In 1841, the Scottish writer Charles Mackay observed, ” the cup of life is not bitter enough to our palate, and we distill superfluous poison to put into it, or conjure up hideous things to frighten ourselves at, which would never exist if we did not make them.” CEI Warren Brookes Fellow Matt Patterson believes this glass-half-empty aspect of human nature applies directly to today’s global warming debate.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives from 23 nations gathered in Moscow to discuss their response to the European Union’s mandatory airline carbon taxes. CEI’s Fran Smith has covered this story here and here. Based on the contents of the joint letter that came out of the Moscow meetings this week, the EU (and the airline traveler) is in for a world of pain. Unless the EU backs down, this will likely turn into a trade war. China is already forbidding that its airlines pay carbon fees to the EU Emissions Trading System, and they have threatened in the past to impose either high tariffs or outright landing bans on EU airlines.
Here’s the attached list of possible actions being considered against the EU:
- Filing an application under Article 84 of the Chicago Convention for resolution of the dispute according to the ICAO Rules for the Settlement of Differences (Doc 7782/2);
- Using existing or new State legislation, regulations, or other legal mechanism to prohibit airlines/aircraft operators of that State from participating in the EU ETS;
- Holding meetings with the EU carriers and/or aviation-related enterprises in their respective States and apprise them about the concerns arising out of the EU-ETS and the possibility of reciprocal measures that could be adopted by the State, which may adversely affect those airlines and/or entities.
- Mandating EU carriers to submit flight details and other data;
- Assessing whether the EU ETS is consistent with the WTO Agreements and taking appropriate action;
- Reviewing Bilateral Air Services Agreements, including Open Skies with individual EU Member States, and reconsidering the implementation or negotiation of the ‘Horizontal Agreement’ with the EU;
- Suspending current and future discussions and/or negotiations to enhance operating rights for EU airlines/ aircraft operators;
- Imposing additional levies/charges on EU carriers/ aircraft operators as a form of countermeasure;
- Any other actions/ measures.
All of this spells bad news for international travel, trade, and the fragile domestic economies in Europe and the United States.
As expected, the European Court for Justice — the EU’s highest court — has ruled that the EU’s plan to charge foreign airlines for their emissions through purchasing carbon permits complies with international law and doesn’t threaten foreign countries’ sovereignty.
As of January, aircraft landing or taking off from EU airports will be assessed carbon emission fees. (See yesterday’s OpenMarket for more background.) The carbon trading scheme is opposed by major economies, including the U.S., Japan, India, China, Brazil, Russia, and many others.
But that didn’t deter the EU or the high court. After all, the Court noted in its opinion, airlines can choose whether to use EU airports:
It is only if the operators of such aircraft choose to operate a commercial air route arriving at or departing from an airport situated in the EU that they are subject to the emissions trading scheme.
It has been reported that Canada and other countries will continue the battle through other channels, notably the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.
The U.S. sent a strong letter to the European Union warning them that the EU’s airline emissions trading scheme — set to start in January 2012 — should be halted or postponed. If not, the letter from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “. . . we will be compelled to take appropriate action.” According to the Financial Times (registration required), 42 other countries, including major economic powerhouses, such as China and Brazil, signed onto the letter, which seemed to be timed just before the EU’s highest court renders its decision.
On Wednesday the EU’s Court of Justice is expected to rule in favor of the EU’s plan to charge airlines — domestic and foreign — for their carbon emissions. The EU scheme would cover aviation in its controversial — and collapsing — cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions. All planes landing or taking off in the EU would be forced to pay for their emissions, whether those were emitted over EU airspace or not.
Expanding the failing carbon trading system during a period of failing economies seems to be an act of self-flagellation on the part of the EU in the name of environmentalism. Or maybe they are hoping to bring other countries down to a “level playing field” of wasting billions of dollars that would flow into their coffers. A 2009 study by Matt Sinclair of the UK’s Taxpayers’ Alliance estimated that from its introduction in 2005 through 2008, the EU’s carbon trading scheme has cost European consumers €93 billion. Just last month The Australian reported that the Swiss bank UBS had issued a study stating:
. . . the European Union’s emissions trading scheme has cost the continent’s consumers $287 billion for “almost zero impact” on cutting carbon emissions, and has warned that the EU’s carbon pricing market is on the verge of a crash next year.
In a damning report to clients, UBS Investment Research said that had the €210bn the European ETS had cost consumers been used in a targeted approach to replace the EU’s dirtiest power plants, emissions could have been reduced by 43 per cent “instead of almost zero impact on the back of emissions trading.”
If the EU stands by its plan to exert control over airlines of other countries and to charge them for emissions, many have argued that it would attack the sovereignty of other countries, destroy the international legal system in place for airlines – the Convention on International Civil Aviation – put onerous economic burdens on airlines, and raise the cost of international travel and delivery services.
