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Repeal without replace: a dangerous GOP strategy on Obamacare and climate

Posted on 6 February 2017 by dana1981

House Republicans have introduced a bill to rewrite the Clean Air Act. The bill, which has 114 co-sponsors (all Republicans), would revise the Clean Air Act such that:

The term ‘air pollutant’ does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.

This change would kill the EPA regulation of carbon pollution that’s a key component of the Clean Power Plan.

The background story

The history behind these regulations is an interesting story. During the George W. Bush Administration, Americans were becoming increasingly concerned about the threats posed by human-caused global warming, and by the Administration’s actions to censor and silence climate scientists instead of taking action to address the problem.

So 12 states led by Massachusetts, in coordination with a number of cities, territories, and environmental and scientific groups, sued the Bush EPA. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 2007. The key was that Massachusetts had to demonstrate it had legal standing to sue, which meant proving that the state was being directly harmed by climate change and EPA’s refusal to address it.

The Massachusetts Attorney General made a smart argument. As a coastal state, Massachusetts is harmed by sea level rise encroaching on its valuable shoreline property. Sea level rise is indisputably caused by global warming via the melting of land ice and the expansion of warmer water. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor in a 5-4 decision split along partisan lines, with Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote on the side of science. Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts dissented, basically arguing that the link between a lack of EPA carbon regulations and the state’s lost coastal property was too hypothetical, but they were outvoted.

The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had to determine if greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. If they do, then under the Clean Air Act, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualify as “air pollutants” and must be regulated as such. The Bush EPA dragged its feet until his term ended, and soon after President Obama took office, the EPA issued its Endangerment Finding that, based on the best available science, greenhouse gases do pose a threat to the public via climate change.

The 2007 Supreme Court Clean Air Act ruling and Endangerment Finding form the basis of the Clean Power Plan, a portion of which includes EPA regulation of carbon pollution from power plants. Generally speaking, Republicans hate government regulation, and the party is also in bed with the fossil fuel industry, so they’ve wanted to undercut the Clean Power Plan and Supreme Court decision ever since they were conceived. Now in control of all branches of government, they see their chance.

Republican bills put money and jobs over health and safety

Enter the “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017.” As noted above, the bill would simply revise the Clean Air Act to state that greenhouse gases aren’t air pollutants. The bill states that nothing in the Clean Air Act any other law “authorizes or requires the regulation of climate change or global warming.” It notes that the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions standards would be voided. Finally, the bill includes this dangerous provision:

No regulation, rule, or policy described in subsection (a) shall take effect if the regulation, rule, or policy has a negative impact on employment in the United States unless the regulation, rule, or policy is approved by Congress and signed by the President.

In other words, if the EPA were to determine that any sort of pollution was endangering or killing people, but the proposed regulation of that pollutant would result in the loss of a few jobs, EPA would not be allowed issue that regulation. Republicans in Congress – and any members who vote for this bill – are explicitly stating that employment is more important than human and environmental health.

There’s a similar bill with 160 Republican co-sponsors: the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. It says that any regulation with compliance costs over $100 million per year would require approval by both the House and Senate. If either failed to pass the regulation within 70 days, it would be null and void. Again, if a regulatory agency with expert staffers were to decide that a regulation were necessary to protect public health and safety, but politicians in Congress declined to vote in support of the regulation, it wouldn’t be implemented.

Fortunately, these bills face long odds

So far the “Stopping EPA” bill has been assigned to four House committees, and at least three of those have no plans as of yet to take up the bill. Similarly, the REINS Act has been assigned to four House committees, but likely isn’t viewed as a high priority either.

I spoke to David Doniger, senior attorney for NRDC’s climate and clean air program about these bills.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 68:

  1. This type of policy decision is not being made by people who are unaware of the reality of what is going on, the best explanation for what is going on, and the actions required to improve the future for all of humanity.

    There should be very little doubt that the people pushing for this policy change understand what is going on and are deliberately choosing to push for activity that future generations will not be able to continue to benefit from.

    They likely Know It All. They likely understand that the pursuits of benefit they push for will only benefit a portion of current day humanity to the detriment of many others, particularly to the detriment of future generations of humanity.

    Human made-up games of competition for Popularity and Profitability clearly only produce Good Results for the future of humanity if people who have other interests are kept from being able to Win in the games. Those type of people really need to be kept from playing in the games. However, when they do get away with "Winning", such people need to have their "Undeserved Win" nullified, the sooner the better for the future of humanity.

    It is understood that increased knowledge about climate science innoculates people from being tempted to believe claims that are not the best explanation of what can be observed to be going on.

    Innoculating people against the temptation to be greedier or less tolerant should help limit the potential for "Winning" by people who are not interested in developing a constantly improved future for all of humanity.

    The USA has at times provided genuine global leadership towards a lasting better future for all of humanity. However, it is undeniable that the current gerenation's wealth and power was the result of "winning" through unsustainable and damaging pursuits of benefit (like delaying the reduction of sulfur in diesel, and delaying the termination of coal burning) on top of the benefit of not having any of the battles over global influence being fought on, and setting-back the development of, mainland USA.

    The USA leadership has massive military and economic influence which makes it a major factor regarding the future of humanity. It can be the greatest helper or the greatest threat to the future of humanity. It all depends on the type of people who "Win" the leadership.

    The Trump Team actions will clearly be another set-back in the history of the advancement of humanity. Even if they fail in their unacceptable pursuits of "Winning" the lack of Better leadership in the USA will be a delay of Good actions, clearly being detrimental to the future of humanity.

    A USA First objective of leadership that does not limit its actions to things that will clearly improve the future for all of humanity (and not even sustainably improve things for the least fortunate USA citizens) is clearly a Threat that can be very popular and profitable for some.

    The fact that so many USA voters have developed powerfully made-up minds determined to fight to defend or excuse such understandably damaging desires and admire undeserving made-up Images/Impressions is not Good. It is Sadder than Sad! It is Bad!

    Hopefully enough of the population can be effectively innoculated against the temptations to be greedier and less tolerant to limit the negative consequences of the action plans of the likes of the Trump Team. And hopefully the portion of the global community that understands the importance of helping to advance humanity will be able to effectively help that portion of the population of the USA (and all other nations) in their efforts to change minds, helping those who have been misled become aware of how to be more helpful than harmful.

    Effectively promoting the 'increased awareness and understanding of climate science and the critical importance of applying that understanding to advance all of humanity to a lasting better future for all' is one of the many helpful fronts for innoculating people, increasing the portion of the population that understands how to make their lives meaningfully helpful.

    Open admission. I have relatives and aquaintances who I have to admit may be lost causes as far as the future of humanity is concerned. No amount of added understanding seems to change their minds. They really do focus on their personal interests, and continue to make up easily deflated excuses. However, that is probably to be expected. I live in Alberta, a hotbed of the promotion of self-interest.

    What is encouraging is that even in Alberta people who are determined to pursue self-interest any way they can get away with are not the majority of the population. The majority are reasonable people who will admit to having been tempted to misunderstand something and are willing to change their mind.

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  2. @OPOF, yes I also find it hard to understand the way some people think. Without mentioning any names, a colleague of mine who has a masters degree in Physics - so obiously knows something about the scientific method and the mathematics that supports it - is in complete denial about observable trends in global temperature.  I even invited him to process the data himself to which the reply was  " why would I want to process dodgy data? ".  

    I have no idea how to discuss such things with intelligent people who have closed minds.  Of course there are also underlying beliefs that obscure the facts for some people, such as a belief in young earth creation "science".

    Any suggestions as to how to communicate are welcome!

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  3. #1 - very biased comment.  

    #2 - see #1 for how not to communicate.  it looks like preaching, not like science.

    Short term trends in global temperatures do not mean AGW is real.  It might be, but "trends" are not proof of anything.  The trend is that a majority of 5 year olds believe in Santa Claus.

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  4. @3 well of course trends don't mean anything - even I know that. Only long term trends and accumulations/comparisons of data of various kinds that all agree, are the trends are likely to be correct. 

    I suspect you haven't really any idea what you are talking about, but thank you for your erudite summary of OPOF's and my comments.

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  5. OPOF @1

    I do like your basic philosophy of basing our societal and economic and environmental laws and decisions on what is going to be good for the future of humanity. It gives a powerful singular focus. It is also compatible in a practical sense with current generation still having a very good life if only people would think it through. It just requires balance and good sense. It's a big topic and I would love to have the time to explore it more.

    However much of the world does accept your premise. Right now America is the state choosing to be different, by turning both backwards and inwards. And we haveTrumps attack on science, and freedom of information and free speech of climate and other organisations. But this will eventually collapse under the weight of reality, and it's inherent logical and evidential absurdidities.

    However we should acknowledge some people in America have been left behind by globalisation, and do more to help them. But not in the Trump kind of way, that will not end up really helping them.

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  6. Coal Miner @5 says:

    "Agree that unelected bureaucrats in any department should not be able to make rules and regulations for people. We have how many doing that today? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? It's totally out of control and is destroying our nations economy and jobs."

    What are you even saying? Unemployment in America has dropped from 12% at the peak of the financical crash to about 5%, a very low level by global standards. Remember capitalism has a natural rate of unemployment, so is unlikely to get to zero. America has just last month had record job creation, and even Trump has commented on this. So clearly regulations are not the onerous burden you claim. Here is some data and discussion:

    You can find other economics and job data for America on Trading a global financial database, so not a partisan body. Its all been good on jobs and economic growth on the whole. Some groups are admittedly not doing so well, but they are in a minority.

    Trumps claims of devastation are simply a huge fiction.

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  7. uncletimrob,

    I have been fairly successful if I start by saying that I want to be sure we (me and whoever I am trying to change the mind of regarding climate change and global warming), have a common basis for the discussion.

    1. Then I ask what they know about the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Based on how they answer I work to ensure there is an agreement of understanding about the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    2. I follow that with a question about why the rapid recent increase of CO2 has occurred. This is where I can usually determine how difficult it will be to change the mind I am dealing with. Helping people understand that actions like burning wood pellets and bio-fuel do not create "New Carbon" is usually required.
    3. After we agree that excess CO2 is being created by human activity I move on to asking if they understand that future generations will not be able to continue to benefit from activity like burning fossil fuels. I find that twist can set some people onto a tangent about the false claims of peak oil or that you can't live without burning fossil fuels. But I remain focused on establishing the understanding that future generations cannot continue to benefit from that way of living. I even add points about the damage done so far by the activity including vicious fighting over the ability to benefit most from the burning of fossil fuels, including the human tragedies that have been created in places like the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia and Ukraine.
    4. If I do not get acceptance that the excess CO2 is created by human activity, particularly burning fossil fuels, and do not get acceptance that major past and current day problems are the result of pursuits of benefit from those activities, I make sure there is no doubt about how close-minded and wrong the person is choosing to be. I state how unhelpful people who choose to think that way are.
    5. If I do get acceptance of the fundamantal unacceptability of a portion of the hopefully eternal history of humanity benefiting from an unsustainable and damaging activity like the burning of fossil fuels I am set for a longer fruitful conversation. I move on to helping them understand the potential changes due to the excess CO2, especially the challenges that will be faced by future generations. I share a main concern of mine as a Structural Engineer, the difficulty of knowing what climate conditions need to be designed for so that a structure can perform successfully into the future. That includes pointing out that rapid rates of climate change make it more difficult to predict exactly what change of climate is to be expected in any location. I then add that as a gardener I appreciate how much more difficult it will be for farmers to figure out what they can most successfuly grow in a coming season. I would really like to start with this fundamental purpose of life point, but find that it is usually best to bring it up after getting a shared understanding of the unacceptability of a political, social or economic desire or pursuit (any of the many unacceptable desires and pursuits work as a basis for bringing up this fundamantal point. I then point out that other efforts by people wanting to be helpful share the objective of advancing humanity to a better future and struggle to overcome the damaging impacts created by those who do not care to responsibly limit what they choose to do, what they try to get away with, what they are unwilling to accept is unacceptable).

