Why Halting Failed Auto Fuel Standards 2020 Update

Update April 2, 2020: Much in the news today is the EPA relaxing of Obama-era auto fuel standards, along with the usual Trump bashing and complaining while ignoring why the efficiency rules were ill-advised. Text from a previous post is printed below explaining this positive development.

There are deeper reasons why US auto fuel efficiency standards are and should be rolled back.  They were instituted in denial of regulatory experience and science.  First, a parallel from physics.

In the sub-atomic domain of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, determined that our observations have an effect on the behavior of quanta (quantum particles).

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to know simultaneously the exact position and momentum of a particle. That is, the more exactly the position is determined, the less known the momentum, and vice versa. This principle is not a statement about the limits of technology, but a fundamental limit on what can be known about a particle at any given moment. This uncertainty arises because the act of measuring affects the object being measured. The only way to measure the position of something is using light, but, on the sub-atomic scale, the interaction of the light with the object inevitably changes the object’s position and its direction of travel.

Now skip to the world of governance and the effects of regulation. A similar finding shows that the act of regulating produces reactive behavior and unintended consequences contrary to the desired outcomes.

US Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards Have Backfired

An article at Financial Times explains about Energy Regulations Unintended Consequences  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Goodhart’s Law holds that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes”. Originally coined by the economist Charles Goodhart as a critique of the use of money supply measures to guide monetary policy, it has been adopted as a useful concept in many other fields. The general principle is that when any measure is used as a target for policy, it becomes unreliable. It is an observable phenomenon in healthcare, in financial regulation and, it seems, in energy efficiency standards.

When governments set efficiency regulations such as the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for vehicles, they are often what is called “attribute-based”, meaning that the rules take other characteristics into consideration when determining compliance. The Cafe standards, for example, vary according to the “footprint” of the vehicle: the area enclosed by its wheels. In Japan, fuel economy standards are weight-based. Like all regulations, fuel economy standards create incentives to game the system, and where attributes are important, that can mean finding ways to exploit the variations in requirements. There have long been suspicions that the footprint-based Cafe standards would encourage manufacturers to make larger cars for the US market, but a paper this week from Koichiro Ito of the University of Chicago and James Sallee of the University of California Berkeley provided the strongest evidence yet that those fears are likely to be justified.

Mr Ito and Mr Sallee looked at Japan’s experience with weight-based fuel economy standards, which changed in 2009, and concluded that “the Japanese car market has experienced a notable increase in weight in response to attribute-based regulation”. In the US, the Cafe standards create a similar pressure, but expressed in terms of size rather than weight. Mr Ito suggested that in Ford’s decision to end almost all car production in North America to focus on SUVs and trucks, “policy plays a substantial role”. It is not just that manufacturers are focusing on larger models; specific models are also getting bigger. Ford’s move, Mr Ito wrote, should be seen as an “alarm bell” warning of the flaws in the Cafe system. He suggests an alternative framework with a uniform standard and tradeable credits, as a more effective and lower-cost option. With the Trump administration now reviewing fuel economy and emissions standards, and facing challenges from California and many other states, the vehicle manufacturers appear to be in a state of confusion. An elegant idea for preserving plans for improving fuel economy while reducing the cost of compliance could be very welcome.

The paper is The Economics of Attribute-Based Regulation: Theory and Evidence from Fuel-Economy Standards Koichiro Ito, James M. Sallee NBER Working Paper No. 20500.  The authors explain:

An attribute-based regulation is a regulation that aims to change one characteristic of a product related to the externality (the “targeted characteristic”), but which takes some other characteristic (the “secondary attribute”) into consideration when determining compliance. For example, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the United States recently adopted attribute-basing. Figure 1 shows that the new policy mandates a fuel-economy target that is a downward-sloping function of vehicle “footprint”—the square area trapped by a rectangle drawn to connect the vehicle’s tires.  Under this schedule, firms that make larger vehicles are allowed to have lower fuel economy. This has the potential benefit of harmonizing marginal costs of regulatory compliance across firms, but it also creates a distortionary incentive for automakers to manipulate vehicle footprint.

Attribute-basing is used in a variety of important economic policies. Fuel-economy regulations are attribute-based in China, Europe, Japan and the United States, which are the world’s four largest car markets. Energy efficiency standards for appliances, which allow larger products to consume more energy, are attribute-based all over the world. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Affordable Care Act are attribute-based because they exempt some firms based on size. In all of these examples, attribute-basing is designed to provide a weaker regulation for products or firms that will find compliance more difficult.

Summary from Heritage Foundation study Fuel Economy Standards Are a Costly Mistake Excerpt with my bolds.

The CAFE standards are not only an extremely inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emission but will also have a variety of unintended consequences.

For example, the post-2010 standards apply lower mileage requirements to vehicles with larger footprints. Thus, Whitefoot and Skerlos argued that there is an incentive to increase the size of vehicles.

Data from the first few years under the new standard confirm that the average footprint, weight, and horsepower of cars and trucks have indeed all increased since 2008, even as carbon emissions fell, reflecting the distorted incentives.

Manufacturers have found work-arounds to thwart the intent of the regulations. For example, the standards raised the price of large cars, such as station wagons, relative to light trucks. As a result, automakers created a new type of light truck—the sport utility vehicle (SUV)—which was covered by the lower standard and had low gas mileage but met consumers’ needs. Other automakers have simply chosen to miss the thresholds and pay fines on a sliding scale.

Another well-known flaw in CAFE standards is the “rebound effect.” When consumers are forced to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, the cost per mile falls (since their cars use less gas) and they drive more. This offsets part of the fuel economy gain and adds congestion and road repair costs. Similarly, the rising price of new vehicles causes consumers to delay upgrades, leaving older vehicles on the road longer.

In addition, the higher purchase price of cars under a stricter CAFE standard is likely to force millions of households out of the new-car market altogether. Many households face credit constraints when borrowing money to purchase a car. David Wagner, Paulina Nusinovich, and Esteban Plaza-Jennings used Bureau of Labor Statistics data and typical finance industry debt-service-to-income ratios and estimated that 3.1 million to 14.9 million households would not have enough credit to purchase a new car under the 2025 CAFE standards.[34] This impact would fall disproportionately on poorer households and force the use of older cars with higher maintenance costs and with fuel economy that is generally lower than that of new cars.

CAFE standards may also have redistributed corporate profits to foreign automakers and away from Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler (the Big Three), because foreign-headquartered firms tend to specialize in vehicles that are favored under the new standards.[35] 

Conclusion

CAFE standards are costly, inefficient, and ineffective regulations. They severely limit consumers’ ability to make their own choices concerning safety, comfort, affordability, and efficiency. Originally based on the belief that consumers undervalued fuel economy, the standards have morphed into climate control mandates. Under any justification, regulation gives the desires of government regulators precedence over those of the Americans who actually pay for the cars. Since the regulators undervalue the well-being of American consumers, the policy outcomes are predictably harmful.

Pandemic Response Not Model for Climate Action

Some wise reflections from Breakthrough Institute: Why the COVID-19 Response Is No Model for Climate Action by Alex Trembath and Seaver Wang. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

A global emergency. Wartime mobilization. Calls to “listen to the scientists.” Demands for radical shifts in policy and human behavior. Tradeoffs between sacrifices today and larger suffering in the future. Politicization by all sides.The parallels between the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and climate change are obvious.

But contrary to the received wisdom among many climate analysts and advocates, those parallels mostly reveal just how different the two challenges are.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unfolding rapidly, demanding all of our attention. Climate change unfolds slowly, over decades, often so imperceptibly that we term the conditions of a changing climate as the “new normal.” COVID-19 presents as a frightening but conceptually simple problem: a novel virus that can be contained by quarantine, social distancing and, hopefully, immunization. Climate change presents as a “wicked” problem, which means its causes, impacts, key actors, and optimal levers for change are heavily contested. Responding to COVID-19 through behavioral shifts means putting our lives temporarily on hold for months to a year. Responding to climate change through behavioral shifts means a lifelong if not multi-generational commitment to population-wide lifestyle changes.

Nonetheless, the rapid virus–induced decline in economic activity has turned some climate hawks’ heads. “If weeks of suspended high-carbon economic activity can cut China’s emissions by a quarter,” tweeted climate activist Genevieve Guenther, “I don’t want to hear one fucking word about how decarbonizing quickly enough to maintain a livable planet is ‘unrealistic.’”

Others were more cautious in drawing comparisons. Pandemics and recessions are “hardly formulas activists should cheer, much less try to replicate going forward,” writes Kate Aronoff at the New Republic. “Wishing for a disaster to make the large-scale changes that scientists say are necessary to prevent a planetary collapse is counterproductive,” wrote Eric Holthaus.

