The purpose of this proposal is to begin to develop rules for the proper use of climate and other models in federal rulemaking. The use of wildly speculative and extreme modeling is spreading throughout the government, with potentially destructive consequences. This destructive growth needs to be opposed, but effective opposition requires the articulation of specific constraints on the use of speculative models in rulemaking.
The problem: federal use of speculative modeling is out of control.
For example, the extreme and entirely speculative “social cost of carbon” (SCC) modeling has been used to justify dozens of onerous and costly regulations, from multiple agencies. Moreover, a federal court has ruled that SCC must also be included in all NEPA determinations that involve CO2 emissions.
Arbitrary and capricious climate modeling is also being promoted in the planning realm. In coastal areas it is being used to project absurdly high sea level rise. FEMA has proposed requiring so-called climate change planning in its disaster preparedness planning program.
Extreme climate modeling is a green cancer that is spreading throughout the federal government rulemaking system. This destructive growth needs to be opposed, but effective opposition requires the articulation of specific constraints on the use of speculative modeling in rule making.
Solution: Rules to constrain the improper use of modeling
This proposal begins to articulate a set of rules for the proper use of models. The present constraints on rulemaking do no adequately address the arbitrary and capricious use of speculative modeling.
The goal is to develop principles, as well as specific guidance, that can be used to constrain the speculative use of models in federal rulemaking. Potential applications of these rules include their incorporation into legislation, executive orders, OMB and OSTP rulemaking guidance and public comments on proposed rules. These rules might also support litigation.
The central concept here is uncertainty. For example, climate science is extremely uncertain. In fact there is a large academic literature on this uncertainty, but this literature has failed to constrain the excessive use of speculative climate modeling in federal rulemaking. What is required is to translate this uncertainty into specific rules, including both principles and specific language.
To begin with, below are some candidate rules to be explored. Further suggestions are welcome.
The basic principle is that modeling results are usually merely speculative hypotheses. They need to be presented and treated as such. Model results are not scientific facts about the real world.
Candidate rules for the use of models in rulemaking
A. Computer modeling of regulatory costs and benefits often involves significant uncertainty. This uncertainty should be presented in detail.
B. In-house models versus external models. For external models present known peer criticisms. For internally developed models seek and present peer critiques. Peers should be true critics, not pals.
C. If many models are available then consider significantly different models and present their different results. These differences are part of the uncertainty.
D. Do not use worst case scenarios. These are typically unrealistic and they bias the results.
E. No guessing. Do not claim to model what is clearly unknowable.
F. State significant assumptions and simplifications.
G. Identify known unknowns.
H. Do not claim unwarranted accuracy.
I. If some models or runs give “no action” results then report this finding.
Comments on these proposed rules and suggestions for others are encouraged.