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Vol. V, No. 5
Vol. V, No. 5
March 06, 2001
The wrongheaded policies of the Clinton-Gore Administration have found new and perhaps more vigorous life within the Bush Administration. Recently, senior officials have made several comments on the need to fight global warming and about Bush’s support for such policies.
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has long been a global warming zealot. In 1998 he gave a speech to the aluminum industry’s trade association in which he named what he believed to be the world’s two most pressing problems. “One is nuclear holocaust,” he said. “The second is environmental: specifically, the issue of global climate change and the potential of global warming.”
According to Techcentralstation.com (March 8, 2001), O’Neill “seems to be emerging as an aggressive advocate of action on global warming.” Indeed, O’Neill distributed copies of his 1998 speech at Bush’s first cabinet meeting.
Recently, O’Neill has come under scrutiny for not divesting himself of $90 million in share and stock options in the aluminum manufacturer, Alcoa. When asked if this presents a conflict of interest he told Meet the Press (March 4, 2001) that, “The ethics department lawyers said they thought it was OK for me to maintain these shares. You know, I can’t imagine that, as treasury secretary, I’m going to have decisions come before me that have anything to do with this.”
Our imagination is a little livelier, however. Once carbon dioxide is defined as a pollutant when produced by electricity generation, the next step logically will be to regulate other carbon dioxide emitters, such as autos. The most feasible way to reduce CO2 emissions from autos is to make cars lighter by replacing steel with aluminum. If O’Neill insists on keeping his millions in stock options then he should keep silent about global warming.
Christine Todd Whitman, Bush’s administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has picked up where Carol Browner left off. She represented the US at the G-8 summit meeting held over the last weekend in Trieste, Italy. While there she told the delegates, “Let me just start with the clear and unequivocal statement that the global climate review that’s being undertaken by this administration does not represent a backing away from Kyoto” (Reuters, March 3, 2000). She also said that President Bush views global warming as, “the greatest environmental challenge that we face” and wants to “take steps to move forward.”
In an exchange with Robert Novak on Crossfire (February 26, 2001) Ms. Whitman made it clear that the Bush Administration favors the regulation of CO2.
NOVAK: Governor, tonight as we sit here, the environmental conservatives are up in arms because they have heard that President Bush in his speech to Congress tomorrow night is going to call for a multi-pollutant strategy which would put -- which implies a cap on carbon dioxide. The only theory under which carbon dioxide is alleged harmful is a catastrophic global warming theory, which was, as I remember, it was Al Gore's, not George Bush. They are really upset. Have you gotten e-mails and phone calls on this today?
WHITMAN: I haven't gotten any today that I know of, but I've been at a lot of meetings today and with the National Governors. George Bush was very clear during the course of the campaign that he believed in a multi-pollutant strategy, and that includes CO2, and I have spoken to that.
He has also been very clear that the science is good on global warming. It does exist. There is a real problem that we as a world face from global warming and to the extent that introducing CO2 to the discussion is going to have an impact on global warming, that's an important step to take.
Kyoto Stays Alive in Trieste
With the Bush Administration still reviewing the specifics of its position on Kyoto and the United States and European Union positions still miles apart, the G-8 Environment Ministers meeting in Trieste, Italy “could have sounded the death knell for the climate negotiations and the Kyoto Protocol,” according to Europe Environment (March 6, 2001).
Although what the ministers did agree to was minimal it was enough to keep the Kyoto negotiations limping along for another few months. The EU demanded that the G-8 countries agree to ratify Kyoto before 2002. Instead, the ministers agreed to ratify Kyoto by the end of 2002. Negotiations have been rescheduled to resume on July 16-27 in Bonn, Germany.
Environmentalists were encouraged by the outcome. Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund said that the G-8 meeting was “positive in that the other G-8 countries sent the US administration a clear signal that the talks would focus on Kyoto.” Europe Environment reported that, “The Italian [Environment] Minister Willer Bordon [acting President of the G8] said on leaving the talks with Ms. Whitman that he was very optimistic, since she had confirmed that the Bush Administration recognized that greenhouse gas emissions caused global warming and was no more intransigent than the Clinton Administration.”
IPCC: CO2 Reductions Will Be Painless
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released the Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group III report on mitigation, which has yet to be released. The Summary is the perfect sunny-faced companion to gloomy summaries for Working Groups I and II.
The IPCC claimed in the earlier summaries that global warming will lead to rampant climatic disasters: hurricanes, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, higher crime levels, disease, and so on. Then it says in the WG III Summary that this can be prevented painlessly.
