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Vol. I, No. 12

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. I, No. 12

Politics

What Have We Done?

In November the Clinton Administration announced its negotiating position for the upcoming Kyoto conference. It proposed stabilization of emissions at 1990 levels and meaningful participation by developing countries. Negotiators went to Kyoto assuring the American people that if they did not get what it wanted the U.S. delegation would walk away from the treaty. But upon the arrival of Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. promptly conceded its position.

Industrialized nations have agreed to a global warming protocol covering six "greenhouse gases" -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The U.S. target is 7 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, forcing U.S. emissions more than 40 percent below what they otherwise are projected to be in 2010. Japan’s target was set at 6 percent, and the European Union’s was set at 8 percent while Australia will be allowed to increase emissions by 8 percent above 1990 levels. The treaty does not commit any developing nations to emissions reductions.

There are several disturbing aspects of the treaty. First, the treaty amendment process violates U.S. sovereignty. Articles 19 and 20 of the Protocol states that future climate treaty commitments, approved by three-fourths of the parties, shall "enter into force for those Parties having accepted it on the ninetieth day after . . . [being accepted] by at least three fourths of the Parties to the Protocol." The failure to clarify that acceptance means the satisfaction of the constitutional requirements of that state would seem to bypass US Senate ratification requirements for treaty obligations. The text also stipulates that "No reservations may be made to this Protocol" [Art. 25], further isolating the climate treaty from democratic procedures.

Second, the treaty does not comply with Byrd-Hagel resolution. The draconian reduction targets agreed to will harm the American economy, and Third World participation is only garnered through the voluntary "Clean Development Mechanism," whereby financial aid and technology are transferred to developing countries – who will not be held to any energy restriction timetables or goals.

Finally, the treaty threatens world economic growth. Article 2 of the draft Protocol requires nations to promote sustainable development through:

     

  • "protection and enhancement of [carbon] sinks" [Art. 2.1.a.ii] This provision along with Art. 3.4 on "land-use change" provides for the expansion of land-use controls and forestry restrictions;

     

     

  • "sustainable forms of agriculture" [Art. 2.1.a.iii], implying greater restrictions on farming practices;

     

     

  • "Progressive reduction and phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions" [Art 2.1.a.v]. Under this provision, nations would have to raise taxes on currently untaxed activities as well as raise tariff barriers against certain imports. International trade flows are threatened by protectionism disguised as climate change prevention. Economists have no means of making the vague "market imperfection" concept precise – as worded, this is an open-ended invitation for mischief;

     

     

  • Nations are obligated to pursue regulation of aviation and marine bunker fuels through international agencies [Art 2.2], suggesting further restraints on international trade, transportation and tourism.

     

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President Clinton has said he will not submit the treaty for ratification to the Senate until key developing countries, such as China and India have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which probably won’t happen until 1999, according to the Washington Post (December 12, 1997).

Congressional Reactions

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Tenn) assailed the president for withholding the treaty from ratification "for cynical political reasons." Lott said, "The president directed his negotiators to sign this treaty. The president should have the strength of his convictions to submit this treaty as soon as possible for the scrutiny of the United States Senate." Sen. John H. Chafee (R-Rhode Island) said the "possibilities for Senate approval of a treaty appear slim at the moment" (Washington Post, December 12, 1997).

Others have been less charitable. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that agreement "is fundamentally flawed and dead on arrival." (Washington Times, December 12, 1997). House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) called the agreement "an outrage" and accused the administration of surrendering to pressure in Kyoto. "Early reports… indicate that on 10 critical issues such as cuts in emissions, future developing country commitments and new U.S. commitments, we sacrificed the future well-being of the country based on environmental correctness and inconclusive science," said Gingrich. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) called the agreement "a political, economic and national security fiasco" (New York Times, December 12, 1997).

Economics

The Washington Post Comes Clean

Commenting on the climate change agreement penned in Kyoto, the Washington Post (December 12, 1997) warns that the U.S. could see significant cost increases. The Clinton administration is counting on "modest tools, including fuel-efficient technology, such as hybrid gas and electric cars, and business incentives, such as tax breaks, to do the job [of cutting greenhouse gases]." But, argues the Post, significant cuts in emissions "may require a wide array of tools designed to reduce emissions caused by houses, factories, cars and consumption."

Robert Stavins, an economist of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, claims that the "lowest-cost method" of reducing carbon emissions would be a carbon tax. "It would probably take a tax of $150 per ton of carbon content on fossil fuels," Stavins said. "That would mean an increase in coal prices of about 350 percent, and about 100 percent on petroleum and natural gas." For consumers this translates into an average increase in gasoline and residential electricity prices of about 40 percent nationwide, or 3 percent of GDP. "That’s approximately the cost of complying with all other environmental regulations combined," says Stavins.

