In this guest post by Shawn Regan, a research fellow and the director of publications at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, Montana, looks at the fact that to acquire rights to natural resources in the West, you must use the resource. This is an obvious barrier to many would-be environmentalist bidders.
Wildfire is causing needless loss of life and resources. Last year, the Camp Fire that burned in northern California took 85 lives, destroyed nearly 19,000 structures, and burned 153,000 acres. Efforts to prevent a similar tragedy this year led to intentional blackouts that left millions without electricity. Yet the fires rage again, consuming 75,000 acres this year. Wildfires across the west burn on average 7 million acres annually.
Fire-fighting now takes up more than half of the Forest Service’s annual budget, leaving few dollars for restoring forests and preventing future fires. A century of fire suppression and decades of reduced commercial harvest have increased forest density and left an accumulation of fuels on the forest floor. Add that to a drier climate and residential development expanding on the forest edge, and the mix is a design for disaster.
If you believe the rhetoric of mayors and city council members in coastal cities, their areas will be under water in only a few decades. But when they sell their own bonds, these dire predictions are nowhere to be found in required disclosure statements.
Buyers of coastal city bonds appear not to believe the predictions either. There is no statistically significant difference in long term If you believe the rhetoric of mayors and city council members in coastal cities, their areas will be under water in only a few decades. But when they sell their own bonds, these dire predictions are nowhere to be found in required disclosure statements.
Buyers of coastal city bonds appear not to believe the predictions either. There is no statistically significant difference in long term bond rates between coastal cities and cities in the interior of the country.
A Government Accountability Institute report says:
For example, the City of Oakland, the City of San Francisco, and San Mateo County, in filing individual lawsuits against ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other major oil companies, made specified claims of damages to their cities due to the impacts of climate change… [Oakland] claimed the threats were so real that “by 2050, a ‘100-year flood’ in the Oakland vicinity is expected to occur… once every 2.3 years … and by 2100 … once per week.”
However, language used to disclose risks to investors in a 2017 bonds document states,
“The City is unable to predict when seismic events, fires or other natural events, such as sea rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding from a major storm, could occur, when they may occur, and, if any such events occur, whether they will have a material adverse effect on the business operations or financial condition of the City or the local economy.”
As I previously discussed here, the Antiquities Act is probably unconstitutional, and by modifying the size of two monuments, Grand Staircase/Escalante and Bears Ears, President Trump has reined in its worst excesses. But the law remains. While no president has ever undone a national monument designation entirely, as John Yoo and Todd Gaziano explain in a study published by the American Enterprise Institute, previous presidents have downsized national monuments on 18 occasions and modified the management of a number of other monuments. No presidential action to downsize or change the management of a monument has ever been successfully challenged in the courts, however, so it is likely Trump’s actions are legal and will withstand judicial scrutiny. Trump has yet to act on Zinke’s other recommended monument changes and it is unclear if he will.
Although I think Trump’s actions are justified and, indeed, that he should reverse and rescind more monument designations, in truth no president’s actions alone can fix the problems inherent to the dictatorial, entirely undemocratic, and arguably unconstitutional Antiquities Act. As Trump and other presidents before him have shown, what one president establishes as a monument, later presidents can modify.
Indeed, Trump himself yielded to the siren song luring Presidents to declare national monuments. Less than a year after he dramatically reduced the size of two national monuments, he designated 525 acres in Kentucky, once the site of a civil war camp and depot, the Camp Nelson National Monument.
Since we are failing to curb global carbon emissions at all, we are left with using our huge brains, which got us into this problem in the first place, to try to wangle our way out of it.
Whether that’s solar engineering [sending back a small fraction of sunlight] or cloud seeding to reduce incident solar radiation, or reforestation, or carbon capture and sequestration from burning fossil fuels, or ocean iron fertilization or putting huge mirrors in space, humans think we can engineer our way around any issue. The best most direct strategy, that has the least bad side-effects, is to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere and make something useful out of it – like fuel – that would further lessen the burden on the environment.
One company is already doing that.
Based in Canada, Carbon Engineering’s Direct Air Capture system directly removes CO2 from the atmosphere, purifies it, and produces a pipeline-ready compressed CO2 liquid using only energy and water. This CO2 can be combined with non-fossil fuel-generated hydrogen, to produce ultra-low carbon intensity hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and Jet Fuel-A.
The 1906 Antiquities Act was one of the most ill-considered laws ever written, giving presidents dictatorial power to declare large swaths of the public’s land off limits to a variety of uses normally allowed on federal lands. Under President Barack Obama, this power turned into a monument acquisition spree.
The Antiquities Act grants the president discretionary power “to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest … to be national monuments.” Congress originally passed the law as an emergency measure to prevent the looting of antiquities on Indian lands. It was intended, as the debate surrounding it shows, only to be used when public lands or artifacts faced immediate threats of destruction and the normal pace of congressional action might take too long to prevent harm.