Vol. III, No. 9

Vol. III, No. 9

April 28, 1999

Politics

Senate Bill Would Spend $2 Billion to Prevent Global Warming

On April 27 Senators Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), introduced a bill (S. 882) that would create a $2 billion, 10 year research and development program to reduce greenhouse gases. The funds would support a public-private research effort funneling new subsidies into the energy industry.

Murkowski, who opposes the Kyoto Protocol, claims that the bill "represents a long-term technology based, global alternative." He also said it would "leverage American ingenuity in the marketplace to develop new technology that can be exported and deployed around the world." Murkowski also told reporters, "We anticipate a great deal of support from industry." There is little reason to believe that this R&D program would be any more successful than previous failed programs.

The bill would also create the Office of Global Climate Change within the Department of Energy, to be headed by an assistant secretary. Hagel’s defense of the bill, highlighted one of its main weaknesses. He said, according to the BNA Daily Environment Report (April 28, 1999), "this change would centralize accountability and responsibility for climate change policy within the executive branch."

The bill would also expand Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which allows companies to voluntarily report greenhouse gas emission reductions, to include new categories such as agricultural activities, forest products, grasslands and drylands management and iron fertilization of the oceans to enhance carbon dioxide absorption rates.

The Global Climate Coalition, an industry group opposed to Kyoto said, "if this or any other proposal allows the United States to move forward on recognizing and encouraging voluntary actions without any potential linkages to the Kyoto albatross, it should be widely accepted." A coalition of 11 environmental groups expressed satisfaction that Murkowski and Hagel "have finally acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem," but that the bill is "a dangerous diversion from real solutions to global warming."

Other co-sponsors include Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rod Grams (R-Minn.), Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

Green Imperialism in Asia

The Philippines has struggled to escape the grinding poverty that has plagued its people for decades. Although it hasn’t been altogether successful, there are signs that the Filipino’s economic health is improving. The use of fossil fuels has always been essential to economic growth due to their relative abundance. Though many see this as a positive, radical Greens oppose increased use of fossil fuel in the Third World. Currently Greenpeace is lobbying the Filipino government reject "fossil fuel-based technologies to increase energy production," and to create a clean air act, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (April 19, 1999).

Greenpeace is alarmed that the Philippines and other Asian nations are heavily investing in coal-powered development programs. According to Athena Ronquillo Ballesteros, climate campaigner for Greenpeace International, "We have to stop using the atmosphere as a giant watebasket for gases like carbon dioxide that cause global warming." She also said, "In order to seriously reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and thus prevent or slow down dangerous climate change, we need to start thinking about independence from fossil-based technologies."

Greenpeace is urging the Filipino government to "serve as a model in proactive environmental advocacy" for the Southeast Asian governments. "We are calling on the leadership of the country to heed our call for a clean air act as well as create a healthy environment for renewable and energy-efficient power producers," said Greenpeace.

Economics

Insurance Industry off the Global Warming Bandwagon

In the past, global warming activists have counted the insurance industry as an ally in their anti-energy crusade. Claims that manmade global warming might increase weather-related calamities have caused concern amongst property and casualty insurers who feared that a significant increase in hurricane activity, for instance, would expose their companies to financial risk.

A new report by the American Insurance Association, however, downplays these fears. The report points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found "little evidence that a general warming would result in an increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes." It further argued that "much of the research seems to indicate that global warming would not increase the frequency of hurricanes and might even suppress hurricane development."

AIA cites William Gray, a pre-eminent expert on hurricanes at Colorado State University, who argues that hurricane activity is influenced by "other oceanic and weather patterns that tend to run in 20-30 year cycles," not global warming. The real problem regarding hurricane activity, says the report, is "the tremendous growth in population, homes, commercial development in the most hurricane-prone regions of the United States, especially Florida and other states along the Southeast and Gulf coasts." For example, Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties in Florida now have a greater combined population than all coastal counties from South Texas to Virginia during the 1930s.

The report lists the lines of insurance and the impact of weather on claim experience. Lines with moderate or significant exposure include Homeowners, Commercial Multi-Peril Non-Liability, Allied, Inland Marine, Farmowners, and Ocean Marine. These lines only account for less than 20 percent of industry premiums. The rest have little or no exposure to weather events. The report notes that hurricanes can "endanger the solvency of a significant number of insurers," but says the report, "weather events that are cited as more likely consequences of climate change do not imply levels of loss that could threaten industry solvency."

Moreover, global warming could mitigate winter storm and freeze losses, which is a significant weather exposure for the industry. "Four of the property-casualty insurance industry’s largest 20 natural catastrophes as defined by insured dollar losses have been winter storm events," says the report. "Higher winter temperatures in the U.S. and Canada could help to lower the frequency and severity of cold outbreaks that cause massive winter storm and freeze losses."

Finally, the report expresses confidence in the ability of the insurance industry to adjust to any changes that may occur. In the event of increased weather related losses the industry would have the ability to adjust premiums. The greatest obstacle to rapid adjustments to changing conditions is the "heavily regulated" nature of the industry. "Adjustments are subject to state review and occasionally, to intense political debate," notes the report. However, solvency of the industry is one of the primary responsibilities of regulators, and "insurers and regulators would have to respond" to changes in loss trends. The report can be found at www.aiadc.org.

Slower CO2 Emission Growth in 1997

According to the Energy Information Administration, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels grew by only 1.2 percent in 1997 compared to 2.8 percent in 1996. "Carbon dioxide emissions grew more slowly in 1997 than in 1996 because of the actual decline in consumption of natural gas and the slower growth in the consumption of coal and petroleum," said the EIA (Daily Report for Executives, April 21, 1999).

Science

Fingerprints Vanish in Analysis of 11 Climate Models

Global warming predictions are based on detection studies that use Coupled Global Climate Models (CGCMs) to find a human fingerprint in the climate system. Climate modelers attempt to imitate the natural variations of the climate system and then add manmade greenhouse gases to see how global temperatures respond.

A new study in the Journal of Climate (February 1999) throws doubt on the validity of these types of studies. According to the author Tim Barnett, of the Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, modelers "have taken their estimates of natural variability from long control runs of CGCMs. This would be a valid procedure if the internally generated variability in the models was a realistic estimate of natural variability. Whether this is true or not is at the moment uncertain."

Barnett sets out to see if model variability is realistic by comparing natural climate variability to the temperature variability in 11 different models, run for 100 model years. He finds that "differences of a factor of 2 or more are common for even the best behaved models." He also states that "there is no model that consistently agrees well with the observations."

Even more damning is the finding that it is difficult to distinguish "natural" model runs from those with anthropogenic forcing. Barnett’s analysis shows that "CGCMs can, without any anthropogenic forcing, produce patterns that resemble those expected from anthropogenic causes. This, in turn, will make it more difficult to apply a fingerprint strategy to detect anthropogenic signal since the ‘natural’ variability estimated from CGCMs and used in the detection scheme ‘looks like’ the anthropogenic signal itself."

Continental U.S. Getting Cooler

Green activists have been have been trying to convince the American public that global warming is underway by highlighting warmer temperatures and remaining silent when temperatures are on the cooler side. Much has been done to give the impression that things are heating up. A new study conducted by researchers at the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has found that the continental United States has become cooler, one-thirtieth of a degree per decade, since 1941, although the finding is probably not statistically significant.

The study also finds that nearly the entire U.S. has become significantly wetter, by nine-tenths of an inch more rainfall per decade since 1966. Each month has become wetter over the same period, with the fall becoming much wetter. The study confirms what has been found by several past studies, but it also contradicts others. According to David Easterling, principal scientists at the National Climatic Data Center, an NCDC study shows a cooling only in the Southeast United States. The NCDC study also covers a longer time span going back to 1900.

But, according to Rich Tinker, a co-author of the CPC study, argues that his research has been used by the CPC to devise "this year’s winter and spring predictions. They have been the most accurate on record (Omaha World-Herald, April 20, 1999)."

Etc.

  • According to AAP Newsfeed (April 22, 1999), "renowned U.S. scientist on climate change (we’ve never heard of him, Eds.)," Professor Richard Turco called for global environmental regulations in a speech delivered on April 22. Turco argued that technology is out of control saying that "it is growing at such a pace, we have a problem in maintaining control over it...we either have to evolve with the technology or we’re going to be simply overtaken and swamped by it."

    The solution to the problem, according to Turco is to "develop global regulations and global environmental laws to control technology and its implementation."

  • John Wellner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance describes his Earth Day experiences in the April 27, 1999 issue of The Toronto Star. Wellner and his colleagues decided to hand out "’informative’ traffic tickets" to cars entering the Toronto City Hall parking garage." They greeted each car with a friendly "Happy Earth Day!"

    Wellner was appalled at the reception he received. "Some drivers were friendly, albeit a little sheepish, but the majority were far from civil. Non-traditional environmental greetings like, ‘Get out of my way!’ -- usually with a traditional expletive and, sometimes, succinctly, just the expletive -- were plentiful...I guess they were late for their morning coffee, or something."

    Here’s an alternative explanation. Maybe people are sick and tired of sanctimonious environmentalists telling them how to live their lives.

Announcements

  • The Cooler Heads is sponsoring a science briefing for congressional staff and media on May 28. The briefing will feature Dave Malmquist of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, who will discuss "Climate Change and Sea Level Rise." Further details will be forthcoming.