Vol. II, No. 17

Vol. II, No. 17

August 19, 1998

Politics

EPA’s Propaganda Machine Rolls On

The EPA is "spending untold millions on propaganda about ‘global warming,’" according to Investor’s Business Daily (August 4, 1998). "The EPA calls this educational outreach," says IBD, "It smells like lobbying."

Recently Congress voted to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to spend money on educational outreach and informational seminars on global warming. Critics of the legislation worry that it will allow the EPA to continue its advocacy of the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. Senate has not ratified.

IBD notes that there are five federal agencies – the EPA, the Agriculture Department, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Geological Survey – sponsoring 20 pro-Kyoto workshops nationwide. One of the attendees of an EPA workshop, who questioned the science behind global warming, was told to "sit quietly" or leave.

EPA’s web site asks state governments to "encourage and support the federal government to take action at the national level." Brochures distributed at an EPA-sponsored conference in Baltimore demanded that the U.S. "now begin designing policies and programs" to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. In Atlanta, EPA literature, warned of heat waves, storms, droughts, migration and crowding, disease carrying animals and infective parasites. "[T]hese visions of doom," says IBD, "are all designed to scare people into pressing Congress to take away their freedom with more rules and laws."

$1.5 Million to Create Scientist-Activists

A Green group is planning to spend $1.5 million to help "some of the nation’s leading environmental scientists" become "professional communicators." The program, funded by the Ecological Society of America and operated by Oregon State University, also hopes to "improve the flow of accurate, credible scientific information to policy makers and the general public on critical issues of the environment."

Though there is nothing wrong with improving scientists’ communication skills, it’s abundantly clear that this program is meant to promote the extremist ideological views of Green activists. Project director Judith Vergun of OSU says that "[t]he current rate of ecological change is unprecedented in the history of the Earth."

The press release announcing the program goes on to state: "For instance, on the issue of global warming, many people may be confused by complicated studies and pseudo-scientific critics who argue the phenomenon is an unproven theory of no particular importance."

According to the press release, "[T]he vast majority of credible scientists," believe that "global warming is now a reality, that the time for action is here and that the looming crisis is very real, with implications for everything from severe weather events, to the spread of disease, disruptions of agriculture and forestry, rising sea levels and habitat loss." It continues: "the gap between common perceptions and scientific reality has to be bridged" (OSU News Service, August 4, 1998).

Solar Energy Off the Dole?

Congress appears ready to cut funding for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) through the Department of Energy. SEIA received $1 million (about 60 percent of its budget) in 1997. Expected cutbacks have forced Scott Sklar, SEIA’s president, to lay off 10 of his 21 staff members (National Journal, August 15, 1998).

Solar energy has been subsidized for decades, but the millions of dollars sunk into this alternative fuel have not made it self sufficient. Congress’ action may be the first step to weaning solar power off of welfare.

Canada’s "clean-technology" industry is also being hit with the budget-cutting axe. The Canadian Environmental Industry Strategy, a three-year, $14.7 million program has had its funding zeroed out. Most of the money was used to help Canadian industries sell their technology overseas (The Gazette (Montreal), August 17, 1998).

Kyoto in the Pulpit

Some church groups are beginning to shift their focus from saving souls to saving the planet. The debate over global warming, according to The New York Times (August 15, 1998), "is spilling over into pulpits and pews as religious organizations speak out about morality, faith, and the Kyoto Protocol."

The National Council of Churches sent a letter to convince the U.S. Senate to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without requiring emissions reductions from the developing nations. The council’s general secretary, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell says that the group wants global warming to be "a litmus test for the faith community."

The National Religious Partnership for the Environment is embarking on a major lobbying effort to convince Senators from nine states, from Appalachia to Michigan, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) have been targeted.

Some larger religious organizations, such as the United States Catholic Conference and the National Association of Evangelicals, are planning to consider their own positions on the issue. The Southern Baptist Convention "has not taken a position, and in view of the unsettled science, it seems unlikely that we will take such a position," according to spokesman William Merrell.

Economics

Electricity Consumption is the Key to Economic Growth

Electricity has become increasingly important to the U.S. economy over the last twenty years, according to technology forecaster and consultant Mark P. Mills, president of Mills-McCarthy & Associates, Inc. Since 56 percent of the nation’s supply of electricity is provided by burning coal, reductions in coal use under the Kyoto Protocol could have serious economic consequences, especially since the service sector has grown relative to other economic sectors.

The U.S. economy has become significantly more efficient since 1977, says Mills. In that year, "one dollar spent on energy use supported $9.50 of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today one dollar spent on energy yields $14 of GDP." Most of this improvement has occurred in the service and manufacturing sectors, which make up 85 percent of GDP. This was accomplished through converting energy use from combustible fuels to electricity use. "All of the net growth in new energy supply for two decades has come from electricity," according to Mills.

Energy demand in services has increased by 30 percent, but has increased electricity use by 71 percent. Manufacturing has only increased energy use by 8 percent while increasing electricity use by 25 percent.

