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Category — Endangerment Finding (EPA)

U.S. Climate-Change Impacts: A Peer-Review True-Up (Cato Institute study irks alarmists)

The Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science (which I am part of) will soon release the final version of its major report examining the potential impacts of climate change in the United States.

Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States grew from our desire to show how the government report, after which the Cato report was modeled, could have/should have looked if the original scientists involved had included a more thorough (less narrow) review of the scientific literature and had not been obviously predisposed towards climate-change doom-and-gloom.

Cato’s ”Addendum” title draws attention to the fact that the original 2009 report from the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program (USGCRP) was incomplete and insufficient on the day it was published–and is out-of-date given peer-review studies of the last several years. So our report includes both important, new scientific results and relevant scientific research that was overlooked or ignored in the original document.

In general, the Cato report, while pointing out that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activities play a role, paints a more modest picture of climate change and its effects in the U.S. and emphasizes our adaptive capacity to handle a large amount of change in virtually all aspects of society. The overall tone of the Cato report is an optimistic one—a stark contrast to the pessimism that pervades the USGCRP report.

USGCRP Authors React

The Cato report has drawn ire both from climate-change alarmists , as well as from a subset of the group of scientists which authored the original USGCRP report. This author subset released a statement airing their discontent in which they note (those who signed the group statement make up barely a third of the original USGCRP author team): [Read more →]

October 29, 2012   10 Comments

New Science Endangers EPA’s “Endangerment Finding”

“If the EPA were to have done that with the regulations being proposed here … it is quite likely that their original Endangerment Finding would have to be revised and potentially overturned.”

The public comment period for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units closed on June 25, 2012. A number of extensive comments were submitted arguing that the basis of the Endangerment Finding—that human greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations”—has become so outdated as to require a thorough re-assessment.

Strong cases were made that the EPA failed to completely consider new and influential scientific results which have a direct relevance to the impact that climate change as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions may have on the public health and welfare. Overwhelmingly, the “missing” science from the EPA’s support documents included evidence that either lessened the certainty that human GHG emissions were behind the observed changes in the climate, or provided examples of positive impacts resulting from climate change on human health and welfare.

It is a recipe for pure waste and unintented consequences if EPA continues to propose regulations based upon static, even outdated, science in a field where the scientific knowledge-base is rapidly evolving. In his public comment to the EPA, the Cato Institute’s Dr. Patrick Michaels neatly described this situation: [Read more →]

July 12, 2012   5 Comments

Ignored Science, Neglected Economics: D.C. Circuit Upholds EPA Greenhouse Gas Rules

“The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision affirming EPA’s first round of greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations in all respects.”

Last year, I outlined  the case being made against the EPA’s issuance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations. The case was being brought before the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by a group of petitioners which have become collectively known as the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, and made up of large number of businesses, business associations and several states. The petitioners argued on several different grounds that the EPA was wrong in the way that it determined that GHGs were an endangerment to the public health and welfare as well as in the manner in which it was going about issuing regulations.

Earlier this week, the Court handed down its decision—a unanimous finding in support of the EPA on virtually all counts. This was very disappointing. For starters, there are at least two major points of science where the Court went terribly astray. The first deals with whether or not the EPA had to consider such things such as adaptation when making its endangerment finding. And the second deals with whether or not the EPA was “reasonable” in its consideration of the science of climate change.

In the first case, the Court decided that such considerations were not part and parcel of what the EPA had to take into account when determining whether or not greenhouse gas emissions may “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” From the Court’s decision:

The additional exercises State and Industry Petitioners would have EPA undertake—e.g., performing a cost-benefit analysis for greenhouse gases, gauging the effectiveness of whatever emission standards EPA would enact to limit greenhouse gases, and predicting society’s adaptive response to the dangers or harms caused by climate change—do not inform the “scientific judgment” that § 202(a)(1) requires of EPA.

And the Court further deferred to the EPA on the issue:

As EPA stated in the Endangerment Finding, such inquiries “muddle the rather straightforward scientific judgment about whether there may be endangerment by throwing the potential impact of responding to the danger into the initial question.”

But both the Court and the EPA fail to consider that gauging “public health and welfare” is not strictly a matter of “straightforward scientific judgment.” In fact, human adaptation is an integral part of “public health and welfare.” Public health and welfare grows out of the human response to environmental factors, and cannot be judged in isolation as the EPA and the Court seem to think. You cannot remove the human adaptive response in assessing the impact of an environmental change. If you were to do so, humans would have gone extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago. In fact, our survival and conquest of all climates of the earth grows directly out of our adaptive nature. It is part of us. The Court errs in its opinion otherwise.