This pandemic should then make us interrogate what we envision when we talk about a “climate emergency.” Such frames filter up meaningfully, after all: last summer, six then-presidential candidates joined a Democratic proposal to declare a “climate change emergency” to spur “sweeping reforms” in the United States. What those reforms would entail, though, remains unclear. Holthaus, whose practice is to addend many of his tweets with the warning “We are in a climate emergency,” wrote that we should “learn to treat each other better.” Aronoff used the drop in Chinese emissions to advocate a four-day work week. Guenther suggested that enforced suspension of economic activity for the climate’s sake would, obviously, utilize “smart policy” to be more “equitable” than the Chinese government’s forced quarantine policies.

Propaganda from Grist.

Yet one wonders whether people around the world might actually be less, not more, eager to entertain the idea of sweeping and intrusive responses to climate change thanks to ongoing events.

Perhaps that is because we are witnessing what a global emergency actually looks like. School and commerce are shut down. People are confined to their homes. Trade and travel are suspended. Weddings, social gatherings, and perhaps even the Olympics are canceled. Hourly workers are losing work and many others are losing jobs altogether. Fear and isolation are dominant.

And yet despite such costly personal and collective sacrifices, we are learning that there are disappointing limits to the emissions cuts that are possible under even draconian, government-enforced reductions of demand for goods and services. New economic projections are suggesting that China’s economy may shrink by up to 40% this quarter relative to January–March. The rhythm of daily life has literally ground to a halt for many hundreds of millions of Chinese people, and yet three-quarters of emissions stubbornly remain. Extreme conditions of degrowth and reduced consumption that are near-unanimously considered intolerable in the long-term have failed to mitigate anything close to a majority of greenhouse gas impacts.

And while emissions will surely decline this year, they might rebound strongly in future years, as China and other countries relax environmental regulations on fossil fuels to boost economic recovery. In the meantime, investment in clean technologies is likely to take a significant hit. Degrowth, it turns out, impacts the sectors and technologies we like as well as those we don’t.

But perhaps we might voluntarily consider maintaining some of the shifts in our lifestyles forced upon us by the quarantine? Doesn’t this moment teach us that we can take fewer flights, telecommute, eat out less, and otherwise reduce our consumption and environmental impact? We hesitate to draw too strong a conclusion here. People like traveling, for work and for pleasure, even when they know how carbon-intensive it is. People like eating out at restaurants, even if it is more expensive and tends to waste more food than eating at home. This moment might make us realize how precious, not frivolous, those experiences are.

Besides that, the absolute environmental impact of these lifestyle shifts is questionable. Take flying. For those of us privileged to write about climate change for a living, air travel likely accounts for much of our personal carbon footprint. But less than 20% of the planet has ever stepped foot on an airplane. COVID-19 is unlikely to change projections of tens of millions of new fliers in the coming decades, as consumers in China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and elsewhere take to the skies for the first time. And to be crystal clear, these first journeys by air will open up once-unattainable personal, economic, and educational opportunities for countless lives and are milestones to be celebrated, not dreaded. Ultimately, what matters is not how many people are consuming a product or service but how carbon-intensive the underlying technologies are.

Certainly, the COVID-19 crisis does have important overlaps with the climate crisis. If anything, COVID-19 should motivate researchers and policymakers to act faster on decarbonization and adaptation, since the incidence of diseases and pandemics is likely to rise with global temperatures. Likewise, how we respond to COVID-19 could have significant climate implications. As the nations of the world stimulate and bail their way out of the coming recession, policy and infrastructure decisions can accelerate innovation and decarbonization. And, ultimately, the long-term solution to both climate and global health problems will be scientific and technological in nature: a vaccine or battery of medical treatments in the case of the virus, and affordable, scalable low-carbon technologies in the case of climate change.

But, in both psychological and political terms, we would caution against drawing too strong a connection between the two crises. We do not think the global community will look back on this time fondly. If the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic is held up as a model for climate action, we should not be surprised if public support is less than enthusiastic.

Further, in light of rising xenophobia, heightened international tensions, and opportunistic, discriminatory restrictions on movement and migration precipitating out of the current health emergency, we must be wary of a more selective application of the climate “lessons” of the COVID-19 response to serve an eco-facist agenda that promotes nativism and opposes immigration.

It is an understandable impulse to draw lessons from this or that crisis for other pressing global challenges, climate change among them. We share that impulse. However, the useful take-aways from comparing crises that are fundamentally different in nature are often few and disappointing. The climate crisis may feel just as immediate and pressing as an ongoing pandemic to those working in the climate space, but that does little to change the fact that governments and communities will not accept the adaptation of measures intended to fight pandemics on time horizons of months to years towards the decades-long challenge of climate change. Advocacy of such measures will not be viewed kindly, whether in the halls of political decision-making or in the court of public opinion.

The solutions for controlling the COVID-19 outbreak are simple. As decades of debate, advocacy, and politics should have abundantly demonstrated by now, the solutions for climate change are anything but.

 

No, Climate Didn’t Cause Coronavirus

It didn’t take long for climatists to tie coronavirus to global warming/climate change; IOW, “It’s our fault for using fossil fuels.” And also: “Changes to fight coronavirus also fight climate change.” Activists have a long record of claiming that de-carbonizing is a snake oil curing all of society’s ills. The latest memes give the flavor of the warped thinking.

Coronavirus hits a critical year for nature and climate chinadialogue11:08

The threats facing our planet are interconnected ArabNews10:27

Climate change helped coronavirus spread The Independent10:20

How Science Denial In High Places Accelerates Both COVID-19 and Climate Change Ecosystem Marketplace10:12

The Corona Connection The Nation08:14

Coronavirus and the climate: How we respond to deadly threats The Gazette07:15

The Coronavirus and the Climate Movement The New Yorker07:04

The carbon disruption is here, disguised as a pandemic ImpactAlpha04:10

For pandemics and climate change, voluntary measures aren’t enough Grist Magazine03:58

“In a way, the coronavirus is climate change’s publicist” Why now is the time to focus on our… Vogue India02:43

Liberals See Good from Coronavirus: Less Pollution NewsMax20:22 Tue, 17 Mar

How changes brought on by coronavirus could help tackle the climate crisis Corporate Knights17:19 Tue, 17 Mar

Think Tank Shifts From Climate Science Denial To COVID Denial Talking Points Memo16:11 Tue, 17 Mar

Coronavirus, climate crisis, conflicts: Meme-ing our way through the ‘apocalypse’ The Conversation (Canada)13:58 Tue, 17 Mar

Key readings about climate change and coronavirus Yale Climate Connections14:19

Green Jobs Are the Answer to the Coronavirus Recession The New Republic14:19

How COVID-19 Is Like Climate Change Scientific American11:07 Tue, 17 Mar

Climate change could make the coronavirus seem like the good old days. GreenBiz

Viruses expected to increase with global warming – expert The Times of Israel08:35 Tue, 17 Mar

Social distancing? You might be fighting climate change, too New Zealand Herald20:45 Mon, 16 Mar

Can the changes brought on by coronavirus help tackle climate change? Australian Geographic20:42 Mon, 16 Ma

Climatists have a pattern of blaming every bad thing on CO2 in order to promote their agenda. Thus adding in this virus is an extension of the practice of attributing exteme weather events to global warming/climate change. A previous post provides Mike Hulme’s analysis of the flawed logic, as well as the motivations behind these attempts.

extreme-weather-events

The antidote to such feverish reporting is provided by Mike Hulme in a publication: Attributing Weather Extremes to ‘Climate Change’: a Review (here).

He has an insider’s perspective on this issue, and is certainly among the committed on global warming (color him concerned). Yet here he writes objectively to inform us on X-weather, without advocacy: real science journalism and a public service, really.

Overview

In this third and final review I survey the nascent science of extreme weather event attribution. The article proceeds by examining the field in four stages: motivations for extreme weather attribution, methods of attribution, some example case studies and the politics of weather event Attribution.

The X-Weather Issue

As many climate scientists can attest, following the latest meteorological extreme one of the most frequent questions asked by media journalists and other interested parties is: ‘Was this weather event caused by climate change?’

In recent decades the meaning of climate change in popular western discourse has changed from being a descriptive index of a change in climate (as in ‘evidence that a climatic change has occurred’) to becoming an independent causative agent (as in ‘climate change caused this event to happen’). Rather than being a descriptive outcome of a chain of causal events affecting how weather is generated, climate change has been granted power to change worlds: political and social worlds as much as physical and ecological ones.

To be more precise then, what people mean when they ask the ‘extreme weather blame’ question is: ‘Was this particular weather event caused by greenhouse gases emitted from human activities and/or by other human perturbations to the environment?’ In other words, can this meteorological event be attributed to human agency as opposed to some other form of agency?

