by Judith Curry
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a Hearing yesterday — Paris Climate Promise: A Bad Deal for America.
The link for the hearing is [here].
From Chairman Lamar Smith’s opening statement:
President Obama submitted costly new electricity regulations as the cornerstone of his agreement at the Paris U.N. climate conference last December. These severe measures will adversely affect our economy and have no significant impact on global temperatures.
Moreover, the president’s pledge creates an international agreement that binds the United States for decades to come, but lacks constitutional legitimacy since it has not been ratified by the Senate. The agreement not only requires the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions but also compels our country to pay billions of dollars to developing nations to reduce their carbon emissions.
The so-called Clean Power Plan will cost billions of dollars, cause financial hardship for American families, and diminish the competitiveness of American employers, all with no significant benefit to climate change.
A majority of Congress disapproved of the Clean Power Plan through the Congressional Review Act. And the governors of most states are challenging the rule in court. Meanwhile, the president attempts to justify his actions with scare tactics, worst-case scenarios and biased data.
The president’s Paris pledge will increase electricity costs, ration energy and slow economic growth. It ignores good science and only seeks to advance a partisan political agenda. The president should present his Paris climate change agreement to Congress. He won’t, because he knows neither the Senate nor the House would approve it.
Here is the list of witnesses:
Mr. Stephen Eule: Vice President for Climate and Technology, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Dr. John Christy:Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Dr. Andrew Steer: President and CEO, World Resources Institute
Mr. Steven Groves:The Bernard and Barbara Lomas Senior Research Fellow, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, The Heritage Foundation
All of the written testimonies were very well done and effective. I did not listen to the podcast of the Hearing, however.
Below is a summary of the main points from each of the witnesses, along with some of my comments.
Stephen Eule’s testimony is found here [link]. Key points:
For the purposes of this testimony I will limit myself to these main points:
- The Paris Agreement fulfills the Durban Platform’s goals of an outcome with legal force, as it contains many legally-binding “shall” provisions, including committing the Parties to make future, more ambitious if non-binding mitigation commitments and to provide financing and technology assistance.
- The binding aspects of the Paris Agreement would require implementing legislation and regulation potentially affecting every sector of the U.S. economy. An agreement with such far-reaching consequences, if it is to be considered binding on future administrations and Congresses, should be approved by Congress.
- As a recent State Department report demonstrates, the U.S. Paris pledge of a 26% to 28% reduction in net GHG emissions from the 2005 level by 2025 is completely unrealistic, and the administration still has no plan to achieve it. This and any future pledges should be approved by Congress.
- A review of the Paris emission pledges show that they are very uneven, with a handful of developed countries being responsible for nearly all of the actual emission reductions while others countries pursue “business as usual.”
- While making emissions pledges is mandatory, the pledges themselves are not binding, so there is no guarantee any of the Paris goals will be achieved.
- Even if these goals were to be achieved, however, global emissions in 2030 would still be much higher than in 2010 (with a mid-range estimate of 18%) largely because of rapid emissions growth in economies in transition and in emerging and developing economies. Coal for power production will continue to increase throughout the world as developing economies work to reduce poverty and increase energy access to their people.
- The United States has a huge energy-price advantage over many of its competitors. The uneven nature of the emissions goals, however, could raise U.S. energy prices and lead to carbon leakage to other countries with fewer environmental controls.
- Although Parties have agreed to a non-binding aim to limit the global temperature increase to “well below 2°C” from the pre-industrial level, the Parties, as they have in past decisions, refused to identify a global emissions pathway that they believe would be needed to meet the goal. This temperature target, therefore, will remain what it always has been—a potent political symbol of little practical consequence.
- Intellectual property rights (IPR) are not mentioned in the agreement, but there is concern that other language in the Paris Agreement and COP decision could open the door to weakening IPR in future meetings. Continued diligence to protect IPR is required.
