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Court Ruling Defeats Kyoto
In May the federal appeals court invalidated the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for ozone and particulate matter on the grounds that they constituted an "unconstitutional delegation of legislative power." According to Bonner Cohen in an article in Electricity Daily (June 28, 1999) this ruling also thwarts the "administration’s plans to implement the Kyoto Protocol by regulatory means." Cohen points out that "the manmade sources of ozone and particulate matter – automobiles, coal-fired electric utilities, manufacturing plants, etc. – are the same ones that produce manmade greenhouse gases."
Cohen argues that the EPA’s ozone/particulate standard was a "regulatory scheme that would also allow it to control emissions of greenhouse gases, even without Senate ratification of the global warming treaty." This is right in line with other actions by the administration and the EPA. Cohen reminds us of an internal EPA document, titled Climate Change Action Plan that "contained no fewer than 39 different taxes and fees on energy the administration could impose under existing statutes, without having to get Congressional approval." And the administration continues to try and bypass the Senate ratification in its attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"The purpose of the whole exercise" was to "force the nation’s major metropolitan areas to reduce levels of ozone and particulates and greenhouse gases – all within the same regulatory framework," says Cohen. "Had the court not faulted the way EPA arrived at its new standards…the country could well be on the way to implementing a treaty the Senate will probably never ratify."
Global Warming Causes Extreme Legislative Fury
Several bills related to global warming are being promoted on Capitol Hill. The most recent is the Administration’s package of energy efficiency taxes, introduced by Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Cal.). The bill is a $3.6 billion plan to give tax breaks to consumers who buy energy efficient homes, cars, water heaters, and rooftop solar systems. It also encourages the use of other renewable energies (U.S. Newswire, June 29, 1990).
Frank Pallone (D- N.J.) will introduce a bill that would create an emission trading system amongst electric power plants with caps on emissions. According to the BNA Daily Environment Report (July 2, 1999) the "bill would impose a cap and allow trading of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide emission allowances." Also, it "would amend the Federal Power Act and require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to set standards for those pollutants’ cap levels."
Greens Release a Slew of Global Warming Reports
In what appears to be a major concerted effort, several Green activist organizations have released reports warning about the dangers of global warming, and the media are reporting them with the same seriousness they would peer-reviewed scientific papers. Greenpeace (see below) has released a report that claims that coral reefs could disappear in the next 100 years.
The Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org ) is claiming that New York City could experience serious problems resulting from climate change. For example, sea level rise could threaten lower Manhattan with "frequent flooding by the end of the next century." The report gets even more specific. "The foundations of Battery Park City and the World Trade Center would be flooded regularly. The East River would flood Bellevue Medical Center, the FDR Drive and East Harlem between 96th and 114th Streets. Storms would flood much of Coney Island, submerging or creating islands of residential communities there and in Staten Island nearly annually," and so on.
The report also predicts that the number of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit would increase from 13 to between 38 and 80 days per year, leading to increased mortality due to heat stress among the elderly. It also claims that children could be at risk "because of health risks due to air pollution."
Finally the report argues that "global warming may increase the frequency of extreme weather events, including both prolonged periods with little precipitation and periods of heavy downpour and snowfall, leading both to more droughts and more inland floods." One scenario described by the report could have 100-year floods occurring every 3 to 11 years in New York City by 2100. Higher sea levels could also push salt water further up the Hudson River threatening the city’s water supply.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change (www.pewclimate.org ) has also released a report claiming that temperature rise due to manmade greenhouse gas emissions could occur more rapidly than previously thought. According to the report, the presence of SO2 in the atmosphere serves to cool the planet. But SO2 is regulated to reduce acid rain deposition. As more countries restrict the emission of SO2, temperatures could rise.
The report says that the 1996 edition of the IPCC report used predictions of SO2 emissions from 1992 which projected a doubling of SO2 over the next century. The new projections show only a slight rise in emissions for the next 100 years. Eileen Claussen, executive director of the Pew Center said, "the data and likely impacts outlined in this study should encourage concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 30, 1999).
Red Cross Sees Global Warming Green
It is no secret that the global warming scare has become a cash cow for many groups and individuals. Green groups use the issue to convince contributors to give larger donations and scientists of many disciplines try to make their work relevant to global warming in order to get a share of the federal government’s yearly $2 billion global warming giveaway.
Now a major humanitarian organization, Red Cross International, has jumped on the bandwagon. A new report by the Red Cross argues that global warming will increase major disasters, and that the Red Cross will need more money to pay for it. The report claims that there will be more droughts and that "marginal areas" will become "uninhabitable" in 20 years. It also says that the "one in 50 year hurricane may return one in ten years." Disappearing mountain glaciers will cause rivers to dry up and there will be changes in disease patterns affecting millions (The Electricity Daily, July 2, 1999).
The Red Cross does many good things, but adopting the most extreme scenarios of the radical green movement to raise money diminishes its credibility. It would do well to consult the scientific literature. There is no evidence of an increase of more extreme weather, more droughts, more floods or any of the other scenarios presented by the Red Cross.
A Flexible Policy is the Best One
The Kyoto Protocol is widely seen as an excessive policy that has little chance of being implemented. According to Warwick McKibbin and Peter Wilcoxen of the Brookings Insitution, the Kyoto Protocol is "a policy that is very strict in principle but completely ineffective in practice is neither prudent nor realistic." McKibbin and Wilcoxen argue that the large scientific uncertainties make it unlikely that the Kyoto Protocol will be accepted.
The authors argue, however, that since "it is quite clear that human activity is raising global concentrations of carbon dioxide," and that "virtually no one is suggesting that we can emit as much carbon dioxide as we want into the atmosphere without adverse consequences," we must do something. Policies should include four key features: CO2 reductions should be cost effective, companies adversely effected by restrictions should be compensated, there should be domestic and international consensus for the policy, and there should be a mechanism to ensure that a core group of countries continue to carry out emission reductions even if others reject compliance.
The policy they propose "is an international system of emissions permits and fees for the use of fossil fuels." The authors propose that governments give businesses a certain number of permits. If a business needs more permits, it can purchase them. The authors suggest that the permits be sold at $10 per ton of carbon, which would translate into $6.50 per ton of coal and $1.40 per barrel of crude oil. The "user fee" would be set by international agreement. The authors argue that this is a sensible policy because it gives a clear economic incentive to reduce emissions. Businesses that reduce emissions sufficiently can sell their permits.
This proposal, however, is nothing more than a carbon tax dressed in sheep’s clothing. The only difference is that it is a tax that can be avoided, making it more acceptable to business. Moreover, it is widely admitted that even the draconian Kyoto Protocol’s effect on the climate will be too small to detect. McKibbin and Wilcoxen’s proposal would do nothing to slow global warming. The main effect of the policy would be to further governments’ ambitions to control the world’s energy use.
SO2 Trading Not a Good Model
The Clinton Administration has argued that an international emission trading system would significantly reduce the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. It justifies this claim by pointing to the U.S. acid rain program, which it credits with using emission trading to reduce the cost of lowering the SO2 emissions. A new policy brief by the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues that the acid rain program is not as successful as advertised and does not support the contention that emission trading will reduce the costs of emissions reductions.
The administration argues that the acid rain program has reduced emissions below the required regulatory cap and has done so at very low cost, about $100 per ton of SO2 reduced. According to the brief, however, economists have estimated that the true cost of the acid rain program has been about $187 to $210 per ton. Moreover, the program is supposed to reduce total emissions to 9 million tons by 2002. That goal will not be reached until between 2005 and 2012, according to economists at MIT.
Finally, it is doubtful whether the acid rain program can be credited with SO2 reductions. Demographic changes in electricity demand, according to one researcher, may have lead to reductions even in the absence of the acid rain program. Others have pointed out that railroad deregulation greatly reduced the costs of using low sulfur coal, saving money for the electric utilities while reducing SO2 emissions. The On Point policy brief can be found at www.cei.org .
A Complete Temperature Record
Long term, continuous and uncorrupted temperature records are difficult to find. One such record does exist at an agricultural experiment station, known as Rothamsted Experimental Station, in southeastern England. The station has been taking temperature readings every day at 9 a.m. since 1878 using thermometers very similar to the ones we use today. The 121-year record is continuous with no missing data and the landscape has remained largely agricultural over the entire period.
The data, analyzed by Robert Balling, director of the Office of Climatology at Arizona State University, shows rising temperatures from 1878 to 1950 and then cooling until the 1980s. The last decade, says Balling, "has been dominated by high temperatures. The total record shows a warming trend of 0.71 degrees C."
Balling also found that "winter warming of minimum temperatures accounts for more than 40 percent of all warming observed at Rothamsted; summer maximum temperatures account for only 10 percent of the warming," meaning that most of the warming occurs at night and in winter. Also, 92.5 percent of the warming in the record occurred before 1950.
Scientists at the station have also collected rainfall data during the same period and also began collecting data on sunshine and cloud cover in 1915. These records show that both sunshine and rainfall have increased slightly during the last 84 years. Balling concludes that as a result of these changes together with increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations that "crops there now perform better than their ancestors in the days of Lawes and Gilbert (founders of the station)" (World Climate Report, July 5, 1999).
Global Warming Destroys Coral Reefs?
A new report by Greenpeace claims that global warming will destroy the world’s great coral reefs by 2100 if something isn’t done to stop it. The report states that "Coral reefs could be eliminated from most areas of the world by 2100," and that even the Great Barrier Reef could be dead within 30 years. The report also claims that even if measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken it may still take 500 years for the reefs to recover (www.greenpeace.org ).
The New Scientist (July 3, 1999) reports a different mechanism for the ill health of coral reefs. Dick Barber of Duke University says that drought in the Sahel region of Africa has increased atmospheric dust fivefold. The dust carries viruses, bacteria, and fungi that can kill coral. The dust also carries iron that stimulates the growth of algae that can smother reefs. Barber does not claim, however that his theory contradicts the theory that global warming is killing reefs. He argues that "warming leaves the coral more vulnerable to disease."
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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