The Motivations

Hulme shows what drives scientists to pursue the “extreme weather blame” question, noting four motivational factors.

Why have climate scientists over the last ten years embarked upon research to provide an answer beyond the stock phrase ‘no individual weather event can directly be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions’?  There seem to be four possible motives.

1.Curiosity
The first is because the question piques the scientific mind; it acts as a spur to develop new rational understanding of physical processes and new analytic methods for studying them.

2.Adaptation
A second argument, put forward by some, is that it is important to know whether or not specific instances of extreme weather are human-caused in order to improve the justification, planning and execution of climate adaptation.

3.Liability
A third argument for pursuing an answer to the ‘extreme weather blame’ question is inspired by the possibility of pursuing legal liability for damages caused. . . If specific loss and damage from extreme weather can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions – even if expressed in terms of increased risk rather than deterministically – then lawyers might get interested.

The liability motivation for research into weather event attribution also bisects the new international political agenda of ‘loss and damage’ which has emerged in the last two years. . . The basic idea is to give recognition that loss and damage caused by climate change is legitimate ground for less developed countries to gain access to new international climate adaptation funds.

4. Persuasion
A final reason for scientists to be investing in this area of climate science – a reason stated explicitly less often than the ones above and yet one which underlies much of the public interest in the ‘extreme weather blame’ question – is frustration with and argument about the invisibility of climate change. . . If this is believed to be true – that only scientists can make climate change visible and real –then there is extra onus on scientists to answer the ‘extreme weather blame’ question as part of an effort to convince citizens of the reality of human-caused climate change.

Attribution Methods

Attributing extreme weather events to human influences requires different approaches, of which four broad categories can be identified.

1. Physical Reasoning
The first and most general approach to attributing extreme weather phenomena to rising greenhouse gas concentrations is to use simple physical reasoning.

General physical reasoning can only lead to broad qualitative statements such as ‘this extreme weather is consistent with’ what is known about the human-enhanced greenhouse effect. Such statements offer neither deterministic nor stochastic answers and clearly underdetermine the ‘weather blame question.’ It has given rise to a number of analogies to try to communicate the non-deterministic nature of extreme event attribution. The three most widely used ones concern a loaded die (the chance of rolling a ‘6’ has increased, but no single ‘6’ can be attributed to the biased die), the baseball player on steroids (the number of home runs hit increases, but no single home run can be attributed to the steroids) and the speeding car-driver (the chance of an accident increases in dangerous conditions, but no specific accident can be attributed to the fast-driving).

2. Classical Statistical Analysis
A second approach is to use classical statistical analysis of meteorological time series data to determine whether a particular weather (or climatic) extreme falls outside the range of what a ‘normal’ unperturbed climate might have delivered.

All such extreme event analyses of meteorological time series are at best able to detect outliers, but can never be decisive about possible cause(s). A different time series approach therefore combines observational data with model simulations and seeks to determine whether trends in extreme weather predicted by climate models have been observed in meteorological statistics (e.g. Zwiers et al., 2011, for temperature extremes and Min et al., 2011, for precipitation extremes). This approach is able to attribute statistically a trend in extreme weather to human influence, but not a specific weather event. Again, the ‘weather blame question’ remains underdetermined.

slide20

3. Fractional Attributable Risk (FAR)
Taking inspiration from the field of epidemiology, this method seeks to establish the Fractional Attributable Risk (FAR) of an extreme weather (or short-term climate) event. It asks the counterfactual question, ‘How might the risk of a weather event be different in the presence of a specific causal agent in the climate system?’

The single observational record available to us, and which is analysed in the statistical methods described above, is inadequate for this task. The solution is to use multiple model simulations of the climate system, first of all without the forcing agent(s) accused of ‘causing’ the weather event and then again with that external forcing introduced into the model.

The credibility of this method of weather attribution can be no greater than the overall credibility of the climate model(s) used – and may be less, depending on the ability of the model in question to simulate accurately the precise weather event under consideration at a given scale (e.g. a heatwave in continental Europe, a rain event in northern Thailand) (see Christidis et al., 2013a).

4. Eco-systems Philosophy
A fourth, more philosophical, approach to weather event attribution should also be mentioned. This is the argument that since human influences on the climate system as a whole are now clearly established – through changing atmospheric composition, altered land surface characteristics, and so on – there can no longer be such a thing as a purely natural weather event. All weather — whether it be a raging tempest or a still summer afternoon — is now attributable to human influence, at least to some extent. Weather is the local and momentary expression of a complex system whose functioning as a system is now different to what it would otherwise have been had humans not been active.

Results from Weather Attribution Studies

Hulme provides a table of numerous such studies using various methods, along with his view of the findings.

It is likely that attribution of temperature-related extremes using FAR methods will always be more attainable than for other meteorological extremes such as rainfall and wind, which climate models generally find harder to simulate faithfully at the spatial scales involved. As discussed below, this limitation on which weather events and in which regions attribution studies can be conducted will place important constraints on any operational extreme weather attribution system.

Political Dimensions of Weather Attribution

Hulme concludes by discussing the political hunger for scientific proof in support of policy actions.

But Hulme et al. (2011) show why such ambitious claims are unlikely to be realised. Investment in climate adaptation, they claim, is most needed “… where vulnerability to meteorological hazard is high, not where meteorological hazards are most attributable to human influence” (p.765). Extreme weather attribution says nothing about how damages are attributable to meteorological hazard as opposed to exposure to risk; it says nothing about the complex political, social and economic structures which mediate physical hazards.

And separating weather into two categories — ‘human-caused’ weather and ‘tough-luck’ weather – raises practical and ethical concerns about any subsequent investment allocation guidelines which excluded the victims of ‘tough-luck weather’ from benefiting from adaptation funds.

Contrary to the claims of some weather attribution scientists, the loss and damage agenda of the UNFCCC, as it is currently emerging, makes no distinction between ‘human-caused’ and ‘tough-luck’ weather. “Loss and damage impacts fall along a continuum, ranging from ‘events’ associated with variability around current climatic norms (e.g., weather-related natural hazards) to [slow-onset] ‘processes’ associated with future anticipated changes in climatic norms” (Warner et al., 2012:21). Although definitions and protocols have not yet been formally ratified, it seems unlikely that there will be a role for the sort of forensic science being offered by extreme weather attribution science.

Conclusion

Thank you Mike Hulme for a sane, balanced and expert analysis. It strikes me as being another element in a “Quiet Storm of Lucidity”.

Is that light the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train?

Greta’s Spurious “Carbon Budget”

Many have noticed that recent speeches written for child activist Greta Thunberg are basing the climate “emergency” on the rapidly closing “carbon budget”. This post aims to summarize how alarmists define the so-called carbon budget, and why their claims to its authority are spurious. In the text and at the bottom are links to websites where readers can access both the consensus science papers and the analyses showing the flaws in the carbon budget notion. Excerpts are in italics with my bolds.

The 2019 update on the Global Carbon Budget was reported at Future Earth article entitled Global Carbon Budget Estimates Global CO2 Emissions Still Rising in 2019. The results were published by the Global Carbon Project in the journals Nature Climate Change, Environmental Research Letters, and Earth System Science Data. Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

History of Growing CO2 Emissions

“Carbon dioxide emissions must decline sharply if the world is to meet the ‘well below 2°C’ mark set out in the Paris Agreement, and every year with growing emissions makes that target even more difficult to reach,” said Robbie Andrew, a Senior Researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Norway.

Global emissions from coal use are expected to decline 0.9 percent in 2019 (range: -2.0 percent to +0.2 percent) due to an estimated 10 percent fall in the United States and a 10 percent fall in Europe, combined with weak growth in coal use in China (+0.8 percent) and India (+2 percent).

 

Shifting Mix of Fossil Fuel Consumption

“The weak growth in carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 is due to an unexpected decline in global coal use, but this drop is insufficient to overcome the robust growth in natural gas and oil consumption,” said Glen Peters, Research Director at CICERO.

“Global commitments made in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions are not yet being matched by proportionate actions,” said Peters. “Despite political rhetoric and rapid growth in low carbon technologies such as solar and wind power, electric vehicles, and batteries, global fossil carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be more than four percent higher in 2019 than in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was adopted.

“Compared to coal, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel, but unabated natural gas merely cooks the planet more slowly than coal,” said Peters. “While there may be some short-term emission reductions from using natural gas instead of coal, natural gas use needs to be phased out quickly on the heels of coal to meet ambitious climate goals.”

