White House Doubles Down On Coal Despite New Climate Report

By Tim Daiss, an oil markets analyst, journalist and author working out of the Asia-Pacific region for 12 years. Originally published at OilPrice

President Trump has spent much of the first two years of his presidency at odds with environmentalists over numerous issues, but now that disagreement also includes the federal government. On Friday, a congressionally mandated government report said that climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, ranging across numerous sectors including health care and infrastructure.

The 1,656-page assessment was written with the help of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies and departments and outlines the projected impact of global warming on every corner of American society in what some have called a dire warning. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II, said.

The report added that global warming would disproportionately hurt the poor, broadly undermine human health, damage infrastructure, limit the availability of water, alter coastlines, and boost costs in industries from farming, to fisheries and energy production. However, it offered hope if changes could be made. It said that projections of further damage could change if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply curbed, even though many of the impacts of climate change (including more frequent and more powerful storms, droughts and flooding) are already under way. “Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today,” it added.

White House Counters Report

However, the White House has countered the report, calling it inaccurate. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the new report was “largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that…there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.” She added that the government’s next update of the National Climate Assessment “gives us the opportunity to provide for a more transparent and data-driven process that includes fuller information on the range of potential scenarios and outcomes.”

The report also comes amid a presidential administration that has been the most pro oil and gas industry on record and one whose policies, particularly rolling back Obama-era environmental policies, have set environmentalists on edge. In mid-2017, the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate change accord, the only country to have approved the historic accord then withdraw from it.

Scientists who worked on the report said it did not appear that administration officials had tried to alter or suppress its findings. However, several said the timing of its release, at 2 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving, appeared designed to minimize its public impact.

The report, which was written before California’s recent deadly fires, also says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion since 2015. “Warmer and drier conditions have contributed to an increase in large forest fires in the western United States and interior Alaska. “We are seeing the things we said would be happening, happen now in real life,” said report co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. “As a climate scientist it is almost surreal.” Donald Wuebbles, a co-author of the report, and a University of Illinois climate scientist, said, “We’re going to continue to see severe weather events get stronger and more intense.”

The report is mandated by law every few years and is based on hundreds of previously research studies. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of the U.S. and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.

Going Long on Coal

Despite the report, there is no indication that the Trump administration will alter its policies. In fact, Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign pledge of reviving the country’s coal industry is gaining momentum. In August, the Trump Administration released details of a new energy policy that would disregard regulations on coal-fired power plants. The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule would take power plant emissions standards out of federal hands and put it in the hands of individual states to develop their own plans to cut pollution.

Some fear that the ACE Rule will replace the Obama era Clean Power Plan (CPP) which was supposed to address the problems related to climate change. However, ACE has largely been attacked by coastal states as a weaker plan since it allows individual state the latitude to write their own rules on emissions from coal- fired plants. According to a Reuters report in October, the heads of environmental and energy agencies from 14 mostly coastal states, including California, New York and North Carolina, told the EPA in joint comments that the proposed plan would result in minimal reductions of greenhouse gases, and possibly result in increased emissions, relative to having no federal program on the pollution.

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  1. Ignacio

    I want to cry. When I read articles like this I get desperate.

    In mid-2017, the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate change accord, the only country to have approved the historic accord then withdraw from it.

    This is not surprising and articles like this one make things like this more likely. Why? Because climate change is framed as a money question. A partisan thing. In one side we have oil companies and all those SUV driving climate-change unworried americans, frequent flyers, McMansion owners (or indebted) etc. and in the other side we have some burnt villages, flooded homes, several pneumony affected elder, babies primed for bronchiolitis… The typical gambling game, and hey we play this game in all its possible ways from Las Vegas to Health Care Insurance. It’s all about money. Some were lucky enough to have settled in a city that wasn’t burned or flooded and those don’t need to “pay” for those who unwisely decided to live in the wrong place. That is what you have when EVERYTHING is framed in terms of dollars lost and won here and there.

    And that is what this article does in the very second paragraph citing a government report:

    “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,”

    Even when the report tries to cry human the money thingy cannot be laid off

    The report added that global warming would disproportionately hurt the poor, broadly undermine human health, damage infrastructure, limit the availability of water, alter coastlines, and boost costs in industries from farming, to fisheries and energy production.

