Vol. IV, No. 26

Vol. IV, No. 26

December 26, 2000

So far President-Elect George W. Bush’s nominees for top positions look wobbly on global warming. Bush has chosen Christine Todd Whitman as his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Whitman, as Governor of New Jersey, rarely stood up against the demands of environmental activists and has been at the forefront of pushing Kyoto-style policies. Indeed, New Jersey was the first state “to commit voluntarily to a specific [greenhouse gas] reduction.”

 

“New Jersey has set an ambitious goal to not only curb greenhouse gas emissions, but to reduce them,” said Whitman. “Our target for 2005 is a 3.5 percent reduction below the 1990 levels.

 

“The fact is that climate change associated with greenhouse gases has an effect on every aspect of our daily lives. The environmental and economic benefits that stem from controlling greenhouse gases are enormous.”

 

Tom Bray in OpinionJournal.com (December 26, 2000) noted a number of environmental issues in which Whitman is out of the conservative mainstream, including strong support for the precautionary principle.

 

“We must acknowledge,” said Whitman, “that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.”

 

Bush’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, CEO of aluminum manufacturer Alcoa, has also taken several dubious positions on energy use.

 

As noted by the New York Times (December 20, 2000), “Mr. O’Neill participated in at least two sessions with President Clinton as part of a corporate advisory body convened to discuss global warming….Participants in one 1997 meeting described Mr. O’Neill as more willing to consider steps to tackle global warming than most of his corporate counterparts, but more skeptical about global warming trends than some Clinton administration officials.”

 

O’Neill claims he has criticized the administration for exaggerating the global warming threat. “I said to him [President Clinton], I’m just astounded that he and the Vice President keep saying that the Grand Forks flood and El Niño and these severe weather events are somehow related to global warming. There’s not a scintilla of scientific evidence to connect those things. It damages his ability to lead when he exaggerates what no reputable scientist would agree to” (Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2000).

 

On the other hand, O’Neill has long advocated higher energy prices. In 1992 he advised the Bush Administration to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents a gallon. “It certainly has been clear to me, and has been for a long time, that we need a gasoline tax,” he said.

 

Economics

 

Midnight Greenhouse Regulations

They’re called midnight regulations–the flood of federal regulatory activity occurring in the closing months of an administration. Though a bipartisan phenomenon, the pre-inauguration day rush to finalize pending rules is particularly pronounced in Democratic administrations that know that Republicans will replace them.

 

Professor Jay Cochran of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has studied midnight regulations extensively, and concludes that the last-minute regulatory binge under Clinton is rivaled in number and scope only by the Carter administration at the end of 1980.

 

Included in the 100 or more such measures are several designed to combat global warming. For example, the Department of Energy (DOE) is in the process of finalizing new energy efficiency standards for clothes washers and central air conditioners.

 

By DOE’s own estimates, the rules will add at least $200 to the cost of a new clothes washer and $274 for an air conditioner. DOE claims that, by reducing demand for residential electricity, these standards will result in lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, the impact is likely to be minor.

 

According to energy consultant Glenn Schleede, DOE’s estimates of carbon emissions reductions are approximately 11/100 of 1 percent for air conditioners and 18/100 of 1 percent for clothes washers. On a cost per ton basis, these rules are two of the most expensive carbon reduction strategies yet proposed.

 

It is difficult, but not impossible to undo a finalized rule. However, only time will tell if the new Congress and Administration will make the effort to review, and possibly rescind, these and other midnight regulations.

 

Science

 

20th Century Warming Explained, Say Modelers

Global warming scientists keep on turning out computer-generated climate models that purport to “prove” that global warming is real and is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, even though politicians and environmental activists keep telling us the science is settled.

 

The latest such effort, published in Science (December 15, 2000), comes from the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, a major booster of catastrophic global warming. One of the puzzles that climatologists have struggled with is that there were two warming episodes in the 20th century, one early on and one in the last 30 years, that are roughly equal in magnitude and duration.

 

The current surface temperature trend has been attributed to the emission of greenhouse gases, but the early 20th century warming occurred when human emissions of greenhouse gases were insignificant. The new study claims that the early warming was due to natural causes, but that the current one is manmade.

 

The authors “made an ensemble of simulations…that includes both the most important anthropogenic forcings and the most important natural forcings during the 20th century.” The primary natural forcings used in the model were volcanic eruptions, which cool the climate, and solar variability. The models show that the natural forcings account for the early 20th century warming, between 1910 and 1939, which was characterized by increased solar activity and little volcanic activity.

 

Natural forcing explains the early trend, but fails to explain the current trend. Anthropogenic forcing on the other hand explains the current trend but not the earlier trend. The researchers claim, “When we include both anthropogenic and natural forcings, our model successfully simulates not just the observed global mean response, but also some of the large scale features of the observed temperature response.” Extending the model into the future, the researchers predict that by 2100 the earth will have warmed by 3 degrees C.

 

David Wojick in Electricity Daily (December 15, 2000) noted, “The amount of solar variance over the last century is a matter of debate, not to mention the forcing effect of that variance. Hence…it is impossible to compare that effect statistically with the temperature record. As one skeptic puts it, ‘You can’t compare what you don’t understand’.”

 

2000 Temperatures Reverse Trend

The following item appeared in the New York Times (December 24, 2000):

 

Globally, the 10 warmest years in the past century have all been since 1982. But a list of the warmest 10 years in the United States looks quite different: 1998, 1934, 1999, 1921, 1931, 1990, 1953, 1954, 1939, 1987. But that is the way of weather. Not every region follows the global trend. Not every drought is a sign of global warming and not every cold front a refutation. This year was on pace to become the warmest on record for the United States [as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was quick to point out]–until November, which turned out to be the second coldest on record. So 2000 is now expected to fall somewhere between 7th and 12th.

 

But Tom Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, wasn’t about to let a cold November get in the way of a good global warming story. “I think this goes to illustrate that even in a warming trend,” Dr. Karl said, “one can and should expect an individual month with some very anomalously cold weather.”

 

Etc.

 

The following item appeared at Online Journalism Review (October 24, 2000):

 

Tahoe, Expedition, and Land Rover owners beware: San Francisco-based anti-SUV activist Robert Lind may be stalking your vehicle, bumper sticker in hand.

 

“I just got really disgusted with all these gas-guzzling SUVs being used by people who don't really need them,’ Lind tells NPR's Lisa Simeone in an interesting Weekend All Things Considered interview. “So I decided to start a modern day pillory and tag these things and hopefully establish some sort of a shame with these SUVs.”

 

Lind’s strategy is to tag SUVs with bumper stickers publicizing his Web site, ChangingtheClimate.com. Confused victims who log onto the site are greeted with arguments against sport utility vehicle ownership (pollution is causing the polar ice caps to melt, says Lind) and helpful instructions for removing the bumper stickers.

 

“Using the tactics of non-violent social protest, with the added activist edge of the harmless ‘tagging’ of the unconscionable vehicles in question, we hope to attract attention to the idiocy of SUVs,” Lind explains on his site. “If you ‘tag’ ANY of the 3 trucks I own, you will wake up in the hospital,” counters an angry driver on the site’s bulletin board.

 

 

THE COOLER HEADS COALITION

 

Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Americans for Tax Reform

American Legislative Exchange Council

American Policy Center

Association of Concerned Taxpayers

Center for Security Policy

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Citizens for the Integrity of Science

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus

Small Business Survival Committee

The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition