Vol. III, No. 16

Vol. III, No. 16

August 04, 1999

Politics

Knollenberg Language Strengthened

Congressional attempts to limit federal agencies’ efforts to implement or promote the Kyoto Protocol have intensified during the current appropriations cycle. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and his allies on the House Appropriations Committee have succeeded in attaching the "Knollenberg provision" to six major spending bills.

The original Knollenberg provision was included last October in legislation making fiscal year 1999 appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency. It prohibits EPA from taking actions that have no other purpose than to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to its ratification by the Senate or from advocating ratification.

The Clinton-Gore Administration has largely ignored the provision on the grounds that EPA actions are taken for all sorts of reasons. Thus a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be proposed because it would help to meet Kyoto targets but also because Administrator Carol Browner thinks it’s a fun thing to do to make energy less affordable for the poor and needy. EPA has also continued to hold "educational" conferences that are really advocacy events.

In response to these blatant attempts to evade the clear intent of Congress, the Appropriations

Committee included report language that spells out what the Congress intends. "Although the agency may under the current prohibition continue to conduct educational seminars and activities, it should ensure balance in those programs. Balance does not mean merely that there is an acknowledgement of viewpoints different from those of the Administration, but that qualified representatives of those viewpoints are included in the programs and in numbers roughly equal to the participants representing the Administration’s positions. One dissenting voice in what is otherwise an obviously stacked or biased program does not constitute balance."

The Committee’s report continues: "The bill language is intended to prohibit funds provided in this bill from being used to implement actions called for under the Kyoto Protocol, prior to its ratification." Last year’s report language barred funds to be used for actions designed solely to implement Kyoto.

Greens Attack Fossil Fuel Industry

It’s really not news when Green activists attack the fossil fuel industry. In this case however, a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists, explains too much. The report is an "exposé" of the world’s largest carbon producers. The report, according to the contributors, is the "first-ever company-by-company tabulation of carbon pollution based on fuel production," and includes emissions from the activities of 122 companies.

The intent of the report is to indict the fossil fuel industry. It even goes so far as to liken energy producers to drug pushers and by implication energy users to drug addicts. The clear intent is to paint energy use as something immoral. Glenn Kelly of the Global Climate Coalition responded by asking, "Does the NRDC really intend to compare workers and families who drive to work or cool their homes with drug addicts?"

Kelly also pointed out that "NRDC’s top ‘kingpins’ are the biggest state-run companies in China, India, Mexico, Indonesia, the Middle East and Russia." These companies are far more inefficient and wasteful than their private sector counterparts. If the Greens are interested in energy efficiency, they should begin a campaign to privatize and deregulate the energy industry, not try to restrict energy use as some sort of social dysfunction. The report can be found at www.nrdc.org.

Administration Seeks Latin American Participation

The Clinton-Gore Administration continues to prod the developing countries to take on commitments to reduce energy emissions. At a meeting of energy ministers from Western Hemisphere nations, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson hopes to reach an agreement with Latin American countries on Kyoto participation.

"What we want to see is stronger commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but on hemispheric terms," said Richardson. "We want to see if through a commitment to renewable energy, through increased energy cooperation, through reliance on technology to develop ways to address greenhouse gas emissions…we can come forth with a statement that continues the dialogue towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol" (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 26, 1999).

Environmental Regulations as Trade Barriers

The developing countries are becoming wise to the imperialistic tendencies of Green activists both within the governmental and non-governmental (NGO) communities. At a recent meeting of the National Council of Ecologic Industrialists, Pablo Bifani, an environmental adviser to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, told the audience that developing countries see international environmental regulations as trade barriers.

It is no secret that Green NGOs are pushing to implement environmental standards within the framework of the World Trade Organization. These attempts "are increasingly perceived as a mere disguise for trade barriers imposed by developed countries to overcome the inconveniences" of competition. They are also skeptical as to whether these standards have any significant environmental benefits (BNA Daily Environment Report, August 3, 1999). The push by U.S. industries and Congress to require the developing countries to take on commitments to reduce energy emissions also adds to that perception. Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will be difficult and expensive for the rich developed countries, but it will be devastating for developing countries.

Economics

Global Warming Will Be Good

The conventional wisdom about global warming has been that it will be universally devastating for the world’s peoples. This belief is based on an assessment conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. The EPA concluded that a 3 to 6 degree C warming would lead to a reduction in global GDP of 1 to 2 percent. Some of the consequences that were imagined included ecosystem collapse, reductions in agriculture yield of between 30 and 40 percent, the spread of vector-borne disease increased water pollution, soaring heat-related deaths, and so on. This bleak outlook has been very influential in the policy debate.

Over subsequent years, however, there has been a sea change in the way experts view the consequences of global warming. Recently, a major study published by Cambridge University Press titled The Impact of Climate Change on the United States Economy concluded that on net global warming will be beneficial. Now one of the authors of that study, Robert Mendelsohn of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has written a monograph for the American Enterprise Institute that summarizes the current state of opinion regarding the impacts of global warming.

One of the biggest changes is that scientists have revised downward the expected warming from 3 to 6 degrees C to 1 to 3.5 degrees C. They have also lengthened the time frame from 50 years to 100 years, giving us much more time to adapt. Previous studies failed to recognize that people adapt to changes in the climate, biasing the results to greater harm than warranted. Heat related deaths, for example, were estimated to rise by between 6,000 and 9,800 deaths per years. But people are not going to sit around and do nothing while the deaths mount. This is borne out by the fact that heat-stress deaths "are higher in cold parts of the United States with high seasonal temperature variability… not in stable warm climates." Moreover, people live longer in warmer climates.

