Vol. III, No. 13
Bill to Ban Early Action Crediting
Recent attempts to implement the Kyoto Protocol have come under the guise of giving emission credits to companies that voluntarily engage in reducing CO2 emissions. The first proposed bill of this type was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Chafee (R-R.I.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.). Another "credit for early action" bill is expected to be introduced soon in the House by Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Calvin Dooley (D-Cal.).
In response to these bills and other actions by the Clinton-Gore Administration, Representative David McIntosh (R-IN) has introduced a bill, "Stand up for Small Business, Family Farms and the U.S. Constitution" (H.R. 2221). The bill explains that "credit for early action" legislation constitutes implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and would pave the way to ratification by building a "pro-Kyoto business constituency."
This would occur because companies that participate in the program would receive "credits potentially worth millions of dollars but which would have no actual cash value unless the Kyoto Protocol, or a comparable domestic regulatory program, were ratified or adopted," according to Mr. McIntosh.
The bill would also prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating CO2 as a pollutant. The bill points out that, "When the Congress enacted and amended the Clean Air Act, it did not delegate to the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Such regulation would constitute a usurpation of legislative power" as well as constituting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The bill says that, "no Federal Agency has authority to promulgate regulations to limit emissions of carbon dioxide unless a law is enacted after the date of enactment of this Act that specifically grants such authority."
Finally the bill would make permanent the prohibitions set forth in the Knollenberg provision that prevents the use of federal funds to implement or contemplate the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
GAO: Clinton Climate Report Flawed
The Clinton Administration is required by law to submit a "Report to Congress on Federal Climate Change Expenditures." But, according to the General Accounting Office, the report is not really useful. The report states that "discussion of climate change activities and the performance goals set out in the report are organized by program or group of programs," which "does not correspond to either the line items in the president’s budget nor completely to the tables in the report itself on spending by program or program element."
The GAO comments that this limits the report’s usefulness. Users of the report "cannot identify line items in the president’s budget, for example, those with large dollar amounts or those for which an increase in funding is being requested. Nor can users easily identify in the report what activities are planned and what performance goals have been established" (The Electricity Daily, June 11, 1999).
Deadlocked Bonn Meeting Ends
A conference held in Bonn, Germany to lay the groundwork for the upcoming 5th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP5), ended on June 11 with little progress to report.
The European Union has played a very proactive role in the negotiations with several proposals. For example, the EU has called "for broader faster action and identifying priority sectors." It also presented a European Commission Communication on "reflecting environmental policies in other sector-specific policies, particularly those with a direct bearing on the climate (energy, taxation, transport, agriculture, industry)." The EU also continued to push for "a system to police compliance with the undertakings," and the creation of "a compliance system that is comprehensive, consistent, uniform, efficient and effective."
There appears to be a slight softening among developing countries regarding their participation. One group of countries, which includes Korea, Argentina, and Mexico, said they would be willing to pursue greenhouse gas policies. Most developing countries, including China, continue to oppose commitments of any sort. The OPEC countries continue to work to prevent implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (Europe Environment, June 15, 1999).
The EU and the U.S. continue to butt heads over flexible mechanisms. The EU wants to limit their use to 50 percent of total emissions reductions, while the U.S. wants unlimited trading. Frank Loy, U.S. under secretary of state for global affairs, argues that the negotiations could come crashing down unless significant progress is made in the next few years.
Loy argued that flexible mechanisms would greatly reduce the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol, and would allow for developing country participation. Said Loy, "Eventually capital transfers under the Kyoto Protocol will dwarf those from official assistance." (Financial Times, June 15, 1999).
Global Warming: A Matter of Faith?
The National Council of Churches is launching a year-long interfaith campaign to garner support for action against global warming. The campaign will focus on four states. According Richard Killmer, environmental justice director for the NCC, the states "have been chosen for specific reasons," -- Michigan because of the auto industry, Iowa because it holds the first presidential caucuses, and West Virginia and Pennsylvania because of their fossil fuel sectors.
The Interfaith groups are planning to lobby legislators, unions, and business leaders, getting churches involved in energy conservation, and placing opinion pieces in local media. (Greenwire, June 11, 1999). See www.webofcreation.org/NCC/Workgrp.html.
"Early Action" Bill Postponed
Rep. Rick A. Lazio (R-N.Y.), who's weighing a run for Senate, postponed introduction of an "early action credit" legislation to meet with opponents of the idea. Lazio’s decision was prompted when David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, sent him an "urgent memorandum" expressing deep concerns from the "entire conservative community" about the bill. Keene urged Lazio to "seriously consider the enormous political and policy downsides of supporting [the bill] . . . I would be surprised if those conservative leaders whom you are currently courting in New York do not share our view on this."
OR Senate: Don’t Implement Kyoto
The Oregon Senate has approved a bill barring new rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions until the federal government ratifies the Kyoto Protocol. Supporters of the Oregon measure call it financial protection for state businesses and communities threatened by the global warming treaty. Environmentalists called the legislation a regressive move in a traditionally green state (States News Service, June 22, 1999).