The Summary claims that all kinds of new technologies are coming on line that will make it possible to reduce energy emissions that would supposedly wreak havoc on the climate. “Advances are taking place in a wide range of technologies at different stages of development, e.g., the market introduction of wind turbines, the rapid elimination of industrial by-product gases such as N2O…and perfluorocarbons from aluminum production, efficient hybrid engine cars, the advancement of fuel cell technology, and the demonstration of underground carbon dioxide storage,” according to the Summary.
Fossil fuels, says the summary, will continue to dominate the energy supply at least until 2020, but carbon intensive energy industries, such as coal and oil, would have to decline under climate change policies. Natural gas, as well as improvements in efficiency and greater use of combined cycle and/or cogeneration plants would eventually need to replace them. Also, “pre- or post-combustion carbon removal and storage” could play an important role, claims the Summary. One wonders, however, how pre-combustion carbon removal would work since it is the oxidizing of carbon, converting it to CO2, which releases the energy. Removing carbon from fuel makes it a non-fuel.
The Summary does say that the use of carbon sinks could be an important means of reducing CO2 concentrations, to the chagrin of environmental activists. Industry shouldn’t take much comfort in this, however. The section on sinks is fraught with danger. “Conservation of threatened carbon pools may help to avoid emissions, if leakage can be prevented, and can only become sustainable if the socio-economic drivers for deforestation and other losses of carbon pools can be addressed,” says the Summary.
Moreover, “Conservation and sequestration result in higher carbon stocks, but can lead to higher future carbon emissions if these ecosystems are severely disturbed by either natural or direct/indirect human-induced disturbances.” In English, this means that not only is global warming a good reason to suppress energy use, but also a good reason to implement widespread land use planning to protect carbon sinks.
The Summary endorses behavior modification policies. “In the shorter term, there are opportunities to influence through social innovations individual and organization behaviors,” it says. “In the longer term such innovations, in combination with technological change, may further enhance socio-economic potential, particularly if preferences and cultural norms shift towards a lower emitting and sustainable behaviors.” This will not be easy, according to the Summary. “These innovations frequently meet with resistance, which may be addressed by encouraging greater public participation in the decision making processes.”
RIP: Global Warming Theory
Three scientific studies that have recently appeared may well spell the beginning of the end of global warming theory.
1) Water Vapor Feedback
The biggest uncertainty in climate science is how feedbacks affect the climate. Global warming theory posits that a rise in atmospheric CO2 will only cause a slight warming of the atmosphere, on the order of about 1 degree centigrade. This small amount of warming, according to standard global warming theory, speeds up evaporation, increasing the amount of water vapor, the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. This positive feedback is where most of the predicted warming comes from.
A new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (March 2000) shows that the reverse is true. The authors find a negative water vapor feedback effect that is powerful enough to offset all other positive feedbacks. Using detailed daily observations of cloud cover from satellites in the tropics and comparing them to sea surface temperatures, the researchers found that there is an “iris effect” in which higher temperatures reduce the warming effect of clouds.
According to a NASA press release about the study, “Clouds play a critical and complicated role in regulating the temperature of the Earth. Thick, bright, watery clouds like cumulus shield the atmosphere from incoming solar radiation by reflecting much of it back into space. Thin, icy cirrus clouds are poor sunshields but very efficient insulators that trap energy rising from the Earth’s warmed surface. A decrease in cirrus cloud area would have a cooling effect by allowing more heat energy, or infrared radiation, to leave the planet.”
The researchers found that a one degree centigrade rise in ocean surface temperature decreased the ratio of cirrus cloud area to cumulus cloud area by 17 to 27 percent, allowing more heat to escape.
In an interview with Tech Central Station (March 5, 2001, www.techcentralstation.com), Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the lead author, said that the climate models used in the IPCC have the cloud physics wrong. “We found that there were terrible errors about clouds in all the models, and that that will make it impossible to predict the climate sensitivity because the sensitivity of the models depends primarily on water vapor and clouds. Moreover, if clouds are wrong, there’s no way you can get water vapor right. They’re both intimately tied to each other.” Lindzen argues that due to this new finding he doesn’t expect “much more than a degree warming and probably a lot less by 2100.”
2) Black Carbon
The IPCC had to explain in its 1995 Second Assessment Report why its previous predictions of global temperature change were nearly 3 times larger than observed. It concluded that emissions of sulfate aerosols from the burning of coal were offsetting the warming that should be caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols, according to this explanation, reflect incoming solar radiation back to space, cooling the planet.
