by Judith Curry
The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is convening a Hearing today on Climate Change: The Need to Act Now.
The website for the Hearing is [here]. From the Opening Remarks by Barbara Boxer:
We should all know we must take action to reduce harmful carbon pollution, which 97% of scientists agree is leading to dangerous climate change that threatens our families. To say we can’t have an opinion because we are not scientists makes no sense to me. All the more reason to listen to the scientists.
The American people understand the threats posed by climate change, and they want action. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, a bipartisan majority of the American people want federal limits on carbon pollution. Approximately 70 percent say the federal government should require limits to carbon pollution from existing power plants, and 70 percent (57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats) support requiring states to limit the amount of carbon pollution within their borders.
It is in America’s DNA to turn a problem into an opportunity, and that is what we have done by being a pioneer in the green technology industry. These new carbon pollution standards are no different. Landmark environmental laws have bolstered an environmental technology and services sector that employs an estimated 3.4 million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And many of these jobs, like installing solar roofs and wind turbines cannot be outsourced.
Here is the list of witnesses:
• The Honorable William D. Ruckelshaus
Strategic Advisor, Madrona Venture Group, and Former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
• The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman
President, The Whitman Strategy Group, Former Governor, State of New Jersey, and Former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
• The Honorable William K. Reilly
Senior Advisor, TPG Capital, Chairman Emeritus, ClimateWorks Foundation, and Former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
• The Honorable Lee M. Thomas
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
• Dr. Daniel Botkin
Professor Emeritus of Biology
University of California, Santa Barbara
• The Honorable Luther Strange
State of Alabama
• Dr. Joseph R. Mason
Hermann Moyse, Jr./Louisiana Bankers Association Endowed Professor of Banking, Louisiana State University, and Senior Fellow, The Wharton School
The first 4 are former EPA Administrators that served under Republican Presidents. An interesting strategy. However, all of their written comments were very brief and say pretty much the same thing, consistent with party line of Obama’s EPA. However, things seem to have gotten more interesting in the questioning – the Daily Caller reports on the Hearing in an article entitled Former EPA Chiefs Skeptical of White House Climate Agenda.
The three witnesses selected by the Republicans – Botkin, Strange and Mason – are each quite interesting. Botkin’s testimony is very similar to what he presented in a recent House Hearing. Strange provides a perspective on the impact of the EPA regulations on the State of Alabama, including some legal concerns. Here I focus on the testimony of Joseph Mason, which presents the clearest take down of carbon cap and trade policies that I’ve seen.
The link to Mason’s written testimony is [here]. A few excerpts:
Since I am not a climate scientist I cannot opine from more than a lay perspective on whether there is a consensus in the discipline on man-made global warming. Since I am an economist, however, I can say that there exists a wholesale consensus among economists that carbon is not well-suited for cap and trade.
Below, I review recent evidence on the shortcomings of cap and trade, concluding that we should emulate the historical approach we took to establishing a central bank after the Panic of 1907: take our time and study what works and what does not so that we design an effective system that does not pose unnecessary costs upon our nation.
The Interpol Environmental Crime Programme now lists ten classifications of carbon crimes that have already occurred throughout the world and continue to remain a threat. Those include:
- Manipulating measurements to fraudulently claim additional carbon credits;
- Sale of carbon credits that either do not exist or belong to someone else;
- False or misleading claims with respect to the environmental or financial benefits of carbon market investments;
- Exploitation of weak regulations to commit financial crimes;
- Tax Fraud;
- Securities Fraud;
- Transfer mispricing;
- Money laundering;
- Internet crimes and computer hacking to steal carbon credits; and
- Phishing/Theft of personal information or identity theft.
Some environmentalists even get it. Friends of the Earth has recognized such crimes and, as a result, advocates a carbon tax rather than cap and trade.35 Still, politicians remain preternaturally attracted to cap and trade, even as carbon markets continue to grow and problems continue to mount.
From the Conclusions:
Economists agree, cap and trade does not work for carbon. So why do politicians continue to pursue such mechanisms? It seems to me that while some paint “climate deniers” as a problem in Congress, an equally troubling problem is “cap and trade failure deniers.” Perhaps politicians think that adopting a “market” based solution will get them off the hook for tough decisions on carbon tax rates. But, unfortunately for the rest of us, doing so only exposes the US economy to new sources of fraud, theft, and risk of loss while raising energy prices WITHOUT reducing carbon output.
JC comments: Well, if this Hearing is about ‘the need to act now’, none of the witnesses invited by Democrats made much of a case for the urgency of acting now. The Republican witnesses made a pretty strong case for not acting now, with Mason summing it up with this statement:
. . . take our time and study what works and what does not so that we design an effective system that does not pose unnecessary costs upon our nation.
Overall, I would say this was a pretty interesting Hearing, with an interesting strategy by the Democrats to invite 4 former EPA Administrators that served in previous Republican administrations, that agree with Obama’s EPA. The three witnesses selected by the Republicans were all excellent choices, and provided good breadth of topics covered in arguing why not to act now.