Vol. II, No. 6

Vol. II, No. 6

March 17, 1998

Politics

Backdoor Implementation

Some Senators fear that Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat misled them when he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "We have no intention, through the backdoor or anything else, without Senate confirmation, of trying to impose or take any steps to impose what would be binding restrictions on our companies, on our industry, on our business, or on our agriculture, or on our commerce, or on our country until and unless the Senate of the United States says so."

The key verb in Eizenstat’s statement, however, is "binding." The administration, The Weekly Standard (March 16, 1998) points out, will "threaten, cajole, plead with, urge, and cheerlead the states into abiding by Kyoto. And they will do it through the front doors, back doors, side doors, and trap doors, whether the Senate approves or not. They’ll just never do anything ‘binding.’"

Indeed, a confidential Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document suggests that the Clinton Administration may be trying to implement the treaty without Senate ratification. The document argues that the EPA has the necessary authority under the existing Clean Air Act to restrict carbon dioxide emissions without Congressional approval. The document states that power plant "emissions must be reduced in order to fulfill the administration’s commitment to clean air and to meet our greenhouse gas emissions budget under the Kyoto Protocol." The EPA, however, would prefer to get clearer regulatory authority from Congress.

The document also reveals that the EPA wishes to implement a comprehensive regulatory scheme, which would include emission trading, in conjunction with electricity deregulation. But concedes, "these current authorities do not easily lend themselves to establishing market-based cap-and-trade programs."

Moreover, in testimony before the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Committee, Carol Browner, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told committee members that "This budget reflects the President’s determination that through the Research Fund for America the U.S. will lead the world in meeting the challenge of global warming by reducing greenhouse gases – and doing so in a way that grows the economy.

The Climate Change Technology Initiative, a multi-Agency initiative including EPA, DOE, and HUD will enable us to meet that challenge. EPA’s share . . . at $205 million, will help America meet its global new [sic] responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through market forces, new technology, and energy efficiency. EPA will work with industry to find sensible, cost-effective ways to meet the global warming challenge, all the while continuing on a path of economic growth."

Seeking clarification on the Administration’s position, Senators Trent Lott (R-MS), Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) sent a letter to President Clinton on March 3 asking him to personally assure them that there are no plans to implement the treaty without Senate ratification. Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN) announced plans to monitor any such "implementation without raticification" in his House Subcommittee."

The Greens’ Success at Kyoto

In a December 11, 1997 memo, Tom Wathen, Executive Vice President of the National Environmental Trust (NET), brags about their successes at the United Nations climate change conference in Kyoto, Japan. NET, formerly known has the Environmental Information Center, works to disseminate information to activists and the media on environmental issues to advance specific campaigns.

Wathen says that the campaigns "success did not come about from just two days or even two weeks of negotiations. The developments that ultimately made success at Kyoto possible were brought about as a result of two years of work by NET’s campaign." Over that two years NET "educated hundreds of reporters on the science and policy of climate change so that industry did not have a free hand in framing the debate."

The result of this extended campaign, according to Wathen, is that "In a change from just six months ago, most media stories no longer presented global warming as just a theory over which reasonable scientists could differ. Most stories described predictions of global warming as the position of the overwhelming number of mainstream scientists."

Other successes claimed by NET was assuring that "credible" scientists like Ben Santer and Ross Gelbspan [sic] were able to respond to "industry misinformation." They also claimed credit for drawing attention to the "industry misinformation campaign by succeeding in getting CNN to suspend temporarily inaccurate industry advertising on the subject." NET also takes credit for placing op-eds by Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, former UK environment minister John Gummer, and Michael Grubb of London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs," among others.

Enron’s spokesperson Carol Hensley confirmed NET’s involvement in drafting Lay’s op-ed and said it was placed through Knight-Ridder and appeared in a number of newspapers, according to the Science & Environmental Policy Project (The Week That Was, January 19-25, 1998, www.sepp.org).

The memo stresses the importance of effective visuals. Wathen writes, "the principle problem with television coverage of climate change issues is that there are limited visuals to work with. Reporters can only run the stock footage of hurricanes and drought-parched fields so many times. So NET developed a series of computer animations showing progressive inundation of 15 U.S. cities as the climate warms. The animations spurred dozens of stories and ran on ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN, and we fed them to local stations by satellite."

Goodbye Emission Trading?

The Clinton Administration has made a lot out of its ability to negotiate a protocol that includes emission trading because they claim trading will significantly reduce compliance costs. Not so fast. The latest word from Raul Estrada-Oyuela, the head of the United Nations commission that negotiated the pact, is that emission trading may be phased out after eight years.

