Commentary Magazine


Topic: climate change

Good News for Polar Bears. Bad News for Al Gore.

That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

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That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

The report in yesterday’s Daily Mail concerns the extent of the ice cap covering the Arctic. Gore had warned in 2007 while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that within seven years the ice cap would vanish in summer. However, satellite photographs confirm that not only has the ice not vanished, in the last two years it has increased somewhere between 43 and 62 percent since 2012. It turns out that in that time some 1.715 million square kilometers of the Arctic are now covered by ice that were water during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Does this mean that global warning is a myth? Not necessarily. Scientists say 2012 was a year of “freak weather” and that the cooling since then is a regression to the mean rather than a complete reversal of past warming trends that some say remain in place in the long term. But since the evidence shows that the ice cap is larger than at any point since 2006, it’s certainly worth noting.

It may be that the global cooling in terms of overall average temperatures that has been going on since 1997 is a mere blip in the long run that will constitute a pause before a period of severe warming. That’s the assertion of some climate scientists and they might be right when they assert that the climate is being influenced more by man-made activity than in the past.

But let’s also remember that most of the same scientists pooh-poohing cooling trends, whether since 2012 or 1997, didn’t predict the decline in temperatures or the growth of the ice pack. Nor did their computer models, which continue to be used to back up claims of dire environmental damage due to warming in the near and long-term future.

Yet instead of some of the ups and downs of actual climate activity—as opposed to the projected doomsday scenarios that are treated by liberals as being not theory but certain truth—inducing some caution, if not humility on the part of those making alarmist predictions, most seem inclined to double down on their assertions.

What these cooling trends indicate is that the factors influencing climate may be a bit more complex than the simple equation between carbon emissions and rising temperatures that popular culture now treats as revealed truth.

Time will tell who has been telling the truth and who has been hyping predictions of doom in order to advance certain ideological agendas that benefit from hysterical predictions. Given the damaging economic cost of some of the anti-warming measures recommended by the Gore crowd, it is understandable that some people might be prepared to treat the entire theory as a lie. But it could be that in order to get us to believe that the world is warming a bit, we’ve been told that it is melting.

If so, it could be that for all of the honors and wealth that has been showered on Gore as a result of his alarmist shtick, he and others like him may have done more harm than good to the environmentalist cause. That’s especially true at a time when President Obama is seeking to rally support for a new climate change treaty that he doesn’t plan to submit for approval to a skeptical U.S. Senate.

In the meantime, the polar bears—the poster children of global warming whom our impressionable children were endlessly told would soon be swimming for their lives in an Arctic denuded of ice—seem to be doing just fine in their expanded frozen empire. We should all toast their good health and learn from this episode to take further pronouncements from Gore and his ilk or anyone else making climate predictions with a truckload of salt.

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Obama’s Lawless, Heartless Climate Treaty

Can President Obama force through a new international climate change treaty without a vote in the Senate, as the Constitution requires? The administration thinks it can. But while conservatives will correctly cry foul about this deceit, liberals should be just as angry about the way the terms of this lawless proposed pact hurts poor Third World nations.

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Can President Obama force through a new international climate change treaty without a vote in the Senate, as the Constitution requires? The administration thinks it can. But while conservatives will correctly cry foul about this deceit, liberals should be just as angry about the way the terms of this lawless proposed pact hurts poor Third World nations.

As the New York Times reports, the administration is so determined to forge a new deal with other countries to limit carbon emissions that it is prepared to ignore the Senate, even though the Constitution clearly states that any treaty must be approved by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate. Their solution is to sign what they are calling a “politically binding” rather than “legally binding” pact whose purpose will be to strong-arm countries into curbing economic development to conform with the belief that this is harming the planet. Nations will be required to enact climate change laws while pledging to observe “voluntary” emissions cuts while also funneling money to compensate poor nations whose attempts to create economic development will be halted by the climate change craze.

Both the administration and some of its European partners in this scheme believe they can get away with this sleight of hand by concocting a document that combines a restatement of existing U.S. treaty commitments dating from 1992 with new, supposedly voluntary pledges. This will, they think, allow them to evade U.S. law and commit the U.S. to an international accord without the benefit of congressional approval.

As one advocate of the plan told the Times, this is a tactic involving “legal and political magic.” A more honest way of evaluating it would be to say that it is a barefaced attempt to circumvent the Constitution and allow the president to govern by fiat rather than benefit of law.

While Republicans have been rightly grousing about the way the president used his power to act via executive orders on domestic issues, when it comes to climate change he had the authority to do so because of court rulings that allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions without congressional oversight. But this is something very different and far more dangerous. By seeking to negotiate and sign a treaty with foreign powers without submitting these agreements for Senate approval, President Obama is deliberately flouting the law. The talk about the “voluntary” nature of the provisions of the treaty—a dubious description due to the economic leverage that the great powers would have over small countries under this international emissions regime—is nothing more than a transparent legal evasion.

While initiating a lawsuit to stop this treaty may be tricky because it won’t be clear who will have legal standing to challenge the deal, it is to be hoped that the courts will take a dim view of this sort of one-man rule. While the president may say he has no choice but to act on his own because of congressional opposition, this is exactly the sort of reasoning used by dictators to justify their doing away with democratic norms. Whether you agree with Obama on environmental issues or not, all Americans should be worried about an administration that believes that its belief in the urgency of an issue ought to allow it to trample the law in such a shameless manner.

The threat posed to the Constitution and the rule of law by the president’s tactics ought to be enough to generate bipartisan opposition to his power grab. But that isn’t the only reason to cry foul about this treaty. The treatment of poor Third World nations by this treaty is atrocious and its remedy for the devastating impact the emission cuts will have on these nations is as bad if not worse than the problem it claims to be solving.

On the one hand, some of the poorer nations are complaining that a treaty that is not legally binding will not force richer countries to send them aid to build dams and levees to protect against the coastal flooding that warming activists claim will happen sooner or later. But they also worry about the willingness of the wealthy West to enact international treaties that may ultimately prevent them from using carbon to develop their own economies.

Even worse is the fact that the money funneled to the Third World by Obama’s plan will be simply transferred to the nations rather than being targeted to solve particular problems with safeguards to prevent corruption. Suffice it to say that this more or less guarantees that any money that does get transferred to these poor nations will go straight into the pockets and the Swiss bank accounts of public officials there rather than helping the poor deal with the impact of climate change.

In short, this treaty combines all the evils of Obama’s international outlook in one neat package. It both violates American law and seeks to subordinate the interests and the economy of the United States while at the same time pursuing a liberal aid agenda that will worsen the problems of the Third World rather than improving them.

While some of the rhetoric from the right about Obama’s attempt to govern by executive orders may seem over the top at times, this is one instance in which the talk of monarchical instincts is not overblown. Treaties must be ratified by the Senate, not forced down the throat of the nation via “legal magic.” Anyone who sees Senator Mitch McConnell’s threats to obstruct this one-man presidency should he become majority leader next year as evidence of extremism need only consider Obama’s methods on this issue to realize how high the stakes involved in this issue may be. Those liberals who excuse this lawbreaking on grounds of necessity should ask themselves whether they could stomach a conservative president playing the same game.

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Obama’s Climate Laughs No Substitute for Sound Economics

President Obama had a good time mocking congressional Republicans yesterday for being skeptics about climate change. But even he seems to know that selling his radical proposals that will cause serious economic pain will not be as easy a sell as jokes about Flat Earth Republicans.

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President Obama had a good time mocking congressional Republicans yesterday for being skeptics about climate change. But even he seems to know that selling his radical proposals that will cause serious economic pain will not be as easy a sell as jokes about Flat Earth Republicans.

As Politico noted, Obama’s speech to the League of Conservation Voters was notable mainly for the president’s comedy routine aimed at depicting those who haven’t bought into every aspect of the radical environmentalist agenda as extremists with a screw loose. The reason for this strategy is easy to understand.

If Obama’s talking about regulations, he’s losing. If he’s talking about carbon caps for power plants or energy emissions for air conditioners, no one cares. But if he’s talking about crazy Republicans who don’t make any sense—and by the way, are putting children at risk, he charges—well, that’s an argument he can wrap his arms around.

Given the stranglehold that the global warming crowd has on the mainstream media and, even more importantly, in popular culture, the president’s confidence that a majority of Americans may agree with him on climate issues is well founded. But the gap between a general belief that the earth may be warming and a suspicion that human activity may be causing it and support for some of the administration’s prescriptions to address these issues is considerable.

As even the president acknowledged in his speech, his attempt to get rid of coal-fired power plants and force car manufacturers to alter their plans will have economic consequences. But the disconnect here isn’t merely a matter of marketing and better communication, as the White House seems to think.