    No wonder these arguments are easily countered:

    the White House has countered the report, calling it inaccurate. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the new report was “largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that…there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

    Because once you have quantified the problem in terms of dollars, it is quite easy to dismantle the quantification in terms on dollars and the theme becomes partisan: “someone wins someone looses”. Sorry, not personal, just business. Not surprisingly, I repeat, such framing could lead to the US abandoning the Paris accord.

    Unless the damage caused by fossil fuel emissions is recognized just as a menace to the living conditions in the globe, that inaction on climate change is a crime against humanity, and should be prosecuted, business will run as usual.

    1. shinola

      Ah, yes; money, money, money!

      I just wonder if a certain (supposed) billionaire’s investment portfolio contains stocks related to coal & oil producers.

  2. The Rev Kev

    You wonder what would happen if a hurricane started pushing water up the Potomac until the White House lawn flooded. Probably Trump would shoot through to Mar-a-Lago shouting out the chopper window that climate change is a fraud. Look, he might want to boost the coal industry and bring new coal-plants online but those days are rapidly coming to an end. I would guess that not too many investor would want to invest in them. CalPERS maybe but not regular investors. How he tries to buck the trend to renewables and gas-fired plants complicates things even more. He may want to export coal to other countries, maybe Japan, but it depends on how big a market there is – and if those countries do not hit up US coal imports with tariffs in response to US tariffs on their products.
    I read that coal-transport ships require ports in deep waters along with large areas for storage but that there was very little possible in that combination on the west coast. Probably few places would want one built near them due to the pollution and the constant coal dust present in any case. Certainly California, Oregon, and Washington States have demurred at this idea. And let us not forget the hundreds of coal trains that would be chugging along delivering all that stuff. I doubt that the Pentagon would allow coal deliveries to be made through the west coast military ports. There are such ports on the east coast but then the transport costs start to get prohibitive to get it to Asia. Again, this whole idea would turn out to be another subsidy-dumpster.
    The long and the short of it is that the days of coal are numbered and just as well. The markets are dying long-term for this industry and I came across one page talking about this point for those interested-


    1. Synapsid

      Rev Kev,

      Coal trains in the West Coast states? Heaven forbid…oh.

      There are mile-long unit trains-only coal cars–that run every day right up the Puget Lowland. They pass under downtown Seattle through a tunnel heading north to a coal-export port near Vancouver BC. The coal comes from the Powder River Basin which is mostly in Wyoming, and in part in Montana. It’s shipped by rail into NE Washington and down to the Columbia River, then barged to the Longview area from where the unit trains head north. The trains pass through every major city west of the Cascades, from the Columbia to Vancouver BC.

      So far efforts to build coal-export facilities in the state have been stopped.

  3. Ignacio

    You wonder what would happen if a hurricane started pushing water up the Potomac until the White House lawn flooded

    Bad luck, move on, nothing to see here!

    1. Arizona Slim

      ISTR reading that much of the area near the White House was reclaimed swamp land. And the elevation above the Potomac River isn’t that high. So, Rev Kev’s scenario isn’t that far-fetched.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Trashy Trump the Golden Guttersnipe would just say . . . ” Aww, the White House was just a dump, anyway. So old!! We’ll build a new one on higher ground. We’ll call it the Trump House! Winning!!”

  4. divadab

    Denialism. It’s super organized and well funded by the forces of evil. Which is why it will take a cascading series of catastrophes for the brainwashed and misinformed (and psychologically-unable) to overcome their programming and see the reality of climate change.

    Something like a hurricane that takes out Miami and kills several hundred thousand. Because if it happens to foreigners it doesn’t count, doncha know.

    1. Ignacio

      Here I had another comment that got trashed. I don’t think it is denialism. It is incorrect framing of the issue what drives counter policies.

