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Texas Governor Declares Belief in Global Warming Theory
The GOP presidential frontrunner, George W. Bush, may have conceded the global warming debate to Vice President Al Gore. After having said that the "science is still out" on global warming, Bush has reversed himself saying, "I believe there is global warming."
According to Governor Bush, "I’ve had some briefings recently, and I’m becoming more convinced that the science proves there’s global warming" (Washington Times, May 21, 1999). This is good news for the Gore camp given that the Vice President’s strident pronouncements on global warming and the need for a "wrenching" transformation to prevent it could be damaging fodder in the hands of his opponents.
Republicans see Green in Warming
Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said, "Republicans will make climate change policy an issue in rural America for the 2000 election," according to Greenwire (May 19,1999). The farm state Senator favors doling out $13 million over the next three years to the Agriculture Department to determine how farmers can cash in on the global warming bandwagon. The money would go to carbon cycle research to find evidence that North America farmland absorbs greenhouse gases.
Environmentalists oppose the research because they worry that the findings may be used by Kyoto opponents to argue against U.S. reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S., Australia Attack EU Stand on Emission Trading
Both the U.S. and Australia have voiced their dismay at the EU’s recent decision to restrict the use of emission trading under the Kyoto Protocol. On May 17 the EU approved a measure that would restrict the use of "flexible mechanisms," such as emission trading and joint implementation, to make sure that most greenhouse gas reductions are domestic. The EU has always maintained that emissions reductions should occur primarily within the individual countries.
The U.S. accused the EU of changing the Kyoto agreement that makes no mention of limiting the use of flexible mechanisms. "This new action by the EU is an attempt to rewrite the Kyoto Protocol," the State Department said in a statement. "The U.S. government is disappointed by (the) statement of the European Union seeking to restrict the use of emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol" (Agence France Presse, May 19, 1999). An Australian diplomat in Brussels said, "Australia feels that a decision along the lines the EU is talking about would restrict the flexibility mechanisms to the point that they would effectively be neutered" (Reuters, May 18, 1999).
EPA’s Global Warming Web Site is Misleading
Many who have studied the global warming issue know that EPA’s global warming web site is biased, and barely mentions the raging scientific debate over the issue. A comprehensive analysis of the web site, conducted by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE), documents "how EPA presents the available body of science to the public." The CRE finds that the information provided is misleading.
The EPA claims, for example, that its web site is based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, notes the CRE study, the EPA does a poor job "of informing readers about important scientific caveats and major uncertainties" that are present in the IPCC’s 1995 report.
The EPA, for example, quotes the IPCC as saying, "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate," but fails to quote the important caveats. For example, the IPCC states, "[The model results] cannot be considered as compelling evidence of a clear cause-and-effect link between anthropogenic forcing and changes in the Earth’s surface temperature."
The IPCC also argues, "our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability." The full report, How OMB Data Quality Regulations will Help Resolve Disputes over Global Warming, can be downloaded from www.TheCRE.com .
EPA and DOE Violated Federal Law
A congressional hearing, sponsored jointly by the Senate Energy Research, Development, Production and Regulation Subcommittee, and the House National Economic Growth Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, was held on May 20 to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies have overstepped their regulatory authority with regard to budget requests to address global warming.
According to Jerry Taylor, the Cato Institute’s Director of Natural Resources, the administration’s budget request for the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) are in violation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. In particular, "no concrete performance or results measures are provided for most of the DOE or EPA budget accounts in which the administration seeks increased appropriations to address global climate change."
Those that do exist, said Taylor, "are founded upon dubious analysis and are without solid foundation." Moreover, "they are disconnected from any assessment of their value to the national economy or to public health, rendering them of little use to the public."
Taylor was particularly critical of the administration’s Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI). He argued that the administration’s estimate that the EPA’s CCTI activities would reduce carbon emissions by 354 million metric tons, and the DOE’s activities will reduce emissions by 112 million metric tons "are so unrealistic that they cast doubt on the seriousness of the administration’s attempts to comply with GPRA."
DOE’s own five labs study estimates that a "high efficiency" scenario for the economy would only reduce emissions by about 120 million metric tons. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds only a 79 million metric ton decrease in emissions under a high efficiency scenario.
Probably the most outrageous claims by the administration have to do with the cost-benefit analysis of global warming programs. An example is the claim that a 20 percent tax credit for residential electric heat pumps will be a net benefit for the economy. According to the EIA, a current model heat pump costs about $4,400 while one that would qualify for the tax credit would cost about $5,500. The tax credit would cover the $1,100 difference in cost. The total cost saving of such a purchase would be about $783, a net loss of $317 to the economy. Dividing the cost of the tax credit by the amount of greenhouse gases avoided puts the cost of reducing emissions at $349 per ton. Assuming a 10 percent discount rate puts the cost at $666 per ton.
Also testifying before the committees was William Lash, Professor of Law at George Mason University. He argued that the EPA is in violation of the Knollenberg Amendment that "prohibits implementation of the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification via regulation, rules, orders, or decrees by the executive branch."
The EPA argues that it has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under existing regulatory authority as long as the purpose of the regulation is not to implement the Kyoto Protocol. This, according to Lash, "is tantamount to saying that as long as the agency acts under the color of existing authority, and does not truthfully report what it is doing, it is in compliance with the Knollenberg Amendment."
This interpretation of the Knollenberg language is incorrect, however. The Amendment’s legislative history clearly shows, "the author of the Amendment intended it to preclude regulations implementing the Kyoto Protocol, even if those regulations were promulgated under the color of existing statutory authority." Lash also argues, "in light of the fact that EPA chooses to interpret the Knollenberg Amendment as a practical nullity, Congress should seriously consider strengthening the Amendment to give it more teeth."
