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Vol. VIII, No. 10

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. VIII, No. 10

Politics

 

McCain Vows Another Vote on Energy Rationing Bill

 

At a May 6 hearing, Senator John McCain (R-Az.) vowed to seek a second vote before the end of this Congress on his bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions.  McCain is the chief co-sponsor along with Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) of the Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139, which would create the infrastructure necessary to ration hydrocarbon energy.

 

McCain made the remarks at a May 6 hearing of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which he chairs.  The purpose of the hearing was to promote global warming alarmism.  Notable was the testimony of Paul Epstein, M.D., the well-known expert on anything that might further his political agenda.  Epstein tried to associate the increasing incidence of childhood asthma with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, although he never made the connection clear.

 

S. 139 does not have the votes to be passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, yet McCain secured a vote for it on the Senate floor last October 30, when weaker version of the bill was defeated 43 to 55.  McCain forced Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to schedule this vote on S. 139 in exchange for McCain’s agreement to allow the Domenici energy bill to be replaced by the Daschle energy bill from the previous Congress.  That switch required unanimous consent under Senate rules.

 

Rumors are circulating on Capitol Hill that McCain plans to force another vote on S. 139 by using the same tactics if his party leadership requires his vote on some key procedural matter this summer.  It is also rumored that Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is urging his ten Democratic colleagues who voted no on S. 139 last October to switch their votes and thereby pass the bill.  It is surmised by some Senate staff that the Kerry presidential campaign believe this outcome would help Kerry and hurt President Bush in the election.      

 

British Science Adviser Goes Beyond Parody

 

The alarmism of Sir David King, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, has become even more hysterical in recent days.  Not content with repeatedly calling global warming a bigger threat than terrorism—even after the Madrid attacks of March 11—and publicly criticizing the U. S. administration, he has now gone, as the British say, “completely off the deep end.”

 

On May 2, the Independent on Sunday reported King as saying that, “Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked….  He said that the Earth was entering the ‘first hot period’ since 60 million years ago, when there was no ice on the planet and ‘the rest of the globe could not sustain human life’.”

 

The report went on, “Sir David says that there is ‘plenty of evidence’ to back up his warning.  Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — the main ‘green-house gas’ causing climate change — were already 50 per cent higher than at any time in the last 420,000 years.  The last time they were at this level — 379 parts per million and rising — was 60 million years ago during a rapid period of global warming in the Palaeocene epoch, he said.  Levels soared to 1,000 parts per million, causing a massive reduction of life on earth.

 

“‘No ice was left on earth.  Antarctica was the best place for mammals to live, and the rest of the world would not sustain human life," he said.    Sir David warned that if the world did not curb its burning of fossil fuels ‘we will reach that level by the end of the century’.”

 

In a separate story in the Independent (May 13), King said that he thought the upcoming  sci-fi movie, The  Day after Tomorrow, would make a valuable contribution to the public debate on global  warming.  He even praised certain aspects of the film as realistic: “The opening scenes setting up the key scientific factors and introducing the viewer to the scientists and the scientific-political interface are in my view remarkably realistic.  I think palaeoclimatologists can closely identify with the discussion. The sceptical reactions that the scientists received are also rather well depicted.”

 

As the BBC put it (May 13), “The blockbuster climate disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow contains badly flawed science and ignores the laws of physics, leading UK scientists believe.”  It seems somewhat odd for the chief scientific adviser to praise the something that “ignores the laws of physics” for its political qualities.  King, a professor of  chemistry at Cambridge,  has no expertise in  climate science.

 

Romney Unveils Climate Protection Plan for Massachusetts

 

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney unveiled his new climate protection plan on May 6.  The plan calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within the state of Massachusetts to 1990 levels by 2010 and by an additional 10 percent by 2020.  Containing 72 specific suggestions, the plan is supposed to reduce pollution, cut energy demands, and nurture employment growth for the state.