Emission trading, according to Estrada, may discourage developing countries from participating in the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries worry that emission trading would allow developed countries to pollute. "We want to make sure we’re not creating a new crop for nations to sell," Estrada said (Wall Street Journal, March 17, 1998).

While visiting the U.S. Estrada also discussed other issues related to global warming negotiations. As to the likelihood of developing country participation he does not see binding limits being imposed on developing nations in Buenos Aires. A framework for voluntary controls on developing country emissions is the most "optimistic" scenario. China, of course, has remained adamantly opposed to emission controls, voluntary or otherwise.

The private sector, said Estrada, is critical in achieving emissions reductions in the developing countries. He believes that the billions of dollars of foreign direct investment should be channeled into efficient technology through policy changes in both developed and developing countries.

The Kyoto Protocol’s enforcement mechanism will consist of progress reports produced by the participating country. Review teams will examine the reports and pass them along to the conference of parties, Estrada explained. This type of enforcement mechanism has worked well under the Montreal Protocol, according to Estrada. "Commitments either are fulfilled or non-compliance will be exposed," Estrada said. Countries will not want to be exposed as not complying with international agreements.

Finally, Estrada estimated that it will be at least three years before the United States ratifies the Kyoto Protocol (BNA Daily Environment Report, March 17, 1998).

Economics

United States’ Compliance Costs

A study by the non-partisan Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates (WEFA, Inc.) outlines the state-by-state costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol for the United States. The U.S. agreed to reduce its emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. This means that the U.S. will have to reduce its emissions by 40 percent below levels predicted by the year 2010.

The study shows, for example, that California would lose approximately 300,000 jobs and wages would fall by as much as 3.2 percent. Energy prices would rise significantly. Residential electricity rates would increase by 29 percent, home heating oil by 53 percent and natural gas by 52 percent.

Other states would be similarly damaged. New York and Texas, for example, would lose 110,000 and 123,000 jobs respectively. New York’s residential electricity rates would increase by 37.7 percent while Texas’s increase by 58.7 percent. Higher energy prices, of course, would lead to higher grocery, housing and medical costs. The state-by-state breakdown of WEFA’s estimates of the costs of Kyoto can be found at www.rnc.org/news/kyoto/.

Canada’s Compliance Costs

According to Carl Sonnen, an economist with the Ottawa-based Informetrica, compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will cost Canadians $100 billion over the next 15 years. But, says Sonnen, the costs of inaction would be even higher. In Kyoto Canada agreed to reduce greenhouse gases 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Canada’s Environment Minister Christine Stewart and Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale have refused to give any estimates as to the costs of compliance. But Stewart’s spokesman, Mark Colpitts, conceded that the $100 billion figure is in agreement with various macro-economic studies on the issue. The study, however, does not take into account ingenuity and technological development, Colpitts added (Calgary Herald, March 10, 1998).

Natural Disaster Research

The Bermuda a Biological Station for Research, which has been carrying out research on the relationship between the ocean and the atmosphere since 1903, has teamed up with the insurance industry to create the Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI) to facilitate communication between scientists and the industry to better assess and manage climate-related risks.

A report released by the RPI came to the following conclusions:

     

  • "In the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic Ocean was below average of the past 50-100 years, and large increases in coastal population and development occurred during this lull."

     

     

  • "Increased coastal development in the primary cause of recent dramatic increases in the damage faced by society and insurers. Natural fluctuations in tropical cyclone frequency are another factor. The media and various advocacy groups often incorrectly attribute increased damages to global warming, but they are probably not so attributable" (Failsafe, March 1998).

     

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Another report by Munich Re, the world’s top reinsurance company, shows that "Worldwide losses, economic and insured, from natural catastrophes last year were half those of 1996," although "overall losses from catastrophes have generally increased over the last 10 years." The report shows that even with inflation factored in "economic losses [of the last 10 years] are eight times as high and insured losses 14 times greater," than the decade of the 1960s.

The report also warns, "The emerging phenomenon of climate change, which is expected to further compound the catastrophe risk in the future, continues to be a very serious danger." The reports does not seem, however, to factor in increases in development in disaster prone areas (Journal of Commerce, March 13, 1998).

Science

Satellite Data Under Attack

There is little doubt that the political debate surrounding global warming has turned science into a political tool that threatens the credibility of the scientific community. The most recent evidence of this is a scientific paper, submitted on February 23 to Nature by physicist Dr. Frank Wentz, a remote-sensing expert. Wentz claims to have found an error in the satellite data that, when corrected for, reveals a slight warming trend instead of a slight cooling trend the weather satellites have been tracking since 1979.

Drs. Roy Spencer of NASA and John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who manage the satellite data, reject the paper’s conclusions. They have found two countervailing effects – orbital procession and a calibration drift on radiometers – that create a false warming. The false cooling and false warming effects cancel each other out leaving the cooling trend intact. Furthermore, the satellite temperature data closely tracks temperature readings from weather balloon radiosondes which do not experience any of the warming or cooling anomalies present in the satellite data.

The disturbing aspect of this story is how the paper was distributed prior to being peer-reviewed, to the Clinton Administration, Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, various government-funded global warming scientists and very likely the press. Moreover, the paper has been rushed through peer-review – a process that normally takes between four and six months.

For more information on this story see www. vision.net.au/~daly/ and www.sepp.org//.

Global Warming and Vector-Borne Disease

One of the scary scenarios repeated ad nauseum has been global warming induced spread of malaria, dengue, and yellow fever to higher latitudes in the temperate regions and higher altitudes in the tropics. As with so many warming claims (including the global warming hypothesis itself) a little historical perspective reveals the silliness of these concerns.

A letter published in the British medical journal The Lancet (March 14, 1998) by Dr. Paul Reiter with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dengue Branch, discusses the past of these diseases. "Until the 20th century," writes Reiter, "malaria was a common disease throughout much of the USA, and it remained endemic until the 1950s." Yellow and dengue fever were also common until the 1940s.

He also writes that "Even in the present century, devastating epidemics [of malaria] occurred as far north as Archangel on the Arctic Circle, and the disease remained endemic in such untropical countries as Holland, Poland, and Finland until after World War II."

Recent malaria epidemics such as the one in Madagascar have been blamed on global warming. Rieter, however, points out that "they occurred well below the maximum altitude for transmission and were clearly a sequel to a breakdown of control infrastructure. Moreover, similar epidemics had taken place in the same areas in 1878 and 1895, and local records show no great change in temperature."

Dr. Reiter concludes, "The distortion of science to make predictions of unlikely public-health disasters diverts attention from the true reasons for the recrudescence of vector-borne diseases. These include the large-scale resettlement of people (often associated with major ecological change), rampant urbanization without adequate infrastructure, high mobility through air travel, resistance to antimalarial drugs, insecticide resistance, and the deterioration of vector-control operations and other public-health practices."

Trees on the March

Another environmentalist bugaboo is about to fall by the wayside. Environmentalists have been predicting that rapid global warming would lead to the mass extinction of trees because they would be unable to migrate fast enough to cope with changing temperatures. However, The New York Times (March 10, 1998) reports on research showing that "many of the most important and valued species of trees have in the past migrated fast enough to keep up with temperature changes as least as large and rapid as the global warming of 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit that is predicted, as an annual average, over the next 100 years."

According to Louis F. Pitelka, an ecologist at the University of Maryland’s Appalachian Laboratory this "downgrade[s] the rate of migration as an issue" in climate change. Some have suggested that humans have fragmented the natural landscape to such an extent that it may hinder the tree migration in the case of global warming. But, says Dr. Dorothy M. Peteet, a paleoecologist with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, if the climate were to warm quickly, "I would think the trees would do exactly what they did in the old days."

El Niño Is No Child of Global Warming

According to research at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), El Niño events in the 1990s cannot be blamed on manmade global warming. The researchers, led by Dr. Rob Allan of CSIRO’s Division of Atmospheric Research, spent eight months analyzing global climatic records from the last 125 years. The data collected at 700 land locations and by ships showed no correlation between global warming and El Niño events.

The research did, however, discover other climatic factors that influence the frequency and nature of El Niño. "I have found," said Dr. Allan, "two additional longer climatic fluctuations [fluctuations in atmospheric pressure and sea-surface temperature] linked with El Niño. One occurs every 11 to 13 years; the other, every 15 to 20 years."

These fluctuations, says Allan, "are occurring at the same time as the El Niño that we tend to focus on with the two- to seven-year time frame," and have "probably occurred for thousands of years." They interact with El Niño in such a way that they sometimes reinforce it and dampen it at other times. "It’s the interaction between the three climatic patterns that is giving us the variations that we see, like long El Niño sequences in the 1990s," Dr. Allan said. "At the moment, we don’t know what the physical mechanisms underlying them are" (The Canberra Times, March 10, 1998).

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.

Thomas Gale Moore, a member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s board of directors, has written a book, Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn't Worry about Global Warming that will soon be published by Cato Institute. Ordering details will be forthcoming at Cato’s website at www.cato.org

The Institute of Economic Affairs in London has published a book, Climate Change: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom. The book can be ordered by contacting IEA by e-mail at books@iea.org.uk.

The European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) has recently published Global Warming: The Continuing Debate. It can be ordered for $25 from CEI or by contacting ESEF at lorraine@esef.org.