Oil and gas use have grown almost unabated in the last decade. Gas use has been pushed up by declines in coal use and increased demand for gas in industry. Oil is used mainly to fuel personal transport, freight, aviation and shipping, and to produce petrochemicals.

“This year’s Carbon Budget underscores the need for more definitive climate action from all sectors of society, from national and local governments to the private sector,” said Amy Luers, Future Earth’s Executive Director. “Like the youth climate movement is demanding, this requires large-scale systems changes – looking beyond traditional sector-based approaches to cross-cutting transformations in our governance and economic systems.”

Burning gas emits about 40 percent less CO2 than coal per unit energy, but it is not a zero-carbon fuel. While CO2 emissions are likely to decline when gas displaces coal in electricity production, Global Carbon Project researchers say it is only a short-term solution at best. All CO2 emissions will need to decline rapidly towards zero.

The Premise: Rising CO2 Emissions Cause Global Warming

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is set to reach 410 ppm on average in 2019, 47 percent above pre-industrial levels.

Glen Peters on the carbon budget and global carbon emissions is a Future of Earth interview explaining the Carbon Budget notion. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In many ways, the global carbon budget is like any other budget. There’s a maximum amount we can spend, and it must be allocated to various countries and various needs. But how do we determine how much carbon each country can emit? Can developing countries grow their economies without increasing their emissions? And if a large portion of China’s emissions come from products made for American and European consumption, who’s to blame for those emissions? Glen Peters, Research Director at the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Oslo, explains the components that make up the carbon budget, the complexities of its calculation, and its implications for climate policy and mitigation efforts. He also discusses how emissions are allocated to different countries, how emissions are related to economic growth, what role China plays in all of this, and more.

The carbon budget generally has two components: the source component, so what’s going into the atmosphere; and the sink component, so the components which are more or less going out of the atmosphere.

So in terms of sources, we have fossil fuel emissions; so we dig up coal, oil, and gas and burn them and emit CO2. We have cement, which is a chemical reaction, which emits CO2. That’s sort of one important component on the source side. We also have land use change, so deforestation. We’re chopping down a lot of trees, burning them, using the wood products and so on. And then on the other side of the equation, sort of the sink side, we have some carbon coming back out in a sense to the atmosphere. So the land sucks up about 25% of the carbon that we put into the atmosphere and the ocean sucks up about 25%. So for every ton we put into the atmosphere, then only about half a ton of CO2 remains in the atmosphere. So in a sense, the oceans and the land are cleaning up half of our mess, if you like.

The other half just stays in the atmosphere. Half a ton stays in the atmosphere; the other half is cleaned up. It’s that carbon that stays in the atmosphere which is causing climate change and temperature increases and changes in precipitation and so on.

The carbon budget is like a balance, so you have something coming in and something going out, and in a sense by mass balance, they have to equal. So if we go out and we take an estimate of how much carbon have we emitted by burning fossil fuels or by chopping down forests and we try and estimate how much carbon has gone into the ocean or the land, then we can measure quite well how much carbon is in the atmosphere. So we can add all those measurements together and then we can compare the two totals — they should equal. But they don’t equal. And this is sort of part of the science, if we overestimated emissions or if we over or underestimated the strength of the land sink or the oceans or something like that. And we can also cross check with what our models say.

My Comment:

Several things are notable about the carbon cycle diagram from GCP. It claims the atmosphere adds 18 GtCO2 per year and drives Global Warming. Yet estimates of emissions from burning fossil fuels and from land use combined range from 36 to 45 GtCO2 per year, or +/- 4.5. The uptake by the biosphere and ocean combined range from 16 to 25 GtCO2 per year, also +/- 4.5. The uncertainty on emissions is 11% while the natural sequestration uncertainty is 22%, twice as much.

Furthermore, the fluxes from biosphere and ocean are both presented as balanced with no error range. The diagram assumes the natural sinks/sources are not in balance, but are taking more CO2 than they release. IPCC reported: Gross fluxes generally have uncertainties of more than +/- 20%. (IPCC AR4WG1 Figure 7.3.) Thus for land and ocean the estimates range as follows:

Land: 440, with uncertainty between 352 and 528, a range of 176
Ocean: 330, with uncertainty between 264 and 396, a range of 132
Nature: 770, with uncertainty between 616 and 924, a range of 308

So the natural flux uncertainty is 7.5 times the estimated human emissions of 41 GtCO2 per year.

For more detail see CO2 Fluxes, Sources and Sinks and Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

The Fundamental Flaw: Spurious Correlation

Beyond the uncertainty of the amounts is a method error in claiming rising CO2 drives temperature changes. For this discussion I am drawing on work by chaam jamal at her website Thongchai Thailand. A series of articles there explain in detail how the mistake was invented and why it is faulty. A good starting point is The Carbon Budgets of Climate Science. Below is my attempt at a synopsis from her writings with excerpts in italics and my bolds.

Simplifying Climate to a Single Number

Figure 1 above shows the strong positive correlation between cumulative emissions and cumulative warming used by climate science and by the IPCC to track the effect of emissions on temperature and to derive the “carbon budget” for various acceptable levels of warming such as 2C and 1.5C. These so called carbon budgets then serve as policy tools for international climate action agreements and climate action imperatives of the United Nations. And yet, all such budgets are numbers with no interpretation in the real world because they are derived from spurious correlations. Source: Matthews et al 2009

Carbon budget accounting is based on the TCRE (Transient Climate Response to Cumulative Emissions). It is derived from the observed correlation between temperature and cumulative emissions. A comprehensive explanation of an application of this relationship in climate science is found in the IPCC SR 15 2018. This IPCC description is quoted below in paragraphs #1 to #7 where the IPCC describes how climate science uses the TCRE for climate action mitigation of AGW in terms of the so called the carbon budget. Also included are some of difficult issues in carbon budget accounting and the methods used in their resolution.

It has long been recognized that the climate sensitivity of surface temperature to the logarithm of atmospheric CO2 (ECS), which lies at the heart of the anthropogenic global warming and climate change (AGW) proposition, was a difficult issue for climate science because of the large range of empirical values reported in the literature and the so called “uncertainty problem” it implies.

The ECS uncertainty issue was interpreted in two very different ways. Climate science took the position that ECS uncertainty implies that climate action has to be greater than that implied by the mean value of ECS in order to ensure that higher values of ECS that are possible will be accommodated while skeptics argued that the large range means that we don’t really know. At the same time skeptics also presented convincing arguments against the assumption that observed changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration can be attributed to fossil fuel emissions.

A breakthrough came in 2009 when Damon Matthews, Myles Allen, and a few others almost simultaneously published almost identical papers reporting the discovery of a “near perfect” correlation (ρ≈1) between surface temperature and cumulative emissions {2009: Matthews, H. Damon, et al. “The proportionality of global warming to cumulative carbon emissions” Nature 459.7248 (2009): 829}. They had found that, irrespective of the timing of emissions or of atmospheric CO2 concentration, emitting a trillion tonnes of carbon will cause 1.0 – 2.1 C of global warming. This linear regression coefficient corresponding with the near perfect correlation between cumulative warming and cumulative emissions (note: temperature=cumulative warming), initially described as the Climate Carbon Response (CCR) was later termed the Transient Climate Response to Cumulative Emissions (TCRE).

Initially a curiosity, it gained in importance when it was found that it was in fact predicting future temperatures consistent with model predictions. The consistency with climate models was taken as a validation of the new tool and the TCRE became integrated into the theory of climate change. However, as noted in a related post the consistency likely derives from the assumption that emissions accumulate in the atmosphere.

Thereafter the TCRE became incorporated into the foundation of climate change theory particularly so in terms of its utility in the construction of carbon budgets for climate action plans for any given target temperature rise, an application for which the TCRE appeared to be tailor made. Most importantly, it solved or perhaps bypassed the messy and inconclusive uncertainty issue in ECS climate sensitivity that remained unresolved. The importance of this aspect of the TCRE is found in the 2017 paper “Beyond Climate Sensitivity” by prominent climate scientist Reto Knutti where he declared that the TCRE metric should replace the ECS as the primary tool for relating warming to human caused emissions {2017: Knutti, Reto, Maria AA Rugenstein, and Gabriele C. Hegerl. “Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity.” Nature Geoscience 10.10 (2017): 727}. The anti ECS Knutti paper was not only published but received with great fanfare by the journal and by the climate science community in general.

The TCRE has continued to gain in importance and prominence as a tool for the practical application of climate change theory in terms of its utility in the construction and tracking of carbon budgets for limiting warming to a target such as the Paris Climate Accord target of +1.5C above pre-industrial. {Matthews, H. Damon. “Quantifying historical carbon and climate debts among nations.” Nature climate change 6.1 (2016): 60}. A bibliography on the subject of TCRE carbon budgets is included below at the end of this article (here).