    2. McGardner

      Maybe we could reframe it as climate change atheism. For the denial of God is not blasphemy to the atheist, same as the denial of science to explain natural phenomena is not sacrilege to the Western chauvinist.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      We should also remember that America contains several million ( possibly tens of millions of) Rapturanian Armageddonites. They accept the reality of Global Warming, they consider it God’s biblically prophesied punishment for evil, and the unfolding of the End Times. They consider any effort to de-warm the global as being the Work of Satan because it is trying to turn back the Coming of the End Times.

      Do I exaggerate? No. I saw Pat Robertson say exactly that on TV once.

  5. A Farmer

    Seriously, how much chance does ACE have of passing a court challenge? Do they just throw out the MACT standard on mercury? Meeting it alone makes coal completely uneconomical in the fracking age.

    1. LarryB

      Once it gets to the Supreme Court, rather good, since the Supreme Court has a majority composed of certifiable right-wing loons.

    1. Wukchumni

      Who are the 38% who still back Trump?

      People such as my brother-in-laws who have both dug in deeper in their support, the alternative being that they’d face the ignominy of their peers-and more importantly family, in that they’d have to admit they were wrong.

      Both have a lot invested in being right about their assertions via their vote, and to repudiate would be to surrender their political identity.

    2. Marginal Futility

      We are the silent minority who put him in power. We will return to the polls in 2020 to return him to power.

  6. Chauncey Gardiner

    Consistent with his past behavior. Despite President Trump’s public statement that he doesn’t believe the climate change report, I believe that he does. He just doesn’t want to publicly acknowledge the findings in the report, sponsor legislation through his allies in Congress to implement necessary policies that run counter to the short-term economic interests of his true base, or work with leaders of other nations and supranational organizations to address the causes.

    Unfortunately for all of us, this is a complex, long-term existential threat that doesn’t lend itself to adversarial sound-bite solutions, misrepresentations, diversion or obfuscation. He and others in positions of power and influence around the world are poor choices to address the underlying causes in terms of their personality-types and their political, class, and economic views.

  7. TimH

    I can’t find where to download the whole report, as opposed to chapter by chapter… good way to impede easy reading.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I was also unable to find a way to download the complete Volume II — Impacts — of the 4th Climate Assessment Report from a single link. You can however download the complete Volume I — the Science — at [https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/CSSR2017_FullReport.pdf]. The two sites for the report volumes both suggest they were thrown together with great haste and less care than they deserve.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I read through the Executive Summary for the Northeast and found the link to the complete chapter embedded at the last page of the Executive Summary. As far as I could tell the complete chapter for the Northeast is only available online at [https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/18/]. I haven’t found any way to download the complete chapter as a pdf but it is available as a “presentation package” at [https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/NCA4_Ch18_Northeast.pptx].

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          The site realclimate.org suggests other links with information relavant to the 4th Climate Assessment Report:

  8. steven

    … assuming that…there would be limited technology and innovation, ….”

    I love this one! The same people who think a 97% scientific consensus about human caused global warming is some kind of gigantic conspiracy are nevertheless counting on science and technology to come up with planet saving solutions.

    (Lindsay should have added that the technology must produce a 100% ROI in one millisecond or it will be rejected as ‘too expensive’.)

    1. Code Name D

      They don’t think new technoligy and inovation will come from scintific reserch, but from (insert dramatic echo here) THE FREE MARKET!

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    Without even considering the impacts of Climate Disruption page 118 of the Executive Summary for the Northeast says enough to make clear what kind of future those who rule America have in mind for us: “Much of the infrastructure in the Northeast, including drainage and sewer systems, flood and storm protection assets, transportation systems, and power supply, is nearing the end of its planned life expectancy.”

    I think we must read between the lines to find the real message of the Climate Assessment Report. It’s the same message I read today in the continuing efforts to privatize the US Post Office. Our government is not ‘ours’ and those who rule America intend to exploit every last opportunity to extract every last bit of profits and power over us wherever possible. The minimized threats and impacts described in the Northeast Executive Summary may offer a very small hope, for a very short reprieve, not from the actual impacts of Climate Disruption but from the very dangerous last phase of the Neoliberal approach for dealing with Climate Disruption — geoengineering. When the Climate Assessment Reports become dire — more truly telling the actual impacts we should soon expect from Climate Disruption — that is the time to become truly frightened for the future of humankind.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Sentences like “Our government is not ‘ours’ and those who rule America intend to exploit every last opportunity to extract every last bit of profits and power over us wherever possible” do seem awfully reality-based on the visible evidence. They are also sadly defeatist and reflect the mood which the Mass Psy-Op propaganda-masters are working to spread throughout the public.

