Vol. III, No. 22

Vol. III, No. 22

October 27, 1999

Politics

 

Bonn is Underway

 

The fifth Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is under way in Bonn, Germany. Some of the issues to be considered include the use of flexible mechanisms, such as emission trading, and developing country participation.

 

The conference opened with a speech by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who called for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002. He told the delegates that the industrialized nations must set an example for developing countries. Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the convention, applauded Schroeder’s speech and that the proposal is "an encouraging goal" (Greenwire, October 26, 1999).

 

Greens Launch Propaganda Blitz

 

Maybe you’ve seen them – television ads with disturbing images of natural disasters and a somber voice claiming that global warming will lead to global climate chaos. It’s all part of a new, multimillion-dollar campaign by Green pressure groups to convince Americans to hand control over their energy future to international bureaucrats.

 

The ads warn Americans of the causes and consequences of global warming, claiming that it will lead to more hurricanes, droughts, fires, and so on. One ad even claims that global warming will cause an increase in childhood asthma. "Asthma," begins the ad, "It’s striking more and more of our kids. In just 13 years, the number of children with asthma has more than doubled. Scientists know that global warming is real and heating up the planet. More heat means more smog, and smog can trigger asthma attacks for our kids."

 

The television, radio and print ads, sponsored by the National Environment Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, are funded by an array of left-wing charitable foundations. The Turner Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the John Merck Fund, and the W. Alton Jones Foundation have provided $8 million for the ads and $3 million for grassroots efforts. Turner is also providing money to the League of Conservation Voters to sponsor presidential debates on environmental issues (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 6, 1999).

 

In concert with the ads, several Green pressure groups are releasing "studies" about global warming. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature, released a report that warned of flooding in New York and Tokyo, droughts in Latin America, and the destruction of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. "Evidence for the warming of our planet over the last 200 years is now overwhelming," claims WWF. With no action to curb emissions, the climate on earth over the next century could become warmer than any the human species has lived through" (ABC News, October 19, 1999).

 

U.S. PIRG, part of a web of groups associated with fearmonger extraordinaire, Ralph Nader, has also released a report repeating the tired litany of disasters supposedly linked to global warming. The claims by these groups are based on pure speculation, however. They are not supported by the scientific literature (www.igc.apc.org/pirg/uspirg).

 

Businesses Are Eager to Look Green

 

The global warming debate has been cast by Green activists as a moral battle between greed and profit versus saving the planet. The dynamics of the debate are slowly changing, however, as businesses are beginning to pay lip service to the claim that the production of goods and services is destroying the planet. Businesses that make the switch are transformed from public enemy, in the eyes of Green activists, to venerable icons. Few commentators suggest, however, that the profit-seeking impulse that drives businesses’ initial resistance to government regulation may be at work in their apparent change of heart.

 

An article in the Wall Street Journal (October 19, 1999) discusses the change in corporate America’s global warming stance. The article notes that "some of the nation’s biggest companies are starting to count greenhouse gases and change business practices to achieve real cuts in emissions." Moreover, "many of them are finding the exercise is green in more ways than one: Reducing global warming can lead to energy-cost savings."

 

The Journal notes another motivation for the change in corporate behavior. "Many U.S. multinationals trying to keep pace with Europe’s faster approach simply don’t want to be on the extreme end of the political spectrum, especially if they want a seat at the table where regulations are being crafted. Some hope to forestall or dilute legislation by reducing emission voluntarily."

 

One company, American Electric Power, admits that its primary motivation for joining a business group that has "moderate" views on global warming is to be able to influence future standards. "Once you realize that you can’t kill this thing, then it’s incumbent upon you to try to be a player in the process of shaping policies," said Dale Heydlauff, the utility’s vice president of environmental affairs.

 

Greens Petition EPA to Regulate CO2

 

A coalition of Green activists petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 emissions from new cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act on October 20. The coalition claims that cars and light trucks in the U.S. are largely responsible for global warming, and threatened to file suit against the EPA to force them to regulate automobile emissions. The EPA has the discretion under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide, according to the coalition.

 

According to Chris Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, "The Clean Air Act never specifically mentions global warming gases except to say that they can’t be regulated." And Rep. David McIntosh, chairman of the Subcommitte on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs, has said, "EPA has somehow missed the obvious. The Clean Air Act is a carefully structured statute with specific titles that establish specific regulatory programs to accomplish specific objectives….The Clean Air Act is not a regulatory blank check."

 

The coalition includes Green pressure groups such as Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth and the National Environment Trust, and renewable energy industry groups such as Bio Fuels America, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and several state solar energy associations.

 

Economics

 

Governments Agree on Kyoto’s Costs

 

Economic studies attempting to ascertain the costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol almost invariably come to the same conclusion: it will be expensive (the lone exception being a study conducted by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers). Many of these studies have been criticized as being paid for by industry, and therefore not credible. However, they are rarely criticized on the merits, and for good reason: they are conducted by highly competent economic forecasting firms.

 

Moreover, these studies are generally supported by studies conducted by government agencies. Mary Novak, Senior Vice President of WEFA Energy Services, evaluated five different government assessments of the costs of the Kyoto Protocol at a conference sponsored by the American Council for Capital Formation on October 13.

 

Novak reported that the studies are very pessimistic. The five assessments were conducted by the European Commission Directorate General for Energy, the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

 

These studies all find that the energy sector would be required to make massive reductions in carbon emissions. They also argue that CO2 emissions are closely linked to all aspects of economic growth and that energy use is essential to improving economic well being.

 

The studies also found that due to the long-lived nature of energy-using capital equipment, it would be very expensive to further improve energy efficiency in the short time frame contemplated by the Kyoto Protocol. Meeting the Kyoto targets is further complicated in European countries where they are moving to retire nuclear capacity.

 

Finally, the studies argue that opportunities for meeting the targets through fuel substitution (gas for coal, for instance) are few since there have already been significant advances made along these lines. All of the studies agree that Annex B countries will be unable to meet their Kyoto targets without large carbon taxes or extensive use of flexible mechanisms.

 

Canada Will Feel Kyoto Pain the Most

 

So far the U.S. has been nearly alone in its skepticism of global warming claims and the need to spend billions of dollars to prevent it. The Canadians, however, are becoming more and more squeamish about the Kyoto Protocol and its implications.

 

They have good reason to worry. A new study by Charles River Associates, an economic consulting firm, shows that of all the industrial nations Canada could face the highest costs to reduce energy emissions. "Of all the OECD countries," says the study, "Canada is probably in the most disadvantageous position to respond to the Kyoto Protocol." Compliance could reduce Canada’s annual economic growth by 0.66 to 2 percent per year.

 

To meet its Kyoto targets, Canada would have to reduce its energy emissions by 28 percent below the levels that would otherwise be reached in 2010. This would mean raising gasoline prices by 24 cents a liter and doubling natural gas prices. This could also hurt Canadian industry’s ability to compete in international markets, since they are already a comparatively high-cost producer (Financial Times, October 26, 1999).

 

Science

 

Global Warming Science Uncertain

 

There are still large gaps in our understanding of the causes of global warming, according to a new study by the National Research Council, Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. The 600-page report argues that more research money is needed for global climate observations systems.

 

Before we begin spending money on "mitigation science", we should learn more about the fundamentals of global warming science, according to the report. "Our current ability to answer these scientific questions is seriously blocking progress in critical policy development." The report also warns that policymakers should not assume that we know everything we need to know about climate just because there are international negotiations to mitigate global warming.

 

International agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, "are based on a general understanding of some causes and characteristics of global change," says the report’s preface. "However, there remain many scientific uncertainties about important aspects of climate change" (BNA Daily Environment Report, October 19, 1999).

 

Sea Level: Rising or Falling?

 

As empirical data about global warming continues to roll in scientists become more and more aware of just how little they know about the climate system. Data from Australia’s National Tidal Facility of recent sea level trends in the Pacific area, for example, give a mixed picture. The following are sea level measurements from several sites in the Pacific:

 

Location Length Trend[months] [mm/yr]Cook Is. 64 +13.7Samoa 64 -9.7Tonga 65 +29.1Tuvalu 62 -34.3Fiji 69 +10.3Kiribati 62 -21.4Marshall Is. 58 -11.7Vanuatu 55 +12.1Nauru 59 -26.4Solomon Is. 45 -41.3Papua NG 32 -43.6

 

As the table shows, there is no clear-cut answer as to what is happening to sea levels in the Pacific. If we average the data, we get a sea level fall of -11.2 mm/yr., but this still tells us almost nothing and has little meaning to an island such as Tonga, which is experiencing sea level rise. Given the large differences in sea level change it’s difficult to know what is going on (www.vision.net.au/~daly).

 

Announcements

     

  • The Cooler Heads Coalition is sponsoring a science briefing for congressional staff and media on Friday, November 5, at noon, featuring University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels on "Why We Shouldn’t Sweat Global Warming." The briefing will be held in Room 366, Dirksen Senate Office Building. Lunch will be served. 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