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Vol. VI, No.15

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. VI, No.15

Politics

State AGs Bash Bush with Climate Action Report

 

Attorneys General from eleven States sent a letter to President George W. Bush on July 17 calling on him to propose mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.  They based their case on the administration’s Climate Action Report 2002, which was sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in May.

 

The letter details a number of possible impacts of global warming for which there is little or no scientific evidence, but which are mentioned in Climate Action Report 2002.  The chapter in that report on the impacts of climate change was based on the scientifically-discredited National Assessment, which was prepared by the Clinton Administration but later disavowed by the Bush Administration.

 

The Attorneys General note that several States have already passed legislation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but add that “state-by-state action is not our preferred option.”  Instead, they favor a federal cap-and-trade program.  The letter also states that they are considering litigation to force federal action.  Attorneys General from California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Alaska, and Vermont signed the letter.

 

 

Petitions Filed with Federal Agencies Based on Climate Action Report  

 

The Bluewater Network, the environmental pressure group which wrote the bill passed by the California legislature to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles, has filed petitions with at least four federal agencies demanding that they begin to prepare for the impacts of climate change predicted by the administration’s Climate Action Report 2002.  Petitions dated June 27 were filed with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Now that serious adverse impacts of global warming have been acknowledged officially by the administration, the Bluewater Network argues that these agencies are required by law to take these impacts into account in their resource protection policies and planning. 

 

The petition to the Forest Service, for example, asks the service to, “Initiate a no tree-cut policy for all national forests, to sequester carbon, retain ground and forest moisture, and protect wildlife and ecosystems that are dependent on these resources.”  The Network is apparently unaware that a nearly-no-cut policy has been in effect since the early 1990s, which has led to catastrophic fires over tens of millions of acres in 2000 and 2002.     

 

It should be mentioned that the Bluewater Network is a project of the Earth Island Institute.  Gar Smith, editor of the Earth Island Institute’s Journal, published a long commentary on September 13, 2001, in which he explained that the real reasons for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were “World Trade and U.S. Militarism.”  He also claimed that, “If we were to redirect our economy to operate on clean renewable energy...we would not only be on the path to mitigating climate change, we would also be on the path to eliminating one of the major causes of terrorism.”

 

Davis Signs CO2 Bill

 

As anticipated, California Governor Gray Davis signed “ground breaking legislation” on July 22 to cut carbon dioxide emissions.  Davis wrote in and op-ed, “The federal government and Congress, by failing to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming, have missed their opportunity to do the right thing.  So it is left to California, the nation’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy, to take the lead” (Washington Post, July 22, 2002). 

 

The law will require the California Air Resources Board to design policies to “achieve a maximum feasible reduction of greenhouse gases” from cars and trucks by 2005.  Davis noted that the “vigorous lobbying campaign by automakers was successful in Congress and nearly stalled California’s carbon emission law, but common sense prevailed.”

 

Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the Washington Post (July 22, 2002) that the law will directly harm consumers.  “You can’t make one car for California and another car for Washington, D.C.,” he said.  “California motorists are going to be extremely angry when they find they are going to lose access to SUVs, trucks and minivans.”  Shosteck also noted that, “there are already 50 models that get more than 30 miles per gallon,” and “consumers don’t want them….  High mileage cars sit on dealer lots and don’t sell.”

 

New York Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (D) immediately announced that he plans to introduce legislation that would direct New York to adopt California’s standards.  “Global warming and greenhouse gases pose serious health and economic risks,” DiNapoli said. “By acting now, we are acting responsibility to limit the pollutants that directly contribute to global warming and the degradation of air quality” (Detroit News, July 23, 2002).

 

Congress Looks at Kyoto and National Assessment

 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Foreign Relations Committee held a joint hearing on the Kyoto Protocol and other international environmental treaties on July 24.  Christopher C. Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coaliton and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, testified along with, John Turner, assistant secretary of State, James Connaughton, chairman of Council on Environmental Quality, Maurice Strong, chairman of Canada’s Earth Council Institute, and John Dernbach of the Widener University School of Law.  Their written testimony is available at http://epw.senate.gov

 

On July 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on scientific shortcomings of the National Assessment on the impacts of climate change.  Testimony will be available at http://energycommerce.house.gov.

 

CO2 Dumping: Are They Joking?

 

Environmental pressure groups are succeeding in their efforts to stop scientific experiments with long-term deep-ocean sequestration of carbon dioxide.  On July 2, an international consortium gave up on its application to 5,000 gallons of liquefied CO2 into ocean 3,000 feet below the surface off the island of Kauai in Hawaii.  The purpose was to determine its dispersal and effects on ocean chemistry. 

 

Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, told the San Francisco Chronicle (July 2, 2002), “We are encouraged that carbon dioxide dumping did not find a warm reception among Hawaii residents.  This experiment was hatched by the fossil fuel industry to allow them to continue their polluting ways.”

 

And Greenpeace has objected to a similar experiment proposed by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, claiming that CO2 would fall under an international treaty prohibiting dumping of industrial waste (Greenwire, July 3, 2002).  According to a Greenpeace spokesman, “The sea is not a dumping ground.  It’s illegal to dump nuclear or toxic waste at sea, and it’s illegal to dump CO2 - the fossil fuel industry’s waste.”

 

Economics

 

Wind Power is Not Sustainable

 

In its July/August issue, Mother Jones magazine sings the praises of wind power, calling it the “latest energy boom.”  In its haste to trumpet the virtues of wind power the article fails to mention its considerable drawbacks.  Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine, fills in the blanks.

 

Bailey shoots down the idea that renewable energy sources such as wind power are sustainable.  “To be sustainable,” he argues, “a power source would have to be economically viable.”  Even the best wind technology can cost two or three times as much as conventionally produced power.

 

Indeed, the so-called wind power boom is entirely the creation of government mandates in a dozen states, which typically require that between 3 and 8 percent of their electricity be supplied from renewable energy sources. “Without them,” says Bailey, “it is doubtful that a single windmill would be constructed in the U.S.”

 

As further evidence of the unsustainable nature of renewable energy, Bailey notes that 80 utilities in 28 states offer special renewable energy packages as an option to their customers.  Participation in these programs is virtually nonexistent with no program boasting more than a 1.5 percent participation rate.

 

It turns out that, due to special tax treatment, companies often purchase wind farms as tax shelters. Wind farms, for example, can write off their capital costs in five years, as compared to conventional power plants that are depreciated over 30 years.  “Because of this provision,” says Bailey, “companies often buy wind farms to offset their profits and reduce their federal tax burden.”  Wind power generation also receives a 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour federal subsidy during it first ten years of operation.

 

The major selling point of wind farms, their lower environmental footprint, is also largely bogus, according to Bailey.  A 1,000-MW wind farm would occupy 2,000 square miles compared to the 20 acres needed for a similar capacity conventional power plant.  To replace total U.S. generating capacity of 604,000 MW would require 1.2 million square miles, or a third of the total U.S. land mass.

 

Bailey’s article is available at reason.com.  The Mother Jones article is available at www.motherjones.com.

 

UK Climate Levy Harms Small Businesses

 

Despite the U.K. government’s claim that its climate change levy would be fiscally neutral, a new report by the Federation of Small Businesses claims that it has been used as a ‘stealth tax’ - a way of increasing taxation covertly. The levy works by adding a tax to the cost of non-domestic electricity, with different tax rates depending on the type of electricity used. Businesses are then compensated by a small cut in Employers’ National Insurance contributions (a tax on employing staff), and through the provision of an ‘energy efficiency fund’.

 

 The reality is that the government has, even if inadvertently, used the climate change levy to raise taxes. Moreover, the levy’s effect has been most severe on small businesses, with 88% of small firms paying the levy worse off as a result. Most small businesses do not even know they are paying the levy, casting doubt as to whether the levy is being effective in changing energy use. The Federation has called for the levy to be scrapped.

 

Science

 

Discrepancy in Temperature Trends Explained

 

A new study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters (June 26, 2002) by Richard Lindzen and Constantine Giannitsis at MIT proposes an explanation for the discrepancy between surface and satellite temperature data.  It also argues for lower climate sensitivity than is generally assumed.

 

Scientists have been puzzling over the difference in temperature trends between the surface layer of the atmosphere up to about 5,000 feet and the layer above that known as the troposphere.  Since 1979, when scientists began using satellites to take the temperature of the troposphere, it appears that even while the surface has apparently warmed, tropospheric temperatures have remained steady.    This is puzzling because greenhouse theory says that the troposphere should warm first, followed by the surface layer.

 

This scientific controversy even merited special attention from the National Research Council, which assembled a panel to assess the situation.  It concluded that both the surface data and the satellite data are correct, but only speculated about the possible causes.

 

According to the study, “The surface data suggests a warming of about 0.25 degrees C, while the satellite data shows no significant increase.”  Because the satellite data began in 1979, however, it has been noted that it is too short to “infer trends from any of the series since the trends estimated depend greatly on the subintervals chosen.”  Fortunately, the close agreement between the satellite and weather balloon data, which also measures tropospheric temperatures, allows for a longer time period to be considered.

