Vol. VII, No. 10

Vol. VII, No. 10

May 15, 2003

Politics

 

Menendez Amendment Threatens State Department Bill

 

On May 7, the House International Relations Committee approved an amendment to the State Department reauthorization bill that says the United States should “demonstrate international leadership” in climate change issues.  The resolution, added to H.R. 1950 during a markup session and proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), contains language similar to that added to the Senate version of the bill by the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman on April 9.

 

The amendment was approved by the committee by 21 votes to 18, with Republicans Jim Leach (Iowa) and Chris Smith (N.J.) voting in favor alongside 19 committee Democrats (two Democrats missed the vote).  Six Republican members of the committee were not present for the vote.  They were:  Elton Gallegly (Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Amory Houghton (N.Y.), Nick Smith (Mich.), Jo Ann Davis (Va.) and Katherine Harris (Fla.).

 

The amendment commits Congress to agreeing that “manmade greenhouse gases are contributing to global climate change” and accepts the conclusion of the IPCC that “most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities.”  Menendez’s amendment also expresses concern over rising sea levels, changes in crop yields, and the spread of tropical infectious diseases.

 

Although Rep. Menendez said that he was “not here to advocate the Kyoto Protocol,” the amendment advocates Kyoto-style energy rationing mechanisms and urges the United States to rejoin the Kyoto negotiations in order to negotiate a second protocol.

 

The committee passed a similar amendment proposed by Rep. Menendez during the last Congress.  It was removed during the conference stage owing to the efforts of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).  Fears that the House leadership might not send the bill to the floor if it contains the language were reflected by Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who said that he felt the amendment was unnecessary, given the administration’s commitment to spend $1.7 billion on climate research this year.

 

The committee voted for the amendment despite a strong effort mounted by opponents.  A joint letter criticizing the amendment was sent to the committee members by 33 non-profit groups.  Signers included 12 members of the Cooler Heads Coalition: Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Frontiers of Freedom, American Legislative Exchange Council, 60 Plus Association, National Center for Public Policy Research, Center for Security Policy, Small Business Survival Committee, American Policy Center, Heartland Institute, and Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

 

Another joint letter from trade associations was organized by the National Association of Manufacturers.  A detailed and exhaustively footnoted refutation of the amendments was produced and circulated by the Center for Science and Public Policy and CEI.   (Greenwire, May 8, 2003)

 

Competing Lobbies Argue Over CO2 Caps in Senate

 

As the Senate begins debate on the energy bill, S. 14, a coalition of nine energy companies is supporting a bipartisan plan to reduce air emissions from electric utilities in preference to the competing Clear Skies plan supported by the Bush administration.

 

The Clean Energy Group (CEG), consisting of Conectiv, Consolidated Edison, Entergy Corp., Exelon Corp., KeySpan, PG&E National Energy Group, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., and Sempra Energy, dissents from the Bush administration's suggestion that mandating carbon dioxide (CO2) controls from power plants is too costly and will wreak economic havoc.

 

CEG argues that the Clean Air Planning Act (CAPA), introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), reduces pollution far more than the administration's Clear Skies legislation, including CO2 reductions omitted by Clear Skies, at only slightly greater cost – $66.7 billion as against $65.4 billion over twenty years from 2005 to 2025.  The Carper-Gregg Bill presents tougher standards and shorter timetables than Clear Skies.  The EPA is preparing its own comparison of Clear Skies and the Carper bill, following Carper’s request for an agency comparison at an April 8 Senate committee hearing.

 

The group also argues that the even stricter bill introduced by Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) with the support of environmental groups is far more costly than the Carper bill.  A 2001 EPA analysis of an earlier Jeffords proposal to reach those same emission targets by 2007 concluded that overall costs would be between $13 billion and $30 billion annually.

 

Some voices in the Senate suggest the CEG analysis is tainted as the group includes members of the nuclear industry.  The Carper bill would allow the nuclear industry to sell emission credits to coal-powered utilities at a profit, because the industry does not emit CO2.  One lobbyist backing the Clear Skies plan says the Carper plan would provide “free money” to the nuclear industry.

 

 

Economics

 

As Kyoto Deadline Nears, European Emissions Continue to Climb

 

European politicians are fond of berating the United States for its failure to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but newly published figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA – see http://org.eea.eu.int) show that all but four of the European Union’s fifteen nations are increasing their emission of greenhouse gases.

 

In both 2000 and 2001, the latest years for which figures are available, the amount of six greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere increased in Europe as a whole.  The EEA blames the 2001 increase on a colder winter that led most households to burn more fuel, but admits that higher use of transportation and greater use of fossil fuels in producing electricity and heat were also responsible.

 

Carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to 82 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, increased 1.6 percent in 2001, leaving them, coincidentally, 1.6 percent higher than in the baseline year of 1990. The EU pledged at Kyoto to reduce its total emissions by 8 percent of the 1990 level by the period 2008-2012.

