Climate Alarmists Get Two Strikes In Court — They Should Be Out

by  H. Sterling Burnett


In July, federal Judge John F. Keenan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed New York City's lawsuit against five major oil companies. The lawsuit sought to force the oil companies to help pay NYC's alleged costs associated with climate change.

Keenan's ruling was the second victory against municipal governments seeking to use the judiciary to address problems purportedly caused by climate change. The first triumph came in June, when Judge William H. Alsup of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco threw out a similar lawsuit against the same five companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell — in a case brought by Oakland and San Francisco.

In the 23-page decision dismissing New York City's lawsuit, Keenan wrote climate change must be addressed by the executive branch and Congress, not by the courts. Although climate change "is a fact of life," Keenan wrote, "the serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate. Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government."

Keenan ruled New York's state and federal common law claims were prohibited under the Clean Air Act. He stated it would be "illogical" and would violate U.S. Supreme Court precedent to allow the claims under state common law "when courts have found that these matters are areas of federal concern that have been delegated to the executive branch as they require a uniform, national solution … (and) the Clean Air Act displaces the City's claims seeking damages for past and future domestic greenhouse gas emissions brought under federal common law."

In addition, Keenan determined NYC's lawsuit is unjustified because the city contributed carbon dioxide emissions and benefited from fossil-fuel use.

"(I)t is not clear that Defendants' fossil fuel production and the emissions created therefrom have been an 'unlawful invasion' in New York City, as the City benefits from and participates in the use of fossil fuels as a source of power, and has done so for many decades," wrote Keenan.

Climate policy is solely within the domain of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, as two federal judges have amply demonstrated in their written decisions.

However, states and cities seem intent on banging their heads up against this legal brick wall.

On July 2, just a week after Alsup threw out a climate lawsuit brought by Oakland and San Francisco, Rhode Island filed a lawsuit against oil companies to recover the costs from supposed climate change. On July 20, just a day after Keenan dismissed NYC's lawsuit, Baltimore sued oil companies for climate change expenses in Maryland. Furthermore, New York City, Oakland, and San Francisco plan to appeal their cases' dismissals.

Climate Change Lawsuits: A Waste

Apparently, these cities and states have no serious problems — such as crime, budget shortfalls, and education woes — for which the resources devoted to these lawsuits might be better used, or their leaders just don't care if they waste taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits. It seems as though the several attorneys general pursuing these pointless lawsuits are so caught up in the grip of climate mania, they just can't let go, the law be damned.

Or perhaps the lawsuits are simply an attempted shakedown of an industry with deep pockets. These cities and states desperately hope oil companies will ultimately settle out of court, agreeing to pay billions of dollars and promising not to fight climate change legislation in the future.

Furthermore, these out-of-touch environmental zealots want to force oil companies to shift their investments from fossil fuels to politically connected, highly subsidized green-energy power sources. Oil companies have not succumbed to these outrageous demands yet, and it seems unlikely they will any time soon, with their continued profitability and their very existence at stake — as well as two legal wins under their belt.

It is long past time to end this game of legal whack-a-mole. Alsup and Keenan should require cities to pay the court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses incurred by oil companies thus warning municipal and state climate zealots seeking big paydays there is a price to pay for wasting courts' time.



Burnett, Ph.D. is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

What You Need to Know About EPA’s New Boss Andrew Wheeler

by H Sterling Burnett


Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous period for the agency. The good news? Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will likely continue the needed reforms Pruitt began. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”

However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters can agree he initiated a series of efforts to fundamentally transform the antiquated agency. He ended sue-and-settle agreements; reshaped its science advisory committees; reduced graft; and rolled back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances. Thanks to Pruitt, EPA is finally changing how it conducts business.

You might be concerned that Pruitt’s absence could result in a complete change in course, but fear not! President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda will not substantively change with Wheeler’s ascension to the agency’s top post.

Sadly, and not surprisingly, environmental zealots treated Wheeler’s appointment as though it is the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline stated, “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” In the article, Frank O’Donnell, president of the left-wing group Clean Air Watch, stated, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”

The Left’s histrionic response to Wheeler mirrors its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of an appointee’s qualifications, anyone Trump nominates to lead the EPA will inevitably be tarred and feathered by the Left and braded a climate-change-denying polluter. 

Environmentalists dread Wheeler for the same reason small-government advocates applaud him: Wheeler could be even more effective than Pruitt at rolling back onerous regulations. EPA’s new chief has significant experience working within and outside of the agency. In fact, Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 through 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked as majority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with EPA oversight. Wheeler will be more than capable to rein in EPA overreach.

