Archive | Climate Change

2012 Was the Warmest Year on Record (for the Continental U.S.)

This week the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. NOAA’s not the only one to reach this conclusion. As Ron Bailey noted“here, 2012 was also the warmest year in the continental U.S. in the 34-year satellite temperature record (but not the hottest year globally). Indeed, as Bailey notes here, 2012 tops five separate temperature records. Globally, however, 2012 was not the warmest on record — but it was still in the top ten. [...]

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Mann v. Steyn — CEI SLAPPs Back

Earlier this week, Rand Simberg and the Competitive Enterprise Institute replied to Michael Mann’s libel suit. Specifically, they filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and, more interestingly, a special motion to dismiss under the District of Columbia’s Anti-SLAPP Act. As I noted here, Mann exposed himself to this motion by choosing to file his case in D.C. Superior Court.

Under D.C. Code Section 16-5502(b), a defendant in a libel action who is being sued for a written or oral statement made “in connection with an issue of public interest” is entitled to have the suit dismissed unless the plaintiff can show that “the claim is likely to succeed on the merits.” Further, the statute provides that filing the special motion stays discovery proceedings unless particular showings can be made. Given that global warming and climate policy are unquestionably issues of public interest (defined by the statute to include environmental issues), the relevant statements are clearly covered. So in order to prevail Mann will not only have to show that Simberg and CEI made provably false statements of fact concerning him that were defamatory, he will also have to show that Simberg and CEI made knowingly false statements or make their statements in “reckless disregard” of the truth — and that is notoriously difficult to do, particularly in the context of heated political debate. Further, Mann is unlikely to have the benefit of discovery to assist in his claims. Should Simberg and CEI prevail with this motion, they will be able to seek recovery of their legal costs. All of this makes me wonder why Mann chose D.C. as the venue for his suit.

My prior posts on this case are here, here, and here. [...]

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Little Change in Global Drought

Evidence of global warming can be found in a global increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, right? That’s what scientists thought, but a new paper in Nature finds no evidence that warmer temperatures in recent decades have correlated with (let alone caused) an increase in droughts. Contrary to what the IPCC had concluded in its 2007 assessment, the new analysis finds “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.” Roger Pielke Jr. has more. [...]

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Mann v. Steyn — The Defendants Respond

On Monday, famed climate scientist Michael Mann filed suit against National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute over some allegedly defamatory blog posts. Now some of the defendants have responded.

Here is CEI’s official response, and a legal analysis from their lawyer. Of note, while CEI refused to apologize for the initial blog post (which was edited long before Mann threatened to file suit), it has offered to publish Mann’s response on their climate blog, an offer Mann has refused. Perhaps this is because, as Mann has commented on his Facebook page, ” There is a larger context for this latest development, namely the onslaught of dishonest and libelous attacks that climate scientists have endured for years by dishonest front groups seeking to discredit the case for concern over climate change.” Of course is Mann is suing others for defamation, he may wish to be more careful about repeatedly attacking them as “front groups” for industry.

Mark Steyn has a few posts on NRO’s the Corner — here, here, and here — suggesting he’s not too worried about the suit. Watt’s Up With That rounds up more reactions here.

As I noted here, I’m skeptical of the suit. Here’s additional analysis from Ken at Popehat and Public Citizen’s Paul Alan Levy.

An interesting twist in this case is the fact that Mann filed his suit in D.C. Superior Court, which means it is subject to the District’s anti-SLAPP suit law which makes it particularly difficult to maintain libel and defamation suits. Alison Frankel explains:

The law, in effect, shifts the way courts decide motions to dismiss, doing away with the assumption that the plaintiffs’ allegations are true. It also restricts discovery, so plaintiffs usually have to show they’re likely to prevail without

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Mann v. Steyn — Popcorn Time

Climatologist Michael Mann, creator of the infamous “hockey stick” graph, has filed suit against National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for allegedly defamatory blog posts attacking Mann and his work. Dr. Mann has posted a release about the suit on his Facebook page. I’ll post links to the complaint once it’s on-line. In the meantime, here’s my prior post on the controversy.

Given that Dr. Mann is a public figure and a prominent participant in climate policy debates, and that debate over the soundness of the “hockey stick” graph continues, I am skeptical of this suit — and I say this as someone who believes human activity is contributing to climate change and supports appropriate policy responses. All sorts of outrageous charges are made all the time in the rough and tumble of the current climate debate, and many people forthrightly believe that Mann and others have cut corners in their scientific research. I think this will make it difficult for Mann to show that those involved acted with “reckless disregard” of the truth. I also doubt the courts will be too eager to police the word choices of polemical blog posts made by political commentators in the course of heated policy debates. Then again, I’m not being paid to offer a professional opinion on this matter, and Dr. Mann has retained prominent counsel. Stay tuned.

[Disclosure: I am a contributing editor at National Review Online, for which I write occasional articles and blog posts, and I worked for CEI in the 1990s. I have not discussed the merits of this suit with anyone in either organization.]

UPDATE: Here is Michael Mann’s complaint. BLT covers the story here.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn responds here. Ken at Popehat comments here. [...]

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En Banc Petitions in D.C. Circuit Greenhouse Gas Litigation

Earlier this month, several of the parties challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act filed petitions for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned away all of the state and industry challenges to the EPA’s rules. I summarized the court’s decision here, and provide greater background on the EPA’s regulations and associated policy issues here.

The en banc petitions stress the unusual magnitude and importance of the regulations at issue, as well they should, but that’s often not enough for en banc review. Nor are protestations that that the original panel muffed the merits (case in point), particularly where (as here) most of the issues could be resolved on traditional administrative law grounds. The industry argument that the panel erred in refusing to force the EPA to consider potential adaptation to climate change, for example, is a non-starter. Even if the panel got this question wrong (and I don’t believe it did), that’s not the sort of question that is worthy of en banc review.

There is one issue, however, that could well be en banc-worthy: the panel’s conclusion that industry petitioners lacked standing to challenge the EPA’s so-called “tailoring rule.” While the strict application of Article III standing requirements is nothing new on the D.C. Circuit, here the panel applied the standing rules to prevent the object of a government action from challenging the lawfulness of that action, on the grounds that the harm would not be redressable by a favorable ruling on the merits. Though a plausible reading of the relevant standing precedents, this is a holding that could insulate all manner of regulatory action from judicial [...]

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Mann v. Steyn

Penn State climatologist Michael Mann, he of the infamous “Hockey stick” graph, is threatening to sue Mark Steyn and National Review for a blog post on NRO in which Steyn (quoting Rand Simberg) compared Penn State’s investigation of scientific misconduct allegations against Mann with the same university’s initial investigation of Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State football program. Steyn called Mann’s hockey-stick graph “fraudulent” and Penn State’s investigation of Mann’s conduct in the wake of the “ClimateGate” e-mail scandal, “a joke.”

Steyn’s comments may have been over the top, but are they worth a lawsuit? Mann thinks so, and has threatened to sue if NRO does not remove the offending blog post.

A month later, the blog post is still there, and National Review is not backing down. Here’s the response from their lawyer, which notes (correctly in my view) that Mann is a public figure who would have to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that NR published “a provably false statement” with actual knowledge the statement was false or “reckless disregard” for the truth or falsity of the statement. Further, the letter notes, in order to defend itself NR would be entitled to seek discovery, and in the process obtain access to e-mails and other records that Mann has, thus far, resisted disclosing in various freedom-of-information suits prompted by ClimateGate. Writes NR editor Rich Lowry:

Usually, you don’t welcome a nuisance lawsuit, because it’s a nuisance. It consumes time. It costs money. But this is a different matter in light of one word: discovery.

If Mann sues us, the materials we will need to mount a full defense will be extremely wide-ranging. So if he files a complaint, we will be doing more than fighting a nuisance lawsuit; we will be embarking on a

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Lessons from British Columbia’s Carbon Tax

In yesterday’s NYT, Yoram Bauman and Shi-Ling Hsu explained why the U.S. would be wise to follow British Columbia’s example and impose a carbon tax and use the revenues to reduce other tax rates.

On Sunday, the best climate policy in the world got even better: British Columbia’s carbon tax — a tax on the carbon content of all fossil fuels burned in the province — increased from $25 to $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, making it more expensive to pollute.

This was good news not only for the environment but for nearly everyone who pays taxes in British Columbia, because the carbon tax is used to reduce taxes for individuals and businesses. Thanks to this tax swap, British Columbia has lowered its corporate income tax rate to 10 percent from 12 percent, a rate that is among the lowest in the Group of 8 wealthy nations. Personal income taxes for people earning less than $119,000 per year are now the lowest in Canada, and there are targeted rebates for low-income and rural households.

According to Bauman and Hsu, adopting a similar tax in the U.S. could allow for substantial reductions in corporate and income tax rates.

What would a British Columbia-style carbon tax look like in the United States? According to our calculations, a British Columbia-style $30 carbon tax would generate about $145 billion a year in the United States. That could be used to reduce individual and corporate income taxes by 10 percent, and afterward there would still be $35 billion left over. If recent budget deals are any guide, Congress might choose to set aside half of that remainder to reduce estate taxes (to please Republicans) and the other half to offset the impacts of higher fuel and electricity prices resulting from the

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The D.C. Circuit’s Greenhouse Gas Decision

Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA is quite significant for environmental law. As John Elwood notes below, the court turned away the state and industry challenges to the EPA’s decision to begin regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The only element of the decision that is at all surprising is the court’s dismissal of the challenges to the EPA’s “tailoring rule” due to a lack of standing.

On the merits, the court rejected challenges to the EPA’s determination that the emission of greenhouse gases causes or contributes to air pollution that which may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare (the “endangerment finding”) and rejected claims that the EPA’s new standards for GHG emissions from mobile sources were arbitrary and capricious. This was to be expected. As I’ve noted before, judicial review of these sorts of decisions is highly deferential, and the EPA did not have to do much to support its decision. Even if the industry challengers had been able to convince the court that climate change is not that big of a deal, this would not have been enough to overturn the endangerment finding, provided the EPA gave a sufficient explanation of its conclusions — which it did.

The more interesting parts of the opinion concern whether the petitioners could challenge the EPA’s decision to regulate stationary source GHG emissions generally, and the EPA’s adoption of the tailoring rule in particular. On the former question, the court concluded that industry petitioners could challenge a decades-old EPA determination that the regulation of a pollutant from mobile sources under Section 202 of the Act triggers stationary source regulations. This was because there were some plaintiffs who had never-before been subject [...]

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D.C. Circuit Rejects Challenges to Greenhouse Gas Regulations

The summary of the holding from the court’s opinion:

[W]e conclude: 1) the Endangerment Finding and Tailpipe Rule are neither arbitrary nor capricious; 2) EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions is unambiguously correct; and 3) no petitioner has standing to challenge the Timing and Tailoring Rules. We thus dismiss for lack of jurisdiction all petitions for review of the Timing and Tailoring Rules, and deny the remainder of the petitions.

The opinion is available here.  The court simultaneously ordered the Clerk, consistent with D.C. Circuit Rule 41(b), to “withhold issuance of the mandate herein until seven days after disposition of any timely petition for rehearing or petition for rehearing en banc.” [...]

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NASA’s James Hansen Is Right

NASA’s James Hansen can be a bit unhinged when he talks about climate change. Although one of the world’s more prominent climate scientists, he has a penchant for selectively presenting only the most apocalyptic global warming scenarios and adopting unduly inflammatory rhetoric, as when he compared coal-laden trains, aka “death trains,” to the railcars carrying Jews to Nazi concentration camps or suggested that energy company CEOs are guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

Yet whatever his faults, James Hansen’s central climate policy recommendation is a sound one. For years he has called for a simple and straightforward approach: A revenue-neutral carbon tax and an end to fossil energy subsidies. As he writes in today’s NT:

We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through

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Heartland’s Mad Billboard Stunt

The folks at the Heartland Institute are mad, and that seems to have driven them a little mad. For years environmental activists have compared climate skeptics and those who raise questions about the likelihood of a warming-induced apocalypse to Holocaust deniers and worse. In 1989, then-Senator Al Gore famously compared those who downplayed the climate threat to those who ignored Hitler’s rise and NASA’s James Hansen compared coal-bearing trains to the rail cars headed to Nazi crematoria, drawing a moral equivalence between the use of coal and the Holocaust. Think Progress also trumpeted the “climate denial” views of Norwegian terrorist Andrew Breivik and claimed he was “inspired” by mainstream climate skeptics.

