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Bush Administration Seeks Advice
The New York Times reported on April 28 that the White House has held a number of high-level briefings on global warming since the administration announced in March that it would not propose regulating CO2 emissions from utilities and that it considered the Kyoto Protocol dead.
Regular attendees have included Vice President Cheney, Secretaries Paul O’Neill from Treasury and Spencer Abraham from Energy, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, and several White House policy staffers.
The report by Andrew C. Revkin gives indirect support to rumors that the Bush Administration is considering several proposals to address global warming, including “voluntary” and mandatory cap-and-trade limits on CO2 emissions. In addition, the administration now apparently plans to bring a “constructive position” to the ongoing Kyoto Protocol negotiations in Bonn in July.
The New York Times claims, “There is a growing realization at the White House that the blunt rejection of the [Kyoto] treaty may have caused more problems than it solved.” It quoted one senior government official as saying, “The decisions six weeks ago were made in an appalling vacuum of information. A substantial portion of the people involved wish they had it to do over again. They might still have rejected Kyoto, but probably in a different way.”
“The list of speakers,” according to the New York Times, “has been dominated by scientists and policy experts who believe that a recent global warming trend is at least partly caused by humans, poses risks and requires a significant response to stem the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
Those briefing the White House included: Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. James E. Hansen, a climate modeler with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. Daniel L. Albritton, head of the National Oceanic and Atmophseric Administration’s (NOAA) Aeronomy Laboratory, Dr. Richard L. Schmalensee, the dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, William K. Reilly, former EPA administrator and current president of the World Wildlife Fund, and Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change Partnership, an industry front-group that favors Kyoto-style regulations.
Two Senate hearings this week gave global warming alarmists little to cheer about. On May 1, the Commerce Committee heard from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lead authors Dr. Richard S. Lindzen and Dr. James Hansen, and co-chairmen of the IPCC’s Working Group’s I, II, and III: Dr. Venkatachala Ramaswamy, senior scientist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Dr. James McCarthy, director of Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Dr. Jayant Sathaye, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
When asked what they would do to deal with global warming if they were legislators, four of the five witnesses endorsed “no regrets” actions and more scientific research. Dr. McCarthy opined that the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report shows that more urgent actions are necessary. It is worth recalling that McCarthy was the source for the New York Times’s story last August that the North Pole “was melting.” The Times quickly corrected McCarthy’s ridiculous claims.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s hearing on May 2 was most notable for some of the remarks made by members of the committee. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) pointed to all the people who died of carbon monoxide (or is it carbon dioxide?) poisoning every year when they left their car engines running inside closed garages as evidence of how serious the problem of global warming is.
Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) blamed global warming for increasing smog and for higher asthma rates in children. She also noted that the administration’s energy proposals would make it much harder to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Witnesses included Lindzen, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Dr. John Christy, professor with the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
Most of the questions were directed at Jim Rogers, CEO of Cinergy, a major utility that burns 30 million tons of coal per year. Rogers told the committee that while he favored no regrets actions at this time, regulatory certainty was the most important policy for his company. The Congress should decide whether and exactly how it is going to regulate CO2 emissions so that utilities can plan future capital investments.
Ford Motor is announcing once again that its products are contributing to global warming and that it intends to do something to lessen the environmental damage that its vehicles are causing. The mea culpa will be in the company’s forthcoming second annual Corporate Citizenship Report, according to a Wall Street Journal story (May 2, 2001).
According to the Journal, this year’s report is based on a series of talks Ford executives had last summer with radical environmental and progressive social groups. Those meetings identified global warming as one of three big issues the company should focus on. The others are improving human rights in developing countries where Ford has plants and persuading financial markets to reward Ford for focusing on environmental issues.
This last issue clearly limits Ford’s ability to respond to the threat of global warming. For example, a decision by Ford to get out of automobile and into bicycle production would probably not be rewarded by financial markets. The problem that Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. confronts as a committed environmentalist is that Ford makes nearly all of its profits from selling its larger vehicles, such as SUVs.
Recently the news was full of stories about new and stronger evidence that man is causing the planet to warm. The stories were based on two new studies appearing in the April 13 issues of Science. According to Sydney Levitus, lead author of one of the studies, “We think this is some of the strongest evidence to date that human-induced effects are changing our climate” (Associated Press, April 13, 2001).
A closer examination of the studies reveals, however, that the claims are overblown. The studies rely on climate models, which aren’t evidence at all, but merely artificial constructions of what some scientists believe about the climate.
The study by Tim Barnett, et al. attempts to predict the ocean heat content averaged from the surface to 3,000 feet below the surface, from 1955 to 2000, that would result from CO2 forcing. The study claims that the match between the observed warming in the oceans and that produced by the model is very good, therefore suggesting that human activity is responsible for that warming.
To achieve this apparent match, however, the researchers “smoothed” the data by using the average value of each ten-year period rather than the raw data to fit it to the model results. But even the smoothed data does not fit well. Of the five oceans examined, all but one experienced a cooling from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s not replicated by the models.
The fit between the data and the models is achieved by using ocean temperatures down to 3,000 feet. The model in fact does a terrible job of replicating temperature changes at the ocean’s surface where greenhouse gases have the most immediate effect, but does a very good job of replicating temperatures at depths of 1,500 feet to 3,000 feet, which are largely unaffected by greenhouse gases. The models’s poor performance is hidden by averaging ocean temperatures over 3,000 feet.
The Levitus, et al. study is also questionable. It looks at historical records of ocean temperatures from the surface to 10,000 feet from 1955 to 1996. This study also smooths the data to achieve a better fit, which washes out an important ocean temperature shift that occurred in 1976-77, known as “the great Pacific climate shift.”
There was no statistically significant ocean warming before or after the 1976-77 temperature shift. Such sudden shifts can hardly be attributed to gradual increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, but by averaging the data, Levitus, et al. were able to construct a gradual temperature rise consistent with global warming theory.
A possible new culprit for global warming has emerged—trees. A study by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has found cooling temperatures can be linked to deforestation, according to an April 24 Associated Press story.
The study looked at the period between 1000 and 1900, when the Earth’s temperature dropped two degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers found the places that cooled the most also experienced the most deforestation. Thus if deforestation causes cooling, then is it also the case that reforestation, which has been going on at a rapid pace in the U.S. for decades, will cause warming?
Several studies have been done to determine what changes, if any, have occurred in sea ice cover and sea ice thickness in the Arctic. Interest in Arctic ice is fueled by the belief that the signs of global warming would be observed there first.
A paper by Greg Holloway and Tessa Sou, with the Institute of Ocean Sciences, in Sidney British Columbia, Canada, delivered at the 3rd annual Arctic Science Summit Week, an initiative of the International Arctic Science Committee, asks the question, “Is Arctic Sea Ice Rapidly Thinning?” The answer is “no.”
Detailed satellite observations from 1979 to 1999 show a decrease in sea ice cover of nearly 3 percent per decade. Observations of sea ice thickness have shown even more dramatic changes, but the data is sparse.
A study by Rothrock et al., which appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters, used U.S. military submarine cruise records from autumns of 1958, 1960, 1962, 1970 and 1976 and compared them to cruises in 1993, 1996, 1997. “Systematically over all the regions sampled by the submarines, thickness had markedly decreased from the earlier to the later period,” according to Holloway and Sou. There was an apparent decrease of thickness of 43 percent at the 29 locations where the records could be compared.
In earlier work, Holloway had constructed a “numerical ocean-ice-snow model to attempt to formulate a mutually consistent budget for freshwater and heat in the Arctic ocean-ice-snow system.” For the current study, the model was run from 1948 to 1999 and replicated the well-measured three percent per year reduction in ice cover consistent with observations. “However, model-estimated thinning was nothing like the rapid thinning reported from submarines,” a thinning of only 12 percent.
Holloway and Sou argue that the mismatch between the submarine measurements and model results suggest either problems with the model or inadequate data. They prefer the latter explanation due to the sparseness of the data.
The researchers suggest that, “The apparent ice loss was only a shifting of location of ice within the Arctic,” which the infrequent submarine sampling missed. How does the ice shift? “Large-scale wind patterns are ever-changing, and the Arctic ice pack is readily rearranged,” said Holloway and Sou. Moreover, the patterns of wind stress in the model resemble the pattern of thinning.
Holloway and Sou conclude “that the positions of submarine observations were exceptionally biased towards regions of thinning.”
“The actual results from the actual submarine surveys appear to be a ‘fluke’ of timing coupled with the natural mode of Arctic sea ice variability,” said the researchers
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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