McClaughry: Climate sensitivity and the carbon tax

By John McClaughry

My friend Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes that after a speech opposing the Curbelo carbon tax bill in Congress, a reporter asked him for his views on climate change. Marlo replied, “The most important issue in climate change research is climate sensitivity” — how much long-term warming results from a doubling of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas concentration.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

In its 2007 report, the UN IPCC concluded that 3°C was the “best estimate” of climate sensitivity. But in its 2013 report, IPCC said climate sensitivity is “likely” to range from 1.5°C to 4.5° Centigrade. That was also the likely range in the IPCC’s First Report in 1990. No improvement in accuracy over 27 years.

During the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency developed a climate policy impact estimator called MAGICC, which allows us to calculate the decrease in average global temperature from any quantity of emission reductions under alternative climate sensitivity guestimates.

Even assuming high sensitivity, the Curbelo carbon tax bill would avert warming of less than three hundredths of a degree Centigrade by 2050, well below the MAGICC program’s eleven hundredths of a degree error range. That means the bill’s maximum climate impact is literally undetectable.

Yet to achieve such inconsequential results, the Curbelo bill would force a household of four to spend about $1,000 more each year for gasoline and utilities, and hit the U.S. economy with $800 billion-plus in new taxes, according to the Columbia University report promoting the plan.

That’s a really dumb idea, and the argument for a Vermont carbon tax is even dumber.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk and John McClaughry
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5 thoughts on “McClaughry: Climate sensitivity and the carbon tax

  1. John,
    Some notes on wind and solar in NE

    Wind and Solar Conditions in New England: New England has highly variable weather and low-medium quality wind and solar conditions. See NREL wind map and NREL solar map.

    https://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/100m_wind/awstwspd100onoff3-1.jpg
    https://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/solar/national_photovoltaic_2009-01.jpg

    Wind:
    – Wind electricity is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors)
    – Wind is minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons/early evenings (peak demand hours), especially during summer
    – Wind often is minimal 5 – 7 days in a row in summer and winter, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/daily-shifting-of-wind-and-solar-using-battery-systems-in-summer
    – About 60% is generated at night, when demand is much less than during the late afternoons/early evenings
    – About 60% is generated in winter.
    – During winter, the best wind month is up to 2.5 times the worst summer month
    – New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.262) of any US region, except the US South. See URL.
    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=20112

    Solar:
    – Solar electricity is strictly a midday affair.
    – It is zero about 65% of the hours of the year, mostly at night.
    – It often is minimal 5 – 7 days in a row in summer and in winter, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/daily-shifting-of-wind-and-solar-using-battery-systems-in-summer
    – It is minimal early mornings and late afternoons/early evenings
    – It is minimal much of the winter months
    – It is minimal for several days with snow and ice on most of the panels.
    – It varies with variable cloudiness, which would excessively disturb distribution grids with many solar systems, as happens in southern California and southern Germany on a daily basis.
    – During summer, the best solar month is up to 4 times the worst winter month; that ratio is 6 in Germany.
    – New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.145, under ideal conditions) of any region in the US, except some parts of the US Northwest.

    NOTE: Even if the NE grid had large capacity connections with Canada and New York, any major NE wind lull and any major NE snowfall likely would affect the entire US northeast, i.e., relying on neighboring grids to “help-out” likely would not be feasible.

    Wind Plus Solar:
    – Wind plus solar production could be minimal for 5 – 7 days in summer and in winter, with snow and ice on most of the panels, as frequently happens during December, January and February, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/daily-shifting-of-wind-and-solar-using-battery-systems-in-summer

    If we were to rely on wind and solar for most of our electricity, massive energy storage systems (GWh-scale for Vermont, TWh-scale for NE) would be required to cover multi-day wind lulls, multi-day overcast/snowy periods, and seasonal variations. See URLs.

  2. John,

    Halquist’s campaign “Issues” web page under Environment the following single phrase about energy policy: Follow the Solar Pathways Vermont plan for reaching a 90% renewable energy supply by 2050.

    One of the more disturbing recommendations is that in order to create “certainty” for developers and investors (so they can make money) to have quick proliferation of solar projects a method for creating “public acceptance” of large numbers of solar projects must be devised.

    Why should people accept something that makes no sense for all the reasons you have outlined – economically, environmentally both for Vermont and the planet, for grid reliability, aesthetically for Vermont’s landscape.

  3. Climate Change & Carbon tax two Liberal “talking points” that are nothing more than that. The earth has been changing since the beginning of time and will continue to change.

    The Liberals Salvation is a carbon tax…all this is, is a way to get your money this will not improve a thing. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

  4. The proposed carbon taxes in Vermont are much higher than the national tax proposed by Curbelo, and the financial impact on each family would be much greater, because more money would pass from people’s pockets to inefficient government programs that have expensive energy cost outcomes, such as Standard Offer, net-metered, and heat pumps having COPs of 1.2, instead of 3 to 4, per DPS survey report.

    The net results of the money grab diversions and government programs to fight global warming was an INCREASE in Vermont’s CO2/y

    Get the government out of the energy sector before it gets messed up even more.
    Hallquist is in favor of carbon taxes. Don’t let it happen.

  5. Man made climate change is a joke, I totally agree with you John. Thank you for having good morals and telling the truth. These carbon taxes are nothing but a way to bleed us a little more so the fat cats get richer.

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