The EPA’s assessment claimed that agriculture would suffer large damages from global warming. But new studies that allow for adaptation and carbon fertilization find that agriculture yields will increase. The same can be said for forestry production. Overall, global warming will lead to a slight net benefit for the global economy.

In the policy discussion Mendelsohn concludes, "more expensive abatement programs do not guarantee benefits, and spending trillions of dollars on abatement over the next few decades is simply wasting resources, given what we now understand about climate change."

Science

Abrupt Climate Change

Several studies have established that the Earth’s climatic history is peppered with sudden, rapid, and natural climate changes. A new study in Nature (July 29,1999) again shows that there were two such episodes close together between 8 and 10 thousand years ago.

The researchers analyzed sediment cores from the bottom of Deep Lake in Minnesota and found further confirmation of a rapid worldwide cooling that occurred 8,200 years ago. Evidence of this cooling period has also been found in Greenland ice core samples and other places throughout the world. Most scientists believe that this cooling event was caused by the collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that drained large glacial lakes into the North Atlantic Ocean, altering the thermohaline circulation.

Some news reports have claimed that this study warns of a coming ice age as a result of global warming. A letter to the editor by Konrad Gajewski, a geography professor at the University of Ottawa, states that such a conclusion is unwarranted. Dr. Gajewski pointed out that the Laurentide Ice Sheet disappeared 6,000 years ago. "There is currently no comparable ice sheet in the Arctic, so a similar cooling cannot occur in the near or distant future," said Gajewski. "Although the event of 8,200 years ago is interesting for historians of climate, it has little relevance to our understanding of future climate conditions" (Ottawa Citizen, July 29, 1999).

North American Carbon Sink: Is it there?

Last year a study published by Science (October 18, 1998) found that North America absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits. A new study in Science (July 23, 1999) argues that this is not the case. The researchers from Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts developed a model of carbon emissions and sequestration from the year 1700 in which they calculated the land use changes from agriculture, forestry and other factors.

Their model showed that from 1700 to 1945 North America was a net carbon emitter due to land use practices. After 1945, due to fire suppression and other changes in land use management, there has been an absorption of about 2.2 petagrams of carbon. The rate of sequestration peeked from 1960 to 1980 and is now in decline, according to the study. This finding differs greatly with the previous finding that North America is absorbing carbon dioxide to the tune of 1.7 petagrams per year.

Dr. Fan, the lead author of last year’s study, defends his group’s study, however. He has argued that his findings are based in part on atmospheric samples and not just on models (Electricity Daily, August 3, 1999). Fan’s group used carbon dioxide levels from 63 ocean-sampling stations. They took into account ocean uptake and wind currents and found that as air currents move from west to east across North America, there is a slight decrease in carbon dioxide concentrations. The Woods Hole researchers admit that their model does not take into account soil sequestration.

Temperature Update

According to the satellite temperature data, this summer’s global temperature is 1.6 degrees F cooler than last year. The month of June in the Southern Hemisphere is the third coolest month since the satellite record began in 1979. The two cooler months were March 1993 in the aftermath of the Mount Pinatubo eruption and September 1984. See www.vision.net.au/~daly/.

Etc.

     

  • The flow of doomsday articles and op-eds about global warming continues unabated, despite the growing evidence that global warming will be benign and maybe even beneficial. Time magazine (August 9, 1999) laments that even though "a great many scientists believe that by continuing to pump greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere, humans are forcing drastic climate change…Congress seems determinedly indifferent."

     

  •  

An article in The Guardian (London, July 29, 1999), however, wins the prize for overblown anguish. The author, George Monbiot, wails that "the global meltdown has begun. Long predicted and long denied, the effects of climate change are arriving faster than even the gloomiest prophets expected." He goes on to say, "climate change is perhaps the gravest calamity our species has ever encountered. Its impact dwarfs that of any war, any plague, any famine we have confronted so far. It makes genocide and ethnic cleansing look like side shows at the circus of human suffering. A car is now more dangerous than a gun; flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable, in terms of its impact on human well-being, as child abuse. The rich are at play in the world’s killing fields."

Crisp as french fries? Worse than genocide or ethnic cleansing? Come on! We’re talking about a 3.5 degrees warming at most. If global warming does occur it will take place almost entirely in the cold regions of the earth. The warm regions of the world will experience almost no change.

Announcements

     

  • The U.S. Central and East European Electricity Management Development Institute and the United States Energy Association is sponsoring a conference, the "Forum on Emissions Trading Allowances" in Neptun, Romania on August 31 – September 1, 1999. The conference will educate Central and Eastern European electric utility executives, regulators and ministry representatives about emissions allowance trading.

     

  •  

     

  • The Pew Center on Climate Change is holding a conference on early action crediting on September 13-14 at the Westin Grand Hotel in Washington, D.C. For registration details go to www.pewclimate.org.

     

  •  

THE COOLER HEADS COALITION

Alexis de Tocqueville InstitutionAmericans for Tax ReformAmerican Legislative Exchange CouncilAmerican Policy CenterAssociation of Concerned TaxpayersCenter for Security PolicyCitizens for a Sound EconomyCitizens for the Integrity of ScienceCommittee for a Constructive TomorrowCompetitive Enterprise InstituteConsumer AlertDefenders of Property RightsFrontiers of FreedomGeorge C. Marshall InstituteHeartland InstituteIndependent InstituteNational Center for Policy AnalysisNational Center for Public Policy ResearchPacific Research InstituteSeniors Coalition60 PlusSmall Business Survival CommitteeThe Advancement of Sound Science CoalitionThe Heritage Foundation