A full consideration of human adaptive response is a necessary part of any assessment of the potential human impact of climate change. And, as I have pointed out previously, it is likely that public health and welfare may improve under at least some aspects of a global warming.

Secondly, the Court errs when it considers the EPA consideration of the science of climate change “reasonable.” The IPCC, USGCRP, and NRC assessment reports are neither independent of each other, nor particularly transparent and fair. They are geared towards implicating human GHG emissions in virtually all manner of climate and climate change—despite a large body of scientific evidence that points to other influences, many of them of human origin but unrelated to GHG emissions (such as landscape changes, large-scale irrigation, aerosol emissions) that produce a climate change signal that is quite similar to that anticipated by climate models run under increases in GHG emissions.

And such evidence continues to grow. The Court contends that “EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question” but the science of climate change is not at the same stage in its evolution as is the science of the existence of the atom. Instead climate science is subject to a rapidly evolving scientific knowledgebase, and, by no means is it certain that for some key aspects related to human endangerment, what we know today will be the same as what we know tomorrow.

Thus, the EPA should be required to justify its endangerment finding each and every time it issues regulations, and such justification must be supported by an assessment of the very latest and up-to-date scientific findings—and an assessment that is not influenced by the preconceived agendas of agencies outside the EPA (e.g., USGCRP, IPCC, NRC).

I am sure many other folks have many other issues with the ruling.

Certainly, this will not be the last challenge that will be brought against EPA GHG regulations.

An excellent synopsis of the Court’s decision has been produced by Troutman Sanders LLP, one of the legal firms that was representing the petitioners. That synopsis is included below, in its entirety.

From Troutman Sanders, LLP: [Read more →]

June 28, 2012   7 Comments

Is the EPA Endangering Public Health and Welfare by Attempting to Mitigate Extreme Weather?

On the rationale of mitigating man-made climate change and thus limiting the occurrence of extreme weather events, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is (unintentionally) fostering a less prepared and less resilient population. As such, EPA should regulate its own actions as endangering public health and welfare.

New Proposed Rule

Back in December 2009, the U.S. EPA issued a finding that human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This “Endangerment Finding” opened the door to the EPA’s issuing regulations aimed at restricting GHG emissions in the U.S. To date, the EPA hasn’t been shy about stepping through that door.

The latest in a string of EPA greenhouse gas regulations was announced just last month. This one is aimed at carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The proposed regulation would limit CO2 emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of power produced, which is not achievable by coal plants under current or near-term technology. It is congruent to what a new gas-fired power plant can achieve–and thus the standard.

So if this proposal were adopted, it would effectively eliminate the construction of all new coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

Flawed ‘Endangerment’ Rationale

In its fact sheet, EPA claims that “unchecked greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate.” Listed among the EPA’s threatening impacts is “Longer, more intense and more frequent heat waves.”

But claiming the increasing heat waves endanger public health and welfare is not a new approach from the EPA. It is one that I have been fighting them about ever since they originally proposed this concept back in a preliminary draft of their “Endangerment Finding.” [Read more →]

April 9, 2012   16 Comments

Court Challenges to the EPA’s Endangerment Finding: A Summary

One big difference between Congressional mandates and regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is that if you don’t like what the EPA is doing, as they say on The People’s Court, “you can take ‘em to court.” (The other big difference, of course, is that if Congress takes action the members must explain their votes to their constituency).

In the case of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the Clean Air Act (the authority under which EPA is acting to restrict such emission) explicitly states that the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over final action taken by the EPA’s Administrator.

And since the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has issued her final action on the matter—finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare and therefore should be regulated—multiple challenges to that action have been made by parties unhappy with that decision.

The latest round of legal wrangling culminated at the end of May, when three briefs were filed with the Washington DC Circuit Court of Appeals laying out petitions to challenge the EPA’s regulatory initiatives concerning greenhouse gas emissions (and how the initiatives came to be). Of the three petitions, two were from a conglomerate of states led by Texas and Virginia, and the other was by a 80-odd member grouping on non-state parties with a variety of interests in the EPA’s regulations. A fourth brief from a collection of climate scientists followed week later. [Read more →]

June 13, 2011   5 Comments

Divvying Up the Warming

In a MasterResource article a few months back, I walked everyone through a series of recent scientific findings and described how they cast new light on how the total amount of observed global warming to date could be divvied upon among various causes. I ultimately concluded that the high confidence that the IPCC (and later echoed by the EPA) placed on the statement that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” was misplaced.

