CLEAN POWER PLAN ALL PAIN, NO GAIN, FOR THE U.S.
by Tom Harris, Executive Director, ICSC, ©2016
The focus for opponents of the CPP will be its questionable legality. However, the nine judges hearing the case should also keep in mind that the rules are pointless. The CPP will have no measurable impact on climate.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has repeatedly admitted this before Congressional hearings. She maintains that the CPP is still worthwhile because, to quote from her September 18, 2013 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, it “is part of an overall strategy that is positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion, because climate change requires a global effort.”
Setting a good example would make sense if it were known that a man-made climate crisis was imminent and developing nations, the source of most of the world’s emissions, were likely to follow our lead.
But developing countries have indicated that they have no intention of following us. They will not limit their development for ‘climate protection’ purposes.
For example, on July 18, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said about the Paris climate agreement, “You are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement… That’s stupid. I will not honor that.”
Duterte can say this with a clear conscience. The United Framework Convention on Climate Change, the foundation of the Paris Agreement, gives an out clause for developing nations. Article 4 of the treaty states, “Economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”
Actions to significantly reduce CO2 emissions would entail dramatically cutting back on the use of coal, the source of 81% of China’s electricity, 71% of India’s, and 29% of that of the Philippines. As coal is by far the least expensive source of electric power in most of the world, reducing CO2 emissions by restricting coal use would unquestionably interfere with development priorities. So developing countries simply won’t do it.
From a climate change perspective, it probably won’t matter. Temperature variations, extreme weather and sea level rise all fall within that expected due to natural variability over the past century. This despite a 10% rise in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. So the primary rationale for actions to restrict emissions is merely the possibility of dangerous climate change in the future.
Obama summed up this concern in his September 20 speech to the UN General Assembly, saying, “If we don’t act boldly [to restrict emissions], the bill that could come due will be mass migrations, and cities submerged and nations displaced, and food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair.”
Obama’s forecasts are based on computer models of future climate states, simulations that have failed miserably in the real world. In fact, the science is so immature that it is not currently possible to build climate models that generate meaningful climate predictions. University of Western Ontario applied mathematician Dr. Chris Essex, an expert in the mathematical models that are the basis of climate change concerns, explains,
“Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”
Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its Third Assessment Report,
“The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
The judges hearing the CPP case must understand that the Clean Power Plan is irrational. We do not know what climate will do over the next century, even whether it will warm or cool. And we have no chance of controlling it, no matter how drastically we cut our emissions. Developing countries will not follow our lead on emissions reductions anyways. Regardless of the legal issues involved, Obama’s signature climate plan is all pain, no gain for America.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.