Image credit: Reto Stöckli, NASA Earth Observatory
By Drew Johnson
The Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized yet another regulation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The new rule, which deals specifically with gases known as hydrochloroflourocarbons or HFCs, is just the latest in the Obama Administration’s misguided efforts to slow climate change through government regulations.
But while carbon dioxide and other emissions regulations continue to pile up, the basis for such policies is looking weaker each day. In the last few years, a number of scientific studies have suggested that the climate is less sensitive to carbon pollution than previously believed. What is beyond dispute, however, is that that sweeping emissions rules cost our economy jobs, drive up the price of energy, and hold back promising domestic industries like oil and gas.
Before they inflict any more harm on our economy, environmental regulators should make sure their greenhouse gas rules reflect the most up-to-date science. That’s not currently the case.
After rising for decades, the Earth's average surface temperature has effectively leveled off since 1998, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This so-called "pause" in global warming has revealed the inadequacies of climate models that forecasted a steady rise in temperature for years to come. As recently as 2007, the IPCC was predicting that the planet's temperature would rise by an average of .2 degrees Celsius over the next two decades.
The unexpected pause also calls into question the relationship between carbon emissions and climate change. After all, since 1998, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have risen by more than 27 percent, with little noticeable effect on the climate.
A host of recent research has cast doubt on prevailing views about the climate's sensitivity to carbon emissions. In a study published in September’s edition of the scientific journal Climate Dynamics, for instance, scientists Judith Curry and Nicholas Lewis show that the change in temperature that results from a doubling of atmospheric carbon is considerably lower than many current climate simulations suggest.
Other studies published in journals like Nature Geoscience and Earth System Dynamics reach similar conclusions.
None of these scientific findings, however, seem to have fazed EPA regulators. Earlier this year, the agency proposed a historic rule that would cut emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The new restrictions on HFCs are yet more proof that the EPA stands firm in its belief that cutting emissions is the best way to address climate change, even though science says otherwise.
It's bad enough that a group of regulators that pride themselves on their commitment to science is so willing to ignore straightforward evidence. What's worse is that, by continuing to issue such strict greenhouse gas rules, the EPA is exacting an enormous cost on average Americans.
For example, the proposed power plant rule is expected to raise electricity prices by as much as 20 percent in some states by 2031, according to the consulting firm NERA.
Carbon restrictions also threaten the wider economy, particularly the nation's thriving energy sector. Recent advances in extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations have sparked an unprecedented domestic energy boom.
In 2012 alone, the shale revolution supported 2.1 million jobs and contributed $283 billion to the national economy, according to the consulting firm IHS. By the end of the decade, this sector is expected to create an additional 3.3 million American jobs, while adding $2,700 to the average household's disposable income.
Heavy-handed greenhouse gas regulations, however, could easily disrupt this segment of our economy by making it far more expensive to take advantage of our country's energy resources.
In order to comply with the 30 percent emissions cut proposed in the EPA's power-plant rule, for example, natural-gas plants will need to install carbon capture and sequestration systems. According to IHS, such technologies increase the cost of constructing natural-gas power plants by 60 percent. In effect, such restrictions transform an affordable energy source into an expensive one.
All told, the emissions rule for power plants will cost our economy an estimated $51 billion dollars and 224,000 jobs a year for well over the next decade. This would be an enormous price to pay even if carbon emissions were as hazardous to the environment as many in the green movement believe them to be.
But it's far from clear just how sensitive the Earth's climate is to atmospheric CO2. And until the relationship between global warming and carbon emissions is better established, the EPA owes it to Americans to proceed cautiously.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government.
The USS Arizona burns after being struck by a Japanese armor-piercing bomb during the air attack in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. U.S. Navy photo, National Archives collection
Early on a quiet Sunday morning on December 7, 1941, aircraft of the Empire of Japan, without provocation or warning, attacked the United States forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese attack left 2400 Americans dead, and 1347 wounded. Twenty one U.S. vessels, including eight battleships, were sunk or badly damaged, and 188 U.S. planes also destroyed or damaged.
The forward magazine of the USS Shaw explodes during the second wave of the Japanese air attack in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. U.S. Navy photo
In the dramatic message that President Franklin Roosevelt delivered to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, he told Americans:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
President Roosevelt then asked Congress to declare war on Japan, a request that was approved by lawmakers, with only one "nay" vote.
U.S. Army aircraft lay destroyed following the Japanese air attack on Wheeler Air Field, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. U.S. Navy photo, National Archives collection
Don’t ever forget!
U.S. Navy personnel survey the damage sustained by the USS Downes, left, and the USS Cassin, capsized at right, during the Japanese air attack in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Dec. 7, 1941. U.S. Navy photo, National Archives Collection
One of the things I remember most about my visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is that most of the visitors were Japanese. That still puzzles me.
Make sure to take time today to contemplate why you are thankful.
This Thanksgiving I am feeling especially thankful for the family and friends with whom God has seen fit to bless me. I am thankful that last year one of those dear friends shared the this video with me. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine:
I am allso very thankful that our forefathers were wise enough to establish a nation under God and provide for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
As I've written before, the traditional Thanksgiving story is that some time in the fall of 1621, the settlers at Plymouth, Mass., held a feast to thank God they'd survived theiry harrowing first year in the New World.
They invited neighboring Indians, who had taught them agricultural skills critical to their survival. Together they celebrated their good fortune with a three-day feast.
There is a problem with the traditional story - no one invited the Indians.
