Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
UK Conservatives Would Repeal Levy
The British Parliament has passed a climate levy on energy use by businesses that will come into effect in April. The highly controversial tax, which amounts to only £1 billion per year, has come under heavy fire from business interests on the grounds that it would hurt their international competitiveness.
In an attempt to reduce industry opposition, the Labor government will offset the tax by reducing business employer’s National Insurance contributions by 0.3 percent and cut taxes for energy-saving investment. The whole scheme, however, would fall more heavily on companies with high energy-to-employment ratios. The Conservatives in their party manifesto have promised to abolish the climate change levy if returned to office at the next election. This would be in addition to £8 billion in tax cuts targeted for businesses, savers, and working families (Financial Times, January 5, 2001).
The climate levy is not the only new tax that the British government has in mind to deal with global warming. Jonathan Porritt, chairman of the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, said at the launch of the government’s first annual report on quality of life that there would have to be a tax on air travel to pay for damage to the environment and human health (Daily Telegraph, January 26, 2001).
To meet the European Union’s overall Kyoto target of 8 percent below 1990 levels, Great Britain committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. It was thought that this level would be easy to reach because of the large-scale conversion of electricity production from coal to natural gas. So in a fit of enthusiasm, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Britain would do even better and voluntarily reduce its emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.
Now, both are beginning to look politically difficult. According to Cambridge Econometrics, a private economic forecasting firm, Britain is on a course that will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by only 6.6 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Decreases in emissions by electricity generators and manufacturers will largely be offset by increases from transportation and household energy use (Financial Times, February 5, 2010).
Much has been made of the “hockey stick”, a graph that shows a relatively stable global temperature from 1000 to 1900 AD and then a sudden acceleration of global temperatures in the 20th century. The temperature records that make up the hockey stick consist of tree ring data taken almost entirely from the northern latitudes used to reconstruct temperature from 1000 to 1900 AD, and thermometer-based temperature records for the 20th century.
One of the puzzling things about the tree ring data, which first appeared in a paper by Michael Mann in Nature, is that it no longer showed the Medieval Warm Period nor the Little Ice Age (LIA), both of which are widely recognized global phenomena. Mann has argued that the Little Ice Age was not a global event, but a localized Northern European event.
This is simply not true according to Diane Douglas Dalziel, with the Office of Climatology at Arizona State University. In a paper written for the Greening Earth Society, Dalziel reviews the paleoclimatic data from 29 different studies that show that the LIA was a global event. Dalziel says that, “In addition to investigating glacial geology, scientists study marine cores, sea-level curves, tree-ring chronologies, peat bogs, salt marshes, stalagmites, historic records, and even human tooth enamel to determine the magnitude, timing, and geographic extent of the LIA” (www.greeningearthsociety.org ).
These different types of evidence show that there was a synchronous response to the LIA in Asia, New Zealand, North and South America as well as in Northern Europe. “Although there is some regional variation in the timing of cooling during the LIA, cold periods typically were synchronous over broad regional areas – and often synchronous around the world,” Dalziel concludes. “The ‘hockey stick’ curve used to highlight 20th Century temperature must therefore be considered within the context of the lower global temperatures associated with the LIA phenomenon.”
For those who still doubt the calamitous effects that sudden climate change can have on mankind, a new book by archaeologist Brian Fagan should change their minds. “For five centuries, Europe basked in warm, settled weather.... Summer after summer passed with long, dreamy days, golden sunlight, and bountiful harvests. Compared with what was to follow, these centuries were a climatic golden age.... Nothing prepared them for the catastrophe ahead. As they labored through the warm summers of the thirteenth century, temperatures were already cooling rapidly on the outer frontiers of the medieval world” (page 21).
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Changed History, 1300–1850 (Basic Books, 2000) provides a wealth of well-organized evidence that the sudden global cooling caused crop failure, famine, and much more frequent and severe storms. Interestingly, some countries, such as Holland and England, adapted rather well, while the French didn't change their farming practices and suffered the consequences. “The Little Ice Age may have imposed more benefits than costs on the Dutch. Extensive land reclamation turned liabilities into assets so powerful that they helped forge the first modern economy in Europe” (page 107).
Fagan, professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, tries to make his story politically correct by packaging it with introductory and concluding warnings that the Little Ice Age is a precautionary tale. Although he makes a good effort to claim that future global warming may result in dislocations similar to the Little Ice Age, all the evidence in the book suggests that, in regard to human flourishing, warmer is better than colder.
A study in the February 2, 2001 issue of Science reports that a remote glacier in the West Antarctic may slide into the sea in 600 years if the current rate of thinning continues. According to the researchers the area, known as the Pine Island Glacier, is melting too fast to sustain itself. “Over the past eight years the same areas have been thinning at the same rate. The pattern has not spread anywhere else,” said Physicist Andrew Shepherd, part of the team from University College London and the British Antarctic Survey. This would raise sea levels by 6 mm in 600 years.
Shepherd also pointed out, however, that they don’t know the cause of the thinning. “We don’t have any evidence to suggest change of climate,” said Shepherd. MSNBC (www.msnbc.com , February 1, 2001), noted that, “The West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been steadily melting since the end of the last ice age.”
Although some may attribute melting glaciers in the Antarctic to global warming, other studies cast doubt on this conclusion. A study in the Journal of Climate (13, 2000), finds that current trends in Antarctic sea ice are running in the opposite direction than predicted by climate models.
Climate models suggest, for instance, that Antarctic sea ice is highly sensitive to manmade global warming. A rise in surface temperature reduces sea ice coverage, thereby reducing albedo (or reflectivity). Lower albedo allows more incoming solar radiation to be absorbed, which leads to further rises in temperature. As a result, “High latitudes would experience [the] greatest change from any enhanced greenhouse warming.” Thus early signs of global warming should be detected in Antarctic sea ice.
What the study finds, however, is that, based on data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Special Sensor Microwave/Imager from December 1987 to December 1996, sea ice area and total sea ice extent has increased. Combined with additional data from the 1978 to 1987 period the researchers concluded that from 1978 to 1996 sea ice has increased rather than decreased. Finally, the sea ice season lengthened throughout the 1990s.
Another study appearing in the Journal of Glaciology (46, 2000) used data from the western Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica to model changes in ice sheet volume under six different temperature forcing scenarios over a period of 20,000 modeling years.
What they found was that it required 20,000 years for the ice sheet to fully respond to the different temperature changes. Scenarios of warming and cooling of 5 degrees C lead to a mere 1 to 1.5 percent change in initial ice sheet volume. This suggests that, “The investigated part of the [East Antarctic Ice Sheet] does not appear to be very sensitive to present or future climate changes.” The authors conclude, the EAIS “may still be adjusting to the climate change that ended the Last Glacial Maximum.” See also, www.co2science.org .
· Freedom 21 will host a debate on “The Future of the Kyoto Protocol” at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, at 9:30 a.m. on February 8, 2001. Featured speakers are the Rt. Hon. John Gummer, MP, and Dr. Alan Keyes, former US ambassador to the UN and presidential candidate.
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
Citizens for the Integrity of Science
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee