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Vol. II, No. 9

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. II, No. 9

 

Politics

Anti-Kyoto Science Petition Tops 17,000 Names

A petition circulated to scientists urging lawmakers to reject the Kyoto Protocol has been signed by over 17,000 individuals including over 2,000 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers and environmental scientists. An additional 4,400, according to the petition’s sponsors, are qualified to assess the effects of carbon dioxide upon the Earth’s plant and animal life and most of the remaining signers have technical training suitable to understanding climate change issues.

The petition letter is a strongly worded statement that goes beyond rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. It denies the existence of any scientific evidence that manmade greenhouse gases will cause catastrophic warming and even goes so far as to say, "increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

Environmentalists are attacking the petition on the grounds that it was distributed with an article that was formatted in a manner that resembles a reprint from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A cover letter from Dr. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, which also accompanied the petition added to the confusion, they claim.

According to Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Chicago and staunch environmental activist, "The mailing is clearly designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article, which is full of half-truths, is a reprint and has passed peer review." Arthur Robinson, president of the OISM and lead author of the article admits that he used the Proceedings as a model, "but only to put the information in a format that scientists like to read, not to fool people in to thinking it is from a journal" (Science, April 10, 1998). More importantly, the article is formatted in the same style as Robinson’s newsletter Access to Energy which he has published for years.

The whole controversy is moot, however, unless one is willing to believe that the thousands climatologists and meteorologists who signed the petition are completely unfamiliar with the scientific literature on global warming and just blindly signed a petition based on one article that arrived by mail.

Ozone Action, the environmental group who did their own petition drive urging lawmakers to accept the Kyoto Protocol that attracted only 2,600 signatures, attacked the petition saying that, "Several members of the scientific community have looked over the signatories listed on the petition’s Web site, and they did not recognize a single scientist known for work on climate change" (The Washington Times, April 24, 1998). Yet Ozone Action cried foul when it

was pointed out that only about 10 percent of their list of 2,600 scientists had the expertise to qualify them to speak on the issue of attribution. Nearly 100 disciplines, according to Ozone Action, are "aware of the wide-ranging, day-to-day impacts of climate change" (The Washington Times, March 8, 1998). Their list, however, included anthropologists, psychologists, veterinarians, a gynecologist and many who didn’t even have advanced degrees.

"Ambitious" Industry Plan Exposed

A front-page story in the New York Times (April 26, 1998) by environmental reporter John Cushman "exposes" a plan by industry opponents of the Kyoto Protocol. According to Cushman, representatives from "big" oil companies, trade associations and conservative think tanks have been drafting an "ambitious proposal to spend millions of dollars to convince the public that a 1992 environmental accord [the Framework Convention on Climate Change] is based on shaky science."

The memo outlining the plan was acquired by the National Environmental Trust (NET) and leaked to the Times. Phil Clapp, president of NET, says that exposing the plan will probably make it impossible to raise money to carry it out.

Apparently only an "ambitious" industry plan would seek to educate the public about the science (or lack thereof) behind the Kyoto Protocol. NET officials were alarmed that the American Petroleum Institute was planning to distribute "a global climate science information kit to the media which include . . . peer-reviewed articles throwing doubt on the ‘conventional wisdom."

It’s worth remembering that this is the same group which ghost wrote various op-eds for business and government officials at the time of the Kyoto conference, including one for Enron Corporation CEO Kenneth Lay (as reported in our March 18, 1998 issue). Enron produces natural gas. The Kyoto Protocol would hurt Enron’s competitors (Detroit News, April 30, 1998).

Portraying legitimate participation in the democratic process by educating the public, media and lawmakers as a sinister plot only suggests that proponents of the Kyoto Protocol are concerned that the scientific case for a treaty is not as strong as they claim.

Third World Participation a Must

A report by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that without participation from developing countries the Kyoto Protocol will do little to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases. Absent third world involvement, carbon dioxide emissions will grow by 32 percent above 1990 levels by 2010, as opposed to 44 percent under business as usual. By 2020 emission will grow by 60 percent above 1990 levels, even if the developed countries fully comply with the treaty.

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said this is bad news for the administration. "It’s [the Kyoto Protocol] even deader than it was before in the Senate, if that’s possible," he said. "For a 10 percent swing in emissions, the reward is not worth the effort. Why would you do the kind of damage to your economy and competitiveness and national sovereignty, if in fact you’re not going to get any results?" Hagel asked.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright had announced on April 21 in New York City that the Administration would begin a "full-court press" to gain participation from the developing world. But, says Hagel, China’s representatives told him at the Kyoto conference that they had no plans to sign the treaty. China and other developing countries even demanded that language allowing for voluntary participation be struck from the treaty (The Washington Times, April 23, 1998).

The same report stated that world emissions of carbon dioxide will rise by 79 percent in 2020 from 1995 levels due to an unexpected 75 percent increase of global energy consumption (Asia Intelligence Wire, April 23, 1998).

Wisconsin’s Global Warming Plan

Wisconsin’s Climate Change Committee, composed of representatives from state government, industry, and environmental groups, has agreed upon a broad outline for a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, which was partially funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will rely on reduction of electricity consumption by end-users through energy efficiency measures. It will also improve fuel efficiency and increase use of clean fuel and renewable energy sources. State agencies will purchase fuel efficient and alternative-fuel cars in an attempt to develop markets for these technologies. Those parts of the plan that effect the private sector will be limited to voluntary, no-regrets measures. This is just one of the ways in which the Clinton administration will try to comply with the Kyoto Protocol without Senate ratification (The Climate Change Report, March 30, 1998).

Automobiles Under Attack

A new study by the Environmental Protection Agency calls for tougher auto-emission controls on diesel engines, light trucks and sports utility vehicles by 2004. The study claims that improved catalytic converters and other emission reducing devices are technologically feasible and will add a mere $161 to the costs of each vehicle.

Even though new cars are 97 percent cleaner than their counterparts from 1970, the EPA fears that the increasing number of cars on the road and the move to larger vehicles will lead to an inability to meet national air standards. Auto makers say that the technologies listed in the study will all require very low sulfur levels in gasoline but the study makes no mention of this. Automobile and oil industry representatives argue that reducing sulfur content in gasoline on a national level is very expensive and unnecessary.

Paul G. Billings, and official with the American Lung Association, is pleased with the study. He is disappointed, however, that the EPA did not push for sulfur removal. "EPA needs to stop being a referee between big oil and big auto and become an advocate for big health," he said.

Charles Kitz, head of environmental planning for Chrysler Corp., says that the auto industry is being "regulated on both sides." On the on hand the Clinton administration is pressuring the auto makers to curb carbon dioxide emissions pushing the auto makers towards more fuel efficient diesel engines but new restrictions of soot particles called for in the EPA study may "preclude the use of diesels," Kitz said.

The study says that the EPA may use flexible guidelines such as those used in California that use different guidelines for different classes of vehicles. This says the study will lead to greater technological innovation (Wall Street Journal, April 23, 1998).

Opposition to Emission Trading

In a speech to members of the European Union’s Global Legislators Organization For A Balanced Environment, Frank Joshua, a researcher with the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, criticized the EU for its opposition to emission trading. As of now it looks like the EU will not agree to emission trading at the November meeting in Buenos Aires. If this happens the U.S. will probably try to form a trading bubble with Russia who’s emissions have dropped by 30 percent since 1990. Since the Kyoto Protocol only commits Russia to keep its emissions at 1990 levels it will have a lot of excess permits for sale.

The European Commission and environmentalists, however, are arguing that Russia should not be able to trade its permits with the U.S. or any other industrialized country since that would allow countries to meet their targets without domestic action. Peter Jorgensen, environment spokesman for the European Commission has called countries that want emission trading "the guys in black hats" and "immoral" (BNA Daily Environment Report, April 24, 1998).

International News

Japan became the first major industrial nation to sign the Kyoto Protocol on April 28. Japan’s target is to reduce greenhouse gases 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The European Union followed suit the next day. It’s signature commits EU countries to reduce emissions by 8 percent (AP Online, April 29, 1998).

President Clinton and Chilean President Eduardo Frei issued a joint statement on April 16 saying that developing countries "should participate

meaningfully in efforts to address climate change, taking on emission targets whenever possible" (BNA Daily Environment Report, April 17, 1998).

