Senator Inhofe likes to think he's a big obstacle to President Obama's ambition to secure a meaningful deal at the Copenhagen talks beginning Dec 7.
He is influential in certain circles and therefore an obstacle to the world's attempt to secure climate justice. This blog is about undermining his argument - also used by other American denialists.
In an interview last Sunday on the BBC's World at One radio news programme, he said that no matter what Obama says at the negotiations, he will not get his bill passed through the Senate.
In defence of this claim he was using the statistic that it will cost $330 billion a year to bring climate change down to Obama's climate bill's aim of 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
He justified this with references to figures drawn from old statistics - produced by Al Gore up to 10 years ago.
It is therefore imperative that everybody who cares about climate change targets Senator Inhofe's arguments, the basis for his arguments, and his absurd claims.
Somebody also needs to take him and any other sceptics to Bangladesh to see the effects of climate change now upon individuals and their livelihoods so that he understands in human terms what it means.
My previous tangle with Senator Inhofe
Inhofe was one of those duped by a hoax perpetrated by George Monbiot and myself a couple of years ago (George must take most of the credit for this).
Although his department tried to deny it, they posted this hoax briefly upon their website as if it was true.
Meeting Inhofe's claims
The claim that it will cost $330 billion a year needs to be challenged. Here are a few ideas.
One way of doing this is to use the table or costs reproduced by Nicholas Stern, updated by McKinsey in January 2009, which shows that many of the measures required to fight climate change come at zero or less than zero cost, when their impact is measured over a short time to show their paybacks.
Their cost abatement curve provides a quantitative basis for discussions about what action will be most effective in delivering emissions reductions and what they might cost.
The report says that "there is potential by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35% compared with 1990 levels, or by 70% compared with the level we would see if the world collectively made little attempt to curb current and future emissions. This will be sufficient to have a good chance of holding global warming below the 2°C threshold according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change".
The report identifies areas in which energy efficiency, low carbon energy supply and terrestrial carbon in forestry and agriculture can deliver efficient, low-cost savings. The low hanging fruit is available in the graph on the left hand side below the horizontal line.
Each bar represents the potential of that opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a specific year compared to the business as usual development. The potential of each opportunity assumes an aggressive global action starting in 2010 to capture that specific opportunity. The height of each bar represents the average cost of avoiding one tonne of CO2 equivalent by 2030 through that opportunity. The cost is a weighted average across sub opportunities, regions and years. All costs are in 2005 real euros. The graph is ordered left to right from the lowest cost abatement opportunities to the highest cost. The uncertainty can be significant for individual opportunities for both volume and cost estimates, in particular for the forestry and agriculture sectors, and for emerging technologies," the McKinsey report says.
It says that the total cost of doing this for the whole world will be less than 1% of forecasted global GDP in 2030.
I haven't seen the basis of Inhofe's figures, but you can bet that they do not include the savings that energy efficiency can bring.
Why should illogical wasteful American behaviour be defended?
To use one example - whereas everybody else in the world who can, dries their washing in the sun and wind on clothes lines, Americans use tumble dryers. Apparently the reason for this is that it is considered shameful not to use a tumble dryer. [See this New Scientist article]
It brings down property prices, because it seems only the poor hang their clothes out to dry and no one wants to look poor in America.
How ludicrous. Is the Senate really to defend this kind of behaviour against the reality of millions being forced to leave their homes because of rising sea levels?
"If Americans would hang their laundry out to dry - and committed 16 other acts of environmental kindness - they could slash US carbon dioxide emissions by 7.4 per cent by 2019" [ See this New Scientist article]. At little or no cost. In fact they would save money.
McKinsey also found in a July 2008 report that it would cost the world $170 billion to halve the projected global energy demand.
They said, "The average internal rate of return (IRR) of these investments would be 17 percent, and each of them would generate an IRR of at least 10 percent." (assuming that oil costs $50 a barrel — far less than today’s prices, which would generate higher returns)
"The total annual energy savings would come to roughly $900 billion by 2020."
At the same time, making these investments would avoid having to invest in generating capacity and other forms of energy infrastructure that would otherwise be necessary to keep pace with accelerating demand.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that, on average, $1 spent on more efficient electrical equipment, appliances, and buildings avoids more than $2 of investment in electricity supply (World Energy Outlook 2006, International Energy Agency, 2006).
"All of the investments, representing just 0.4 percent of current global GDP a year, involve existing technologies—and none require compromising the consumer’s comfort or convenience," McKinsey said.
How much of this would the US have to pay? Just $38bn a year.
Nearly 10% of Inhofe's claim.
Inhofe and his friends want to protect industry from saving money - because it's too much like hard work to change.
Because as the report goes on to say:
"Why does so much of the potential energy productivity opportunity in the industrial and commercial sectors remain untapped? One important reason is that many companies around the globe continue to be government owned (for instance, those that control much of China’s industrial capacity) or enjoy high levels of regulatory protection that shields them from competition (such as steel, until recently, in the United States and many other countries). Improving performance is hard work for managers. Without market pressure to do so, many companies just will not take advantage of all the available opportunities to boost their energy productivity."
This exposes that inhofe and his friends are not only addicted to current goverment subsidies and handouts, but actively oppose market solutions to delivering cost-efficiencies.
If concern for the victims of climate change won't reach them, let's get them on their own terms, guys.