By Tom Harris
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the litigation over President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). If implemented, CPP regulations will require states to develop and bring into force plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants.
Arguments against the CPP focussed primarily on its questionable legality. However, the ten judges considering the case should also keep in mind that the rules are pointless. No matter what one believes about the causes of climate change, the CPP will have no measurable impact on climate.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy has repeatedly admitted this before Congressional hearings. McCarthy 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 such an 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 no one knows the future of climate change. The science is so immature, and the observational data so sparse, that it is not currently possible to build computer models that generate meaningful climate forecasts. University of Western Ontario applied mathematician Dr. Chris Essex, an expert in the mathematical models that are the basis of climate change concerns, explains,
“Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”
Developing countries have indicated that they have no intention of following us anyways. They will not limit their development for hypothetical ‘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 Nations 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% of China’s electricity, 71% of India’s, and 29% 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. The sacrifices of the U.S. and other developed nations will be for nothing.
After polling 9.7 million people from 194 countries, the UN’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 considering the CPP case must realize that, in comparison with access to reliable energy, better healthcare, government honesty, a good education, etc., most people across the world do not care about climate change. They understand that we have far more important issues to address.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.