The regulatory rollback at EPA started under Pruitt is expected to increase with Wheeler at the helm. EPA is currently working on overhauling CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE to improve transparency and ease compliance with commonsense guidelines.

In his short time as the agency’s acting administrator, there has been no shortage of statements supporting Wheeler as a more disciplined, less scandal prone replacement for Pruitt.

“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way.”

“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs everyday rather than accusations.”

“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.

“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”

No one knows exactly what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement of CPP. However, if Wheeler’s past statements are any indication of EPA’s future actions, it seems like sound science will replace climate alarmism.

The Huffington Post notes in 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC.’”

All Trump administration officials operate under an intense (and biased) media spotlight. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any Trump appointee to stay below the radar, but if anyone can remain effective and ethical, Andrew Wheeler certainly can. With his knowledge of the inner-workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, Wheeler can complete the job Pruitt started and restore the EPA back to its mission:protect human health and the environment.



Trackside - Why the Incadescent Bulb Ban Amounts to Nothing

   by J.  D'Aloia


Elected officials often introduce laws for the sole purpose of having a piñata to bash for the cameras and the folks back home. Congressman Poe in the linked video is certainly making such use of the law banning incandescent light bulbs - I did not research to find out how he voted, but it matters not - he is making the most of it for his time in front of the camera.

My cynical side says the law was applauded by the environmental Luddites not because compact fluorescent light bulbs were reducing the dreaded greenhouse gases, but because the law was a means to further control society. Such is their goal. Demand changes in what society uses and how they use it to satisfy some environmental talking point. When the change has been ordained by a sycophantic legislative body, then raise a new issue and demand that new laws placing further control over society be enacted to counter the threats now spotlighted. More rules, more government, more taxes, less freedom.

Another cynical wonderment - why all the fuss about broken CFLs? Why has it not all played out for fluorescent tubes? They too have mercury in similar amounts. There has not been an avalanche of reports of people suffering from mercury poisoning from broken fluorescent tubes or moon-suited technicians cleaning up the family room after a tube was broken. Could it be that within the grand strategy, the timing was not right to play the poison card? And with LED light bulbs coming on the market, with an even greater energy efficiency (and much higher cost than CFLs), will CFLs be banned next? 

‘Tis a tempest in a teapot. CFLs do have a place in the grand scheme of things, especially for those lights the replacement of which is an all-day project, or if the spectrum you want cannot be obtained with an Edison special, or if your lighting demands are such that the cost vs. energy saved equation comes out to your benefit. Prudent respect for the dangers mitigates the dangers.

Tacitus nailed it in the First Century AD: "Corruptissima republicae, plurimae leges" - The worse the state, the more laws it has.

See you Trackside.


AGW Believers Replace Scientific Method With Dogma Pt. 2: Suppressing Dissent

by H. Sterling Burnett

 

People caught in the grips of the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the idea that human activities, primarily fossil fuel use, are causing catastrophic change in the world’s climate, seem to live with blinders on, unable to admit evidence to the contrary. 

I don’t begrudge the opinion of scientists who believe their own research shows, or who believe the dominant number of peer-reviewed papers indicates, humans are causing dangerous climate change. But I do disagree with many of the assumptions made by proponents of AGW. So far, evidence shows most of their projections concerning temperatures, ice, hurricanes, species extinction, etc. have failed. As a result, their projections of future climate conditions are not nearly trustworthy enough to make the kind of fundamental, wrenching, and costly changes to our economy and systems of government AGW proponents have proposed to fight climate change. I don’t think climate scientists can foretell the future any better than the average palm reader.

Making matters worse, AGW proponents discount, or ignore entirely, powerful studies that seem to undermine many of their assumptions and refute most of their conclusions.

Admittedly, I start with a position of skepticism, and indeed suspicion, when well-known researchers release a new study purporting to reinforce or provide further evidence AGW is true. This isn’t because I don’t want to hear what those who disagree with my assessment have to say. Rather, it’s based on my understanding of the lengths to which AGW true believers have gone to manipulate temperature data and try to shoehorn or force this and other data to match their dire projections.  It is reasonable, and even expected, for educated people to disagree with one another on this issue. This back-and-forth exchange of points and counterpoints shows the scientific method functioning as it should.

Many AGW believers, however, have seemingly abandoned the scientific method.

