You Ought to Have a Look: Paris Agreement Prospects, EPA Shenanigans, House Says No to a Carbon Tax

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary. 

We’ll get right to it.

First up this week is an examination by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) of the prospects of a quick ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement—something that President Obama desperately wants in order to insure that if the next president proves hostile to the Agreement, he won’t be able to derail the whole thing.

While Obama was all smiles when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in town recently discussing cooperation on the climate, Indian officials were quick to point out that we shouldn’t get the wrong idea, stating that India is “unlikely to sign the Agreement this year, or even the next.”

The GWPF analysis takes us through India’s stance was well as the opinions of other countries which are vital to the Agreement’s ratification. Some have ratified it already, while others, like India, aren’t rushing forward.  From the GWPF:

Representing the two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the joint US and Chinese commitment to early entry into force is undoubtedly significant. Nonetheless, the picture becomes significantly more complicated looking at the next two largest emitters: Russia and India. Both countries have indicated that they are prepared to wait before they ratify the Agreement, wanting a clear set of rules and a greater recognition of differentiated responsibilities. The EU process of securing unanimity between 28 member states is likely to mean a significant delay to European ratification. This means that early entry to force is dependent on building a coalition of many smaller countries, a procedure that is likely to be challenging.

Next up is a good piece by Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis showing just how dodgy the EPA’s calculation of “benefits” for their recent emissions regulations really is. Turns out that in addition to double counting them, they find health benefits from reducing emissions in regions which remain below the EPA’s cut-off concentrations for deleterious effects. Marlo wonders how it is that

EPA does not explain or try to justify why associations between PM2.5 [tiny particulate matter] and health that are too weak or uncertain to be used to determine what is requisite to protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety are strong and certain enough to calculate regulatory benefits.

He concludes that the reason is that if the EPA were to remove the monetized health “benefits” from those areas which are projected remain in attainment with EPA standards (which turns out to be most of impacted regions), the “benefits” drop to near zero. This not only applies to the EPA’s Mercury and Toxic Standards (MATS) rule, but to their Clean Power Plan (CPP) as well. Such a result would, in Marlo’s words, be a “potential PR disaster for the agency.”

And we can’t have that—so we imagine that the EPA will stick with their inconsistent methodology.

But some things are looking up.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) resolution “Expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy” by a vote of 237 to 163. Not a single Republican vote was cast against the resolution.

Seems “conservative thinkers” still have a lot of work ahead of them.

All the while, their work is being made more difficult by growing scientific evidence that the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide emissions is considerably less than advertised—a situation which reduces the urgency to “do something” (like implementing a carbon tax) about global warming.

Which brings us, again, to the topic of the social cost of carbon—the monetary manifestation of the impetus to tax carbon dioxide emissions in the first place.

Before signing out this week, we wanted to point you to an article by Ross McKitrick in the Financial Post in which he explains the importance of his new analysis of the government’s social cost of carbon determination—an analysis that we highlighted in last week’s YOTHAL.  In summary, Ross writes:

The numbers produced by the [U.S. federal government] have a large and growing influence over energy and economic policy in the U.S. and Canada and elsewhere. Unfortunately, for all its claims about following the science, where it really counts it ended up peddling guesstimates based on inconsistent models. To borrow a phrase, it is time to restore science to its rightful place. Calculations behind the social cost of carbon need to reflect empirical evidence about low climate sensitivity, and when this is done, the numbers appear to be much lower than those currently in use.

You ought to have a look.