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Vol. VI, No. 18
Vol. VI, No. 18
September 04, 2002
World Summit Nearly Global Warming-Free
There was little talk about global warming at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, which concluded negotiations on Wednesday morning. However, two interesting global warming related issues did come up. First, Russia announced it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, Russia has announced that several times in the past and has yet to ratify.
More significant were negotiations over renewable energy. The European Union wanted participating nations to pledge that renewable energy sources would account for 15 percent of world energy production by 2010. The United States, Canada, Japan and the oil-producing states opposed this target, which was ultimately rejected. The nations agreed, however, to promote an increase in renewable energy production (New York Times, September 4, 2002).
An effort to counter charges of hypocrisy by setting up a trust fund to offset the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution by the conference was a dismal failure. The Johannesburg Climate Legacy Project raised only $300,000 of its $2.9 million goal. The project’s intends to use the money to offset the alleged environmental damages generated by air and ground transportation and hotel waste.
The British group, United Forests, which helped sponsor the fund, estimated that the summit’s thousands of participants generated the same amount of pollution during its ten-day conference as a half million Africans would over the next year. But very few participants donated to the fund, even though it was touted as “one of the most important commitments in modern history to a sustainable future” (www.cnsnews.com).
California Legislature Strikes Again
The California legislature appears intent on running the state’s economy into the ground. In July, Governor Gray Davis (D) signed into law a bill that directs the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations to achieve “maximum feasible and cost-effective” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
Now, the legislature has approved a bill that would require state utilities to purchase 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, including wind and solar, establishing one of the nation’s most aggressive renewable portfolio standards.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto), requires that the state’s three investor-owned utilities (but not its publicly-owned ones) increase the proportion of renewable energy they buy by 1 percent per year until they reach the 20 percent target. Currently, about 12 percent of the state’s electricity is produced from renewable sources, but nearly all of that comes from hydropower.
Governor Davis promised on August 19 that he would sign such legislation were it to cross his desk. “California is the nation’s leader in renewable energy, and we intend to keep that title,” Davis said. He claimed that increased use of renewable energy would provide tremendous benefits for California’s electricity consumers, stating, for example, that using renewable energy would reduce electricity market volatility by cutting California’s reliance on natural gas.
Environmentalists are enthusiastically supporting the bill. A Union of Concerned Scientists report claims that the bill would save electricity consumers as much as $1.8 billion on electricity bills. Bill Ahern of Consumers Union said that the bill would protect consumers from “poor reliability and volatile prices.”
These claims are likely to prove false. Last year’s version died in committee due to fears that it would lead to higher electricity costs. To overcome those objections, the current bill employs a price cap to protect consumers from rate hikes that might result from the program.
It directs the Public Utilities Commission to set renewable contract prices equal to the cost of natural gas contracts. Additional costs would be covered by a separate fund already established to subsidize renewable energy. Since price caps lead to shortages, the bill would likely exacerbate California’s reliability problems. Moreover, the intermittent nature of wind and solar power presents its own problems and is a major obstacle to wind becoming a primary source of electricity.
Opponents of the bill argue that consumers would be better off without a renewable mandate and that the only way it would be feasible is through massive taxpayer subsidies. “Ratepayers would get a better bang for their dollar by spending more on research, rather than subsidizing expensive energy sources,” said Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R).
Environmental Activists Sue for Global Warming Damages
The first ever lawsuit alleging harm from global warming was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on August 27. The lawsuit was filed by Friends of the Earth (FoE), Greenpeace, and the City of Boulder, Colorado on behalf of their members and citizens who, according to them, are victims of global warming.
The suit is against two U.S. government agencies - the Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) - which provide loans to U.S. corporations for overseas projects that commercial banks deem too risky. It alleges that OPIC and the Ex-Im Bank violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess the environmental impact on the U.S. and the contribution to global warming of over $32 billion in financing and insurance for oil fields, pipelines and coal-fired power plants over the past ten years.
The City of Boulder claims that global warming-induced drought threatens its snowpack-dependent water supply. Boulder Mayor Will Toor said, “All the work that the city of Boulder does to maintain the quality of life for our residents will be negatively impacted by the detrimental effects of climate change.”
As noted by John Daly, who maintains the Still Waiting For Greenhouse website (www.john-daly.com), Boulder (pop. 100,000) has experienced little if any warming, despite being subject to the urban heat island effect. The nearest rural weather station in Cheesman, Colorado, about 56 miles to the south of Boulder, has actually cooled since about 1900, exhibiting strong cooling in the last two decades.
Members of Greenpeace and FoE involved in the suit include a North Carolina couple who fear the beach house they want to build will be destroyed by storm surges and rising sea levels, a Vermont-based maple syrup producer who claims that maple trees will disappear from the area, and a marine biologist, who says his life’s work, the study of coral reefs, will be destroyed if they disappear.
Although the lawsuit is unlikely to pass the laugh test in federal court, the plaintiffs acknowledge that their aims are political. A press release announcing the suit states, “FoE, Greenpeace, and the City of Boulder view this suit as a critical first step toward compelling the Bush administration to take action against global warming, and to protect people from its dangerous effects.”