While the amount of combustible energy required to support a single dollar of GDP has dropped precipitously, the amount of electricity needed to support a dollar of GDP has remained constant. This is true despite large gains in the efficiency of many electricity applications. Mills warns that "policies cannot restrict the supply of electricity, or increase its cost, without endangering the economy." Mills’ article, which appeared in the World Climate Report (August 10, 1998), is available at www.nhes.com.

Current Federal Funding Has Little Effect on Emissions

The U.S. federal government spends about $5 billion per year on global warming related programs, but makes no appreciable reductions in short-term emissions with this money. According to a new Congressional Budget Office report, these funds are spent either directly on global warming programs or indirectly on programs that effect fossil fuel use. "Since most of the funds are spent to learn more about the phenomenon and to improve energy efficiency in the future, the short-term effect [on emissions of greenhouse gases] is minimal," the report said (BNA Daily Environment Report, August 17, 1998).

Science

Satellite Data Still Robust Despite Challenge

A paper claiming to have detected an error in the satellite temperature data has caused quite an uproar. The press has jumped all over the story proclaiming that the main pillar of the skeptics argument has now fallen and it is time to move on with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. AAP Newsfeed’s headline proclaimed, "New Evidence to Silence Global Warming Doubters," and the Washington Post headline blared, "Global Warming Assertions Enhanced; Study Cites Flaw in Data Collection That Undermines Position of Skeptics."

The authors of the paper, physicists Frank Wentz and Matthias Schabel at the California-based Remote Sensing Systems, claim to have discovered that the satellite global temperature data is distorted by a loss of altitude known as orbital decay (Nature, August 13, 1998). This changes one of the angles from which the satellites measure the microwaves used to determine the Earth’s temperature. According to Wentz and Schabel, taking this error into account changes the temperature trend from 1979 to 1995 from a cooling of 0.05 degrees C to a warming of 0.07 degrees C.

Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and Dr. Roy Spencer of NASA, who compile and publish the satellite data, agree that orbital decay must be accounted for. When they take the effect into account, however, they still find a cooling of 0.01 degrees C. The difference between the two findings gets to the crux of the matter. Apparently, Mr. Wentz and Mr. Schabel used data that had already taken most of the effect into account.

Spencer and Christy, in order to insure accuracy, check the measurements of satellites against one another. According to The Economist (August 15, 1997), "calibrating one satellite against another allows all sort of errors to be compensated for, whether they are known or not." Wentz and Schabel’s conclusions result from double-correcting the same effect.

El Niño’s Role in Texas Heat Wave Confirmed

Despite Vice President Al Gore’s claims that the heat wave in the southern United States is proof of global warming, level headed scientists are blaming the phenomenon on El Niño. A new study published by the National Weather Service (NWS) says that even though it has weakened considerably El Niño is still to blame for the high temperatures in the Southwest. It will probably persist for another month.

"We’re expecting this warm water to peter out in the next 3 to 6 weeks," says Anthony Barnston, a forecaster with the NWS. El Niño will be replaced by La Niña which could mean even

more dryness for the southern U.S. "If we don’t get more normal precipitation in the late summer and early fall, we’re looking at a very large [drought]," says Barnston (Science, July 31, 1998). The study is available at nic.fb4.noaa. gov/index.html.

Hurricanes in Decline

Several studies have discredited the claim that a warmer planet will lead to an increase in hurricane activity. Robert Balling, a climatologist at Arizona State University, found in a study published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute that Atlantic hurricane activity has declined. Other studies have found similar results.

A new study by Mark C. Bove, David F. Zierden and J. O’Brien at Florida State’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, looked at hurricane records of the Gulf of Mexico extending back to 1896, and found that the number of hurricanes have declined in recent years. The data show a peak in the 1916-1925 period of 14 storms, 6 of which were severe. The 1986-1995 experienced only 8 storms, 1 of which was severe, equaling the study period’s previous low set in 1896-1905.

It’s not clear why the decline is happening, says Mark Bove. One explanation is that there appears to be a 30-year cycle of hurricane activity that has been detected by William Gray, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University. But the cause of the 30-year cycle is also unclear (Associated Press, July 22, 1998).

More Evidence of Rapid Natural Warming

While a lot of ink is being spilt on the possibility of manmade global warming, researchers are finding more and more evidence that the earth has undergone profound, natural climate variations over short periods of time. The latest research, published in Science (August 14, 1998), has found that there was a significant warming about 2,000 years ago in equatorial Africa. The evidence shows that lake water during this period warmed by about 8 degrees F. Other research has also found a similar warming in Alaska and Lapland during the same era, but the new findings are "important because it was conducted around the equator, a region that plays a crucial role in determining the climate system throughout the planet."

"Our findings show that the climate can warm up suddenly without any connection to human activity," says lead researcher Aldo Shemesh of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Though the factors that triggered the warming are unknown, Shemesh believes that they "could allow scientists to distinguish between natural climate variability and warming due to manmade factors" (Greenwire, August 17, 1998).

Etc.

     

  • The Clinton Administration’s attempt to cut bureaucracy has been a failure. In 1993 President Clinton cut the number federal advisory committees by a third. However, the number of people working for those committees has increased 30 percent and total spending has risen by $34 million (Government Executive, August 1998).
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