Basis for Biden Climate Plan Challenged by Experts

July 31, 2020 Updated: August 3, 2020

News Analysis

Joe Biden’s proposed plan “to meet the existential threat of climate change” by achieving a “carbon pollution-free” power sector by 2035 proceeds from faulty scientific assumptions, according to energy policy analysts and a Princeton physicist.

The former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee unveiled his plan to “build a modern sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future” on July 14.

The proposal to replace carbon-emitting power sources with wind and solar energy by 2035 is 1 of 7 “key elements” of the plan, which draws heavily from a task force Biden formed with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had previously challenged Biden for the nomination.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) primary proponent of the Green New Deal in the House, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) served as co-chairs for the Biden-Sanders Task Force, which released its recommendations on July 8. The task force opened with a series of proposed green energy initiatives aimed at “combating the climate crisis” and “pursuing environmental justice.”

The Green New Deal refers to a package of climate change proposals Ocasio-Cortez introduced as a resolution in the House and that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced in the Senate in February 2019. Markey’s version failed to advance in the Senate. The Green New Deal could cost up to $93 trillion or $600,000 per household, according to one study.

Although the task force doesn’t explicitly reference the Green New Deal, like Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, it calls for the United States to achieve “net zero global emissions” by 2050, as does Biden’s official plan. The task force recommends eliminating emissions from power plants by 2035 to achieve this goal.

“To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency,” the task force states.

“We will dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility scale systems. Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems and 60,000 made-in-America wind turbines.”

The Biden plan also calls for “carbon-pollution free energy in electricity generation by 2035” and for making use of wind and solar technology as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The Biden plan envisions a “clean energy revolution” that will “spur the installation of millions of solar panels—including utility-scale, rooftop, and community solar systems—and tens of thousands of wind turbines—including thousands of turbines off our coasts.”

Suppositions Challenged

The task force and the Biden plan repeatedly invoke the phrases “carbon pollution” and “climate crisis” while making the case for “net-zero carbon emissions.”

But William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Bracket professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University, challenges the suppositions about carbon dioxide standing behind the task force recommendations and Biden’s plan. Carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant and is beneficial to life on earth, the Princeton physics professor wrote in an email.

“It is depressing to see the Democratic Party, once a champion for Americans who believed in truth, honesty, and fair play, hijacked by ignorant and cynical climate fanatics,” Happer wrote.

“Carbon dioxide is not carbon pollution but a benefit to life on Earth. Climate change is not a ‘global emergency.’ Most of the alarmist claims about climate are vicious propaganda disguised as science.

“Fellow Americans, don’t drink this toxic coolaid!” Happer wrote. “If implemented, these climate plans will cause great harm to our environment and will turn our beloved country into a miserable eco-dictatorship. America will no longer be the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’”

What Science Says

The Democratic Party officials who authored the recommendations claim that President Donald Trump has “denied science” while refusing to embrace anti-emissions policies.

However, Kevin Dayaratna, a research fellow and principal statistician at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, finds that science is on the side of climate skeptics who don’t accept the premise of theories that link human activity with catastrophic climate change.

“Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless, nontoxic gas,” Dayaratna said. “I do not believe it is a pollutant in the sense that soot and smog are pollutants. However, even if you do believe that CO2 is a pollutant, it makes more sense to focus on free market solutions to reducing emissions that will not destroy jobs in the process. The natural gas revolution, for instance, has reduced emissions without unnecessarily raising electricity costs for everyone.”

Dayaratna also agrees with Happer’s assessment that CO2 has benefits that go largely unheralded.

“CO2 is a key element of photosynthesis and thus has agricultural benefits,” Dayaratna said. “In fact, we find that these benefits have been vastly understated in social cost of carbon modeling, which my co-authors and I have sought to address in a recently published peer reviewed research.”

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC, an international body of scientists, researchers, and scholars who operate independently from any government agency, have published a series of reports debunking the idea that human CO2 emissions are responsible for catastrophic climate change. The panel first came together in 2003 to critique the conclusions of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has repeatedly linked human CO2 emissions with potentially dangerous levels of global warming.

In a 2008 report titled “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate,” the nongovernmental panel determined that the computer models used by the U.N.’s intergovernmental panel “don’t provide evidence of anthropogenic [man-made] global warming” and that the “correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide levels is weak and inconclusive.”

With regard to the U.N.’s climate models, the nongovernmental panel report concludes that the “mismatch of observed and calculated fingerprints clearly falsifies the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming” and that human emissions “can contribute only in a minor way to the current warming, which is mainly of natural origin.”

Fast-forward to one of the nongovernmental panel’s more recent reports published in 2018, and the authors conclude that “the warming of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has not been shown to be beyond the bounds of natural variability.” The report also makes the point that since the “geological record shows temperatures and Co2 levels in the atmosphere have not been stable, making untenable the IPCC’s assumption that they would be stable in the absence of human emissions.”

The NIPCC is co-sponsored by three nonprofit outfits: the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science & Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute.

The Epoch Times contacted the Biden campaign by email and asked if the campaign could clarify if Biden views CO2 as a dangerous pollutant and asked if the campaign could comment on the relationship between the task force recommendations and Biden’s “clean energy” plan. The campaign didn’t respond by press time.

Political Power

But Dan Kish, a senior vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance based in Washington, sees a palpable connection between Biden’s formal proposal and the task force.

“Joe Biden’s energy plan was sprung from the loins of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who headed up his task force,” Kish wrote in an email.

“But the Green New Deal has its roots in much, much more than energy, as her chief of staff let slip to the Washington Post, when he said, ‘It wasn’t originally a climate thing at all. … We really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.’

“It turns out that Joe’s plan is not so much about energy as it is about power … the power over people’s lives and the economy. And nothing would give the government more power than controlling everyone’s energy supply.”

Long-Term Advantages

Derek Walker, vice president for U.S. Climate at the Environmental Defense Action Fund, sees advantages to Biden’s plan, which he views as a “bargain” for the U.S. economy when compared to the impact of climate change.

“The Biden plan is a commonsense path to increase clean energy, create millions of good-paying, union jobs in manufacturing and infrastructure across the U.S. and reduce carbon pollution in line with what the science says is necessary,” Walker wrote in an email. “Compared to the rising cost of climate change impacts, these investments are a bargain for our economy and will make communities across the U.S. more resilient in the long term.”

The Environmental Defense Action Fund is the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group headquartered in New York.

Other green groups that have expressed support for the Biden plan include the Sierra Club, which has offices in Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C. Ariel Hayes, political director for the Sierra Club, released the following statement taking aim at Trump while crediting Biden for showing a “willingness” to listen to environmental activists.

“While Donald Trump spreads lies about windmills, tries to block legislative efforts to advance electric vehicles, and ignores the millions of Americans working in clean energy, Joe Biden is presenting a vision to invest in and grow an equitable clean energy economy,” Hayes said in her statement.

“The Sierra Club is encouraged by Biden’s proposal, which shows he is listening to the continued calls from activists and organizations across the country demanding a bold and ambitious plan that meets the size and scale of the crisis and completes the transition to a clean energy economy.”

‘Make Red China Great’

Kish, the policy analyst with the American Energy Alliance, expressed concern about the geopolitical implications of Biden’s energy plan, which he said could be described as a “Make Red China Great” energy plan, since China is a top producer of wind energy parts and solar energy panels.

“Instead of using America’s God-given energy that has made us the largest oil and gas producer in the world and energy independent for the first time in 70 years, Joe’s program would cost trillions of tax dollars and trillions more in increased energy prices for Americans to buy Chinese solar panels, windmill parts, and batteries,” Kish said.

“Along the way, his green energy donors who import Chinese products will get even richer by feasting on the shattered dreams of working Americans.”

Where China is concerned, the Biden plan contends that Trump “has held American workers from leading the world on clean energy, giving China and other countries a free pass to outcompete” the United States “in key technologies and the jobs that come with them.”

Biden’s stated commitment to rejoin the United Nations Paris Agreement aimed at curtailing greenhouse gas emissions would also work to China’s advantage and America’s disadvantage, Kish warns.

“His promise to sign the U.S. up to the UN’s Paris Deal, which leaves China to do whatever they want for 10 years as their coal consumption skyrockets to dizzying heights to run factories making solar panels Joe would subsidize, means further misery for working American men and women as they would pay more and more for energy while China gets a free pass, while they labor at jobs made scarce by higher energy costs,” Kish said.

“Selling out America to Red China and unaccountable UN bureaucrats is a slap in the face to Americans who believe their children deserve a better future.”