News from a Warming World

Coal versus wind power; China’s air; poll results; Ted Cruz; arctic ice.

There’s been a lot of interesting environmental news recently, much of which seems to have gotten little notice. The topics range from U.S. wind power (growing) to U.S. coal power and Arctic sea ice (both shrinking), with a bit of Ted Cruz to spice things up.

Here’s the round-up:

Out with coal, in with wind. The Energy Information Administration reports that new electrical generating capacity this year will be predominantly wind, solar, and natural gas, with wind as the largest component at ten gigawatts. Coal plants are being retired, with coal-based generating capacity declining thirteen gigawatts. Apart from climate benefits, these changes are very positive in terms of public health.

Cleaning up China’s air. RAND estimates that cleaning up China’s air would cost $140-160 billion annually. That’s a lot of money, but RAND also estimates the annual cost of air pollution in China as three times as big – over half a trillion dollars a year! Air pollution has been costing China about 6.5% of its GDP annually.

Obama beats Bush on energy and environment. According to Pew, 52% of the public think that Obama is doing a good job on environmental issues, as opposed to 30% who thought that about Bush at the same point in his second term. Obama rates lower in terms of energy policy (39% approval), but still higher than Bush (26% approval). This probably doesn’t mean a lot in electoral terms, since relatively few voters cast their votes based on environmental issues. But it does suggest that Obama are by no means out of touch with public preferences (or at least less so than GOP policies).

Climate change? What climate change? Ted Cruz remains confident that there’s no global warming, which the Washington Post attributes to his cherry-picking data (using only satellite data and ignoring ground-level data and picking an especially hot year as a baseline).

The shrinking ice cap. The polar bears may be unconvinced by Senator Cruz’s assurances that nothing is happening to the climate. “The winter ice covering the Arctic Ocean has reached its annual peak, but the extent of sea ice cover this winter is smaller than it has been at the end of any winter since 1978, when scientists began keeping consistent satellite records.” So reports the NY Times.

And that’s the way it was, on March 30, 2015.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “News from a Warming World”

  1. I hate defending Ted Cruz, but . . .

    His public comments appear to be more nuanced that you suggest, in that he does appear to acknowledge that climate change is occurring, even warming, but he says that the evidence does not show significant recent warming, and he points out satellite data that shows a recent pause in warming.

    Cruz said in his recent interview:

    “I think debates on these issues should be driven by the science and the data and the evidence. Global warming alarmists don’t like to confront the actual evidence because it does not support their apocalyptic theories.

    Specifically, satellite data demonstrate there has been no warming over the past 17 years. That’s despite the fact that the computer models relied upon for this theory showed there would be significant warming, and yet the actual data don’t back up those flawed computer models. So what did the alarmists do? Rather than look to science to understand what’s happening, they simply modified the theory.”

    His spokesman [it’s always good for a politician to have a spokesman to explain what you really meant to say, especially in an interview], Phil Novack, said, Cruz was trying to emphasize the fact that “the computer models that climate scientists rely on predicted the Earth should be significantly warmer than it is now” based on satellite measurements. What Cruz is casting doubt on is the idea that we should make major policy decisions affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in the name of theoretical conclusions that in fact cannot currently be drawn from science or data,” he added.

    Novak also said that Cruz recently voted to affirm that climate change is real (though the statement voted on did not attribute those changes to human activity).

    Cruz should be taken in context. Of course he is still a politician, and he does get carried away with his own importance, and he obviously thinks himself smarter than he is. I do, however want to offer my critical comment on what Cruz stated: only a fool would criticize scientists for modifying a theory based on new data.

    But the science is not settled on how polar bears are doing, either . . .

    1. “……What Cruz is casting doubt on is the idea that we should make major policy decisions affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in the name of theoretical conclusions that in fact cannot currently be drawn from science or data……”

      Dear Mr. Grant,
      Thanks for making this point. Ted Cruz speaks with far more accuracy and credibility on the topic of global warming than Hillary and her California Environmental Bar.

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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