However, a mysterious and vexing issue has arisen in the practical matter of applying and tracking TCRE based carbon budgets. The unsolved matter in the TCRE carbon budget is the remaining carbon budget puzzle {Rogelj, Joeri, et al. “Estimating and tracking the remaining carbon budget for stringent climate targets.” Nature 571.7765 (2019): 335-342}. It turns out that midway in the implementation of a carbon budget, the remaining carbon budget computed by subtraction does not match the TCRE carbon budget for the latter period computed directly using the Damon Matthews proportionality of temperature with cumulative emissions for that period. As it turns out, the difference between the two estimates of the remaining carbon budget has a rational explanation in terms of the statistics of a time series of cumulative values of another time series described in a related post

It is shown that a time series of the cumulative values of another time series has neither time scale nor degrees of freedom and that therefore statistical properties of this series can have no practical interpretation.

It is demonstrated with random numbers that the only practical implication of the “near perfect proportionality” correlation reported by Damon Matthews is that the two time series being compared (annual warming and annual emissions) tend to have positive values. In the case of emissions we have all positive values, and during a time of global warming, the annual warming series contains mostly positive values. The correlation between temperature (cumulative warming) and cumulative emissions derives from this sign bias as demonstrated with random numbers with and without sign bias.

Figure 4: Random Numbers without Sign Bias

Figure 5: Random Numbers with Sign Bias

The sign bias explains the correlation between cumulative values of time series data and also the remaining carbon budget puzzle. It is shown that the TCRE regression coefficient between these time series of cumulative values derives from the positive value bias in the annual warming data. Thus, during a period of accelerated warming, the second half of the carbon budget period may contain a higher percentage of positive values for annual warming and it will therefore show a carbon budget that exceeds the proportional budget for the second half computed from the full span regression coefficient that is based on a lower bias for positive values.

In short, the bias for positive annual warming is highest for the second half, lowest for the first half, and midway between these two values for the full span – and therein lies the simple statistics explanation of the remaining carbon budget issue that climate science is trying to solve in terms of climate theory and its extension to Earth System Models. The Millar and Friedlingstein 2018 paper is yet another in a long line of studies that ignore the statistical issues the TCRE correlation and instead try to explain its anomalous behavior in terms of climate theory whereas in fact their explanation lies in statistical issues that have been overlooked by these young scientists.

The fundamental problem with the construction of TCRE carbon budgets and their interpretation in terms of climate action is that the TCRE is a spurious correlation that has no interpretation in terms of a relationship between emissions and warming. Complexities in these carbon budgets such as the remaining carbon budget are best understood in these terms and not in terms of new and esoteric variables such as those in earth system models.

Footnote:

An independent study by Jamal Munshi come to a similar conclusion. Climate Sensitivity and the Responsiveness of Temperature to Atmospheric CO2

Detrended correlation analysis of global mean temperature observations and model projections are compared in a test for the theory that surface temperature is responsive to atmospheric CO2 concentration in terms of GHG forcing of surface temperature implied by the Climate Sensitivity parameter ECS. The test shows strong evidence of GHG forcing of warming in the theoretical RCP8.5 temperature projections made with CMIP5 forcings. However, no evidence of GHG forcing by CO2 is found in observational temperatures from four sources including two from satellite measurements. The test period is set to 1979-2018 so that satellite data can be included on a comparable basis. No empirical evidence is found in these data for a climate sensitivity parameter that determines surface temperature according to atmospheric CO2 concentration or for the proposition that reductions in fossil fuel emissions will moderate the rate of warming.

Postscript on Spurious Correlations

I am not a climate, environment, geology, weather, or physics expert. However, I am an expert on statistics. So, I recognize bad statistical analysis when I see it. There are quite a few problems with the use of statistics within the global warming debate. The use of Gaussian statistics is the first error. In his first movie Gore used a linear regression of CO2 and temperature. If he had done the same regression using the number of zoos in the world, or the worldwide use of atomic energy, or sunspots, he would have the same result. A linear regression by itself proves nothing.–Dan Ashley · PhD statistics, PhD Business, Northcentral University

 

Climate Beauty Pageants

Exxon CEO Calls Rivals’ Climate Goals a ‘Beauty Competition’ reported in the Houston Chronicle. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

“Individual companies setting targets and then selling assets to another company so that their portfolio has a different carbon intensity has not solved the problem for the world,” Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods says.

Exxon Mobil Corp. dismissed long-term pledges by some of its Big Oil rivals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as nothing more than a “beauty competition” that would do little to halt climate change.

Energy companies need to focus on global, systemic efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, rather than just replacing their own emissions-heavy assets with cleaner ones to make themselves look good, Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said in New York on Thursday.

“Individual companies setting targets and then selling assets to another company so that their portfolio has a different carbon intensity has not solved the problem for the world,” Woods said at Exxon’s analyst day. Exxon is focused on “taking steps to solve the problem for society as a whole and not try and get into a beauty competition.”  Woods’ remarks, which echo those made by Chevron Corp. CEO Mike Wirth earlier this week, underscore the divide between U.S. and European oil explorers in their approach to addressing climate change.

Both American companies see oil and gas demand growing for decades and refuse to compete in a crowded market for renewables where they have little expertise.

Much-derided plastic even came in for some praise, with Exxon Senior Vice President Jack Williams arguing that it’s “a net benefit to society and to the environment.”

By contrast Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Repsol SA and Eni SpA have pledged to make large reductions in carbon emissions over the long term, while last month BP Plc went a step further with a target to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Companies changing their production mix “doesn’t change the demand” for oil and gas, Woods said. “If you don’t have a viable alternative set, all you’re doing is moving out from one company or one country to someplace else. It doesn’t solve the problem.”

Exxon sees world demand for oil and gas growing substantially out to 2040, even under the goals of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Renewables such as wind and solar won’t be enough to meet demand growth on their own, according to Exxon.

In any case, it remains to be seen whether oil giants can generate big profits by producing carbon-free energy. Solar, wind and battery storage projects haven’t shown they can fund the huge dividends that underpins the industry’s investment case.

To underscore his point, Woods said that global emissions have risen 4% since the Paris Agreement was signed four years ago and energy demand is up 6%.

For the energy industry to truly address climate change, Woods believes major technological breakthroughs are needed in the fields of carbon capture, alternative fuels in transport and re-thinking industrial processes. The company is investing in all of these fields but admits that progress will take time.

Exxon is also taking steps to reduce emissions from its own operations including reducing methane emissions and gas flaring.

Speaking at the company’s annual investor day meeting, CEO Darren Wood stated that Exxon is “mindful of the current market environment.” However, Woods said that Exxon plans to maintain its current strategy of “leaning into this market when others have pulled back.”

Exxon intends to use “the strength of our balance sheet to invest through the cycle,” according to Woods. As such, it will outspend its cash flow when necessary to maintain its investment pace while also continuing to increase its dividend as it has for the last 37 consecutive years. It also aims to sell $15 billion in assets to help finance its investment plan.

While Exxon isn’t making any changes to its planned investment level, it is adjusting its development plan. Most notably, it will operate at a reduced pace in the Permian Basin over the next two years compared to its previous outlook. However, it still expects to produce more than 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from the region by 2024.

Exxon fully believes that energy demand will grow in the coming years. That’s why it’s taking advantage of the current environment to invest while costs are lower so that it can cash in on more favorable future market conditions.

Activists attempt to storm the Exxon Mobil bastion, here seen without their shareholder disguises.

Look Before Leaping into Climate Policies

Ross McKitrick writes at National Post ‘Believing the science’ on climate change doesn’t mean any policy goes.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Mainstream science and economics do not support much of the current climate policy agenda and certainly not the radical extremes demanded by activist groups

There’s an assumption out there that if you “accept” the science of climate change, you are obliged to support drastic measures to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is not true. The one does not follow from the other. Mainstream science and economics do not support much of the current climate policy agenda and certainly not the radical extremes demanded by activist groups.

Elements of Integrated Assessment Models, or IAMs.

In a recent peer-reviewed paper, my co-authors and I proved this using one of the economic models governments and academics around the world rely on. Policy-makers compute the social costs of GHG emissions using tools called “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), which contain linked climate and economic models. They run the world forward in time for a few hundred years and estimate the value of damages from a tonne of GHGs emitted today. Pardon all the acronyms but that’s called the “social cost of carbon,” or SCC, and it represents an upper bound on what we should pay per tonne to cut emissions.

