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EPA Blasts the National Assessment
The National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Change is under attack from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, of all places. According to EPA’s Mike Slimak and Joel Scheraga, who oversaw the health sector work group, the overview of the health chapter is scientifically suspect. Slimak and Scheraga pointed out several problems with the report:
If these problems are not corrected, Slimak and Scherage say they "will recommend that EPA not concur on the release of the document. The scientific credibility of the assessment process is at stake" (Electricity Daily, May 9, 2000).
What’s Wrong with UN Climate Science?
An Independent Scientific Review of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report
Tuesday, May 30
9 AM—1:30 PM
Room SC-5, U. S. Capitol
The Cooler Heads Coalition and the Science and Environmental Policy Project invite you to a briefing featuring 14 top climate experts from the United States, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada. Speakers include atmospheric scientist Fred Singer, solar physicist Paal Brekke, paleoclimatologist Wibjorn Karlen, climatologists Vincent Gray and Hugh Elsaesser, and atmospheric physicists Roy Spencer and Albert Arking.
Breakfast, refreshments, and lunch will be provided. There is no charge to attend the briefing, but space is limited and registration is required. To register, contact CEI’s Ralph Patterson at (202) 331-1010, ext. 264, or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
IPCC Recommends Tighter Emission Reduction Rules
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a supposedly scientific panel, has entered the political arena with a forthcoming report. As reported by the Yomiuri Shimbun (May 9, 2000), the Kyoto Protocol allows the developed countries to "include carbon dioxide absorbed by forests in their figures for calculating greenhouse gas reductions."
The new IPCC report, however, recommends that, "industrialized nations not be allowed to include in those figures CO2 absorbed by forests planted after 1990." Allowing countries to count absorption by new forests would ignore the amount of CO2 absorbed by the original forest. "The report will propose that industrialized countries be allowed to include absorption figures only when the amount of CO2 absorbed is greater in the replanted forest than in the original forest before it was reduced in size."
The Yomiuri Shimbun story revealed the real agenda of the report, which isn’t about reducing greenhouse gasses at all but about reducing energy use in the developed countries. "The IPCC’s decision is based on the realization that industrialized countries might be able to achieve their reduction targets by planting or replanting forests instead of cutting the actual emissions of greenhouse gases."
The International Scene
EU Sets Targets for Renewables
EU countries will have to increase the proportion of their energy coming from renewable sources - mostly hydroelectric, biomass, and wave power - to meet the EU’s new system of "indicative national targets" to reduce emissions from energy generation. This new initiative has been brought on by looming Kyoto Protocol targets, which Europe is on course to miss.
Under this new plan, Britain would have to increase its renewables usage from 1.7 to 10 percent of power consumption. Austria, long a user of hydroelectric power, would raise its usage from 73 to 78 percent. Overall, the new targets would have the EU generating 12 per cent of its power from renewables.
Japanese Agency Recommends Carbon Tax
A panel of the Japanese Environment Agency will recommend to its government a carbon tax in a forthcoming report to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. According to the Japan Times (May 8, 2000), the report will recommend a small tax whose proceeds could be used to subsidize energy-saving measures in industry, such as the purchase of new equipment. If necessary, this tax revenue could also be used to purchase carbon vouchers from other countries under emissions trading.
The Environment Agency hopes that a 1 to 2 yen per liter gas tax, used to subsidize the purchase of energy efficient equipment, would reduce emissions two percent below 1990 rates in 2010. To meet its Kyoto commitment Japan must reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels. Proportional taxes would also be placed upon coal and natural gas.
New Zealand Embraces Kyoto Targets
The New Zealand parliament just passed a bill put forward by the Greens party, The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill, which will inaugurate the country’s first national energy savings plan and put the country on track to meet its Kyoto obligations.
Under the bill, New Zealand’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority will become a permanent agency with actual regulatory authority and the mandate to reduce energy consumption.
Corporations Continue to Sell Out
Ford Confesses Sins
In a shocking admission (for some), Ford Motor Company acknowledged that it’s SUV products release more emissions, carbon-dioxide and smog-contributors, than regular cars. Although Ford chairman William C. Ford, Jr. worries about the vehicles’ environmental impacts, the automaker will continue to build them.
The company is in an odd position, pressed by environmental groups on one side and consumer demands on the other. Sport utilities account for one fifth of Ford sales and a much higher share of the company’s profits, and consumers have been loathe to switch to smaller versions of the truck-bed-based vehicles which would sacrifice both crash protection and convenience.
Mr. Ford said he will continue to meet the public’s demand for SUVs while introducing features, as possible, to mitigate their external impacts. Recent model year Fords produce fewer emissions than mandated by Federal regulations. The company has also modified its vehicle designs to reduce the risk to other cars in the case of collision. "If we didn’t provide that vehicle, someone else would, and they wouldn’t provide it as responsibly as we do," said the chairman.