Ford Motor Dumps Electric Vehicle
Ford Motor Co.’s Th!nk electric car division is going the way of the Edsel. The company cites poor consumer demand and lack of government support for its decision to pull the plug.
Ford bought the Norway-based Th!nk in 1999 for $23 million and invested an additional $100 million to develop electric vehicle battery technology. “The bottom line is we don’t believe that this is the future of environmental transport for the mass markets,” said Ford spokesman Tim Holmes. Instead, Ford will focus on developing fuel cell and hybrid gasoline-electric cars.
Ford’s thinking has undergone a rapid evolution recently, apparently due to mounting financial losses. Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., a long-time environmentalist, began his tenure with several high profile environmental statements and commitments. For example, he pledged that Ford would increase the mileage of its SUVs by 25 percent in five years.
But economic realities now have him singing a different tune. He has begun appearing in Ford television commercials touting the company’s powerful trucks, oohing and aahing over the Mustang, old and new, and claiming that he has gasoline in his veins.
Shortly after Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, Mr. Ford appeared conciliatory, saying that he wanted to “lower the temperature” between the automobile industry and California regulators and that the state’s “love affair with the auto industry has grown stale.” But the company is now distancing itself from those statements. Ford spokeswoman Francine Romine said that the company still opposes the California emissions bill and that it is still considering participation in an Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lawsuit against it (Greenwire, August 12, 2002).
The “Th!nk City” vehicle is a two-seater, with a plastic body, has a range of 53 miles and takes six hours to recharge. Moreover, it costs much more than similarly-sized vehicles. “Battery electric vehicles are not there yet technologically,” according to Jim Kliesch, a research associate with the nonprofit the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Nobody has found a way to build a battery that is cheap, can quickly recharge and allows you to drive long distances” (Reuters, August 30, 2002).
Climate Models Off By 40 Degrees
A study in the August 28 issue of Geophysical Research Letters finds that there is a serious error in the global circulation models when it comes to predicting temperatures in the Earth’s polar regions. The study measured atmospheric temperatures, at the stratopause and mesopause regions (the atmospheric layers at about 30 and 50 miles altitude respectively), at the Earth’s poles. What the researchers found was that atmospheric temperatures at the South Pole are about 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than model predictions.
“Our results suggest that wintertime warming due to sinking air masses is not as strong as the models have assumed,” according to Chester Gardner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and coauthor of the study. “But in all fairness, since no one had made these measurements before, modelers have been forced to estimate the values. And, in this case, their estimates were wrong.”
The researchers made temperature measurements from December 1999 to October 2001 using a laser radar system in combination with weather balloon measurements of the troposphere and lower stratosphere. Temperatures were recorded from the surface to an altitude of 70 miles.
It was discovered that at about 30 miles altitude it was much colder than model predictions, said Gardner. “The greatest difference occurred in July, when the measured stratopause temperature was about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit predicted by the models.”
Gardner explains the significance of this finding: “After the autumnal equinox in March, radiative processes begin cooling the polar atmosphere. During the long polar night, the atmosphere above Antarctica receives little sunlight and is sealed off by a vortex of winds that spins counterclockwise. This stable polar vortex prevents the transport of warmer air from lower latitudes into the pole, and leads to extreme cooling of the lower stratosphere.”
The only source of heat during the winter comes from down-welling air masses, which warms the air by compressing it. “Current global circulation models apparently overpredict the amount of down-welling, because they show warmer temperatures than we observed,” said Gardner.
When the researchers plugged their results into the climate model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the difference was significant. “With the reduced down-welling, the predicted mesopause temperature near 60 miles altitude decreased from about minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus 140 degrees Fahrenheit, in better agreement with our measurements for mid-winter conditions,” Gardner said. “In the stratopause region, the predicted temperature decreased from about 35 degrees Fahrenheit to about 12 degrees Fahrenheit, also in better agreement with our measurements.”
· The Bush Administration’s Climate Action Report 2002 continues to undermine its position on global warming. In a major speech in Mozambique on September 1 just before his appearance at the World Summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated, “They [the Bush Administration] accept the science, but they believe the targets are unachievable without unacceptable economic consequences.”
· The Cooler Heads Coalition will hold a congressional and media briefing by Professor Richard S. Lindzen of MIT on September 30 from noon to 1:30 PM in Room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building. Lunch will be provided. Reservations are required. Those wishing to attend should e-mail their name, affiliation, and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Myron Ebell at (202) 331-1010, ext. 216. Dr. Lindzen will be speaking “On the meaning of global warming claims.”
· The Greenhouse Delusion: A Critique of Climate Change 2001 by Vincent Gray has just been published by Multi-Science Publishing Co. It “provides a detailed discussion of the scientific material presented by the IPCC and shows that they have not provided a convincing case.” Now based in New Zealand, Dr. Gray is a Cambridge trained scientist and has served as an expert reviewer of the IPCC for the last ten years.
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
60 Plus AssociationSmall Business Survival Committee