“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
—Daniel J. Boorstin

Fourth of July Open Topics Weekend

4th of JulyHere in the states it's our Fourth of July holiday weekend, so we'll be taking a short break until Monday. Now's your chance to post links and comments to your favorite stories and news items or whatever you think is relevant.

Keep it civil and report all spam / inappropriate comments.

Pursuit of Climate Truth Comes at High Cost

legatesDavid Legates, Ph.D., is a climatologist at the University of Delaware. He served as Delaware State Climatologist from 2005 to 2011. Legates has published more than 125 articles in refereed scientific journals, conference proceedings, and monograph series. Environment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett interviewed Legates, who was honored at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in June 2015.

Burnett: You were the state climatologist for Delaware, but no longer are. What cost you this position? 

Legates: Following the firing of state climatologists in Oregon and Virginia and the associate state climatologist in Washington, the Wilmington (DE) NewsJournal suggested the governor fire me because my views were not in line with hers. As a response, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) wrote a polite letter explaining “recent media coverage of events … has generated some confusion about the role of the State Climatologist” and asserting that “I understand that you have not provided your opinions as [though you’re representing the governor’s office].”

China’s Climate Pledges In Doubt As Carbon Markets Flop

china mapBeijing has made a lot of headlines recently for its eco-friendly target setting, and central to many of these plans has been the implementation of regional carbon markets, and eventually the creation of a national system. So far things are not going exactly according to plan. Prices in five of China’s carbon markets have fallen sharply. Permits in the biggest pilot exchange in Guangdong have dropped 73 percent. --The American Interest, 1 July 2015

Regulatory uncertainty and a lack of transparency have left trade on China's seven pilot carbon exchanges in the doldrums, which could undermine efforts to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. China told the United Nations on Tuesday it would cap its emissions by 2030, and promised to cut carbon intensity - the amount produced per unit of economic growth - by 60-65 percent from 2005 levels by then as well. But traders said the transition to a national carbon trading system is already causing problems. Prices in five of the markets have fallen sharply. Permits in the biggest pilot exchange in Guangdong have dropped 73 percent. --Kathy Chen and David Stanway, Reuters, 1 July 2015

California Lowers Excise Tax Rate on Gas

california gas stationState Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner announced that California's excise tax on gasoline will decrease by six cents per gallon, from 36 cents to 30 cents per gallon, beginning July 1, 2015.

"This is welcome news for overtaxed Californians who had essentially given government an interest-free cash advance," said Runner. "The lower rate will help correct the over collection of tax brought about by lower gas prices."

State law requires the BOE to annually adjust the state excise tax rate on gasoline by March 1 of each year. The Board approved the six cent tax rate reduction during its February 2015 meeting.

Protecting Humanity from Ice Ages

ice ageI have recently become quite concerned about ice ages and the dangers they pose to humans on our planet -- and indeed to most of terrestrial ecology.

I must confess I never much worried about the supposed dangers of global warming -- even if we could rely on the predictions of IPCC climate models.  In fact, they seem to be failing miserably, as judged by the ongoing pause in GW -- while atmospheric levels of anthropogenic CO2  and other greenhouse gases continue to increase.  It seems that our climate is mainly controlled by natural forcings, like solar activity and atmosphere-ocean oscillations that are not included in current models.

U.S., Brazil Agree on Climate-Change Steps

rousseff with obamaThe U.S. and Brazil pledged Tuesday to work toward new commitments to reduce the impact of climate change ahead of President Barack Obama’s goal of reaching a global accord this December.

The announcement marks a modest step forward in Mr. Obama’s effort to elicit agreements from world leaders in advance of a meeting in Paris where he hopes to finalize the international agreement. Mr. Obama met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the White House on Tuesday.