As I noted back in March, polls have consistently shown that while the American people may believe the climate is changing, they don’t consider this to be a priority when it comes to government action. Liberals tend to think the reason for this is that the public is not yet sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of global warming. But instead of attempting to make a reasonable case for changes that will send electricity and gas prices skyrocketing and the refusal to undertake projects, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would increase America’s available resources, they engage in scare tactics that, generally, backfire.

That’s because what the public wants is not so much mockery of skeptics or hysterical and wildly exaggerated predictions of a warming apocalypse but a measured analysis of the cost/benefit ratio of climate legislation. And that is exactly what is lacking in the president’s comedy routine. Even if the courts have given the president the power to enact far-reaching changes without benefit of congressional approval, that doesn’t translate into widespread approval for carbon regulations that will damage the economy and cause genuine economic hardship. Nor will that problem be solved be reports filled with alarmist predictions funded by wealthy activists like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg that liberals cite to justify the suffering that will be imposed on the public. Though most Americans may think the climate is changing, they don’t think the apocalypse is at hand and aren’t interested in lowering their standard of living merely to gratify extremist ideology.

Merely branding his opponents as crazy won’t resolve this problem. Nor will the usual amorphous rhetoric about the power of green jobs that never seem to materialize and new technologies that will leapfrog over current difficulties that may take decades before they can take the place of fossil fuels, if, in fact, they ever do. In the meantime, they are left facing the prospect of Obama’s proposals creating economic havoc. As some Democrats in energy-producing states are learning, Obama may be getting laughs from coastal elites but his backing for environmentalist extremism may cost his party some Senate seats to the same Republicans he’s been mocking. While he may be thinking in terms of his 2008 boast about turning back the oceans, that seems a poor exchange for unpopular policies even if most Americans don’t agree with the skeptics.

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Sacrifices on the Altar of Obama’s Vanity

By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

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By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

The official explanation for the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the actual impact of the EPA’s dictates is that what the president wants is to start moving the country in “the right direction.” That’s a sobering thought if you consider that what is happening here is a massive government intervention in the private sector to achieve an ideological rather than an economic goal. Anyone inclined to accept the EPA’s new role riding roughshod over both Congress and the economic interests of the country should think long and hard about the prospect that this is merely the first of a new series of rulings from Washington that could hamstring any hopes of a real recovery in the coming years.

More than that, though, is the fact that what Obama really wants here is to show the international community that he means business about restricting the ability of America to do business. The real audience for this spectacle isn’t so much in blue states where any bow in the direction of environmentalism is applauded as it is abroad where other nations are watching to see if the U.S. is really going to walk the walk on climate change rules that could do damage to the American economy. The president wants the Chinese to see that the U.S. will handicap its own industries in order to set a good example for the Communist nation that almost certainly will do little if anything to cap their own growing carbon emissions.

Why would the U.S. hurt itself merely to take the high ground in negotiations with the Chinese and other developing countries even when the move will do very little to solve the climate problem?

President Obama has sorely missed the international adulation that greeted his election in 2008 but which quickly evaporated when most of his foreign fans began to rightly perceive him as nothing more than a left-leaning garden variety U.S. politician rather than the revolutionary figure they applauded. Obama’s various foreign-policy initiatives have largely failed to garner much interest, let alone cheers, abroad. But by recapturing that moment when perhaps many on the left actually believed his boast about turning back the oceans, he hopes to reestablish himself as the prince of hope and change.

Seen in that light, the large numbers of Americans who will be the losers in this exchange are nothing more than human offerings on the altar of Obama’s vanity. He may not heal the planet or even save his party’s chances in the midterm elections as he slides inevitably into lame-duck status. But as long as he can pose as a new messiah, there is no limit to the number of friends, foes, and innocent bystanders that he will sacrifice.

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Ancient Climate Change Doesn’t Bolster Environmentalist Extremism

Advocates of government measures intended to lessen the impact of global warming believe that skeptics of their theories and models are denying science. But in today’s New York Times, the environmental alarmist camp opened up a new front in their war to delegitimize their critics. According to Eric H. Cline, those who are resisting efforts to hamstring the U.S. economy aren’t just arguing with the mythical 97 percent of scientists who share Al Gore’s belief in apocalyptic scenarios about the planet’s future. In the view of this professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, they are also denying history.

In an op-ed published today, Cline, the author of a book on the collapse of some of the ancient civilizations of the Near East in the second millennium before the common era, opens his argument by lampooning Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe for his doubts about the warming thesis. Inhofe claims the current climate change arguments are the result of a “hoax,” especially one recent report that warned of the shifts in temperatures causing global conflicts. But Cline claims what Inhofe needs is not so much a science lesson as a history tutorial and then proceeds to give us all a lecture about how a century-long drought brought on by a warming phase in the earth’s history caused a series of famines, wars, and empire collapses in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean around 1,200 BCE. It’s a fascinating piece of history and Cline tells it well, but the problem here is not the professor’s correct assumptions about ancient climate change. The error lies in his belief that the historical record about climate change that could not possibly be caused by human behavior should lead critics of environmental alarmism to abandon their skepticism. Rather than bolstering the Al Gore school of hysteria, the more we learn about past climate change, the shakier the assumptions that are the foundation of global warming theories seem.

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Advocates of government measures intended to lessen the impact of global warming believe that skeptics of their theories and models are denying science. But in today’s New York Times, the environmental alarmist camp opened up a new front in their war to delegitimize their critics. According to Eric H. Cline, those who are resisting efforts to hamstring the U.S. economy aren’t just arguing with the mythical 97 percent of scientists who share Al Gore’s belief in apocalyptic scenarios about the planet’s future. In the view of this professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, they are also denying history.

In an op-ed published today, Cline, the author of a book on the collapse of some of the ancient civilizations of the Near East in the second millennium before the common era, opens his argument by lampooning Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe for his doubts about the warming thesis. Inhofe claims the current climate change arguments are the result of a “hoax,” especially one recent report that warned of the shifts in temperatures causing global conflicts. But Cline claims what Inhofe needs is not so much a science lesson as a history tutorial and then proceeds to give us all a lecture about how a century-long drought brought on by a warming phase in the earth’s history caused a series of famines, wars, and empire collapses in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean around 1,200 BCE. It’s a fascinating piece of history and Cline tells it well, but the problem here is not the professor’s correct assumptions about ancient climate change. The error lies in his belief that the historical record about climate change that could not possibly be caused by human behavior should lead critics of environmental alarmism to abandon their skepticism. Rather than bolstering the Al Gore school of hysteria, the more we learn about past climate change, the shakier the assumptions that are the foundation of global warming theories seem.

Contrary to Cline, no one, not even Inhofe, has claimed that the environment has remained static since the Big Bang. Even if we confine our study to the fraction of earth history coinciding with the rise of human civilizations that is called “recorded history,” there is no doubt that the climate has changed many times. Indeed, even if we leave the period studied by classicists and focus only on the last couple of thousand years, we find some extreme changes in climate. The Medieval Warming Period that took place approximately one thousand years ago led to Vikings settling what they called Greenland and finding fertile territory rather than the frozen wastes that currently exist there. That period of warming, which coincided with a new flowering of civilization after the depression of the Dark Ages, was followed by a period of cooling a few centuries later that took a devastating toll on Europe. That “Little Ice Age” that stretched from approximately 1300 to the 19th century led to much colder winters, especially in the period between 1600 and 1800. It was followed by another warming period that may be reaching its peak in our own time.

All of this is fact and demonstrates the impact that a changing climate can have on human existence. But none of it justifies any of the theories about human causation of warming that have become gospel among the chattering classes in our day. Indeed, the more we discuss the way the environment shifted in the period before it could be claimed that human activity or carbon emissions was causing the sky to fall, the less authoritative the talk about this new scientific consensus sounds. It may well be that humans are causing the climate to warm. But that assumption doesn’t explain why sun spots or thermal patterns would be the only possible answers for past warming or cooling periods but that natural causes could not possibly be responsible for what is currently happening.

In other words, rather than making Inhofe look foolish, Cline’s theories are a reminder that it is entirely possible for devastating climate change to occur without a single car being run or coal-fired power plant being operated. Rather than skeptics being in need of history lessons, it is those who take the talk of human causation as an unchallengeable doctrine that would do well to read up on the numerous examples of climate change that preceded the 20th century.

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The Casualties of Obama’s War on Coal

This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

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This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

As the Times notes, the conundrum of America’s extremist environmentalist lobby lies in the fact that the U.S. is actually doing relatively little of the carbon damage that they believe is fueling global warming. The vast majority of the increase in emissions comes from developing economies around the globe, especially in places like China. While resistance to the sort of tough restrictions on carbon that environmentalists lust for is strong in nations that produce fossil-based fuels, the Chinese believe that the West should pay the steep economic price involved in such schemes while they and other developing nations are allowed to burn all the coal they want. By making his ruling, Obama won’t just be harming the U.S. economy. By setting a good example, Washington thinks their going first will somehow persuade the Chinese to follow suit.

This is highly unlikely. Though it pays lip service to global warming theories, China’s top priority is building their economy. Meanwhile, nations such as Russia are not shy about stating their unwillingness to stop burning coal. But by taking what he believes is the high road with respect to the environment, the president will be fulfilling not only the promises made to his domestic liberal constituencies but also behaving in a manner that is consistent with his belief in multilateral foreign policy.

But back at home this high-minded environmentalism may not play as well as he thinks. Many Americans fear that Obama will damage their economy while doing nothing to alter the warming equation that is being decided elsewhere. Though the media has followed the White House playbook in emphasizing any report that hypes the threat from global warming while downplaying any development that undermines this thesis, the public has demonstrated repeatedly that this issue is not a priority, especially when compared to their concerns about the economy and jobs. And this is exactly what the president’s orders will affect most grievously.

Among the biggest losers will be regions where the coal industry is a mainstay of the economy. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the best example of such a state is Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains the country’s most endangered Republican in an election cycle that should otherwise be quite favorable to the GOP. McConnell has been working hard to tie Grimes to Obama, a charge that she has steadfastly rejected. But the president’s regulatory war on coal will be a body blow to Grimes’s attempt to argue that it will be her and not Obama who will be on the ballot this November. Grimes smartly opposes the administration’s environmentalist stands with respect to coal, but the new orders will escalate the struggle to a point where it could play a crucial role in the midterms. Grimes has sought to make McConnell the main issue in the contest, something that is not to the advantage of the dour minority leader and longtime incumbent. But if the key issue is defense of Kentucky’s coal industry against the White House, it will be difficult for the Democrat to assert that she will be in a better position to resist this assault than the man who may be the majority leader of the upper body next January. In a contest to see who can be most hostile to Obama, the GOP has the edge over even the most independent Democrat.

The war on coal is exactly the ticket to fire up the president’s coastal elite base as well as very much what the international community wants. But it could be the death knell for Grimes’s Senate hopes. If that race makes the difference in deciding control of the Senate, it could be that global warming will be the issue that pushes Obama from a weak-second term incumbent to dead-in-the-water lame duck.

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Scare Tactics Backfire for Environmentalists

President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

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President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

 There are a few problems with the scare tactics Gore helped popularized. One is that they aren’t credible. There’s plenty of evidence popping up that shows the increase in temperatures isn’t as advertised as well as that its effects are not as devastating as the global warming alarmists claim. If even the UN is prepared to debunk the notion that every hurricane or fire is the fault of global warming, not to mention the idea that the East and West coasts will be under water within a decade or two, why would anyone imagine that Americans who have good economic reasons to be skeptical about these claims would buy into Obama’s recommendations.

Another is the refusal of the environmental crowd to embrace the most obvious responses to concerns about carbon-based energy: the nuclear option. Nordhaus and Shellenberger say that more Americans respond positively to environmental claims when they are put in a context with viable alternatives rather than calls for draconian cuts in economic activity or personal autonomy that is integral to the use of automobiles and other sources of carbon emissions. But since the same people who are trying to sell us on the notion that the sky is falling about warming are the ones who have already delegitimized nuclear power because of fears that are equally exaggerated or unfounded.

Lastly, the authors have discovered that the extreme scenarios put forward by people like Gore as well as the attempt to convince people that natural disasters are part of the warming scenario don’t increase public support for their ideas. If anything, research shows that hysteria increases skepticism rather than diminishing it. If, as they ask, “climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?”

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have some good advice for environmentalists, especially their effort to convince them to pose their arguments in a context that is more about finding popular solution based in technology rather than pie in the sky scenarios about transforming the planet. But they shouldn’t expect, their warnings to be heeded. The most extreme scare tactics used by global warming alarmists aren’t just a tactic; they are integral to the worldview of these activists. Its not just that they fear that extreme weather will cause damage, if you listen closely to many of them, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some think humanity has it coming as a natural consequence of capitalism.

Most of all, it’s that sense that we are being sold a bill of goods by the Al Gores that has fueled the backlash against warming advocates. Having tied themselves to claims that are easily debunked, even by those who agree with them on many questions, the environmental movement has painted itself into a corner from which no amount of common sense can extricate them.

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The U.N.’s Parallel Universe

In the midst of the greatest threat to European stability since the Balkans war of the 1990s, and perhaps back to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just announced that the European Union’s primary focus should be on fighting climate change. Ban, who has been singularly unsuccessful in having any positive impact on the Syrian civil war, Chinese coercion in the East and South China Seas, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the like, now sees a Europe in which climate change is more of a threat than Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continued threat to Ukraine and possibly other parts of Eastern Europe.

While the pillars of the post-World War II international order tremble in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the secretary general’s statements could be mistaken for parody, but they are manifestly in earnest. The unilateral redrawing of borders in Europe, along with Putin’s deeply paranoid, grievance-driven, and aggressive speech of March 18, might spark a level of personal commitment and concern on the part of the U.N.’s leader commensurate with the threat. Instead, Ban reveals the deeply irrelevant nature and unshakeable ideology of the world’s leading multilateral organization. The only worse news would be if the EU itself, facing violent transformation of its continent, were to endorse such folly as its primary goal.

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In the midst of the greatest threat to European stability since the Balkans war of the 1990s, and perhaps back to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just announced that the European Union’s primary focus should be on fighting climate change. Ban, who has been singularly unsuccessful in having any positive impact on the Syrian civil war, Chinese coercion in the East and South China Seas, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the like, now sees a Europe in which climate change is more of a threat than Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continued threat to Ukraine and possibly other parts of Eastern Europe.

While the pillars of the post-World War II international order tremble in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the secretary general’s statements could be mistaken for parody, but they are manifestly in earnest. The unilateral redrawing of borders in Europe, along with Putin’s deeply paranoid, grievance-driven, and aggressive speech of March 18, might spark a level of personal commitment and concern on the part of the U.N.’s leader commensurate with the threat. Instead, Ban reveals the deeply irrelevant nature and unshakeable ideology of the world’s leading multilateral organization. The only worse news would be if the EU itself, facing violent transformation of its continent, were to endorse such folly as its primary goal.

To functionaries such as Ban, process is everything, thus, he calls for a European action plan on climate change to come into effect no later than 2030. By then, of course, no one can any longer be certain what Europe’s borders will look like, whether there will have been actual conflict, or how many other depredations on territorial sovereignty there will have been in Europe and elsewhere.

Perhaps, though, Ban is actually providing a useful vision of the future of multilateralism. Were Washington and its liberal allies to accept that the U.N., and many organizations like it, is fit only to focus on soft issues such as food relief, health care, and environmentalism (regardless of its actual ability to make a meaningful impact), then we can move beyond the fiction that it has any real role to play in responding to global threats. If Washington can free itself from bondage to the “legitimacy” of the U.N. Security Council, then perhaps we can more creatively respond to Russia’s aggression, North Korea’s threat, and Syria’s bloodbath. That might prevent, or at least delay, the continued erosion in international norms. Call it the Ban Doctrine.

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Note to Senate Democrats: We’ve Already Heard About Climate Change

Conservatives who avoid MSNBC like the plague missed a rare moment of clarity about our political culture this morning when his liberal partner Mika Brzezinksi fed Joe Scarborough one of the great straight lines of all time. While discussing last night’s Senate Democrats’ all-night talkathon devoted to climate change, Mika praised it by saying how glad she was that, “they’re trying to have a conversation.” That allowed the man who sometimes plays the role of the network’s token Republican while at others is its resident GOP critic of conservatives, to launch into a comic rant mocking both Brzezinski’s platitudes and the Democrats’ stunt.

Hollywood won’t talk about climate change. The media won’t talk about climate Nobody will talk about climate change. Thank God. Thank God, these brave Democratic senators are risking the wrath of the mainstream media and the Hollywood elites to talk about climate change …Damn the New York Times! They will not talk about climate change. It’s up to these men and women. This is 2014’s version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Scarborough’s sarcasm was, of course, right on target. No matter what you think about the question of human involvement in possible shifts in global temperatures, the idea that it was up to a few dozen Senate Democrats to get the issue on the national agenda is a joke. The mainstream media has spent the last decade or more highlighting the topic at every possible moment and treating the most extreme conclusions produced by alarmist environmentalists as unquestioned truth while popular culture has embraced the global warming agenda with a religious fervor that brooks no dissent.

The problem the Democrats were addressing was not a lack of information about the subject but the fact that while a majority may believe humans are involved with warming, they are either skeptical of the extremists’ claims or don’t care that much about it. That was one of the main conclusions to be drawn from a Pew Research Center poll published in January that showed that global warming ranked 19th on the list of top policy priorities for Americans. Indeed, even the amorphous concern about “dealing with moral breakdown” ranked higher than warming, which was embraced by only 29 percent of those polled as something that demanded immediate action. A separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out the same week in January showed that addressing climate change ranked dead last among the 13 topics listed with only 27 percent saying it was a priority.

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Conservatives who avoid MSNBC like the plague missed a rare moment of clarity about our political culture this morning when his liberal partner Mika Brzezinksi fed Joe Scarborough one of the great straight lines of all time. While discussing last night’s Senate Democrats’ all-night talkathon devoted to climate change, Mika praised it by saying how glad she was that, “they’re trying to have a conversation.” That allowed the man who sometimes plays the role of the network’s token Republican while at others is its resident GOP critic of conservatives, to launch into a comic rant mocking both Brzezinski’s platitudes and the Democrats’ stunt.

Hollywood won’t talk about climate change. The media won’t talk about climate Nobody will talk about climate change. Thank God. Thank God, these brave Democratic senators are risking the wrath of the mainstream media and the Hollywood elites to talk about climate change …Damn the New York Times! They will not talk about climate change. It’s up to these men and women. This is 2014’s version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Scarborough’s sarcasm was, of course, right on target. No matter what you think about the question of human involvement in possible shifts in global temperatures, the idea that it was up to a few dozen Senate Democrats to get the issue on the national agenda is a joke. The mainstream media has spent the last decade or more highlighting the topic at every possible moment and treating the most extreme conclusions produced by alarmist environmentalists as unquestioned truth while popular culture has embraced the global warming agenda with a religious fervor that brooks no dissent.

The problem the Democrats were addressing was not a lack of information about the subject but the fact that while a majority may believe humans are involved with warming, they are either skeptical of the extremists’ claims or don’t care that much about it. That was one of the main conclusions to be drawn from a Pew Research Center poll published in January that showed that global warming ranked 19th on the list of top policy priorities for Americans. Indeed, even the amorphous concern about “dealing with moral breakdown” ranked higher than warming, which was embraced by only 29 percent of those polled as something that demanded immediate action. A separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out the same week in January showed that addressing climate change ranked dead last among the 13 topics listed with only 27 percent saying it was a priority.

Why do Americans feel that way? Perhaps its because, as Scarborough noted, they’ve been having the Al Gore party line about the world on the verge of melting incessantly drilled into them for a decade and, even if they agree about the role of human activity, are sensibly skeptical about claims about Florida and Manhattan being under water in 20 years. Perhaps they also find a scientific theory championed by advocates who are unwilling to debate their findings and hell bent on silencing critics as members of the Flat Earth Society or worse to be somewhat suspicious. They also don’t like the fact that the discussion about the topic has taken on a theological rather than a scientific tone in which every conceivable weather event involving heat, cold, wind or precipitation is used to justify a preconceived conclusion about the climate that brooks no opposition rooted in reason or statistics.

Many also understand that some of the most popular measures associated with the climate change caucus would have a devastating impact on the American economy, particularly in states where coal is a major source of employment. Just as important, they have understandably come to associate this movement with Luddite objections to sensible projects like the Keystone XL pipeline that don’t hurt the environment but produce jobs and more energy to allow this country to become less dependent on oil from outside North America. That’s why the most Democratic senators up for re-election this year — Alaska’s Mark Begich, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan — wanted no part of the show.

It should also be noted that the hours of talk and carefully prepared visual aids were unrelated to any upcoming legislative purpose. In other words, what the Democrat were doing was playing to their base without having to defend a specific proposal or to pretend that what they were about wouldn’t cost Americans dearly in exchange for vague and unproven promises about their future.

But whatever it is that they were doing, the most risible aspect of this spectacle was the notion that it was needed to raise awareness about climate change. As Scarborough’s sarcastic rant made clear, there are few topics on which Americans have heard more in recent years than this one. Their children are inculcated with the global warming catechism in schools. Their movies, plays and television shows are also peppered with references to what is considered right thinking on the issue and abuse for those who dissent.

Americans are smart enough to know that whatever might be slowing happening to the climate, it is a far less pressing matter than issues relating to the health of our economy, jobs, terrorism, education, ensuring the survival of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, the budget deficit, health care, taxes and crime (to note the top 10 in the Pew poll).

If Senate Democrats want to devote their energies to something useful, they might try their hand at working just as hard on those issues (on most of which they have done nothing as part of their main task of thwarting all legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives) rather than pulling an all-nighter to talk nonstop about an issue that Americans have had shoved down their throats for years.

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Can SCOTUS Curb Obama’s Imperial Presidency?

In June 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to derail a vast expansion of government power by the Obama administration. But the court wound up ruling that ObamaCare was constitutional, even if the rationale provided by Chief Justice John Roberts for his deciding vote contradicted the opinions of the four liberal justices who joined with him to form a 5-4 majority as well as the arguments of the government on behalf of the law. But next week the Court will have yet another opportunity to brush back the president’s fast and loose approach to the Constitution when it will hear arguments concerning the president’s use of executive orders.

The case concerns the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to use existing laws in order to give itself the power to regulate emissions from power plants even though the legislation in question says nothing about the federal government having such a right. But more than the proper interpretation of the Clean Air Act will be at stake when the justices vote. As important as efforts to restrain the EPA’s desire to act as a benevolent dictator may be, the crucial point here is whether the president can, as he boasted he would do in his State of the Union address last month, ignore Congress and govern by the use of executive orders. If, as was the case with the court’s perplexing ObamaCare decision, the president gets a pass to do as he likes, the consequences may affect a wide range of topics beyond the contentious debate about the White House’s obsession with climate change.

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In June 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to derail a vast expansion of government power by the Obama administration. But the court wound up ruling that ObamaCare was constitutional, even if the rationale provided by Chief Justice John Roberts for his deciding vote contradicted the opinions of the four liberal justices who joined with him to form a 5-4 majority as well as the arguments of the government on behalf of the law. But next week the Court will have yet another opportunity to brush back the president’s fast and loose approach to the Constitution when it will hear arguments concerning the president’s use of executive orders.

The case concerns the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to use existing laws in order to give itself the power to regulate emissions from power plants even though the legislation in question says nothing about the federal government having such a right. But more than the proper interpretation of the Clean Air Act will be at stake when the justices vote. As important as efforts to restrain the EPA’s desire to act as a benevolent dictator may be, the crucial point here is whether the president can, as he boasted he would do in his State of the Union address last month, ignore Congress and govern by the use of executive orders. If, as was the case with the court’s perplexing ObamaCare decision, the president gets a pass to do as he likes, the consequences may affect a wide range of topics beyond the contentious debate about the White House’s obsession with climate change.

As I noted here yesterday, the president has already begun making good on his SOTU pledge by announcing his intention to issue executive orders regulating emissions from large trucks that will mandate large-scale and expensive changes in that industry. But the EPA’s decision to give itself the power to regulate existing power plants makes that power grab look like small change.

As the New York Times explains, the details of the case are complicated and confusing. Suffice it to say that although the courts have upheld the EPA’s right to regulate carbon emissions, in order to be able to acquire the right to license all power plants for such activity it has been forced to twist the text of the Clean Air Act into a pretzel:

The agency said its regulation of tailpipe emissions also required regulation of emissions from stationary sources under two permitting programs. The Clean Air Act says those programs cover all sources that can annually emit 100 or 250 tons of the relevant pollutant, a threshold that works tolerably well for conventional air pollutants like lead and carbon monoxide. But that threshold, applied to greenhouse gases, which are emitted in far greater amounts, would require the regulation of millions of sources of pollution.

All sides agree that requiring permits at the statutory thresholds would impose enormous burdens. “We’d be regulating mom-and-pop stores,” said Peter S. Glaser, a lawyer for the Washington Legal Foundation, which filed a supporting brief opposing the regulations.

Applying the law as written would increase the number of covered sources under one program from fewer than 280 to more than 80,000, reaching commercial and residential sources and subjecting them to expenses averaging almost $60,000, according to the appeals court. A second program would reach six million sources, subjecting them to expenses of more than $20,000 each. The cost of the programs would rise to $21 billion from $62 million.

What’s happened here is that by giving the EPA this power, the court has set in motion a process that could create a regulatory process that would cause massive economic dislocation. In order to avoid such an “absurd result,” the administration is therefore selectively enforcing the law. But, as with other such selective policies, what this means is that essentially the government has given itself the right to act as both legislature and executive to decide what the law means and how it can be enforced.

Given other court decisions that have given the EPA vast powers, it’s far from clear that even a setback for the administration will halt its campaign to overhaul the economy in order to comply with the president’s beliefs about climate change. But the impact of a precedent that would allow him to act as a benevolent dictator to force industries to obey his “green” marching orders means more than just the possible shutdown of hundreds of coal-firing power plants around the nation. It would mean a decisive shift in the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch that could shelve the notion of checks and balances that have enabled our constitutional republic to function.

Over the years both Congress and the courts have often acquiesced in a process whereby the executive branch has grown by leaps and bounds to assume the sort of influence and power that would have been unimaginable to the founders. But so long as the legislative and judicial branches retain the power to write and then interpret the laws, even the federal leviathan can be held in check. But if Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court allow President Obama to get away with not only selectively enforcing laws but also re-writing them on the fly, our system of government will have been fundamentally altered for the worse.

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Big Trucks, Obama, and the Rule of Law

In his State of the Union address, President Obama gave the country fair warning when he said he would try to rule by executive action if Congress did not follow his orders. He began to make good on that pledge yesterday by announcing that he would enact new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks. Along with other new regulations that are being promulgated without benefit of the approval of Congress, the big truck rule is part of the president’s effort to show the world that he is working to save the planet from climate change.

But while energy efficiency and a potential reduction in the amount of oil consumption sound like ideas that everyone can get behind, the problem here is twofold. On the one hand, the imposition of the new regulations will almost certainly raise the costs of these vehicles as well as make them less safe. That’s no problem for large corporations that stand to benefit from “green” subsidies, but is a huge obstacle for small and mid-sized businesses and independent truckers. While Obama continues to insist his green policies are good for business, the new rules raise the prospect of more crony capitalism. Combined with other executive orders that may wind up shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power plants—a potential catastrophe for an industry that is still an important element of the nation’s power grid—Obama’s executive orders present a peril to an economy that is still slowed by a weak recovery.

But just as dangerous is the spectacle of a president exercising untrammeled power without having to worry about constitutional checks and balances. While liberals are delighted about the prospect of the president ignoring Congress and imposing regulations that the legislative branch has repeatedly rejected in order to advance their climate change agenda, the precedent is one that ought to scare both parties and build sympathy for the coming legal and legislative challenges to the president’s dictates.

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama gave the country fair warning when he said he would try to rule by executive action if Congress did not follow his orders. He began to make good on that pledge yesterday by announcing that he would enact new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks. Along with other new regulations that are being promulgated without benefit of the approval of Congress, the big truck rule is part of the president’s effort to show the world that he is working to save the planet from climate change.

But while energy efficiency and a potential reduction in the amount of oil consumption sound like ideas that everyone can get behind, the problem here is twofold. On the one hand, the imposition of the new regulations will almost certainly raise the costs of these vehicles as well as make them less safe. That’s no problem for large corporations that stand to benefit from “green” subsidies, but is a huge obstacle for small and mid-sized businesses and independent truckers. While Obama continues to insist his green policies are good for business, the new rules raise the prospect of more crony capitalism. Combined with other executive orders that may wind up shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power plants—a potential catastrophe for an industry that is still an important element of the nation’s power grid—Obama’s executive orders present a peril to an economy that is still slowed by a weak recovery.

But just as dangerous is the spectacle of a president exercising untrammeled power without having to worry about constitutional checks and balances. While liberals are delighted about the prospect of the president ignoring Congress and imposing regulations that the legislative branch has repeatedly rejected in order to advance their climate change agenda, the precedent is one that ought to scare both parties and build sympathy for the coming legal and legislative challenges to the president’s dictates.

The ostensible goal of a series of executive orders that are in the works is to reduce carbon emissions and allow the administration to demonstrate to the world that the U.S. is attempting to live by the same rules it is asking developing countries to respect. But given the slim chances that nations like China and India will ever be willing to adopt measures that similarly restrict their growing economies, the gesture tells us more about the desire of liberals to re-engineer the economy than any concrete measure that will actually affect the global climate, even assuming that the science Obama cites to justify his policies is as settled as he claims.

As with every other such measure, big companies that stand to benefit from some aspect of the president’s rules can always be found to back up the administration. But the nexus of crony capitalism and green activism is one that is highly vulnerable to manipulation and possible corruption. The new environmental regulations the president is imposing on the economy without congressional approval are reminiscent of the same desire to pick winners and losers that have led to past problems such as the Solyndra scandals and other green boondoggles.

The president is on firm legal ground when it comes to measures that can be justified as rules on carbon because of the courts granting the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate emissions. But the vast scale of what is being contemplated on coal as well as trucks grants the executive branch the kind of power to micromanage the economy that recalls the first days of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal when the courts let him run roughshod over the nation.

But the aggressive push for climate change is about more than Obama’s desire to shape his legacy as the president who would, as he said in his megalomaniacal 2008 boast, slow “the rise of the oceans” and “heal” the planet. What we are now witnessing is an attempt to create an imperial presidency that seeks to govern without Congress at home as opposed to the traditional model in which commanders in chief conduct wars and foreign policy without being held accountable.

It is not enough to claim, as Obama does, that he is working on behalf of a righteous cause and that he is tired of waiting for Congress to do what he believes is the right thing. In a democracy, the people and their elected representatives rule. The president can lead but he must respect the rule of law. That is a principle that this administration appears to be willing to discard along with old trucks and coal. But even if you share Obama’s fears about the climate, his desire to govern as a benevolent despot is one that should concern liberals as well as conservatives. Though Democrats may be under the impression that they will hold the White House forever, the next time a Republican is sitting in the Oval Office, they may recall their enthusiasm for Obama’s unconstitutional behavior with regret.

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RE: Will the Warming Debate Cool Off?

When investigating financial matters, the old adage is “follow the money.” That works in politics very often as well. As John Hinderaker points out over at PowerLine, billions of dollars flow from government to scientists who espouse the mantra of climate change and nearly none to those who doubt it. So it’s not surprising that climate scientists tend to believe in the climate change hypothesis: It’s in their self-interest to do so.

But there’s another reason both government and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming: power.

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When investigating financial matters, the old adage is “follow the money.” That works in politics very often as well. As John Hinderaker points out over at PowerLine, billions of dollars flow from government to scientists who espouse the mantra of climate change and nearly none to those who doubt it. So it’s not surprising that climate scientists tend to believe in the climate change hypothesis: It’s in their self-interest to do so.

But there’s another reason both government and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming: power.

Let’s accept for a moment the predicate that global warming is a real threat and caused by human activity. That would be a problem that could be addressed by government only. So it would greatly increase the scope of government’s reach into the economy and peoples’ lives. That, in turn, would greatly increase the power of politicians. But politicians would need the help and advice of experts in order to formulate policy. So they would need climate scientists to advise them. Getting to whisper in the ears of the powerful is itself a form of power. And as James Madison explained, “Men love power.” So politicians and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

The exact same phenomenon happened two generations ago when Keynesian economics swept through the profession and then through government. Keynes advocated having government actively work various economic levers in order to keep supply and demand in balance and thus keep the economy humming along smoothly. But in order for politicians to take on the new and empowering role of being the engineers of the economic locomotive, they needed the advice of economists, who were only too happy to give it. Within a generation the line “We are all Keynesians now” was born. 

So follow the money, but also follow the power.

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Will the Warming Debate Cool Off?

This past weekend Politico published a feature that asked who would be the Republican that would break the ice and turn the tide in the debate over what to do about global warming. The article not only took the view of those who argue that climate change is an imminent threat to the planet as unassailable. It also took the view that it was not unreasonable for environmental groups to assume that sooner or later some conservative Republican would flip on the issue. That would do for warming what Ohio Senator Rob Portman did for the gay marriage debate: provide a mainstream right-wing figure that would be the symbol of a national sea change that would forever marginalize opponents.

While Politico pointed out the differences between the two topics and the stiff resistance on the right to the climateers, the piece was still rooted in a belief that “denial” of global warming would probably soon be consigned to the dustbin of history by undeniable proof. Indeed, the expectation was that some forms of that proof—like a rise in the number of destructive hurricanes or other storms—would inevitably cause some in the GOP to change their minds because of the impacts on their states. But the idea that the likes of Marco Rubio will be forced to change his tune on cap and trade and other measures after much of Florida is underwater may not be as certain as liberals think. As the Wall Street Journal reported the same day the Politico piece appeared, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “fifth assessment report” due out later this month may go a long away toward dampening the alarmism that environmentalists are counting on to sway Congress to adopt their agenda.

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This past weekend Politico published a feature that asked who would be the Republican that would break the ice and turn the tide in the debate over what to do about global warming. The article not only took the view of those who argue that climate change is an imminent threat to the planet as unassailable. It also took the view that it was not unreasonable for environmental groups to assume that sooner or later some conservative Republican would flip on the issue. That would do for warming what Ohio Senator Rob Portman did for the gay marriage debate: provide a mainstream right-wing figure that would be the symbol of a national sea change that would forever marginalize opponents.

While Politico pointed out the differences between the two topics and the stiff resistance on the right to the climateers, the piece was still rooted in a belief that “denial” of global warming would probably soon be consigned to the dustbin of history by undeniable proof. Indeed, the expectation was that some forms of that proof—like a rise in the number of destructive hurricanes or other storms—would inevitably cause some in the GOP to change their minds because of the impacts on their states. But the idea that the likes of Marco Rubio will be forced to change his tune on cap and trade and other measures after much of Florida is underwater may not be as certain as liberals think. As the Wall Street Journal reported the same day the Politico piece appeared, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “fifth assessment report” due out later this month may go a long away toward dampening the alarmism that environmentalists are counting on to sway Congress to adopt their agenda.

Lest one think this is the product of some right-wing Koch-brother funded “denier” group, the IPCC is one of the organs of global warming orthodoxy and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. But once it states that the “temperature rise we can expect as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than the IPCC thought in 2007,” then that will be a powerful argument to put the brakes on the alarmism the warmers are promoting. The data doesn’t debunk the notion that temperatures have risen and, as Byron York wrote in the Washington Examiner yesterday, you can bet that a group that is so deeply invested in the thesis of global warming will find a way to spin their figures as somehow reinforcing the movement’s almost religious belief in their thesis.

But if even the IPCC concedes that warming is not quite the threat they were claiming only a few years ago, it makes it much harder to argue that the amount of warming we are getting presents anything like the threat that we’ve been told to expect. Nor is it clear that the impact of all these changes will be negative.

Exaggeration of the threat from any climate change is business as usual for environmentalists who think they should be allowed to tell what they consider to be white lies in order to jolt the public and politicians into action. If the data from the IPCC and other reports are coming up short of the dire predictions of some of the computer models that have been used to back up climate alarmism, it is no surprise since it is clear that they have been designed to produce such results and interpreted accordingly.

It’s also important to note that one of the most common assumptions thrown about by the warming community—including liberals like President Obama—is that “extreme weather” is the result of climate change. That allows environmentalists to assert that virtually anything that happens out of the ordinary—whether heat waves or cold fronts, droughts or hurricanes—is the product of global warming. But as author and researcher Bjorn Lomborg points out in the Washington Post this assumption is not backed up by the sort of scientific consensus that the warmers assert is behind their alarmist models of future temperatures.

Lomborg is no climate change denier. He thinks warming is real and that it is at least partly the result of human activity. But he notes that the IPCC’s 2011 report on extreme weather provided little comfort for those who would like to blame Hurricane Sandy on climate change. The evidence shows that while some kinds of weather are getting more extreme, other activity, such as drought, is actually less likely. Nor is there any data to back up the idea that hurricanes have become stronger or more frequent. He also says other reports, including one in Nature, point to extreme weather becoming less likely as temperatures go up slightly. Nor is it a given that all of the effects of warming will be bad. This makes sense since, after all, the warming of the globe in the period after the little Ice Age of the Middle Ages in the Northern Hemisphere is widely believed to have helped fuel progress and growth in the period that gave birth to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution.

As York rightly concludes, even if scientists—that group that Obama and liberals keep telling us are virtually unanimous in backing the most extreme alarmist scenarios—will debate the latest inconclusive data, it’s clear that the case for radical anti-warming measures that would impact the economy has gotten less persuasive.

Given the way belief in warming—irrespective of the lack of conclusive proof—has become embedded in popular culture as a sacred doctrine that can only be questioned at the cost of one’s status as an enlightened individual, don’t expect these new chinks in the environmentalist armor to be widely discussed in the mainstream liberal media. But left-wing groups expecting opposition to environmental alarmism to collapse shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for conservatives to abandon positions that just got stronger.

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Why Al Gore’s Warming Fibs Matter

Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

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Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

At stake here is not Gore’s reputation. In his post-political existence, he has proven himself impervious to shame or to criticism. Having enriched himself on government-subsidized “green” investments and profiteered from the creation of a failed cable channel that wound up netting him a cool $100 million from its sale to the Qatari owners of Al Jazeera, Gore can thumb his nose at fact-checkers and critics alike and laugh all the way to the bank.

Gore is no stranger to challenges to the credibility of the assertions to his movie. Though there are a number of websites that point to numerous, significant errors in the movie, a British court ruled that it should be viewed as a polemic rather than fact when a critic sued to prevent it from being shown in schools as an authoritative view of the subject of global warming.

We need not rehearse the contentious debate about global warming to understand just how insidious Gore’s willingness to play fast and loose with the facts on global warming is for the maintenance of a civil discussion on the subject. But if those who believe the U.S. must take drastic action to halt global warming continue to insist that the facts lie all on one side of the argument, it is incumbent on them to stick to the facts and not make exaggerated claims.

Gore has never been able to do that. Thus, he has done more to both fuel the most alarmist and unrealistic scenarios about the possible impact of global warming and to inspire skepticism about this belief. Wherever the truth may lie on this subject, and there are strong cases to be made on both sides, surely there should be no tolerance for a man who routinely lies about it.

Yet no matter how often his falsehoods are uncovered, the environmental community rarely if ever takes Gore to task. He has reaped all sorts of applause and honor for his lies from an Oscar to a Nobel Prize. Indeed, the more his assertions are debunked, the less his fans seem to care. But they should. No one has done more to sink the discussion about global warming into the realm of sci-fi fantasy alarmism or to invite more skepticism than Gore. It’s clear that the more his lips move, the less likely it is that we’ll hear the truth. Those who advocate concern about climate change and who want to mobilize Americans to support the measures they believe will save for the planet should be pleading him for him to shut up, lest doubters about the environmental faith in warming be further undermined. 

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Do Democrats Really Want a War on Coal?

President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

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President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

Even if one accepts the constant lecturing from the White House and much of the media that claims there is no debate about their dire predictions of warming—a point that was undermined by a New York Times story published earlier this month which spoke of rising temperatures having actually slowed over the last 15 years rather than going through the roof, as we keep being told—the impact of Obama’s plans on the economy could be severe. While the ideological left is more worried about their doomsday predictions for the planet than the job-killing aspects of the president’s proposals, most Americans have their eyes firmly fixed on their wallets in an economy that remains in the doldrums despite the optimism created by housing prices and a booming stock market (until the last week).

Coal is still responsible for 37 percent of America’s energy production and with new technologies for mining it is no longer the ecological nightmare that it was routinely depicted as being for decades. That means that the president’s new regulations will have a drastic impact on energy prices and reduce the income of a vast cross-section of Americans.

By signaling to the country that, despite official denials by the White House, what the administration is contemplating is a “war on coal,” the president is more or less consigning Democrats in coal-producing states to a grim fate. The president’s cheerleaders are quick to remind us that elections have consequences and that since Obama campaigned on these issues, we should not be surprised that he would attempt to govern as he campaigned. They’re right about that. But now that the “war on coal” tag can be directly traced to an architect of the president’s plan rather than being attributed to GOP propaganda, it may be that there will be elections in the future with consequences that Democrats don’t care for as much as the one in 2012.

Liberals have been delighted with the idea that the president would use his executive powers to enact measures that have already been turned down by Congress. Though cap and trade bills were defeated by huge margins, Obama is now putting them into effect for all intents and purposes by a vote of 1-0. Yet it is exactly the freedom to act with impunity by a reelected president that should scare many Democrats. Were these issues put to congressional debate and votes, Democrats in coal states could count on using the legislative process to derail any war on coal.

But with Obama acting alone all they can do is stand by and watch in horror. The war on coal may cost American consumers dearly. But it may cost some Democrats their seats in the House and the Senate.

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The Right Climate to Torpedo the Economy?

You might think that with a historically weak recovery and, as John Steele Gordon wrote this morning, worries about the Federal Reserve’s actions affecting the stock market, this is a time when President Obama would be focusing like a laser beam on the economy. But you’d be wrong about that. As Ross Douthat noted yesterday in the New York Times, the administration’s second term priorities are at odds with those of the public. Instead of dealing with health care costs and entitlement reform (the issues most Americans consider the highest priorities), the president spent the start of his term hyperventilating about gun control. After switching to immigration reform for a while (something that I think is worth doing but is certainly not as important as cleaning up the mess that ObamaCare is about to create or reforming entitlements), tomorrow he will perform another pivot and unveil a major plan to lessen the effects of climate change in a speech at Georgetown University.

As he said over the weekend in a video released by the White House, it will include far-reaching measures that will introduce new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants among other unspecified ideas that will largely be put into force by executive order rather than legislation. In one fell swoop, Obama will not only gratify his liberal base by pandering to their obsessions, he will also undertake a vast expansion of executive power in which the executive branch will assume near dictatorial proportions under the rubric of regulation. Whatever one may think about the science behind this plan—and there is very little sign that the president is operating on anything but on the basis of his ideological biases—there is no question that any plan that will hamper power production on this scale will have a deleterious impact on the chances that the country can sustain its economic recovery by raising the costs of energy and killing jobs. That he will do so in a manner that ought to set off alarm bells about the separation of powers and will generate a blizzard of lawsuits that could tie up his plan for years only illustrates the poor judgment being exhibited by the president.

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You might think that with a historically weak recovery and, as John Steele Gordon wrote this morning, worries about the Federal Reserve’s actions affecting the stock market, this is a time when President Obama would be focusing like a laser beam on the economy. But you’d be wrong about that. As Ross Douthat noted yesterday in the New York Times, the administration’s second term priorities are at odds with those of the public. Instead of dealing with health care costs and entitlement reform (the issues most Americans consider the highest priorities), the president spent the start of his term hyperventilating about gun control. After switching to immigration reform for a while (something that I think is worth doing but is certainly not as important as cleaning up the mess that ObamaCare is about to create or reforming entitlements), tomorrow he will perform another pivot and unveil a major plan to lessen the effects of climate change in a speech at Georgetown University.

As he said over the weekend in a video released by the White House, it will include far-reaching measures that will introduce new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants among other unspecified ideas that will largely be put into force by executive order rather than legislation. In one fell swoop, Obama will not only gratify his liberal base by pandering to their obsessions, he will also undertake a vast expansion of executive power in which the executive branch will assume near dictatorial proportions under the rubric of regulation. Whatever one may think about the science behind this plan—and there is very little sign that the president is operating on anything but on the basis of his ideological biases—there is no question that any plan that will hamper power production on this scale will have a deleterious impact on the chances that the country can sustain its economic recovery by raising the costs of energy and killing jobs. That he will do so in a manner that ought to set off alarm bells about the separation of powers and will generate a blizzard of lawsuits that could tie up his plan for years only illustrates the poor judgment being exhibited by the president.

Obama signaled that he would prioritize his beliefs about the climate in his second inaugural speech, so no one should be surprised by his decision to gamble his dwindling supply of political capital on an issue that is liable to hurt rather than help the economy. The president will, of course, argue that his green plan is good for the economy in the long run and tout his belief that more regulations will help transform the country and create jobs in industries that provide alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels. But the country has already been down this road in the first term as Obama’s stimulus boondoggle provided cash for Solyndra and other “green” corporations that proved to be cash cows for the president’s major contributors but a disaster to the taxpayers that were fleeced to bolster companies that couldn’t stand on their own.

The administration’s defense of this decision to bypass Congress will be to claim that the legislative branch has failed to act. But there is a reason why both Republicans and Democrats have been reluctant to implement the sort of Christmas tree of regulations that will be presented tomorrow: it is likely to hurt an already skittish economy. The high-minded gloss of idealism and gloom and doom predictions about our future that fuel the president’s climate push will be used by liberals to dismiss objections about the impact on the economy of this project. But Obama and his cheerleaders in the liberal media—who have been urging him to usurp power in this manner to further the global warming agenda for years—the danger that adding on new layers of federal regulations to an industry already sinking under the weight of government rules is real.

It should also be noted that given the anger on Capitol Hill and among the electorate about a trio of scandals that center on abuse of government power, the notion that the president would seek to govern on his own in this manner is curious. One would think the administration would be wary of feeding suspicions about extra-constitutional usurpation of power right now. But, like worries about the economy, concerns about the Constitution are always going to run second to ideology in the Obama White House.

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Global Warming Alarmism Cools Down

The Economist – which has long been concerned about the rise in Earth’s temperature and its consequences for civilization — has a significant article in the current issue. It begins this way:

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models. If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

“The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzle in climate science right now,” The Economist adds.

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The Economist – which has long been concerned about the rise in Earth’s temperature and its consequences for civilization — has a significant article in the current issue. It begins this way:

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models. If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

“The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzle in climate science right now,” The Economist adds.

The article rightly does not argue that anthropological global warming is a delusion. But it does make the point that an awful lot depends on whether the climate is less sensitive to CO2 emissions than previously believed. It makes (almost literally) a world of difference if Earth’s temperature increases 0.8-1.9°C v. 4.0-6.0°C. The low end would be something we could easily absorb; the high end would justify drastic interventions. So much depends on the model one uses and the confidence one places in them.

Based on the latest science, the Economist summaries things this way: 

given the hiatus in warming and all the new evidence, a small reduction in estimates of climate sensitivity would seem to be justified: a downwards nudge on various best estimates from 3°C to 2.5°C, perhaps; a lower ceiling (around 4.5°C), certainly. If climate scientists were credit-rating agencies, climate sensitivity would be on negative watch. But it would not yet be downgraded.

When I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago (see here  and here), I pointed out (a) the concentration in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide has increased markedly during the past 150 years; (b) humans have been responsible for a significant increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the past two centuries; (c) as a result, the earth is getting warmer; but (d) there’s a good deal of uncertainty based on future climate projections and what needs to be done. In light of that, adaptation rather than a completely unworkable system of global carbon rationing may be the way to go.

Here’s how I put it at the time:

Many climate scientists fear that unless dramatic steps are taken soon, we’ll see rising sea levels, contracting ice sheets, more floods and intense tropical cyclones, the spread of tropical diseases like malaria, the submergence of parts of continents, alterations in our ecosystems, and food and water shortages. Perhaps so; those concerns are certainly worth considering. But as Jim Manzi – who combines a sophisticated understanding of the scientific and economic stakes of the climate-change debate — has pointed out, pumping out more CO2 triggers an incredibly complicated set of feedback effects, and the most important scientific debate is really about these feedback effects. In Manzi’s words, “Climate models generate useful projections for us to consider, but the reality is that nobody knows with meaningful precision how much warming we will experience under any emissions scenario. Global warming is a real risk, but its impact over the next century could plausibly range from negligible to severe.”

Conservatives should be part of that conversation. There’s an intellectually credible case to be made that it’s unwise to embrace massive, harmful changes to our economy in the face of significant uncertainties based on incomplete knowledge of how the climate system will respond in the middle part of the 22nd century.

That is, I think, very much where we are today. Even the Economist is beginning to think so. 

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The Climate and the Constitution

On Monday, President Obama announced the appointments of Gina McCarthy to run the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest J. Moniz to take charge of the Department of Energy. In a week when the country is focused on the issue of the debt, the sequester and the budget, these nominations are not generating as much interest as the question of whether the administration is orchestrating government cutbacks to increase pressure on Congress to raise taxes. But their significance should not be underestimated. As the president indicated, he is planning on using these two agencies and their leaders to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda in his second term.

The debate about global warming and the hysteria that has become an integral part of the environmentalist agenda is one thing. But the key issue involved in these appointments and the president’s intentions for the next four years is one that revolves around legal issues as much as it does scientific disputes. It doesn’t matter whether you are in full agreement with the president on this issue or buy into only a part of it or none at all. The question before the nation here is whether the executive branch can or should give itself the power to run roughshod over Congress and unilaterally implement new regulations that will give the force of law to the president’s climate beliefs. If McCarthy and Moniz intend to use their regulating power to redraw the laws concerning fossil fuel emissions or the ability to explore or drill for new energy sources, then the result will be as much of a Constitutional crisis as anything else.

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On Monday, President Obama announced the appointments of Gina McCarthy to run the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest J. Moniz to take charge of the Department of Energy. In a week when the country is focused on the issue of the debt, the sequester and the budget, these nominations are not generating as much interest as the question of whether the administration is orchestrating government cutbacks to increase pressure on Congress to raise taxes. But their significance should not be underestimated. As the president indicated, he is planning on using these two agencies and their leaders to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda in his second term.

The debate about global warming and the hysteria that has become an integral part of the environmentalist agenda is one thing. But the key issue involved in these appointments and the president’s intentions for the next four years is one that revolves around legal issues as much as it does scientific disputes. It doesn’t matter whether you are in full agreement with the president on this issue or buy into only a part of it or none at all. The question before the nation here is whether the executive branch can or should give itself the power to run roughshod over Congress and unilaterally implement new regulations that will give the force of law to the president’s climate beliefs. If McCarthy and Moniz intend to use their regulating power to redraw the laws concerning fossil fuel emissions or the ability to explore or drill for new energy sources, then the result will be as much of a Constitutional crisis as anything else.

As the New York Times reports:

The E.P.A., which the Supreme Court granted authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, is in the midst of writing regulations governing such emissions from new power plants. Those rules, expected to be completed this year, would essentially bar construction of any new coal-fired power plants unless they included the means to capture carbon gases, a technology that does not yet exist on a commercial scale.

But to make a real dent in the nation’s emissions, the agency must then devise emissions limits for existing plants, a hugely controversial project that could force the shutdown of dozens of older coal-burning power plants, cause a steep drop in domestic demand for coal and trigger a sharp rise in energy prices.

No matter how carefully written — and Ms. McCarthy is an expert on federal air quality law — any such regulations would be subject to intense opposition in the courts, and in Congress, which could seek to overturn the regulations.

The problem here is that the Court’s decision about the EPA as well as the Clean Air Act that Congress already passed gives the executive branch far-reaching powers to transform the American economy without congressional approval. That means the president could potentially draw up rules that could not only have a deleterious impact on fuel exploration and recovery methods like fracking, but also force American industries and businesses to go implement costly changes to satisfy the whims of environmentalists that could cost the country jobs and reduce the chances for growth.

That is not to say that Congress and the courts could not throw a monkey wrench into any of the president’s plans. They could, and the prospect of the administration embarking on a series of executive orders and regulatory expansions without the say-so of the legislative branch would produce a historic challenge that might determine the fate of both the economy and any hopes for maintaining limits on an already imperial presidency.

The Constitution created a template by which the various branches of government could exercise checks and balances on each other. At the core of that is the notion that writing laws are the purview of Congress. When a president assumes the right to draft, pass and then enforce laws in areas like global warming, where Congress has expressly refused to act on the subject, it is a sign of a lack of respect for the constitutional process. The executive must be allowed a great deal of leeway in areas like foreign policy and national defense, where the role of the president to act as commander in chief is rooted in law and tradition. But no president ought to be allowed to play the autocrat when it comes to domestic policy.

A desire to do good is never an excuse for a license to govern by fiat. We hope that the former constitutional law professor sitting in the White House will restrain his hubris and instruct his new appointees to act within the law rather than to play god with American businesses. While the panic of those who think the world really is going to melt is real, so, too, is the Constitution. If the president creates a climate in Washington in which our legal framework becomes a matter of the president’s dictates, we will all be the losers in the long run–no matter where you stand on global warming.

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Jon Huntsman Can’t Get Over Himself

“Jon Huntsman Can’t Stop Talking About The Republican Party,” proclaims a Buzzfeed headline teasing an interview with the former GOP presidential candidate. And they weren’t kidding: the story was posted first thing in the morning yesterday, and by the end of lunch time they posted a second story on Huntsman’s interview. The glaring question–Does Jon Huntsman really have that much of interest to say?–has an unsurprising answer: Nope. But he assured the Buzzfeed editors that he had bestowed upon them a truly generous gift:

“I haven’t asked anyone for a single interview. I don’t do that,” he said, adding, “I’d say we take about 2 percent of the media requests that come in. Really.”

Having thus flattered his audience that they are more important to a former governor of Utah than 98 percent of the media out there, Huntsman proceeded to do what Huntsman does: speak for long periods of time without saying anything. Indeed, what’s striking about the two stories worth of interviews he did with Buzzfeed is the complete lack of policy ideas. He spent most of the time talking about how Republicans don’t like him, how much he enjoyed the movie Lincoln, and that he still believes in climate change.

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“Jon Huntsman Can’t Stop Talking About The Republican Party,” proclaims a Buzzfeed headline teasing an interview with the former GOP presidential candidate. And they weren’t kidding: the story was posted first thing in the morning yesterday, and by the end of lunch time they posted a second story on Huntsman’s interview. The glaring question–Does Jon Huntsman really have that much of interest to say?–has an unsurprising answer: Nope. But he assured the Buzzfeed editors that he had bestowed upon them a truly generous gift:

“I haven’t asked anyone for a single interview. I don’t do that,” he said, adding, “I’d say we take about 2 percent of the media requests that come in. Really.”

Having thus flattered his audience that they are more important to a former governor of Utah than 98 percent of the media out there, Huntsman proceeded to do what Huntsman does: speak for long periods of time without saying anything. Indeed, what’s striking about the two stories worth of interviews he did with Buzzfeed is the complete lack of policy ideas. He spent most of the time talking about how Republicans don’t like him, how much he enjoyed the movie Lincoln, and that he still believes in climate change.

He didn’t seem to put much effort into making excuses for his poor showing in the GOP primaries. But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped blaming his election woes on being too awesome for his own good. He recently spoke with the New York Times Magazine (which apparently made it into the elite 2 percent) as well. He’s had time to reflect upon his election losses, and here is the conclusion he’s drawn:

Honesty? You’re in the wrong business.
It’s terrible. You saw where honesty got me in the primary.

Obviously you’ve thought a lot about it. What went wrong?
When the decision was made to refuse any pandering — because my wife would have left me if I had done any of that — you pretty much disarm yourself. On top of that you have people like Michael Moore, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter coming out and giving you kudos as a sane Republican. That doesn’t play so well in the primary phase of Iowa or South Carolina.

The New York Times referred to you during the campaign as “an early favorite of the pundit classes.” Did you read that and think, I’m toast?
That’s the first dagger to the heart.

This is nonsense, because Mitch Daniels was also an early favorite of the pundit classes, and Daniels also received plaudits from liberal journalists and opinion writers. And yet, whereas Republicans begged Huntsman to leave, they pleaded with Daniels not to go. It isn’t honesty that got Huntsman in trouble, but how he expressed that honesty. The second Buzzfeed article recalls Huntsman’s tweet about global warming: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” What got Huntsman in trouble was his palpable, oozing disdain for Republican voters. He doesn’t like them or their party, and it shows. In the Times Magazine interview, here is how he describes primary voters: “People aren’t turning out for primaries because they work for a living, and those who do turn out are professional activists.”

Surely Huntsman must understand that calling people bums or telling them they only have opinions because they’re paid to have those opinions isn’t the best prelude to asking them for their vote. And why would Huntsman want their vote anyway? Following Huntsman’s logic, it’s degrading to even ask a voter who cares enough about his party to vote in primaries for his support. And maybe that’s how Huntsman feels. But here’s a thought: if Huntsman doesn’t have any respect for the process, then maybe he shouldn’t take part in that process. Call me crazy.

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The Times Spots a Squirrel

The New York Times, the very apotheosis of agenda-driven “journalism,” has a front-page story today that takes up a quarter of that page, above the fold, and half an inside page, entitled, “Not Even Close: 2012 Was the Hottest Ever in U.S.” It covers the recently issued report of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center regarding last year’s weather statistics.

The Times correctly tells its readers what NOAA reported, which fits in perfectly with the Times’s take on global warming. What it does not do is question in any way, shape or form, whether the statistics in the report are accurate.

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The New York Times, the very apotheosis of agenda-driven “journalism,” has a front-page story today that takes up a quarter of that page, above the fold, and half an inside page, entitled, “Not Even Close: 2012 Was the Hottest Ever in U.S.” It covers the recently issued report of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center regarding last year’s weather statistics.

The Times correctly tells its readers what NOAA reported, which fits in perfectly with the Times’s take on global warming. What it does not do is question in any way, shape or form, whether the statistics in the report are accurate.

But there are a lot of questions, as Power Line reported yesterday. Anthony Watts, who runs the highly popular Watts Up With That blog on climate change, has uncovered evidence that the data had been systematically corrupted in order to produce the desired curve of rising temperatures. For instance, he found that in the original paper versions of data from February 1934, the average temperature for that month in Arizona is given as 52.0 degrees F. In the current on-line data available from the National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature for Arizona in February 1934, is given as having been 48.9 degrees. The difference of more than three degrees is huge.

If Anthony Watts’s reporting is accurate, this would be gross scientific malpractice. I haven’t the faintest idea who is right here, Anthony Watts or the NCDC, as I am neither a climatologist nor a statistician. But one would think that the New York Times, with its unmatched journalistic resources, might have looked into the discrepancy before running with the story.

After all, if they could discredit Watts Up With That, they would diminish a major critic of the global warming hypothesis. If they can prove that the NCDC data has been cooked, they will have uncovered a major government scandal, and that sells newspapers, which is the business the Times is supposed to be in.

But, it seems, there’s an agenda to advance and so … Oh, look, a squirrel!

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