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Vol. III, No. 3

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. III, No. 3

Politics

Clinton Asks for $4 Billion to Prevent Global Warming

In a blatant attempt to implement the unratified Kyoto Protocol the Clinton Administration has said it will ask the Congress for $4 billion next year to finance policies to address global warming. This is a sharp increase over last year’s funding. According to Gore, the move represents "significant new investments ... to accelerate our aggressive, commonsense efforts to meet the challenge of global warming."

Many programs are included under the initiative such as a $200 million "clean air partnership fund" that would "generate millions more in state and private funds to help reduce greenhouse gases." The money would be used to retrofit buildings, purchase fuel-efficient automobiles and "promote public-private partnerships...including voluntary efforts by companies to improve energy efficiency." Much of the money would be tied to promises of state matching funds.

Other programs include: $1.4 billion for research and development of energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy programs, tax credits for purchase of energy-efficient homes and equipment, $122 million to develop cleaner burning, coal-fired power plants (Associated Press, January 26, 1999).

American Geophysical Union Makes Controversial Policy Statement

The American Geophysical Union, one of the top scientific organization’s dealing with climate issues, released a position statement on January 28 regarding global warming. On the whole, the statement was a cautious review of the state of global warming science. In the end, however, it side-stepped the science and made a policy pronouncement. The statement concluded, "AGU believes that the present level of scientific uncertainty does not justify inaction in the mitigation of human induced climate change and/or the adaptation to it."

The AGU’s press conference was a public relations fiasco. Reporters asked whether the statement truly represented the views of the membership. It was asserted that the vast majority of the membership agreed with the statement. When asked what that assertion was based on, one of the panelists replied that the 26 member panel, which voted unanimously on the statement, was in tune with the membership and closely represented their views.

The panel also argued that the membership was given opportunities to comment and participate in the drafting of the statement. For example, a draft of the statement was posted on the web a few months ago and comments were received and incorporated into the statement. According to Fred Singer, however, an AGU Fellow and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, the final statement was not presented to the membership. "It was not displayed on the website nor announced in Eos (as required by AGU procedure; cf. Eos Dec. 29, 1998), but was sent to a panel which contained only five of the 13 members of the original panel," according to Singer.

Reporters spent much of the time questioning the nature of the final sentence. David Wojick of Electricity Daily pointed out that the statement was not scientific, but merely talked about the science, and that it employed a triple negative that translateds into "uncertainty justifies action." Another reporter pointed out that the use of double and triple negatives in statements of this sort are usually employed to cover-up widespread disagreement.

Wojick mentioned that in his estimation the current scientific uncertainty justified inaction. One of the panelists, Eric Sundquist of the US Geological Survey, asked Wojick if he had published that statement in a peer reviewed journal. Wojick replied that neither his nor the AGU’s statement were scientific and would more properly be published in a journal of philosophy or logic, where degrees of uncertainty are discussed.

Finally, one reporter pointed out that this statement may be used by the Greens, as well as the Clinton Administration, to claim support for their global warming positions. The panelists argued that such claims would not be valid. A statement by Vice President Al Gore, however, stated, "We have an obligation to act responsibly in assessing potential damages, and to protect our economy and national security by investing in efficient energy technologies. As the AGU reinforced today, the risks of climate change are serious, the costs of potential impacts are large, and the time to act to protect our national interests is now." So far, the AGU has not disabused Gore of this notion. The AGU statement is located at http://earth.agu.org. A critique can be found at www.sepp.org.

Greens Backpedal from Early Credits

Many Green groups are beginning to become disenchanted with the "credits for early action bill." Aides to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair John Chafee (R-RI) and Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Connie Mack (R-FL) told the groups that the bill would be introduced with few changes. Groups such as Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the US Public Interest Research Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists argue that the bill "lacks adequate provisions to prevent fraud and abuse." One Senate staffer complained about the attitude of the Green groups, accusing them of "whining" and scolding them for walking away from the process (Greenwire, February 1, 1999).

Economics

What Can Developing Countries Do?

Developing countries have balked at the idea of taking on emissions reduction targets, and with good reason. Such actions may well preclude future economic development leading to perpetual poverty. A paper by Ramon Lopez, published by Resources for the Future, proposes two means by which developing nations can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Lopez suggests first that the developing countries eliminate energy subsidies that promote coal and oil consumption. Such subsidies include "direct subsidies to consumers through under-priced energy services, and implicit subsidies to producers through trade barriers that limit the availability of more energy-efficient technologies." According to one study the elimination of such subsidies would lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions of a little over 3 percent in 2005 relative to business as usual scenarios.

Second, Lopez suggests that the cessation of burning biomass for the purpose of clearing farmland would also lead to significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions while providing a potential economic windfall through the earning of emissions credits. According to Lopez, this "could result in potentially large revenues from the sale of carbon credits, if these credits were legitimated under the Kyoto Protocol." Lopez argues that the economic benefit from selling emission credits would be greater than the economic benefits of expanding agricultural lands. The developing countries should be cautious, however. They would be far better off relying on the economic benefits of expanding agricultural production than relying on fickle, politically created global redistribution schemes. The paper can be found at www.weathervane.rff.org.

