RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., June 9, 2014 – The cold truth about Climate Change is that we should be working together for the betterment of the planet and mankind regardless of our political persuasion. Instead, most people have been pushed by their Parties to adopt extreme views reminiscent of the movie Dumb and Dumber. What we need most is a change in our political climate.
One group pretends that there isn’t any evidence of global warming while the other argues that we better begin building an Ark and it is entirely Man’s fault. Both sides insist that they are correct while the factual evidence suggests otherwise.
If there is one thing that the Republican and Democratic Parties can agree upon it’s that a divided electorate is better than a united one. Otherwise, the People might make rational choices rather than political ones.
The Parties greatly prefer to orchestrate incendiary campaigns that are designed to “polarize” opinions, heat up emotions, and extract cold cash in the form of political contributions. A political debate over Climate Change provides the perfect foil.
President Obama first launched his “all of the above” energy strategy during the 2012 campaign and reiterated it during his 2013 State of the Union address. From a political perspective, it was nebulous enough not to mean anything. However, it was difficult to reconcile with the President’s 2008 campaign rhetoric: “Under my plan of a Cap and Trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” and “if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
It doesn’t appear that coal fits into the President’s plans for an “all of the above” energy strategy.
The President first tried to pass Cap and Trade in 2009 when the Democratic Party controlled both Chambers of Congress. While the bill narrowly passed the House (with eight Republicans supporting it), it was defeated when it finally reached the Senate floor a year later. Keep in mind: 2010 was a mid-term election year; a time when Senators are more likely to bow to the will of the People than to their Party in order to win re-election.
Effectively, the Legislative Branch had spoken. Nonetheless, as the old adage says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” You just have to be willing to ignore the principle of a separation of powers.
So, on June 2, 2014, the EPA invoked its own version of Cap and Trade by mandating a 30 percent reduction over 2005 rates of carbon emissions by fossil fuel plants by 2030. It had to distort its existing to powers to assume such authority; but then, how else was it to exert dominion over our Legislative Branch?
Fortunately, the Executive Branch has the responsibility to preclude any misuse of power. Otherwise, we might be suffering from wars that were not supported by facts, a disparate system of taxation, government invasions of personal privacy, agency discrimination against politically-targeted groups, attempts to intimidate the Press, and an intentional suppression of evidence with respect to investigations into such abuses. We might even be witnessing the use of Executive Orders and Signing Statements to manipulate laws passed by the Legislative Branch. That could never happen in the United States.
In support of the EPA’s recent action, its Administrator, Gina McCarthy declared, “We have a moral obligation to act.” Please note: She did not say, “We have an obligation to act morally.”
The nuance is important because the latter would engender rational Climate Change debates and solutions rather than political ones; applicable standards would have to be achievable rather than arbitrary and capricious, and positive incentives might take precedent over punishment.
Let’s compare our current political approach to Climate Change with a rational one.
THE POLITICAL APPROACH
The political lines were drawn early. Al Gore, inventor of the Internet, advanced the concept of Global Warming. During his first Presidential run in 1992 (which was a particularly dark period of his personal life), he wrote an ominous book about the pending ecological crisis. Then, he made a documentary in 2006, a few years after he failed in his second Presidential bid.
READ ALSO: Do we really cause global warming?
Because he was a highly-partisan Democrat (and not George Bush), he was awarded an Oscar by Hollywood and a Peace Prize by the Nobel committee. Accordingly, his movie became somewhat of a cult film within Liberal circles.
The media did its part by ignoring his abysmal academic performance in the field of science and the complete absence of any math courses during his college career. Instead, he was hailed as an ecological guru who, at the 2009 U.N. Climate Conference, boldly stated that computer models predicted that the polar ice caps may have melted away as early as 2014.
Naturally, Conservatives rejected Mr. Gore’s theories because he was a Democrat. While he obviously lacked credible credentials, they wouldn’t even entertain the thought that he might accidentally have a point worth considering.
As a result, the Parties were able to take two extreme positions. This allowed them to emotionally divide the electorate so it could be exploited for money and votes.
Both sides have since claimed that “the science is well settled” and “on our side” while neither actually understands it. We are left with the following scenario.
Each Party’s followers selectively decide what data to embrace or ignore based upon how it conforms to the preconceived beliefs they have been conditioned to adopt. Many of their more vocal members lack even a basic understanding of the multivariate logistic regression that is required to fashion a viable theory. However, they will not hesitate to quote statistical data without ever questioning its reliability or validity.
If ongoing data doesn’t consistently support their Party’s position, they will ignore it or redefine the problem more generically. The latter is how “Global Warming migrated to “Climate Change” (a term that can accommodate any data).
The least knowledgeable among the Parties’ sycophants will try to conceal their ignorance through the time-honored political traditional of name-calling. This tactic is designed to shut down any intelligent debate that might otherwise ensue. Needless to say, politicians excel at this… probably because they have more practice.
The Party in power tries to pass (or block) legislation that matches the expectations it has created for its core constituency. If this fails (as it did with respect to Cap and Trade), the Administration may be forced to explore extra-Constitutional measures to achieve its goal. Often, this approach is neither legally nor morally justifiable, but the last several Administrations have not seemed to care.
As a result, we have EPA regulations that accomplish the political imperative of delivering a “win” for a core constituency that is important to the upcoming mid-term elections. While the regulations create standards that have been described as “difficult to reach,” the industry will be punished with fines if it fails to the objectives.
Of course, these fines really won’t impact the industry. They will simply be passed on to the consumer in their own unique version of “tickle down economics;” disproportionately impacting those who can least afford it.
In other words, the new regulations are reflective of the results that can be expected when partisan solutions are applied to real-world problems.
A RATIONAL APPROACH
“Science” is mankind’s attempt to describe and explain natural phenomena, which it does not intuitively understand, through observation and experimentation. It often represents little more than a highly educated guess and rarely does the term “well settled” apply at the formative theoretical stage.
Does this mean that science should be ignored? No!
However, it does mean that all data should be assessed before defining the problem, identifying its root cause(s), evaluating its alternatives, analyzing any potential adverse consequences, and selecting a solution. It also means that the reliability and validity of the data should be proven within an acceptable range.
Without turning this into a scientific research paper, there is a strong body of evidence that demonstrates the Earth is warming (1-1.4 0F over the 20th Century). However, there is also evidence this is within the + 5 0F range that the Earth has cyclically experienced over the last 3,000 years.
We also know that carbon-dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that accumulates in the Earth’s atmosphere to the degree it isn’t absorbed by natural CO2 sinks (such as the ocean, forests, etc.). However, there is evidence to suggest that elevated levels of CO2 are a trailing indicator of Global Warming rather than a leading indicator (i.e., CO2 is released by CO2 sinks like the ocean after warming occurs).
The discussion could continue, but suffice it to say that legitimate arguments and counter-arguments abound. So, let’s take a more pragmatic approach and explore the issue civilly.
- Does the burning of fossil fuels release additional CO2 into the atmosphere? Yes.
- Could that contribute an elevation of the Earth’s temperature over time (along with naturally-occurring influences such as solar forcing, etc.)? Yes.
- Can we control the burning of fossil fuels? Yes.
- Can we control other naturally-occurring influences? No (at least not at this time).
- Are fossil fuels renewable? No.
- Would it be reasonable to assume that if sufficient renewable energy resources are not developed to offset the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels, such fossil fuels will someday be exhausted? Yes.
- Then, aren’t we compelled to pursue the development of renewable energy alternatives? Yes.
Now, let’s have an intelligent discussion around how to reduce and ultimately eliminate our consumption of fossil fuels.
- Do we have currently have sufficient renewable energy resources to cost effectively replace our use of fossil fuels? No.
- Can we afford to force the issue in a way that might threaten the economy? No.
- Will it take time to develop the necessary renewable energy technologies? Yes.
- Will it require an intelligent plan that recognizes the time and cost of transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy? Yes.
- Does the political approach of imposing difficult-to-achieve objectives by a subjective date seem intelligent to you? No.
- Are you aware that some projections suggest the cost of compliance will be approximately $51 billion and cause the loss of 250,000 jobs? Maybe.
- Does that sound like a good plan to you? No.
- Does negative reinforcement (in the form of assessing fines for a failure to achieve arbitrary objectives) correspond to any behavioral theory of motivation of which you’re aware? No.
- Are you aware that the XPRIZE Foundation created cash reward programs in the $1-$10 million range to successfully accelerate private sector development of solutions for suborbital space flight, oil spill mitigation, and… oh yes, mass-marketable vehicles that could achieve 100 MPGe while producing extremely low CO2 emissions? Maybe.
- Could the Government create positive incentive programs like that to reward the first company to successfully develop specific advancements in: Storage batteries; wind and solar applications; biofuels; scrubber technologies for coal and oil systems and conversion technologies to migrate to natural gas that would reduce CO2 emissions during the transition phase of our energy strategy? Yes
- Could it create similar incentive programs to stimulate cooperative development programs between private sector companies and our universities that might stimulate innovation, potentially lower the net cost of education, provide real world experience for our college students, and possibly lead to immediate job placement upon graduation? Yes.
You cannot deliver “all of the above” by circumventing Congress, ignoring the Constitution, and crushing one of the resources you need as you transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. You also cannot drive growth through negative reinforcement. Entrepreneurs and inventors respond better to opportunities than they do to threats.
In 2011, EPA issued regulations that required gasoline and diesel fuel to be the blended with certain types of biofuels to lower greenhouse emissions. “Big Oil” failed to comply and was assessed $6.8 billion in fines. The percentage of biofuel was scheduled to increase in subsequent years as were the fines to punish the industry’s non-compliance.
Unfortunately, the specific biofuel that was required did not actually exist in production. It only existed in a few experimental laboratories, which made compliance impossible. As a result, the Government was guaranteed to benefit from the fines while consumers undoubtedly absorbed the cost.
In contrast, what could have been accomplished if the Administration had taken the $535 million it paid to Solyndra (whose chief investor was a major political bundler for the President during his 2008 campaign) and used it to create a series of XPRIZE-like incentives to stimulate the types of programs described in the bullet points above?
The truth is: We can have “all of the above.” We just need rational solutions rather than political ones and positive incentives rather than punitive fines. We need to “energize” the private sector rather than deplete it of its resources. Maybe we should begin by cleaning up our political environment.
A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.
TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 PM and Midnight PM Eastern / 5:00 and 9:00 PM Pacific. His segment appears about 35 minutes into the program.