Vol. III, No. 20

Vol. III, No. 20

September 29, 1999

Politics

 

Climate Change Funding Unabated

 

The Clinton-Gore Administration continues to engage in attempts at backdoor implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Last year Congress sought to prevent these activities through the Knollenberg provision that prohibits spending money to implement the Kyoto Protocol. Knollenberg has had limited success, however. This year Congress has strengthened the Knollenberg language and included it in appropriation bills for the relevant agencies. These bills have not been enacted into law.

 

Despite Congress’s efforts, however, there is still heavy federal funding of global warming programs. According to a new report by The Heritage Foundation, "If the Administration’s FY2000 request for funds is granted, total funding for all climate change programs and related tax policies will increase by more than 40 percent over FY 1998 levels."

 

The federal government’s climate change program is wide ranging. According to the Heritage report, "In its April 20, 1999 Report to Congress on Federal Climate Change Expenditures, the Administration organized these activities into 32 programs, or groups of programs spanning nine Cabinet-level departments and five independent agencies.

 

Taken together, these programs account for almost $11 billion in funding during FY 1998 to

 

FY 2000." Thirteen additional programs have received funding from new sources, according to the report. Titled, "Squandering the Surplus," it is available at www.heritage.org.

 

Senate Freezes CAFE

 

Green activists have made a major push to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles. The law requires U.S. automobile manufacturers to maintain an average fuel economy standard of 27.5 mpg for cars and 20.7 mpg for trucks. The Senate voted 55-40 to freeze fuel economy standards at current levels for one more year.

 

The vote total is susceptible to a presidential veto, however. But many are doubtful that Clinton will veto the measure. "I would never say there’s no chance, but he hasn’t vetoed if for four years," said Mike Stanton, vice president of government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "What’s different this year?"

 

Some say the difference is the renewed effort by green activists. The administration has also said it "strongly objects" to the freeze, but stopped short of a veto threat. Such a threat could induce the House and Senate to drop the freeze in conference committee. Linda Ricci, spokesman for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, said that the administration might issue a new policy statement before the conferees meet, but has not yet decided (Automotive News, September 20, 1999).

 

"Political" Scientists

 

In our May 26 issue, we reported the findings of an experiment, reported in Science, that found a significant increase in the growth rate of loblolly pine trees due to elevated levels of CO2. In a letter (Science, September 17, 1999) responding to the article, a group of scientists complimented the researchers for their "excellent and much needed experimental work."

 

The letter then questioned the researchers’ extrapolation from the experimental results, but the most striking statement was that regarding the politics. "In the current, post-Kyoto international political climate, scientific statements about the behavior of the terrestrial carbon cycle must be made with care…." This is a disturbing statement coming from scientists. It seems to suggest that political considerations should temper scientific statements.

 

The authors of the letter are Bert Bolin, Ex-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Josep Canadell, Executive Officer, Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems (GCTE), Berrien Moore III, Chairman of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), Ian Noble, Chairman of the GCTE, and Will Steffen, Executive Director of the IGBP.

 

Four of the five authors are officers of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (GCTE is part of IGBP), which was set up by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). The letter prompted the ICSU President, Mihkel Arber, to chastise the writers for violating the group’s free speech statutes. He wrote:

 

"Your letter on the need to temper scientific findings with political considerations published in Science today is a chilling testimonial to the current trend to limit objective reason in deference to political ambitions.

 

"Politics and science are fundamentally different beasts and whereas science can be harnessed to assist politics, the reverse has never been true….

 

"The open rebuke of a scientific, peer reviewed paper on political grounds…is unacceptable to the scientific community and serves only to tarnish the scientific reputation of the signatories and the scientific bodies they represent.

 

"As a past representative of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, I am particularly disappointed in the lead role two representatives of the Swedish scientific community have chosen to play in this tardy spectacle.

 

"Are not all scientific remarks made with care? Personally, I would say that whereas they certainly should, they are not. Historically we have seen periodic alignment of science with political mainstream thought in times which produced little of scientific note. Your letter confirms that we are now experiencing such times; a notion further augmented by the observation that a disturbing amount of politically correct research is being done with little care for scientific accuracy. As an example, I might refer to ice core studies used to confirm pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 levels where trace gas solubility in ice is summarily dismissed. The results are acceptable from a Kyoto Protocol point of view but scientifically entirely unacceptable."

 

A copy of the letter can be found at www.vision.net.au/~daly/.

 

Interfaith Effort to Stop Global Warming

 

Many think that the greens violate the principle of the separation of church and state when they try to foist their ecological beliefs on the rest of the population through the political process. A new phenomenon along these lines has been the elevation of green theology in traditionally Christian churches. More and more religious groups are taking positions on environmental issues.

 

The latest campaign comes from the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, which urges government officials to take action against global climate change. A statement by the Council equates global warming with "doing violence to God’s creation" and violating "moral and religious principles of justice." The group has determined to: educate people of faith and add "religious voices to the scientific consensus;" encourage congregations and religious organizations to use less energy and use electricity from renewable sources; and lobby federal, state and local officials to take action against climate change (PR Newswire, September 20, 1999).

