Vol. II, No. 15

Vol. II, No. 15

July 22, 1998

Politics

Gore’s Global Warming Sideshow

On July 14 Vice President Al Gore took advantage of warm summer temperatures to browbeat Congress into accepting the Administration’s global warming agenda. The press conference emphasized that June’s 1998 temperatures were the hottest on record, making a six month string of record high temperatures. Though Gore blames this on manmade global warming, it’s more likely the result of El Niño’s disappearance. When El Niño disperses, enormous amounts of heat energy are released causing temperatures to rise precipitously.

Gore’s arguments were politically astute if not scientifically valid. Until this year it was customary for climate research organizations to report yearly temperature data, ranking each year according to its global average temperature. Gore, knowing that La Niña will cool things down in the second half of 1998, has resorted to reporting monthly temperatures.

Gore also referred to the flooding of the day before in Tennessee that was triggered by a thunderstorm dropping over four inches of rain in one hour. He said, "Incidentally, the kind of rainfall that triggered this tragedy is extremely unusual. And under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t expect to see a rainfall like that more than once in more than a 100 years. But we’re seeing these kinds of rainfalls occur more commonly today."

Gore bases this remark on a study (Nature, 337) by Tom Karl, senior climate researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study, however, only found one additional day every two years with rainfall over two inches. The study did not find an increase in rainfall of over three inches. And no studies have found an increase of the type of rainfall experienced in Tennessee. Tom Karl stood silently next to Al Gore as he made these scientifically indefensible remarks.

The true agenda of the press conference emerged when Gore began to chastise the U.S. Congress for failing to act. "[T]he evidence of global warming keeps piling up, month after month, week after week," Gore said. "How long is it going to take before these people in the Congress get the message? People are sweltering out there."

Gore accused Congress of trying to "impose a gag order on global warming," to prevent the Administration from talking about global warming. Actually, the appropriations rider would prevent the administration from spending taxpayer money to implement or making plans to implement the Kyoto Protocol in the absence of Senate ratification (FDCH Political Transcripts, July 14, 1998).

Congress Scrutinizes DOE Funding

The House Appropriations Committee is skeptical of the Administration’s spending plans for the Department of Energy’s global warming R&D programs. The Administrations requested increased funding for the Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI). In asking for $272.2 million for 1998 the Administration ignored the $44.304 million budgeted for solar and renewable energy research as well as the $8.2 million earmarked for the National Institute for Global and Environmental Change.

The committee also said that it was disturbed that DOE "has been publishing ‘reports’ and ‘papers’ and ‘assessments’ that are heavy on conclusions and recommendations and light on new data and sound logic." The Office of Energy Research requested $27 million for the CCTI. But the committee said, "Since much of the work done to date has been half-science and half-policy, the committee reduction reduces the requested amount by one-half, or $13.5 million. No funding has been provided for the Office of Energy Research to publish policy-related materials."

The committee also commented on President Clinton’s Million Solar Roof Initiative. The DOE announced in a press release an award of $5 million to selected businesses to install 1,000 solar systems. "Assuming the department’s estimates are accurate," said the committee, "at this rate each roof system will cost an average of $32,000, of which taxpayers will pay $5,000. To install one million roof systems by 2010 would require $32 billion, of which $5 billion would be taxpayer funded." The committee declined funding the Million Solar Roof Initiative (The Electricity Daily, July 16, 1998).

Economics

Kyoto’s Regulatory Burden II

In our last issue, we discussed a new study by Mark P. Mills of Mills-McCarthy Associates. It demonstrates that if the Environmental Protection Agency classifies carbon dioxide as a pollutant, over a million small businesses would become regulated stationary sources. This would include 28 percent of all schools and 25 percent of all health-care buildings.

Mills has now looked at the actual monetary costs of compliance. To comply, small

businesses would have to hire staff "who will install, identify, evaluate, and operate emissions monitoring equipment; some other people to undertake record-keeping and documentation control; yet another team to become expert in and monitor regulatory compliance; still others to consider and implement engineering solutions to the problem of complying with emissions reduction." Finally, legal staff will also be needed to "consider the entire trajectory of legal exposure and compliance under current rules as well as the interpretations of the regulations as they evolve through inevitable legal battles."

Mills estimates that these compliance activities will require one person-year of effort. He assumes for the sake of his calculations that a small firm can meet its compliance needs by contracting one-half of a person-year of effort. This, Mills conservatively estimates, will cost about $30,000. Since the threshold for coming under the regulatory purview of the EPA is $8,000 in fossil fuel purchases this means that the cost of fossil fuel for small businesses will jump from $8,000 per year to $38,000 per year.

For firms that purchase $100,000 of fossil fuel their cost will rise by 30 percent. Assuming that a firm would need to use one person-year to comply (a far more realistic assumption) would raise costs by 60 percent. Mills calculates that the total collective cost to American businesses could reach $100 billion. The article is at www.nhes.com/current_issue/fueling.html.

Joint Implementation to Offset CO2

A new report by the Government Accounting Office states that the 32 joint implementation (JI) projects that were approved under a U.S. pilot program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will offset 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 1.3 million tons of methane over the next 60 years if fully implemented. JI allows developed countries to earn emission credits by funding projects in developing countries that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The reliability of the estimates are not known, according to the GAO. "[S]tandard methods for estimating projects’ emissions reduction benefits specific to the U.S. initiative have not been developed," the report said.

Seventeen of the approved projects would reduce emissions directly by, for example, reducing methane leakage in the natural gas distribution system in Russia. The other 15 would reduce emissions by planting trees or protecting forests from logging in developing countries (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 21, 1998).

Science

Satellite Data Verified

In a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, Roger Pielke, along with four other scientists, uses barometer data from weather balloons to construct a temperature record. Temperatures can be determined by measuring barometric pressure (weight of the air above) as weather balloons ascend through the atmosphere. At the ground average barometric pressure is 29.92 inches and halfway through the atmosphere is 14.96 inches. When the air is colder the balloon doesn’t have to go as high to reach the midpoint. For every 195 feet farther that the balloon has to rise to reach the atmospheric halfway point, the mean temperature will go up 4.95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using global barometer data taken from weather balloons Pielke, et al, compiled a temperature record and found no global warming trend since 1979, in agreement with the satellite data. The barometer data goes back to 1973, however. The 1973-1996 data show a statistically significant warming though it is six times lower than predicted by the NASA climate model. An article summarizing the research can be found at www.nhes.com/currnet_issue/feature.html.

IPCC Findings Disputed

The actual impact of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere is 15 percent less than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters (July 15, 1998). The UN panel also underestimated the effects of other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

Jerry Mahlman, director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, commented that the study’s findings may reduce the range of uncertainty from 1.5 degrees and 4.5 degrees warming to 1.35 and 4.3 degrees. Gunnar Myhre of the University of Oslo, Norway, who participated in the study said that "Our results will only change the IPCC estimate of radiative forcing, not the IPCC estimate of temperature change" (AP Online, July 10, 1998).

Support Grows for Sun-Climate Link

A striking correlation has been found between changes in the sun’s brightness and changes in global temperatures. One of the problems with any explanation that attributes climate changes to changes in the sun’s energy output is that the output is not large enough by itself to account for change on earth. Several theories have been advanced to explain how changes in the sun can translate into large climate changes on earth.

The New Scientist (July 11, 1998) discusses the recent work of Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen of the Danish Meteorological Institute. Their theory says energetic particles from space known as cosmic rays assist in cloud formation. The more clouds, the cooler the earth becomes. Solar winds, according to Friis-Christensen and Lassen, block cosmic rays leading to less cloud cover and a warmer planet.

