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:
The Court of Appeals' decision allows the payment of scholarship funds to the families of the 1,878 students who accepted Opportunity Scholarships through the before Judge Hobgood declared the program unconstitutional.
Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dick Komer said, "The decision lifts a huge burden of uncertainty off the shoulders of hundreds of North Carolina families and private schools."
"Although today’s decision isn’t the final word on the program, it bodes well for full vindication. More importantly, it bodes well for the families whose only wish is to find the best education for their children."
No other funds may be distributed until the appeals, which claims that Judge Hobgood’s ruling was improper, are decided.
North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was enacted in 2013, allows low-income parents to afford private school for their children whose needs aren’t being met by public schools.
You can watch parent Cynthia Perry and Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dick Komer discus the case and North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship school litigation program in the following video:
As has become my custom on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks against America, below I have republished my first written remembrance of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks [originally posted September 11, 2004.] There are a couple other pieces I have posted about 9/11 that I recommend:
It was such a gorgeous day. I remember driving to the office and saying out loud to myself "what a beautiful day!" I don't remember ever doing that before, or since.
I was out of my office, but in the building, when I was told that a plane hit the World Trade Center. I was thinking how could a pilot hit the World Trade Center in such perfect weather. I thought of the Army B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945.
When I got back to my office I was told that both towers had been hit by planes. I still didn't get it. I was still thinking small private planes - then I saw a replay of the second plane, a 757, crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That's when I realized the world was different.
We were short staffed, two attorneys were attending a conference in New Orleans, and I still had a lot work I wanted to get done, but I kept going back to the television. We watched the burning smoking towers.
The brother of one of our attorneys was working in the south tower, she was worried. I kept trying to reassure her, telling her how tough the towers were. I spoke with my wife. I tried to reassure her and she had been doing the same with worried friends.
We heard that the Pentagon was attacked. Then we heard reports [just bad information] that there was an explosion at the State Department. The news coverage was confused. Hell, no one knew what was going on.
Then the towers fell. I just couldn't believe it. We didn't understand how many firefighters were lost in the towers, but the firefighters did. One of my most vivid memories of 9/11 is of fire fighters withdrawing to the West Side Highway after the towers fell. The TV broadcast I was watching showed one of those firefighters take his helmet and throw, no slam, it to the ground many feet away. That act captured all the anger, frustration and fatigue both physical and emotional.
I remember more, I remember the President reassuring the nation, more than once. I remember watching Palestinians dancing in the street. There is more. I remember my co-worker's relief when she learned, hours after the towers fell, that her brother got out of the tower and was safe. I remember the people streaming out of New York. I remember the hospitals staffing up to treat the thousands and thousands of injured we all anticipated would be pulled from the ruble. I remember the burning rubble. I remember more.
I especially remember how happy and relieved I was to get home and to just be with my wife and children. These are the things I think of first whenever I think of 9/11. I wish I was able to convey the emotions the memories conjure up in me, but I'm sure you know how it felt.
Alan Jackson captured all those feelings in his "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning):"
Where were you when the world stopped turnin' that September day? Out in the yard with your wife and children; Or working on some stage in L.A.? Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke Rising against that blue sky? Did you shout out in anger in fear for your neighbor Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children that lost their dear loved ones? Did you pray for the ones who don't know? Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble and sob for the ones left below? Did you burst out in pride for the red white and blue And the heroes who died just doin' what they do? Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer? And look at yourself for what really matters?
[. . .]
Teaching a class full of innocent children; Driving down some cold interstate? Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor in a crowded room did you feel alone? Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her? Did you dust off that bible at home?
[. . .]
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers? Stand in line and give your own blood? Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family Thank God you had somebody to love?
[. . .]
Where were you when the world stopped turnin' that September day?
Flame Of Hope
[My son, then a freshman at George Washington University, wrote this after attending a 9/11 vigil on September 14, 2004. I thank him for sharing it with us.]
Flame Of Hope
I just returned from a vigil at University Yard, remembering the victims of September 11. Services like these always hit home; especially for events remembered firsthand.
We each received a candle upon arriving at the yard, surrounded by a plastic cup to keep the wax from our hands. At the conclusion of the service, after speakers and prayers, messages and memories, we lit the candles and stood in silence. Gradually, people drifted off; it was, after all, a Saturday night. I waited, with my roommate, a friend from PE Wild, and her friend from American. We remained until 9:12, allowing for a minute of silence at 9:11 as I remembered doing back home. While waiting, I let my mind wander inside itself a bit, doing its usual pondering about life, the universe, and everything; about existence and reason, emotion and liberty, life and freedom. I'd like to share those thoughts that stuck out.
