Climate 411

Climate Bill Will Not Harm Working-Class Families

In a June 24 letter, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) claims that the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) would harm poor and working-class families.

CORE, which has reportedly received funding from ExxonMobil, cites no basis for its extreme assertions, and completely ignores the objective analyses of ACES showing that the bill would benefit low-income consumers and populations:

  1. Analysis of ACES by the Congressional Budget Office shows that  “households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020″ under ACES.
  2. As CBO explicitly notes, that figure “does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and the associated slowing of climate change.” According to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, “the African American community will disproportionately benefit from climate policies that slow climate change,” in part because “African Americans are already disproportionately burdened by the health effects of climate change, including deaths during heat waves and from worsened air pollution.”
  3. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, one of the nation’s premier policy organizations working on public policies that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals, just released a new report, “New EPA and CBO Estimates Refute Claims That House Climate Bill Would Impose Large Costs on Households and the Economy.”  The name says it all.
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Shedding light on a Misleading Picture


“The new federal report on climate change gets a withering critique from Roger Pielke Jr., who says that it misrepresents his own research and that it wrongly concludes that climate change is already responsible for an increase in damages from natural disasters.”

— New York Times Blogger John Tierney skips over the detailed findings of the Global Change Research Program (GCRP) report, entitled Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States [pdf], and focuses on a blog post by Roger Pielke Jr.  Dr. Pielke, a Colorado professor who strongly opposes limits on carbon emissions, attacks the report for relying on “non-peer reviewed, unsupportable studies rather than the relevant peer-reviewed literature”


Talk about missing the forest for the one lonely tree.

There is in fact very strong evidence that global warming is already contributing to extreme events such as heat waves, intense precipitation, and forest fires. Indeed, the GCRP report, which was prepared over many months in collaboration with 13 federal agencies and dozens of scientists, presents a wealth of scientific data demonstrating a close linkage between climate change and extreme events.

However, Roger Pielke, and by extension John Tierney paint a very misleading picture. Tierney completely ignores these alarming links, and instead focuses on Pielke’s nit-picking complaint about a few sentences in the 196-page scientific report regarding monetary damages due to natural disasters/hurricanes.

While the monetary figures associated with these extreme events have not been thoroughly quantified, scientists agree that the intensity and frequency of these extreme events is on the rise.

An example of the link between global warming and extreme events is when the climate warms the global water cycle is inevitably altered, including the ability of the atmosphere to hold more moisture. This leads to more intense rainfall events.

To better understand this, consider the analogy of the atmosphere as a sponge. As the atmosphere warms the sponge gets larger, can hold more water, and wringing it out creates a vast amount of rainfall, which is significantly more intense.

As the GCRP report indicates on page 32, over the past 100 years “precipitation events characterized as heavy downpours have increased by 20%, and climate models forecast that these heavy downpours that presently have a 1 in 20 year occurrence will occur every 4-15 years by the end of this century.”

The increased prevalence of forest fires is also propelled in part by increasing temperatures caused by climate change. While some regions of the US are experiencing downpours and flooding, other areas are afflicted with severe droughts.

Summer dry seasons have gotten longer, and vegetation is much drier, establishing ideal conditions for forest fires. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, within the last 30 years the length of the wildfire season in the Western U.S. has increased by 78 days.

Tierney also fails to address the climate change impacts that might not be categorized as “natural disasters”.

  • Research has established that climate change is contributing to sea level rise. According to the GCRP report, rising sea level is threatening 7 of the 10 largest ports in the Gulf Coast region where over 2/3 of all US oil imports are transported (pg 62).
  • Warmer waters are reducing the efficiency of thermal power plants.  Even a 1% reduction in electricity generation by the country’s power plants will require two million Americans to find an alternate source of power, as reported on the GCRP. (pg 56)
  • According to the GCRP report, spring snowpack is projected to decline by at least 40% in the Cascades by the 2040’s with unrestrained global warming, placing severe strain on water supply for the Northwest, which relies heavily on snowpack to meet water demands (pg 135)
  • The GCRP report states that by the middle of the century the number of Red Ozone Alert days is likely to increase by 68 percent in 50 of the largest Eastern U.S. cities, solely due to global warming. (pg94)

Clearly, climate change is not just about damage from natural disasters narrowly defined, and we cannot afford to ignore these other impending outcomes.

Finally, despite what Tierny states in his post, the GCRP report is rooted in a wealth of peer-reviewed literature. The report itself went through several drafts, and was extensively reviewed and revised by numerous scientists and other experts before publication.

The foundation of this report is a set of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAPs), which were designed to address key policy-relevant issues in climate science (see page 161)

To date, the GCRP report serves as a paramount synthesis of scientific literature available.

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Clean Energy Opponents' Propaganda Machine Gets the Facts Wrong Again

No Change to Consumer Assistance in Revised American Clean Energy & Security Act, H.R. 2454

On June 24, Republican members of the House Ways & Means Committee circulated yet another false claim about the pending clean energy bill, H.R. 2454. In an inflammatory email today, they claim that a new version of H.R. 2454 supposedly “yanks middle class tax relief” from the bill.

That’s completely false. Here are the facts:

1.    The bill was – and still is – loaded with relief for consumers.

2.    For starters, H.R. 2454 protects everyone who uses electricity by providing free allowances – worth hundreds of billions of dollars – that must be used to protect ratepayers.

3.    To further benefit American consumers, the bill provides $250 billion (in present value) of tax refunds for every taxpayer in the country, starting in 2020.

4.    Finally, to address the special needs of low-income families, the bill goes even further and provides extra relief for these households.

5.    It’s only this third type of consumer relief, directed at low-income households, that has changed at all in the new version of the bill. Even there, the amount of assistance hasn’t changed one cent. The only difference is a technical change in how that assistance would be delivered — from a tax credit to a refund.

In short, clean energy opponents’ attack machine has misfired again.

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Enron Invented Cap and Trade


“Christopher C. Horner, author of the book ‘Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed’ noted that it was Enron that invented the concept of cap and trade and then profited off it until it collapsed in disgrace. He said that Waxman-Markey would bring about ‘Soviet-style planning.'”

— From “Hoosier GOP Sound Alarm Over Cap & Trade” by Brian A. Howey, editor of the Howey Politics Indiana blog, May 27, 2009.


Let’s set aside the fact that Christopher Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received more than $2 million in funding over the last decade from ExxonMobil, arguably the number one corporate opponent of any climate action over the last 20 years.

Let’s also set aside the fact that Christopher Horner is also counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, a global warming skeptics group that exists for the express purpose of questioning global warming science and blocking climate action.

Let’s deal with the claim straight up.

Enron did not invent cap and trade. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

For one thing, Enron didn’t exist until the late 1980s after the merger of InterNorth and Houston Natural Gas. By that time, the concept of cap and trade as a policy to cut pollution had been debated for more than a decade.

Cap and trade was later codified in U.S. law in the 1990 Clean Air Act to reduce America’s acid rain pollution. The Economist crowned the acid rain cap and trade policy “probably the greatest green success story of the past decade.” (July 6, 2002).

EDF played a leading role in promoting the acid rain pollution cap, and take it from us Enron played no role in the debate what-so-ever.

As for “Soviet-style planning” – the dictionary defines HYPERBOLE as an “obvious and intentional exaggeration.” Perhaps we should amend it to include Mr. Horner’s statement.

Mr. Horner either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is dissembling. Far from a command and control program, cap and trade is a market-based policy designed to unleash investments in the clean energy economy. By definition, it is the opposite of letting the government pick winners and losers.

In fact, the first President Bush — not exactly a promoter of Soviet style economics — signed the 1990 cap and trade law because it was a centrist, efficient way to effectively cut pollution. And it still is.

There is much to debate when it comes to how to solve global warming. We welcome Mr. Horner to the debate, but would urge him to do his homework and get his facts straight.

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Gov. Mitch Daniels: Let's Chat


“Cap and trade legislation fails the test of government that works. The cost of this policy will be certain, massive and immediate. The benefits of these policies will be dubious, miniscule and decades in the distance. I really do believe that before we take a plunge of this magnitude, people should talk it over, think it through, take a deep breath and consider whether there’s a better way to achieve goals we all agree on.”

— Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels speaking at an energy summit in Indianapolis, IN, May 27, 2009.


First of all, cap and trade has already been proven as successful government policy. It was used in the 1990 Clean Air Act to reduce the pollution that causes acid rain.

The results? Well, the sulfur dioxide cap worked so well that The Economist crowned it “probably the greatest green success story of the past decade.” (July 6, 2002).

In the 1990s, the acid rain cap and trade program achieved 100% compliance in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions. In fact, power plants participating in the program reduced SO2 emissions 22% — 7.3 million tons — below mandated levels.

All this has been achieved at a fraction of the cost estimates. Prior to the launch of the program, costs were estimated to run from $3-$25 billion per year. After the first 2 years of the program, the costs were actually $0.8 billion per year and the long-term costs of the program are expected to be around $1.0-$1.4 billion per year, far below early projections.

The doom-and-gloomers were wrong then. And they’re wrong now.

As for taking a deep breath and talking it over, Governor Daniels may be new to the debate, but global warming has been a known and serious problem for decades.

Environmental Defense Fund first starting working on the threat of global warming in Reagan era. The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated more than 10 years ago. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act was first introduced in 2003. And there have been three votes in the Senate on moving forward on a cap and trade bill.

We’ve had ample time to debate the pros and cons. Governor Daniels may not want to move forward on this policy. That’s his right. But, he owes it to his constituents and the American people to base his arguments on facts, not misleading and baseless hyperbole.

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Fact Check from Climate Hearings: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

This bill would give the “global warming Gestapo” the power to throw senior citizens out of their homes, if the homes are not up to energy-efficient building standards. “A senior citizen whose home is destroyed by a tornado .. and she wants to rebuild .. if she doesn’t rebuild according to the rules in this bill .. she is declared an unlawful occupant of her own home.” —  Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-01)

First of all, state and local laws already require construction to meet current codes when homes are built or re-built. So, there’s nothing new here.

And it’s a good thing — it’s how we make sure homes are safe, healthy, livable and efficient. It’s also how we make sure senior citizens (and everybody else) aren’t taken advantage of by shoddy or unscrupulous builders.

What the Waxman-Markey bill does is set some broad national efficiency targets for new construction. The bill leaves it up to cities, states and building code associations to decide how to meet them — based on local weather and climate, cost-effectiveness for the region and local preferences.

In other words — pretty much the same system we’ve got now.

More importantly, the national efficiency targets require that code changes are cost effective and save people money on their power bills. Senior citizens would appreciate lower utility bills at least as much as anyone else. They would be unlikely to argue strenuously against a provision that will immediately reduce their monthly expenses and will ultimately put more money in their pocket.

As for “global warming Gestapo” .. we don’t think cute alliteration justifies anything that offensive.

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