EPA Endangerment Finding

EPA Endangerment Finding

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Quote of the Week:
“By honest I don’t mean that you only tell what’s true. But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind.” – Richard Feynman

EPA Endangerment Finding: Attorneys for various organizations have petitioned the EPA to overturn its “Endangerment Finding” (2009 Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act), according to which carbon dioxide (CO2) is regarded as a danger to the health of people. On January 19, outgoing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a rejection to the attorneys. The EPA reasons for denying the petitions include:

“Our Endangerment Finding concluded on the basis of scientific evidence from the U.S. Global Climate Research Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], and the National Research Council that certain long-lived and directly emitted greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – the six well-mixed greenhouse gases – may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.”

The problem is that none of the cited organizations presented physical evidence that greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide (CO2) specifically endanger public health and welfare.

The studies the EPA cites fail on multiple levels:

• The methods used do not separate human influence on climate from natural influences based on physical evidence. The organizations use speculation.
• The methods used do not separate the influence of greenhouse gases on climate from other human influences based on physical evidence. Other human influences include urbanization and change of land use such as agriculture and irrigation.
• The methods used do not incorporate the correct field of physics needed to understand the greenhouse effect and how the greenhouse effect changes with changing greenhouse gases. The correct field of physics is well established, radiative transfer, and the proper physical evidence is well tested, such as HITRAN.

Thus, the EPA determination is not based on the best science available but on speculation. The greenhouse effect occurs throughout the atmosphere, particularly in the troposphere. The dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor. The methods used by the organizations cited by the EPA use speculation to separate the influence of water vapor from the influence of other greenhouse gases.

The EPA and the organizations cited ignore the most basic test to discern if they are close to understanding the greenhouse effect, testing atmospheric temperature trends against what their models project. The models these organizations rely on fail miserably, greatly overestimating the effects of greenhouse gases

Thus, these organizations fail in the most fundamental step in the scientific method, testing the hypothesis against all physical evidence.

EPA is an organization that is both regulatory and scientific. It is incapable of doing both. It has subordinated its scientific roles to its regulatory role. The courts’ trust in the EPA is misplaced. It has not applied the scientific method of questioning and challenging the assertion with physical evidence. It has not used the correct field of physics, not used the proper evidence (data bases) and not corrected models that fail.

The Endangerment Finding was announced early in the Obama Administration, by a Democrat EPA administrator called extremely liberal. This denial letter comes from the Trump Administration’s EPA, a Republican called extremely conservative. One could say that the scientific incompetence of the EPA carries through, regardless of political party or ideology.

See discussion on Radiation Transfer in previous TWTWs, such as the one last week. For issues on climate science and specific deficiencies in the U.S. Global Research Program, see links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

Legally Binding? Last week, TWTW discussed that the Paris Agreement, signed under the Obama Administration, rejected by Trump, now embraced by the Biden Administration, is not a treaty under the US Constitution, because it has not been submitted to the Senate, let alone agreed to by a two-thirds majority. It is not legally in US courts. Reader Dennis Ambler of the UK drew attention to the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) discussing the Paris Agreement: It opens with:

“The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.”

The US courts will determine whether it is legally binding in the US. But who will make it legally binding in China? Or in Russia, or in Iran?

The website also states:

“Implementation of the Paris Agreement requires economic and social transformation, based on the best available science.”

As stated above, what is called the best available science is little more than speculation and is clearly contradicted by physical evidence and therefore wrong.

The UNFCCC was a parent to the UN IPCC and was formed by an agreement signed by the first President Bush. The agreement was sent as a treaty to the US Senate for approval (two-thirds of those present is needed). In October 1992, the Senate approved it with conditions that appear to be violated today. For example:

“The second paragraph states the sense of the Senate regarding the materials that must be included in the transmittal documents that would accompany any agreement that is submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. Such transmittal documents should include: 1) a detailed explanation of legislation or regulations that would be required to implement the agreement; 2) a detailed analysis of the financial and economic costs to the United States incurred by implementing the agreement submitted to the Senate.” [Boldface added]

It may result in the Supreme Court having to decide whether the UNFCCC agreement is a treaty in the US, regardless of previous claims. (Note that a treaty (valid or not) to form an organization is not a treaty to abide by their declarations.) This mess is an illustration of the wisdom of George Washington who in his farewell address advised American citizens to view themselves as a cohesive unit and to be wary of attachments and entanglements with other nations. See links under After Paris!

Changing Science: On her blog Climate Etc., Judith Curry presented her lightly edited transcript of a podcast interview she did with Canadian Christopher Balkaran. In it she discusses how climate science has changed since she was a student, becoming part of a political movement for world government headed by the UN (at least as the figurehead). She states that when she was a student:

“Climate change wasn’t a really big issue at that point. At the time, it was all about geophysical fluid dynamics, trying to understand the circulations of atmosphere and the ocean, radiative transfer, cloud physics. It was, it was very physics based. I would hear in the media about people talking about, Oh, the ice age is coming, or doom and gloom from CO2 emissions, but nobody was really paying attention to all that very much in terms of what I would say the mainstream field until the late 1980s, really. There were some very rambunctious people who were talking about this publicly and painting alarming scenarios on both sides, the cold and the warm side, and most people that I knew and where I was, nobody was really paying much attention to all that.”

In the 1970s radiative transfer was an important part of Climate Science. Now it is ignored. The science of radiative transfer does not produce results that create fear in the public, probably because it was not until the 1980s a big push came to create fear of climate change. Curry states:

Well, a lot of it comes from the UN Environmental Program [UNEP]. At the time, there was a push towards world government, socialistic kind of leanings, don’t like capitalism and big oil. A lot of it really comes from that kind of thinking. And the UNEP was one of the sponsoring organizations for the IPCC. And so that really engaged more climate scientists and really brought it more into the mainstream. But in the early days, a lot of scientists didn’t like this at all, they didn’t think that we should be going in this direction. And this was even the World Climate Research program and the World Meteorological Organization, they didn’t want to get involved in man-made climate change under the auspices of the IPCC.

They said, this is just a whole political thing. This is not what we do. We seek to understand all the processes and climate dynamics, we don’t want to go there. And that was really a pretty strong attitude, though, I would say the mid-nineties, say 1995. We had the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at that point, they’re trying to get a big treaty going. And so, defenders of the IPCC started pushing the idea that anybody who doubts us or challenges us, they are in the pay of big oil. After that, it became much more difficult to really challenge all that. And certainly, by the turn of the century, anybody who was questioning the hockey stick or any of these other things were slammed as deniers and ostracized. And then after Climategate in 2010, the consensus enforcers became very militant. So, it’s a combination of politics, and some mediocre scientists trying to protect their careers. And they saw this whole thing as a way for career advancement, and it gives them a seat at the big table and political power.

“All this reinforces pretty shoddy science and overconfidence in their expert judgment, which comprises the IPCC assessment reports. And then at some point you start to get second order belief. I mean, it’s such a big, complex problem. Individual scientists only look at a piece of it, and then they start accepting what the consensus says on the other topics. A scientist working on some aspect of the climate problem may know very little about carbon dioxide, the carbon budget, radiative transfer, all that fundamental science, but they will accept the climate consensus because it’s easy and good for their career. And so, it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And now we have way too much confidence in some very dubious climate models and inadequate data sets. And we’re not really framing the problem broadly enough to really understand what’s going on with the climate and to make credible projections about the range of things that we could possibly see in the 21st century.”

Curry goes on to discuss how the political movement gained public funding for certain scientists. Those who did not go along could not get funding. [Government funding is especially important to research universities.]

“As a result, it’s really the independent scientists, retired people, people in the private sector, independently wealthy people who are doing this work.” [of providing needed skepticism.]

After Balkaran (the commentator) asked why Curry believes climate science is so politicized, she states:

“Well, there is almost certainly a signal of manmade emissions in the earth’s climate. All other things being equal, it’s warmer than it would otherwise be. The real issue is the magnitude of man-made warming relative to the whole host of other things that go on in the natural climate system. And then the bigger issue is really whether this warming is dangerous. You know, a certain amount of warming is generally regarded by people as a good thing. But a whole lot of warming, isn’t especially a good thing, especially if it’s melting ice sheets and causing sea level rise.”

After a discussion of sea level rise Curry discusses her skepticism of climate change modeling:

Okay. The climate models originated from weather forecast models, and then they added an ocean then land surface biosphere, and then chemical processes, and now ice sheets. They keep adding all these modules and increasing complexity of the models, but the basic dynamics are driven by the same kind of models that model the weather. We’ve learned a lot from climate models, by running experiments, turning things off, turning things on adjusting parameters, taking clouds out, taking sea ice out, holding the sea surface temperature constant in the tropical central Pacific and see what happens, you know, we learn how the climate works by using climate models in that way. However, the most consequential applications of climate models are to tell us what caused the 20th century climate change, how much the climate change is going to change in the 21st century and what’s causing extreme weather events.

I mean, those are the more consequential applications and climate models aren’t fit for any of those purposes. And that’s pretty much acknowledged even in the IPCC report. Well, they, they do claim that they can attribute the global warming, but this can’t be easily separated from the natural variability associated with large-scale ocean circulations. And the way they’ve used climate models to do that involves circular reasoning, where they throw out climate simulations that really don’t match what was observed. So, you, you end up, even if you’re not explicitly tuning to the climate record, you’re implicitly tuning. And then the thing with extreme events, weather events is beyond silly because these climate models can’t resolve the extreme events and they can’t simulate the ocean circulation patterns that really determine the locations of these extreme events. And then when you start talking about 21st century, the only thing they’re looking at is the manmade human emissions forcing, they’re not predicting solar variability.

The interview goes on to discuss many other problems with climate modeling and their use in making projections / predictions of future conditions, even though the models fail basic testing. As Curry states, the modeling (and the organizations that focus on it) are looking at one little piece (the warming role of CO2) of the complex puzzle of climate change. As Richard Lindzen wrote, this may be 1 to 2% of the puzzle. Outputs from such modeling are scientifically meaningless.

After explaining she has tried to look at both sides of the debate, she states:

“but the alarmists seem to be completely intolerant to disagreement and criticism.

“There’s crazy people on both sides of the debate. There’s a range of credible perspectives that I try to consider. it’s a very complex problem and we don’t have the answers yet.”

In a section discussing political influence she states:

“Yeah. you know, people have said Trump is anti-science. I don’t think he’s anti-science, he just doesn’t pay attention to it. What he pays attention to is energy policy. This doesn’t necessarily make you anti-science it makes you ignoring science, so it’s different. So that’s what we’ve seen in the U.S. under the Trump administration. And then we have on the other side of the aisle, politicians say, “I believe in science” and they don’t understand anything about it. They say they believe in it. It’s like they they’re believing in Santa Claus. it’s really a political and cultural signifier rather than any real understanding. So, it’s just become so politicized, you know, how do you get around that? How do you get past that? I don’t know.”

“Well, the first four years, Obama saw that climate change was a political tar baby, and so he pretty much ignored it and went on and tried to do other things where he thought he could be more successful. I think that was a good choice. He picked up on climate change in his second term, but he politicized it. John Holdren, his science advisor really politicized it. President Obama was tweeting about deniers and stuff like that. And on the White House web page, there was stuff about calling out the climate deniers, and it was very polarizing. I think a lot of the polarization that happened in the U S, really accelerated during Obama’s second term. Then you get whiplash with the Trump administration who, doesn’t care about climate change. He does care about energy policies, you know, he was on a completely different tangent.”

This is a refreshing interview from someone who was intensely involved from the academic standpoint, testified in Congress and who was willing to ask critical questions. The only point on which TWTW disagrees is her belief that natural gas can replace coal for generating electricity. Thanks to the development of directional drilling coupled with hydraulic fracturing this is true for the US. But the beds of shale need to be fairly uniform and largely unfractured. For example, early estimates of recoverable oil and gas in the Monterey formation in California have been substantially lowered. The formation now appears unsuitable because of lack of uniformity and complex fracturing. In many parts of the world coal may be the only fossil fuel available for generating reliable, affordable electricity.

The other option is nuclear. As Curry brings up, wind and solar (though unreliable) require extensive land that is often better used for other purposes. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

Costs and Benefits: Unscrupulous economists are particularly good at manipulating numbers to confuse the public and make certain policies appear far better than they are. Nicholas Stern of the UK, formerly of the World Bank, did this in his cost-benefit analysis of the 2008 Climate Change Act, which committed the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The costs of this Act are still unknown, but electricity prices in the UK are increasing substantially. The benefits are minimal, possibly non-existent.

For all of Trump’s shortcomings, his economic policies brought the US out of the great recession. Before COVID-19 hit, unemployment was at its lowest since the 1960s; black unemployment was the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began calculating it in the early 1970s; and income disparity between the highest and lowest income groups was shrinking. Much of the credit belongs to Mick Mulvaney, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget until Trump relieved him.

Mulvaney and a former associate wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal cautioning readers that a memo by President Biden may give OMB the excuse to jack up the benefits of regulation and play down the costs, similar to what Nicholas Stern did in the UK. See Article # 1 and links under Questioning European Green and Energy Issues – Non-US.

Additions and Corrections: Last week TWTW brought up the idea of Bandwagon Science. Richard Courtney brought up the idea of bandwagon, TWTW added science. Subsequently, Courtney wrote:

“…for decades I have been saying that global warming is a bandwagon and NOT a conspiracy.

“People do not need to agree for them to join (or to stay on) a bandwagon that is going in a direction they all want to go. And a coincidence of interests usually has a greater effect than any conspiracy.

“The global warming issue is a tool used by people of all political persuasions. And it is a useful source of research funding while politicians promote it.

“Global warming was an obscure scientific hypothesis for a century. Several people, notably Bert Bolin, had failed in attempts to make a scare from the hypothesis before Margaret Thatcher elevated it to become an international political issue. After that the hypothesis was a political issue which became a bandwagon that made the hypothesis into a scare. Thatcher attempted to reject ‘global warming’ when it ceased its usefulness to her, but she then discovered had become a bandwagon she was unable to stop.”

“’Science’ is self-correcting but ‘bandwagon science’ is self-sustaining.”

Number of the Week: 15% or 61 Terawatt-hours (TWh). China Energy Portal tracks China power production. The increases from 2019 to 2020 are: Wind up 61.2 TWh (15.1%), Solar up 37.1 TWh (16.6%), and Thermal up 296 TWh (4%). Guess which number the wind and solar promoters will use in comparing these increases with coal, actual increase, or percentage increase? [Total power production was 7,624 TWh] See links under Return of King Coal?