- About CEI
- Support CEI
Vol. III, No. 17
Vol. III, No. 17
August 18, 1999
Clinton’s Biomass Program
In an obvious attempt to buy support from farmers for its global warming policies, the Clinton Administration has unveiled its latest scheme to reduce energy emissions. On August 12 President Clinton issued an executive order calling for an increase in the use of biomass to produce energy. The executive order sets a goal of tripling the use of biomass for energy generation in various industries by 2010.
The administration is claiming that the new executive order will result in $15 to $20 billion in new farm income by 2010 as a result of increasing the use of farm products as a fuel source. In a speech announcing the new plan President Clinton said, "One hundred years from now, people will look back on this time and compare it to the time when Mr. Burton (a chemist who launched the modern petrochemical industry) figured out how to get more out of every petroleum molecule – if we do our jobs." It’s far more likely that this will be remembered like all other government energy projects: a massive boondoggle wasting billions of hard-earned tax dollars (New York Times, August 12, 1999).
Airline Industry: Rushing to Appease
The British aviation industry is running scared due to the possibility of being taxed for using
energy. According to Charles Miller, policy director of the British Air Transport Association, "A tax is not staring us in the face. But it is the option we are most concerned about. It is the solution that has been mooted more than others." In an attempt to head off a carbon tax the industry is putting forth a proposal in which the airline industry would voluntarily agree to increase fuel efficiency by 23 percent by 2010 (Financial Times (London), August 14, 1999).
Economic Growth and Energy Use De-linked?
The Worldwatch Institute recently put out a press release (widely reported as a study by the press) claiming that a recent decline in worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, amidst economic growth, shows that economic growth is no longer dependent on increasing energy use. Worldwatch Institute’s numbers, based on figures from BP Amoco, show that worldwide carbon emissions fell by 0.5 percent. U.S. emissions rose only 0.4 percent even though the nation’s economy grew by 4 percent.
This, according to Worldwatch, proves that complying with the Kyoto Protocol will be much easier than claimed by treaty opponents. Of course if their claims are true it could also suggest that the Kyoto Protocol is unnecessary. A closer look shows a story quite different from the one given by Worldwatch. As pointed out in the World Climate Report, "Worldwatch/BP found dramatically reduced emissions in China, Japan, and Russia, with a smaller reduction in the European Union. What did these nations have in common in 1998? How about lowered growth, recession, depression, and stagnation, respectively?"
WCR also points out that due to the El Niño induced mild winter there was a 15 percent decrease "in the use of heating energy, which normally eats up $50 billion in fossil fuel" (www.greeningearthsociety.com).
Aggressive Global Warming Policy Would Create Jobs
A new study commissioned by the World Wildlife Foundation claims that aggressive policies to cut energy emissions "would spur substantial job and economic growth throughout he United States." Cutting energy use would save the nation $43 billion per year and create more than 870,000 new jobs by 2010, according to the report.
"The results," says the report, "come from a mix of policies designed to drive innovation in energy resources and technology, including: incentives for efficient vehicles and equipment; elimination of regulatory impediments; new efficiency standards for buildings, cars and other gear; enhanced R&D; and improvements in land-use and infrastructure. The measures also entail tax reform and reductions in subsidies to polluters."
The benefits stem from massive reductions in energy use, which WWF terms as savings, and "sharp increases in renewable energy including wind, solar and biofuels made from plants, as well as a carbon cap that would yield a significant reduction in the use of highly polluting coal."
The Global Climate Coalition’s executive director Glenn Kelly responded, "They have one-upped the Administration study that economists called ‘wildly optimistic.’" Green activists like the WWF are "producing some very amusing economic analyses these days," said Kelly. "No where on Earth can you find the kind of magic dust that produces estimates like these."
There is a glaring error in WWF’s claims that these types of policies can lead to increased efficiency and economic savings. Job loss in an industry is often a sign of increased efficiency. Two hundred years ago nearly the entire U.S. population was employed in agriculture. Now the percentage is between 2 and 3 percent. That is due to a massive increase in productive efficiency.
WWF’s style of job creation would most likely occur as a result of moving from the use of efficient fossil fuels to inefficient renewables. While jobs would be created the cost would be tremendous. The study can be obtained at www.panda.org.
Mounting Evidence Points to Sun
The sun continues to get increasing attention and study as scientists struggle to determine the causes behind climate change. One of the top scientists studying the sun’s influence on the climate is Dr. Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist with the George C. Marshall Institute and deputy director of Mount Wilson Observatory. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (August 5, 1999), Dr. Baliunas discusses the sun’s role in global warming.
Baliunas points out that computer models show that the climate should have risen by about 1 degree C over the last 100 years, but that the actual temperature rise has been only half that amount. Most of the rise occurred prior to 1940, but 80 percent of the manmade carbon dioxide was emitted into the air after 1940, making the carbon dioxide-global warming link tenuous at best.