Germany’s Green Energy Transition May Be Running Out Of Money, Study Warns

cartoon green energyGermany’s green energy transition has cost more than 100 billion euros so far. It has hit large and small electricity suppliers with force and put traditional business models in question. But 15 years after the start of the transition, experts are asking themselves an anxious question: is the energy transition running out of money? Quite possible, is the answer that the German section of the World Energy Council and the consultants from Roland Berger provide. --Andreas Mihm, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 June 2015

Germany’s Energiewende was a plan that from the outset reflected all the unexamined beliefs central to the modern green movement, and it’s been plagued by problems at every step. The Energiewende does manage to do some good by serving as a cautionary tale to the rest of the world: this is what happens when you let starry-eyed greens take the reins. --The American Interest, 30 June 2015

Sundance Kid to United Nations: 'Moderate Weather is Going Extinct'

"<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Redford_(cropped).jpg#/media/File:Robert_Redford_(cropped).jpg">Robert Redford (cropped)</a>" by U.S. Embassy photographer JP Evans - <a rel="nofollow" class="external free" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassylondon/7115289955/in/set-72157629539238726">https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassylondon/7115289955/in/set-72157629539238726</a>. Licensed under Public Domain via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/">Wikimedia Commons</a>."Robert Redford (cropped)" by U.S. Embassy photographer JP Evans. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.In 1985, Robert Redford launched the Sundance Film Festival to promote original films, documentaries, shorts, performances, panel discussions, and more. In the 30 years since its inception, thousands of journalists, actors, film buffs, industry leaders, pop stars, corporations, and audiences have traveled to the luxurious resort of Park City, Utah, by trains, planes and automobiles.

And you might think given Redford's climate activism that most were flying coach to save the world from invisible, odorless carbon dioxide. But there is world reality and Hollywood reality, and never the twain shall meet.

The Festival has become so garish that this past January everything from private jets to mega yachts were being sold up and down Park City's Main Street. Not to fear, because Redford teaches these intrepid CO2-emitting travelers about sustainability when attending the mountaintop festival: Lower your thermostat and turn off your lights when you leave the room. Oh, and recycle and buy green. Right.

If those seem like meaningless gestures where the mark of success is how many private jets you own or how many yachts you're able to buy, not to mention the "$12,000 curved, super hi-def" energy-sucking TV giveaways, you can always buy carbon credits so you can "pollute" on behalf of those who don't.

On Climate Change & Energy, 'Vatican Advisers Have Lost Their Moral Compasses'

Vatican CityA new paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation finds the Vatican is being laid astray by its advisers by statements on climate change that are scientifically lacking and ethically dubious.

The report, written by Dr Indur Goklany, examines just some of the scientific statements made by the Pontifical Academies ahead of the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment and finds that these fly in the face of the empirical facts.

As Dr Goklany explains: “The academies say that sustainability and resilience are being destroyed by over-consumption and that fossil fuels are to blame, yet almost every indicator of human well-being from life-expectancy to health to standard of living has improved beyond measure largely because of our use of fossil fuels”.

Supreme Court to EPA: power plant regs do 'more harm than good'

scaliaIn a stinging rebuke to the climate legacy Obama is desperately seeking to create, the Supreme Court ruled today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to consider the costs of certain regulations, which actually did 'more harm than good.' In its 5-4 vote ruling, the Court said the EPA failed to take costs into account when it imposed new regulations curbing the emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, which forced the closure of hundreds of coal fired power plants due to costly new standards.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said it was not appropriate to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a negligible return in health or environmental benefits. "No regulation is 'appropriate' if it does significantly more harm than good," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. "The Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. We need not and do not hold that the law unambiguously required the Agency, when making this preliminary estimate, to conduct a formal cost-benefit analysis in which each advantage and disadvantage is assigned a monetary value."

Supreme Court rules against EPA on power plant regs

coalIn a major win for the energy industry, the Supreme Court ruled Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to limit power plant emissions -- saying the agency "unreasonably" failed to consider the cost of the regulations. 

The rules curbing emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants began to take effect in April. But the court said by a 5-4 vote Monday that the EPA failed to take their cost into account when the agency first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants. 

The challenge was brought by industry groups and 21 Republican-led states. 

The GWPF Calls On Government To Speed Up Shale Development

Shale BoomThe Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) is today calling on the Government to examine ways of speeding up shale gas exploration in the UK, following on from Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Cuadrilla’s application for exploratory drilling at the Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

The GWPF recommends that the Department of Energy and Climate Change should consider treating shale gas fields as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), which would give the Secretary of State the final say on planning applications rather than local councils. Renewable energy projects such as offshore wind, tidal power and biomass plants above 50 MW are already treated as NSIPs.