Its Third Assessment Report takes the sulfate aerosol idea even further. It claims that the earth might warm even faster than previously thought. It comes to this conclusion, in part, by assuming that sulfate aerosol emissions will be eliminated by government regulation, giving carbon dioxide free reign.
Sulfate aerosols, then, are a key component of catastrophic global warming scenarios. Without them, the IPCC cannot explain why the earth is not warming according to their forecasts, nor can they reasonably claim that global warming will lead to catastrophes of biblical proportions.
A study in Nature (February 8, 2001) eliminates sulfate aerosols as an explanation to correct the models. The author, Mark Jacobson, with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, takes a look at how black carbon aerosols affect the earth’s climate. Unlike other aerosols that reflect solar radiation, black carbon, or soot, absorbs solar radiation, thereby forcing atmospheric temperatures upward.
Until now the warming influence of black carbon was thought to be minor, leading researchers to ignore it. Jacobson, however, finds, “a higher positive forcing from black carbon than previously thought, suggesting that the warming effect from black carbon may nearly balance the net cooling effect of other anthropogenic aerosol constituents.”
There you have it. Black carbon offsets the cooling effect of other aerosols, meaning we are back at square one. We still don’t know why the earth has failed to warm like the climate models say it should have warmed. Indeed, all of the prognostications of the IPCC and the pro-global warming, anti-energy activists are wrong if the Nature study is right.
3) Natural Cycles
The IPCC’s hockey stick graph has also come under criticism in Science (February 23, 2001). The graph, a temperature record derived from tree rings dating to 1000 AD, shows that global temperatures have remained steady or decreased during the last millennium. Only the industrial age has experienced an anomalous warming, which constitutes the blade of the hockey stick.
This particular temperature record does not show the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) or the Little Ice Age (LIA), two naturally occurring events where the range of global temperature change exceeded that of the 20th century. The hockey stick relegates the MWP to a regional rather than a global phenomenon.
Wallace Broecker, at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, argues that the MWP and the LIA were indeed global phenomena and that “The post-1860 natural warming was the most recent in a series of similar warmings spaced at roughly 1500-year intervals throughout the present interglacial, the Holocene.” He reviews several scientific studies that confirm his arguments.
The claim by the IPCC that the 20th century is the warmest in the last 1000 years just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The MWP was warmer and, according to the seminal work by Hubert H. Lamb, Climate History and the Modern World, civilization thrived under the warmer climate.
With these three studies, it may be time to bid global warming theory a warm farewell.
“Lindzen Trashes IPCC”
Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a lead author of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, delivered a scathing critique of the IPCC process at a briefing sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition on May 1 on Capitol Hill.
What are some of the problems with the IPCC process according to Lindzen? It uses summaries to misrepresent what scientists say; uses language that means different things to scientists and laymen; exploits public ignorance over quantitative matters; exploits what scientists can agree on while ignoring disagreements to support the global warming agenda; and exaggerates scientific accuracy and certainty and the authority of undistinguished scientists.
The “most egregious” problem with the report, said Lindzen, “is that it is presented as a consensus that involves hundreds, perhaps thousands, of scientists and none of them were asked if they agreed with anything in the report except for the one or two pages they worked on.”
Most press accounts characterize the IPCC report as a consensus of 2,000 of the world’s leading climate scientists. The emphasis isn’t on getting qualified scientists, said Lindzen, but on getting representatives from 100 countries, only a handful of which do significant research. “It is no small matter,” said Lindzen, “that routine weather service functionaries from New Zealand to Tanzania are referred to as the world’s leading climate scientists. It should come as no surprise that they will be determinedly supportive of the process.”
Perhaps his most devastating critique is of the IPCC’s use of statistics. Its infamous hockey stick graph, for instance, shows that global temperatures have been stable or going down in the last 1000 years and that only in the industrial age has there been an anomalous warming of the planet. But if you look at the margin of error in that graph, “You can no longer maintain that statement,” said Lindzen.
Indeed, the margins of error used in the IPCC report are much smaller than traditionally used by scientists. This means that the IPCC is publicizing data that is much less likely to be correct than scientists normally use. The IPCC is playing a statistical shell game that isn’t scientifically valid.
In his own Hill briefing a week later, Robert Watson, chairman of the IPCC, admitted that Dr. Lindzen had “trashed the IPCC” at the Cooler Heads briefing.
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
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee