Posts tagged with: climate change

Right about now, the Supreme Court of the United States should be hearing the beginning arguments in Massachusetts, et al., v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al. (05-1120). Not much attention has been paid to this case over the last few months, but recently a spate of media attention has arisen, citing this case as perhaps “the most important environmental case in many years,” as well as “one of the biggest environmental cases in years.” (Jonathan Adler responds to the NYT editorial at The Volokh Conspiracy.)

There are reasons to doubt the hype surrounding this case, however, and not just because of the dubiousness of the scientific “consensus” on climate change.

A spate of amici briefs Atlantic Legal Foundation and the National Council of Churches (PDF), the latter of which argues in part that scientific “uncertainty alone cannot justify inaction. To decide rationally whether climate change may ‘endanger public health or welfare,’ EPA must consider the harm that would result if the risk of climate change, however uncertain, is realized.” As I have argued against similar views elsewhere, such claims bring economic considerations, especially cost/benefit analysis of action vs. inaction, to the fore, which do not necessarily bear out the conclusion that the potential harm necessitates political action.

In fact, the EPA is not citing scientific uncertainty as its sole justification for refraining from regulatory action. One of its main claims is that it lacks the statutory authority to regulate CO2 emissions, and thus a large part of the case hinges on interpretation of certain provisions of the Clean Air Act.

Regarding the complexity of the case, Hugh Hewitt writes that “in one case do we get important issues of standing, legislative intent, deference to administrative agencies and, of course, the debate over global warming.”

He concludes, “The argument will be one worth listening to very closely, and the decision when it arrives in the spring will be, I predict, a duel between the justices who take seriously the idea of a Court of limited jurisdiction versus those justices eager for the EPA to get on with the urgent business of grappling with climate change.”

In a helpful overview of the case, Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog notes a similar concerns of a group of conservative law professors, including Robert H. Bork, that the petitioners’ claim is

part of a multi-faceted effort to draw the federal courts into one of the most important and controversial foreign policy and political battles of our time….Petitioners seek to remake U.S. climate change policy through litigation in the federal courts.

Likewise Rivkin and Casey in today’s WSJ, who filed an amicus brief in the case, conclude that “if economic growth is to be sacrificed because of global warming fears, the decision should be taken by Congress and the president, the people’s elected representatives, and not by the courts.”

At its current state, the petitioners’ claims were denied in a 2-1 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court, after which the appeal by the petitioners came to the Supreme Court. John Gartner of Wired’s Autopia warns, “If the Court sides with the EPA, it will be further proof that the judicial branch of government is out of step with the populace,” a claim which, while perhaps true, seems to advocate legislation from the bench.

Despite such rhetoric, the case has two major components, focusing not only on the science of climate change but on the question of the appropriate governmental authority to make policy decisions. Denniston summarizes it this way:

The controversy pursued in the briefs thus focuses heavily on the harms believed to arise from global warming, countered by the claims that the science on climate change is still evolving and uncertain. But equal controversy has arisen over what might be called the separation-of-powers issue: who decides how to attack the perceived problem of climate change?

Because of the multi-faceted nature of the case’s arguments, Denniston writes that this decision could end up not setting a major precedent on the politics of climate change: “Before the Court ever reached the ‘global warming’ problem, it could be stopped by a maze of procedural issues, as well as by a bold challenge to the judiciary’s power to take on the problem.”

Update: Autopia’s John Gartner now says that the court’s greenhouse ruling “won’t matter,” at least in the short-term.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
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The UN has been busy updating the Chicken Little fable into a contemporary context. You know the story where the little chick runs around crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

In this edition, however, the looming disaster is (predictably) climate change. The news comes courtesy of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (HT: NewsBusters).

Sedna, the Mother of the Sea

The Gaia motif is perhaps the most revealing part, as in “Tore and the Town on Thin Ice,” (PDF) the title character is visited by “Sedna, the Mother of the Sea” who claims to be “the one who created and cares for the sea creatures – whales and walruses, seals and fish.”

Sedna is the Inuit goddess of the sea, and apparently the link between environmentalism and paganism is a natural one at the United Nations Environment Programme.

Of course the Christian faith provides a more than adequate basis for true stewardship of the environment, which neither divinizes the creation nor absolutizes human power over the world.

The Lord who “created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind” also made man the “ruler over the works” of his hands, including “the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

If it is true that the sea life is suffering, I think it is less a sign of the distress of Sedna than it is something else…the day of the Lord, perhaps? See what some of the prophets have to say about this, particularly Ezekiel and Zephaniah.

But perhaps that story is too scary for the UN. It prefers the Chicken Little myth and the illusion both that human action is the direct cause of and the potential solution for all disasters.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, November 2, 2006
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Bjørn Lomborg responds to the Stern Report (discussed here) in today’s WSJ, “Stern Review.”

About a month ago I posted some responses to the editorial position taken at the Economist. One of their claims was with regard to the Kyoto Protocol and that “European Union countries and Japan will probably hit their targets, even if Canada does not.”

At the time I registered skepticism with respect to these estimates. Turns out my skepticism was well-founded.

From Wired News:

Between 1990 and 2004, emissions of all industrialized countries decreased by 3.3 percent, mostly because of a 36.8 percent decrease in the former Soviet bloc, the U.N. reported. Since 2000, however, those “economies in transition” have increased emissions by 4.1 percent.

Well, I’ve examined the decreased emissions in Russia before, which has been due in large part not to any government action but by the extensive contraction of the Russian manufacturing sector. The decrease in carbon emissions came at a huge economic cost, all of which was incidental and unrelated to the ratification of Kyoto.

More from Wired,

Of the 41 industrialized nations, 34 increased emissions between 2000 and 2004, the U.N. reported…. Among countries bound by Kyoto, Germany’s emissions dropped 17 percent between 1990 and 2004, Britain’s by 14 percent and France’s by almost 1 percent, the U.N. reported. But Kyoto signatories such as Japan, Italy and Spain have registered emissions increases since 1990.

Looks like Russia might have some buyers for those carbon credits after all.

In a report commissioned by the UK government, Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, argues that the cost of waiting to take action to curb CO2 emissions will outpace other economic arguments against action on climate change.

The BBC reports (HT: Slashdot) that Stern found “that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%,” but that this opportunity cost for not taking action immediately could be offset by moving now: “Taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says.” This is essentially the same economic argument I’ve previously used against action on climate change, but reversed to endorse action.

UK prime minister Tony Blair echoed the report’s conclusions, “For every ਱ invested now we can save ਵ, or possibly more, by acting now.”

“We can’t wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto – we simply don’t have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto),” Blair said.

The BBC claims that Stern’s report “is the first major contribution to the global warming debate by an economist, rather than a scientist.” This may be true in a sense, but the Copenhagen Consensus of 2004 embodies the conclusions of a number of economists, although it does not, in point of fact, examine the issue at a length in excess of 700 pages.

The conclusions of the consensus differ from Stern’s. Robert W. Fogel writes, “The environment is considered to be important, but it is not yet time to do anything massive about climate change. But with continued research and development (R&D) it will be possible to address future catastrophes and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

Vernon L. Smith concludes, “It is clear from both the science and the economics of intervention that those of us who care about the environment are not well advised to favour initiating a costly attempt to reduce greenhouse gases (ghgs) build-up in the atmosphere in the near future based on available information. Although the ultimate dangers may turn out to prompt action, the current evidence indicates that it is much too soon to act relative to the many other important and pressing opportunities that demand immediate attention.”

The group’s consensus is, however, that our knowledge of the problem and potential solutions will increase over time, so that they leave open the possibility of recommending action in the future. Nancy L. Stokey sums it up well: “Future decision makers will be better equipped to decide whether more aggressive action is needed.”

Is two more years long enough? Have we learned enough in the intervening period to give greater weight to Stern’s conclusions?

One other item that Stern notes is that he’s hopeful about the possibility of curbing climate change. “I’m optimistic – having done this review – that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently,” he says.

Stern puts the emphasis on acting internationally. “Unless it’s international, we will not make the reductions on the scale which will be required,” says Stern. Just what international organization is envisioned as the arbiter of global climate change policy? The UN? The WTO? Or some as-yet uncreated entity, a la the Kyoto Protocol?

In the review summary (PDF), Stern writes, “The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol and a range of other informal partnerships and dialogues provide a framework that supports co-operation, and a foundation from which to build further collective action.”

Update: Arnold Kling adds some commentary on the report over at EconLog.

Futher Update: Not too surprisingly, an OPEC spokesman contends that the Stern report propounds “scenarios that have no foundations in either science or economics.”

Blog author: jballor
Saturday, October 21, 2006
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In the latest Interfaith Stewardship Alliance newsletter, dated Oct. 21, Cal Beisner passes along his response to the letters sent by Bill Moyers’ legal counsel (background on the matter with related links here).

Here’s what Beisner says as related through his own counsel:

Your letter of October 18, 2006, to Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and your letter of October 19, 2006, to Dr. E. Calvin Beisner have been sent to me by my clients for reply.

I have carefully examined the language in the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter dated October 9, 2006, that you contend in your October 18 letter is defamatory of your client, Bill Moyers. My examination of that language in the light of applicable United States Supreme Court opinions and those from other jurisdictions as well as major treatises on defamation forces me to the opinion that the language is not legally capable of a defamatory meaning. I would be pleased to review any authority you have that you believe supports your position.

Dr. Beisner is troubled by the fracturing of the relationship with your client and desires to attempt to restore that relationship outside of the civil courts as Christians are admonished to do in First Corinthians chapter six. He was preparing to do this before he received your first letter, which necessitated his seeking legal counsel. He sincerely believes that he accurately summarized in the newsletter his recollection of a private conversation with your client that was not recorded prior to the interview on camera. He also believes his recollection may have been influenced by a conversation he and your client had on the way to the airport following the interview. Finally, he stands by the opinions expressed that you challenge in your letter.

Accordingly, your demands in your letters are rejected. Should you be able to call to my attention applicable authority in support of your position which is persuasive, then your demands will be reconsidered.

Beisner concludes by saying of Moyers, “While I understood from the conversation that he was a Democrat, I accept his representation that he is an independent.”

In the meantime, Don Bosch has compiled a series of quotes from Moyers which show the political direction of his thinking about evangelicals and climate change. “How wide is the gap between a ‘political agenda’ and expressing a point of view,” wonders Don. With the “circumstantial evidence” in hand, Don writes, “A long stretch to ‘dividing the evangelical vote?’ I’ll let you decide that for yourself.”

Blog author: dwbosch
Monday, October 16, 2006
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Dr. Joel Hunter, President of the Christian Coalition and Pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, FL, Dr. Paul De Vries, National Association of Evangelicals board member and President of New York Theological Seminary, and Rev. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and civil rights leader held a teleconference last Thursday to "address the importance of this issue to their communities and will take questions from reporters about the Statement, the Call to Action, and the potential implications of both on the American religious and political landscape."

(more…)

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 13, 2006
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David Roberts of Grist magazine, responding to his recent read of George Monbiot’s new book Heat, wrote about skeptics of climate change:

When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.

Following this, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works issued a statement calling Roberts to task and deemed his comments to be part of a broader movement, noting a “new found penchant by environmentalists and some media members to charge skeptics of human caused catastrophic global warming with ‘crimes against humanity’ and urge Nuremberg-style prosecution of them.”

Roberts later responds by saying that he “was, as might be obvious, rather angry,” and that “Too often, this kind of thing is treated like a partisan political squabble, a game of rhetorical sparring between the ‘sides’ of a debate.” Not much rhetorical about calling for Nuremburg-style criminal tribunals, though, eh?

Yesterday the New York Times editorialized and took Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, to task, “He accuses scientists and the media of hysteria. But if there is such a thing as a hysteria of doubt, then Mr. Inhofe is its master.” Might the Times editorial staff be amenable to the sorts of trials Roberts called for?

If the scientific case is so rock solid and the consensus is so sure, why are climate change believers so worried about criticism? Are they truly that thin-skinned? Or is the evidence perhaps not as airtight as they would have us believe?

Talk about an affront to a free and open public debate.


Call it something like an anthropological Rorschach test. What do you see when you look at the picture above? Do you see more than just a ‘carbon footprint’?

It’s a fair question to ask, I think, of those who are a part of the radical environmentalist/population control political lobby. It’s also a note of caution to fellow Christians who want to build bridges with those folks…there is a complex of interrelated policies that are logically consistent once you assume the tenets of secular environmentalism.

Some worldviews just aren’t compatible with others.

Rev. Richard Cizik, the point-man on environmental policy for the National Association of Evangelicals, said in a speech earlier this year to the World Bank:

I’d like to take on the population issue, but in my community global warming is the third rail issue. I’ve touched the third rail . . . but still have a job. And I’ll still have a job after my talk here today. But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. . . We need to confront population control and we can — we’re not Roman Catholics after all — but it’s too hot to handle now.

Just how much has secularist misanthropy already infiltrated our thinking?

For more on the connection between the climate change lobby and population control, see the newly released joint paper from the Acton Institute and the Institute on Religion & Democracy, “From Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative'” (PDF here).

At the request of Andy Crouch, who is among other things editorial director for The Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today, I have taken a look at the editorial from The Economist’s special issue from Sept. 9.

To recap, Andy asked me, “what are your thoughts about The Economist’s special report on climate change last week, in which they conclude that the risks of climate change, and the likely manageable cost of mitigation, warrant the world, and especially the US, taking prompt action?”

He continues, “This is, obviously, a magazine with impeccable liberal economic (not to mention journalistic) credentials, and one of the sponsors of the Copenhagen Consensus that raised questions about the wisdom of prioritizing climate change. I believe they would not have taken this editorial position five years ago. Do you think they are mistaken in doing so now? What do you see as the salient evidence they missed, if so?”

The special report consists of a number of articles examining the issue of climate change and are available for purchase as a PDF set here. (more…)