 

Romney commented, “Economic success and environmental protection go hand in hand.  The steps we are taking today will ensure a cleaner environment and a brighter future for generations to come.”  He also maintained that the plan is one of the nation's strongest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and said it exhibited a strong dedication to implementing the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers global warming plan from August 2001 (which, by the way, is clearly unconstitutional: see Article 1, Section 10).

 

The proposals range from encouraging the construction of “green” schools and buildings to developing a trading market for emissions within Massachusetts.  Additionally, the state will implement a greenhouse gas inventory in order to track greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Despite launching the plan, Romney, a Republican, said that he remained personally agnostic about global warming, which led to attacks from environmental groups for deviating from the party line (Boston Globe, May 7).

 

In neighboring Connecticut, the General Assembly has passed a climate bill discussed in the March 31 issue.  The bill would require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by using Kyoto-like measures.    Just as in Romney’s new plan, the Connecticut bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.  The bill is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature for approval (Associated Press, May 5).

 

Economics

 

EU emissions trading scheme threatens electricity blackouts

 

According to a Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) report, world demand for energy is expected to rise by two-thirds between now and 2030.  Consequently, energy firms in Europe must dramatically increase supply.  However, they have been slow do to so because of the new emissions trading directive and uncertainty over future regulation.  Manfred Wiegand, PWC’s global utilities leader, said: “Companies are facing a huge need for investment.  The bill from now until 2030 is some $10 trillion and they need a consistent and stable regulatory environment to make the sector more attractive to investors.”

 

Investment in newer and cleaners plants has ground to a halt in places such as the United Kingdom where the government has embraced the Kyoto treaty and pledged to cut greenhouse gases by 5.5m tonnes by 2010.  It is the opinion of energy experts that blackouts such as the one in London last August that trapped 250,000 commuters are therefore likely to become more frequent.  Paul Golby of Powergen stated “We want to invest but we have all had our fingers burnt in the past” and “over the next few months the government must make some key decisions about how emissions trading will be implemented.”  (The Times, May 9)

 

 

Hybrid Cars’ Miles Per Gallon Falls Short

 

Hybrid cars are not living up to their advertised gas mileage, claimed a recent article from wired.com (May 11).

 

John DiPietro, a road test editor of the automotive website Edmunds.com, explained in the article that drivers hardly ever experience the actual miles per gallon advertised by the EPA.  Most automobiles would have miles per gallon of approximately 75 to 87 percent of the EPA’s rating.  However, data from Consumer Reports suggests that the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius averaged well under 60 percent of the EPA’s reported miles per gallon when operating on city streets.

 

Many critics of the EPA’s evaluation system point to flaws in the EPA’s measurement process.  “The [EPA] test needs to include more fundamental engineering,” said John H. Johnson, the co-author of a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report on fuel efficiency standards.  He added, “They haven’t been updated to encompass hybrids.”

 

The wired.com article concluded, “The inflated EPA numbers have been a public relations conundrum for Honda and Toyota, which are caught between hyped expectations and detracting from one of the cars’ main selling points – better mileage.”

 

Science

 

Adverse Impacts of Warming have been Exaggerated

 

On May 3, the Cooler Heads Coalition hosted a Capitol Hill briefing entitled “The Impacts of Global Warming: Why the Alarmist View is Wrong.”  The event allowed four leading experts to discuss the specific scientific research that has been done in their four particular fields: severe weather events, rising sea levels, tropical diseases, and mass species extinctions.

 

Dr. Madhav L. Khandekar, who recently retired from Environment Canada after a 25-year career as a research scientist, and who recently edited a special issue of the international journal Natural Hazards on extreme weather events, presented his views concerning the lack of connection between severe weather events and global warming.  Khandekar specifically examined heat trends from Canada, thunderstorms and tornadoes in North America, and monsoons in Asia.  He concluded that there has not been an increase in severe weather events and that the likelihood of increased incidences of extreme weather events in the next ten to twenty-five years remains very small at this time. 

