Thursday, February 28, 2019

GWPF Newsletter: U.S. Democrats Won’t Back ‘Green New Deal’ In ‘Sham’ Vote

White House Recruits Researchers For ‘Adversarial’ Climate Science Review

In this newsletter:

1) U.S. Democrats Won’t Back ‘Green New Deal’ In ‘Sham’ Vote
E&E News, 26 February 2019 
2) White House Recruits Researchers For ‘Adversarial’ Climate Science Review
Science Magazine, 25 February 2019

3) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Could Cost $93 Trillion, Group Says
Bloomberg, 25 February 2019
4) America’s ‘Green’ Millennials Grab The Wheel And Step On The Gas
Energy Institute at HAAS, 25 February 2019
5) Europe’s Populist Right Threatens To Erode Climate Consensus
Bloomberg, 25 February 2019
6) Don’t Blame Melting Ice For Polar Bear Attacks. Blame A Bear Baby Boom
Susan J Crockford, Financial Post, 27 February 2019 

Full details:

1) U.S. Democrats Won’t Back ‘Green New Deal’ In ‘Sham’ Vote
E&E News, 26 February 2019 

If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls a vote on the “Green New Deal,” it looks likely that many — or even all — Senate Democrats would vote “present” to avoid a public intraparty fight, said activists, lawmakers and congressional aides.

The environmental group behind the climate resolution is not planning to punish Democratic lawmakers for doing so — a departure from the Sunrise Movement’s recent history of attacking both Democrats and Republicans who question the “Green New Deal,” a massive government-led jobs program.

“This vote is a sham,” said Evan Weber, co-founder and political director of the Sunrise Movement. “Mitch McConnell obviously doesn’t support [the “Green New Deal”] so he’s trying to put [the vote] forward as a political ploy.”

Because of that motivation, Weber said he would be fine with Senate Democrats simply voting “present” on the resolution — as most of them did in July 2017 when Senate Republicans tried to split the Democratic caucus by holding a vote on “Medicare for All,” a similar hot-button issue on the left.

“I think it’s perfectly reasonable and respectful for Senate Democrats to call it out for what it is, and if voting present is how they want to do that, by all means go for it,” Weber said.

The maneuver also could spare Senate Democrats and the Sunrise Movement from a politically difficult or embarrassing result.

So far, about a dozen senators have co-sponsored a Democratic-led resolution in favor of the “Green New Deal.”

And since McConnell first floated the idea of holding a vote on the “Green New Deal,” there’s been little indication that Senate Democrats would come out in force to support the plan, which calls on the U.S. to rapidly “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

That includes a 10-year goal of generating “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

Asked last week how he would vote on the “Green New Deal,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois wouldn’t say. “At this point … I can’t tell you,” Durbin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “I’ve read it and I’ve reread it and I asked [sponsor Sen.] Ed Markey [D-Mass.], what in the heck is this?”

Full story

2) White House Recruits Researchers For ‘Adversarial’ Climate Science Review
Science Magazine, 25 February 2019

The White House is recruiting researchers who reject the scientific consensus on climate change for its “adversarial” review of the issue.

The proposal to form a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” at the National Security Council (NSC) has shifted, into an ad-hoc group that will review climate science out of the public eye. Those involved in the preliminary discussions said it is focused on recruiting academics to conduct a review of the science that shows climate change presents a national security risk.

William Happer, a senior director at the NSC and an emeritus Princeton University physics professor not trained in climate science, is leading the effort.

Among those who have been contacted are the relatively small number of researchers with legitimate academic credentials who question the notion that humans are warming the planet at a rapid pace through the burning of fossil fuels. A number of the names the White House is targeting are those frequently invited by Republicans to testify at congressional hearings on climate change where uncertainty is emphasized.

The stated goal of the committee, according to a leaked White House memo, is to conduct “adversarial scientific peer review” of climate science.

Those involved in the preliminary discussions caution that the list of researchers, which could include scientists as well as statisticians, is still under discussion and that the shape of the committee has yet to be determined. Most of the members are expected to come from outside the federal government.

Happer did lead a meeting Friday to discuss the goals of the committee, according to a White House official. It could take about a month for an executive order creating the committee to receive President Trump’s signature, the official said.