Progress is made in science by proposing a hypothesis, and developing a theory, to explain or understand certain phenomena, and then testing the hypothesis against reality. A particular hypothesis is considered superior to others when, through testing, it is shown to have more explanatory power than competing theories or hypotheses and when other scientists running the same testing regime can reproduce the results of the original test. Every theory or hypothesis must be disconfirmable in principle, such that if the theory predicts ‘A’ will occur under certain conditions, but instead sometimes ‘B’ or ‘C’ results, then the theory has problems. The more a hypothesis’ predictions prove inconsistent with results that occur during testing or real-world data, the less likely the hypothesis is to be correct.

AGW theory does not work this way. No matter what the climate phenomenon, if it can in some way be presented as being unusual by AGW proponents, it is argued to be “further evidence of global warming,” even if it contradicts earlier phenomena pointed to by the same people as evidence of global warming. {The same technique evolutionists use to defend their theory. A Theory so inaccurate the courts rule ex cathedra in favor of it - ED}  

What effects AGW will have seem to depend on which scientist one consults and which model they use. In realm of climate change research, different models looking at the same phenomenon applying the same laws of physics with the same inputs produce dramatically varied results.

Another indication AGW advocates have thrown over the scientific method is how they revert to various logical fallacies to manipulate peoples’ emotions in order to have the public dismiss climate realists’ arguments and research. AGW advocates commit the fallacy of ad hominem when they call researchers who disagree with their assessment of the strength of the case for AGW “deniers”—an obvious attempt to link them in the public’s mind with despicable Holocaust deniers. That is not science, it’s rhetoric. I know of no one who denies the fact climate changes, but there are significant uncertainties and legitimate disagreements regarding the extent of humanity’s role in recent climate changes and whether these will be disastrous. Those who refuse to acknowledge highly regarded scientists disagree with AGW are the real “deniers,” and they should suffer the opprobrium rightfully attached to that label.

AGW proponents commit the fallacy of appeal to numbers when they say the case for dangerous human-caused climate change is settled because some high percentage of a subset of scholars agrees humans are causing dangerous climate change. Consensus is a political, not a scientific, term. People once thought Earth was flat. Galileo disagreed, saying he believed it was round—and he was persecuted for saying so. And you know what? Galileo was right, and the consensus of the time was wrong. At one time, people, including the intellectual elite, believed Earth was the center of the universe and the Sun revolved around it. Copernicus said just the opposite. He was right, and everyone else was wrong.

Knowledge acquisition succeeds not through bowing to some purported consensus in thought and opinion, but through questioning previously received wisdom and continuously testing scientific theories against data. “Because the vast majority of us said so,” is not a legitimate scientific response to research raising questions about all or some part of AGW.

AGW researchers commit the fallacy of appeal to motive when they say a particular study or the work of a particular scientist or group of scientists should not be taken seriously because of who funded them. Both sides commit this fallacy, with climate skeptics often arguing AGW research is biased based on the fact it was funded by government, which history shows is predisposed toward finding reasons grow and exert ever more control over people.

Research should be judged based on the validity of its assumptions, whether its premises are true, and whether its conclusions follow from its premises, not on who funded the research. Data, evidence, and logic are the hallmarks of science, not motives.

Beyond the routine data manipulation and logical fallacies, AGW advocates’ own e-mails show they have tried to suppress the publication of research skeptical toward AGW. And they have routinely attempted to interfere with the career advancement of scholars who refuse to completely toe the AGW line, even stooping on occasion to try to get scholars fired for producing research undermining AGW.

AGW fanatics also try to suppress the teaching of a balanced, accurate understanding of the current state of climate science, with all its uncertainties, in the nation’s schools. This is the tool of the propagandist, not the scientist seeking the truth.

All these reflections came to a head in recent years, as AGW true believers have fought in court to prevent the release of the data underpinning their own research, attempted to suppress free speech by accusing those with whom they disagree of committing libel, and even on occasion called for the prosecution and incarceration of climate skeptics for daring to question AGW orthodoxy. Some AGW proponents have openly admired various authoritarian regimes for their ability to “get things done” without the interference of democratic institutions. Real scientists know truths do not bloom under authoritarianism.

When a theory does not comport with the facts, data, and evidence, it is the theory that should be questioned, not the data or the motives of those bringing such evidence to the world’s attention. Consider this my plea for AGW true believers to embrace, once again, the scientific method, to follow the evidence in the field of climate research where it leads even if it proves inconvenient or inconsistent with their earlier beliefs. To the extent I myself have failed to live up to this ideal, I will try and do the same, approaching AGW arguments with an open mind.