It's Time For EPA To Reconsider And Rescind The Endangerment Finding

Hopefully, most readers here have heard of EPA's Endangerment Finding.  If you haven't, here's the background.  During the Bush 43 administration, a group of "blue" states, led by Massachusetts, petitioned the EPA to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act.  When EPA did not do that, those states sued to compel the agency to regulate, and in 2007 the case reached the Supreme Court.  In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supremes held that EPA should make a determination as to whether atmospheric CO2 poses a "danger" to human health and welfare, and, if it does, should regulate it.  When the Obama administration arrived in 2009, it got right to work on the project.  In December 2009 Obama's EPA issued the Endangerment Finding, determining, to no one's surprise, that CO2 in the atmosphere does indeed pose a "danger" to human health and welfare.  The Endangerment Finding is the legal foundation on which all subsequent Obama-era regulation of CO2 and other "greenhouse gases" rests.  These regulations include, as a leading example, the so-called "Clean Power Plan," that seeks to shutter all coal electricity generation in the U.S.

Since issuance of the Endangerment Finding (and, indeed, even before, during the public comment period) many criticized EPA's Finding as lacking in scientific basis.  (Bizarrely, EPA asserted in its supporting documentation that the evidentiary basis for the "finding" consists mostly of models of how it thinks the atmospheric heat transfer system works.  In other words, EPA claimed to use its hypothesis as the principal proof of the hypothesis.  Yes, these are people who purport to lecture others on "science.")  Seven and a half ensuing years of temperatures failing to rise as predicted have left the Endangerment Finding sitting on increasingly weak ground.  In September 2016, a distinguished group of scientists published a major Research Report asserting that all of the "lines of evidence" claimed by EPA to support the Endangerment Finding had been scientifically invalidated by the empirical data.  That Research Report was covered here on September 19, 2016, in a post titled "The 'Science' Underlying Climate Alarmism Turns Up Missing."  That post is one of the most-read posts ever published on this blog.

Obviously, no matter how ridiculous this might become, the Obama administration was not going to change direction.  But now we have a new President, committed to undoing counterproductive and job-destroying environmental regulations.  On January 20 a group called the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council petitioned EPA to undo the Endangerment Finding.  Full disclosure:  I am one of the lawyers for the Council.  Here is a copy of the Petition.  The Petition is substantially based on the conclusions of the Research Report as to the scientific invalidation of the Endangerment Finding.  The Research Report was also a big part of the basis for John Christy's testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology on March 29, reported on by me here.  (Dr. Christy is one of the co-authors of the Research Report.)

You will see in our Petition and Research Report that this is the essence of the scientific enterprise.  Does the best empirical evidence from the real world support or refute the hypothesis?  We assert that EPA's hypothesis of "endangerment" has been refuted; but any scientist (or for that matter, any non-scientist) can seek to replicate and/or refute the results of the Research Report.  The authors of the Report, and of the Petition (who include yours truly) do not engage in any name-calling or ad hominem attacks on those who might disagree.  Rather, we challenge them to refute our results or, if they can't, to concede that there exists no basis for the Endangerment Finding, nor for the restrictions on fossil fuels that the Obama administration was seeking to impose.

When President Trump issued his Executive Order on March 28, ordering reconsideration of the Obama-era climate regulations, it included no specific reference to the Endangerment Finding, nor specific direction that the Finding be reconsidered.  Yesterday, our group issued a press release, seeking to get some more distribution for our Petition, and to raise awareness of the importance of the Endangerment Finding and of its reconsideration.

There has been some favorable coverage of our Petition at the Daily Caller  (Michael Bastasch), and at Breitbart (James Delingpole).  From Bastasch:

Two groups — Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) — claim EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding” should be updated with new evidence invalidating the agency’s previous claim greenhouse gasses threatened public health. . . .   CHECC sent its petition to EPA Jan. 20, during Trump’s inauguration. CHECC is only now publicizing this, along with CEI, to urge the Trump administration to re-examine the endangerment finding now that the president issued an executive order to rolling back Obama-era global warming policies.  CHECC’s petition relies on a 2016 study that “failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 13 critically important temperature time series data analyzed.”

More bizarre has been the reaction from the mainstream press and environmental activists.  Most have ignored us, of course.  But those who have not choose, as always, to avoid any attempt to deal with the scientific results on the merits, or on their own terms.  Instead, it's non-stop name calling and ad hominem attacks.  For example, a series of tweets from a guy named John Walke of the NRDC included these gems:

Telling insight into panic, rage & pathos of climate change deniers realizing they're outliers even in Trump admin.

Hard right-wingers mount furious & futile assault on climate science & legal obligation to reduce carbon pollution.  

"Panic, rage & pathos"?  Really?  Have you read the Petition?  (He's hoping you won't either.  Please do read it.). And meanwhile, John, can you explain why the hypothesis (of dangerous man-made global warming) has not been refuted by the evidence?

At the Washington Post, the article by Seth Borenstein of AP on March 29 (following John Christy's testimony that presented the results of the Research Report) is headlined "U.S. hearing on climate science focuses on name calling."   Again, Borenstein does not so much as reference the Research Report, nor attempt to deal with the scientific merits of its conclusions.  Funny, but I've read John Christy's testimony, and I can't find any name calling.  It's an extremely dispassionate statement of the scientific evidence and how the evidence does not conform to the hypothesis represented by the mainstream climate models.  Name calling is something different.  It is what Mr. Walke does, quoted above.

For the eight years of the Obama administration, the orthodox side of the climate controversy has been able, through control of government funding and processes, to suppress essentially all scientific debate on this subject,  and to silence adversaries.  Now it's time for name-calling to end and the science to be engaged.  EPA is in a position to force real engagement on the science by reopening the Endangerment Finding for reconsideration.  It is high time for that effort to begin.