Lash also accused the EPA of crossing the line from educating the American public about global warming to advocating specific policy goals, such as the Kyoto Protocol, something that is prohibited under the Knollenberg Amendment.
EPA conferences about global warming are clearly biased towards Kyoto, and with few exceptions present no dissenting voices. According to Lash, "EPA documents such as ‘Cool Facts About Global Warming’ fail to provide even passing reference to the uncertainties and conflicts within the scientific community regarding climate change."
Costs of Kyoto will be High Regardless of Flexible Mechanisms
One of the most hotly debated issues of global warming is the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. Some private sector estimates put the cost as high as $300 billion per year, while the Clinton Administration’s Council of Economic Advisors claims it will cost no more than $12 billion per year. The administration argues that the large difference between the two estimates is the assumption of flexible mechanisms such as emission trading and joint implementation.
A new study, sponsored by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, concludes that the cost of complying with Kyoto will be high regardless of the use of flexible mechanisms. The study, authored by Stephen P. A. Brown, Senior Economist and Assistant Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, notes that the Kyoto Protocol, "would not actually reduce global CO2 emissions. Instead, it would merely slow their growth."
The DOE estimates that worldwide CO2 emissions will rise by 45 percent for the period 1990 to 2010. If Kyoto is implemented there will be a 30 percent increase in CO2 emissions. For the U.S. to comply it will have to reduce emissions by 25 percent below its projected 2010 emissions.
The NCPA study, "compares the worldwide benefits of U.S. reduction of CO2 emissions with the worldwide costs." The benefits are "the economic value of the avoided environmental damage that might arise from global warming," and the costs are the "economic opportunities lost as a result of using less fossil fuel." According to the study, the benefits of reducing energy use only justifies a reduction of CO2 emissions equal to 14 percent of that required by the Kyoto Protocol. That is, Kyoto requires seven times more CO2 reduction than can be justified.
Without the use of flexible mechanisms, compliance with Kyoto would lower GDP by 3.6 to 5.1 percent by 2010, or between $330 billion to $467 billion. With flexible mechanisms those costs are only reduced slightly, from 3 to 4.3 percent of GDP. Brown concludes, "if reducing CO2 emissions is similar to purchasing insurance against the possible consequences of global warming, these figures suggest that U.S. compliance with the Kyoto accord represents a costly and excessive insurance." The study can be found at www.ncpa.org/studies/s224.html .
Satellite Data Contradicts Gov. Bush, Shows Cooling Trend
After a hot 1998 due to El Niño, 1999 seems to be returning global temperatures, as measured by satellites, to their previous downward trend. According to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama’s Earth System Science Laboratory, the advent of La Niña, the cool phase of El Niño, is quite obvious in the record. "Compared to seasonal norms, April 1998 was the hottest month in more than 20 years," Christy said. "But this April it was quite cool in the tropics."
Christy also points out that from April 1998 to March 1999 the global average temperature dropped almost nine-tenths of a degree Celsius (about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The Northern Hemisphere in April 1999 was slightly warmer than the 20-year average while the Southern Hemisphere was slightly cooler. Overall, April was 0.01 degrees Celsius cooler than normal.
Trees Do Better With More CO2
Hundreds of studies and experiments have confirmed that the earth’s plant life flourishes in a carbon dioxide rich environment. The latest study, appearing in Science (May 14, 1999), confirms these findings. In the latest experiment researchers installed a gas delivery system in a 13-year-old loblolly pine plantation. The system increases CO2 concentrations on 30-meter diameter plots within the continuous forest.
The researchers argue that currently "trees that use the C3 mechanism of photosynthesis are carbon-limited at the current atmospheric CO2 concentrations," and that "the stimulation of photosynthesis by elevated CO2 may increase the capacity of forests to store carbon in wood and soil organic matter."
The researchers found during the two years of the experiment that the diameters of the trees exposed to concentrations of CO2 double ambient levels, increased by about 26 percent relative to the control trees. CO2 enrichment also increased litterfall and fine root increment. "Such an increase in forest net primary production globally would fix about 50 percent of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide projected to be released into the atmosphere on the year 2050."
New Book Looks at Extreme Weather and Civilization
We have argued in these pages that the ability to adapt to changes in climate is the greatest protection against the dangers of catastrophic events. This view is generally confirmed in a new book titled Floods, Famines and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilizations. The author, Brian Fagan, anthropology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, looks at the havoc El Niño has wreaked upon civilizations over thousands of years, and claims that it contributed to the downfall of civilizations from Egypt’s Old Kingdom to the classic Maya culture on the American continent.
An important message of the book, according to reviewer David Lashkin, is that "catastrophically fluctuating weather patterns are a natural characteristic of Earth’s atmosphere, and civilizations unable to adapt to these violent meteorological swings have been destroyed in the past and will be destroyed in the future." Two main determinants of whether a civilization survives climatic change is "carrying capacity" and "the flexibility of their social structures and customs." Rigid, "top-heavy" societies are more vulnerable to catastrophe than dynamic societies (The Washington Post, May 20, 1999).
He also said that "Mr. Peterson had his counterparts in earlier days when the Petersons of that day were against abolishing child labour, they were against sanitation, they were against abolishing slavery." The National Post (May 21, 1999) commented that "Mr. Stong’s intemperate outburst may be tantamount to an admission that his perverse crusade to save the planet by destroying the global economy is grinding to a halt."