London Group Opposes Energy Tax
Several influential British groups have criticized the government’s proposal to impose energy taxes to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Confederation of British Industry, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Royal Society (England’s counterpart to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences), and the Royal Academy of Engineering argue that the tax would hurt business and do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The tax was proposed in a report prepared by a task force headed by British Airways Chairman Lord Colin Marshall, under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Transport, and the Regions. The Marshall report was criticized by the Royal Commission, which said that the government should tax carbon emissions rather than energy use and that the proposed tax would fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering concur that "the planned levy on the use of energy is deeply flawed."
The Confederation of British Industry argued that the tax would jeopardize economic growth and particularly the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998 where England agreed to economically rebuild Northern Ireland (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 16, 1999).
IEA Analysis of EU Proposal
The EU’s proposal to cap emission trading has led to a heated debate over the flexible mechanisms within the Kyoto Protocol. A new analysis by the International Energy Agency shows the effects of the proposal on the ability of countries to reduce emissions. According to the report, the EU proposal would restrict the amount of emission allowances that could be purchased by the developed countries to 1.09 billion tons of CO2. "This would amount to 42 percent of the difference between their projected emissions in the year 2010 (if no emissions-cutting actions were to be taken) and the emissions they will be allowed under the Protocol; it would amount to 34 percent for other industrialized countries."
The EU proposal would also restrict the amount of emissions that could be sold by countries that would have surplus permits. The IEA’s World Energy Outlook estimates that in the year 2010 emissions from Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine will be 574 million tons lower than 1990 levels, and these countries would be able to sell the total amount. But under the EU proposal the amount that these countries could sell would drop to 190 million tons. "Russia…would be limited to selling approximately 30 percent of its potential," said the IEA (Europe Energy, June 11, 1999).
Ozone Layer Affected by Sun
The thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica is due to the sun and not people, according to research by Yang Xuexiang, a professor of geological sciences at Changchun University of Technology in China. Yang believes the changes are caused by solar wind, a current of high-energy particles, rather than the use of CFCs. His research was published in the May Chinese edition of Scientific American.
Yang argues that ozone depletion resulted from solar wind making the atmosphere at the South Pole thinner, from volcanic eruptions in the southern hemisphere, and from solar high-energy particle currents. The conventional wisdom is that ozone depletion is caused by the use of freon by man. Yang points out that freon use is concentrated in the northern hemisphere, not over the South Pole (AFP, June 20,1999).
High Heat, Low Carbon
The hypothesis that carbon dioxide levels exert a significant influence on the Earth’s climate is being rethought. We reported in the last issue of Cooler Heads that researchers have found that 15 million years ago the temperature was significantly warmer than it is today, and yet atmospheric CO2 levels were lower. A new study in Science (June 11, 1999) finds that 48 million years ago, in the Eocene era, temperatures were 5 degrees C warmer than now but that CO2 levels were not significantly different.
"Some authors," says the study, "have suggested that middle Eocene CO2 was two to six times as high as the preindustrial level of 280 parts per million, whereas others have suggested values similar to that concentration or only slightly higher." The researchers studied ancient marine sentiments and found that CO2 concentrations were between 180 ppm to 550 ppm, the most likely value being 385 ppm. The authors conclude that either the climate system is very sensitive to small changes in CO2 or that something else caused warmer temperatures.
These studies have scientists rethinking the carbon/warming link. "We may have to think harder about what’s driving the [climate] system on these long time scales," says paleoclimatologist Thomas Cowley of Texas A&M University. "It could be the whole carbon dioxide paradigm is crumbling." Paleo-oceanographer Edward Boyle of MIT said these studies suggest that "we need to reconsider the prevailing dogma." These scientists argue that CO2 is still a powerful source for short-term climate changes. But on very long scales many other factors may explain climate change.
U.S. Droughts Lasted for Decades
Scientists who study the Earth’s past climate are learning that change is the norm and rapid change is not uncommon. Research carried out in North Dakota has discovered severe and long lasting droughts in the plains of the U.S. during the last 12,000 years. Bison bones found at the bottom of Spiritwood lake suggest a rapid onslought of drought that drew down water levels very rapidly. "The draw-down in this period was ferocious, as much as 20 feet," according to Allan Ashworth a geologist at North Dakota State University.
With the recession of the glaciers, the Red River Valley was cool and wet and was covered by a spruce forest. "Then – bang – it goes into the prairies," said Ashworth. "The implication is that the regional climate begins to be much drier right around 8,000 years ago. Ever since then, we’ve been into prairie." Ashworth says that we don’t yet understand why "the climate has become much more oscillatory between dry and wet phases." Ashworth explains that "we’re only just starting to really define some of these patterns, or refining them so we can really start talking about them with enough confidence" (The Associated Press, June 14, 1999).
- From the Science and Environmental Policy Project (www.sepp.org): "Turning to smog-avoiding nuclear power, complaints by enviros about deceptive ads have led the Better Business Bureau to get the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. What's all the fuss about? It seems that Nuclear Energy Institute ads "falsely" claim that reactors make power without emitting greenhouse gases. Apparently, the NEI didn't mention that the uranium fuel was made using electricity from coal plants. So what about the wind turbines that pack 150,000 pounds of steel, concrete, and fiberglass per turbine? How about that for "embedded carbon"?
- A new survey by the American Geophysical Union finds that Americans are less concerned than ever about global warming. "The more we talk about warming," says the study's director, John Immerwahr, "the [more the] public's concern goes down." (Time, June 21, 1999).
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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