      Is there a way to counter this carefully mass-mind-engineered hopelessness and inspire obstructive behavior on the part of many . . . and inspire them to focus their obstructive behavior up the social class ladder? The only way I can think of is to counter a mass-mindset with another mass-mindset. I would recommend figuring out how to offer and inculcate a public mood-ethic of revenge-ism. Revenge-ism and
      hatred directed up the ladder and especially most of all to the makers of energy and carbon bussiness policy.

      What kind of anti-fossilitic revenge-ist policy could global dewarmers make and enforce at local-regional levels if they could take over goverpolitical jurisdictions at regionalocal levels? What kind of conservation lifestyling energy – use down-strangulation could global dewarming-minded individuals undertake if they were motivated by burning hatred and a desire to exterminate the carbon-dumping enemy?

  10. Roger

    The report is garbage, and President Trump is right to dismiss it. Unfortunately, due to affirmative action, gender discrimination and outright politicizing of the Federal bureaucracy, nothing that they produce can be trusted, on any subject, everything they do is designed to push their agenda.
    I understand that naked capitalism is a climate alarmist site and most posters have swallowed the AGW hoax hook, line and sinker, but President Trump has a greater responsibility, to listen to other voices, such as Professor Will Happer, who dismiss climate alarmism. It is President Trump’s responsibility to lead the country in a responsible and reasonable manner. It is good that he dismisses this garbage.

    1. pretzelattack

      lol. yeah listen to the retired physicist who has never published a paper on climate. why is that, do you think? is it part of a giant conspiracy? is every major science organization on earth influenced by “affirmative action, gender discrimination and outright politicising of the federal bureaucracy” in the united states? trump is only listening to the fossil fuel lobby and a few corrupt scientists.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If you are correct then a wonderful Contrarian Investing opportunity is laid out at your feet.

      All you have to do is figure out which things and bussinesses and places would be degraded and attrited and value-subtracted-from if the effects of global warming roll out as predicted in the report. And then invest all the money you have and all the money you can borrow in just exactly those things and places. When we silly liberals wake up to what a clever hoax we have fallen for . . . and want back in on all the things and places we have begun to flee from ( or divest from) . . . . you will be in position to profit bigly from our sadder-but-wiserness.

      So invest in Miami real estate. Your future fortune awaits you . . . if you are correct.

  11. Jeremy Grimm

    The Climate Assessment Report isn’t ‘garbage’ but it is definitely a dungeons-and-dragons web activity trying to piece together the report. What I’ve read so far seems to follow the IPCC findings but it gives them a more regional flavor. I remain of the opinion the IPCC models are linear and gradual whereas the Paleoclimate data suggests the climate behaves in a highly non-linear fashion and one that suggests the IPCC findings and 4th Climate Assessment Report from NOAA very much understate the rough ride we will most likely experience.

    1. knowbuddhau

      I’ve read the same about those reports. What startles me is how shallow climate data are. So many reports of first-of-a-kind research into what sound to me like fundamentals. And I don’t mean from remotest Antartica, either.

      Like this one:

      This first-ever synthesis of multiple environmental changes and risks affecting the livelihoods of people in the entire region has just been published in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change.

      The rates of climate change observed in the Mediterranean Basin exceed the global trends for most variables. The impact has further exacerbated the existing environmental problems caused by land use changes such as urbanization and agricultural intensification, increasing pollution and declining biodiversity. https://phys.org/news/2018-10-climate-impact-mediterranean.html

      And, regarding the reliability of forecasts:

      Nearly every day, peer-reviewed studies on global warming warn that deadly impacts will come sooner and hit harder than once thought.

      Virtually none, however, suggest that previous predictions of future heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods or rising seas were overblown.

