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Vol. IV, No. 12
Vol. IV, No. 12
June 14, 2000
National Assessment: Scientific Fraud, Media Hype, and Legal Problems
The U.S. National Assessment on the Climate Change Impacts on the United States was made available for public comments on June 12 at www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/.
The release of the document has been accompanied by a media storm of articles claiming that the report constitutes predictions about the future of U.S. climate, even though the report says that its claims are not predictions, but “reasonable scenarios” of what could happen.
The scientific basis for the report is weak, indeed. One of its primary assumptions is that effective atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will increase by about 1 percent per year leading to a temperature rise of 5 to 10 degrees F. In reality, concentrations have only increased 0.4 percent per year for the last two decades, putting estimates at more than twice as high has they should be.
The Washington Post (June 12, 2000) noted that the two computer climate models that underlie the findings of the National Assessment often come to very different conclusions. The article quoted Dr. Fred Singer, atmospheric physicist and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, who noted that, “One [model] turns it [North Dakota] into a desert, the other into a swamp.” The Post also noted that,
“Central Kansas shows an increase in soil moisture of 25 percent in one projection; in the other, it loses 50 percent. North and South Carolina have dramatic rainfall increases in one model, and decreases of up to 10 percent in the other.”
There are also serious problems with modeling the climate at regional scales as attempted in the report. Several statements have been made describing the impossibility of such an endeavor. The forthcoming United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change report notes that, “a coherent picture of regional claim change via available regionalizatoin techniques cannot yet be drawn.”
The EPA says on its website that the models “are still not accurate enough to provide reliable forecasts of how the climate may change; and the several models often yield contradictory results.” Finally, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, which produced one of the models used in the National Assessment, states that, “in areas where coasts and mountains have significant effect on weather (and this will be true for most parts of the world), scenarios based on global models will fail to capture the regional detail needed for vulnerability assessments at a national level.”
Problems with the National Assessment extend far beyond the science, however. The National Assessment synthesis team is a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) chartered by the National Science Foundation under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Under the act, FACs must comply with several guidelines, in the interest of transparency and public disclosure. The National Assessment has not met all the requirements.
For example, all meetings must have a designated federal officer present. Several of the National Assessment meetings did not, which means that the meetings didn’t actually take place. Also, several of the meetings were unlawfully closed to the public. Anything produced at these meetings, therefore, may not be considered toward the draft report. There were other violations as well.
Christopher C. Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, has requested that the NSF keep the report in the public docket and avoid releasing it in final form until it is in compliance with FACA.
Bonn Meeting Prepares for COP-6
Negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol resumed on June 5 in Bonn, Germany to prepare the way for a political deal for the sixth conference of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November, according to the climate convention’s executive director, Michael Zammit Cutajar.
One of the major disagreements continues to be between the European Union and the United States. The EU wants to limit the amount of greenhouse gas reductions that can be achieved through emission trading to 50 percent. The remainder must be achieved through domestic emissions reductions. The U.S., on the other hand, wants no limits on the use of emission trading (AP Worldstream, June 12, 2000).
Some of the issues being negotiated are;
· setting up a monitoring system for an emissions trading system;
· whether countries should get emission reduction credits through the use of carbon sinks and nuclear power;
· how to assure compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol (Agence France Presse, June 5, 2000).
An unexpected development has arisen in the negotiations, according to David Wojick of Electricity Daily. Some of the delegates are arguing, pursuant to Article 13.6 of the protocol, that the Kyoto Protocol cannot be amended until it actually comes into force, creating a catch-22 situation.
The U.S. Senate, for example, in 1997 unanimously advised the U.S. delegation to Kyoto that it would not ratify a treaty that did not include specific targets for developing countries, which the Protocol failed to include. The Kyoto Protocol cannot be amended unless ratified, but the U.S. Senate will not ratify it unless it is amended.
Petition to Regulate CO2 in Cars
On October 20, 1999 the International Center for Technology Assessment and other groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate automobile emissions of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has announced that it will provide a public comment period for the petition. The action would not constitute the start of the regulatory process, but is “common practice regarding petitions for rulemaking” (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 5, 2000).
Cooler Heads Coalition Wins in Court
The U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. has granted a motion by the Cooler Heads Coalition to require the EPA to produce documents responsive to numerous Freedom of Information requests regarding back door implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, up to February this year. All of this is to be part of EPA’s response to the original complaint, due next week.
In objecting to the Cooler Heads attempt to expand their production, EPA informed the Court of its intent only to produce documents up to June of last year – the date of the original requests – per the Agency's rules published in the CFR, and as is standard practice. The Assistant U.S. Attorney handling this matter, representing EPA, opposed the attempt to effectively update those requests, or combine another complaint with the original one. Cooler Heads argued that EPA’s delay rises to the level of extraordinary, requiring extraordinary relief.
The Court agreed, meaning that the EPA must produce seven more months’ worth of documents exposing its non-compliance with the Knollenberg provision and other activities. This undoubtedly will result in EPA coming back to the Court and requesting another extension, which in return for granting the motion the Court would likely allow. The likely volume of those documents means this would be an unqualified win even with a longer wait.
Gore’s Grandiose Initiative
Cooler Heads has acquired a copy of the Gore campaign’s “Clean Energy, Stable Climate and Health Environment Initiative,” scheduled to be released on June 26. The document defines what Gore meant in Earth in the Balance when he said that protecting the environment would require a “wrenching transformation.”
The campaign document claims that “This initiative will be nonbureaucratic and completely market based,” followed by, “With the help of industry leaders, labor, financial experts, farmers, environmental leaders, urban revitalization experts, consumer advocates, state and local government leaders and others, tough performance-based criteria will be established.”
The initiative contains subsidies for everyone from big to small business, labor, farmers, families, homeowners, and so on. It promises a new generation of vehicles, comfortable and affordable new homes, and new jobs for skilled labor. It also promises to keep American industry on the cutting edge, to improve quality of life through more transportation choices, to enhance national security, and just about anything else one might throw in.
Gore’s phony free market rhetoric may appeal to the public, but the reality is that this initiative is reminiscent of policies in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
Germany Rethinking Eco-Tax
Higher gasoline prices in Germany have sparked a movement to eliminate the ecological tax, a tax on fuels and energy. The pressure is coming from opposition parties, car manufacturers and the National Council on the Environment. “We appeal to the federal government to rethink the eco-tax concept and stop further increases immediately,” said Peter Paziorek, the Christian Democratic Union’s environmental expert. “The federal government, with its insistence on the eco-tax, endangers the ecological consensus within the German population.”
The government responded that the eco-tax was not to blame for the higher prices, despite the fact that it raised gasoline prices by 27 percent. Low production quotas by OPEC countries, high gasoline demand in the U.S., and the weak Euro are primarily responsible for higher prices, it claimed. The government also reconfirmed its commitment to further increases in the eco-tax (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 6, 2000).
Enviros Strike Back at Lawsuit
Environmental pressure groups named in the commercial defamation lawsuit brought by the Western Fuels Association (WFA) have asked the federal court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it would violate their first amendment rights.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are guilty of engaging in “aggressive commercial ventures that falsely represent the effects of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, specifically from coal,” noted the BNA Daily Environment Report (June 6, 2000). Such actions constitute “commercial defamation” in violation of Section 43 of the Lanham Act.
Brent Blackwelder, executive director of Friends of the Earth, characterized the lawsuit as “a desperate attempt by an industry absolutely unwilling to face reality. It has lost the scientific debate. It is losing the public debate. And so it is now looking to the courts to stop debate as a last resort to help maintain its dirty profits.” But WFA has noted that it has the right to defend itself against defamation from groups who are heavily funded by its commercial competitors, namely the renewable energy industry.
The groups have also requested a change of venue from Wyoming since none of the named defendants are based in that state and would therefore financially burden the groups. WFA argued, however, that since Wyoming would suffer serious economic harm if the defendants “were successful in their commercial campaign against coal-fired electricity,” that the state is the proper venue under Title 28 of the U.S. Code, which states that a proper venue for a case is, “a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is subject to the action is situated.”
Washing Machines For A Cleaner Planet
The federal government thinks your clothes washer is contributing to global warming and is going to make you do something about it. According to the Boston Globe (June 4, 2000), the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new regulation that will effectively ban top loading washing machines in favor of front loaders (like the kind at laundromats). The Globe repeats government estimates of large savings in energy and water use once the rule takes effect in 2004.
Energy consumption, particularly fossil fuels burned by utilities to provide residential electricity, results in emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Thus, DOE claims that a nation of these new politically correct washing machines will “cut carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere by 24,000 metric tons a year” (not even a drop in the bucket).
Unfortunately for consumers, front loading washing machines cost hundreds of dollars more than top loaders, and have certain performance drawbacks, such as longer cycle times. Today, they comprise less than 10 percent of the market.
Putting aside serious doubts about the global warming rationale, there are equally serious doubts that a nation of front loading clothes washers will really use less energy. More than a dozen federal energy efficiency standards for other household appliances have been enacted in the past decade. As with the new clothes washer rule, each was predicted to single-handedly save vast quantities of energy. In reality, the conservation effects have been negligible; indeed, per capita energy use has actually risen over the span that these standards took effect.
Who benefits from DOE’s rule? Clearly, it is not consumers. Those who prefer front loaders are free to go out and buy them. The rule will only serve to force that choice on the rest of us. The beneficiaries are the bureaucrats and activists who make their living micromanaging such things, as well as the manufacturers anxious to have a guaranteed market for pricey front loaders that would have otherwise remained slow sellers.
More Global Warming Benefits
Melting Arctic ice may soon open a Panama Canal alternative, the Northwest Passage. Although some possible detriments remain, such as the region’s sovereignty and lingering ice flows, Christopher Sands, director of the Canada Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is optimistic. “There’s a reasonable chance this is going to happen,” he told the Christian Science Monitor (June 7, 2000).
The new route could be hugely lucrative: with the Panama Canal in disrepair and too small for many ships, a northern route could usurp much of the Canal’s traffic. Standing to profit is the Canadian Port of Churchill, hoping soon to operate year round. Alan Johnson, president of the Hudson Bay Port Company, stresses the value of Churchill for regional farmers, who can save $20 per ton of product shipped by water instead of by rail.
Johnson is now examining the use of ice-breaking equipment to extend Churchill’s season even as he looks ahead towards a less-frigid climate. “If global warming does it for us, that’s cheaper.”
Hantavirus Not Linked to Warming
One of the claims made in the National Assessment is that the 1993 Four Corners outbreak of Hantavirus, a deadly disease transmitted to humans from rodent excretions and their aerosols, was caused by “an explosion in the mouse population caused by an increase in their food supply resulting from unusually prolonged rainfall associated with the 1991-1992 El Niño event.”
This suggested string of causal events, known as the trophic cascade hypothesis, implies that global warming, which the National Assessment claims would lead to greater rainfall, would increase the prevalence of rodent-borne diseases.
A study published in the current issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases (May-June 2000), a journal of the Center for Disease Control, could not identify the Hantavirus-climate link. The first problem with the cascade hypothesis is that the first step, increased rainfall, did not occur. “None of the case sites had higher precipitation during 1992 to 1993 than during the preceding 6 years,” said the study.
Nor were differences in vegetation correlated with risk of contracting Hantavirus. The report concludes that, “The hypothesized pathway between ENSO (El Niño), increased spring precipitation leading to increased vegetation growth, and subsequent HPS (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) risk…was not strongly supported by the data.”
The latest analysis of the satellite temperature recored by Dr. Roy Spencer of NASA and Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama – Huntsville, show that the 12 month period from April 1999 to March 2000 was 0.1 degrees C cooler than the 20 year average.
Bernard Abrams, of Environmental Monitoring and Analysis in Cheltenham, England, noted that “While 0.1 degrees doesn’t seem much, it is about 20 percent of the total global warming people are worrying about, which stands at 0.5 or 0.6. On that basis, it is really significant” (Daily Record (Scotland), June 1, 2000).
After reporting 14 record highs, seven days of 100 degree or higher heat, and 23 consecutive days at or above 90 degrees, this last summer, TV weather forecasters in the Raleigh, North Carolina area became suspicious. After looking into the matter, the National Weather Service determined that a faulty temperature sensor in a thermometer at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport was the culprit.
The News and Observer (June 13, 2000) also noted that “so far global warming isn’t showing up there. The average temperature climbed a statistically meaningless 28 one-hundredths of a degree during the 50 years ending in 1998 – before the suspicious figures.”
· The Cato Institute has published a new book, The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming, by climatologists Patrick J. Michaels of the University of Virginia and Robert C. Balling, Jr. of Arizona State University. The book is available through the Cato website at www.cato.org.
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 Coalition