- Developed countries are on the hook for providing finance for developing countries, but many issues have been kicked down the road. Congress has a role in authorizing and appropriating the U.S. share of these funds.
JC comment: This is a very useful overview of the Paris agreement, and the complicated issues that have been kicked down the road.
John Christy’s testimony is found here [link]. From the Summary:
Climate change is a wide-ranging topic with many difficulties. Our basic knowledge about what the climate is doing (i.e. measurements) is plagued by uncertainties. In my testimony today I have given evidence that the bulk atmospheric temperature is measured well-enough to demonstrate that our understanding of how greenhouse gases affect the climate is significantly inadequate to explain the climate since 1979. In particular, the actual change of the fundamental metric of the greenhouse warming signature – the bulk atmospheric temperature where models indicate the most direct evidence for greenhouse warming should lie – is significantly misrepresented by the models. Though no dataset is perfect, the way in which surface datasets have been constructed leaves many unanswered questions, especially for the recent NOAA update which shows more warming than the others. Finally, regulations already enforced or being proposed, such as those from the Paris Agreement, will have virtually no impact on whatever the climate is going to do.
JC comments: Christy’s testimony is a must read. It provides an excellent description of the different temperature datasets and the critiques of these datasets. It also provides some very interesting new analyses.
Andrew Steer’s testimony is found here [link]. Key points:
My testimony has three main themes:
- The Paris Agreement has transformed the climate change landscape in ways that reflect the leadership and longstanding objectives of the United States. All countries – both developed and developing – are now taking climate action, with nationally-determined climate plans submitted by 187 nations as part of the Agreement. The Agreement also includes a set of universal, binding requirements for transparency and accountability.
- The private sector and subnational governments played a major role at Paris, making new climate commitments and calling for strong market signals. Moreover, the Paris Agreement itself sends clear long-term signals that can set the course for investment in a prosperous low- carbon and climate resilient economy.
- The United States has much to gain from positioning itself as a climate leader. Swift action on climate change will continue to enable the United States to benefit from economic opportunities, stimulate further global action on climate, and build resilience to climate impacts and their associated costs at home.
JC comment: Steer was invited by Democrats (the others were invited by the Republicans). Steer’s written testimony gives a very good overview on the process of building the Paris Agreement and interpretation of the provisions.
Steven Groves’ testimony is found here [link]. From the Conclusion:
While the executive branch must be permitted a certain amount of discretion to choose the legal form of international agreements it is negotiating, there must also be a corresponding duty by the executive branch to treat comprehensive, binding agreements that result in significant domestic impact as treaties requiring Senate approval.
President Obama has placed his desire to achieve an international environmental “win” and bolster his legacy above historical U.S. treaty practice and intragovernmental comity. Major environmental treaties that have significant domestic impacts should not be developed and approved by the President acting alone. An agreement with far-reaching domestic consequences like the Paris Agreement lacks sustainable democratic legitimacy unless the Senate or Congress as a whole, representing the will of the American people, gives its approval.
Unless and until the White House submits the Paris Agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent, the Senate should:
- Block funding for the Paris agreement
- Withhold funding for the UNFCCC
- Take prophylactic legislative measures
JC comment: Grove’s testimony defies easy summarizing. It is the most provocative of the testimonies, and provides some new insights and ideas.
Based on the written testimonies, this looks like a very interesting and informative hearing.
John Christy did a superb job of laying out the issues in the temperature data set controversy.
With regards to the Paris agreement itself, the other 3 testimonies in an integral sense provide a very good overview of the issues and what is being debated. I found Groves’ testimony to be particularly interesting, regarding the legal context for the agreement.
Some media coverage:
- Scientist ruthlessly debunks one of NASA’s central climate claims
- The House Science Committee thinks the Paris climate agreement stinks …
So, is the Paris agreement a bad deal for America? I would say yes. Again, my rationale for saying this is contained in my many posts with the policy tag.