Retaliation would seem inevitable, which could plunge the fragile world economy into a destructive trade war.
President Obama ran on a platform of transparency. He praised whistleblowers. “Such acts of courage and patriotism,” he said, “should be encouraged rather than stifled.” He was intensely critical of the Bush administration that “ignored public disclosure rules.” The president and his staff have both said, “This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.” Yet his administration has been even more secretive and hostile toward public disclosure than the previous. He has cracked down on whistleblowers (and the journalists who they leak to) more than any other administration in history. He has brought nearly double (5) the number of indictments against whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined (3), and is currently working on another.
On top of this war on whistleblowers, the president has fought Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “Two years into its pledge to improve government transparency,” the Associated Press reports, “the Obama administration handled fewer requests for federal records from citizens, journalists, companies and others last year even as significantly more people asked for information.” In November, Obama’s Justice Department proposed a rule that would allow them to lie about the existence of documents that were of national security concern. Last month, CEI’s Chris Horner called the administration the “most secretive ever,” and listed many ways in which under Obama, FOIA requests have been thwarted in the most underhanded ways.
Today, Horner has reported new outrages in Obama’s transparency war. He writes that “the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Criminal Division, is working with United Kingdom police to pursue the leaker of the 2009 and 2011 ‘Climategate’ emails. I have learned that last week DOJ sent a search-and-seizure letter to the host of three climate-change ‘skeptic’ blogs. Last night, UK police raided a blogger’s home and removed computers and equipment.” He continues:
The leaked records derailed “cap-and-trade” legislation in the U.S. and, internationally, as well as talks for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The emails and computer code were produced with taxpayer funds and held on taxpayer-owned computers both in the US and the UK, and all were subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and state FOIA laws.
They also were being unlawfully withheld in both the UK (by the University of East Anglia) and the U.S. (Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including stonewalling me for two years, and three other requesters for longer).
The hunt involving U.S. and UK law enforcement agencies is now escalating. On Wednesday night UK time, six detectives with the UK police (Norfolk Police Department) raided the home of at least one blogger, removing his equipment to look for clues to the identity of leaker “FOIA 2011.”
On December 9, DOJ sent a preservation letter under 18 U.S.C 2703(f) to the publication platform (website host) WordPress. This authority authorizes the government to request an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to preserve all records of a specific account for 90 days while the feds work on a warrant.
Norfolk PD affirmed to the subject of at least one of their raids that this international law enforcement hunt is for the leaker, meaning not for those whose acts the leaker exposed by making public emails containing admissions in their own words.
View the whole article here.
The Maryland State Board of Education passed a new curriculum requirement on June 21, 2011. Instead of gaining competence in math or science, students are now required to graduate with a proficiency in “environmental literacy.” This is merely a euphemism for indoctrination into climate alarmism and a “green” agenda — both are tools the left uses to justify intervention into the market economy. As I write in The Washington Times:
According to the program’s curriculum, environmental literacy means turning children into central planners. For instance, it instructs students to “[d]evelop a strategy for fair distribution of a limited amount of energy available within a community,” and to create a “plan for the fair consumption of goods” and “eliminate…unnecessary consumption of goods.
Since the state is not providing funding for the requirement, it is very likely that the teaching materials will come from left-wing environmentalist groups such as the No Child Left Inside Coalition, which supports Maryland’s new curriculum and “environmental education” on the whole. If Maryland wanted to provide its children with a richer education, it ought to think about ways in which to improve reading, science, and math proficiencies instead of introducing politically driven environmentalism into schools.
In The Washington Times, I explain in more detail the threat that the new curriculum poses to Maryland’s young students.
The Yale Cultural Cognition Project recently released a new study with surprising findings. According to the data of their national survey, people who are more “scientifically literate and numerate” are more skeptical of “climate change as a serious threat” than those who are less scientifically literate and numerate. Of course, this flew in the face of the presumed scientific consensus that climate change is a threat.
To most rational people this would indicate that since the “smart” people of this study are most skeptical of the evidence, then maybe the evidence is not so definitive. This did not detour the experts at Yale, however, as they concluded that,
The data in this study suggest that the impact of cultural cognition on perceptions of scientific evidence only grows in strength as individuals become more knowledgeable about science and develop greater facility with technical reasoning.
That’s right, according to this study, the better grip a person has on the facts, the more likely they are to ignore them in favor of their personal bias. Apparently,
This evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: The individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this, “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.
The San Diego metro area has been institutionalizing its boring reputation by undertaking in recent years what is arguably the most aggressive regional planning effort in the country. Enviros and “anti-sprawl” (read: anti-poor, anti-choice) types have fallen back in love with America’s Finest City over San Diego’s ease of meeting SB 375′s Sustainable Communities Strategies targets. Thanks to the members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), San Diegans can look forward to this whiter brighter future:
While the notion of efficiently coordinating transportation, housing, and commercial development across thousands of square miles and millions of people sounds daunting, officials in the San Diego area say that drafting the SCS was not nearly as difficult as it may be for other regions.
“A lot of the stuff in our plan is not new to us,” said SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos. “It’s not a huge game-changer because we were already doing a lot of these things because they were good for us.”
The SCS relies on complex forecasts for regional growth—which is anticipated to include a growth in population from 3.2 million to 4.4 million and 400,000 more housing units by 2050—but much of the actual planning work that will contribute to the SCS has already been done.
Indeed, much of the region’s growth is already prescribed and accounted for, some of it before SB 375 was even imagined.
“San Diego, in spite of the fact that SB 375 and AB 32 came along, was already doing a lot of what was required by those pieces of legislation we had incorporated into our planning,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also is also an ARB board member. “We were already on a course to get to the transportation corridors and move the density from the furthest out areas.”
The California Air Resources Board set per capita emissions reductions targets for the state’s MPOs just last October. San Diego’s targets are 7% by 2020 and 13% by 2035.
So San Diego’s out front in the most out-front state in the country with respect to enviro-regulating itself into a situation far worse than climate change could ever do. Thanks to their heavy-handed land-use regulations, city officials’ hell-bound well intentions now add $220,000 to the price of a new single-family detached home. This so-called “smart growth” is anything but: it drives up housing prices and goods prices, reduces employment opportunities and entrepreneurial activity, limits personal mobility, and is generally supported by a very large, taxpayer-funded planning bureaucracy that’s primary purpose is to perpetuate itself and increase its political power.
The Supreme Court has ruled against the Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to an Arizona law punishing businesses that hire illegal aliens by taking away their business licenses, and requiring use of E-Verify. The vote in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting was 5-to-3, with the five “conservative” justices voting against the Chamber of Commerce. So much for the erroneous claim that the Supreme Court is dominated by pro-business conservatives.
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick falsely claimed in 2009 that in the Supreme Court, “big business always prevails, environmentalists are always buried, female and elderly workers go unprotected, death row inmates get the needle, and criminal defendants are shown the door.” Supreme Court reporters for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other liberal newspapers also peddle this same false caricature.
Contrary to Lithwick’s claims, environmentalists have won many cases, including one of the most economically-significant decisions ever — the 5-to4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), which arguably opened the door to EPA regulation of virtually every human activity, on the grounds that virtually all activity (from industrial production to farming) emits carbon dioxide. That decision also created a special rule of standing to allow state attorneys general to bring lawsuits that would otherwise be thrown out as non-justiciable.
Alarmists have been decrying the effects of global warming on Greenland for years, even though Greenland was greenest during the Medieval Warm Period, and Greenland’s Vikings, who flourished during that warm period, died out when cold temperatures returned, reducing them to starvation. (It was warmer in the year 1003 than 2003.) Now, the residents of Greenland, the world’s largest island, are once again profiting from global warming, reports the Washington Post:
“Rather than questioning global warming, many of this island’s 60,000 inhabitants seem to be racing to cash in. The tiny capital of Nuuk is bracing for record numbers of visitors this year; the retreating sea ice means a longer tourist season and more cruise ships . . . Hunters are boasting of more and bigger caribou, and the annual cod migration is starting earlier and lasting longer. In the far south, farmers are trying their hand at an exotic form of agriculture: growing vegetables. ‘Before, the growing season was too short for vegetables,’ . . .‘Now it is getting longer each year.’”
Since 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency has sought to regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (which we breathe out and plants consume) because they supposedly threaten public health in the United States by causing global warming. President Obama has backed a corporate welfare-filled global-warming bill that would increase electricity bills. Obama admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008 that under his “cap and trade” plan to address global warming, ”electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
But even if greenhouse gas emissions are the principal cause of global warming (as opposed to natural causes), it’s not clear why such warming would harm public health in a non-tropical country like America. After all, people in America’s warmer cities have lower mortality rates, and higher life expectancies, than people in its colder cities.
Warmer climates may be particularly helpful for racial minorities in Canada. Most non-white Canadians suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, putting them at risk of cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. Lack of exposure to the sun is a big part of the problem. More than 50,000 people die every year in the United States every year as a result of inadequate sun exposure. While milk is Vitamin D enriched, many non-whites are lactose intolerant. Sunlight is the most potent source of Vitamin D. But in northern regions like Canada, sunlight alone does not provide enough Vitamin D for many people who work indoors. There, the sunlight is too feeble in winter and fall for people’s bodies to turn sunlight into Vitamin D. To get enough Vitamin D from the sun, people have to go outside a lot during spring and summer to offset the weak sunlight in fall and winter. But increasingly sedentary lifestyles and office jobs have reduced outdoor activity. And cold temperatures in spring discourage warmth-loving people from going outside, even when the light is strong enough to produce Vitamin D. Thus, cold climates can be bad for their health.