Vol. III, No. 24

Vol. III, No. 24

November 23, 1999

 Politics

Pew Runs for Cover

As reported in our last issue, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a letter from Jack Kemp, challenged the Pew Center on Climate Change, a major left-wing advocate of energy controls, to a series of scientific debates in Washington and other cities, "to review the evidence for and against Kyoto in a more thoughtful fashion." The Pew Center has now responded.

 

Eileen Claussen, the President and Chairman of the Board of the Pew Center, wrote in response to the challenge, "The Pew Center was founded to advance the broader discussion surrounding climate change – not the Kyoto Protocol – with credible and thoughtful analyses that would lead to realistic solutions to a serious problem."

 

She goes on to say that "The Center has also initiated a series of … peer-reviewed studies [that] have helped define the credible parameters within which reasonable differences can be considered by those with a stake in the issue (our emphasis)." Translation: The science is in. Manmade global warming is real. The only reasonable difference of opinion can be in what to do about it. The claim of peer-review is dubious. The reviewers were most likely selected because their viewpoint matched Pew’s, not to provide an objective evaluation.

 

According to Miss Claussen, "An adversarial forum on the Kyoto Protocol … would not do justice to the scale and complexities of the climate change issue. What is needed is serious and informed discussion (our emphasis)…." Miss Claussen claims, therefore, that the science behind the global warming theory is no longer a topic of "serious" debate. "For these reasons, we respectfully decline your invitation to a debate on Kyoto," wrote Miss Claussen.

 

IPCC’s Draft Report Available

 

Those who follow the global warming debate have noticed that the evidence supporting catastrophic scenarios becomes weaker each year. But don’t expect the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s third assessment report to reflect that reality, however.

 

According to the New Scientist (November 20, 1999), the draft of the IPCC’s third assessment report takes quite a different view. "Unlike the last IPCC assessment five years ago, which concluded merely that the ‘balance of evidence’ suggested that global warming was caused by humans, the latest report … unequivocally points to humans as the culprits."

 

The report claims that the world has been warming at a rate of 2 degrees C per century since 1976, and that this rate is "unprecedented" based on data from the past millenium. "What’s more," reports the New Scientist, "climate modeling studies in the past five years all show that the patterns of warming match predictions based on the greenhouse effect much better than those based on alternative theories."

Perhaps the most startling claim of the draft report is that even though solar influence is probably responsible for some of the warming experienced in the first half of the century, "Based on these factors alone … temperatures would actually have fallen during the past two decades," reports the New Scientist.

 

Other predictions include a collapse of the Greenland ice sheet over the next 1000 years and a subsequent rise in sea level of 7 meters and that forests may exhibit a "positive feedback" effect. After absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forests could succumb to heat stress and release their carbon. The draft of the IPCC report is available on the web at www.meto.gov.uk/sec5/CR_div/ipcc/wg1/drafts.

 

Federal Budget’s Kyoto Outlays

 

The Clinton-Gore Administration has been successful in gaining Congress’s approval of increased funding to combat global warming, according to a White House press release. "The budget provides $1.1 billion for research and development of clean energy through the Climate Change Technology Initiative, including a 7 percent increase for energy efficiency investments to reduce pollution, create jobs, and save consumers money."

 

The press release also boasts of extending tax credits for wind and biomass energy production through 2001. "These tax credits encourage no- (wind) and low- (biomass) emission energy production. The biomass tax credit encourages farmers to grow certain materials that can be burned to produce energy. Producing energy from wind and biomass preserves scarce energy resources and reduces our reliance on imported oil." Finally, the administration claims that it was the last line of defense against attempts "to block common-sense actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution" (U.S. Newswire, November 18, 1999).

 

University Students Gunning for GCC

 

"UCLA’s undergraduate student government has approved a resolution urging the University of California Regents to divest itself of holdings of industrial and manufacturing firms that the students say contribute to global warming," according to the Los Angeles Times

 

The Undergraduate Student Affairs Council voted 9-2 to divest holdings of Exxon, Ford, and General Motors, which are members of the Global Climate Coalition. Also, 58 UCLA faculty members have sent a letter to the regents urging them to divest holdings in GCC companies.

 

Students and faculty members of Grinnell College in Iowa have also signed a letter urging the trustees to "avoid investing any of the school’s billion-dollar endowment fund in companies that oppose limits on greenhouse gas emissions." The letter signed by members of a student group called "Free the Planet" and 28 faculty members said that they are opposed to investments in GCC’s member companies.

 

Grinnell officials say that the college has not invested in any of these companies. The trustees will consider the proposal, however. Grinnell student Bill Holland says his group wants "the trustees to take a formal stand against investing in the firms," as well as a resolution from the student government (The Des Moines Register, November 12, 1999).

 

Economics

 

New York Times Flunks Energy Test

 

Few reporters have toed the Clinton-Gore Administration’s global warming line more faithfully than William K. Stevens at the New York Times. A recent article attempted to convince readers that there is a trend toward the use of "more energy efficient fuels" that could considerably slow down global warming. Unfortunately, Stevens has a poor grasp of the mechanics of energy use, as pointed out in a recent article in The Electricity Daily (November 15, 1999).

 

According to the author, Howard Hayden, proprietor of The Energy Advocate, "Fuels themselves are not efficient or inefficient." Efficiency is determined by "the ratio of the useful energy obtained divided by the energy contained in the fuel." Efficiency, then, is a function of the machinery used to extract useful energy. The more useful energy a furnace can extract from a unit of fuel the more efficient, and vice versa.

