On September 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments in the litigation over President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). If implemented, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation will require states to develop and bring into force plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants.
The focus for opponents of the CPP will be its questionable legality. However, the nine judges hearing the case should also keep in mind that the rules are pointless. The CPP will have no measurable impact on climate.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has repeatedly admitted this before Congressional hearings. She maintains that the CPP is still worthwhile because, to quote from her September 18, 2013 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, it “is part of an overall strategy that is positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion, because climate change requires a global effort.”
Setting a good example would make sense if it were known that a man-made climate crisis was imminent and developing nations, the source of most of the world’s emissions, were likely to follow our lead.
But developing countries have indicated that they have no intention of following us. They will not limit their development for ‘climate protection’ purposes.
For example, on July 18, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said about the Paris climate agreement, “You are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement… That’s stupid. I will not honor that.”
Duterte can say this with a clear conscience. The United Framework Convention on Climate Change, the foundation of the Paris Agreement, gives an out clause for developing nations. Article 4 of the treaty states, “Economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”
Actions to significantly reduce CO2 emissions would entail dramatically cutting back on the use of coal, the source of 81 percent of China’s electricity, 71 percent of India’s, and 29 percent of that of the Philippines. As coal is by far the least expensive source of electric power in most of the world, reducing CO2 emissions by restricting coal use would unquestionably interfere with development priorities. So developing countries simply won’t do it.
From a climate change perspective, it probably won’t matter. After all, even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that surface temperature, averaged over the land and ocean, increased only about 1.5 degrees between 1880 to 2012 despite a reputed 36 percent rise in atmospheric CO2 content. And it is well known that the impact of CO2 rise diminishes as the concentration increases.
Given also that there has been no general increase in extreme weather or the rate of sea level rise, the primary rationale for actions to restrict CO2 emissions boils down to the possibility of dangerous climate change in the future.
Obama summed up this concern in his September 20 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, saying, “If we don’t act boldly [to restrict emissions], the bill that could come due will be mass migrations, and cities submerged and nations displaced, and food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair.”
Obama’s forecasts are based on computer models of future climate states, simulations that have failed in the real world. In his February 2, 2016, testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology, Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, said, “These models failed at the simple test of telling us ‘what’ has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to ‘what’ may happen in the future and ‘why.’”
After polling 9.7 million people from 194 countries, the U.N.’s My World global survey finds that “action taken on climate change” rates dead last out of the 16 suggested priorities for the agency. The judges hearing the CPP case must realize that, in comparison with access to reliable energy, better health care, government honesty, a good education, etc., most people across the world do not care about climate change. They understand that we have real problems to solve.