The higher the SCC, the more aggressive climate policy should be. During the Obama years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened an expert group to use the three best-known IAMs to estimate the SCC from now to the middle of this century to guide regulatory rule-making. Most of their results were in the US$20 to US$60 per tonne range, depending on the discount rate (which controls how much weight to put on far-future damages). The benefit of climate policy is to get rid of this future damage. If the damage is US$60 per tonne, then policies costing more than $60 per tonne of reduction don’t make sense. You wouldn’t spend more than a dollar to save a dollar.

Like all models, IAMs depend on key parameters that are drawn from the scientific literature. It has long been known that although CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it’s also food for plants. So extra CO2 in the air benefits plant growth. Yet two of the EPA’s three IAMs assumed that boosting the carbon dioxide content of the air has no effect on agriculture, which is overly pessimistic. Only one of the models allows for a small gain in agricultural productivity as CO2 levels rise, based on estimates from the 1990s of the size of the effect. So that’s the one we used.

However, we first updated the IAM to take account of the extensive research since the 1990s looking at effects on global plant growth from rising CO2 levels. Results from satellite-based surveys and field experiments have shown larger benefits than people predicted in the 1990s, even in a warming climate, especially for the rice crop in Asia.

Also, all the IAMs assume the climate will warm by three degrees Celsius with every CO2 doubling. This is based on simulations with large climate models, but there have been many recent studies in climate journals estimating lower sensitivity based on observed ground- and satellite-measured temperature changes. So we incorporated this information into the IAM as well.

Based on these updates alone, we showed that, even using a low discount rate, the social cost of carbon as of 2020 drops from US$32 per tonne to about 60 cents, and there’s a 50/50 chance it’s below zero.

It does grow over time but not by much. By 2050 it’s still under $3 per tonne and has a 46 per cent chance of being less than zero.

Note that we did not say “climate change is a hoax so we shouldn’t do anything.” We relied on scientific studies in mainstream journals, combined with one of the Obama-era EPA’s own preferred economic models, to determine if costly climate policies are justified. The answer is no, at least not for the next few decades.

Our paper was reviewed by three knowledgeable anonymous experts who were surprised by our findings and aggressively challenged them, with one strongly recommending our study be rejected. We had to rebut their extensive counterarguments in detail. We were able to defend our calculations and the journal decided in our favour.

If you don’t believe the science of climate change, then you obviously won’t support carbon taxes and other such policies. But it’s important to note that if you do accept the science, you aren’t obliged to support every policy, no matter how costly or inconvenient, that gets put forward. We should still focus on no-regrets strategies where the benefits outweigh the costs.

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

Background:

As the stool above shows, the climate change package sits on three premises. The first is the science bit, consisting of an unproven claim that observed warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part rests on impact studies from billions of research dollars spent uncovering any and all possible negatives from warming. And the third leg is climate initiatives (policies) showing how governments can “fight climate change.”

Many posts here address the follies of proposed climate policies under the theme Climate Initiatives

Let’s Scrub Away Climate Change

Carbon Dioxide Scrubber

Ross McKitrick says Jeff Bezos has put enough money on the table to vanish climate change concerns, except for those who won’t let go. He writes at Financial Post: It’s never enough with climate activists — even a staggering $10 billion from Jeff Bezos. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Observers might conclude activists don’t care about the climate per se but instead want to impose a big-government central planning regime

Jeff Bezos, the mega-billionaire founder/owner of Amazon, just announced he will give US$10 billion to “fight climate change.” According to CNN, this followed immense pressure from his employees to take action. And, as is inevitable with this issue, as soon as he made the announcement his activist employees declared it wasn’t enough.

“We applaud Jeff Bezos’s philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away,” their group sniffed. “Will Jeff Bezos show us true leadership or will he continue to be complicit in the acceleration of the climate crisis, while supposedly trying to help?”

It is never enough with climate activists. Bezos’s US$10 billion is a staggering sum. But it’s also a drop in the bucket compared to what governments have spent over the past two decades on the climate issue. Yet activists keep complaining governments aren’t doing anything, either.

One begins to suspect they are not being up front about what they really want.

Politically minded observers might conclude activists do not care about the climate per se but instead want to impose a big-government central planning regime — for which the supposed climate emergency is merely a pretext. Any response to their demands that leaves the market system intact is therefore inadequate.

So where should Bezos direct his money?

If he really wants to make the world a better place, he should fund the invention of a low-cost carbon scrubber. If ever someone could invent a device that filters carbon dioxide out of a smokestack or tailpipe and turns it into a stable solid that can be cheaply disposed of or even used for another purpose, all for under $5 or $10 per tonne, the entire climate change issue would vanish.

Such a scrubber would mean we could carry on using fossil fuels while decoupling them from greenhouse gas emissions. We would continue getting all the benefits of cheap fossil energy without any climate side-effects. This is what we did with sulphur dioxide. The invention of sulphur scrubbers meant we could keep enjoying the benefits of fossil energy without the harm of acid rain. Now let’s do the same with carbon dioxide.

The only reason climate change is such a big, intractable worldwide issue is precisely that we cannot currently decouple fossil fuel use from carbon dioxide emissions, so trying to achieve deep emission reductions means imposing harsh costs on the world economy. But if carbon dioxide could be cheaply reduced while we continued to burn fossil fuels, that problem would be resolved.

Prototype Anti-smog Device

Once you realize this, you can then complete the thought-experiment by posing the question: Who would be the saddest people in the world if a cheap carbon-scrubber were invented? Answer: climate activists. They would almost certainly be bitterly crestfallen if ever an inexpensive technological fix resolved the climate issue. I say this because they so often give the impression their real motivation is not concern about the climate but rather a strange abhorrence of the modern world. The giveaway is their angry reaction to any information showing climate change isn’t a crisis — even though they of all people should be most cheered when such research appears.

Here is a useful litmus test for whether you or someone you know is an environmentally conscious person who wants to take a responsible stance on the climate issue.

Suppose Bezos funds a project that does invent a cheap carbon-scrubber and he gives away the technology so that overnight the need for climate policy vanishes (other than a requirement to use the scrubber). Our entire apparatus of climate policy would then become unnecessary. Ethanol mandates, electric vehicle subsidies, energy efficiency regulations, pipeline bans, the coal phaseout, natural gas bans for new homes, the oilsands emissions cap, et cetera — all of it could be eliminated and carbon dioxide emissions would plummet nonetheless. The Paris treaty would be redundant. There would be no more “conferences of the parties,” no more UN summits, and an end to the vast climate bureaucracies around the world — all of it replaced by quick, cheap and easy emission reductions. The litmus question:

Would that strike you as wonderful news or leave you bereft, your purpose in life lost?

“Wonderful news” is the correct answer. If you got it wrong, please stop blocking roads and railways and get some psychological help.

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph.

Not to mention no more Fridays for the Future.

What If the US Banned Fracking?

Other posts have addressed the murky science underneath the claim that burning fossil fuels makes the earth warmer, and the alarmist claims that a warmer world is more dangerous than a colder one. This post takes up the issue that even if rising human CO2 emission were causing dangerous warming, what are the likely consequences of policies to cut down on carbon-based energy. Text below in italics comes from sources listed as links at the end.

This issue arises in the US context because presidential candidates of leftist stripes have pledged to do away with fracking operations and forego the resulting boom in natural gas and tight oil production.

The Narrative

“I will ban fracking—everywhere.”
— Elizabeth Warren

“Any proposal to avert the climate crisis must include a full fracking ban on public and private lands.”
— Bernie Sanders

“I favor a ban on new fracking and a rapid end to existing fracking.”
— Pete Buttigieg

“I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you, I guarantee you we’re gonna end fossil fuel.”
— Joe Biden

And don’t forget the Democratic 2016 nominee whose election was narrowly averted by the Trump surprise:

“So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”
– Hillary Clinton in 2016

In other words, she declared her intention to follow the Obama program: Regulate anything that moves until it stops moving.

Some skeptics caution against overreacting to electioneering rhetoric, citing the practical limits of presidential authority to implement a ban on fracking. But “elections have consequences,” executive orders have an impact, and few industries have been subjected to such consistent attack and misinformation. It might be hard to imagine serious proposals to ban, say, farming or at least all grain farms, but it would be theoretically possible to do so by radically increasing imports. Administrative agencies can pursue creative interpretations of the labyrinth of rules and issue aggressive “guidances.” A broad and coordinated set of such actions can slow or outright stop all manner of industrial activities up and down supply chains, including, especially, the construction of vital pipelines and ports. And lest one forget, Congress enacted legislation in 1972 and 1982 to ban oil production on about 90% of America’s offshore domains.

A detailed analysis has been performed by the Global Energy Institute. The updated report is What if . . . Hydraulic Fracturing Was Banned?

The Economic Benefits of the Shale Revolution and the Consequences of Ending It.

The Reality

The extraction of oil and gas through the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (colloquially, “fracking”) has catapulted the United States into leadership of the world’s energy markets. Since 2007, fracking has doubled U.S. oil production and increased gas production by 60%. Instead of a major importer, America is rapidly becoming the largest exporter of oil and is expected to supply the majority of net new energy traded on global markets over the next two decades.

If the U.S. imposed a fracking ban, the supply disruption would trigger the biggest oil and natural gas price spikes in history—almost certainly by more than 200%—which would, in turn, tip the world into recession. Even the expectation that a ban could be enacted would destabilize markets. U.S. imports and the trade imbalance would soar, as would consumers’ spending on energy. To keep the lights on, America would have to nearly double the quantity of coal burned, as well as import up to 1 million barrels of oil per day for dual-fueled power plants that would lose access to natural gas.

A fracking ban, regardless of motivation, is anchored in magical thinking that non-hydrocarbon energy sources could fill a massive global energy shortfall if the U.S. exited the world stage as a major supplier of oil and natural gas. Both fuels will be critical for the global economy for decades to come. The key issue is not whether wind and solar can supply more energy—they can and will—but whether a future American administration would reverse the progress of the last decade in lowering energy prices and enhancing geopolitical stability.”
—Mark Mills, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute

Supply Impact

The study is based on what GEI calls conservative assumptions. These include the continued use of hydraulic fracturing in non-tight oil and gas plays, and a 23.7% annual decline rate for existing shale plays. GEI also assumes a drop in gas exports to Mexico, and increase in gas imports from Canada, and a shift from LNG exporting to LNG importing—all designed to close the supply/demand gap that would occur as shale gas is phased out.

“Currently, shale production is about 50.5 Bcf/d or 62 percent of U.S. production. Under a hydraulic fracturing ban, production from existing sources would drop significantly due to the field production decline rates. Similarly, natural gas production from tight gas formations would drop quickly as well, since they rely on hydraulic fracturing to generate production,” GEI said.

With gas in tighter supply (see graph above), prices would soar to $12/MMBtu by 2025 (2nd graph below).

Economic Impact

With supply for gas and oil constricted, energy prices would rise dramatically. In addition to $12/MMBtu gas, GEI says that West Intermediate crude would reach about $130/bbl by 2025, or more than double today’s price and nearly double the forecast out to 2025.

“In 2025, the U.S. would lose around 19 million jobs and $2.3 trillion in GDP. For comparison, this is roughly three times the economic impact of the Great Recession of the late 2010s,” GEI said. “Disallowing hydraulic fracturing would shrink the size of the U.S. energy industry and eliminate its ability to cushion the economy against large swings in prices. A ban on hydraulic fracturing would essentially be the worst of both worlds – low production as if prices were low, while the rest of the economy (in the form of millions of households and businesses) struggles to adapt to a doubling of oil prices and quadrupling of natural gas prices,” it said.

The economic results for the nation and for key energy-producing states (as well as two, Michigan and Wisconsin, which are considered to be close in the 2020 election) is shown below.

Why a US Self-embargo is Unicorns All the Way Down

The fracking ban campaign is neither new nor connected only to the politics of this presidential election cycle. The movement emerged from the intersection of two global trends: the expansion of hydrocarbon production; and a time when many pundits and policymakers believe that an “energy transition” to something different is urgently needed. For example, some 400 domestic and international environmental leaders and organizations petitioned the United Nations in September to demand “a global ban on fracking.”[14] Essentially all fracking production is done in the United States.

A ban on fracking would end U.S. exports, cause imports to soar, and increase the trade deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. The more serious impact would come from the shock to global markets. Global oil prices swing widely when markets are surprised by even a 1%–2% change in the supply/demand balance. A fracking ban would entail a loss of 7% of global oil production, comparable to the 7% lost with the infamous 1973 Arab oil embargo—an embargo that drove world oil prices up 400% and triggered a global recession.[25] Similarly, the 1979 Iranian revolution took 5% of oil off global markets. Prices rose more than 200%, sparking another global recession.[26] Today, taking shale production off the market would also constitute an additional 17% loss to global markets in the form of natural gas.[27] Higher energy prices would hit global consumers; Americans would pay more than $100 billion a year at the gas pump alone, an average of $1,000 per household.[28] Even a slow 10-year production phase-out would trigger an estimated two-year recession in America and eliminate $270 billion of private investment.[29] There would be some winners: Russia and OPEC would derive huge revenue and geopolitical benefits.

Losing the share of new electricity generation that is now fueled from natural gas (produced by fracking) would push utilities to increase the use of existing underutilized power plants where they’re available, which are mainly coal-fired.[30] That would increase carbon dioxide emissions by some 600%—more than all emissions avoided from wind and solar on U.S. grids.[31]

Regions heavily dependent on natural gas but with minimal coal capacity would be faced with rolling blackouts—such as New England (where gas currently provides 49% of electricity), the Mid-Atlantic region (38%), and the Pacific coast (30%).[32] Some of that shortfall could come from burning oil in the 130 GW of gas-fired turbines designed to be dual-fueled.[33] If fully utilized, those turbines would burn about 1 mmbd of oil (necessarily imported), a 10-fold increase in U.S. oil-fired power generation.

The Impossibility of Filling the Gap

The central motivation for the movement to ban fracking is the global abundance of hydrocarbons at a time when many pundits and policymakers believe that an “energy transition” is urgently needed. But America’s shale production could not be replaced quickly by alternatives, at any price, regardless of climate-change motivations. To the extent that there is an “energy transition” to new technologies, it is happening in slow motion.

Politically popular wind and solar power have become far less expensive and have enjoyed massive global subsidies; but together, they still provide only 1.8% of global energy. The 5 million electric vehicles on all the world’s roads now displace 0.1% of global oil use.[34]

Replacing the quantity of energy produced by fracking in the U.S. shale fields would entail (in energy-equivalent terms) expanding all of America’s solar and wind production by 2,000% more than what has been added in the past decade.[35] Somehow accomplishing that miracle wouldn’t help the 99% of Americans driving oil-fueled cars. In fact, because the hydrocarbon market is global, the entire world would have to increase global wind and energy supply by 500% to replace the energy that would be lost from an American fracking ban—never mind the additional energy needed to fuel global economic growth.[36]

Resources:

New Study by Global Energy Institute Puts Impact of Fracking Ban at $7.1 Trillion Over Four Years

A Fracking Ban Would Trigger Global Recession

New Chamber Analysis Quantifies Economic Risks of Proposed Fracking Ban

U.S. Chamber of Commerce says proposed fracing ban puts Texas economy at risk

 

EPA Overhaul Long Overdue

Prudent public officials should anticipate that some future periods will be warmer and other periods cooler than today. They should also affirm that cold is the greater threat to human health and prosperity. Thus investments should place priority on building robust infrastructure and ensuring reliable affordable energy. These things can not be achieved if the planning and approval process is so long and costly that needed developments are discouraged or abandoned.

The worst kept secret in US politics is how effectively environmental activists and lawyers have used EPA regulations to block, impair and frequently kill off projects for energy infrastructure. Some regions like the Northeast are lacking natural gas supply pipelines from US sources and are forced to import from Russia, among other foreign producers. Former EPA administrator made the point that some people believe that if you are for the environment you are against development, and if you are for development you are against the environment. Instead the law and the agency have the mission of ensuring environmentally responsible development, recognizing that natural resources are essential to human flourishing.

Thus I welcome this announcement reported in the Wall Street Journal Trump Seeks Overhaul of Federal Environmental Rules  Of course the subtitle say: Environmentalists criticize proposal, saying it will hamper efforts to slow climate change.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

WASHINGTON—President Trump proposed a major overhaul of federal environmental permitting, responding to business complaints of bureaucratic delays to infrastructure projects such as roads and energy pipelines.

“We want to build new roads, bridges and highways bigger and faster,” Mr. Trump said from the White House, adding that the proposal would help create new jobs.

But environmentalists assailed the changes to rules tied to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, saying they would weaken standards at a time when climate change is making federal review even more critical.

“Forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said this week anticipating the overhaul. He called it a “gift to the fossil-fuel industry.”  The administration sees the move as a broad-based effort to modernize rules that have gone largely untouched for more than 40 years.

The primary aim is to shorten the review process to two years—a drastic change given that assessments can now take a decade or more.

“The step we’re taking today…will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common-sense decision-making for a generation,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said on a call with reporters. “The consequences of the government being stuck in place are far-ranging.”

Some projects that don’t have significant federal government funding or involvement might now become more likely to skirt the process altogether, a change likely aimed at helping pipelines in particular. For projects that do have to go through the NEPA review process, the changes would clarify what environmental effects agencies have to plan for and what future changes to the environment permit reviews will have to consider in advance. The stated goal is to limit reviews to environmental risks more directly associated with a project.