A breeze started about the time of the candle lightings. It wasn't particularly strong, but it was chilly enough to force notice. It also required paying attention to the candle, lest the wind extinguish it.
As I'm sometimes wont to do, I made a little metaphor. The candle reminded me of the often-used phrase, almost cliché now: the Flame of Hope, of Freedom, of Life itself. It required an effort on my part to maintain the flame's strength. I found that, after letting my mind wander for a minute early on, the wind extinguished the flame, and I required someone else's candle to ignite it again. Such is often the case with Hope. When faced with an unusual situation, one that discourages and scares us, humans cling to this concept of "Hope," a belief that the storm will pass. Sometimes, when the storm continues to batter us, that hope begins to wane, even dying completely. In those situations, we require the presence and support of others. Through their strength, we can rekindle our own Hope, reignite its flame.
A second time, I caught myself gazing at the sky. The clouds which had eclipsed the stars during the vigil now began to move elsewhere, and the lights of the heavens began to shine through. When I glanced down at my candle, however, I found the flame almost dead. Cupping my hand around it, I shielded it from the chill and strength of the wind, allowing it to remain. It reminded me of our Freedom, such a fragile concept. When our grip on the concept slackens, when we let the idea slip to the background, it can disappear far too quickly. Each of us has to realize the concept, to live it every day, lest that Flame die as well. Freedom is a much harder flame to reignite once it dies.
Before those in attendance lit their candles, the names of nine GWU alumni killed on 9/11 were read aloud. At each name, Omar, the president of the Student Association lit a candle, placing it on a table in front of him. The wind picked up as he tried to light the first candle, and I actually felt my pulse pound as I prayed the light would not go out. Each candle here symbolized a life, and Omar refused to let the lights of those lives burn out. He made sure each candle caught before replacing it, and not once was the wind able to extinguish a flame. Though the lives those candles symbolized had already ended, their memories carried on through the flames. Not even the cold acts of terror, which ended their mortal existence, could erase the marks they as people left upon the Earth and their fellow humans.
We all require assistance at times. Hope can falter, but others can right it. Lives may end, but others will remember the deeds done. Freedom may fall under attack, but those who live it and believe in it can save it.
Cherish your freedom, the life you live, and the hope you carry, for yourself and all those who follow. May all Humanity one day relish in the joys of freedom, from fear, from oppression, from terror. Live your life, and realize you don't have to do so alone.
If education is the gateway to a better future, the door at Normandy High School was shut long ago, fueling a mix of resignation and rage. Wax-Thibodeaux writes that the school system’s entrenched dysfunction helps explain the street anger that has unfolded in neighboring town of Ferguson since Brown was killed.
Imagine not just your neighborhood school, but your school district is failing. That your High school is considered the most dangerous school in the city, has abysmal test scores, under performing teachers, a student body in which nine of every 10 students qualify for subsidized or free lunches, and the graduation rate is less than 50 percent.
How's your imagination? Think about things getting even worse, so bad that the school district loses its state accreditation. That actually results in a little bit of hope. With the lose of accreditation, state law permits the students to transfer to other districts and the cost of the tuition and the transportation to and from the new school has to be paid by the no-longer accredited school district.
Then things get worse still. The additional expense for the students who transferred out of the unaccredited school, about $1.3 million a month, nearly bankrupts the school district.
That causes the state to take over the school district to protect it from bankruptcy. The state takeover eliminates the rationale for the transfers. So after spending a year adjusting to new schools — many predominantly white and more wealthy, students were told they would have to return to Michael Brown's terrible high school. Marva Robinson, a clinical psychologist, says this sends a message to the students, "Stay in your place. You don’t matter."
It gets even worse. When they return to Normandy High School, students find that 40 percent of the teachers are new. As a condition of taking over the failing school district, the state required that all the teachers were dismissed and forced to re-interview for their positions.
As Wax-Thibodeaux puts it, "The Normandy school district is on the front lines of the national school-choice debate."
School choice is all about public policy enabling families stuck with low-performing schools to being able to choose to attend higher-performing public and private schools in other districts. School choice encourages healthy competition among schools to better serve students. Parents are allowed to use the public funds set aside for their children's education to choose schools that work best for them.
Imagine how different things might have been for the students of Normandy High School if they were allowed to choose better schools for longer than one term. It's hard to imagine a better case for school choice. It's unfortunate that some school administrators and teacher unions such as those we have written about in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina fear the competition of school choice and turn to the courts to fight choice instead of embracing the competition.