    Sometimes I have gotten particularly short with a person who is clearly not interested in better understanding this issue or the importance of helping to advance humanity. In those cases I regret questioning "why the person thinks anyone should care about the interests of someone like them who seems determined to believe what they wish and do as they please in pursuit of personal pleasure and benefit without caring to actually understand the potential or likely consequences of their actions, without trying to be helpful rather than harmful." I think that all the time, and generically share that sentiment with people, but I try to not direct it at an individual.

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  8. Coal Miner @3, short term trends are indeed of little value. But we have had approximately a 45 year warming trend. This is not short term. Climate science recognises that 30 years is the important time frame to determine whether we have a sufficient trend.

    Any trend under 30 years could be generated by quite significant natural cycles, as these opeate on 5- 30 year cycles, but once you get over 30 years there are no known natural cycles of such length that have anything like enough power to change the climate by orders of several degrees. There is plenty of research on this.

    Just for once understand scientists are not stupid, and the very first thing they explored in regards to climate change was possible natural causes, and you can get much of this in the IPCC reports. Natural causes for the warming since the 1970s have been ruled out by very smart people, who have investigated this in considerable depth. This website has plenty of related articles.

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  9. "The term ‘air pollutant’ does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."

    This just makes my blood boil, and is such retrograde, reactionary, badly informed decision making. Quite apart from the climate issue,which is bad enough, cars emit nitrous oxides that are hazardous to health. Are we to now give up on trying to improve that situation as well?

    Regulations might in some cases have short term costs on business, but they have long term benefits for humanity that count for more which relate to health, quality of life etc. Of course regulations should be carefully considered on scientific evidence of whether risks are significant, but that's what Obama tried to do. Trump is throwing scientific evidence out of the door, and "trusting his gut". Well that is unlikely to end well.

    Regulations also arguably stimulate innovation. The automobile industry is an obvious example.

    Many Americans, with respect, are often such hypocrites. They preach about their constitution, and how special America is, and it's rights to free speech". Where are Republicans now that Trump is trampling over the free speech of the EPA, and other government bodies? 

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  10. nigelj@5,

    I agree that some people in the USA and the rest of the world have "been left behind".  I disgree with the claim that globalization caused many of the people in the USA who feel "Left Behind" to be in the situation they are in today.

    I blame the development of unsustainable perceptions of prosperity and opportunity for the circumstances that many have ended up in. And I would add that poverty and inequity existed in the USA before globalization. I also say it because of what has just happened in Alberta.

    The surge of activity to expand the rate of extraction of the gooey stuff from the sands of Northern Alberta should have been understood to have no future, to be a chase for benefit that was understandably unacceptable and would have to end sooner than the games of popularity and profitability would end it.

    The anger and frustration many in Alberta now express is due to the development of delusions of prosperity and opportunity. They were getting away with it and are angry that others are actually explaining why they should no longer be able to get away with it.

    It is a developed perception problem. And it will not be solved by trying to return to continuing the unsustainable unacceptable activity. That will just develop more damaging delusions.

    Globalization has generally been a global benefit. However, some people have abused it, producing damaging results for many other people in developed, developing, and "left behind" nations like Haiti.

    The shift of work to locations where people can truly live decently at lower cost and produce the same results at lower cost is a great idea. But that is not the way that globalization has developed.

    The result has been a failure to ensure that higher standards were pursued and maintained globally. The Winners were the ones who got away with things like: less acceptable treatment of workers, lower standards for quality control, and lower standards for environmental protection, or lower costs for what they bought because of all the above.

    In fact, today there is more pressure to reduce the standards for treatment of workers, quality control, and protection of the environment even in the so called advanced nations.

    Instead of stepping up the game globally, competition to be better, there is intense competitive pressure to knock down higher Standards by making them compete against lower standards that are allowed in other "percieved to be advanced or advancing" nations. That is a downward spiral of standards and ways of living that has no future, in spite of the popularity of the lower costs and higher short-term profitability (or the unsustainable perceptions of reduction of poverty in the nations where less accaptable activity is being gotten away with).

    Solving such a problem requires the admission that it exists. Then a variety of solutions can actually be developed, like requiring every nation to provide all of the requirements of a basic decent life to all of their citizens who may be "left behind" by the socio-economic-political games that are being played, and the expectation that the more fortunate "Earthlings" will thoughtfully change their actions and their interactions with the less fortunate in ways that make truly lasting better lives for the least fortunate, reducing what nations have to provide for the Left Behinders (those who do not really get to benefit from the games people play on this amazing planet, including those who are fooled into damaging unsustainable delusions of being among the ones who will benefit from a Change).

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  11. One Planet Only Forever @12

    Globalisation, in the sense of free trade, has actually caused some job losses and general related poverty problems in America. Thats basic economics. The calculate 30% of job losses in manufacturing in America come from free trade, 70% from automation. 

    That's not to say globalisation or free trade are bad things. They are good things, and must be maintained, but more should be done to assist people hurt, like with government retraining or income support. Or maybe a universal basic income (I'm still undecided about this, just mentioning it).

    Both Democrats and Republicans ingnored that free trade has had some downsides and they did nothing. This is why Trump gained traction!

    I agree there are also other reasons for job losses, and related poverty issues, and you summarise these well.

    Another example is coal isn't coming back. Fracking gas has made coal uneconomic regardless of climate issues. Whats Trump going to do about that? He has to face reality.

    The solution to coal is to help workers with retraining etc. But the Republicans resent this sort of state assistance. The result is a total disaster and crazy returns to protectionist trade.

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  12. One Planet Only Forever @ 12

    One other point. You are right globalisation has sort of gone off the rails, in the sense everyone is pushed down to the lowest common denominator of standards, including in western economies as well as your quoted countries. Western countries need to push for political parties that maintain decent rules on employment conditions etc. But that's up to the voters to use some sense.

    It's the same with climate change regulations and other mitigation methods. Theres a risk globalisation could push that well down the agenda from an economic viewpoint, as the corporate sector wins the debate over "deregulation" for price efficiency. We have to fight this.

    Of course regardless of globalisation, the same thing is now happening within a more isolationist America, sadly to say.

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  13. The term "Obamacare" in the caption looks misplaced because the article does not talk about Obamacare at all. It just mentions than by conceiving the two anti-EPA initiatives, REPs are endangering the Health of the nation by degrading the environment. That that has nothing to do with Obamacare per se.

    Or maybe REPs did also prepare the initiative to repeal of Obamacare, that Dana wanted to talk about but forgot? The last rumours I've heard about it is: during the transition period, T-man somewhat softened his previous stance and said that Obamacare has some good aspect and that he will keep them.

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  14. Even with Bernie as president and a majority in both houses, it is questionable if he could have reversed the direction we are going fast enough to avoid sudden climate change.  At least we would have had a chance or at least some hope.  Under Trump our only chance is that, like an innoculation which causes the body to fight back, he will cause such a reaction that we will do much more to mitigate climate change.  Not much of a hope, I admit.  Perhaps the law of unexpected consequenses will work in our favor for a change but don't hold your breath.

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  15. Given the reality on the ground: Trump is the president and may not be as friendly to AGW as many would like,  which of the following 4 cases would be the better option from a climate perspective?

    CASE 1 

    All Americans who believe in AGW (say 50% of us) elect voluntarily to do the following:

    a) If you have the money choose to drive a hybrid or electric car; and use public transport or bike/walk when possible

    b) Install PV panels + solar hot water panels at their home (apartment dwellers would be limited in what they can do)

    c) Turn down the t-stat in winter and up in summer

    d) Plant a tree or 2 in the yard to capture some carbon. And mow the grass with a manual non-motorized mower.

    CASE 2

    Spend 4 to 8 years complaining about the current president policies and continue with current FF lifestyles.

    CASE 3

    Get a national carbon tax or similar system which say raises fuel prices for transportation and heating with a resulting say 5-10% decrease in FF usage.  

    CASE 4

    Get your state to enact really aggressive AGW policies whether the US as a whole does it or not.  They might pass a big tax to pay for solar and wind farms, provide electric car subsidies, subsidies for installing heat pumps and other efficient technologies, subsidies for solar water heating for domestic water and for space heating, etc.....

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  16. 6 - nigelj

    Are you sure the econonmy is OK?  What do you think the economy would look like if the government had not added 10 trillion to the debt over the past 8 years?  Currently there are ~40+ million on food stamps.  Trump may add even more debt than O did - time will tell and that's not what we want.  One reason some folks voted for T because they don't want to keep adding to the debt - many of them even believe in AGW, but think we need to get our fiscal house in order before we try to save the world. 

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  17. 2

    Suggestions on how to communicate.  I'd tell the truth.  That usually works, right?  If you don't really understand the quantum physics behind AGW, say I don't understand it myself, but I believe the scientists so I support.......whatever it is you support.

    That's what I try to do.  I say: I am struggling to understand the physics, still investigating, and I think AGW may be real, but I'm not sure and I'm not willing to sign on to huge tax plans, or other major distruptions to the economy until I understand the science.  I do recommend everyone who wants to should do what they can as individuals to reduce FF use, etc, and I think that if all believers did so, it would make a difference.   I think coming up with a 24/7/365 reliable electric grid using only renewables will not happen quickly or cheaply and we will be using FF as backup for quite a long time until better technology comes along.  I say, I think nations that are wealthy can help the world better than poor nations so I'd like to see the US become more prosperous so we can do that - Bill Gates helps more folks than the average man on the street - works the same with countries.

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  18. Coal Miner @16

    Yes I think Americas economy is doing reasonably OK overall. Remember I said America's economy was doing OK. I didn't say it was doing fantastically! And I really do hope things work out well for America under Trump or any future president.

    But facts are facts. GDP growth has averaged 2% per year recently and this is reasonably ok. Unemployment has dropped a lot from 2010 regardless of how you measure it. The latest numbers also show wages are finally starting to rise. The data on this is available on financial database websites like if you want the detail. Given things have been improving during the Obama period, it seems unwise for some totally opposite approach.

    Foodstamps have been around before the financial crash. Partly it applies to all sorts of different people on welfare, not just the unemployed.

    Food stamps do also prop up the incomes of very low wage people. I agree low wages are a problem, but fixing this is really difficult. Protectionist trade may push up some wages at the lower end, but it will also push up prices. So it could all cancel out. 

    My country had tariffs in the 1970's and it did keep some wages up, but ended up causing huge inflation in all sorts of goods. We abandoned tariffs for free trade and would be very unlikely to go back. Granted America is a differenet country, but I remain a bit sceptical about protectionism. It possibly had a place in the past more than todays world.

    I think it's better to assist low wage people with income support, retraining grants, things like that. I suppose it's a bit socialist, but to me it's pragmatic and justified.

    But I do think trumps corporate tax break policies make some sense, as they are internal to America.

    America does have high government (public debt) as below. 


    As you can see from the graph, much of this comes from the Reagon years, GW Bush, and Obama. The current level is considered high by economists, but not catastrophically so. In defence of Obama, he was faced with a huge financial crash and reduced tax take, and borrowed to avoid the sort of cost cutting that would have made the crash worse. I think that was the right move.

    But nobody wants a lot of debt. Donald Trump wants to cut taxes and increase spending, but this risks a further increase in debt, just exactly as happened under Reagon, if you look at the graph in the link. Not that Reagon was a bad guy, but he did increase debt.

    Bringing back coal does not seem like good climate policy, and nor does it make much economic sense. Trump needs to slow down. He has some valid criticisms of various things, but the solutions are really just not as simplistic as he thinks.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  19. Coal Miner @17

    You say you want to understand climate science, very thoroughly, before making a decision on whether we are warming the climate or commiting to carbon taxes etc, etc.

    Well fair enough in general terms. We should all examine the basics of the greenhouse effect. 

    But the science is extremely complicated. Nobody can "fully" understand the science unless they have advanced maths and physics degrees. It's totally unrealistic to expect people to have this. I have a generally broad education at university level, including some maths, but a text on quantum mechanics is out of my league. In fact many climate scientists themselves would not know the fine detail about how C02 absorbs heat, as it's a specialist area.

    In the end people are better to simply look at the basics and claims from both sides of the argument. It also has to be said the overwhelming majority of climate scientsis say we have a problem. There are numerous polls on this from Cooke, Doran etc as below.


    We aren't reliant on just one poll or survey. Theres nothing more we can do in terms of surveying expert views. If you don't peronally have advanced maths or physics, you have to respect the end  who do.

    I broadly agree with your big list of recommendations on how to tackle climate change in your other post.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  20. Coalminer, one other thing. The following is a "Mythbusters video" demonstrating  carbon dioxide increasing temperatures in an experiment. Regardless of why it increases temperatures, we know with absolute certainty it does increase temperatures. (Or 99.999% certainty given ultimate proofs are not technically possible in science)

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  21. 20 - I had seen that video but I watched it again.  I think it is well established that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  The question is - and it is a very legitimate one and is the crux to many "deniers" - how much difference would it make to go from say 400 to 450 or 500 ppm? I could not tell what the CO2 concentration used was, but I scrolled down to a comment by "Realist" and the CO2 concentration in the video was over 73,000 ppm.  Thus, as realist indicates, it gives great evidence that CO2 levels near 400 ppm are not a problem.  

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  22. Coal Miner @21, allow a CO2 concentration of 73,000 ppmv, or about 260 times the preindustrial average.  We must also allow that the compartments were at most 2 meters deep.  It follows that the comparments had the same absorption capability of about 520 meters of atmospheric CO2 at sea level.  That's just half a kilometer, when the troposphere is 10 kilometers in depth (albeit with diminishing pressure).  The obvious conclusion should be that the compartments had much less capacity to trap heat relative to the atmosphere, despite the higher CO2 concentration.

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  23. CM @21...  I'm curious how you determined that the commenter was correct regarding the 73,000ppm figure?

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  24. 23 - Rob

    In the video I watched again and you can see the gas man's monitoring panel reading about 7.35% CO2.  That was a digital reading.  So, unless that part of the video is wrong, the the commenter is correct.  There were other comments on other topics that may be valid objections also.

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  25. 22 - Tom

    Except the real atmosphere would have a larger mass and similar input energy would give no detectable rise in temperature.  You might be able to devise a correctly modeled experiment, but that was not it.

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  26. And of course before running the experiment in the video, you'd have to run it with air in all boxes to prove they were the same, etc.

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  27. Coal Miner @25, the atmosphere does indeed have a larger mass, and hence a larger heat capacity.  It does not, however, have a very much larger mass per exposed surface area (m^2).  Larger, but not very much larger.  Further, given a constant heat source, heat capacity controlls the time it takes to reach the equilibrium temperature, but not what the equilibrium temperature is.  Consequently the greater heat capacity means it will take longer to reach equilibrium, not that the equilibrium temperature will represent a substantial increase.

    As an aside, I do not think the myth buster experiment is "a correctly modeled experiment".  I am pointing out that your conclusions from it (low climate sensitivity) are specious, and based on noting one salient factors while neglecting other equally salient factors.

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  28. Coal Miner @26,

    The mythbusters experiment was only ever a quick experiment to demonstrate the general principle. Neither it or myself ever claimed it would replicate conditions of planet earth precisely, and I don't see that it could. 

    That is the issue. We are really mostly reliant on laboratory tests on how much heat CO2 absorbs. We also have paleo climate data on past CO2 concentrations versus temperatures. The combination of the two gives two lines of evidence, as far as I can see, which is very persuasive. 

    I also can't see anything wrong with what TC is saying, and he has obvious expertise. Unless you have in depth knowledge, and the time to aquire this, you have to trust the experts. And it takes a lot of time. You might have that knowledge, but most people never will have.

    Trump sure doesn't, and is too busy 'tweeting' anyway.

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  29. Coal Miner,

    You have not answered my question.  Why are you so concerned about possible damage to the economy caused by actions to control AGW when you are completely unconcerned about damage caused by AGW?  Analysis by economists conclusively show that more damage will result from business as usual than caused by any suggested changes to limit warming.

    Already we see billions of dollars to the economy every year in the US alone from AGW.  Miami and Miami Beach are spending hundreds of millions in a futile effort to hold back the sea.  California suffered billions in losses from the drought.  How much damage are you willing to accept before  you decide to take action?  Keep in mind that once CO2 is released it cannot be captured back again.

    In the end oil will run out no matter what we do.  Then we will have to switch to renewable energy.  Why not switch now and reduce suffering from AGW?

    Scientists know exactly which quantum shifts cause warming.  It generally is the bending vibrations in the CO2 molecule (and other multi atom molecules, diatomic molecules do not have this type of bend).  Very few people care about those details so they are not widely discussed.  If you want the details ask and SkS posters can explain it to you.

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  30. For One Planet Only Forever:

    You may be able to answer my questions here:

    Here are some observations from the current literature, as I understand them, and questions::

    1. Average global temperatures are predicted to rise by 2100 by from 1.1 to 5.4 deg C. (Is this accurate?)

    2. Once CO2 gets into the atmosphere most of it stays there for a very long time (perhaps centuries), and presumably continues to contribute to rising temperatures while it is there.

    3. To set a lower boundary on the problem, let’s say that ALL new human-produced CO2 and methane added to the atmosphere is reduced to ZERO starting tomorrow. Using current models, what is then the predicted change in average global temperature in 2100?

    4. Are my statements/assumptions accurate?

    5. Has anyone run the simulation I describe in (3)?

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  31. 29 michael

    I don't see your previous comment.  My answer may have provided a link to economic data that was deemed unacceptable and deleted.

    Storms, droughts, tornados, heat waves, snow storms, hail, hurricanes, sea surges, etc have occurred forever.  We've seen a big drop in hurricanes in the past 10 years.  They'll be back - they're not on a bus schedule.

    The economy of the US and the world is fragile now.  It nearly went down in 2008.  Today, the debt is much larger around the world so we're still vulnerable.  We cannot switch energy sources "today".  This will be a huge undertaking and will still require FF to provide 24/7/365 reliability.  Technology isn't available to do it all without FF - and I'm only talking electrical power generation.  We're far from being able to run our agricultural and transportation industries on renewables.  But let's keep working on it.

    We can help ourselves and the planet only if we are wealthy.  If we are poor we will only be concerned about where the next meal comes from.  Thus, let's fix the economy before getting too worked up about AGW. 

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  32. Regarding the comment posted above by "Richard"

    "3. To set a lower boundary on the problem, let’s say that ALL new human-produced CO2 and methane added to the atmosphere is reduced to ZERO starting tomorrow. Using current models, what is then the predicted change in average global temperature in 2100?"

    Who would know, and who would even care. And we don't need a lower boundary.  We are not going to stop using "all" fossil fuels by tomorrow, for obvious reasons.

    What is important is keeping climate change under 2 degrees, so reducing carbon emissions accordingly, or failing that making the largest reductions possible. The Paris agreement and other material easily googled outlines the depth of cuts required.

    I have seen the comment by Richard before on other websites. It's internet trolling, in my opinion, as it's been answered before.

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  33. 32 - nI'd like to see the answer to Richard's question also. It's important because if, as you say, 2 is important, then we need to know:a) why 2 is important (what happens at 2?)b) as R asked, how much dT will we get if everything is held as it is now. c) has anyone calculated how much CO2 could reasonably be taken from the atmosphere using latest technologies?
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  34. Coal Miner @31, says:

    "Storms, droughts, tornados, heat waves, snow storms, hail, hurricanes, sea surges, etc have occurred forever. We've seen a big drop in hurricanes in the past 10 years. They'll be back - they're not on a bus schedule."

    With respect that is empty, irrelevant rhetoric. Past climate change does not mean we are not causing change now, through fossil fuels. While natural climate cycles clearly affect weather patterns, this tends to be a gentle process over long periods.

    We are causing change, and it is comparatively much more rapid change. The last IPCC report found heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall events have already increased significantly, and will increase more.

    Evidence on hurricanes was mixed at the last IPCC report. A drop in numbers over a timeframe of 10 years is meaningless,  as its too short to be statistically significant and you provide no source for that claim. We certainly have evidence of greater hurricane intensity as below.


    There is also evidence in the IPCC reports finding pacific storms have increased. This debate cannot all be about climate risks for America.

    I can appreciate coal miners would have some understandable grounds to be sceptical, but times move on. I have had to learn new stuff in my career as the economy has changed. New jobs will replace old jobs.

    "Today, the debt is much larger around the world so we're still vulnerable. We cannot switch energy sources "today"."

    Well nobody is saying we have to adopt billions of alternative energy "today" so that is an emotive strawman argument.

    We do have global debt, but changing to alternative energy has dropped dramatically in price recently. Wind power is now the same cost as coal power (without subsidies) and solar power is very close, from Forbes who are a business magazine, so could not be accsued of bias towards warmists.

    So the costs of switching to renewable energy are not some huge burden or debt generator. You need to appreciate at the very least old power stations inevitably have to be replaced as they wear out.

    There are also other ways of funding things, like taxes and levies, on the appropriate people or organisations, fairly determined, or innovative forms of infrastructure bonds, that are better than traditional debt instruments.

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  35. 30 - r

    This video says if we stop adding CO2 today, we'll heat up 1 C.  Says we will be at the 2 C level in 21 years and the video is a couple years old at least, so maybe 19 to go, then...............

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  36. Coal Miner,

    So there is no amount of damage from AGW that would convince you that change is needed.  By your standard, the economy will never be strong enough to warrant change.   We will  continue BAU until the economy collapses.

    You ask for more information.  All the information that you have asked for is readily available on the internet.  Read here at SkS for a few months and you will learn most of what you have asked for.  

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  37. Coal Miner - The economic costs of adapting to climate change after the fact are estimated to be 5 to 10x the costs of mitigating climate change now. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

    If you are really driven by economics, BAU is by far the most expensive and foolish path.

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  38. OK, so, can anyone point to a comprehensive plan that has been proposed, and which is actually doable economically, that will put the USA, or the world, or both on the path that scientists say will prevent catastrophic warming? Ultimately of course it must be a world plan; and in the mean time the plan cannot destroy the economy of the USA while we wait for the rest of the world to complete their changes.I'd like to read the plan.
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  39. Coal Miner:

    Jacobson et al have a detailed plan for the entire world to convert entirely over to renewable energy.  (link is to Jacobson's website).  They find that energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels and provide more jobs.  Health will be better (currently coal pollution kills about 15,000 people per year in the USA alone every year).  His plan calls for generating about 50% of power with solar, 40% with wind and the rest with a variety of power soources.  His plan calls for conversion to entirely WWS power by 2050. detailed USA plan.  Other mixes of wind, solar and other power sources will also work.

    Jacobson's plan has been reviewed and refined for 5-10 years.  His papers have been cited hundreds of times.  He has shown costs are reasonable (costs have been substantially reduced over the past 5 years, especially for solar power), materials exist for all planned uses and enough wind and solar are available in the USA to provide power 100% of the time.  It will be cheaper than fossil fuels.  Adding in the avoidance of costs from AGW it is much much cheaper to build out WWS.  Denier web sites do not talk about Jacobson, they falsely claim that it is not possible to power the economy with WWS.

    Can you show a coal plan that shows enough coal exists to power the entire world for even 100 years?  Already the best coal is gone and they are mining poorer and poorer deposits.  Coal is no longer economic, all the coal companies in the USA are going bankrupt.  Do you really want them to hang around just long enough to ruin the atmosphere for the entire world?

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  40. 39

    Thanks for the plan link.  I scanned it briefly. Will check some of his numbers.  Didn't look hard but saw no time-table for implementation.

    Would like to see the following things powered by electrical sources described in the report for each of the following:

    1) One railroad not less than 1,000 miles long.

    2) One airliner similar to a 767.

    3) One 18 wheeler.

    4) One large corn harvesting farm (tractors, combines, etc) in Nebraska.

    5) One fleet of vehicles (cars or trucks) operating between 2 cities separated by not less than 1,500 miles.


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  41. 39

    The government says the US has enough coal for 256 years but that may be based on BAU:



    This article in last paragraph says there is enough for 225 years but I'm not sure if that is for the US or the world:


    Says coal use worldwide is increasing faster than renewables. 

    Yes, we're going to switch to renewables but it will not happen quickly.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened and activated links.

  42. Coal Miner,

    In 2013 China had 48 megameters of electric railway line.  Electric trains are more efficient, have more powerful locomotives and are less polluting than diesel.   Many other countries have large electric train systems.  

    Jacobson calls for replacing airlines last due to the need to develop new technology for his plan.  If you do not mind inefficient use of power and pollution from jet engines, you can make jet fuel from sea water using renewable energy.  The navy claims costs of $3-6 per gallon.  You could use current planes.  Since airline use is a relatively small use of overall power it would mean a few more wind turbines or solar farms.

    Electric trains can do most long hauling currently done by inefficient trucks.  That is one way your 1500 mile cities could work.  Electric Local delivery trucks are already designed and in use, as are electric buses.   Current electric only cars have 300 mile ranges and can be recharged in 30 minutes.  If you stopped every 4-5 hours for food you could recharge while you ate.  I imagine the range of electric cars will continue to improve.  If you put your car on an electric train you could sleep all the way to your destination.

    Since there is currently no market, farm machines have not yet been developed.  Since the entire country is electrified it does not seem like a big stretch to electrify harvesters.  If you insist on waiting to start until the system has been completely built it will never be possible to make any changes.   Perhaps the batteries currently being developed for trucks will work for harvesters.  The rapid advances in electric cars suggest that these types of machines can be built once electricty is available.  

    I found most of these examples using Google.  Jacobson's web site addresses these issues also.

    I think the claims that 230 years of coal remain in the ground are overstated.  Current coal mines are already on low grade coal.  The value of low grade coal is not very high.  Coal companies claim they cannot afford to reclaim the mines thay have abandoned ($4.5 billion in West Virginia alone).  Current consumption overseas will use up that coal much sooner than 230 years if the world does not switch to renewables.

    Fortunately, China and India are investing a lot in renewables.  Their primary concern appears to be reduction of pollution, but it helps climate concerns also.  Will Trump allow the Chinese to take over this opportunity for future profit from American businesses?

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  43. I would guess there's a big difference between the amount of coal (overall) and the amount of economically viable coal. On a levelized cost basis coal is losing in the market even before a carbon tax goes into place.

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  44. Coal Miner, comment 15:

    Nobody seems to have replied to your question.  The answer, of course, is that we should do 1, 3 and 4.  They aren't mutually exclusive.  The fact that people on this site complain about Trump doesn't mean they aren't also pushing for other organisations to act, or reducing their own carbon footprints.

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  45. nigelj @ 32:

    I would care how much warming is "locked in" by the current emissions.  You're right that is not useful as a "lower bound" for the future warming, since we will continue emitting for the foreseeable futuer.  Their role is as an better reflection of the "current status" than the current global temperature (or even ocean heat content) is.

    The current temperature trend says we're only about 1C higher than [mumble], but if the "locked in" warming is 1.5C, then we know that plans for limiting warming to 1.5C must involve geoengineering.

    Does anyone know off hand what the current locked in equilibrium warming is? (If not, I can trawl the web myself...)

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  46. CM - Solar energy now employs more people than oil and gas exploration, with industry employment increasing about 12x faster than employment in general. Renewables create more jobs than fossil fuels, which can only be good for the economy. Coal is shrinking fast, as gas is cheaper, wind is cheaper, and solar is approaching cost competitive for new energy sources. Not to mention that the cheap coal has already been exploited, what remains will cost more and more for extraction. Renewables just make economic sense. 

    Long range individual transportation will probably be one of the last sectors to go full electric due to energy density, but as others have noted synthetic carbon neutral fuels have the energy density to deal with that. In the meantime efficiency improvements can greatly reduce total carbon emissions - my plug in hybrid car runs 50 miles (which is sufficient for most days) on pure electric, and manages 42mpg after that. 

    In fact, I find your choice of energy challenges revealing - the fact that current tech doesn't support pure electric for long range by no means invalidates the capability of replacing the lion's share of our needs with renewables. It's worth pointing out that the Chevy Bolt gets 240 miles per charge, Tesla is capable of 310, and Tesla feels that within the decade they will be able to do more than 50% charge in 10-15 minutes for long range travel. Not to mention fuel cells, which can be refueled about as fast as gas tanks. Your choice of challenges appears to be more rhetoric than realistic.

    And with respect to your handle - it's been a while since coal powered cars were considered viable, let alone state of the art.

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  47. 42, 43, 44, 46 -

    No, my post is not rhetoric.  Show the people of the United States how affordable and doable a FF free economy is.  Let's see my 5 very simple projects built as demonstration projects to prove it all works.  If it's economical then private industry will be happy to do it on their own; if it's not economical, then states which support a FF economy can provide subsidies.  The projects are not huge.  Rails and freeways exist - Tesla or some other company should be able to provide charging stations for the freeway project.   You say it is easily done.  I want to see it done.   Yes, the commercial airliner will be tough, but let's see what can be done so we know whether the Jacobson report goals can actually be achieved. 

    46 - many  of the current fleet of EV are coal powered - as you know, in some locations that's what generates the electricity to charge the batteries.

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  48. Sorry, Coal Miner, but there are no 100% coal markets. So even where coal is still heavily used, EV's are not "coal powered."

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  49. And... in terms of "showing the people of the US"... well, most people don't really pay attention to where their electricity comes from. They just know they pay the bill each month and the lights come on. 

    What's important, and what is happening is, investors have to (and do) understand that levelized cost for coal is higher than other sources. And they know that coal is getting more expensive while costs for wind and solar continue to fall. Already based on levelized costs renewables are cheaper. The ponies are already out of the gate and are half way down the back stretch. We know who's winning and we know who's losing. 

    The only issue is, how fast can we deploy this stuff so we can avoid the worst effects of climate change?

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  50. Coal Miner @47

    "Let's see my 5 very simple projects built as demonstration projects to prove it all works."

    I don't see a need for an electric train or electric car project demonstration. We already have dozens of electric trains around the world, and know its 100% feasible and what the costs are, so its pretty basic to see what an entire network would cost. Electric trains are something that could be started tomorrow. Clearly as you say they could be built and run etc by the private sector. I'm ok with subsidies in certain situations.

    The other point is we don't have to build prototypes of everything in your list to start on "one thing".

    We also have enough solid enough evidence everything in your list is feasible. You dont need to be Albert Einstein to work out electic farm equipment is feasible, and the costs would not be prohibitive.

    The most challenging element is air travel, but we have many options from energy neutral biofuels, alternative propellants, or use of forests as an offset carbon sink ( or better use of soils as an enhanced carbon sink).

    Plenty of countries have already got charging stations for electric cars. There's no point trialling things that already exist somewhere in the world.

    Regarding your comment on costs of a transition to renewable energy. The Stern Report is admittedly several years old now, and not 100% accepted by all economists, but just using it as a simple starting point, it calculated that the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change by transitioning to renewable energy etc as 1% of gloabl gdp per year. This is not huge and puts it in perspective. Even double that is very small.

    It should also be added that renewable energy costs have dropped a lot since the report was done, and are getting very close to fossil fuel sources.

    Now 1% of gdp, is 1% of global economic output, which equates very roughly to 1% of peoples incomes. I don't pretend this is an accurate proxy or comparison, and it could be a bit more,  but again it shows we are not facing massive costs, and does give a rough ballpark of where things are at.

    And obviously a total renewable energy tranistion can't possibly all be completed by the eend of next week, but various sources have shown there is still a window of opportunity to make it work.

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