Vol. I, No. 8

Vol. I, No. 8

September 17, 1997

Politics

Gore Lore

Al Gore recently visited Glacier National Park in Montana to heighten fears about global warming. He warned that global warming is causing the glaciers to retreat, threatening Montana’s tourism industry. There’s just one problem, according to the National Climatic Data Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce, there has been no warming trend in Montana over the past century.

A 1989 article published in Science showed that more that 70 percent of mountain glaciers in the U.S., Soviet Union, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and Italy were retreating while 55 percent of the same glaciers were advancing. According to Keith Echelmeyer of the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute, "To make a case that glaciers are retreating, and that the problem is global warming, is very hard to do. The physics are very complex. There is much more involved than just the climate response" (The Electricity Daily, September 9, 1997).

IPCC, Developing Nations Must Cut Emissions

A draft of a final report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that if global climate change is to be averted, developing nations must reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Even a large reduction of CO2 emissions would not prevent global warming or the rising sea levels that would result. According to the report, "Even under the strictest emission cut proposal [a 2 percent yearly reduction of CO2 emissions beginning in the year 2000], however, the sea level is projected to rise by more than 40 centimeters by 2100 from the current level and the global-mean temperature is expected to increase by 1.5 C or more . . ." (Japan Economic Newswire, September 4, 1997).

The Financial Times of London (September 17, 1997) reported that the U.S. "issued a stern warning that developing countries must this year join the industrialised world in agreeing to reduce greenhouse gases associated with climate change." U.S. Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth is quoted as saying, "If you get brutally realistic about climate change, the countries that are richer are for the most part less vulnerable to climate change . . . . Many developing countries are fast realising it [greenhouse gas emissions reductions] is in their own self-interest."

China and Others Support Australia

The Australian federal government has reported that China, Italy and Spain have come out in support of Australia’s position of differentiated greenhouse gas emission targets. Acting Prime Minister Tim Fischer said, "I happily enough was able to persuade, in a few seconds flat, China to be very supportive of our position. [China’s chief economic minister] Zhu Rongji found himself much attracted to our realistic, achievable targets process. Interlocutors in Italy and Spain likewise – as long as they’re a safe distance from Brussels – were also very much in support of achievable, realistic, differentiated targets rather than the Brussels connotation" (AAP Newsfeed, September 17, 1997).

Other International News

Japan, according to the Ahashi News Service (September 5, 1997), will likely propose a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of approximately 5 percent lower than 1990 levels at the UN conference it is hosting in Kyoto. There will be at least three distinct negotiating positions for Kyoto: Japan’s; the European Union’s call for a 15 percent reduction from 1990 levels; and Australia’s support of differentiated targets based on each country’s marginal abatement costs. The U.S. has not yet made a formal proposal, but it will probably fall somewhere between Japan and the EU with a tradable emission scheme to implement the proposed reductions. With such wide disagreement the parties may have to postpone signing a binding treaty for the future.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Ralph Goodale, has said that Canada will not promise big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at the summit in Kyoto. Pointing to the world’s inability to reach the voluntary targets set in 1992, Goodale said, "That would be a very frustrating outcome for the world at large, to go through a process that doesn’t bring the results people want" (The Energy Daily, September 8, 1997).

Also in Canada, Environment Minister, Christine Stewart, is going to launch an education campaign to warn Canadians of the approaching danger of global warming. The campaign will be built upon six Environment Canada reports which purport to show the effects of climate change on each region of the country (Calgary Herald, September 6, 1997).

Australia’s Labor Party environment spokesman, Duncan Kerr, affirmed the government’s stance to not accept unfair emission reduction targets at the climate talks in Kyoto. While he did not endorse the government’s differentiation model, he did assert that Australia must seek accommodation for its dependence on mineral exports and fossil fuels. "We should work to ensure that any emerging global consensus is sensitive to the particular unique circumstances we possess," he said (AAP Newsfeed, September 5, 1997).

Economics

Texans Will Be Hard Hit by Climate Change Policies

A study by Glenn Schleede, sponsored by Consumer Alert, shows heavy economic losses for the people of Texas that may result from policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Coal, oil and natural gas supply 96.2 percent of the total energy needs of Texas. Furthermore, per capita energy use in Texas is 65.2 percent higher (in 1994) than the national average because of the state’s energy-intensive and agricultural activities. Some of the costs are the following:

     

  • Texans’ electric bills would increase 10.3 to 48.4 percent annually.

     

     

  • A $.50 per gallon tax on motor fuels would add $285 per year to each Texan’s tax payment to Washington.

     

     

  • A $100 per metric ton carbon tax would cost each household in Texas $491.

     

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Small Steps Now, Big Steps Later

Writing in Nature (September 4, 1997), Biologist Stephen Schneider and Economist Lawrence Goulder, argue that although governments can wait to implement significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they should begin to enact modest steps now to promote low cost carbon dioxide reductions. The authors propose a carbon tax as well as a subsidy to promote new energy technologies. "Introducing the carbon tax now could be a key factor in inducing the technological change that justifies deferring most abatement to the future." They also argue that a carbon tax is the least-cost way to bring about reductions in CO2. Moreover, a carbon tax can be recycled or rebated by lowering other taxes, such as the income tax. A research subsidy, on the other hand, should be pursued only if it can be shown to be beneficial independent of climate change benefits.

We Have Time!

In response to a question posed by Sierra Magazine (Sept./Oct. 1997), "Are you concerned about global warming?" Robert Mendelsohn of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, answered, "As long as the warming scenarios remain mild, as predicted by climate scientists, the magnitudes of the benefits to the U.S. economy would exceed the damages by $30 billion to $40 billion. Although we should monitor global warming carefully, it does not require rash and expensive mitigation strategies. We have time to further study its impacts and determine prudent responses."

Science

Reassessment of the IPCC

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has become the bible for those advocating immediate and heavy reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. An article which originally appeared in the New Zealand Science Review by Dr. Vincent Gray and republished by the Heartland Institute reassesses the claims made in the IPCC report.

One of the problems with the report is its projections of future CO2 emissions. The latest figures from the Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center at Oak Ridge show a 0.026 gigatons of carbon (GtC) per year increase in emissions from 1989 to 1994. Using the IPCC’s estimate of 6.25GtC for 1996 this would suggest that emissions will be about 6.35GtC in the year 2000, yet the IPCC predicts 7.0GtC for that year.

Although the IPCC report lists 69 sets of figures for monthly mean concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide from around the world it only uses data from the Mauna Loa and South Pole stations. It states, "Data from the Mauna Loa station are close to, but not the same as, the global mean." Why then, asks Gray, do they not use the global mean figures. Moreover, the IPCC predicts that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will rise by 1.8 parts per million (ppm) each year, supposedly based on figures from the 1980s. However, Gray shows that in reality the average annual increase during the 1980s was 1.1ppm per year. From 1990 to 1994 the increase was only 0.08ppm per year. Instead of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations by the middle of the next century, if the rate of the ‘80s persists, it will take 226 years for CO2 concentrations to double.

Gray also points out that the IPCC "isolates the only features of the global temperature record that suggest a possible agreement with greenhouse theory, but ignores those features that cast doubt on the theory." He lists several of those features. For example, from 1910 to 1945 atmospheric CO2 rose about 3 percent but the world experienced the highest temperature rise this century (about 0.65 degrees C). The years between 1945 to 1978 saw a temperature decrease of 0.2 degrees C while atmospheric CO2 rose by 9 percent.

The article makes it clear that the IPCC took every opportunity to bias the report in favor of a predetermined conclusion. It documents many instances of selective use of data and biased interpretation of the data. At one point Gray states: "According to the IPCC, any climate change, however short, that agrees with greenhouse theory is a long-term trend. Any climate change, however extensive, that does not agree with greenhouse theory is either ignored (like the global drop in temperature between 1940 and 1978); too short to be representative; or an anomaly that has to be explained."

A Whale of a Study

One of the predicted effects of global warming is retreating ice in the Antarctic. A new study in Science (September 4, 1997) by William de la Mare looks at sea-ice extent in the Antarctica. Estimates from satellite observations, beginning in 1970 have shown no clear trends in sea-ice extent in the Antarctica. However, de la Mare has examined whaling records which were kept for nearly every whale caught along the sea ice edge since 1931. The study shows that there was a decline in the area covered by sea ice of 25 percent from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s. Prior to this, records show that the sea ice was stable from 1931-1954.

An editorial about the article, appearing in the same issue by Eugene Murphy and John King, said, "There is now increasing evidence globally supporting the view that such rapid changes in the Earth’s climate systems can occur naturally, and indeed such changes have probably taken place in the past in the Southern Ocean. This evidence indicates that the variability inferred by de la Mare may be natural and not connected to any human-induced changes. But as yet we do not know."

The study excluded some of the available data which did not fit the selection criteria. "The data from land stations at South Georgia were excluded, as were catches after the 1956/57 season for species other than minke whales. This resulted in 42,258 records. No records satisfied the selection criteria from 1960 to 1971 inclusive, when sei whaling predominated."

It is also interesting to note that there was a fall in global temperature of 0.2 degrees C from 1945 to 1978, covering the time period of purported sea ice retreat.

Effects of Smoke Particles on Clouds and Climate

An article in Science shows that smoke aerosol particles generated from burning biomass can increase the cloud reflectance of sunlight. Using satellite data over the Amazon Basin and Cerrado, researchers Yoram J. Kaufman and Robert S. Fraser found that smoke increased cloud reflectance from 0.35 to 0.45, while reducing droplet size form 14 to 9 micrometers. Thus smoke particles appear to have a small cooling effect on the climate (Science, September 12, 1997).

Etc.

Waffled Speech

In a speech at American University, President Clinton stated that, "We could reduce them [greenhouse gas emissions] 20 percent tomorrow with technology that is already available at no cost if we just changed the way we do things." Later the White house had to backtrack, admitting that they could not find a single academic source to support the statement.

Elsewhere in the speech Clinton stated that the U.S. should ". . . continue our efforts to expand trade to the rest of the world." He pointed out that, "We have less than 5 percent of the world’s people in this country; we have about 20 percent of the world’s wealth. We cannot maintain our wealth unless we sell what we have to the other 95 percent of the people in the rest of the world." That’s odd, as the administration also likes to point out, the U.S. produces 20 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Could there be a correlation between emissions, productivity and wealth? If Clinton is serious about expanding America’s wealth and trade he might want to rethink drastic cuts in U.S. CO2 emissions.

Announcements

The following are town hall meetings being organized by Vice President Gore’s office and the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy to "examine the vulnerability of various regions of the US to climate variability and climate change and to aggregate information across regions to support a national scientific assessment."

     

  • Nov. 10-12, Washington, DC. National Workshop on Climate Change Impacts to release regional and national scale impacts of climate change.

     

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The White House will hold a conference on climate change, October 6, 1997. The Conference will be sent via satellite to various locations throughout the country. The conference will run all day, beginning in the morning with vice-president Gore (via satellite) introducing President Clinton, who will speak for 20 minutes. Through the course of the day different panels will cover the science of global warming, clean technology, and the Kyoto conference. In each of the satellite link-up sites, there will be local panels to talk about the same issues. Further information is available through e-mail at steve.pedery@sierraclub.org for more details.

The following are towns and locations of satellite link-up sites:

Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, The New England Center

Medford, MA: Tufts University

Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University

Woods Hole, MA: Woods Hole Research Inst.

New York City, NY: Columbia Univ., International Affairs Bldg.

New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers (tentative)

Albany, NY: Cornell Univ., Cooperative Extension Center

Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon or University of Pittsburgh or Community College

Williamsburg, VA: Campus of the College of William and Mary

Miami, FL: location to be announced

Huntsville, AL: University of Alabama, Huntsville

Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee

Atlanta, GA: Georgia Tech

Raleigh, NC: NC State University, McKimmon Center

Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, Harris School Public Policy Study

Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Pendleton Rm. UM Union, 530 S. State St.

Cleveland, OH: Great Lakes Science Center, 601 Erieside Ave.

Albuquerque, NM: NM University of New Mexico

College Station, TX: Texas A&M University

Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas

New Orleans, LA: Tulane University, University Center, Kendall-Cram Room Dr.

Kansas City, KS: location to be announced

Des Moines, IA: Des Moines Area Community College

Boulder, CO: University of Colorado

Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah (tentative)

San Francisco, CA: Golden Gate University

Los Angeles, CA: UCLA

Tucson, AZ: Pima Community College

Reno, NV: University of Nevada, Reno

Phoenix, AZ: location to be announced

Seattle, WA: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration 7600 Sandpoint Way, NE

Portland, OR: University of Portland