Manchin’s Not The Climate Problem
By Patrick J. Michaels, Senior Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the CO2 Coalition.
Senator Joe Manchin, who killed Biden’s Build Back Better plan live on Fox News, is being vilified throughout the legacy press because BBB’s climate plans are now similarly moribund. Somehow, the story goes, Biden’s plan was going to keep the world from warming up a grand total of 1.5⁰C since 1850.
Ben Adler is the Yahoo News “Senior Climate Editor”, whose bio highlights that he has been a reporter for Politico, The Nation, and Grist. He wrote that “Manchin killing Build Back Better is ‘devastating’ to climate change action.” What “action” has Manchin stopped?
Similarly, NPR intoned: “[Manchin’s] final rejection of a stripped down version effectively kills President Biden’s ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions deeply enough to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.” That’s a testable hypothesis.
The Washington Post is possibly the least able to confront real data, noting that Manchin’s rejection of the BBB means that
United States would fall short of the targets it committed to under the 2015 Paris agreement, potentially locking in a future of increasingly destructive forest fires, deadly floods and droughts. Already, record-breaking hurricanes and fires are testing the federal government’s ability to respond to overlapping disasters.
Adler, NPR and the Post are shining examples of climatic innumeracy. Much larger portions of the US burned pretty much every year until Disney’s Bambi sparked the modern era of fire suppression and containment. The result has been disasters such as the Paradise inferno in California, brought to you not by climate change but the pathologic accumulation of fuel on the floor of our nation’s forests. Out west, they get dry enough to explode pretty much every summer, with or without climate change.
Globally there’s been no systematic change in integrated hurricane power since satellite coverage became universal around 1970, even as surface temperatures warmed about a half of a degree in the late 20th century. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes no systematic changes in droughts, and paleoclimatic indicators show much more massive and long-lived droughts in the American West when the planet was cooler, several centuries ago.
Given that surface temperatures have already warmed a degree (C), it’s only a half-degree more before we reach the aspirational warming limit in the 2015 (unratified) Paris climate treaty.
As the world warmed, life expectancy doubled in the developed world, and per-capita wealth is about 12 times what it was in 1900. Somehow, we are told, if surface temperatures rise another half of a degree, this will all come crashing down.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea to know how much global warming BBB would prevent before blaming Manchin for the end of the world?
The qualitative answer is “not much”. Consider what would happen if the US cut all its carbon dioxide emissions? The Biden Administration’s own EPA runs a model, which is actually acronymed MAGICC1, that was designed to calculate the climate effects of such an eventuality. If the US emissions were zero between now and 2100, the amount of global warming that would be saved is a mere 0.14⁰C, an amount too small to accurately detect.
Meanwhile, China’s emissions passed those of the US around 2005 and are now double what we emit per year. Economists have long thought that as China’s economy matures, their emissions will stabilize around 2030, at around three times of our current emissions.
A simple application of MAGICC logic means that if China’s 2030 emissions are maintained through this century, it will, by itself, contribute an additional 0.42⁰C of warming, or three times what the US zero-emissions scenario would “save”.
Further, don’t forget that India’s rush towards coal to power its 1.4 billion inhabitants isn’t going to stop soon, and amortizing new coal-fired power plants requires about a half-century of operation.
It’s patently obvious that Manchin’s blocking of the BBB is climatically inconsequential compared to what will happen in the rest of the world. Blaming him for nothing is simply a pointless demonstration of climate innumeracy.
1 “Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-Gas Induced Climate Change”, or MAGICC. The tiny amounts of warming noted in the text assumes much more warming (up to several times) is occurring in the upper tropical troposphere than is being observed. Further EPA’s MAGICC assumes more global warming will occur than other models that are based upon actual observations.