Vol. VII, No. 4

Vol. VII, No. 4

February 20, 2003

Politics

 

Maine Bill Would Prevent Kyoto Implementation

 

In an attempt to thwart Kyoto-style legislation and Kyoto-related activities in Maine, a bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would prohibit the State from spending any money to implement international treaties that have not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

 

The bill may be the beginning of a backlash against efforts in New England to carry out Kyoto-style policies and to pressure the Bush Administration to do likewise.  In 2001, for example, the governors of all six New England States signed an agreement with the Eastern Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. 

 

Also, State Attorney General Steven Rowe is one of several attorneys general who have threatened to sue the Bush Administration for failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global warming.  Maine lawmakers have also sought to introduce legislation to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The bill, introduced by Rep. Henry Joy (R-Crystal), reads in part, “A state department or agency may not expend or award funds to implement, in whole or in part, an international treaty that the United States Senate has not ratified.”  The bill explains that “to implement” is  any   “means   to  take  any  action  that  has  a demonstrable and direct connection to specific requirements of any international treaty that has not been ratified by the United States Senate.”

 

On Wednesday, Rep. Joy testified that Kyoto “really doesn’t have anything to do with conservation.  It’s really about command and control - where you live, how you live and in some cases, if you do live.”   Joy introduced the bill on behalf of Jon Reisman, an economics professor at the University of Maine at Machias, who has worked to prevent such efforts. 

 

Reisman calls the agreement between the New England States and Canadian provinces, “an unconstitutional foray into foreign policy.”  He has noted the agreement violates Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, which states, “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation….  No State shall, without the Consent of Congress… enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power….”

 

Arab States Reject Warming Claims

 

Thirteen oil producing Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, have signed a declaration dismissing global warming claims and asserting their right to produce and sell oil.

 

“Such unfounded allegations and doubts would make victims of the oil and gas sector and may result in a recession in world demand, thus harming the interests of producers,” says the so-called Abu Dhabi declaration.  The signatories “reaffirmed the necessity of a continuous and unobstructed supply of oil and gas to international markets.”

 

The signatories also argued that if the world presses ahead with restrictions on energy use, then the Arab states should be compensated for the loss in oil and gas revenues that would result (The Independent, February 9, 2003).

 

IRS Should Audit SUV Owners

 

In its continuing war against the automobile in general and large sport utility vehicles in particular, the Sierra Club has urged the Internal Revenue Service in a letter to audit the tax returns of SUV owners who take advantage of the provision in the tax code that allows small business owners to write off a portion of the cost of vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds used for business purposes.

 

The tax code requires that such vehicles be used at least 50 percent of the time in business activities to be eligible for the write off.  The Sierra Club claims that individuals are taking advantage of the tax credit to purchase luxury SUVs for personal use.  The Sierra Club has also attacked President Bush for his budget plan proposal that would increase the deduction from $25,000 to $75,000 (lists.sierraclub.org).

 

SUVs may get a reprieve from those trying to get them banned, however.  The massive snow storm on the east coast saw SUV owners contribute invaluable, life-saving services.  An article in the Baltimore Sun (February 18, 2003) begins, “A half-dozen shiny big SUVs were lined up outside St. Joseph Medical Center yesterday morning, their volunteer drivers proving to the world that they are nothing like the arrogant, self-centered, fuel-squandering ignoramuses of stereotype.”

 

Up and down the east coast, volunteer SUV drivers turned out in droves to help taxi essential hospital personnel, such as nurses and doctors to and from hospitals.  Without those volunteers and their SUVs, important emergency personnel would have been stranded without a way to work.

 

“You hear it on the news - all about the gas-guzzling hogs driving SUVs,” said Jeff Hegberg, climbing back into his $40,000, 7,200-pound, black 2002 Chevrolet Suburban.  “Well, on a day like this, what would the hospitals do without us?”

 

Economics

 

Decarbonization in Our Future?

 

At a briefing February 7 sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition, Jesse Ausubel, a researcher at the Rockefeller University, laid out a framework for thinking about global warming issues.  There are several points at which the issue is being debated.  There are the issues of energy use, emissions, and concentrations; climate sensitivity, or how much the climate may warm due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations; the potential impacts on ecosystems and people; and so on.

 

Ausubel argued that many of these issues are essentially unknowable.  Climate sensitivity, for example, has been estimated at different extremes.  The aggregate results from peer-reviewed scientific studies show a normal distribution of climate sensitivities.  Some suggest that a doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration will warm the climate by about 4.5 degrees Celsius.  Others show low climate sensitivity, which would lead to a warming of 1.5 degrees C.  Still others fall somewhere in the middle.  As Ausubel stated, “The pile of papers keeps getting larger, but the shape of the pile never changes.”

 

The real debate, according to Ausubel, lies in the trends in energy use.  This is one variable that is known, and as Ausubel has discovered, the world has experienced a sustained long-running reduction in carbon intensity in its energy use.  Wood, still a major source of fuel in less developed countries, has a hydrogen-to-carbon ratio of 1 to 10.  Coal’s H:C ratio is 1 to 2, oil 2 to 1, and methane or natural gas about 4 to 1.

 

The world has been steadily decarbonizing for the last 150 years, from wood to coal to oil, and now to methane.  Ausubel argues, somewhat controversially, that total decarbonization is in our future and that the economy will run on hydrogen, powered by nuclear power.  That may well be the case.

 

One of the major implications of decarbonization is that energy policy may be irrelevant.  As Ausubel has noted elsewhere, “Neither Queen Victoria nor Abraham Lincoln decreed a policy of decarbonization. Yet, the system pursued it.”  Decarbonization and our path to the hydrogen economy will happen regardless of government decrees or federal research money.

 

Ausubel also takes to task the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its assumptions on energy use.  When Ausubel extrapolated decarbonization trends out to the year 2100 and compared it to the IPCC’s 1990 “business as usual” (BAU) scenario he found that they bore little resemblance to one another. 

 

The IPCC’s BAU scenario was a flat line, which assumes technical stagnation or what Ausubel dubs the Breschnev Scenario.  But properly understood, BAU is a technologically dynamic and progressive scenario that will eliminate CO2 by 2100.  The IPCC’s 2001 Third Assessment Report uses 40 scenarios which show decarbonization and carbonization going in all different directions with no probabilities attached.

 

IPCC’s Economic Assumptions Assailed

 

The Economist (February 13, 2003) has published an article featuring criticisms leveled at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the economic assumptions it used to come up with its temperature projections. 

 

“In recent months,” according to the Economist, “two distinguished commentators - Ian Castles of the National Center for Development Studies at Australian National University, formerly the head of Australia’s national office of statistics; and David Henderson of the Westminster Business School, formerly chief economist of the OECD - have put together a critique of the panel’s Special Report of Emissions Scenarios (SRES).”

 

The major points of contention are the assumptions about the gap between rich and poor countries and the speed at which the gap will be closed.  The SRES based its projections of future output on GDP estimates that were converted into a common measure using market exchange rates.  Because prices tend to be much lower in poor countries, this method significantly overstates the gap in average incomes between rich and poor countries.

 

The IPCC assumed that the rich countries will continue to grow and that in most of the 40 SRES scenarios the poor countries will close the income gap by the year 2100.  The combination of the overstated gap and the assumption of convergence lead to vastly overestimated emissions scenarios.

 

Even more startling are projections that show the per capita incomes of those living in South Africa, Algeria, Libya, Turkey and North Korea overtaking the per capita incomes of Americans by 2100 by a wide margin.  There are several other serious errors in the SRES scenarios as well.  Castles and Henderson’s analysis will be published in a forthcoming issue of Energy and Environment.

 

Renewable Energy in Decline

 

The Energy Information Administration has released a report showing that the consumption of renewable energy fell significantly in 2001.  Much of the decline was attributed to a drought which curtailed the generation of hydroelectric power by 23 percent.  But the report also noted that the equipment used to produce solar power is being retired faster than new equipment is being installed.

