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Marrakesh Meltdown on Climate Change

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Marrakesh Meltdown on Climate Change

November 14, 2016

On November 7, over 10,000 delegates descended on Marrakesh, Morocco, for COP-22 and to celebrate the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  Since the Agreement lacks any enforcement mechanism and is primarily about reporting accomplishments, COP-22 is mainly an annual ritual for climate advocates to travel to beautiful cities, stay in five-star hotels, and talk to each other about how they must save the planet.  Their celebration was jolted on November 9 when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.  Rather than a celebration, this meeting is more like a memorial service.

President-elect Trump has made it clear that he has no intention of honoring the agreement and has serious doubts about the impending climate change apocalypse.  Although there are formal mechanisms for withdrawing from the Agreement, he can simply send a letter to Congress advising that his Administration will not participate in the Agreement’s requirements or participate in its meetings.  That is a start but it is not sufficient to rectify the problems that are imbedded in the bureaucracy.  The President and Congress need to use the federal budget and appointments process to move the bureaucratic bias to neutral. 

In 2002, the Bush Administration managed the climate science program through the Department of Commerce.  The goal was to focus on science issues that were being ignored by the climate establishment that was pouring out self-fulfilling prophecies.  Unfortunately, the Commerce program was captured by the bureaucracy and used to support research proving that greenhouse emissions were the problem and suppression of fossil fuel use was the answer.  The Obama Administration manages the global change research program through a subcommittee that is part of the Executive Office of the President.  Since 2009, climate science programs have increased from $2 billion annually to over $2.6 billion, and total climate change expenditures have increased to over $21 billion, according to the mandated report to Congress on federal climate expenditures.  Most of these funds go to support for new energy technologies and energy tax provisions, better knows as subsidies.

While the process for formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement can take several years, starving the beast through the budget process is faster.  President Trump on Day 1 can direct agencies to suspend new research grants until they are reviewed to determine if they are directed to important scientific questions—cloud formation, solar impacts, ocean affects, natural variability, and similar major uncertainties—and make sure that they are not duplicative of other research.  He can also direct that no new funds be used for climate models because there are an abundance of those and all have been built on the assumption that CO2 is the major climate driver.

People matter.  Appointing people to key positions who are committed to honoring the scientific process and analytically-based regulations and policies can begin to restore agency credibility and reverse the practice of creating studies and policy papers that work back from the preconceived conclusion.  Restoring scientific credibility and trust within the Executive Branch will spill over to the science establishment at large.  The bureaucracy will be resistant but that can be dealt with by appointing people of unquestioned integrity who will not put their thumbs on the policy and regulatory scales.

None of these actions need be predicated on the notion that climate change is a hoax.  It is real.  What is needed now is a better understanding of how the climate system works, identifying actions that can mitigate the effects of climate events, research-focused crop development that can adapt to climate changes, and promoting a better understanding of the actual effects of CO2.

William O'Keefe is the President of Solutions Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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