Economics

More on the Costs of Kyoto

Hearings held on April 23 by the House Government Reform subcommittee featured estimates of the costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. Mary Novak, an economic forecaster with Wefa Inc. said the sharp reductions in energy use would cause home heating and electricity costs to skyrocket from 56 to 70 percent by 2010. Household incomes would drop by $2,728 and the costs of food, medical care, and housing would increase by up to 14 percent. "All workers face a slowing in their real wage growth," with low-income workers suffering the most.

Joyce Prinner, principal of Standard & Poors DRI, told Congress that if the U.S. succeeds in getting Europe to engage in low-cost reductions (emission trading), consumer energy prices would rise by about 9 percent and about 500,000 jobs would be lost. Resistance to emission trading, however, would force the U.S. to reduce emission on its own leading to an increase of energy prices of 24 to 36 percent and a loss of 1.6 million jobs.

John Passacantando, exectuive director of Ozone Action, said the Kyoto Protocol, "will be a boon for the U.S." because it will spur innovation in clean technologies. Passacantando says that "For the last 30 years, America has passed and enforced the best health and environmental laws in the world. We have built our economy in harmony with a cleaner environment. We have an economy that is the envy of the world" (The Washington Times, April 24, 1998)

Science

The Good Side of El Niño

El Niño has been blamed for just about every negative weather occurrence this year. But it also has many beneficial side effects. "For the most part," says Chris Landsea, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "El Niño is a good guy. But we have seen the bad side."

According to climate experts, every adverse event caused by El Niño brings benefits to another part of the world. Kenyan farmers who produce the araciba coffee bean, for example, have been devastated by heavy rains while Brazilian coffee growers are benefitting from the El Niño induced dry weather. On the other hand, Kenyan growers of macadamia nuts will benefit from a shortage that results from a drought in Hawaii, the world’s leading grower. Meanwhile, Indonesia and Singapore’s tourist industry is suffering from severe smog conditions that are caused by forest fires exacerbated by drought and Australian vintners are experiencing record harvest of high-quality grapes, all thanks to El Niño (AAP Newsfeed, April 20, 1998).

Patrick Michaels, a climatologist with the University of Virginia, argues that the warmer weather experienced in the U.S. saved energy consumers $5 billion in home heating costs. El Niño also suppressed hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean saving as much as $1.25 billion in storm damage costs. Michaels estimates that El Niño’s total benefits may be as high as $15 billion. Compare this to the $700 million in weather related losses in California and $100 million in tornado related losses in Florida and El Niño doesn’t look so bad (State of the Climate Report, 1998).

More Disease or Total Baloney

Paul Reiter is the chief of the entomology section for the Centers of Disease Control's Dengue Branch and a foremost expert in the field of vector-borne disease. He was recently interviewed for the State of the Climate Report (1998). Here is an excerpt from that interview.

SOC: People are going around glibly stating that dengue fever is spreading because of global warming. What evidence are they citing for their argument?

Reiter: Truly, I challenge you to find anyone who knows anything about dengue who doesn't laugh at this supposition. There is absolutely no evidence for it whatsoever. The resurgence is quite clearly the result of the resurgence of the vector, the movement of people all over the world, the breakdown of public health services, and the increased urbanization of the tropics.

SOC: A few months ago, Science magazine noted many epidemiologists were complaining that global warming was being blamed for this, though it isn't the cause. What implications does this have?

Reiter: I ran a symposium of the [2,500 to 3,000 – member] American Society of Tropical Medicine, and there was virtually no dissent to the position that this whole business is total baloney. The only dissent I heard were people who came to me afterwards and suggested I might be hurting other people's grant money.

Climate as a Pedulum

Deep ocean floor sentiments recovered over a two month period in 1995 reveals that the last 1.5 million years has experienced sharp climate changes over short periods of times. Massachusetts Insitute of Technology researcher Maureen Raymo says that if one of the swings experience in the past were to occur today, New England would experience weather like Florida for a 25 year period.

"Ten years ago, we had no idea that climate could change this quickly," says Raymo. Temperature swings of as much as 10 degrees C within a few decades are not restricted to glacial periods of the last 800,000 years but go back much further in time. The researchers involved in the project state in their April 16 article in Nature that "Our results suggest that much of millennial-scale climate instability may be a pervasive and long-term characteristic of Earth’s climate rather than just a feature of the strong glacial-interglacial cycles of the past 800,000 years." Raymo admits that "What causes climate variations on this time scale is a black box for scientists right now" (Electricity Daily, April 21, 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 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.