimony. submitted to the committee. “The emergency sales provided supply certainty and acted as a bridge until domestic production increased, which in turn helped to mitigate the cost increases for American families.”

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Economy

Oil Lobby Working With Republicans Behind-The-Scenes To Push ‘Gateway’ To Carbon Tax

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By NICK POPE

 

America’s leading oil and gas trade group is working behind the scenes with moderate House Republicans to push support for a bill that critics say could lead to a domestic carbon tax, according to an email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation and sources familiar with the matter.

On May 14, Chris Boness, the director of federal relations for the American Petroleum Institute (API), sent an email to an API mailing list that named several House lawmakers intending to co-sponsor the PROVE IT Act alongside Republican Utah Rep. John Curtis. The trade group has also met with staffers to try to secure support for the bill, which API supports, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Assuming the House version is the same as the already-introduced Senate version, the bill would instruct the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the carbon intensity of goods — including aluminum, steel, plastic and crude oil — produced in the U.S. and the carbon intensity of products from other countries, according to E&E News.

Dozens of the PROVE IT Act’s critics have described the bill as a possible “gateway” to domestic carbon taxes because it would effectively instruct the federal government to calculate an implicit cost of carbon with few restrictions on how that official metric is used in the future.

“Thanks for those that joined today’s meeting,” Boness wrote in the email obtained by the DCNF. “Here is the list of current [Republican] cosponsors of the PROVE IT Act: Curtis, [Michigan Rep. Tim] Walburg (sic), [Ohio Rep. Bob] Latta, [New York Rep. Andrew] Garbarino, [Florida Rep. Maria Elvira] Salazar, [Michigan Rep. Mariannette] Miller-Meeks, [Indiana Rep. Larry] Bucshon, [Oregon Rep. Lori] Chavez-DeRemer. Additionally, [Georgia Rep. Buddy] Carter, [New York Rep. Mike] Lawler and [Pennsylvania Rep. Dan] Meuser seemed interested. Will keep you updated if others join and send updates on introduction.”

API representatives have had meetings addressing the PROVE IT Act with lawmakers’ offices, sources familiar with the matter told the DCNF. The offices of Curtis, Walberg, Latta, Garbarino, Salazar, Miller-Meeks, Bucshon and Chavez-DeRemer did not respond to questions about why they apparently support the bill.

Carbon pricing is broadly unpopular with Republicans, according to E&E News. Generally, polling indicates that Republicans do not consider climate change to be a problem in need of major government-led solutions and that energy affordability, for example, is a much stronger concern.

API Email re: PROVE IT Act by Nick Pope on Scribd

 

The bill’s proponents tout it as a measure to reward American companies for producing products more cleanly than foreign competitors, but opponents are strongly concerned that the bill instructs the federal government to effectively set a price on carbon with insufficient restrictions what the government can do in the future.

Notably, Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito introduced an amendment to the Senate version that would prevent the data collected from being used as the basis for carbon taxes or tariffs, but Democrats killed that proposal while the bill sat in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Despite concerns from those opposed to the bill that it could be a first step to carbon taxes or tariffs, API supports the PROVE IT Act. Notably, API is in favor of carbon pricing.

“America’s oil and natural gas is produced under some of the highest environmental standards in the world,” a spokesperson for API told the DCNF. “Efforts like the PROVE IT Act are bipartisan opportunities to help study and quantify that advantage and demonstrate our industry’s commitment to producing cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy here at home while still supplying the energy our world needs.”

Some of the lawmakers API suggested could be interested in co-sponsoring the PROVE IT Act are wary, however.

Rep. Meuser, whose district includes energy-rich parts of Pennsylvania, is opposed to the bill as it stands, despite API’s suggestion that he is potentially interested in supporting it, a source familiar with Meuser’s thinking told the DCNF.

Rep. Carter is skeptical of policies that could lead to a carbon tax.

“Mr. Carter is reviewing the legislation,” a spokesperson for Carter told the DCNF. “He is absolutely opposed to anything that could lead to a carbon tax.”

In the eyes of those opposed to the bill, the PROVE IT Act would make it easier for a second-term Biden administration to pursue carbon taxes or tariffs that would hurt American consumers and certain types of energy producers.

“Our opposition to the PROVE IT Act is clear and concise. The latest attempt by some in Congress who are trying to create a structure that would lead to a domestic carbon tax will have price implications on our energy, particularly our fuel,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told the DCNF. “I do think that it is important to recognize that John Podesta made it clear that this is a second term agenda item for the Biden administration. And why would any Republican want to be the lead on helping President Biden further his war on affordable energy?”

Mike McKenna, a GOP strategist with extensive experience in the energy sector, expressed a similar view.

“The big problem with the bill is that it creates infrastructure to impose a carbon dioxide tax,” McKenna told the DCNF. “As everyone who has had more than ten seconds of exposure to the federal government knows, once that infrastructure can be put in place, it’s going to be used.”

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