The official would not confirm those who attended Friday’s meeting, but a memo that leaked ahead of the gathering showed representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy were among those invited to participate.

On Friday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway would not comment on why the administration was challenging the science of its own agencies.

“Do you have an articulate, competent question?” she said — and then refused to answer any questions about the meeting.

The list of researchers who have been approached or discussed includes: Judith Curry, a former professor at the Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Richard Lindzen, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has called those worried about global warming a “cult”; and John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and a newly installed member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board. A leader of the effort is Steven Koonin, a New York University professor and former undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy in the Obama administration.

It’s possible the review will also include scientists who agree with the vast majority in the field of climate science that humans are warming the planet at a pace unprecedented in the history of civilization.

Koonin has been actively recruiting participants for the effort. He and Happer worked with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to conduct a “red team, blue team” climate debate at EPA, which would also have taken an adversarial approach to scientific peer review, but that effort was ultimately scuttled by former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The new group plans to take a close look at the recent congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, which found that “the impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming.”

While the Trump administration signed off on the report, the president said he did not believe it. His administration attempted to bury the report by releasing it on the day after Thanksgiving.

Full story

3) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Could Cost $93 Trillion, Group Says
Bloomberg, 25 February 2019

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ambitious plan to fight climate change won’t be cheap, according to a Republican-aligned think tank led by a former Congressional Budget Office director.

The so-called Green New Deal may tally between $51 trillion and $93 trillion over 10-years, concludes American Action Forum, which is run by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who directed the non-partisan CBO from from 2003 to 2005.

That includes between $8.3 trillion and $12.3 trillion to meet the plan’s call to eliminate carbon emissions from the power and transportation sectors and between $42.8 trillion and $80.6 trillion for its economic agenda including providing jobs and health care for all.

“The Green New Deal is clearly very expensive,” the group said in its analysis. “Its further expansion of the federal government’s role in some of the most basic decisions of daily life, however, would likely have a more lasting and damaging impact than its enormous price tag.”

Backers of the plan say cost of inaction would be more expensive. The resolution itself, released earlier this month by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey points to a major report on global warming released by the United Nations last October that says catastrophic climate change could cost more than $500 billion annually in lost economic output in the U.S. by 2100.

Full post

4) America’s ‘Green’ Millennials Grab The Wheel And Step On The Gas
Energy Institute at HAAS, 25 February 2019

Remember how oil demand was going to fall because green millennials are different and don’t want to kill the planet? Well, think again.

Starting around 2012 there was a lot of discussion about millennials being different.  Why Don’t Young Americans Buy Cars?” asked Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic. Why Aren’t Younger Americans Driving Anymore? wrote Brad Plumer in the Washington Post.

At the time, it made sense to ask these questions. Back in 2012, U.S. gasoline sales had declined for five years in a row and were at their lowest level in more than a decade. New vehicles sales had still not recovered from a sharp decline in 2009, and automakers were anxious. Analysts were looking around for an explanation for what appeared to be a “generational” shift in gasoline consumption and car buying, and the millennial story seemed like a good match.

The story also felt entirely plausible. Born in the 1980s and 1990s, millennials have grown up in the digital age, so it makes sense that they could have unique tastes and preferences. For many of us, the stereotypical millennial lives in an urban area, likes to bike, and uses public transit. Could it be that this generation has a fundamentally different relationship with driving? And, if so, might a generational shift go a long way toward reducing the harms caused by driving, like pollution and traffic congestion?

The Present Looks a lot Like the Past

Could be, but probably isn’t. Fast forward to 2019. U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily now for seven years in a row. What looked in 2012 like a generational shift now looks more like a temporary blip.

Source: Constructed by Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) using EIA data `Motor Gasoline, 4-Week Averages.’

Americans are driving more than ever. Yes, even millennials. As their employment and income prospects have improved, millennials are buying cars and driving just like previous generations. It is becoming increasingly clear that economic factors — not changing tastes – are what explains the recent pattern for gasoline consumption.

To be fair, many of the same media outlets which initially touted the millennial story have been quick to note the reversal. “Millennials: Not So Cheap, After All,” writes Derek Thompson in the Atlantic. “Why Driving in the U.S. is Making a Big Comeback”, writes Brad Plumer in Vox.  Cheap gasoline since 2014 and an expanding economy and, what do you know, this new generation is jumping into car ownership and driving just like previous generations.

But, it is not enough to squint at the aggregate data. Two recent studies use detailed household-level microdata to much more carefully test the millennial theory.

Buying Cars
Economists Christopher Kurz, Geng Li, and Daniel Vine have a paper called “Are Millennials Different?” that examines a range of consumption behavior by millennials, including driving.

Many millennials entered their working-age years during the great recession, so they have lower earnings and fewer assets than previous generations at the same age. However, when you control for these economic factors, Kurz and coauthors find no differences in consumption preferences for millennials compared to previous generations.

The authors specifically examine vehicle purchases. New vehicle purchases by young households dropped during the great recession, but the shortfall was not particularly large and the rate has now returned to the same range as previous generations. Overall, when viewed from a life-cycle perspective, average spending by millennials on both new and used vehicles is right in line with previous generations.

So yes, millennials are buying cars.

And Driving, Too
Ok, so millennials are buying new cars, but are they driving them as much as previous generations? Economists Benjamin Leard, Josh Linn, and Clayton Munnings examine this question in a recently published paper “Explaining the Evolution of Passenger Vehicle Miles Traveled in the United States”.

Total U.S. national vehicle miles traveled (VMT) follows a pattern similar to the pattern for total U.S. gasoline consumption. VMT increased steadily during the 1990s and early 2000s – then plateaued in the mid-2000s – then increased again starting in 2012.

Leard and coauthors use household-level microdata from before the slowdown to estimate the relationship between VMT and economic characteristics. They then use the model to predict VMT since the great recession, and to test whether the recent pattern is explained by economic factors or generational tastes.  Bottom line. Economic factors – not generational tastes — explain most of the variation in VMT.

So yes, millennials like to drive.

Full post

5) Europe’s Populist Right Threatens To Erode Climate Consensus
Bloomberg, 25 February 2019

Europe’s consensus in favor of curbing greenhouse gas emissions is weakening due to rising support for right-wing populists, many of whom cast doubt over whether people bear the responsibility for climate change.

Those were the conclusions of environmental-policy researchers at Adelphi, who found that 21 right-wing populist parties across Europe either overtly deny or cast doubt on scientific agreement that human activity is behind global warming. The analysis, published Tuesday by the Berlin-based policy researcher, underscores the challenge climate advocates face entering European Union elections in May, which could challenge the durability of the bloc’s goals amid broad social and economic uncertainty.

“Most of the narratives used to counter climate and energy policies are fundamentally rooted in economic or social justice grievances,” according to the report’s authors Stella Schaller and Alexander Carius. “Climate action is perceived as an elitist issue.”

Support for right-wing populists looks set to surge in May’s European elections, with parties like Italy’s Northern League and Poland’s Law and Justice likely to gain seats at the expense of established parties. As the majority of right-wing populists line up against EU climate and energy proposals, political barriers against climate policies will likely grow, the report found.

The European Parliament has a key role in shaping climate rules in the EU. Together with member states, it has the power to approve or reject legislation proposed by the European Commission. The final composition of EU laws is negotiated between those three institutions.

The researchers wrote that the populist wave poses “the danger that centrist parties will pander to climate-skeptic priorities or nationalist rhetoric, and shift from progressive to reactionary positions.”
There are already signs that the right-wing wave has blunted attempts to introduce environmentally-friendly policies, with Germany’s coal commission delaying the country’s exit from burning the dirtiest fossil fuel.

That’s in part due to concerns about job losses in the Lausitz region of Saxony, where the AfD is catching up to more established parties ahead of September elections.

The AfD in its 2017 federal election program wrote that carbon dioxide “is not a pollutant, but an indispensable component of all life,” adding that “the International Panel on Climate Change and the German government are suppressing the positive effects of CO2 on plant growth and thus global nutrition.”