Science

The Emerging Sun

Global warming research continues to reveal that the sun is playing an increasingly important role. James Hansen has argued, for example, that if aerosols cancel out much of the climate forcing effects of carbon dioxide, then the sun may play a greater role in the small amount of observed warming than previously thought. Recent research, published in the Journal of Climate (December 1998), has found that the sun has exerted a significant influence over the earth’s climate over the last 400 years.

Using several types of data, Judith Lean of the E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research and David Rind of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that "the correlation of reconstructed solar irradiance and Northern Hemisphere surface temperature anomalies is 0.86 in the pre-industrial period from 1610 to 1800." For later periods the correlation dropped somewhat, but remains strong. Solar forcing may account for about half of the 0.55 degrees C increase in temperatures since 1900 and about one-third since 1970.

If half of the last century’s warming was caused by the sun, then the other half must be divided up among many other influences, including rebound from the Little Ice Age, urbanization, and other effects. That leaves little room for greenhouse gases argues Patrick Michaels, a climatologist with the University of Virginia. Michaels also points out that during the 1990s, the sun has been brighter than at any other time in the last 400 years. Combined with the El Niño of 1998, it would have been surprising if 1998 wasn’t the warmest year on record.

Fewer Droughts, No Change in Floods

One of the most consistent claims by global warming activists is that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to more severe floods and droughts. This claim was invoked as recently as Clinton’s State of the Union address, even though government researchers have found otherwise. In an article published in the Geophysical Research Letters (January 15, 1999), Harry Lins and James Slack of the U.S. Geological Survey found that there are fewer droughts but no more floods since the 1940s.

Lins and Slack came to this conclusion by analyzing stream flow trends for "395 climate-sensitive streamgaging stations in the coterminous United States ... to evaluate differences between low-, medium-, and high-flow regimes during the twentieth century." What the researchers found was that there is a "distinct upward trend" in the low to middle range of flows. For the highest flows, however, "only four percent of the gages experienced increases, while five percent showed decreases."

"We can draw three general conclusions form these trends," Lins said. "First, the nation’s streams are carrying more water on average. Secondly, the streams are experiencing less severe hydrologic droughts, and thirdly, the streams are not experiencing more floods." Lins also noted that, "the United States is now less extreme hydrologically than it was earlier in the century." The article is at http://water.usgs.gov/public/osw/lins/streamflowtrends.html.

No Evidence of Climate Change in New Hampshire

Long-term, continuous and reliable temperature data sets are hard to come by and those available have become important in the global warming debate. Recently, an analysis of one such data set has been released, and the results are encouraging. Mount Washington in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire has an observatory located at the 4,000 foot summit that was founded in 1932. "The Observatory," according to the report, "is the only fully-staffed, year-around alpine weather observatory in continental North America." Observations are taken every three hours and reported to the National Weather Service. Another characteristic that makes this location ideal is that minimal land-use changes have occurred throughout the duration of the Observatory’s life.

An analysis of the minimum and maximum temperature data for the period 1939 to 1997 found that there was "little-to-no response to the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases through the 20th century. And there appears to be no obvious compensating cooling effects that may have overwhelmed the warming effects of the increased concentrations of carbon dioxide."

The report also pointed out that it appears that the daily temperature range seem to have decreased over much of the planet. The diurnal temperature range on Mount Washington fell by 0.42 degrees F over the 60-year period, but was change was not statistically significant. Other stations do nothing to clear up the picture. The Pic du Midi station located in the Pyrenees at 9,387 feet elevation shows a significant reduction in the diurnal temperature range. But high elevation stations in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria fail to show a reduction. The report can be found at www.greeningearthsociety.org/Articles/mtwash.htm.

Record Rainfall Not Due to Global Warming

Britain has just experienced its wettest January ever with more than five inches falling during the month. According to Rob Nichols, spokesman for the Environment Agency, "The main issue is global warming. Part of the result of the world getting warming is that winters are getting wetter and summers are getting drier" (The People, January 31, 1999).

Not so, according to a spokesman at the Meteorological Office. "A front has been snaking its way over the Midlands but recent weather systems over Europe have prevented it moving on as fast as it should have. It is just a natural fluctuation. I am sure the last time it was nearly as wet, back in January 1960, they were not all talking about climate change. Yes, it’s been very wet, but it’s not the end of the world as we know it" (Birmingham Evening Mail, January 26, 1999).

Announcements

  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released a monograph, titled Doomsday Déjà vu: Ozone Depletion’s Lessons for Global Warming. Author Ben Lieberman argues that rather than serving as a successful model for the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol should serve as a cautionary tale. Its mistakes would be greatly amplified if repeated under the Kyoto Protocol. The study can be obtained from CEI’s website at www.cei.org or by contacting CEI at (202) 331-1010.

  • The transcripts from the Cooler Heads science briefings for congressional staff and media and CEI’s Costs of Kyoto lectures are available on CEI’s website at www.cei.org. Transcripts currently available include, Climate Change: Insights from Oceanography, by Dr. Roger Pocklington; Global Warming: Evidence from the Satellite Record, by Dr. John R. Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer; Global Warming and Vector-Borne Disease: Is Warmer Sicker? by Dr. Paul Reiter; Kyoto & Our Collective Economic Future: Economic & Energy Underpinnings, by Mark P. Mills; Emissions Credits: The Supply and Demand Gap, by Robert Reinstein; and recently released, Hot Times or Hot Air: The Sun in the Science of Global Warming, by Sallie Baliunas.