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Latest on the Death Spiral of Climate Alarmism (Is it time to focus on real environmental problems and not CO2?)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 26, 2010

Ken Green at MasterResource published an influential post, The Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism Continues (June 2, 2010), that began with two quotations:

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

– James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006.

“Desperation is setting in among climate alarmists who by their own math can see that the window is rapidly closing on ’saving the planet’.”

– Kenneth Green, ”A Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism, Redux?” MasterResource, September 30, 2009.

And what was true in June is even more true today as the failure to price carbon dioxide (CO2) is leaving Europe as the sacrificial lambs on an altar of climate-change inconsequentiality.

Here is the latest stanza on the death spiral as reported earlier this month in ClimateWire.

APPENDIX A: Lisa Friedman, “U.S. Accuses Countries of  ‘Walking Back’ from Copenhagen Accord,” ClimateWire, August 9, 2010.

Climate treaty negotiators wrapped up talks this weekend agreeing on one thing: their disappointment.

As delegates from nearly 200 countries left a weeklong negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, diplomats from the Americas to Lesotho warned that countries are moving away from agreement. Blame flew far and wide, though, depending on who was flinging the charges.

“While I came to Bonn hopeful that we would make significant strides toward a deal in Cancún, at this point, I’m very concerned,” U.S. deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said.

He accused developing countries that had previously endorsed the Copenhagen Accord crafted at last year’s U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, of backpedaling. Under the voluntary agreement, all the major polluters of greenhouse gases agreed to cut or scale back the rate of emissions and submit to oversight. In return, industrialized nations vowed to mobilize up to $100 billion annually for the poorest countries, also in a way that can be monitored and verified.

Pershing declined to name names but said some countries now are challenging the notion that all major emitters should be held to the same legal obligations. Others, he said, are angling for far more than the promised $100 billion.

“Unfortunately, what we have seen over and over this week is that some countries are walking back from the progress made in Copenhagen and what was agreed there,” he said. “Instead, what we need to do is move forward. We need to be ambitious; we need to be pragmatic.” ….

The next annual U.N. climate conference is slated for Cancún, Mexico, this winter. Diplomats do not expect to complete a new treaty there, but the United States and others hope to at least put in motion some elements of the Copenhagen Accord. ….

Several said the U.S. Senate’s decision to abandon climate legislation last month poisoned the atmosphere in Bonn. “There is a perception that because there is no adequate legislation in the United States … that has been taken as a signal by some that nothing can occur, that nothing will result, because the U.S. is not legislatively on board and therefore the pace should be slowed or the process should really wait on the U.S.,” said Dessima Williams of Grenada.

And with nary a Republican vote to show with an estimated $100 million in spending, Left environmental groups are feeling the heat. This raises the question: what is the opportunity cost of the futile climate crusade? What here-and-now environmental issues are not being addressed?

Darren Samuelsohn asks some questions in his Politico piece reprinted (in part) below.



Appendix B: Darren Samuelsohn, “Carbon cap bills go into deep freeze,” Politico, August 7, 2010

When it comes to global warming, the environmental lobby is going on defense.

Stung by the failure to secure a Senate vote on climate and energy legislation and wary of a possible GOP-led Congress, leaders of some of the country’s most influential green groups are moving cash and staff away from cap and trade.
Environment America, the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists, with more than 2.5 million members combined, now consider it their top job to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to write climate rules against attacks in the courts and on Capitol Hill.

“The era of the big bill I think is over,” said an environmentalist whose group has not yet come out publicly on the issue.
The groups also are hoping to
defend and expand on state and regional climate laws and compacts, including a carbon market for power plants operating in the Northeast and emerging systems in the West.

And they will work at the state public utility commission level to make carbon dioxide emissions a crux in reviewing permits for new and existing coal-fired power plants.
The Sierra Club is spending $18 million and has 100 people across the country working on challenges to coal-fired electricity, said Michael Brune, the group’s executive director. He hopes to increase the budget to $25 million next year.

“We don’t think we can fight climate change without getting a comprehensive, economy-wide cap,” Brune said. “At the same time, we think in the short term, more significant gains can be achieved by focusing on other strategies.”

Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, doesn’t want to give up on cap and trade as the method of curbing carbon dioxide emissions, but said it’s apparent the next window for such a bill won’t be until 2013 — assuming President Barack Obama either wins a second term or a climate-friendly Republican takes office.

“My sense is you never say die, even if we have fewer climate champions than today, that we still need to work with Congress to get a cap in place,” Knobloch said. “But its probability is going to be quite low to achieve that until after the next presidential election.”

Meanwhile, the environmental community is split over any shift away from cap and trade.

Two green heavies — Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council — aren’t giving up the fight. Combined, they employ several dozen experts, from attorneys to economists to public-health scientists.

“We’re going to pursue all the ways we can to make that happen,” said Franz Matzner, NRDC’s climate legislative director. “That includes going for the big enchilada. It’s too early to assume that it’s off the menu.”

“You know us, we’re not letting go of anything,” said Tony Kreindler of EDF, which spent $20 million over the past two years fighting for a climate bill.

“No air pollution problem in history has been solved without a mandatory pollution limit,” Kreindler added. “We’re open to how you structure that. But at the end of the day, that’s very much our goal.”

The National Wildlife Federation, the country’s largest environmental group with 4 million members and supporters, considers it “Job No. 1” to defend EPA against lawsuits in the federal appeals court from a broad coalition of industry and conservative state leaders, including the attorneys general in Virginia and Texas.

But Jeremy Symons, NWF’s senior vice president, said that won’t preclude lobbying for a carbon cap. “It’s not a question of doing one or the other,” he said. “We’ll do both. But we’ll focus now first and foremost on defending the Clean Air Act.”

Brune and Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Washington office, downplayed the idea of a major schism between the greens.

“There may be some disagreement around the edges around what can actually move,” Aurilio said. “But I don’t think it’s a huge split.”

“I think if there wasn’t a shift occurring in the environmental community, that’d be cause for great alarm,” Brune said.
“Individually and collectively, many of the national environmental organizations are reflecting on what worked strategically, what didn’t and whether or not there should be a shift in priorities and in strategies,” Brune added. “Different groups are in different states in the process. For some it’ll be easier. Others are more wedded to some form of cap. It might be more difficult for them.”

Environmentalists aren’t giving up on energy and climate legislation entirely. On Capitol Hill, the greens are pressing for new national standards on renewable energy, as well as more aggressive automobile fuel-economy limits and incentives for electric and natural gas vehicles.

That strategy shift could have a major impact, some longtime cap-and-trade advocates said.

“That would be significant,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who co-sponsored three major climate bills that have hit the Senate floor over the past decade. “I look forward to talking to them. I know they have the same goals. And they may be right about the political practicality.” ….

Even so, Lieberman and others make the argument that a carbon cap represents the least expensive option for dealing with emissions. And they note the origins of the issue started with former President George H.W. Bush, who campaigned 20 years ago for a cap-and-trade plan to fight acid rain.

“Before we walk away from that mechanism, I’d like for us to think long and hard about it,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
For their part, industry officials welcomed the challenge from environmental groups in the courtroom as they go after power plants and other industries via the EPA.

“It’s ironic because that’s what killed the prospect of the legislation to begin with,” said Karen Harbert, a top energy official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Certainly, from an economic perspective this is a very self-defeating approach. Continued balkanization of the regulations doesn’t contribute to a healthy economy.”

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said the climate bill died because it lacked public support, something that won’t improve by pursuing a strategy that emphasizes EPA, states and power plant permits given concerns about other pocketbook issues.

“If they push too hard, there’s potential for further backlash,” Gerard said. “As they continue to raise the specter that they’re threatening jobs and economic recovery, then I think they’ve failed to listen closely to what the public is saying.”

Coal-state Democrats and Republicans are also taking aim at EPA’s rule-writing authority. Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) predicted a floor vote as early as September on his bill to stop the agency’s efforts for two years to give Congress more time on comprehensive legislation.

At this point, there’s going to be a rebellion,” said Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.). “EPA is likely to see its powers substantially curtailed.”

“Death Spiral” Posts by Ken Green:

The Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism Continues (June 2, 2010)

Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism, Redux? (September 30, 2010)


  1. Ed Reid  

    As Shylock discovered, it is hard to take your “pound of flesh” without spilling a “jot of blood”, even using a very sharp knife. The possibility of EPA accomplishing the task with a chain saw is miniscule.


  2. Mark Krebs  

    In the meantime, it looks like some at the UN want an even more stringent protocol. The following excerpt is from the 06AUG10 Greenwire:

    Proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions have been added to the accord, while some countries have changed their stance on elements agreed upon at Copenhagen. The target to cut emissions by 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 has been reinserted.


  3. Steve C.  

    This is the scene where Sam Pekinpah introduces a montage of rapid cuts from the robber’s eyes, to the pile of loot, to itchy trigger fingers.
    Or as Roy Schieder would have said, “We’re gonna need more popcorn.”


  4. rbradley  

    I see little evidence that the Left enviros are being true to their own math and turning from mitigation to adaptation–but how much longer than this go on with the log effect (less-than-linear effect) of GHG forcing on climate?


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