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Pawlenty’s climate-change initiative: Is he backing away?

As Minnesota and neighboring states gear up to implement major policies to reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change, Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears to be backing away from the high-profile initiatives he helped initiate. 

“This is unfortunate,” said state Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, chairman of the House Energy Committee.  “But it is hardly surprising.” 
And one of the governor’s own appointed representatives to a multi-state group charged with developing a regional carbon-reduction effort will seek a meeting with Pawlenty’s staff to find out what’s behind the governor’s apparent about-face.

“The jarring thing about this,” said Bill Grant of the Izaac Walton League’s Midwest office, “is that the governors in all the other states involved are holding firm, except ours.” 
Grant is one of three people that Pawlenty appointed to a task force of the Midwest Governor’s Association to develop a regional “cap and trade” system on carbon reduction.  Under it, governments would establish ever-tougher carbon emission allowances (“caps”) and industrial emitters like power plants would, in effect, bid to purchase ever-costlier credits to pollute, a system that has effectively reduced unwanted emissions through financial incentives.   
When the regional governor’s group was assembled last November — at the behest of Pawlenty and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle — Pawlenty called the market-based “cap and trade” system a good way to reduce pollution.   

‘Bold, innovative initiatives’
Earlier, Pawlenty eagerly signed the Next Generation Energy Act that passed by a lopsided bipartisan majority by the 2007 Legislature.  In a related action fanned by publicity generated by his office, the Republican governor appointed the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) to develop specific ways to meet carbon-reduction targets in the “Next Gen” law. 
And throughout his just-ended reign as chairman of the National Governor’s Association, Pawlenty used the high-profile pulpit to implore states to take on “bold, innovative initiatives” to address climate change. He seemed to seek and welcome the notice he received for taking on a “green” issue at a time when the Bush administration in Washington was denying that human activity had anything to do with climate change and the Congress was slow to act on what Pawlenty saw as a critical issue. 
That was then.
But recently on Glenn Beck’s national radio show, Pawlenty left little doubt that he now has second thoughts.  
“…anything that adds cost to energy prices right now,” said the governor, “is going to be viewed with a great amount of concern and so you notice the cap and trade debate has kind of faded into the background and it’s unclear what that would look like when and if it re-emerges.” 
Pawlenty backed away even more from previous statements when the conservative Beck suggested that cap and trade “was another tax.”
After demoting the importance of human-caused carbon in climate change by saying the industrial impact was “a half percent or perhaps something more substantial,” Pawlenty said: “But in the wake of this energy crisis where people are struggling to pay the bills, that debate on cap and trade has just fallen to the background for understandable reasons.” 
When Pawlenty and Doyle announced the Midwest carbon-reduction effort, Pawlenty said:  “Our states are creating an energy future that will produce good jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.”
When asked about what appears to critics as a significant waffle on climate change and cap and trade, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor has “previously commented on those topics, so I’d refer you to those comments.” 
Past statements
In a deft bit of fact-check reporting, Andy Birkey with the Minnesota Independent did just that. 
Birkey’s report quoted Pawlenty as telling the National Governor’s Association earlier this year: “We should have listened to President Carter…we should not spend time on voices that say [climate change] is not real.”
In advocating a cap and trade system that he now is seeking distance from, Pawlenty previously told Minnesota Public Radio: “If you unleash the requirements and incentives and attractive features of a market, people will respond to it.” 
In an email, McClung also said, “With the nation facing serious economic challenges, Governor Pawlenty believes climate change will now be properly debated in the context of the need to hold down energy prices.” 
Jim Erkel of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and appointed by Pawlenty to the MCCAG is angered by Pawlenty’s recent statements.
“Many of us working on climate change wanted to give the governor the benefit of doubt on his support for the issue and needed solutions,” Erkel said. “Instead, we now see the governor again picking an issue for political gain, and then running against his initial ploy when new political forces suggest some bigger benefit from flip-flopping.” 

States that are part of the Midwest carbon-reduction accord are Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota and Manitoba are also considered “observers” of the accord.

Grant said a report from the regional body is due by February (its original November deadline was delayed due to a need to complete technical modeling).

Hilty and other legislators are awaiting the Midwest Governor’s report so that its policies can be put into effect in Minnesota, or modified if the Legislature sees a need to ensure compliance with the Next Gen law. 

In the meantime, the Legislature is crafting bills to implement MCCAG recommendations, but so far that initiative has not seen a full compliance from Pawlenty’s administration. 