This line of reasoning was recently incorporated into statements made by Dr. Patrick Michaels when testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

During the questions and answers portion of the hearing, one of the other panelists, Dr. Benjamin Santer, quickly objected and claimed that Pat was “wrong” because he didn’t take into account the cooling influence of aerosols when determining how much observed warming should be assigned to greenhouse gases.

A day or so following the testimony, Judith Curry hosted a discussion on her blog site Climate Etc. to further examine Michaels’ logic. In her remarks introducing the thread, she too suggested that Pat was “obliged” to include sulfates in the calculation. When I stepped in to offer additional explanation, RealClimate’s Gavin Schmidt commented that he hoped I was “kidding,” and John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M commented that my explanation was “nonsense.”

So with all these erudite folks claiming that Pat Michaels and I are wrong, I figured I ought to take another look into the logic behind our conclusions.

Our Logic

First let’s get a couple of things out of the way up front. The argument about whether or not the inclusion of sulfates is required to arrive at a logically correct conclusion has nothing whatsoever to do with the veracity and/or applicability of the scientific papers from which I’ve drawn some numbers (see my earlier post for details about these findings). I am not suggesting that there isn’t plenty of room to argue that aspect of things, just that such a discussion does not impinge on the discussion of our logic. So I’ll set aside discussion of those issues in order to focus on the topic at hand. [Read more →]

December 15, 2010   9 Comments

EPA’s Regs for Rigs – Fuel Economy Fetish Goes Diesel

Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rule to establish first-ever greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and fuel economy standards for “heavy duty” (HD) motor vehicles.

The proposed standards, which phase in during model-years 2014–2018, apply to three types of HD vehicles: (1) “combination tractors” (semi-trucks), (2) large pickups and vans, and (3) “vocational trucks” (a wide-ranging assortment of trucks and buses).  The agencies estimate that the technologies needed to comply with the proposed standards will cost $7.7 billion but that the rule will generate $27 billion or $41 billion in net benefits (depending on whether future benefits are discounted at 7% or 3%).

Here’s the curious thing that jumps out at you from the getgo. Although the ostensible objective of the rule is to reduce GHG emissions and oil imports, the overwhelming share of the claimed benefits (fuel savings for truckers) has nothing to do with either climate change or energy security. For example, based on the unverifiable assumption that each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted has a “social cost” of $22.00, the agencies attribute only $2.3 billion — about 6% — of the rule’s net benefits to its CO2 reductions and climate impact (p. 355). 

Six percent!

Sound familiar? Just as proponents of cap-and-trade tried to sell their stealth energy tax as a “green jobs” program when they couldn’t sell it as climate protection, so EPA and NHTSA now try to sell their save-the-planet-beyond-petroleum rule as a fuel-savings bonanza for owners and operators of big rigs, dump trucks, buses, vans, and pickups.  [Read more →]

November 5, 2010   7 Comments

Muir Russell Findings No Solace for U.S. EPA

[Update 07/29/10: The EPA has announced its decision to deny all the petitions asking it to reconsider its Endangerment Finding, claiming that it could find no evidence in the Climategate emails indicating that climate change science could not be trusted. Read on to see if you think this decision is justified.]

While the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency would surely love to use the findings of the Independent Climate Change Email Inquiry (aka the Muir Russell report) to brush aside the many challenges mounted, in response to the Climategate email scandal, to the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public’s health and welfare (a finding which enables the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions), they’ll find little in the Muir Russell report to help in their defense.

Well, I should qualify that. They’ll find little scientifically to help their defense. Politics is another matter.

Since the EPA has largely based its Endangerment Finding on an appeal to authority—the primary authority being the IPCC—rather than its own investigations, the Muir Russell report plays right into the EPA’s hands when concluding (emphasis in original):

[W]e do not find that their [influential scientists from the Climate Research Unit of the U.K.’s University of East Anglia] behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.

At face value, it seems as if the EPA could take this as the only proof needed to dismiss all of the post-Climategate calls for it to reconsider it pre-Climategate Endangerment Finding.

But, as with just about everything else about the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, such action would be a gross oversimplification, a side-step around the deeper complexities, and an incomplete address of the issues raised against it. [Read more →]

July 27, 2010   7 Comments

EPA Endangerment Showdown: Should Congress Heed Russell Train’s Advice?

On June 10, the U.S. Senate will debate and vote on a resolution of disapproval (S.J.Res.26), sponsored by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from ‘enacting’ controversial global warming policies through the regulatory back door.

S.J.Res.26 would overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding, a December 2009 rulemaking in which the agency concluded that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. The endangerment finding is both trigger and precedent for sweeping policy changes Congress never approved. America could end up with a bundle of greenhouse gas regulations more costly and intrusive than any climate bill or treaty the Senate has declined to pass or ratify, yet without the people’s representatives ever voting on it.

At a minimum, as former Virginia Gov. George Allen and I explain elsewhere, unless stopped, the EPA will be in a position to determine the stringency of fuel economy standards for the auto industry, set climate policy for the nation, and even amend the Clean Air Act — powers never delegated to the agency by Congress.

S.J.Res.26 puts a simple question squarely before the Senate: Who shall make climate policy — lawmakers who must answer to the people at the ballot box or politically unaccountable bureaucrats, trial lawyers, and activist judges appointed for life?

Precisely because S.J.Res.26 would restore constitutional discipline to climate policymaking, regulatory zealots are mounting smear campaigns against it. Climate Progress calls it “polluter crafted” (impossible, because the language and form of the resolution are fixed by the Congressional Review Act). MoveOn.Org claims the resolution will condemn many Americans to “smoke the equivalent of a pack a day just from breathing the air” (utter nonsense – just one cigarette delivers 12-27 times the daily dose of fine particulate matter that non-smokers get in cities with the most polluted air). Environmental Defense Action Fund says the resolution will give corporate polluters a “bailout” (also impossible, because S.J.Res.26 is not a tax or spending bill).

Train Weighs In, Ignores Obvious, Knocks Down Straw Man 

A more sophisticated attack comes from Russell Train, who served as EPA Administrator under the Nixon and Ford Administrations (1973-1977). In a May 24 letter to Senate leaders, Train warns that S.J.Res.26 would “rollback Clean Air Act protections.”

Not so! Yes, the resolution would “prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.” But from its inception in 1970 through the present day, EPA has not regulated greenhouse gas emissions, and its recently finalized motor vehicle emission standards do not take effect until 2011. Train confuses “rollback” with containment. The only thing S.J.Res.26 would roll back is EPA’s regulatory overreach. [Read more →]

June 1, 2010   24 Comments

Regulating CO2 Emissions for Local Air Quality: Another EPA Bad Idea

As more state and other interested parties line-up to contest the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, the EPA is becoming creative in trying to come up with other strategies to justify restricting carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) emissions.

One new strategy is to use the Clean Water Act to justify curbing CO2 emissions because they lead to ocean acidification (an impact which itself seems to be overblown). Another is to explore seeking greenhouse gas emissions controls at a local level, under the guise that concentrated local CO2 emissions (i.e. in cities) change the local environment in such a way as to elevate human mortality there.

Never mind that such an impact will never be detectable.

My colleague Pat Michaels refers to this as the EPA’s “whack-a-mole” strategy—while effort is concentrated on trying to beat down one of its pesky and ill-founded CO2-regulating proposals, the EPA pops up another and another and another. The EPA hopes that after a while, one mole sneaks through unnoticed and manages to grab the prized (CO2-enriched) carrot.

Currently most of the whacking is aimed at trying to halt EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act as a mechanism for sweeping CO2 regulation. The ocean acidification issue is just starting to get some attention. We have briefly touched on ocean acidification here at MasterResource, and found it to be an issue in which it seems that the more that is known the less of a problem it appears to be (i.e. the real world is a pretty adaptable and responsive place). Hopefully, the EPA’s recently announced solicitation of public comment “on what considerations EPA should take into account when deciding how to address listing of waters as threatened or impaired for ocean acidification” will garner some deserved response before the May 21, 2010 deadline.

In this post, I want to take a look at a novel mole that needs attention: the idea that local CO2 produces any sort of impact on local mortality that could be detectably reduced by local CO2 restrictions.

Background

In taking questions from the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee last year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson insisted that that EPA needed to retain certain performance based standards setting for new and existing power plants in order to address local pollution. Senator Arlen Specter was amazed, saying there is no localized impact from CO2.

But apparently Jackson knew something that Senator Specter didn’t—the EPA was funding a study that was to conclude that, indeed, local CO2 emissions do raise local mortality in the U.S.—by three one-hundredths of one percent—or by about 792 deaths out of 2,700,000 deaths annually (from these numbers it would seem that Senator Specter wasn’t that far off). [Read more →]

April 5, 2010   8 Comments