Then, earlier this year, Heartland was the target of directed smear campaign after the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick surreptitiously obtained internal Heartland documents by impersonating a board member. Gleick anonymously distributed the purloined documents together with a forged memorandum purporting to provide further evidence of Heartland’s internal dealings. Progressive bloggers trumpeted the materials, and the forged memo in particular, as evidence of Heartland’s sinister machinations. While it seems likely that Gleick himself forged the memo (or knows who did) Heartland may have difficulty seeking legal redress for his actions. I posted on what some call “Fakegate” here and here.

Instead of trying to retain the moral high ground by defending the substance of its views, Heartland adopted the tactics of its most unhinged critics, purchasing a billboard comparing those who believe in global warming to the Unabomber. According to Heartland, this was to be the first in a series featuring famous “global warming alarmists,” including Osama Bin Laden, Fidel Castro and other “rogues and villians.” Heartland explained the campaign this way:

what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United

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EPA to Release More Greenhouse Gas Regulations

The Washington Post reports the Environmental Protection Agency will release proposed regulations governing the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants this week, perhaps as early as today.   As described by the Post, this New Source Performance Standard regulation could put a halt to the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless and until carbon sequestration or some other GHG-emission-reducing technology becomes economically viable.

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls.

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. “So I don’t see how that is an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. There are about 20 coal plants now pursuing permits; two of them are federally subsidized and would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls.

These new regulations are but one piece of the surge in GHG regulations the EPA is adopting under the Clean Air Act as a consequence of Massachusetts v. [...]

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Climate Change in the D.C. Circuit

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will begin two days of oral arguments in a set of challenges to the EPA’s various rules applying the Clean Air Act to greenhouse gas regulations.  These rules are the inevitable outgrowth of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, as I explain here and here.  For this reason, most of the industry challenges face tough sledding.  For instance, given Mass v. EPA it is difficult to argue that the EPA Administrator was wrong to conclude that the emission of greenhouse gases cause or contribute to air pollution that could be reasonably anticipated to threaten health or welfare.  Yet this is one of the claims the industry groups have to make if they are to succeed.  Similarly, it will be difficult to challenge the substance of the EPA’s rules governing GHG emissions from motor vehicles.

The more serious challenge to the EPA comes from the challenges to the so-called “tailoring rule” which is the EPA’s effort to apply some of the Clean Air Act’s stationary source provisions to greenhouse gases.  The reason this challenge is more serious is because the EPA looked at the statutory requirements of these provisions and realized that implementation of the Act, as written, was impossible.  The statutory thresholds that determine what facilities are covered are low enough that, when applied to GHGs, they increase the number of regulated facilities over 140-fold, according to EPA.  The administrative costs of trying to process this many permits threatens to grind the EPA’s air office – and state air permitting authorities — to a halt.  So, the EPA is trying to rewrite the relevant Clean Air Act provisions by administrative fiat.  In the alternative, the EPA has argued, regulatory agencies would have to hire hundreds [...]

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Climategate Turnabout Continued

The revelation that Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute posed as a Heartland Institute board member to obtain confidential board documents and then distributed these documents, along with an almost-certainly-fake “Climate Strategy” memo continues to reverberate through climate science and policy circles.  Folks that might otherwise be discussing the new study claiming climate change could lead to shorter people are instead preoccupied with the ethics of Gleick’s actins.  There’s also reason to believe legal action could be coming.  Gleick may have violated relevant state laws, and Heartland has apparently referred the matter to the FBI and is considering civil actions.  Gleick has canceled recent speaking engagements, resigned posts with some organizations involved in climate science and policy, and is taking a leave from the Pacific Institute, where he is also under investigation.

The Heartland Institute, for its part, has released two sets of e-mail correspondence (on its new “Fakegate” website) that shed further light on Gleick’s actions.  Early this year, heartland’s James Taylor had an exchange with Gleick on the Forbes website.  More specifically, Taylor lambasted a Gleick essay, and Gleick responded.  Shortly thereafter, Heartland invited Gleick to participate in a debate over climate change at the Institute’s annual dinner.  There was a brief back and forth, but on January 27, Gleick declined the offer, even though Heartland had offered to pay $5,000 to a charity of Gleick’s choice.  Interestingly enough, on the very same day he turned down Heartland’s invitation to debate — citing, among other things, concerns about the organizations lack of transparency and refusal to list all of its donors — Gleick began posing as one of Heartland’s board members in an e-mail exchange that led to his receipt of confidential Heartland documents.  This is quite a coincidence — a [...]

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