Vol. II, No. 2

Vol. II, No. 2

January 20, 1998

Politics

No Stealth Implementation

Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., directed his Government Reform and Oversight regulatory subcommittee to send letters to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Council of Economic Advisors warning them not to try and implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate confirmation.

A subcommittee aide said, "We believe they have no authority to regulate when they can’t get a treaty through the Senate." Any signs of "backdoor" implementation of the treaty could trigger oversight hearings, warns the aide (Greenwire, January 14, 1998).

Byrd-Hagel Split

Greenwire (January 14, 1998) reported that though Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), co-authors of the Senate resolution which required the Kyoto Protocol to include developing nations and to avoid economic harm, agree that the protocol as it now stands does not meet the conditions of the resolution. However, they do not agree about the validity of the science behind the climate change hypothesis.

Byrd believes that the Kyoto Protocol is a good start. Hagel on the other hand is currently crafting an opposition strategy. A staffer with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says that, "Hagel is going to try his damnedest to hold Byrd . . . but I don’t think Byrd is going to throw his support behind it, this time."

Economics

GM Sells Out?

General Motors Corporation has announced that it will collaborate with The World Resources Institute "to identify measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while protecting the economy."

"Global climate policies that are both environmentally compatible and economically sound is our goal, and this initiative will explore these opportunities. We recognize WRI as an influential thought leader on environmental issues worldwide working toward balanced solutions," said Dennis Minano, GM Vice-President of Public Policy and Chief Environmental Officer. The press release can be read at www.junkscience.com/news/gmwri.htm.

Critics of the move claim that GM’s goal should be to produce the best automobiles (i.e., that satisfy consumer wants) it can as efficiently (i.e., lowest cost) as it can not lending legitimacy to half-baked environmental scares. Industry should recognize that "collaborating" with environmental groups is a no win situation. Industry appears to be admitting to environmental crimes while giving environmental organizations greater credibility and emboldens their attack on industry.

Kyoto Will Hurt Corn Growers

The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) warns that the Kyoto Protocol will raise production costs and lower the incomes of America’s corn growers. A study by Sparks Cos. found that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would raise gasoline costs will rise by 33 percent, natural gas by 130 percent and coal by 500 percent, leading to an 8.5 percent increase in the cost of corn production and a 46 percent decrease in net farm income.

"Corn is one of the most costly crops to produce when you take into consideration the costs of inputs such as fertilizer, fuel and irrigation," says ACGA president Gary Goldberg. "With these kinds of added expenses being placed upon the farmer, it is likely that corn growers will find other, less expensive crops to grow, such as soybeans, wheat or grain sorghum."

Goldberg also points out that the Kyoto protocol could spell the end of the domestic corn-for-ethanol market. "Even though ethanol is a superior fuel to burn to help reduce global warming, U.S. corn-based ethanol will not be part of the mix," he said. This is because ethanol production will likely shift to developing countries like Brazil which produces ethanol from sugar cane (Tulsa World, December 7, 1997).

Science

Was 1997 the Hottest Year to Date?

In December 1997, just in time to influence the Kyoto treaty negotiations, the British Meteorological Office predicted that 1997 would be the warmest year on record. On January 8, 1998 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that, according to the ground-based temperature record, 1997 did reach record high global temperatures.

Temperatures taken from U.S. Weather satellites, however, indicate that 1997 was the 7th coolest year since satellite measurements began in 1979.

Though no further evidence regarding man’s influence on the climate has come to light some scientists are proclaiming that 1997’s global temperature shows once and for all that man is warming the planet. "For the first time, I feel confident in saying there’s a human component," said Elbert W. Friday, Jr., a meteorologist with the NOAA (Washington Post, January 9, 1998). It is very difficult, however, to pin 1997’s warmer temperatures on manmade greenhouse gases.

     

  • El Niño is responsible for most of the warming experienced in 1997. Sea surface temperatures were very high this year due to El Niño conditions, but land air temperatures were well below record highs. This year’s El Niño began in the spring of 1997 and will run its course by spring 1998. Normally El Niño begins around Christmas and lasts two years. Forecasters are predicting that La Niña, which will cool temperatures significantly, will predominate in 1998 (www.elnino.noaa.gov).

     

     

  • The urban heat-island effect strongly influences the surface-based global temperature record. In a paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 1989, Thomas R. Karl, senior scientist at the National Climate Data Center, corrected the U.S. surface temperatures for the urban heat-island effect and found that there has been a downward temperature trend since 1940. This suggests a strong warming bias in the surface-based temperature record.

     

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Notably, climate change proponents have stopped short of adding the final nail. Though Tom Karl said, "We believe this tendency for increased global temperature is related to human activity," he recognizes the influence of El Niño. "Whether it would have been the warmest year this century is a matter of debate, but it certainly would have been in the top 10," said Karl.

James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard

Institute for Space Studies said that the slight increase in global temperature is "not really significant" in determining the human impact on global climate (New York Times, January 9, 1998).

Warming May Be Natural

The fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) featured new papers which demonstrate the extent of uncertainty in climate science. Joyce Penner, a climate modeler at the University of Michigan and a noted contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, presented her most recent findings. She has found that carbon and sulfur emissions can cool down the planet. "Whereas greenhouse gases have led to a warming of 2.5 Watts per meter squared (W/m2), aerosols like soot particles and sulfuric acid reflect nearly twice as much energy under certain conditions," said Penner.

Carbon aerosols, she explains, add between 0.16 and 0.20 W/m2, warming the planet. But Penner’s latest simulations at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory show that carbon aerosols trapped in clouds may cool the earth’s atmosphere by as much as -4.4 W/m2 or a net decrease of 0.7 to 2.1 degrees C. Since the models rely on uncertain estimates for natural sources of aerosols the actual number for negative forcing could be as low as -2.4 W/m2.

"I had not expected to get such a large negative forcing from carbon aerosols in clouds. If these results hold up, we are going to have to do a lot more work to understand how climate might change in the future," said Penner. According to Penner, if her findings are confirmed then "the warming we’ve seen over the last 100 years may simply be due to natural variability." A January 8 news release reporting on Dr. Penner’s work can be found at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/.

In another paper delivered at the AGU meeting, Harry Lins and James Slack of the U.S. Geological Survey reviewed U.S. flood records all the way back to 1914 and found no increase of flood activity. "We do not see any evidence of a change in large-scale national patterns," says Lins.

Measuring Worldwide CO2

To implement the Kyoto Protocol scientists must figure out an acceptable way to measure carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists have not yet been able to locate the natural sink that absorbs about half of all carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere. Some scientists think the ocean is the culprit while others believe it to be trees or soil. The bottom line is that scientists have very little understanding of natural sinks and it may be some time before they work out the details (Science, January 2, 1998).

Abrupt Climate Change

A new study in Nature (January 8, 1998) argues that there was an abrupt change in climate at the end of the Younger Dryas interval. Fractionated nitrogen and argon isotopes found in ice cores from Greenland have revealed that there was an abrupt warming about 11.6 thousand years ago. The warming (about 15 degrees C) occurred over a period of a few decades.

Etc.

Somebody at the Calgary Herald is not happy about the Kyoto Protocol. Two articles appearing in the newspaper have lambasted the protocol. An article (January 8, 1998) in the business section titled, "Thank the U.S. for killing Kyoto," begins, "Calgarians shivering in the dark in recent days have been getting a preview of what life would be like if last month’s disastrous international agreement to slash greenhouse gases were implemented."

"The federal government’s treachery and breathtaking incompetence would not only leave us shivering in the dark, a lot of us would be out of work," the article continues. "Take comfort in the fact that the absurd deal reached in Kyoto, Japan will never come to pass." Article author Barry Nelson argues that the U.S. Senate will never ratify the treaty and Canada will follow suit. "The U.S. is saving us from ourselves," says Nelson.

An editorial in the same edition titled, "Witch-doctor tactics won out at Kyoto" begins, "In

primitive civilizations, political rulers sacrificed their people to mystical beliefs and deities. Egged on by priests or witch-doctors, the rulers ordered the construction of massive pyramids and temples with the blood, sweat and lives of their subservient masses. Mysticism served as an effective means of gaining and maintaining dictatorial power."

"The recent UN Framework Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto indicates that nothing, in essence, has changed. Despite the fact that manmade global warming is an unsubstantiated hypothesis, the world’s political leaders worked frantically to reach a legally-binding treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, thus sacrificing our liberty and prosperity to environmentalist scaremongering."

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.