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Vol. III, No. 19
Vol. III, No. 19
September 15, 1999
Bush Attacks Kyoto
Those who are concerned about the adverse economic consequences of cutting energy use to prevent the dubious threat of manmade global warming were upset when presidential candidate George W. Bush said, "I believe there is global warming." But during a September 1 campaign speech in West Des Moines, Iowa, Bush strongly criticized the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that would require the U.S. to drastically cut energy use. "It’s going to cost jobs," Bush said. "I also don’t appreciate the fact the United States bears the brunt of the goals of Kyoto while underdeveloped, developing nations are really excluded from cleaning up the environment."
A Gore spokesman, Chris Lehane responded that "It’s no surprise that the governor is parroting the right wing’s line on Kyoto. After all, he’s carried the dirty water for some of Texas’s worst polluters for years." He also claimed that "the last seven years have shown that choosing between the environment and jobs is false – you can do both, as 19 million new jobs and the cleanest environment in a generation can attest" (Houston Chronicle, September 2, 1999).
In other election news, the Friends of the Earth political action committee announced its endorsement of former Senator Bill Bradley over Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination. FOE stated "both disillusionment with Gore’s environmental performance over the past seven years and recognition of Bradley’s superior environmental credentials," as justification for the endorsement. It also pointed out that Bradley had a higher environmental rating while in the Senate, as judged by the League of Conservation Voters, than did Gore, 85 to 66 percent (Washington Post, September 14, 1999).
Big Business Tries to Force the "Credit For Early Action" Issue
Credit for early action legislation that would give companies emission credits for voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions have not made the splash that its sponsors and supporters had hoped for. Opposition from across the political spectrum has thwarted progress on this front. Now, those who would benefit most from such laws, namely big businesses, are seeking to force the issue.
At a September 13-14 conference on credits for early action sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, DuPont announced a plan to reduce voluntarily its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent below their 1990 levels by 2010. It will also use renewable energy to provide 10 percent of the energy it uses by 2010.
DuPont’s vice president and chief operating officer Dennis Reilley, said, "Our bias should be for prompt and meaningful action where there is reasonable cause for concern. And there is no question in our minds about whether there is reasonable cause for concern" (BNA Daily Environment Report, September 14, 1999).
Businesses like DuPont are gaming the political process for economic gain, however. It’s not surprising that supporters of credit for early action are big businesses that have the financial wherewithal and legal expertise to engage in early emission reductions and verification. By acquiring early credits, these companies can corner the market on emissions credits.
Companies who are unable to play the early action game will find themselves shouldering the burden of future Kyoto-style regulations. Those that do participate in early action will gain a huge competitive advantage over their smaller rivals (see CEI’s On Point Policy Brief, "Early Action Crediting: Growing the Kyoto Lobby at Small Business’s Expense" at www.cei.org).
By taking such a step, DuPont will, in the event that Congress imposes Kyoto-style emissions limits, be able to claim that it deserves credit for what it has already done, thereby transferring the burden onto other businesses.
Condors Clash with Global Warming
For years we have been hearing the global warming will be the doom of endangered species. It now appears that global warming policy may be far more menacing. The National Audubon Society has launched a campaign to prevent construction of a wind energy project in northern Los Angeles County, historic habitat for the endangered California condor.
The wind farm project is part of an aggressive effort by the California state government to promote renewable energy. It awarded $7 million to the Houston-based Enron Wind Corp. for two wind farms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded that the project would endanger the condor that has been reintroduced to the area at enormous cost to taxpayers. "It is hard to imagine a worse idea than putting a condor Cuisinart next door to critical condor habitat," said Daniel P. Beard, the Audubon Society’s senior vice president. The Audubon Society wants Congress to make wind farms within 10 miles of habitat of endangered birds ineligible for tax credits (Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1999).
Energy Tax to Hurt Farmers
Britain’s proposed energy tax has come under fire from various sectors of the economy. Many industries have claimed that the levy would do serious harm, and have sought exemption from the tax. The latest economic sector to oppose the tax is agriculture.
According to the Country Landowners Association, the industry is in the midst of its worst recession in 60 years. An energy tax would threaten jobs and incomes and may well spell the end for many farm businesses. The association argues that the tax should not be imposed unless it is part of a European-wide global warming program. The association argues that this would protect British agriculture from unfair competition. "If a levy is required, it must be introduced on an EU-wide basis to safeguard UK economic interests by ensuring that all our major trading partners are subject to the same cost," said Geoffrey Hopton, a regional director for the association.
Hopton also said that if introduced any surplus from the tax should be put towards a national insurance rebate to offset losses in farm income and other primary production income, and for the development of renewable energy sources (Birmingham Post, September 9, 1999).
Nuclear Power Needed Says IEA
If there is one thing that the Greens consider to be on par with global warming in terms of its danger to the environment it is nuclear power. Now the International Energy Agency, in a move sure to send the Greens into spasms, has told Switzerland, Finland and Poland that commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would prevent them from phasing out their nuclear power sectors.
In Switzerland, for example, nuclear power provides 40 percent of electricity. The Swiss government had decided to limit the operational lifetime of its nuclear plants in an attempt to move away from nuclear power. Both Finland and Poland seem to be moving to a greater commitment to nuclear power (Greenwire, September 9, 1999).