 

Economics

 

Rich Countries Owe Poor Countries for Global Warming Damages

 

Pressure seems to be building for developed countries to forgive developing countries’ debt. The latest ploy has been the claim that pollution emitted by rich countries causes environmental damage to poor countries, constituting an obligation towards the poor countries. A new report by Christian Aid claims that the "carbon debt" by developed countries that is leading to global warming exceeds the financial debts of less developed countries. In fact, says the report, "heavily indebted poor countries" have credit of $612 billion when pollution is taken into account (The Independent, September 20, 1999).

 

Science

 

Global Warming Will Not Raise Sea Level

On September 24, Dr. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, discussed the likelihood that sea level would rise due to global warming at a Cooler Heads Coalition science briefing for congressional staff and media.

 

Dr. Singer does not doubt that sea level has risen by about 18 cm over the last century. The most recent IPCC report finds that a little less than half of that rise can be accounted for by thermal expansion of the ocean and glacial melting. Moreover, an increase of ice accumulation over the Antarctic, as expected from warmer temperatures, reduces the rate of sea level rise. This leads Dr. Singer to conclude that most if not the entire sea level rise experienced over the last century is due to factors other than climate variations. Singer concludes that the rise is due to the long-term warming that began at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum.

 

Dr. Singer has also found that over shorter time scales there is an inverse relationship between global temperature and sea level rise. That is, as temperature increases sea levels fall. This is due to sea surface evaporation that transports moisture to the polar ice caps, expanding the amount of water locked up in ice at the poles. According to Dr. Singer, any warming that may occur due to human influences will slow down rather than speed up sea level rise over decades.

 

Over thousands of years, sea level will continue to rise at a rate of approximately 18 cm per year until the next ice age begins. The paper upon which Dr. Singer’s lecture was based can be found at www.sepp.org.

 

IPCC: Hedging Its Bets

 

Citing the future’s unpredictability, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will not forecast a "best guess" scenario for greenhouse gas emissions for the next century. "There can be no best guess," according to the draft special report released by the IPCC. "The future is inherently unpredictable and views will differ on which of the scenarios could be more likely."

 

The report gives a range of possible CO2 emission scenarios from five times today’s levels or 36.7 billion tons by 2100 to 4.3 billion tons, slightly lower than today’s levels. There are 40 scenarios in all, based on four different sets of assumptions about population, economic growth and technological advances. The main forecasts, for each set of assumptions, range from 6 billion tons to 29 billion tons. The report "extends the range significantly towards higher emissions," more so than the previous IPCC report (New Scientist, September 18, 1999).

 

Hurricane Floyd in the Press

 

Although Hurricane Floyd spawned its share of over-hyped press, the aftermath has been fairly balanced. The September 27, 1999 issues of three major newsmagazines, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report all carried stories about Hurricane Floyd. Although each story raised the issue of global warming, they also discussed at length the fact that the current upswing in hurricane activity is due to natural, rather than manmade conditions.

 

The Time article claimed that global warming could increase ocean temperatures, leading to more intense hurricanes. Each one degree Fahrenheit rise in ocean temperature will increase hurricane wind speeds by 5 mph. This means that with global warming wind speeds could reach 200 mph. The North Atlantic is unusually warm this fall, and accounts for the peak size and strength reached by Floyd.

 

According to David Enfield, a researcher at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, there appears to be an upward trend in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures. "Like other oceanographers, Enfield believes this is the result of a natural climate shift, as opposed to human-induced global warming," said Time.

 

According to Time, Roger Pielke, Jr., with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says "it’s really not necessary to concoct ways to make hurricanes any more threatening than they already are. With or without global warming, there are going to be some whoppers in our future, and unlike Floyd, many of these will prove to be megadisasters. For the days when a big hurricane could make landfall in sparsely populated places are fast disappearing…and that alone is cause enough for worry."

 

All three magazines agree that global warming has little to do with current hurricane conditions. According to U.S. News & World Report, "Researchers do not yet know what might cause these long-term fluctuations, but they don’t believe global warming is the culprit." The Newsweek story discusses conditions under which hurricane activity could both increase or decrease in the event of global warming.

 

Perhaps most disappointing is a story that appeared in Time for Kids (September 24, 1999). The story treats Floyd as if it were as big as its pre-landfalling hype, referring to it as "Monstrous Hurricane Floyd, a 600-mile-wide superstorm." The story noted that, "Many meterologists saw its incredible size and stength as proof that we are in an era of stronger and more frequent hurricane." The article gives considerable more weight to theories that global warming is to blame than did its counterpart in Time for adults.

 

Announcements

 

     

  • The Cooler Heads Coalition is sponsoring a science briefing for congressional staff and media on Friday, November 5, featuring University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels on "Why We Shouldn’t Sweat Global Warming." For further information contact Myron Ebell or Paul Georgia at (202) 331-1010.

     

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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