 

Looking at the balloon data the study notes that there was a pronounced jump in the atmospheric temperature of about 0.25 degrees C in 1976.  The surface followed suit but at a slower pace, taking about ten years to catch up.  The delay in the surface data is probably due to the heat capacity of the oceans, which is related to overall climate sensitivity.  The delayed response also accounts for the discrepancy between the surface-based temperature data and that taken from satellites.  Since the satellite data began in 1979 it missed the jump in 1976, which was documented in the slower surface warming.

 

More importantly, the rate at which the surface temperature caught up with the tropospheric temperature can be used to calculate climate sensitivity.  The study finds that the surface temperature will rise about one degree C for a doubling of carbon dioxide levels.  This is significantly lower than predictions made by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and provides empirical support to climate skeptics who argue that climate sensitivity has been significantly overstated.

 

The study concludes, “The longer series suggests that the increase in tropospheric temperature occurred rather abruptly around 1976, three years before microwave observations began.  The suddenness of the tropospheric temperature change seems distinctly unlike what one expects from greenhouse warming, while the relative rapidity with which the surface temperature caught up with the troposphere, less than about 10 years, suggests low climate sensitivity for a wide range of choices for thermocline diffusion.”

 

New York Times Halfway Corrects Alaska Story

 

On June 16, the New York Times ran a story on the front page that claimed that average temperatures in Alaska had risen 7 degrees over the last thirty years.  The figure was later repeated in a June 24 Times column written by Bob Herbert.

 

The article was criticized by scientists who keep track of Alaska’s temperatures, prompting the paper to correct the story on July 11.  The Times wrote, “A front-page article on June 16 about climate change in Alaska misstated the rise in temperatures there in the last 30 years… According to an assessment by the University of Alaska’s Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research, the annual mean temperature has risen 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit over 30 years, not 7 degrees.”

 

But according to the Alaska Climate Research Center, this figure is still too high.  Using data from temperature stations in Barrow, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Nome, which represent a cross section of Alaska from north to south, the researchers found that, “the value of 5.4 degrees F too great by a factor of two for the 1971 to 2000 period, the last 30 years.”  These stations were chosen because they are professionally maintained and yield high quality, long term data.

 

Australia’s CSIRO Plays Games with Sea-Level Numbers

 

The Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIR) in Australia has published a brochure on sea-level rise in support the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The brochure does make some good points, but it also presents a phony picture on sea level changes in Australia.

 

It notes, for instance, “No acceleration [in sea-level rise] has been detected during the 20th Century.”  It also points out that, “If greenhouse gases are stabilized today, sea-level rise will continue for hundreds of years.”

 

When it comes to describing sea-level change in Australia, however, CSIRO only presents a small amount of the available data, which gives an erroneous picture of the true changes.  The brochure states, “In Australia the rise in sea-level relative to the land (June 2001) at Fremantle is 1.38 mm/year with more than 90 years of data, and at Sydney 0.86 mm/year from 82 years of data.  (Corrected for land motion, the rate of sea-level rise at these two locations is estimated to be about 1.6 to 1.2 mm/year respectively.)”

 

John Daly, who runs the Still Waiting for Greenhouse (www.john-daly.com) website, has pointed out that there are 23 long term tide gauges in Australia, not just two.  Using all of the data, the National Tidal Facility of Australia has determined that there has been a sea-level rise of only 0.3 mm/year.  Moreover, the two tide gauges cited by CSIRO are outliers due to land subsidence caused by ground water withdrawal.

 

CSIRO may have also erred in its calculation of land motion at the Fremantle site, says Daly.  According to data from Perth, which is 20 miles away, the land has been subsiding at a rate of 2.08 mm/year since 1996.  If that rate of land subsidence has been going on for some time, that would mean that there has actually been a lowering of sea-level at Fremantle of about -0.7 mm/year.  Further support for this can be found by examining tide gauges on either side of Fremantle, Bunbury to the north and Geraldton to the south.  These show a sea-level change of +0.4 mm/year and -0.95 mm/year, respectively.

 

In a presentation to the Cooler Heads Coalition in May, Daly noted the importance of Australia in determining rates of sea-level change since it is fronted by three oceans.  The data from Australia suggest that there is little to no sea-level change.  The CSIRO brochure is available at www.marine.csiro.au.

 

Etc.

 

Thursday, July 25, is the fifth anniversary of Senate passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution by a 95 to 0 vote.  Exercising its constitutional role of advising the president on international treaties, the Senate warned then-President Clinton not to negotiate a protocol to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that would significantly harm the U. S. economy and that did not include significant participation by developing nations.  The U. S. negotiating team took this position to Kyoto in late November 1997, but then-Vice President Al Gore flew to Kyoto in early December and successfully demanded that these two conditions be abandoned.  Negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol were concluded on December 11, 1997.

 

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

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

JunkScience.com

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus AssociationSmall Business Survival Committee