Category Archives: Environment

Requiem for a Climate Dream

I have argued for nuclear power for the better of 30 years… Not that I’m that smart, for sure.

WSJ 12/4/2019 By Holman Jenkins, Jr.

Rigor could be restored to mainstream climate journalism with a single clause. That clause consists of the words “if climate models are accurate.”

A United Nations study issued in advance of this week’s climate summit in Madrid would appear in a different light, though still worrisome, and still a challenge to policy makers, if it were reported as saying: To avoid any chance of a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, annual emissions cuts of 7.6% must begin next year if computerized climate simulations are correct.

Such simulations, we should admit, are science. Their findings represent a legitimate pursuit of knowledge. The common failing in the media involves leaving out the necessary caveats. Such carelessness has ultimately enabled a new kind of science denial on the left, where advocates like Greta Thunberg and the U.K. group Extinction Rebellion increasingly talk about climate change leading to a human demise that is nowhere supported in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or other scientific bodies.

In my view, Al Gore bears heavy responsibility here. Name any important policy commitment in history— whether Social Security or Medicare or even fighting World War II—that required that all debate be silenced and all skeptics vilified before it could proceed. The Gore formula is good for stoking tribalism. It’s not good for making policy progress in a democracy. And so it has proved. Nobody remotely believes the supposedly necessary emissions cuts will take place. The only response left to the climate crowd is to ratchet up even more dire predictions.

Let’s start over. If stated properly, the “scientific consensus” would run as follows: climate models teach us to expect some warming from human- caused atmospheric CO2 increases, but disagree about how much. It’s hard to make cost-benefit judgments on such a basis, but happily the Green New Deal makes it easy—it would cost a lot of money and accomplish nothing since U.S. emissions are just 14% of the total and shrinking. India and China, not the U.S., will determine the fate of climate change.

Cost-benefit analysis also tells us a bunch of things that might be worth doing even in light of the uncertainties. A tax reform based on a revenue- neutral carbon tax could make our tax system more efficient and pro-growth. Government investment in basic research tends to have a high payoff, and battery research is a particularly attractive opportunity. Rethinking nuclear power and regulation is another area of huge potential. Safer and cheaper nuclear technologies continue to advance on the drawing board even in today’s inhospitable political environment.

And guess what? All the above would be easier to sell to other countries than Green New Deal masochism. Voters would readily gobble up new energy technologies and tax models that would make their societies richer and stronger. In honor of this week’s global climate gathering in Madrid, the New York Times aptly refers to the “gap between reality and diplomacy.” International agreements, by their nature, are designed to put an imprimatur on what domestic politicians would do anyway, and that doesn’t include prematurely ending their careers by imposing on consumers the kind of crushing burdens the green left seeks.

Look elsewhere for the turning points that actually matter. If climate change proves as severe as some scientists believe, the most damning moment will be one that passed largely unremarked except in this column: the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown after Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany, the world’s sixth biggest emitter, chaotically and thoughtlessly announced within weeks that it would close all 17 of its nuclear plants. China and India, then pursuing ambitious nuclear expansions that should have become more ambitious, instead recommitted themselves to burning vast amounts of coal.

Nuclearphobes should remind themselves that more people die each year from coal-mining accidents than have been killed in all the nuclear accidents in history. Never mind the tens of thousands who are statistically estimated to die annually from inhaling particulates. No technology is perfect, but NASA’s James Hansen, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Gaia theorist James Lovelock, and the late Harvard economist Martin Weitzman are among the diverse and serious students of climate change who have said that meaningful cuts won’t happen without nuclear.

The Fukushima accident, widely misread and breathing new life into the antinuclear lobby, will prove more significant than even the advocacy errors of Al Gore. It will prove more significant than the Paris Agreement, the election of Donald Trump, the tiresome legal vendetta against Exxon, or any of the matters that obsess the climate left. It probably put paid to any hope that emissions cuts will play a role in climate change for at least the next three or four decades. Get used to it.

BUSINESS WORLD

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

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water. AUS style.

I had not hear about this from my AUS kids…  Hmm?

Dead kangaroos and a dying river are results of Australian system considered in the U.S.

Australia’s Darling River was once filled with fleets of paddle steamers carrying wool to ships bound for England. For nearly two centuries, it provided fresh water to farmers seeking to tame Australia’s rugged interior.

No longer. The Darling River hasn’t flowed for eight months, with long stretches completely dried up. A million fish died there in January. Kangaroos, lizards and birds became sick or died after drinking from toxic pools of stagnant water.

Australia’s water-trading market is drawing blame. The problems with the system, created more than a decade ago, have arisen as similar programs are being considered in the U.S.

“We’ve seen a complete market failure,” says Katharine McBride, whose husband, Rob McBride, is a rancher at Tolarno Station, along the Darling River some 700 miles west of Sydney. “It is becoming pretty clear that there is large-scale corruption and manipulation.”

Water crises are unfolding across the world as surging populations, industrial-scale farming and hotter temperatures deplete supplies.

Australia’s experience is a warning to the U.S., where Western states including California, Nevada and Arizona are looking at Australian-style water-trading plans to apply more market discipline to water usage.

Australia thought it had the answer: a cap-and-trade system that would create incentives to use water efficiently and effectively in the world’s driest inhabited continent. But the architects of water trading didn’t anticipate that treating water as a commodity would encourage theft and hoarding.

A report produced for a state resources regulator found the current situation on the Darling was caused by too much water being extracted from the river by a handful of big farmers. Just four license holders control 75% of the water extracted from the Barwon- Darling river system.

The national government, concerned that its water-trading experiment hasn’t turned out as intended, last month requested an inquiry by the country’s antitrust regulator into water trading.

Anticorruption authorities are investigating instances of possible fraud, water theft and deal making for water licenses. In one case, known as Watergate, a former agriculture minister allegedly oversaw the purchase of a water license at a record price from a Cayman Islands company cofounded by the current energy minister.

The former agriculture minister said he was following departmental advice and had no role in determining the price or the vendor. The energy minister said he is no longer involved with the company and received no financial benefit from the deal.

Water has been bought and sold in parts of the U.S. for decades. The Colorado-Big Thompson project in Colorado is one of the most active markets, but trading has never grown to make much of a difference in overall supply.

In California, some local authorities see trading as a way to comply with legislation that requires groundwater use to reach sustainable levels by the early 2040s. In Nevada, the state engineer approved a water- trading plan in January in the Diamond Valley, near the town of Eureka.

The Nevada plan is meant to change a system in which farmers each year use twice the amount of groundwater replenished by rainfall. Under the plan, which faces a court challenge from farmers and ranchers, water users would be allocated shares that they could freely sell, trade or bank, with each share representing a unit of water. Each

year, the number of water units decline, resulting in a reduction of use.

Since 2007, Australia has allowed not only farmers but also investors who want to profit from trading to buy and sell water shares. The water market is now valued at some $20 billion.

Putting a price on water was supposed to encourage smarter decisions. Farmers would grow crops that paid the highest returns, and local river systems would be nursed back to health because people would stop wasting cheap water. One benefit of the system has been that farmers who couldn’t plant during dry years could sell their water rights to others, saving many from bankruptcy.

But making water valuable had unintended consequences in some places. “Once you create something of real value, you should expect people to attempt to steal it and search for ways to cheat,” says Mike Young, a University of Adelaide professor.

Big water users have stolen billions of liters of water from rivers and lakes, according to local media investigations and officials, often by pumping it secretly and at night from remote locations that aren’t metered.

A new water regulator set up in New South Wales investigated more than 300 tips of alleged water thefts in its first six months of operation.

In 2018, authorities charged a group of cotton farmers with stealing water, including one that pleaded guilty to pumping enough illegally to fill dozens of Olympic-size pools.

Another problem is that water trading gives farmers an incentive to capture more rain and floodwater, and then hoard it, typically by building storage tanks or lining dirt ditches with concrete. That enables them to collect rain before it seeps into the earth or rivers.

David Littleproud, Australia’s water-resources minister, says 14% of water licenses are now owned by investors. “Is that really the intent of what we want this market to be?” he asks.

Even without theft and hoarding, the water market has changed Australia’s landscape. Because investors could secure large quantities of water, there was a shift from crops including wheat to the more water-intensive citrus, cotton and almonds, further taxing Australia’s limited supply. The risk is that a drought, rather than wiping out one or two wheat crops, will kill the nut and citrus trees, causing much deeper losses.

“When you push people to find the highest return, the system’s vulnerability is hugely intensified,” says Erin O’Donnell, a water expert at the University of Melbourne.

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Glyphosate?

WSJ  9/4/2019   One of the safest herbicides on the planet.

Perhaps you’ve read that science should rule when determining environmental standards. So why aren’t progressives cheering an Environmental Protection Agency order declaring that the chemical glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer?

In an extraordinary intervention, the EPA recently said it will no longer approve product labels that claim glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the popular weed killer. The herbicide has been on the U.S. market since 1974, and the scientific consensus is that it isn’t carcinogenic in humans.

The letter is a rebuke to California, which in 2015 said it would add glyphosate to its official list of carcinogens under the state’s 1986 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65. California cited the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s finding that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer.

This is the U.N. outfit that has warned against cancer from pickled vegetables, caffeine and working the night shift. California’s move has inspired a flood of lawsuits against Roundup-maker Monsanto, including a $2 billion jury judgment (reduced to $86 million by a judge) in May for a California couple claiming glyphosate caused their cancer.

EPA’s letter is an attempt to restore science to the glyphosate debate and counter California’s rogue regulation. The letter cites EPA’s extensive review of the scientific literature on glyphosate, as well as the concurring judgments of regulators in Canada, Australia, the European Union, Germany, New Zealand and Japan.

The agency also cites its labeling authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which should pre-empt

The EPA intervenes against California’s rogue cancer regulation.

state law. The EPA letter says it “considers the Proposition 65 warning language based on the chemical glyphosate to constitute a false and misleading statement.”

The EPA letter should also be evidence in current litigation brought by farm groups against California. In 2018 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against California, finding the farm plaintiffs would likely prevail in their claims that the state’s cancer-label requirement violates their First Amendment rights.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment responded to the EPA letter by calling it “disrespectful of the scientific process,” but the opposite is true. California is the regulatory outlier attempting to impose its standards despite the precedent that federal law sets national standards on health and safety when Congress’s language is clear.

The EPA might also make a difference in thousands of lawsuits against glyphosate manufacturers. Many of the suits claim Monsanto and others failed to warn consumers about cancer risks, and defendants can now point out that they are barred by federal regulators from issuing such warnings.

California state judges overseeing current glyphosate lawsuits have largely excluded EPA’s conclusions as evidence in court. But anyone who cares about science and the law should welcome the EPA’s intervention.

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The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels – WSJ

Yes, let’s put all the benefits on the table.
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By Joseph L. Bast and Peter Ferrara
June 17, 2018 1:58 p.m. ET

As several cities continue their suit against oil companies, The People of the State of California v. BP, Judge William Alsup has boiled the case down to its pivotal question. In March he ordered the legal counsels of both parties to help him weigh “the large benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels” against the possibility that such fuels may be causing global warming.

We sent the judge, and posted online, a 24-page document that answers his question. The benefits of oil, coal and gas are rarely acknowledged by environmental activists, who seek to regulate and tax these fuel sources out of existence. But an honest accounting shows that fossil fuels produce enormous social value that far outweighs their costs.

First, fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, and in turn improving health. “The most fundamental attribute of modern society is simply this,” writes historian Vaclav Smil in his 2003 book on energy: “Ours is a high energy civilization based largely on combustion of fossil fuels.”

Fossil fuels, and coal in particular, provided the energy that powered the Industrial Revolution. Today, coal plants still produce most of the electricity that powers high-tech manufacturing equipment and charges mobile computing devices.

The alternative energy sources environmental activists favor are generally more expensive. Energy economists Thomas Stacey and George Taylor calculate that wind power costs nearly three times as much as existing coal generation and 2.3 times as much as combined-cycle gas. There is a negative correlation between energy prices and economic activity. A 2014 survey of economic literature by Roger Bezdek calculates that a 10% increase in U.S. electricity prices would eliminate approximately 1.3% of gross domestic product.

Cheap energy from fossil fuels also improves human well-being by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air-conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. Environmental activists often claim that prosperity speeds the depletion of resources and destruction of nature, but the opposite is true. As Ronald Bailey writes in “The End of Doom”: “It is in rich democratic capitalist countries that the air and water are becoming cleaner, forests are expanding, food is abundant, education is universal, and women’s rights respected.”

Fossil fuels have increased the quantity of food humans produce and improved the reliability of the food supply. The availability of cheap energy revolutionized agriculture throughout the world, making it possible for an ever-smaller proportion of the labor force to raise food sufficient to feed a growing global population without devastating nature or polluting air or water.

Fossil-fuel emissions create additional benefits, contributing to the greening of the Earth. A 2017 study published in Nature magazine found that the global mass of land plants grew 31% during the 20th century. African deserts are blooming thanks to fossil fuels.

Finally, if fossil fuels are responsible for a significant part of the warming recorded during the second half of the 20th century, then they should also be credited with reducing deaths due to cold weather. Medical researchers William Richard Keatinge and Gavin Donaldson assessed this effect in a 2004 study. “Since heat-related deaths are generally much fewer than cold-related deaths, the overall effect of global warming on health can be expected to be a beneficial one.”

They estimate the predicted temperature rise in Britain over the next 50 years will reduce cold-related deaths by 10 times the number of increased heat-related deaths. Other research shows climate change has exerted only a minimal influence on recent trends in vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and diseases spread by ticks.

Altogether, fossil fuels have produced huge benefits for mankind, many of which continue today. But advocates of alternative energy sources usually manage to omit or diminish many of these benefits when calculating fossil fuels’ “social cost.”

Thankfully, President Trump and congressional Republicans understand that the costs of fossil fuels must be weighed against their substantial benefits. They have decided wisely not to carry on the “war on fossil fuels” waged by the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and their Golden State allies.

Messrs. Bast and Ferrara are senior fellows at the Heartland Institute.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-social-benefits-of-fossil-fuels-far-outweigh-the-costs-1529258294?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=2

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