Full story

6) Don’t Blame Melting Ice For Polar Bear Attacks. Blame A Bear Baby Boom
Susan J Crockford, Financial Post, 27 February 2019 

Some scientists still think it’s OK to mislead the public to promote climate change alarm

February 27th is International Polar Bear Day, and what interesting timing it happens to be this year. In recent weeks the media have been all over the news that the Russian village of Belushaya Guba, on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the southern Barents Sea had declared a state of emergency because more than 50 aggressive and fearless polar bears had invaded the community. Protected status for the bears meant deadly force was not an option for terrified residents, yet non-lethal efforts to get the bears to leave had been futile.

Predictably, the blame was immediately put on sea-ice loss due to climate change — not by a scientist but by a Norwegian journalist who initially reported the story, adding in his own homemade, unscientific analysis. Pundits came out of the gate later, to add further layers of hyperbole, even after the original journalist followed up with another story recanting his original theories, headlined “Well-fed polar bears are not necessarily stuck at Novaya Zemlya due to climate change, experts say.”

The primary problem was, in fact, the village’s garbage, with too many bears being a close second. There had been ice enough in late November to allow the bears to leave Novaya Zemlya as they usually do in the fall but they did not. Dozens of fat bears chose to stay for the winter because of easy access to stores of food and an open-air garbage dump.

A few days after military personnel arrived and got serious about running the chubby troublemakers out of town, the bears took to the ice. But a week later, CNN was still pushing the imminent climate-change catastrophe meme using video footage of fat, healthy bears.

The story was reminiscent of the trouble that Churchill, Man. had with polar bears in the late 1960s, when bear numbers were burgeoning because of new restrictions on hunting them. As polar bear specialist Ian Stirling and colleagues described in a 1977 Canadian Wildlife Service report, increasing numbers of fearless bears wandered the streets of Churchill, which had three open-air dumps that bears frequented day and night:

“…in November 1968, up to 40 polar bears at any one time could be seen in the vicinity of the Fort Churchill dump, and 60 to 80 bears were estimated to be frequenting the settlements.

Bears attacked residents on a regular basis and a young Inuit man was killed. They broke into houses, killed dogs, and frightened people out of their wits. But at least when the ice came in the fall, Churchill bears left of their own accord.

Churchill now has its garbage under control and a Polar Bear Alert Program that is the envy of the Arctic. But it was expensive and took years to achieve such exemplary results. Few communities can muster those kinds of resources to deal with problem bears, especially Inuit hamlets in Canada and Greenland. In Nunavut, many residents of these small towns are terrified by the number of recent fatal attacks and close calls.

Two young Inuk men — one from Arviat, the other from Naujaat — were mauled to death last summer after years of Nunavut residents complaining that polar bear problems were spiralling out of control. Residents insist the spike is due to increased numbers of bears and that the bears they see (like those on Novaya Zemlya) are fat and healthy.

But biologists insist polar bear numbers are declining, especially in Western Hudson Bay, and that bears invade communities because sea-ice loss has deprived them of hunting habitat. Inuit say bears are not starving and numbers are up virtually everywhere, including Western Hudson Bay. A draft management plan released by the Nunavut government in November said, “Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern.”

As I reported in the 2018 State of the Polar Bear Report, the latest survey and research results suggest that polar bears probably number about 29,500 across the Arctic, with a wide margin of potential error. That’s up since 2005, when the count was about 24,500, despite low summer sea ice since 2007. Polar bears have proven to be more flexible in their habits and more capable in open water than scientists assumed. Long-term trends in sea ice cannot be used to explain individual events, like the mauling deaths this summer in Nunavut or the invasion of fat bears on Novaya Zemlya.

Furthermore, scientists who support the use of polar-bear tragedy porn by media and conservation activists to promote climate-change hysteria don’t do themselves any favours. Two years ago, biologist Steven Amstrup from Polar Bears International condoned the use of a now infamous starving polar bear video to spread climate alarmism: National Geographic later had to apologize for the misrepresentation. But University of Alberta biologist Andrew Derocher’s recent online comment about the Belushaya Guba bears (“it may not be climate change but it’s consistent with the predicted impacts of climate change”) suggests that some scientists still think it’s OK to mislead the public about polar bears when promoting climate change alarm.

Escalating problems with polar bears across the Arctic in all seasons are not what climate change looks like. They’re a sign of ever-increasing numbers of polar bears.

Susan Crockford is a zoologist and adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. She blogs about polar bears at 

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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