 

Stevens, of course, is referring to the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of heat delivered, said Hayden. Stevens claims, for example, that fuels with high carbon content have been progressively replaced with fuels with low carbon content. "First wood, high in carbon, was eclipsed by coal, which contains less carbon…." Hayden points out that coal is all carbon, something of which Stevens is apparently unaware.

 

We are now using natural gas that has four hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. Stevens claims "that the day of hydrogen providing no carbon at all may be about to dawn." But, "there are no sources of free hydrogen whatsoever on the Earth," says Hayden. "All hydrogen must be freed from chemical compounds (such as water) at a high price – a lot of energy. More energy, in fact, than will ever be released from burning the hydrogen."

 

Emission Trading Not the Answer

 

In the October 18 issue of Business Week, University of Chicago economist and Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker extolled the virtues of emission trading. In response, Russell Jones of the American Petroleum Institute argued that emission trading is no panacea (November 15, 1999).

 

"Trading permits is really about wealth, or wealth transfer," said Jones. Depending on assumptions, you can easily put the annual world market value of the permits in the $200 billion to $1 trillion range. Either auctioning or allocating those permits among and within countries would cause great political distress."

 

Emission trading could increase "deforestation and therefore greenhouse emissions," Jones argued. "That’s because trading could drive up the price of fossil fuels, leaving wood as the energy source of choice in the developing world." Jones concludes, "Becker’s observation that ‘enforcement of compliance is a challenge’ shows a mastery of subtle understatement."

 

Science

 

Astronomical Cycles and Global Warming

 

Several factors have been implicated in climate change, including the sun, carbon dioxide, and changes in the Earth’s orbit. A team of researchers with the University of California-Berkeley has found that climate cycles are closely related to astronomical cycles. "Astronomy is responsible for almost all climate changes," said project leader Richard Muller.

 

By examining sediment cores from the bottom of the oceans, the researchers found that ice ages last about 90,000 years followed by a warm period of about 10,000 years. They then examined astronomical cycles that influence the tilt of the Earth’s orbit and found that there is a close match between astronomical cycles and climate cycles. According to Muller, "When we look at ancient records of planets, these astronomical cycles appear in the climate record.

 

The gravitational forces from changes in the positions of other planets change the tilt of the Earth’s orbit. "By using the laws of physics, we can figure out what kind of cycles (other planets) induce on the orbit of the earth," Muller said. Jupiter and Venus affect on Earth’s orbit the most. Jupiter because of its large mass and Venus because its relative proximity to Earth.

 

The researchers found that the Earth experiences ice ages when its orbit is less tilted and warm periods when it is more tilted. Unfortunately, they don’t know why the tilt of the orbit influences climate. "We have lots of guesses and we are trying to figure out which one is correct," Muller said. "The first guess is dust. Dust hitting the Earth has the same cycles as the ice ages." But there’s just not enough dust to account for dramatic climate change by itself, according to Muller, so there must be some feedback process at work.

 

"Our best guess as of right now is that changes in the dust affect the formation of clouds," said Muller. "Remarkably, cloud formation is not well understood." Muller does not discount manmade global warming, however. He argued that global warming is a near future phenomenon and that the coming ice age is in the distant future (University Wire, November 18, 1999).

 

Coral Reefs Rebound

 

The bleaching of coral reefs has been touted as one of the consequences of global warming. In a previous issue we highlighted a study that showed that coral bleaching may be part of a natural cycle. That finding now seems to be confirmed with the recovery of coral reefs throughout the world. The ProDivers News writes, "We are sure you will share our optimism and delight in the knowledge that coral growth and recovery is reported even in areas where extensive damage has been caused due to bleaching." Information about coral reef recovery can be found on the web at www.prodivers.com/coralnews.htm.

 

Disease Not Due to Global Warming

 

The recent outbreak of West Nile virus in the New York metropolitan area was linked by some to global warming. But, said Sidney Shindell, professor emeritus in the department of preventive medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, "Don’t you believe it. There’s no evidence that global warming is to blame. If anything, travel affects the emergence of disease, and human migrations have been the main source of disease outbreaks throughout history."

 

"To combat mosquito-borne illnesses effectively," said Shindell, we must "strengthen our public health infrastructure and implement better disease-prevention strategies, not invest in schemes to reduce greenhouse emissions that will disrupt our economy and place even more lives at risk" (Wisconsin State Journal, November 14, 1999).

 

No More Extreme Weather

 

Environment Canada’s (a government department) senior climatologist, David Phillips is a global warming skeptic. Though many of his colleagues claim that man’s warming of the planet leads to more destructive weather, Phillips says there is no proof of such a link. "The point I’ve argued about with my colleagues is all the weather we’ve seen in recent history can’t be blamed on global warming," said Phillips. "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the ice storm in Ontario last year or the Red River flood in Manitoba were direct results of what we’re doing to the atmosphere."

 

Phillips doesn’t discount the possibility that man’s influence on the atmosphere may lead to more extreme weather, but the evidence doesn’t show it. Phillips blames much of the erroneous perception on the advent of "storm porn," the media’s overreaction to natural disasters. The perception of more extreme weather, says Phillips, may have more to do with increasing media coverage than actual changes.

 

Phillips argues that population growth is blame for perceived increases in natural disasters. "Weather’s doing a bigger number of people," says Phillips. "That doesn’t make the weather more extreme. It’s just that we’re bigger targets now. We’re getting in the way of the weather" (The Edmonton Sun, November 14, 1999).

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