Environmentalist pressure groups responded positively, although cautiously, to Ford’s announcement. "While this isn’t quite the fall of the Berlin Wall," a statement by the Sierra Club’s Dan Becker begins, "we applaud Ford’s recognition of the environmental and safety problems posed by SUVs."
What’s a Green Mountain without a Jolly Green Giant?
BP Amoco and several partners will invest up to $100 million in Greenmountain.com, an Internet start-up, selling renewable energy to the masses, at least in states that don’t preclude such activity - so far Pennsylvania and California. BP Amoco will also contribute its "wholesale supply expertise," the magical ingredient that changed BP from an oil to an energy company. In further corporate synergy, Greenmountain.com will market its product to BP's corporate customers and BP Amoco service stations.
CCTI Will Have Only Minor Effects
The Clinton/Gore administration’s Climate Change Technology Initiative is the central component in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. A new study by the Energy Information Administration argues that the program’s effects on greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible.
The net effect of the plan’s tax incentives to induce consumers to buy energy efficient products would amount to a reduction of carbon emission to about 0.07 percent below levels that would be reached otherwise in 2010.
Several factors would combine to lessen the effect of the program. "Consumers are typically reluctant to invest in more expensive technologies with long payback periods to recover incremental costs," notes the report. "In addition, energy efficiency is only one of many attributes that consumers consider when purchasing new energy-equipment or buildings." To have a serious impact, tax credits would have to be of a much longer duration than proposed under the CCTI program.
The report also points out that, "The timing of the tax incentives is also a key factor in their impacts. For example, the tax credit for fuel cell vehicles extends through 2006, but the technology is assumed by EIA to not become commercially viable until 2005."
Perhaps of most interest is the cost of the program per ton of CO2 reduction. The administration has claimed that the cost of meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets would be about $14 to $23 dollars per ton of CO2 reduced. But, according to the report, the cost of CCTI would be much higher. With no discounting, carbon reductions would cost between $44 to $267 per ton across the various tax initiatives. At a 7-percent discount rate, the costs range from $54 to $460 per ton if discounted and $24 to $157 per ton if not. At a 15 percent discount rate the discounted costs are between $55 to $813 per ton and $14 to $98 per ton if not discounted. The report, Analysis of the Climate Change Technology Initiative, can be downloaded at www.eia.doe.gov .
Negative Feedbacks May Offset Global Warming
Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, spoke on climate forecasting to the Washington Roundtable sponsored by the George C. Marshall Institute on May 17.
Lindzen explained that the major failing of computer climate models is their inability to capture the dynamics of cloud cover and water vapor in the atmosphere. Currently, all the models exhibit a positive cloud cover feedback effect due to increases in greenhouse gas emissions. It has been thought that a warmer planet would increase evaporation, leading to higher concentrations of atmospheric water vapor, the major greenhouse gas. In fact, most of the warming that the models predict comes from this secondary feedback effect, not from increased CO2.
Lindzen has tested this hypothesis and found it lacking. By measuring changes in atmospheric moisture over the oceans and correlating these with temperature measurements, Lindzen has found that there is an inverse relationship between the two. For each degree of warming, moisture decreases from 10 to 20 percent. The net effect is negative, which means that potential increases in temperature from greenhouse gas emissions are at least fully offset by changes in water vapor concentrations.
Aerosols Warm and Cool the Planet
One of the main problems with the claims of human-induced global warming is the failure of climate models to predict what we observe in the climate system. The models have consistently overestimated the amount of warming we have seen over the last several years. To remedy this problem, modelers have begun adding another anthropogenic forcing, sulfate aerosols, which they claim dampens the amount of warming that may be caused by greenhouse gases.
There are several problems with the theory, however. For example, most of the warming has occurred in the Northern Hemisphere where most of the atmospheric sulfate aerosols reside. In the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, where atmospheric concentrations of sulfate aerosols are almost nonexistent there has been no warming trend.
A new study appearing in Science (May 12, 2000) now shows that aerosols have both warming and cooling effects. According to the study, "Increased aerosol concentrations are expected to increase cloud droplet concentrations," leading to more cloud cover, "causing more sunlight to be reflected to space."
The researchers found that during periods when "deep layers of dark (solar-absorbing) haze" were seen over the tropical Indian Ocean "very sparse cloud cover is found," contrary to expectations. According to the study, convection caused by downdrafts of cool air mixes the air with moisture to form clouds. Aerosols enhance solar absorption which, "offset the long wave cooling enough to reduce convective mixing and effectively cut off the cloud layer from its source of moisture, thereby dissipating the cloud." The net effect is warming.
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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