OPINION: How Big Government Hijacked The Federal Climate Report

Chuck DeVore | Vice President, Texas Public Policy Foundation

As taxpayers and citizens, we expect our federal government to responsibly use its resources and to be responsive to the will of the people as expressed in elections. But all too frequently, the bureaucracy — the administrative state — churns on with its agenda, untouched by mere elected officials or appointees of the administration.

This was on full display in November with the release of the 1,700-page National Climate Assessment (NCA), the product of a 60-member, interagency federal committee.

The NCA heavily relied on a paper funded by federal taxpayers and a few billionaire friends of big government: Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and former secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, Hank Paulson.

The conclusions from that paper — “estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States” — generated apocalyptic notice in the nation’s major media.

“U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy — Without major action to rein in global warming, the American economy could lose 10 percent of GDP by 2100, according to a report from 13 federal agencies,” the New York Times reported.

“Climate change will shrink [the] U.S. economy and kill thousands, government report warns,” CNN said.

Steyer and Bloomberg each spent millions of dollars in the 2018 election cycle to elect Democrats and are both eyeing runs for the White House. 

Nicolas Loris, a Heritage Foundation economist specializing in energy and the environment, wrote up a critique of the NCA. He noted that the paper wildly exaggerated economic costs while assuming the worst case and least likely scenario.

Other critics noted that the prediction of a 10-percent hit to the economy by 2100 due to higher temperatures didn’t correlate correctly with a U.S. economy expected to more than triple in size by then.

The federal study also makes a hash of causality. For instance, the NCA cites this year’s deadly Carr Fire in California as emblematic of climate change. But it doesn’t mention that the Western region’s forests have not been actively managed since 1990 as a result of environmental policies that virtually halted the timber harvest while discouraging brush clearance, access road maintenance, and prescribed burns.

These policies led to a predictable build-up in fuel load and tree density, making the West more vulnerable to wildfire. That’s a result of bad policy, not climate change.

President Trump called out this decades-long lack of forest management, both in the summer and during the November flare-up of wildfires, while his critics pushed back, citing climate change.

California Gov. Jerry Brown quietly signed two bills in September that reverse almost 30 years of poor forest and brush management policy, at least at the state level — an admission that Trump’s criticism was right on the mark.

Beyond the practical criticisms NCA’s use of an alarmist report, there are other concerns regarding the blatant political biases of the report’s authors.

There are 12 authors of the economic losses paper, yet the paper presented no new science. It simply estimated economic impact of global warming. Between the authors, there are at least 44 political contributions to Democrats and progressive groups. There are none listed to Republicans or conservative groups.

Considering only about one-half of a percent of the U.S. population gives more than $200 to federal candidates or causes (the amount required to record a donor’s name), we have to at least give the authors credit for being engaged in the political process.

But, of course, given that this report’s findings appeared in an official federal study, we are to believe that it reflected the views of the president’s administration or was otherwise unbiased.

James Rising, one of the report’s four primary authors, mused on his blog in 2006:

[President] Bush’s recent acquisition of 100,000 acres in Paraguay [might be linked to] secret meetings and the nearby, previously-secret military base that was granted national and international criminal court immunity by the Paraguay Senate. The going theory is that it’s a Bush family safe-haven for when the U.S. government collapses.

Not to be outdone, Rising — whose predictions of climate-driven economic doom are now part of the official record of the federal government — wrote of his derision for the 2006 Iraq Study Group report and its recommendation of what would become known as the “Iraq troop surge,” a strategy that successfully altered the course of the insurgency in that nation.

Given Rising’s dire forecast for the U.S. economy, one hopes his predictive powers remain inaccurate.

On the topic of free and fair elections in a representative democracy, Rising wrote triumphantly of a “COUP D’ETAT” after the 2006 elections. He glowingly noted, “There’s a socialist in Congress” and added, “The revolution is just begun.”

A coup d’etat, by the way, is defined as “an illegal overthrow and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus.” That Rising views himself as one of the “elites within the state apparatus” is telling. Rising is the “deep state” embodied.

Leaving no doubt as to where his sympathies lie, Rising darkly warned after Trump’s victory of “A NEW WOLRD ORDER” with the rise of “rise of religious extremism in the United States and Middle East” the “end of a pluralistic world” and the “new rise of global fascism.” He concluded his post with the desire to “ultimately eliminate” the president.

The next NCA should ditch the politics and stick to reproducible science.

Chuck DeVore is vice president of National Initiatives with the nonprofit Texas Public Policy Foundation and was a California state assemblyman from 2004 to 2010.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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