Critics fear that is a major setback for planning around climate change. Administration officials say agencies would still have the option to include climate-change risks in their permitting processes. But infrastructure experts and environmentalists say any weakening in that connection would be a step in the wrong direction as the effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced and society needs stronger rules to adapt to those emerging risks.

Issuing this proposal is an early step in what could be a lengthy process. There will be at least two months of public comment starting when the proposal is published on Friday, administration officials said. Many more months of review will likely follow that before any changes are finalized.

Many expect the administration won’t have enough time to finish an overhaul if Mr. Trump isn’t re-elected in November. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, on Thursday called the rewrite illegal, potentially foreshadowing several lawsuits that could further delay an overhaul.

The president on several occasions has criticized the environmental permitting process as a bureaucratic barrier to economic development. Many lawmakers and economists say that America needs to fix a backlog of infrastructure needs, which the administration has pegged at roughly $1 trillion.

In recent months, the administration has turned its attention to addressing several bedrock environmental laws and changes aimed at jump-start development. A plan to overhaul NEPA would be the latest in a series of moves that have also tried to limit the reach of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, especially in how much those laws require consideration of risks associated with climate change. The NEPA review process can serve as the ultimate fail-safe on environmentally unsound projects.

But energy companies and manufacturers in particular have argued that NEPA, in recent decades, has become a tool for environmentalists to block progress. Since its last update, major roads and pipeline projects have become harder to complete and a drilling boom has led to an expansion of oil-and-gas production nationwide. Industrial interests have asked for a modernization to improve efficiency and consistency in permitting across federal agencies.

“The administration’s modernization of NEPA removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects needed for U.S. producers to deliver energy in a safe and environmentally protective way,” said Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration & Production Council, a trade group for some of the country’s largest independent oil-and-gas companies.

Environmental groups have been concerned that an attempt to streamline NEPA permitting would degrade its ability to protect the environment. They have criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 decision to eliminate letter grades that often came as guidance in the process. Such changes can make NEPA reviews less helpful to the public and weaken a process designed to prevent oil spills and other environmental accidents, environmentalists said.

Footnote:  

Convoluted and CO2 obsessive regulations are a large factor leading to the Australian bushfires.  Also, Canada is unable to build a badly needed pipeline expansion that the federal government wants and owns because of the same kind of onerous environmental permitting processes.

Aussies’ Choice: Burn Cool or Burn Hot

Global Warming is Not to Blame for the Horrific Bush fires in Australia by Jon Gaunt, writing from England on the distorted media coverage, published at Sputnik

There I have said the unsayable but don’t hold your breath, you will not hear that on the MSM biased broadcasters like Sky or BBC.

Of course, this is only my opinion but it is an opinion held by millions and deserves to be heard surely?

I hoped after the media bias over the Brexit debate and the General election that the MSM broadcasters would stop emoting and get back to reporting but alas my optimism was misplaced.

It appears to me that because the BBC and Sky News lost the Remainer narrative and the trash Boris agenda and the British public that they have now switched their attention and propaganda machine to promote climate change danger and the agenda of Greta.

The BBC seem determined and desperate to blame the horrific fires in Australia on their global warming agenda and seem very reluctant to mention that over a hundred people have already been arrested for setting fires.

Arson has always been a feature of these annual bush fires and of course the fires themselves are not a new phenomenon either.

I’m not denying that the extremely hot temperatures and dry weather haven’t contributed to the scale of the disaster but isn’t it a reporter’s job to give all sides of a story?

Like many people I don’t doubt that Global warming is happening but I am not convinced that is man-made and that opinion should be reflected in reports.

This is not a game, people have died and many are missing and hundreds of people have or are going to lose their homes.

This is not a time for sixth form, pig tailed, Greta style politicising and propaganda tricks to push the green agenda.

Which of course always ends at the same destination. With working class people losing their manufacturing jobs and being taxed to the hilt when they start ‘Burger flipping’. Meanwhile preaching pop stars and Royals still fly around the globe in private jets whilst paying to offset their carbon ‘Birkenstock’ footprint.

It is, if you pardon the image, all smoke and mirrors and broadcasters should be ashamed of themselves particularly the State one that we pay for via a compulsory poll tax.

Last night the BBC reported/emoted on the fires and then followed it with a report about the last decade being the second hottest on record. The implication was clear and was almost the media manipulation of a five-year-old.

Do they really think that we are that thick? Unfortunately, I believe that they do. It would appear that to use a football chant, ‘two referendums and one election’ has taught them absolutely nothing.

Aussie PM, Scott Morrison, on a visit to Cobargo a town that has almost been destroyed by the fires, got a real hard time from angry and distraught residents yesterday and rightly so.

He was a complete idiot to go to Hawaii whilst his country burned. However, the visit and the refusal by one firefighter to shake his hand was interpreted by the biased broadcasters as if these people were green activists rather than people who had lost their homes and were bloody angry with the establishment class for ignoring them.

These people telling him he was a “Fu*kwit and to pi** off didn’t strike me as green activists or members of Extinction rebellion, no these were normal people who felt let down and forgotten by the political class. Is that attitude ringing any bells with you?

Have you seen the video of the Australian who has a completely different narrative of what has caused these fires? Although his language is extremely fruity, to say the least, his point is that it is actually green activists that have led to the scale of these fires because they have forced farmers to stop burning their scrubland in the winter months which used to create natural fire breaks. This is a tradition that goes back centuries and was actually practiced by the original indigenous Australian Aboriginal population. This possible cause is echoed all over social media today in many tweets from the affected area today.

But that didn’t stop Caroline Lucas the Green Party’s only MP in the UK from entering the fray with a tweet with a link to an article in (you guessed it) the Guardian saying, ‘This is what Climate Emergency looks like – completely terrifying. Honestly, what further devastation needs to happen before world leaders finally put in place urgent climate action at the scale and speed the science demands?’

However, she has had her fingers burnt with angry exchanges on Twitter from people who actually live in New South Wales.

One British ex-pat, Terry Stone, angrily answered her tweet with the following, ‘You have no clue what is happening here. Green lobby stupid restrictions on controlled burns & removal of dead wood is primary reason these fires cannot be controlled. Listen to multiple generations of land owners and keep your mouth shut, you might learn something.’

Another tweeted, ‘I’m a rural Victoria resident. In addition to less burning off than used to happen, we’re restricted collecting dead wood in forests for our wood burners at home (principal heating) in case we inadvertently squish rare lizard or such. And then millions of animals die instead. Ugh’

Have you heard these views on Sky or the BBC? No of course not because Sky are too busy rabidly pushing the ‘woke’ agenda and today they had the leading climate change purveyor of doom and gloom, George Monbiot from (yes, you’ve guessed it) the Guardian on their programme.

Monbiot condemned, and was unchallenged, the Aussie Pm and stated that the Bush fires were a prime example of climate breakdown and that we need political leaders who are going to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Again, this ludicrous statement went unchallenged. In fact, the person Sky chose to conduct this debate and I use the term really loosely was some sort of PR guy who was on to suggest how Morrison could rebuild his reputation after the disaster. Putting aside the fact that Morrison has just won another election why was a PR man on. Why not use someone like James Delingpole or any other climate change sceptic to challenge Monbiot’s views? Well we all know the answer to that one, don’t we!

Sky News backed up Monbiot’s simplistic ludicrous blame game by reminding viewers and their internet readers that “Rewind a few years and he (Morrison) was brandishing a lump of coal in parliament, taunting those he described as having a “pathological fear of coal” and lauding the fossil fuel he said was powering Australia’s economy and underpinning jobs.” Is this what Sky call impartial and balanced reporting?

But unfortunately for George, Sly News and the climate change fanatics Morrison was correct as Australia is the biggest net exporter of coal and is the world’s fourth-largest producer. Over 175,000 people are either directly or indirectly employed in the industry.

In the real world a leader has to balance these real factors before looking to be loved by the MSM broadcasters and avoid the death stare of Greta!

The BBC and Sky’s simplistic and biased telling of this story is almost turning them into the Greta Broadcasting Corporation where they tell us the problem but only half of the solution.

So, called man made global warming is not the primary villain in this story.

The people who are responsible for: the 17 deaths so far, the hundreds of houses destroyed and lives ruined, the burning alive of half a billion animals and the torching of over 5 Billion hectares of land and forest and thousands of Aussies being evacuated from beaches are not those who dig coal but those who despise those who dig coal or work the land.

See Also Arctic On Fire! Not.

Footnote: So how do you want your bush fires, some small ones now or mega fires later?