The article advances two other theories about the correlation between solar activity and climate change. Joaana Haigh, a physicist at Imperial College, London, believes that fluctuations of ultraviolet radiation are the culprit. UV radiation fluctuates three times as much as total radiation throughout a solar cycle. At the point during the solar cycle where UV radiation peaks there is a 2 percent jump in stratospheric ozone levels, raising stratospheric temperatures by 0.5 degrees C. This causes the stratosphere to sink, pushing the hot tropical weather toward the middle latitudes, causing global warming.

Niel Arnold and Terry Robinson, physicists at the University of Leicester, believe that the thermosphere, the earth’s outer atmosphere becomes heated by absorbing both ultraviolet and X-rays from the sun. Fluctuations in the sun’s output could double the temperature of the thermosphere. This warming effect can be carried to lower altitudes speeding up the jet stream by up to 20 percent, changing stratospheric temperatures by several degrees, say the researchers. So far these theories have only been tested using computer models. Empirical tests for some of these theories are being considered.

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  • David Letterman, of CBS’ Late Show, devoted a July 15 monologue to Vice President Al Gore’s recent musings over the causes of the warm weather. "You know," said Letterman, "Vice President Al Gore held a press conference yesterday, and I thought this was interesting, Al Gore said the reason – he’s blaming now, global warming – he says, ‘global warming is the reason we’re presently having a heat wave,’ he says. The heat wave right now; global warming. And I’m thinking, ‘Yeeeaaah it could be global warming or," Letterman shouts, "maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s the middle of July, it’s supposed to be hot." The crowd erupted with cheers and laughter.

     

     

  • The Green lobby has stepped up the political war raging around global warming. The National Resources Defense Council is running ads in Florida accusing Republican U.S. Representatives Bill Young and Dan Miller of "fiddling while Florida burns" by voting to prevent the Clinton Administration from illegally implementing the Kyoto Protocol (The Tampa Tribune, July 15, 1998).

     

     

  • The Executive Council of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics has given a name to the brand of science that seems to prevail in the environmental debate.

     

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In their Policy Options (May 1998) they write: "Post-normal science recognizes that scientific facts pertaining to the environment (including climate change) are often uncertain. These need to be supplemented by anecdotal evidence such as traditional and popular knowledge provided by an extended peer community of knowledgeable ‘non-experts.’ Moreover, the selection of policies is complicated by major conflicts among society's values ... Finally, post-normal science requires an ethic of responsibility from scientists i.e., scientists cannot afford to simply wait for the facts to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to recommend policy action. Rather, the weight of evidence (with a margin of error much larger than the one tolerated for scientific knowledge) should be sufficient ground to recommend policy action. If error there is, the precautionary principle requires scientists to err on the safe side, as would do an engineer building a bridge: safety first because the stakes are high."

     

  • In our last issue we failed to name the authors of a study we profiled ("Warmer Temperatures Means Less Variability") from Climate Research. The authors are Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger of the University of Virginia and Robert C. Balling and Russel S. Vose of Arizona State University.

     

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Announcements

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is sponsoring two more briefings for congressional staff and media. The first, an economics briefing on the "Costs and Consequences of Regulating Carbon Dioxide" will feature Mark P. Mills. It will take place on Friday, July 24, at room 311 Cannon House Office Building. The second, a science briefing on the link between tropical diseases and global warming, will feature Paul Reiter of the Center For Disease Control. It will take place on Tuesday, July 28, at room 2325 Rayburn House Office Building. Both Briefings will begin at 12:00 Noon and end at 1:30 p.m.

The Fourth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP-4) is being held in Buenos Aires from November 2-13, 1998. Organizations interested in applying for accreditation to the conference as an NGO should write a letter stating their interest to:

Horacio Peluffo

External Relations Officer

Conference and Information Support

United Nations - Climate Change Secretariat

Haus Carstanjen, Martin-Luther-King-Strasse, 8

D-53175 Bonn, Germany

Tel: (49-228) 815-1506

E-mail: hpeluffo@unfccc.de

FCCC Tel.: (49-228) 815-1000

Fax: (49-228) 815-1999

E-mail: secretariat@unfccc.de

Web address: http://www.unfccc.de