This contrasts significantly from statements by President Clinton who said, "I see already the papers are full of people saying, ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling, it’s a terrible thing.’" The treaty skeptics are not to be believed, according to the President, since the economy remains healthy despite past environmental initiatives. This statement, however, hides the fact that the economy, though growing at a normal rate, is on a lower trajectory than it otherwise would be. Environmental regulations probably do not affect long-term growth rates but they do irrevocably affect long-term wealth. The massive increase in environmental compliance costs that will result from the climate change agreement will have immediate affects on GDP growth and a permanent loss of wealth.

Big Business Looks Out for Themselves

In November, five leaders of major U.S. companies met, at the behest of Fortune magazine (December 8, 1997) to discuss the "corporate, national, and international implications of global warming." The result was somewhat discouraging. Typical of many corporate CEOs, they were not averse to regulation as long as it doesn’t hurt them relative to others. This attitude was expressed by Paul O’Neill of Alcoa: "The cost implications for Alcoa are enormous. But there’s comfort in the fact that we’re not greatly different from the others in the industry. To maintain a good position in the world, we need to stay ahead of the competition, which I am sure we can do. We’ll be all right."

Michael Bonsignore who runs Honeywell called for a compromise at least to establish objectives, "including a mechanism to transfer technology from the developed world to the developing world." Of course, taxpayers would pay for the transfers and Honeywell would reap all the benefits of corporate welfare.

Though the discussion as a whole was disappointing there were a couple of encouraging remarks. Alex Trotman, CEO of Ford Motor, seems to understand the reality of the situation. "One of the things we fear most is that we would have to address stringent targets with today’s technology. We’re a long-lead-time, capital-intensive industry. If we were to change over a number of engine lines, for example, [it would cost] billions of dollars using today’s technology. By the time we’re just about to start making those engines, we will have discovered, I guarantee you, some major leap that we will have negated by investing early."

Bill Ruckelshaus, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Nixon and Reagan, and current chairman of Browning-Ferris Industries said, "What I think the Vice President really needs to do . . . is don’t take science at face value, as though there is no debate. A scientist often will make political pronouncements in the name of science, when what he’s really talking about are policy choices that a cabdriver has the credentials to make as much as him."

New Carbon Emission Forecast

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revised its projections for United States carbon emissions, making it more difficult to reduce emissions than previously thought. Faster economic growth and lower energy prices have prompted the EIA to raise its projections by 5 percent, claiming that carbon emissions in the U.S. will increase by 34 percent by the year 2010 and by 45 percent by the year 2020 (Nature, November 20, 1997).

The Kyoto agreement to cut emission by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 will require the U.S. to cut emission by more than 40 percent below the levels that would have been otherwise achieved.

Science

Another Scientific Assessment

S. Fred Singer, President of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), has just released a book, Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate which evaluates the current state of knowledge surrounding the greenhouse debate.

Singer makes several important points: Regarding the purported peer review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Singer argues that "The IPCC chapters were never ‘peer-reviewed’ in the generally accepted sense . . ." Normal peer review is done by anonymous referees, but the IPCC reviewers were chosen by those who prepared the summaries. "There is no record available as to what comments from reviewers were ignored; nor is there a record of minority opinions," states Singer.

The claimed "consensus" of approximately 2,000 scientists is also dubious. This figure includes about 80 lead authors who actually wrote the chapters, several hundred scientists who allowed their work to be quoted as well as hundreds of reviewers who may or may not have agreed with the report or whether their comments were used or not.

Though the IPCC admitted that there were minority views that it was "not able to accommodate" it did not reveal "the size of the minority nor the seriousness of their disagreements." Several surveys have revealed that the consensus may be exaggerated.

Singer argues that the temperature record shows an unusual warming that began in the last century and continued until 1940. Many scientists believe that this is a recovery from the Little Ice Age. From 1940 to 1975 temperatures dropped substantially and then rose again through the 1980s. Studies which have carefully remove the urban heat island effect in the temperature record have confirmed that, contrary popular belief that the 1980s were the warmest decade on record, temperatures reached their peak in 1940.

One of the explanations given in the IPCC for the discrepancy between the predictions of Global Circulation Models (GCMs) and observations is the existence of manmade sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere which reflects incoming radiation. Recent studies, however, have found that the radiative forcing effects of aerosols are small.

Singer addresses several other problems with the global warming hypothesis, but the bottom line is that he sees little reason to go down the ruinous road that has been proposed in Kyoto. For information on how to obtain the book see SEPP’s webpage at www.his.com/~sepp/.

The Art of Myth-making

Recently Dr. Michael MacCracken of the Office of the United States Global Change Research Program made statements regarding climate change entitled "The Truth about Ten Leading Myths."

The question is whether Dr. MacCracken was telling the truth or making his own myths. Dr. Sallie Baliunas and Dr. Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Mount Wilson Observatory attempt to answer this question in a pamphlet for the George C. Marshall Institute.

Dr. MacCracken states, "In the United States, average temperatures have remained high even in the presence of the increasing cooling influence of sulfate aerosols . . ." Dr.’s Baliunas and Soon reply, "The temperature of the U.S., which has a relatively good surface record taken from many stations, has shown no significant warming trend over the last 100 years. The aerosol cooling effect referred to is extremely complex and difficult to quantify, but seems too small to reduce the projected warming trends."

In an endnote they quote a paper by James Hansen, et. al. which appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research 102, 6831-6854: "Our specific conclusion regarding anthropogenic aerosols is that their net ‘direct’ impact on global surface temperature . . . is probably small and even its sign is uncertain."

In another statement MacCraken claims, "Climate models do well at representing large-scale features . . ." The IPCC, however, states, ". . . [L]arge model-model differences in estimates of the spectrum of natural variability, both in terms of variance levels and large-scale spatial patterns, imply considerable uncertainties in our ability to specify the spectrum of natural variability and subsequently to detect any greenhouse warming signal – even if the space time evolution of such signal were perfectly known." The full critique can be downloaded from the George C. Marshall Insitute’s webpage at http://www.marshall.org/.

Crystal Ball Science

It takes a certain amount of bravado to predict the future, and among some climate scientists bravado is in plentiful supply. J.D. Mahlman, however, seems to have cornered the market. Not only does he endorse predictions made 100 years into the future but he assigns actual magnitudes as to the likelihood that these predictions will come true.

He claims, for example, that there is a greater than 9 out of 10 chance that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels will warm the planet from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C in the next century and that sea-levels will rise by 25-75 cm. He also claims that there is a greater than 2 out of 3 chance that there will be a marked decrease in soil moisture as a result of higher summer temperatures over northern midlatitude continents and that tropical storms, once formed, will become more intense.

Mahlman, however, disagrees with the projection that the number of tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons per year will increase. One wonders what crystal ball Mahlman might be looking into to get these precise probability estimates (Science, November 21, 1997).

Hurricane Activity

The December issue of the AMS Newsletter (www.ametsoc.org/AMS/newsltr/nl_12_97.html) of the American Meteorological Society reports that 1997 tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic hurricane basin was well below normal. Seven tropical storms formed and just three reached hurricane strength. The long term average are 10 and 6 respectively. There were no tropical storms in the month of August for the first time since 1961 and there was only one named system during the August-September period which hasn’t happened since 1929.

There were eight tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, nearly twice as many as the 36-year average of 4.5, tying the record for the fourth highest since 1961. However, none of these reached hurricane strength in the central Pacific making it the third consecutive year without a hurricane. This has not happened since 1963-65.

Colorado State researcher William Gray and his colleagues have predicted that 1998 hurricane activity will be slightly below average. He explains that, "Even though El Nino negatively influenced our 1997 hurricane forecast, it is our belief that this event will die before or shortly after the 1998 hurricane season officially begins." Residual effects of El Nino, argues Gray, will have a dampening effect on 1998 hurricane activity.

Etc.

Reporters, delegates, NGOs, and other climate conference participants experienced a preview of what life will be like on an energy starvation diet. In keeping with the fanaticism of the occasion, the thermostat of the Kyoto conference hall was turned WAY down.

Three penguin ice carvings placed outside by greens who planned for the ice birds to melt in the "warming" climate stood frozen until the sixth day of the conference. Mother Nature obviously didn’t cooperate for the television cameras. The politically-incorrect air in Kyoto was positively cold. Shivering conference-goers were walking around with coats, scarves, even gloves – indoors. Apparently nobody at the UN considered the human health effects of under-heated facilities. People of the world, this is your future if the global warming lobby gets its way.

Announcements

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced a book and a highlights video based on The Costs of Kyoto conference held in July 1997. Both the book and the video are available for $15 or buy both for $25. To order call CEI at (202)331-1010, or e-mail to info@cei.org.