MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Obama's Clean Power Plan Would Reduce Global Warming by -0.015 Degree By 2100

A lot of pain for what gain?

CleanPowerPLanHuffPostLast week, the Environmental Protection Agency released the final regulations implementing President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP aims to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation by 32 percent by 2030. That would amount to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 871 million tons per year below what was emitted in 2005. Of course, the goal of keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is to reduce future warming. It is thus relevant to ask, just how much warming will the president's Clean Power Plan avert? The answer is, not much.

For example, American Enterprise Institute environmental and energy policy analyst Benjamin Zycher finds:

EPA itself uses the MAGICC/SCENGEN model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. So: Let's apply that model not just to the clean power plan, but to the broader climate action plan, which envisions a 17 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2020. The temperature reduction in the year 2100: fifteen one-thousandths of a degree. The effect would be too small even to be measured, let alone to affect sea levels and cyclones and all the rest.

Climatologists Patrick Michaels and Paul Knappenberger over at the free-market Cato Institute similarly report:

The EPA’s own policy analysis model, called MAGICC*, tells us how much global warming will be prevented by the new plan:  0.019°C by the year 2100 (based on procedures similar to those we detailed here).  That’s the amount of temperature change a person will experience in about every second of life. It is simply impossible to detect this change in any global temperature history.

Even that is an overestimate of the actual impact of the plan.  The EPA has also published a “base case” which includes emissions reductions expected from existing state and federal regulations.  The difference between the plan and the base—i.e., the future temperature savings directly attributable it drops to 0.009°C—let’s be generous and call that 0.01°C. 

Over at the Washington Post, columnist Robert Samuelson has a good article analyzing the manifold difficulties involved with reducing carbon dioxide emissions. From his column:

We need more candor on global warming. Obama’s plan is a big deal for electric utilities and, if it goes awry, potentially for millions of households. The plan is complicated. States receive emissions goals and can meet the goals through various policies (energy efficiencies, a cap-and-trade program, a carbon tax, more natural gas generation, preferences for wind and solar). Love it or hate it, the plan still contributes to higher carbon dioxide concentrations. It may be worth doing; we may learn valuable lessons. But it’s no panacea.

Similar considerations apply globally. In 2010, major countries adopted a goal of limiting the worldwide temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius (or slightly below 4  degrees Fahrenheit) from the preindustrial period. The International Energy Agency in Paris recently estimated that meeting this goal would, in effect, require all fossil fuel emissions to be eliminated by 2040. Needless to say, this isn’t going to happen. As the agency has noted, countries’ policies “fall short of the action necessary to meet the 2 [degrees] C climate goal.”

Given this reality, Samuelson notes that a lot of the harm that might be caused by future climate change will be averted if (1) the temperature trends projected in cimate models turn out to be overstated, or (2) technological breakthroughs liberate economic growth from fossil fuels.

I will modestly mention that I extensively analyze both issues in my new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century. I point out that the models are running hotter than actual temperatures and discuss the really hopeful developments in non-fossil fuel energy production.

Disclosure: The Cato Institute generously provided me with a grant that allowed me the time to write The End of Doom. The Institute exercised absolutely no editorial control over my reporting and analysis.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The EPA’s own policy analysis model, called MAGICC*

    Now they're just rubbing it in our faces.

  • DesigNate||

    That's ballsy.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Jihad comes to Australia, 1914 edition.

    Bonus: one of the men involved was inspired to jihad by his persecution at the hands of a zealous municipal bureaucrat.

  • crab_apple||

    The first right wing extremist tea bagger.

  • ||

    The plan has nothing to do with stopping warming. It has to do with crony capitalism. Obama needs to keep the crony buck rolling in after he's done with that whitehouse gig.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    He's also looking to clean up his legacy. His presidential library will contain an entire room dedicated to saving Gaia from CO2.

  • AlexInCT||

    Even more important than the crony capitalism angle is the expansion of government power that comes with this shit. The main goal of this movement from the government side has and will always remain the expansion of the ability of some select government entities to pick and choose the winners and losers in whatever game is going on. Top men can then push stupid shit like wind and bio fuel based on food stuff down on us peons without the fear of either competition or the law of unintended consequences.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    At least he's trying, you planet hating anti science Rethuglitardz!

  • ||

    Yeah, the right hates science, unlike the anti GMO, anti vaccine, anti fracking, anti nuclear power left.

  • albo||

    Of course. That polar bear is named Jeff and he's a good guy.

  • Sevo||

    Is that the one the dentist shot? I get confused about those cute fuzzy animals.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    What abut the seals he eats? What about the homeless ice-flow-less seal babies orphaned? WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE BABY SEALZ?!?!

  • ||

    They have a standing invitation to the baby seal club.

  • Anomalous||

    Canadian Club, on the rocks.

  • Antilles||

    How arrogant and self-important must one be that they believe they can affect the climate--either positively or negatively? Then again, there's no downside here. If the Average Global Temperature (an arbitrary and meaningless figure) drops in the next century then the Global Warming Conspiracists can take credit. And if it goes up then they can claim that it would have gone up MORE if not for their progressive energy taxes and expensive regulations.

  • ||

    No, you don't really think they would do that, do you?

  • sarcasmic||

    Heads they win; tails you lose.

  • albo||

    If a government program doesn't work, that only means you need to do it more and harder.

  • sarcasmic||

    If someone came up with a "solution" to "climate change" that did not involve going after the fossil fuel industry, it would be soundly mocked with equal parts disdain and scorn.

    So it's not about saving the planet. It's about destroying the fossil fuel industry and capitalism in general.

  • ||

    Actually, it's more about making lots of crony bucks through green industry cronyism and carbon trading schemes.

    Just take the money out of it and they'll be no more mention of climate change.

  • sarcasmic||

    You're talking about the priests. I'm talking about the congregation.

  • Antilles||

    Nuclear power is one of the 'greenest' energy sources there is (in the sense it produces virtually no CO2), but good luck finding someone on the Left who supports it. But we all know by now that this 'Climate Change' crisis is just a ruse to impose Social Justice on everyone.

  • ||

    There was a story on Yahoo a couple days ago about how Scotland is going to ban the growing and import of GMO crops.

    When I, along with several other people pointed out that there is zero scientific evidence showing that GMOs are harmful, not even one study to back that up, you should have been there. The anti GMO nuts went batshit insane.

    It's really funny how they keep screaming 'but the scientists say global warming is real and caused by humans!', but when the scientists say that GMOs are not harmful, that doesn't matter.

    Bunch of hypocrite luddites.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's all about how they feel. GMOs make them feel icky, so they must be bad. Same with fossil fuels. You're trying to insert rational thought into an emotive conversation. Of course you got shit on.

  • Antilles||

    I saw that story too, but it's more of a crime when poor, starving nations refuse to use GMOs. Then again, just because there's no evidence that GMOs are harmful doesn't mean they aren't! Luddites, indeed. Do those Proggies really think those giant, purple eggplants at Whole Foods occurred naturally? Why are they less trustful of genetically engineered organisms that are created in a controlled environment like a laboratory, rather than in the wild?

  • ||

    They don't even believe that corn has been been genetically modified for centuries. They think it's completely natural, like everything else, unless some evul corporashunz are behind it. They're idiots.

  • Invisible Handjob||

    Of course they don't actually consider the science behind them. This is the syllogism they operate under:

    Companies like Monsanto are Evil Oppressors
    GMOs are made by companies like Monsanto
    Therefore, GMOs are Evil and Oppressive.

    That's pretty much the extent of their thinking.

  • ||

    Yeah, that about sums it up.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    It has nothing to do with science and everything to do with hating anything man made. Extra credit if it was invented by an old white guy.

    It's the same old luddite religion with a different demon.

  • Overt||

    And this is demonstrably verifiable. Look up "Climate Engineering" or "Geoengineering" and you will see that for every proposal to sequester carbon or to decrease the received radiation of the sun, the same "Stop Climate Change NOW" people are among the most vociferous opponents.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Nuclear winter is the solution.

  • Lee G||

    A lot of pain for what gain?

    The gain of moral smugness.

  • ||

    Wait until the energy costs of the climate change true believers 'necessarily skyrockets', then watch them screech and whine louder than anyone else.

    When they say they're ok with increased energy costs, they mean for YOU, not for THEM. They live in a fantasy world until reality suddenly slaps them upside the head.

  • Antilles||

    Due to skyrocketing energy costs in places like Germany, many poor people are hesitant to use electricity for lighting in the evening or heating in the winter. Sounds like the 'rich' need to be taxed more so they can subsidize the high energy costs of poor people who need energy the most. How can any sane person disagree with that?

  • Loki||

    You joke but I gauran-fucking-tee that will be their actual argument.

  • Rasilio||

    No, a lot of them are probably ok with higher energy costs for themselves too because they probably think it will mean paying maybe $0.50 more a gallon for gas and maybe an extra hundred bucks a month on their home heating + electricity bills and they think they can afford those costs.

    What they don't realize is that the cost of EVERYTHING else they buy will also be going up because everything uses energy to make and to ship.

    They think an across the board increase in energy costs of 25% will take maybe $200 a month out of their pockets because they spend about $800 s month on energy when in reality it will end up costing them closer to $1500 - $2000 a month in higher prices on everything

  • Overt||

    And this all assumes that China, India and Brazil do their part to keep their people in poverty freeze the economic growth that is causing their emissions to rise.

    The whole climate debate is like arguing about flying cars with a dream-filled non-engineer. "I just want my flying cars, damnit. We have airplanes, so we have the technology to make flying cars". "Yeah but it's a lot more complicated than that..." "Don't bother me with that logic. I have a vision!"

    I've been saying that the plans to reduce emissions are too expensive with no real gain, and the response from environuts is always the same- "It's a start, and that's what's important." + "How can you say the cost is too high when we are killing people."

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

  • Rasilio||

    Well in reality we DO have the tech for flying cars, we have had it for a few decades. What we lack is a method of ensuring that when they have accidents or mechanical failures that they don't come falling out of the sky on top of peoples heads and more importantly we lack a licensing regime that makes them usable as every one designed to date would have required the driver to also get a private pilots license and they still would have faced severe restrictions on where they were allowed to take off and land from.

    As a practical matter flying cars probably requires 100% autonomous self driving cars first otherwise the government will never license them.

  • waffles||

    The pain is the gain. I don't think anyone seriously believes that changing the temperature is the goal. It's the process and money spent towards it that is the ultimate reward.

  • Antilles||

    That's why this whole 'Climate Change' scam is so insidious: a wide range of radical groups see it as a way to impose their idiotic ideologies onto everyone else and has jumped onboard. Those who express the slightest skepticism are branded 'deniers' and 'anti-science.' Why can't more people see this?

  • Overt||

    And they are backed up by numerous countries who look to get a payout from the scheme. Kyoto was the most naked example of this. Europe was already going to meet emissions goals just because they were modernizing the eastern european power plants. Russia was given "carbon sink credits" for its massive tracts of forest (strangely the US was denied the same credits) and third world countries were given a framework where they could get money from 1st world countries in return for not developing dirty infrastructure (that they may or may not have built anyway).

    It was all one big scam to take money from the US. We'd have to cut the most, and we'd have to pay 3rd world countries for carbon credits since we'd never meet those goals.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    TAKE THAT, KochBros!

  • Restor-woodchipper-as||

    Obama's Clean Power Plan Would Reduce Global Warming by -0.015 Degree By 2100

    No, it wouldn't.

  • WTF||

    The temperature reduction in the year 2100: fifteen one-thousandths of a degree. The effect would be too small even to be measured, let alone to affect sea levels and cyclones and all the rest.

    A lot of unsupported assumptions there. Not least of which is the belief that the models are in any way accurate; that man-made CO2 is actually causing increased global warming; that warmer climate causes more severe weather; etc. etc.

  • sarcasmic||

    Really smart people say it's true! Are you claiming to be smarter than them? Ha ha ha ha ha! I win!

    /Tony

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I do know that really smart people said that nuclear weapons can cool down Earth's climate.

  • Antilles||

    Just because every single one of their predictions has so far has failed to materialize doesn't mean that this one won't! Why do you find it so hard to trust your betters?

  • Sevo||

    I'm waiting for the two high-priests of Gaia to arrive and maybe someone can get them to tell us when the Rapture is to occur.
    I mean, if there's not gonna be a hang-over, I wanna go out in a state of bliss!

  • ||

    It's almost too late now. This is our LAST chance to 'do something', again.

  • Sevo||

    And Ron; wonderful illustration matched by alt text. A contender for the gold!!

  • *GILMORE*||

    When you point out that these regulations are ridiculously complex, massively expensive, and do absolutely no good for anyone or the environment, the retort is,

    "WELL YOU DONT EVEN *HAVE* A PLAN!! AND WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING"

    How can you reason with stupid that runs that deep?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    A few days ago, I can't remember where, I was reading a global warming article in which the author was talking about how crazy and stupid "Republicans" are for concentrating on adaptation to presumptive future climate changes, instead of trying to turn the clock back to some glorious ideal.
    Party of Science.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Does the author expect us to trigger a nuclear winter to plunge temperatures by ten degrees?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I heard that triggering a nuclear winter will achieve the result of dropping temperaurtes four degrees.

  • Russell||

    You heard wrong: Sagan's ersatz apocalypse melted down to less than two degrees decades ago:
    It couldn't stand the heat of honest climate modeling.

  • ||

    Dear Ronald Bailey,

    Are you suggesting .015% is not a good start? I would like you to demonstrate how this is not a good thing.

    Thanks!

    Amsoc.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    If temps don't rise I'm never going to get my S.T.A.L.I.N America badge!

  • Sevo||

    Aw, maybe commie-kid will give you an honorary badge!

  • Loki||

    EPA itself uses the MAGICC/SCENGEN model

    Really? Magic? They're not even trying anymore.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Anybody who refuses to accept projected temperatures 100 years in the future based on computer modeling must be some sort of luddite ignoramus.

  • albo||

    Environmentalism has become a religion, with Earth its Gaia.

    And one must scourge one's self of sin with a whip in order to be cleansed.

  • Adans smith||

    It seems the pope is a wiccan now also.

  • Curtisls701||

    This. An acquaintance of mine went to the "climate change" summit in Iowa a few months ago. She came back gushing about having met Al Gore, and how she had found her "calling." She's passionate about how we have to fight global warming, with the sort of passion one sees with true believers in religion (because it is, for her, whether she acknowledges it, or not).

  • sarcasmic||

    Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

    There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

    http://www.hawaiifreepress.com.....igion.aspx

  • sarcasmic||

    It's long but worth reading.

  • Curtisls701||

    Thanks for the Crichton link. Dead on.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    With all due respect, sarcasmic, those myths are near universal and stem from the subconscious. They are stronger than "beliefs." This makes your point much stronger, IMHO.

    The environmentalist religion is merely tying their values, or beliefs, into these universal myths and archetypes such that they resonate subconsciously and the believers never know what hit them. It's a recurring theme in more ways than one. Institutional religions have been taking the same path for millennia and it works great. Ironically, however, recognition of these myths and their archetypes should set one free from manipulation, but more often the effect is the opposite.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Ron, the White House is now using a new euphemism: Global Climate Disruption.

    Catch up. You don't want to be found to be behind the euphemism development curve, do you?

  • Adans smith||

    By putting the word would in the title ,it make the whole article bull crap.There is no way to say for sure this plan would do anything of the sort. All though Ron does point out the harm it could cause even if the plan works as Obama says it will.Maybe,could,hope,let'ts pray it will ,would be a better head line Also,besides nuclear powrer there is no non fossil fuel capable of producing elctricity at base line in all areas of the world.Hydro and geo thermal can be used in limited places.Solar and wind are pipe dreams.

  • Russell||

    Dart to Ron for denying the obvious :

    "The effect would be too small even to be measured, let alone to affect sea levels and cyclones and all the rest."

    Scientists measure microdegree temperture differences every day.

    Stop shilling for Big Zeno's Paradox and address the problem .

  • Sevo||

    Dart to Russell for pedantry.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Just because an instrument can measure microdegrees does not mean that measurements that small have any meaning. Just a very small change in the breeze would cause meaningless fluctuations large enough to negate that level of accuracy. Furthermore, stretching out 15 microdegrees over a century is ridiculously meaningless.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Of course, the goal of keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is to reduce future warming. "

    Wrong.

    The goal is power, not an end to future warming.

    "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."

  • Jackand Ace||

    Silly article, Ronald, and you know it. This initiative addresses CO2 from electric power plants in the US. It's called "global warming" for a reason, not US warming. This is one small initiative in one country. You sound like all those provincials who say, "no point in America doing anything because no one else will." But they are. Let me know when Cato is running the numbers on all the other initiatives the world over.

    But if your point is that even more reductions in CO2 are needed, well then, agreed. Surely you aren't suggesting we just sit on our butts and wait for the cavalry to ride in. Or are you?

  • Jackand Ace||

    By the way, Ronald, the CPP addresses a U.S. sector responsible for only 31% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is not addressing transportation, agriculture, industry, and elsewhere. Every time one act is passed, is Cato going to run numbers about how little impact there is from the one act? When one business goes green, is Cato going to tell us how meaningless that effort is? You tried this same charade on Keystone, how little impact just that one pipeline has.

    It's global warming, and it's going to take a global effort. Everyone, including the IEA understands this. I guess you don't.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Well, it's currently a Global Hiatus--to be more accurate. There's been no warming for some eighteen years. That's why they had to euphemize it to Global Climate Change; and most recently to Global Climate Disruption.

    But the fact is that there's no catastrophe coming. There's no cataclysm. We won't even notice it--whatever it is. You and your anti-science compatriots are going to look really stupid in about a decade when the lack of climate change becomes so obvious that even the stupidest people can't ignore it.

  • Jackand Ace||

    No warming? There is a pause? The first 6 month period this year is the warmest on record. Try staying current.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Warmest according to whom? NOAA? You do know that they manipulate their data regularly to mitigate the very hiatus that I mentioned, don't you?

    You need to look somewhere beyond ConfirmationBias.com for insight.

  • Jackand Ace||

    That's one. Try NASA and Japan Meteorological Agency as well.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....king-pace/

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

  • Jackand Ace||

    Ah, wadair. You do know that uah just altered their data set, don't you? Oh, to you, that's "manipulation," right? But what, their manipulation was righteous?

  • Jackand Ace||

    By the way, we reside on the earth's surface, not on the troposphere.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    By the way, we reside on the earth's surface, not on the troposphere.

    Cool! You just outed yourself as having absolutely no understanding of the issue we're debating.

    You do know that the noble greenhouse effect is the core of the Global Warming theory, don't you. Therefore, what happens in the troposphere is entirely pertinent to what happens on the ground because that's where the effect occurs. Besides that, surface temperature data are highly suspect and flawed. Why else would NOAA manipulated them year after year? And this latest manipulation was an attempt to normalize surface temps with the inlet temps on ocean-going ships. IOW, they assumed that ship inlet temps were more accurate than surface temps taken by their own, calibrated sensors.

  • Jackand Ace||

    I didn't say it wasn't pertinent. Just not as pertinent to the measures where we reside.

    But as I surmised, you don't have a problem with data manipulation when Spencer is doing it. He didn't manipulate anything, and neither did NOAA or JMA. Your just a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    You['re] just a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

    That's ripe. Anybody and everybody who disagrees with you and your pseudoscience is a conspiracy theorist. But the reality is that your side is losing the argument by being dishonest and--most importantly--ignoring the skepticism and method of science. You let politics clue your pseudoscience, instead of letting science determine you politics. It will all come out in the wash and we will remind you for years to come.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Ooooh, look....joe dead thread fucking again.

  • Tionico||

    just like "gun control" it ain't about controlling the guns, its about controlling the people. coimate control one more door opening into the same scary new world. Gummint control of EVERY aspect of our lives.

    Hmmm.. didn't our Forefathers fight a war to get us out from inder the big thumb of an English king some two plus centuries back? Yes, disarmement was the immediate line past which they would NOT be pushed, but the general principle the Colonials wanted to break away from was this: they had a mind to tell us how we should live, and we had a mind that they wouldn't.

    Not much has changed.... same underlying principle. We DO have a mind that they wouldn't.

  • Richard Stallman||

    This article poses the question, how much would the Clean Power Plan
    reduce global heating if other countries do nothing? But that is a
    silly question. Of course, other countries must reduce their
    emissions too. The more the US does, the more other countries can be
    convinced to do.

    Nonetheless, the plan is too small. If we suppose that other
    countries try just as hard as the Clean Power Plan, that will fall
    short of avoiding disaster. To prevent global heating disaster, the
    US must do more, and so must other countries. The survival of
    technological civilization, rendered vulnerable by globalization to
    upheaval in any of various parts of the world, depends on this.

    A carbon tax, together with cutting subsidies for fossil fuels, would
    encourage larger emissions cuts through market forces.

    The article also speculates about what would happen if global heating
    proves to be less than what climate models project. Surely we do not
    want to bet civilization's survival on our being wrong in that
    particular way.

    More to the point, we should investigate what would happen if global
    heating turns out to exceed what models project. If we want to be
    confident of avoiding global disaster, we need to take measures that
    are almost surely going to be enough.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online