Last February when initial MCCAG recommendations were submitted, the Pawlenty administration was required to submit a letter to the Legislature on its recommendations to reduce carbon emissions according to the Next Gen mandates: 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015, by 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Pawlenty’s point person on energy, Edward Garvey, sent a “preliminary” letter that, observers agree, wildly missed the legal requirements of making specific carbon-reduction recommendations to meet the mandated targets. 

At the time, Garvey said another letter would be sent when MCCAG’s report, then in draft form, was made final. 

But when the advisory group’s final report was submitted, the promised letter wasn’t sent up.  Garvey left as director of the Office of Energy Security in August.  His successor, Bill Glahn, declined to say when the letter to legislators would be sent.

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Comments (7)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/22/2008 - 01:46 pm.
    The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change
    31,000 scientists reject ‘global warming’ agenda

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/22/2008 - 01:28 pm.

    The governor must have had another visit from Grover Norquist or his local no-tax representatives David Fromm and Phil Krinkie.

    When does his failure to do right by Minnesota instead of Grover Norquist become sufficient to remove the governor from office?

  3. Submitted by Carol Overland on 09/22/2008 - 03:40 pm.

    That’s our “Green Chameleon,” ja, you betcha. This is right in line with his promotional efforts for coal gasification (eeeeeuw, mega-emissions, high cost and not in the public interest); and CapX 2020 transmission that facilitates coal (Big Stone II, and thousands of other MW in the Dakotas, through MN to WI and east); and promotion of biomass polluting Phillips and St. Paul and Virginia/Hibbing; and then there’s ethanol sucking our aquifers dry. And all the poor souls who were duped… but they should know better, could have/should have taken a comprehensive look at what he was doing in energy. Good riddance… but until then, maybe there’s time for a recall?

  4. Submitted by Gregory Stricherz on 09/22/2008 - 11:32 am.

    So, looks like we’re going to end up with the coal-fired Big Stone II power plant after all. More coal to stoke the societal meltdown we are experiencing. The meltdown is more than just financial.

  5. Submitted by david granneman on 12/23/2008 - 02:49 pm.

    U.S. Senate Minority Report Update: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims
    December 11, 2008

    Posted by Marc Morano – 9:30 AM EST – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.GOV

    U. S. Senate Minority Report:

    More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims

    Scientists Continue to Debunk “Consensus” in 2008

    Link to Full Printable PDF Report

    Over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe challenged man-made global warming claims made by the United Nations Intergovernemntal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former Vice President Al Gore. This new 231-page U.S. Senate Minority Report report — updated from 2007’s groundbreaking report of over 400 scientists who voiced skepticism about the so-called global warming “consensus” — features the skeptical voices of over 650 prominent international scientists, including many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN IPCC. This updated report includes an additional 250 (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the initial release in December 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

    The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grow louder in 2008 as a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data and inconvenient developments challenged the UN and former Vice President Al Gore’s claims that the “science is settled” and there is a “consensus.” On a range of issues, 2008 proved to be challenging for the promoters of man-made climate fears. Promoters of anthropogenic warming fears endured the following: Global temperatures failing to warm; Peer-reviwed studies predicting a continued lack of warming; a failed attempt to revive the discredited “Hockey Stick”; inconvenient developments and studies regarding CO2; the Sun; Clouds; Antarctica; the Arctic; Greenland; Mount Kilimanjaro; Hurricanes; Extreme Storms; Floods; Ocean Acidification; Polar Bears; lack of atmosphieric dust; the failure of oceans to warm and rise as predicted.

    In addition, the following developments further secured 2008 as the year the “consensus” collapsed. Russian scientists “rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming”. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exist. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate”. India Issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC “be called to account and cease its deceptive practices,” and a canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”

    This new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s office of the GOP Ranking Member is the latest evidence of the growing groundswell of scientific opposition challenging significant aspects of the claims of the UN IPCC and Al Gore. Scientific meetings are now being dominated by a growing number of skeptical scientists. The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. [See Full report Here: & see: Skeptical scientists overwhelm conference: ‘2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC’ ]

    Even the mainstream media has begun to take notice of the expanding number of scientists serving as “consensus busters.” A November 25, 2008 article in Politico noted that a “growing accumulation” of science is challenging warming fears, and added that the “science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.” Canada’s Financial Post noted on October 20, 2008, that “the number of climate change skeptics is growing rapidly.” New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin noted on March 6, 2008, “As we all know, climate science is not a numbers game (there are heaps of signed statements by folks with advanced degrees on all sides of this issue),” Revkin wrote. (LINK) In 2007, Washington Post Staff Writer Juliet Eilperin conceded the obvious, writing that climate skeptics “appear to be expanding rather than shrinking.”

  6. Submitted by david granneman on 12/23/2008 - 02:50 pm.

    Sampling of key quotes from scientists participating in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change:

    Former UN Scientist Dr. Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris (who resigned from UN IPCC in protest): “As far as the science being ‘settled,’ I think that is an obscenity. The fact is the science is being distorted by people who are not scientists.”

    UN IPCC scientist Vincent Gray of New Zealand: “This conference demonstrates that the [scientific] debate is not over. The climate is not being influenced by carbon dioxide.”

    Canadian Climatologist Dr. Timothy Ball: “If we are facing [a crisis] at all, I think it is that we are preparing for warming when it is looking like we are cooling. We are preparing for the wrong thing.”

    Climate researcher Dr. Craig Loehle, formerly of the Department of Energy Laboratories and currently with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvements, has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers: “The 2000-year [temperature] trend is not flat, so a warming period is not unprecedented. […] 1500-year [temperature] cycle as proposed by [Atmospheric physicist Fred] Singer and [Dennis] Avery is consistent with Loehle climate reconstruction. […] 1500-year cycle implies that recent warming is part of natural trend.”

    Hurricane expert and Meteorologist Dr. William Gray: “There are lot’s of skeptics out there, all over the U.S. and the rest of the world. [Global warming] has been over-hyped tremendously; most of the climate change we have seen is largely natural. I think we are brainwashing our children terribly.”

    UK Astrophysicist Piers Corbyn: “There is no evidence that CO2 has ever driven or will ever drive world temperatures and climate change. The consequence of that is that worrying about CO2 is irrelevant. Our prediction is world temperatures will continue to decline until 2014 and probably continue to decline after that.”

    Weather Channel founder and meteorologist John Coleman: “Serious scientists and serious students of global warming have concluded after a lot of effort that there is little basis for the thought that we are going to have catastrophic global warming.”

    Dr. Benny Peiser of the Faculty of Science of Liverpool John Moores University in UK: “[Global warming cap-and-trade bills have] caused so much trouble in Europe. It’s not working, it’s never going to work. It won’t have any effect on the climate, but only that there will be more unemployed in Europe. If that helps the climate, perhaps that is a solution.”

    Atmospheric physicist Ferenc Miskolczi, formerly with NASA’s Langley Research Center: “The runaway greenhouse effect is physically impossible. […] The observed global warming has nothing to do directly with the greenhouse effect; it must be related to changes in the total absorbed solar radiation or dissipated heat from other natural or anthropogenic sources of thermal energy.”

    Meteorologist Art Horn: “There are thousands of scientists around the world who believe that this issue is not settled. The climate is not being influenced by carbon dioxide.”

    German Meteorologist Dr. Gerd-Rainer Weber: “Most of the extremist views about climate change have little or no scientific basis. The rational basis for extremist views about global warming may be a desire to push for political action on global warming.”

    Physics Professor Emeritus Dr. Howard Hayden of the University of Connecticut: “The fluctuations in Earth’s temperature are caused by astronomical phenomena. The combined effects of all ‘greenhouse gases,’ albedo changes, and other Earthly changes account for no more than about 3 degrees C of the changes during transitions between ice ages and interglacials.”

    Climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who serves on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review: “It is my belief that the strident and frequent claims of catastrophes caused by man-made global warming are stated with a degree of confidence not warranted by the data. […] Too many people are too confident about too many things. That was the simple message of the Heartland conference, and one that I hope sinks in.” (LINK)

  7. Submitted by david granneman on 12/23/2008 - 02:50 pm.

    The International Climate Conference in New York also featured hundreds of climate experts from around the world, who issued a March 4 “Manhattan Declaration” on man-made global warming, stating in part:

    1) “That there is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future cause catastrophic climate change.”

    2) “That attempts by governments to inflict taxes and costly regulations on industry and individual citizens with the aim of reducing emissions of CO2 will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and progress of developing nations without affecting climate.”

    3) “That human-caused climate change is not a global crisis.”

    The declaration resolved that “scientific questions should be evaluated solely by the scientific method.”

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