 

Much of that equipment was installed in the 1970s and 1980s when there were plentiful subsidies available for distributed solar power.  But now the equipment is getting old and wearing out, and the subsidies are no longer available to replace it. 

 

Even though the use of solar collectors and wind turbines has increased over the last few years, overall consumption of renewable energy fell by 12 percent in 2001, the lowest point in over 12 years.  In all, renewables only account for 6 percent of the nation’s energy consumption (Energy Central, February 18, 2003).

 

Science

 

Climate Variation is the Norm, not the Exception

 

A new report by Dr. David Wojick, which reviews six major National Academy of Sciences’ studies published over the last five years, argues that a new understanding of climate change has emerged as scientists have grappled with the question of man’s influence on the climate.

 

Wojick states, “The issues in the NAS reports and recent research are far more fundamental and clash with an underlying premise of much climate modeling over the past decade - that climate over the past century and a half has been effectively constant and any changes are primarily because of man’s activity.” 

 

One of the NAS reports, Decade-to-Century-Scale Climate Variability and Change: A Science Strategy, published in 1998, effectively debunks that premise.  “The evidence of natural variations in the climate system - which was once assumed to be relatively stable - clearly reveals that climate has changed, is changing, and will continue to do so with or without anthropogenic influences.”

 

The review goes on to quote several more passages from NAS studies, which simply do not offer any confirmation of the claims that the science is settled.  The previously mentioned study also states, “Without a clear understanding of how climate has changed naturally in the past, and the mechanisms involved, our ability to interpret any future change will be significantly confounded and our ability to predict future change severely curtailed.” 

 

Another NAS report, The Atmospheric Sciences: Entering the Twenty-First Century, also published in 1998, states, “Large gaps in our knowledge of interannual and decade-to-century natural variability hinder our ability to provide credible predictive skill or to distinguish the role of human activities from natural variability.”  In 2001, the NAS admitted in a study titled, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, that “…the observing system available today is a composite of observations that neither provide the information nor the continuity in the data needed to support measurements of climate variables.”

 

Far from being settled, the science is still in its infancy.  The NAS’s Global Environment Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade, published in 1999, argues that, “Climate research is only at the beginning of its learning curve, with dramatic findings appearing at an impressive rate.  In this area even the most fundamental scientific issues are evolving rapidly.”

 

The NAS studies reveal, according to Wojick, that there has been a quiet revolution in climate science.  “It seems that we have discovered or confirmed a number of natural mechanisms of climate change, at least ten in fact.  These mechanisms provide alternative, competing explanations for global warming; alternative to, and competing with, the theory of human-induced warming.  Also alternative to, and competing with, each other.

 

“Each of these mechanisms can in theory explain all of the changes in 20th century climate.  Human greenhouse gas emissions are therefore just one of many alternative hypotheses.  In addition, the evidence for warming due to greenhouse gas emissions is no greater than for any of the other mechanisms” (Electricity Daily, February 3, 2003).  As a result of this revolution, increases in our understanding about climate change have been paralleled by increases in the uncertainty about man’s contribution, if indeed there is one.

 

The mechanisms include solar variation, emergence from the Little Ice Age, lunar energy variation, internal oscillations (such as El Niño), Milankovitch forcing (variations in the Earth’s orbit), ocean variation, biospheric variation, cryogenic variation (variations in the amount and distribution of ice), surface versus satellite temperature variation, and aerosol forcing mechanisms.

 

Wojick concludes that, “We do not know the extent of climate change in the past, we do not know why climate changes, and we must focus our research on this issue.  Only then can we integrate the potential role of past increases in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions into recent climate history, and only then can we begin to assess the outlook for future climate.”

 

Announcements

 

·    Christopher Essex of the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph, will give a Cooler Heads Coalition congressional and media briefing on their new book, Taken By Storm: the troubled science, policy, and politics of global warming, on Thursday, February 27, from 2:30 to 4:00 PM in Room 406 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.  Reservations are requested.  To attend, please contact Myron Ebell at mebell@cei.org or (202) 331-2256.  Include your name, telephone number, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation.  Registered attendees will receive copies of the book, compliments of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

 

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