 

Some countries are noticeably less efficient at achieving their Kyoto pledges than others.  While the United Kingdom has already reduced its emissions by 12 percent against its target of a 12.5 percent reduction, Spain, which was required to limit growth in emissions to 15 percent, has in fact seen them increase by 32 percent to date.  Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, which are all required to reduce emissions, have actually increased their production of greenhouse gases.  Finland increased its emissions by over 7 percent in 2001 alone.

 

Only Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom seem to be on track to meet their public promises.  France is very slightly off target.  These nations include the three biggest economies in the EU.  However, as the EU made a collective commitment to reduce its emissions, the overall trend taking the smaller economies into account is such that Europe is overshooting its target for emissions reduction.

 

Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at London University, told BBC News Online, “One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity. While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn't have a snowflake in hell's chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets.” (BBC News Online, May 6, 2003).

 

Science

 

Making the Data Fit the Model

 

Science magazine claimed, “A stubborn argument against global warming may be discredited by a re-analysis of the data central to its claims,” when it published, via Scienceexpress.org, a paper by Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California on May 1. Santer’s team was tackling the well-known argument that atmospheric temperature data from satellites fail to show the warming trend found in surface level observations. By comparing a new dataset to a model that predicts warming in the troposphere, he was able to claim that his team had detected a warming trend of 0.1 degrees Celsius per decade.

 

This is considerably above the level of +/- 0.05 degrees C per decade previously accepted as demonstrated by the satellite data. The standard dataset is produced by a team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), led by John Christy. The new dataset, produced by Frank Wentz of Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) of Santa Rosa, California, is based on the idea that variations between satellites and their orbits can cause variations in the data that need to be accounted for. The RSS data remain unpublished, however, and Christy’s team has amended its data to account for the factors highlighted by Wentz.

 

The new study by Santer is based on the idea that there must still be something wrong with the UAH dataset because it fails to match the consequences for the troposphere proposed by the climate model Santer uses. That model appears to predict consequences for the stratosphere quite accurately. Because the RSS data match the predicted warming trend better, Santer suggests that the failure to find a warming trend in the UAH data may be due “an artifact of data uncertainties.”

 

Christy, however, was already undertaking a rigorous analysis of the UAH data to estimate its error range. His re-examination was published in the May 2003 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. By comparing the satellite data to independent data obtained from weather balloons, he was able to re-affirm the reliability of the UAH data. Santer’s paper suggested that there might be a problem with the balloon data as well.

 

Christy cast doubt on the reliability of Santer’s model, telling Reason magazine science correspondent Ron Bailey, “It’s a lot easier to model the stratosphere because you only have to consider radiational effects. The troposphere is much messier. It contains complicated things likes clouds, convection, moisture and dust.”

 

He went on to tell the Oakland Tribune, “It does not bother me that our data do not agree with their virtual model of the world … It’s a curious way to do science, to use a model to verify data rather than the other way around. If you follow this too far down that road, you’re in danger of saying, ‘It’s my theory that’s correct and the real world that’s wrong.’” (Ron Bailey, Tech Central Station, May 1).

 

Soot May Pose More Problems than Previously Thought

 

The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report issued in 2001 argued that “sulfate aerosol” emissions from burning coal helped cool the atmosphere, accounting for the lower than expected warming trend so far detected.   Further research, however, from such individuals as James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, suggested that the presence of “black carbon” aerosols – soot – raises atmospheric temperatures as the particles absorb solar radiation.  It was initially thought that the cooling effect of sulfate aerosols and the warming effect of black carbon cancelled each other out.

 

Hansen and his colleagues published further research on the subject in the May 13 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The paper looked at how smoke and other black carbon in the atmosphere interacts with sunlight and chemicals to contribute to climate change.  The research team, from NASA, Columbia University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that “a rapid rise in worldwide temperatures over the last 50 years may be largely due to smoky particles in the air.”

 

Co-author and NASA scientist Dorothy Koch told the Los Angeles Times, “All black carbon does is absorb sunlight … If you put more into the atmosphere, you increase the warming.”  Other experts, like Stanford University climatologist and leading global warming alarmist Stephen Schneider, urged caution.

 

The study speaks directly to one of the central issues surrounding the adoption or rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.  One reason the administration has given for rejecting the deal is the large accumulation of atmospheric pollutants over southern Asia known as the “Asian Brown Cloud.”  The presence of the two-mile thick phenomenon appears to be due to forest fires, the burning of wood and dung in stoves and in the increased use of fossil fuels in developing countries.  The Kyoto Protocol exempts developing countries from having to reduce their emissions from such sources. (Greenwire, May 6 2003).

 

Announcement

 

With this issue, Iain Murray becomes Managing Editor of Cooler Heads.  He has also joined CEI as a Senior Fellow in Environmental Policy.  Iain was formerly Director of Research at the Statistical Assessment Service, where he examined a wide range of scientific problems in public policy and the media.

 

Iain writes regularly for Techcentralstation.com and for United Press International. As a British citizen, he worked for the UK Department of Transport on railroad privatization before coming to the US in 1997. He holds an MA from Oxford University, an MBA from London University, and the Diploma of Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

 

 

 

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 Association

Small Business Survival Committee