The settlers threw the party for themselves. Members of the local Wampanoag tribe arrived only after hearing the English firing their arms in celebration. This view may be more historically accurate.
A firsthand account of the original Thanksgiving is provided in "Mourt's Relations," a series of letters written in 1620 and 1621, primarily by settler Edward Winslow.
He writes of a harvest celebration, "at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor."
Actually, the harvest of 1621 wasn't great at all. The barley, wheat, and peas the Pilgrims brought with them from EnglanFreedom From Wantd had failed. Fortunately, the corn did well enough that they were able to double their weekly food rations.
The Pilgrims were happy to be alive: The previous winter had wiped out 47 people--almost half their community.
What people are thankful for changes from year to year.
On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress. His "Four Freedoms" offered a vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world:
Four Freedoms We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.
"Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice.
Well I got to thinking about that. I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa."
You can watch Harkin's sexist remarks, as well as a discussion about the remarks with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC's Morning Joe and Wall Street JournalWhite House correspondent Carol Lee in the following video:
Brzezinski gets it right when she says that there is a double standard when it comes to politicians making sexist comments.
"If a Republican said that, it would be over. Can you imagine a female candidate saying that about a male? I can’t, it just wouldn’t happen."
Harkin, who will be 74 this month and has been in Congress for 40 years, ought to know better.
Joni Ernst is a Republican member of the Iowa Senate, and also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. She served in Operation Iraqi Freedom will be the first female combat veteran in the Senate if she wins tomorrow.
The latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, conducted Oct. 28-31, finds Ernst now has a 7-point lead. The Register quotes pollster J. Ann Selzer as saying, "This race looks like it’s decided." And Politico reports that Selzer "has a long track record of correctly predicting elections in the Hawkeye State."
The "save our scholarships" campaign has released a powerful video entitled "Drop the Lawsuit," which ran as a commercial during last night's Florida gubernatorial debate.
In the video, Denisha Merriweather, a college graduate who urges watchers to save tax credit scholarship program that gives families like hers "more options to find a place that works best for their child's education." Merriweather says the lawsuit "just wrong" and points out that the more than 68,000 children now using the scholarships, come from "mainly minority from low-income families."
The video ends with her asking for help:
"Please don't kick them out. Drop the suit and save Florida's tax credit scholarship."
The video was produced by the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Washington, D.C. based group that advocates for more school choice and is part of the Save Our Scholarships Coalition.
The report is the first to provide an assessment specifically focused on each state’s public charter school movement. It ranks the strength of each locale using 15 indicators in three categories: growth, or the overall number of schools available and students served; innovation, defined as the “use of various innovative practices,” such as an extended school year; and quality, measured in additional days of learning for both reading and math.
Washington, D.C. and Louisiana came in first and second, respectively, earning high marks for offering multiple charter school options for families, serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged youth, and showing strong student achievement gains. Nevertheless, the report suggests that both states ought to make efforts to secure equitable operational funding.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oregon and Nevada occupied the bottom two spots because they serve a low percentage of the state’s population of public school children, and their charters aren’t producing gains in reading and math. For these low performers, the report suggests changes in law that would allow for more in-school autonomy and more accountability.
To be included in the report, states had to participate in the 2013 CREDO study and have at least 1 percent of public school students served by charters.
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, hopes the Health of the Public Charter School Movement report will serve as a "yearly benchmark of progress in the charter school movement" and that "policymakers will view it as a valuable annual assessment of their state" and consider the policy recommendations to help strengthen their charter schools.
According to Rees the report will assist parents and school choice advocates:
"The report will help parents by serving as a meaningful indicator of how well charter schools are performing in their state. Most importantly, we believe parents will be interested in the quality metrics each year. As parents decide where to send their children to school, they may also be interested in looking at the growth of their public charter school movements and how innovative their schools are.
Charter school advocates should see the new report as an opportunity to have an honest conversation about the charter school movement in their state. Where there are strengths or weaknesses, this report highlights them, paving the way for future policy discussions and advocacy around growing and strengthening their charter school movement."
The report will also help legislators Rees says, "By taking a look at the ways public charter schools are effectively serving students and identifying opportunities for growth, legislators will be able to design and implement policies that address the needs of the families, students, and charter school communities in their states."
The Alliance acknowledges that improvement can still be made in identifying and collecting comprehensive data on public charter schools. But, in the meantime, the new report offers clarity to a movement that is too frequently plagued by misunderstanding.
Kevin Chavous, Executive Counsel for the American Federation for Children, says that school choice is not a partisan issue -- it is increasingly an issue that is bringing Democrats and Republicans together. Chavous is quoted in the Washington Times saying the momentum lies with those in favor of school choice programs:
"Everywhere we have these programs, there’s really the demand to grow them. It is a movement that is not going anywhere. It’s going to continue to grow."
The Times also points out that former state Sen. Ann Duplessis, who helped kill an early voucher bill that came before the state legislature nearly a decade ago, now thinks the tide has shifted since Hurricane Katrina:
"I believe we are at a point now where the traditional, say, African-American Democrat, they get it — we get it now,” she said. “We get it. The goal here is just to ensure that as we innovate, that we can try to get as many of the kids who are being impacted — that we’re trying not to leave anybody behind."
You can watch the Wall Street Journal's Mary Kissel discuss the role school choice is playing in the midterm Senate and gubernatorial elections with American Federation for Children Executive Counsel Kevin Chavous in the following video: