The Security and Exchange Commission has No Business Making Climate Change Policy

by | Nov 22, 2022 | , ,

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A new Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed rule is the cutting edge of the environment, social, governance (ESG) movement’s campaign to align private capital investment with an aggressive climate policy agenda — one that aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dramatically by 2030 and achieve a net zero emission economy by 2050.

The SEC approvingly cites several reports and numerous comments by prominent ESG advocates. However, the Commission seems unaware of the questionable premises on which much of that literature is based. The studies informing and underpinning the SEC’s proposal:

  • Favor climate risk assessments based on warm-biased models run with warm-biased emission scenarios.
  • Attribute to climate change damages that chiefly reflect societal factors such as increases in population and exposed wealth.
  • Overlook the increasing sustainability of our chiefly fossil-fueled civilization.
  • Assume away the power of adaptation to mitigate climate change damages.
  • Underestimate the resilience of financial markets to climate-related risks.
  • Exaggerate the political prospects of the net zero agenda.
  • Ignore the vast potential of climate policies to destroy jobs, growth, and, thus, shareholder value.
  • Overlook the economic, environmental and geopolitical risks of mandating a transition from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system.
  • Downplay the regulatory impediments to building a “clean energy economy.”
  • Ignore the systemic risk their own advocacy efforts could create — an ideologically charged, mandate- and subsidy-fueled “green” investment bubble.

We conclude therefore that the SEC’s proposal is “arbitrary and capricious” and, therefore, should not be implemented.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), an agency’s use of a model is “arbitrary” if the model “bears no rational relationship to the reality it purports to represent.” The climate impacts assessment literature on which ESG advocates and the SEC expressly or implicitly rely is based on:

  1. Hot models that overshoot observed warming by more than 100 percent;
  2. Inflated emission scenarios that implausibly assume a global “return to coal” absent new and additional climate policies; and
  3. Anemic adaptation assumptions that fly in the face of the more than 99 percent reduction in global weather-related mortality rates during the past century. 

Three strikes and you’re out!

Moreover, under the APA, an agency’s action is arbitrary and capricious if it “entirely ignores a significant aspect of the problem” addressed by that action. The SEC’s proposal ignores multiple important aspects — scientific, technical, legal, economic, geopolitical and regulatory — of the agenda it seeks to advance.

Again, let us count the ways. The SEC ignores:

  • The well-documented criticisms of the hot models, inflated emission scenarios, and lame adaptation assumptions underpinning the “climate crisis” narrative and net zero agendas.
  • The dramatic declines in weather-related mortality and the relative economic impact of weather-related damages — trends that undercut the climate crisis narrative.
  • The case for prioritizing economic growth as the foundation of successful long-term adaptation.
  • The economic risks of imposing “sustainability” criteria that would restrict fossil-intensive companies’ access to capital and credit.
  • The widespread misattribution to climate change of damage trends actually driven by socioeconomic factors.
  • The slow and additive nature of previous energy transitions, which renders highly dubious and misleading to investors claims that renewables can replace fossil fuels within three decades.
  • The enormous macroeconomic, household and energy market costs of a forced transition to a net zero economy on anything like the timetable envisioned by the Biden administration.
  • The abysmal benefit-cost ratio of even a revenue-neutral carbon tax — supposedly the most efficient GHG reduction policy.
  • The gargantuan costs of backstopping wind and solar power with battery storage rather than fossil fuels (estimated at $1.5 trillion for the State of New York alone).
  • The immense cost, difficulty and geopolitical risks of replacing today’s largely fuel-based energy system with a material-based system dependent on mining and processing infrastructure that would take decades to build, and which would favor China vis-à-vis the United States.
  • The sclerotic, litigation-prone environmental review and permitting process, which makes it difficult to build practically anything quickly in the U.S. today, including green energy infrastructure.

In short, the SEC ignores numerous important factors that would make the supposed transition from fossil fuels to renewables more likely to be a shift from abundant and affordable fossil fuels to scarce and unaffordable material—based energy sources. The recent spikes in energy and mineral prices are certainly consistent with that concern.

In his remarks for the September 2009 Solyndra groundbreaking ceremony, then-Vice President Biden boasted that the Department of Energy’s $535 million loan guarantee would create “1,000 permanent new jobs,” “jobs of the future,” and “jobs that cannot be exported.” Energy Secretary Steven Chu agreed: “And here’s the best part, none of these jobs can be outsourced.”

Almost two years later to the day, all the Solyndra jobs disappeared, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection. The Solyndra loan guarantee was part of a $30 billion program administered by one agency. The administration and its political allies seek to channel capital flows totaling trillions of dollars into what they claim are “industries of the future.”

To sum up, the scientific, economic and political assumptions on which net zero investing is based are detached from reality. Somebody should warn the public of the risks to investors. If not the Commission, then who? 

To discuss this issue on The Other Side of The Story at America Out Loud Talk Radio on Saturday and Sunday November 26/27 at both 11 am and 8 pm EDT will be Marlo Lewis of the American Enterprise Institute.

Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris

Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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