A better explanation for the observed warming is changes in the sun’s brightness. The sun experiences magnetic cycles that last 22 years, during which the sun reaches peak brightness and then swings back to a dimmer state. Baliunas also points out that, "The length of the magnetic cycle is closely related to its amplitude; thus the sun should be brightest when the sunspot cycle is short."
According to Baliunas, "Changes in the length of the magnetic cycle and in Northern Hemisphere land temperatures are closely correlated over three centuries." She also argues that if the data are correct, "Changes in the sunspot cycle would explain average temperature change of about 0.5 degrees C in the past 100 years."
Finally, Baliunas explains that the highly accurate satellite temperature data fail to show any warming over the last 20 years. Some scientists claim that the global warming that should have occurred, according to climate model forecasts, is being offset by industrial emissions of aerosols which cool the climate. But, says Baliunas, nearly all aerosols are emitted in the Northern Hemisphere, "leaving the Southern Hemisphere’s air free to rise with increasing carbon dioxide." But so far there has been no temperature increase in the Southern Hemisphere.
Baliunas concludes that, "Introducing the sun’s impact in the models has shown that the human effects on temperature are much smaller than first projected, and perhaps insignificant compared with natural temperature changes." A transcript of Dr. Baliunas’s Cooler Heads science briefing can be found at www.cei.org.
Chaotic Weather Sans Global Warming
Much has been made of severe weather phenomena of late. Anything that falls outside the realm of pleasant, benign weather is blamed on global warming. A recent news story on NBC News at Sunrise (August 12, 1999) even raised the possibility that the tornado that hit Salt Lake City was linked to climate change.
"With each of the freak and often deadly weather events this year … the question keeps coming up, is our climate changing permanently in frightening ways?" asked reporter Robert Bazell. "Almost every weather scientist will say that no single event can be tied to overall climate change," said Bazell. "But the earth is getting warmer, about one degree warmer since the beginning of the century."
And what does this prove? Absolutely nothing! First, U.S. temperatures have remained flat over the last 80 years. Blaming weather events in the U.S. on warming on a global scale is just plain silly. Second, even if the "freak" weather events in the U.S. could be linked to higher global temperatures, that wouldn’t explain this summer’s weather events. Summer global temperatures this year have been below normal, according to satellite temperature measurements.
Third, highlighting record-breaking weather events exhibits a profound ignorance of statistics. Extreme weather is a statistical certainty. As pointed out on a global warming website at users.erols.com/dhoyt1/annex12.htm, "The probability of breaking a weather record is equal to 1/n where n is the number of years for which measurements exist." This simple equation means that on an average day 2 million square miles of the earth’s surface will experience weather that breaks a 100-year-old record.
Finally, at a convention of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Birmingham, England, climate modelers Barrie Hunt and Anthony Hirst with the Mebourne-based Division of Atmospheric Research of Australia’s national research organization, revealed the results of a new climate model.
What they found was that even with stable CO2 levels the climate system is very chaotic. "Fifty percent of the globe seems to have a 10-year drying or wetting sequence within a 1000-year period," said Hunt. As reported in the New Scientist (August 7, 1999), the model shows that "Some regions could suddenly be seared by intense heat and drought, or inundated by rain, for the best part of 30 years."
So What’s Causing this Summer’s High Temperatures and Drought?
This year’s summer weather has been a major topic of discussion in the national press. Heat waves and drought conditions have certainly been unpleasant this year, but they are hardly the stuff of apocalyptic dimensions, and it certainly isn’t because of global warming. According to U.S. News & World Report (August 9, 1999), "Those who deal with the global climate seem more certain that the summer heat and even the year’s drought, are not evidence of a profound change" in the climate system.
"This summer, we’ve had more than our fair share of heat waves," says Ed O’Lenic, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Other than "a persistent pattern of high pressure stuck over the middle part of the country," scientists aren’t sure of the cause. "The fact that it’s hot for a week has nothing at all to do with global warming, which would be measured over decades, not days," says National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Tinker.
The article states, "The total U.S. land area currently under drought is not in itself unusual; every year, about 10 to 15 percent of the country faces extremely dry conditions." It’s the pattern of drought that is unusual. The Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states almost never experiences severe drought conditions. It’s shaping up to be the driest year in 100 years for those states.
La Niña is believed to be at least partially responsible. Even though La Niña usually causes drought in the Southeast rather than the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, this year could be an exception. "We don’t have enough long-term data on either El Niño or La Niña," says O’Lenic. "What’s happening this summer may simply be a natural variation we’ve never seen before."
Another article from the Environmental News Network (August 11, 1999) quotes Charles H.V. Ebert a professor at the State University at Buffalo, as saying that, "No, it’s (the drought) not global warming … That could be occurring as well, of course, but based on 100,000 years of geological evidence, we just seem to be going through a warm phase of our climatology. He also argued that "Media attention combined with our poor memories of past weather, tend to generate unjustified alarm for our climatic future (www.enn.com/news).
- 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