The Trump Administration’s New Climate Consensus: ‘The Science Isn’t Settled’

Humans are influencing climate change, but the extent of their role is still up for “debate,” Rep. Ryan Zinke told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday during a confirmation hearing on his nomination to lead the Interior Department. “Man has had an influence,” Zinke testified. “I think that’s undisputable as well. So climate is changing, man is an influence. I think where there’s debate is where that influence is and what can we do about it.” –Alan Neuhauser, U.S. News, 17 January 2017

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has a long history of fighting federal pollution rules. If confirmed, he’s expected to sharply alter the agency that President Barack Obama used to implement some of his most aggressive executive actions — moves that enraged conservatives who have accused the administration of dramatic overreach that trampled upon states’ rights. –Alex Guill√©n, Annie Snider and Eric Wolff, Politico, 18 January 2017

Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.– Scott Pruitt and Luther Strange, National Review, 17 May 2016

Fresh elections in Northern Ireland will be called after its power-sharing Assembly collapsed over the fallout of a botched renewable energy scheme. Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness quit as deputy first minister on 9 January and, in a motion in the devolved parliament on Monday, his party refused to replace him. The toppling of the Assembly at Stormont follows the controversy surrounding a scandal-hit policy called the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. It was to encourage businesses to use renewable heat sources, but instead paid businesses to burn fuel, and could cost the taxpayer half a billion pounds in a farrago known as “ash for cash”. –Brendan Cole, International Business Times, 16 January 2017

President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is vowing to change the agency from one that strong arms states and ignores Congress into one that is more collaborative and listens to lawmakers, according to a copy of prepared remarks issued before his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday morning. “If given the opportunity to serve as administrator, I will work to ensure that EPA has a cooperative and collaborative relationship with Congress in fulfilling its intent,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will say in prepared remarks he will deliver to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. The remarks paint a picture of an EPA under the Obama administration that has strayed from the original intent of Congress. He said it will be his goal to return the agency to its proper place under the law. –John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, 18 January 2017

OPEC and its friends have just received some uncomfortable reading. U.S. shale oil production is beginning to boom again. The latest forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that their agreements to boost prices and hasten the rebalancing of oil supply and demand by cutting output may bring the U.S. shale industry out of hibernation faster than they might like. The EIA now sees U.S. production reaching 9.22 million barrels a day by December, an increase of 320,000 barrels over the year. But this could quickly start to look like a conservative forecast. The incoming U.S. president and Congress may turn out to be more supportive of oil extraction than the outgoing ones, after Donald Trump said in September that he would “lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.” This could give the shale sector a further boost. –Julian Lee, Bloomberg, 15 January 2017

Primum non nocere — above all, do no harm, says the medical maxim. In public policy, where every action has different effects on different people, the maxim becomes “above all, do no net harm.” That means that the benefits of a policy should outweigh its costs. Consider the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid fossil-fueled climate catastrophes. Obama’s climate alarmists discouraged poor countries from building power plants and modern transmission grids, and instead offered foreign aid to help them stay “off the grid” with small-scale wind and solar projects. The administration also drove up the price of food in poor countries by diverting crops to meet “green” fuels quotas, and stood by while the European Union punished these countries for exporting “carbon-intensive” products. The moral issue here is that the costs of the predicted climate catastrophes are hypothetical, meager, and in the distant future, while the health and economic benefits of fossil-fueled growth for poor countries are real, massive, and available right now. –Caleb Stewart Rossiter, Watts Up With That, 17 January 2017

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    ‚ÄúMan has had an influence…I think that‚Äôs undisputable as well.

    Yes, but if they’re referring to CO2 emissions, the effect we have is not significant. It cannot excede our miniscule contribution, which I understand to be 3%/yr. Any effect we have is negligible.

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