 

Professor Nils-Axel Morner, head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics Department at Stockholm University and past president of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, delivered an amusing and enthusiastic presentation examining sea level change.  He pointed out that what has been predicted by computer models is not backed up by empirical evidence.  Satellite measures, for instance, show no change in sea level over the past decade, which has led him to write in a peer-reviewed journal, “This implies that there is no fear of any massive future flooding as claimed in most global warming scenarios.”  Much of the supposed rise, it seems, has actually been a shifting of the amount of water from one area of the globe to another.

 

Nor is Professor Morner worried about island nations drowning.  He and his team did an exhaustive investigation of the claim made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are at risk from sea level rise accelerated by global warming.  He found considerable evidence that the sea level in the islands has fallen over the past 30 years, and that the islands and their people survived much higher sea levels in the past.

 

Next, Paul Reiter, a professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris who specializes in the spread of vector-borne diseases, demolished the common claim that warmer temperatures play an important role in the spread of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.  Reiter gave a brief historical excursus of the prevalence of malaria (or ague, as it was called in earlier centuries) in  England during the Elizabethan Age, in Washington,  D. C., and other northern  climates  during the Little  Ice  Age.  Reiter remarked that the largest outbreak of malaria in the twentieth century occurred not in the tropics but in the Soviet Union in 1923-25, when there were more than 16 million cases and 600,000 fatalities.  This figure includes 30,000 deaths in Archangel, which is above the Arctic Circle. 

 

Reiter explained that malaria and other “tropical” diseases have more to do with living conditions than temperature.  He cited his study that analyzed the Texas-Mexico border, where dengue fever was prevalent in Mexico and rare in Texas despite the similar environmental conditions.  The only difference was living conditions.  He also emphasized that many of the “experts” (such as physician Paul Epstein, who is not a medical researcher) expressing concern over global warming and tropical diseases are newcomers to the field and have not bothered to master the literature.  Prof. Reiter concluded that climate is rarely relevant to the re-emergence of vector-borne diseases.

 

Patrick Michaels, professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, examined the claim that global warming threatens mass extinction of species.  Michaels analyzed recent scientific articles that have been claimed as evidence that rising temperatures are reducing habitats for butterflies, penguins, polar bears, and toads.  In each case, he showed that either temperatures were not rising in the specific habitats or habitat for the specific species had actually expanded.  Michaels concluded that research has demonstrated that species’ range is affected by rising temperatures, but not in a way that helps the alarmist case.

 

The presenters on the panel were generally scathing about the quality of the IPCC’s assessment reports in their fields of expertise.  For instance, Prof. Reiter revealed that, the nine lead authors of the chapter discussing vector-borne diseases in the Second Assessment Report had published a total of six papers on the subject.  The three leading critics of the chapter, including Prof. Reiter, had published over 550 scholarly papers.  Prof. Morner has written in a peer-reviewed journal article that the IPCC chapter on sea-level rise represents “a low and unacceptable standard. It should be totally rewritten by a totally new group of authors chosen among the group of true sea-level specialists.”

 

Earth More Resistant to Climate Change than Assumed

 

New research from Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting suggests that the Earth’s self regulating properties in the face of global warming are greater than previously believed.  The research implies that rainfall patterns, evaporation rates, and plant growth have been profoundly modified to reduce greenhouse gases within the Earth’s atmosphere. 

 

According to the Centre’s scientists, “As the world warms, on average, it is getting wetter… rainfall, on average, is increasing.”  They also added, “Contrary to widespread expectations, potential evaporation from the soil and land-based water bodies like lakes is decreasing in most places.  This is because the world is cloudier than it used to be.”

 

The scientists explained that the increased cloudiness not only contributes to a reduction of evaporation, but also more effective plant photosynthesis.  In turn, the Earth will grow more plant life, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide within the atmosphere.  These carbon sinks, particularly “long-lived, woody plants like trees”, change habitats, ecosystems, biodiversity, and the flows of greenhouse gases, the scientists claimed.

 

They concluded, “Forests, farms, and grasslands…have the potential to absorb more (greenhouse gases), ameliorating climate change.  Properly managed, they could buy time for the world’s people to make major reductions in greenhouse emissions.”  They admitted that despite the findings, “There is much we still must discover” (The Australian, May 11)

 

 

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