      And so, as the world’s nations huddle in South Korea to validate the first major UN assessment of climate science in five years, one might ask: have we underestimated the threat of global warming?

      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on capping the rise in Earth’s surface temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels has not been finalised, with delegates predicting the five-day meet—due to end Friday—will go deep into overtime.

      But a new draft of the 28-page summary for policymakers, obtained by AFP, makes it alarmingly clear that the two-degree ceiling long seen as the guardrail for a climate-safe world is no longer viable.

      With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the planet is reeling from a crescendo of lethal and costly extreme weather events made worse by climate change.

      “Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

      “We thought we had more time, but we don’t.”

      It goes on to note that the *1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment foresaw the effects we’re seeing now. So IMHO it’d be prudent to discount every timeline for action to now.

      Fun climate change fact: industrial-strength climate change-denying propaganda is older than many of the denialists that come out of the wordwork on articles like this.

      Like Trump loyalists, who’d rather “stick to their guns” than believe their burning eyes and throats, climate denialists often prove immune to reason. And then there’s all the Russophobic Clintonistas. And so on.

      Ain’t that great? Thanks to the ever so clever narrative engineers that have been psyoping the populace all these years, our public discourse is certifiably psychotic. Fracking us with identity politics ain’t helping, either.

      We really, really need to get on with the radical, immediate decarbonizing and repowering already.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Digging a little further into the Climate Assessment documents I spotted a few interesting tidbits in Chapter 15: Potential Surprises: Compound Extremes and Tipping Elements [https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/15/]
        from Finding 1:
        “Very high confidence in the potential for state shifts [tipping points] and in the incompleteness of knowledge about feedbacks and potential state shifts.”
        from Finding 3:
        For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence). I think the first fun event we can look forward to will be the first ice free summer Arctic.

  12. Joe Well

    how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas

    Fossil fuels absolutely deserve a bad rap because they cause most of the problem, but why does the meat/dairy industry keep escaping scrutiny for the massive amounts of methane they push into the air in adddition to their huge carbon footprint?

    Also deforestation due partly to agriculture especially beef, and the distraction of oceans from runoff of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Why does the meat and dairy industry escape scrutiny etc. etc. etc? Perhaps because those who wish to bring such scrutiny to bear keep confusing the carbon-emissive high-density confinement meat and dairy operations with the carbon-capturing low-density non-confinement meat and dairy operations studied, practiced and taken to ever-deeper levels by people like Gabe Brown in North Dakota and by a tiny but growing minority of other such meat and dairy producers elsewhere.

      And as more word about carbon-capture meat and dairy raising oozes out from under the official mainstream Cone Of Silence placed around these carbon-capture farming operations, and as more people find out about these eco-bio-based carbon-capture agro-operations; the growing number of people who find out about them will wonder more and more why the condemners-of-carbon-emissive meat and dairy so consistently try to suppress all knowledge and consideration of these carbon-capture meat and dairy methods. And then the mainstream critics of “meat-and-dairy” will eventually discover they have no credibility left at all. When that point is reached, we can only hope that “the public” will still understand that Corporate Confinement Meat and Dairy really IS a carbon-emission problem.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      By the way, if you are concerned about “massive amounts of methane”, you should also want scrutiny directed to all the rice grown in Asia, because growing rice “pushes massive amounts of methane into the air” as well. If you really ARE concerned about agricultural methane.

  13. Steven B Smith

    It’s not whether Trump believes in global warming or not, it’s whether Trump believes it’s only happening in Western economies and western economies can fix it alone, (it’s not and we cant).

    If anthropogenic global warming is happening, addressing it only in the population stable West won’t work, the West doesnt need fixing it’s the population unstable exploding population of 3rd world (nonwhite low IQ, no birth control) that needs population stability.

    If anything our strategy should be tariffing the shit out of 3rd world imports and limiting 3rd world immigration. Our strategy should be to crush 3rd world population growth and industrial growth, not subsidize it.

    US carbon policy is hyper carbon intensive, we’d create fewer emissions if we didn’t persue current green energy policies than not, diverting US emissions to China and the 3rd world doesn’t reduce them, it increases them and increases their growth.

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