El Niño’s Benefits Greater Than Its Costs
A lot of attention was devoted to the El Niño event of 1997-98. Most of the attention was focused on the negative impacts of El Niño. Droughts, floods, tornadoes and other severe weather events were attributed to the much maligned weather phenomenon. A new study appearing in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (September 1999) by climatologist Stanley Changnon, finds that El Niño was a net economic benefit to the U.S.
According to the report, the losses included 189 lives due to tornadoes, property and crop damages from storms, and losses to the winter recreation industry and snow removal industry due to the mild winter, as well as government relief costs. The benefits included 850 lives saved because of the mild winter, major savings in the use of natural gas and heating oil, record retail and real estate sales, fewer spring floods, record construction levels and savings in airline and highway transportation. El Niño also served to greatly suppress the number of Atlantic hurricanes, leading to zero losses as a result.
The estimated losses from El Niño for the U.S. amounted to about $4 billion while the benefits were about $19 billion, a net benefit of $15 billion. The accurate prediction of the 1997 El Niño by the Climate Prediction Center allowed for mitigation efforts, which also led to a decrease in potential losses.
"The Lost Squadron" Buried Deep in the Ice
Melting glaciers have been a major concern in the global warming debate, especially the major ice sheets, due to the potential devastating consequences of rising sea levels. The evidence about whether the ice sheets are growing or shrinking has been mixed, however. Scientists are still not sure how glaciers will respond to changes in temperature.
An interesting bit of evidence has come to light with the discovery of "The Lost Squadron," as shown in a study by climatologist Robert Balling for the Greening Earth Society. In 1942, a squadron of eight airplanes was forced to land on Greenland’s icecap due to bad weather. The planes were recently discovered buried under 268 feet of snow and ice.
The dynamics of Greenland’s icecap are very complex. One study posited that 1 degree C of warming would increase the amount of ice on Greenland due to increased snowfall. Other studies have found, however, that Greenland has cooled. Temperature data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that the area where the planes were landed has cooled 2.25 degrees F since 1942. One study found that the seven glaciers in the southern part of Greenland responded very differently to a fall in temperature. Yet another study showed that Greenland’s mass ice balance increased between 1950 and 1991.
According to Balling, the discovery of "The Lost Squadron" tells us that "linking temperature trends to changes in ice packs involves a complicated set of processes that defy the simplistic notion that warming automatically yields a loss of mass over major ice sheets. Once again we learn that things in the real world are never so simple as they might seem. We should be skeptical of bold pronouncements permeating ‘conventional wisdom’ about global warming" (www.greeningearthsociety.org).
Britain’s Birds Like Warming
Contrary to speculation by Green activists that global warming will be devastating to earth’s biodiversity, scientific studies have confirmed that in the past greater levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures were beneficial to earth’s biosphere. Further evidence to suggest that a warmer climate would help wildlife comes from the largest survey ever made of Britain’s common birds, conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The survey found Britain’s "best-loved birds" are being helped by warmer weather. In Scotland, for example, species "which are experiencing a population boom outnumber those in decline by almost three to one," reports The Scotsman (September 13, 1999). Fourteen of Scotland’s species are experiencing population growth while just five are in decline. For the UK as a whole, thirty-three species are increasing their numbers while 20 are in decline.
Species that are in decline in England include mostly farmland birds, which are being hurt by the intensification of agriculture. In Scotland, however, farmland species are also doing well. According to David Noble of the British Trust for Ornithology, "It is obvious that some birds are doing better in Scotland, and that may be due to different farming practices there."
"It is also possible climate change has allowed a northern expansion in the range of some birds, but that is only a theory," said Noble. "More work is need on the causes of these trends."
- Twelve confirmed cases of encephalitis, a form of yellow fever, and three deaths in New York have already sparked rampant speculation about a connection to global warming. An editorial by Mark L. Winston, a professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, claims that global warming caused the outbreak. He’s just getting warmed up, however. According to Winston, global warming is bringing killer bees to the American Southwest; Fire ants from Argentina are now spread from California to Florida; and olive fruit flies from the Mediterranean were discovered in California last year (New York Times, September 11, 1999).
Winston mentions that man imported these pests to the American continent. How he implicates global warming is a mystery. Killer bees were imported to Brazil from Africa in the 1950s, for example. They "have been terrorizing South and Central America and are now spreading throughout the American Southwest," says Winston. Its should be obvious that a newly introduced insect species could gradually and naturally expand its population and territory quite a bit over a 50-year time period. But Winston will have none of that, even though he doesn’t present any evidence that the territorial expansion of these pests are temperature related in any way. He just asserts that it’s global warming related. The last time we checked, bees and ants and flies were surviving just fine in the cooler northern latitudes.
- The Cooler Heads Coalition is sponsoring two global warming science briefings for congressional staff and media. The first, to be held on Capitol Hill on September 24, will feature atmospheric scientist S. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project. The briefing is titled, "Global Warming Will Not Cause the Seas to Rise." The second briefing, on October 8, will feature University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels, who will explain "Why We Shouldn’t Sweat Global Warming." Both briefings will be held at noon, and lunch will be provided. For more information please contact Myron Ebell or Paul Georgia at (202) 331-1010.
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