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Sweeping, Suspect and Serious: Unpacking the President's Clean Power Plan

Government

The data's purposely misleading, the science is foggy, and the projected effects are infinitesimal. So what's the Clean Power Plan really about, anyway?

President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. (AP)

A photograph can prove virtually anything, right?

Meet Alison Jackson, a photographer who has “captured” some pretty amazing shots, including an intimate portrait of Prince William bathing with his wife Kate Middleton, and their young son George.

No really, take a look.

Pretty amazing, huh?

Except it’s not them. The shot is composed of uncanny lookalike actors whom Jackson has artfully assembled to look exactly like the young royals.

It’s all about knowing how to craft an image.

You can pull an “Alison Jackson” with data, too. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

This past Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan, which marks "the first time the U.S. has ever limited carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Obama's revised plan mandates a 32 percent cut in emissions nationwide by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.”

President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. (AP) President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. (AP) 

It relies on the following premises:

  1. Severe weather and natural disasters are on an unprecedented rise, destroying the environment while sickening and killing millions.
  2. Carbon pollution is the “biggest driver of climate change.”
  3. The United States must “lead by example” in the world by “taking the biggest step yet to combat climate change by finalizing America’s Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.”

We’ll take these one by one.

Severe Weather Is On the Rise

The plan outlines all kinds of claims, including how “2014 was the hottest year on record globally” and that “globally, the 10 warmest years on record all occurred since 1998.”

Directly under these statistics the White House has listed natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy as definitive proof that climate change is real (and man-made).

Homes severely damaged last October by Superstorm Sandy are seen along the beach Thursday, April 25, 2013 in Mantoloking, N.J. Six months after Sandy devastated the Jersey shore and New York City and pounded coastal areas of New England, the region is dealing with a slow recovery. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) Homes severely damaged last October by Superstorm Sandy are seen along the beach Thursday, April 25, 2013 in Mantoloking, N.J. Six months after Sandy devastated the Jersey shore and New York City and pounded coastal areas of New England, the region is dealing with a slow recovery. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) 

But hold on—let’s break down the facts behind this cause-effect-solution scenario:

Last year was indeed warm, but, scientists arrived at this conclusion using records that only date back to 1880, in a world that the scientific community largely claims is billions of years old. This means that the chunk of time used to come to this “conclusive” piece of evidence is ridiculously tiny.

Further, 2014 is hotter than the previous “hottest” year (2010) by just two-hundredths of a degree, and by their own calculations, the chances that 2014 was the hottest year since 1880 is about 38 percent.

Not unlike the models in an Alison Jackson photograph, it’s all about appearances: Sure, 2014 was [maybe] the hottest year on record. (Just make sure the American people don’t know that there’s only a 38 percent chance that it was, and only since 1880.)

And yet, that’s the very first piece of evidence that the White House puts forth in outlining why we need the plan.

The president continued [emphasis added]:

“We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it's too late."

Superstorm Sandy was hardly the worst storm on record. According to The Weather Channel, the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821 was “a storm much bigger than Sandy," and affected an "area that stretched from Norfolk, Virginia, all the way to Boston.”

President Obama uses “in decades” when referring to droughts, which means he doesn’t have to remind the American people of, for example, the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, or the five-year Midwest drought in the 1950s, or the five-year Northeast drought of the 1960s, or the “three-year drought of the late 1980s [that] covered 36 percent of the United States at its peak.”

California Drought Communities In Crisis In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. (AP/Rich Pedroncelli) 

To be certain, California is currently passing through one heck of a drought. Yet, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration data, “the 3-year [now 4-year] California drought may have been caused by natural variability and not necessarily human-caused climate change.” This is especially important given that by the NOAA’s own estimations, (emphasis mine) “winter precipitation in California has followed no particular trend since 1895…”

Similarly, wildfires—big ones—are hardly a new phenomenon. From California’s Cedar Fire in 2003 (the largest to date in California) to the multi-state Great Burn Fire of 1910 (widely regarded as the largest in United States History); our history is full of them.

Natural disasters are just that: natural. To sit here and act as though weather patterns and resulting disasters are somehow new is intellectually dishonest, and purposely misleading.

Carbon Pollution Is The Biggest Driver Of Climate Change

Despite the president’s claims, “even the U.N.’s alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has had to finally admit that global temperatures have been flat for at least 16 years despite rising atmospheric CO2 levels.”

Despite this, it’s those who question the idea of man-caused climate change whom the president labels as “flat earthers.” And if the Climategate email scandal(s) taught us anything, it’s that climate change and its causes are hardly consensus-backed, settled science. On the contrary, it’s incredibly embattled, and rife with dishonesty.

The United States Must Lead By Example

Here’s the issue. I don’t believe the president much cares about the environment. After all, this is a guy whose Earth Day (yes, Earth Day) trip this year emitted “roughly as five times as much carbon dioxide as does the average American in a full year.” This is also the same guy whose wife happened to be going to the same state as he was on the same day—yet they took separate, gas-guzzling flights. (And that’s not the only time.)

On top of this, this “aggressive” plan does little to actually reduce carbon output even if implemented with full cooperation. In fact, even if we stopped ALL carbon output, the difference would be almost unnoticeable not by 2030, but by the end of the century.

Coal Dark Future Smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station in Colstrip, Mont., July 1, 2013. (Photo: AP/Matthew Brown) 

Don’t get me wrong; the plan packs a punch (and I’m certainly not lobbying for more). It just so happens it’ll be our wallets—and not the so-called ailing climate—that’s on the receiving end.

Let’s recap. If the “data picture" behind this plan rivals an Alison Jackson creation; if the supposed impact on carbon output is minimal at best; if the man behind the plan doesn’t believe in this enough to change his OWN behavior; what is the point of such a sweeping move?

Power.

And not the kind powering my laptop or fueling my car.

This plan massively increases the federal government’s oversight. It takes the regulatory power of utilities away from the states, “giving the EPA broad power over all electric markets."

Each state (with a few exceptions) has been given a reduction goal, and while each state is technically “allowed” to come up with their own plan, the EPA must approve the plan. If no plan is submitted, then a federal cap and trade scenario is forced upon that state.

The president originally wanted to implement this expansion in federal power through Cap and Trade, which didn’t make it out of the Senate in 2009. “Gridlock in Congress,” the Washington Post notes, “has prevented the passage of legislation to curb climate change.”

So in other words, the president didn’t get what he wanted through Congress, so he’ll just circumvent them and use the unelected EPA.

Here's the deal: At the end of the day, I don’t question that there are people who genuinely worry about the environment, and feel a responsibility to do something to stop the danger they perceive.

But that’s not our president.

Barack Obama is not an ill-informed yet genuinely concerned Chicken Little. This movement is rife with cooked books and fear-mongering, ultimately meant to convert a populous into several hundred million Chicken Littles who will not only voluntarily allow a behemoth government to get bigger, but will cheer the expansion all the way.

Facts matter.

Shouldn’t you have the whole picture?

Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: afuturefree@aol.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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