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Greens Criticize Early Emissions Bill
A bill introduced by Sens. John Chafee (R-RI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Connie Mack (R-FL) to give early emission credits to companies who voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions has come under fire from environmental groups. Green activists argue that the legislation "contains too many gaping loopholes for polluters." According to John Passacantando, executive director of Ozone Action, "we’re all wrestling with what this loose language means, because it is filled with loopholes that could swallow any benefits of early action. There is a growing coalition of environmentalists that finds this bill may possibly be more trouble than it’s worth."
The bill, according to Joseph Lieberman, "grows out of principles developed in a dialogue between the Environmental Defense Fund and a number of major industries." The EDF is currently the only green group to endorse the bill, not surprising since they are presumably the principal authors. Other groups, though careful not to alienate Senate sponsors Chafee and Lieberman, have voiced reservations. Alden Meyer, director of government relations at the Union of Concerned Scientists, likes the idea of inducing companies to participate in early reductions, but would like to see "a much better version of this introduced (in the 106th Congress) as a starting vehicle for debate."
Jennifer Morgan, climate policy officer at the World Wildlife Fund, "applauds" the actions but "we think we need to build on it," she says. "I think this bill sets a precedent for the future climate change debate, and it’s incredibly important that we get it right," she added.
One of the problems with the bill, according to the greens, is that it allows companies who have reported emission reductions under existing programs to gain emission credits. The greens argue that weak verification systems should preclude the crediting of emissions reductions under these programs (The Energy Daily, January 11, 1999).
Global Warming in State of the Union Address
In his State of the Union address President Bill Clinton claimed that "last year’s heat waves, floods and storms are but a hint of what the future generations may endure if we do not act now." The implication here is that the Kyoto Protocol will eliminate heat waves, floods and storms, a dubious proposition at best.
To counteract global warming Clinton proposed a new "clean air fund to help communities reduce greenhouse gases." By spreading around federal largess, Clinton hopes to accomplish de facto implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and bypass Senate ratification. He expressed support for early credits to companies who reduce emissions in yet another attempt to buy off potential opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.
Small Business Group Opposes Early Credits
Although many big businesses are lobbying hard for passage of the "Credit for Voluntary Early Action Act," small businesses have seen it for what it is: a boon to big corporate special interests at the expense of small to mid-sized businesses. It is also a blatant push for the illegitimate implementation of the Kyoto Protocol without the constitutionally required Senate ratification.
"We’ve all learned to be wary of the words ‘voluntary’ and ‘temporary’ when elected officials tout their solutions," said Karen Kerrigan, President of Small Business Survival Committee. "This ‘credit for early action’ stuff is as bad as the treaty itself. And the overwhelming share of the business community -- from small businesses to the very large -- are united in their opposition to this misguided, costly and ineffective proposal, as well as to backdoor it or early action programs" (PR Newswire, January 7, 1999).
With Friends Like These...
Rodney Chase, president and deputy chief executive of BP Amoco told the Fabian Society that the newly merged oil giant favors an energy tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but cautioned that it "could do more harm than good if we are not very careful with its design."
Chase also favors emissions trading, arguing that it could be the most effective and lowest cost means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But he also supported a taxing scheme that would incorporate a "carrot and stick" approach. Companies that meet their obligations, said Chase, could get tax credits while those who do not would face higher taxes (The Daily Telegraph (London), January 14, 1999).
Are the Greens Never Satisfied?
The recent Greater Los Angeles Auto Show featured several concept vehicles that would use a combined gas and electric motor to achieve much greater fuel efficiency on the order of 70 miles per gallon. One would expect so called environmentalists to be very pleased with this development. One would be wrong, however.
The fact that these vehicles use diesel fuel has the greens in an uproar. Jason Marks, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, accused automakers of trying "to prove that dirty diesel can be clean." Diesel fuel emits nitrogen oxide and soot particle that can cause cancer, according to Marks. One suspects, however, that the greens are more upset with the viability of continued automobile use rather than potential environmental threats (USA Today, January 20, 1999).
Updated Satellite Data Presented
With the end of 1998, much has been made of the record high temperatures from the last year. In an ironic twist, satellite temperature data, which also showed a temperature spike in 1998, was suddenly cited as credible evidence even though it had been harshly criticized as either flawed or irrelevant in the past. At the recent 10th Symposium on Global Change Studies at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. John Christy of the Univeristy of Alabama in Huntsville, Dr. Roy Spencer of NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, and Dr. William Braswell of Nichols Research Corp., discussed the updated version of the satellite temperature data.
Dr. Christy stated that "1998 was particularly interesting. While two previous strong El Niños occurred in the past 20 years, this is the first one that occurs without a simultaneous volcanic eruption." El Niño events in 1991 and 1983 were both accompanied by volcanic eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo and El Chichon respectively. The eruptions ejected huge amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere which served to dampen the warming effects of El Niño.
"Obviously," said Christy, "El Niños are part of the natural weather cycle, and shouldn’t be discounted. When one looks at long-term trends, however, we shouldn’t assign excess importance to individual unusual or extreme short-term events, such as this El Niño or the cooling that followed the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in 1991."
Dr. Spencer spoke about the adjusments to the data that were necessitated by findings that were published in Nature. Regarding the study, Spencer pointed out that "when the need for some of the corrections was first noticed, people applied them to the entire dataset. However, this isn’t correct, as the data are compiled from nine different satellites, each with it’s own necessary adjustments." The data was adjusted to account for orbital decay, diurnal drift, and instrument-body temperature feedback.
Christy addressed another criticism. "The tropical region was the region criticized in the past year as being the region of greatest errors in the MSU (microwave sounding units). However, a direct comparison of the data shows that the agreement (with independent measures taken with balloon-borne instrumentation) is astounding between these different tropical temperature data sets," Christy said. The 20 year satellite record has shown no warming trend until the major warm El Niño even of 1998 (wwwssl.msfc.nasa.gov).
There were several other interesting papers presented at the AMS meeting. Duane J. Gubler at the US Department of Health and Human Services argued that even though there has been a "dramatic global resurgence of dengue and other vector-borne diseases in the past 20 years" there is little evidence to suggest that it may be a result of global warming. "Most vector-borne diseases exist in complex transmission cycles involving three hosts." There are many factors which can effect the transmission of vector-borne diseases and it is the complex interaction of all these factors [that] determine transmission.
Abdel R. Maarouf at the University of Toronto discussed temperature-related mortality. In Canada, for example, the number of deaths from the 1995 heat wave "were not significantly different from normal." Maarouf analyzed long-term mortality statistics and found "a very pronounced seasonal pattern, with the highest rates in winter and the lowest rates in summer. Predictions from global warming computer models suggests that in the event of manmade global warming Canada would experience "much greater warming in winter than in summer, in mid and high latitudes." Maarouf concludes that "based on temperature variations only, climate change would be associated with a significantly reduced winter mortality, thus offsetting any potential increase in heat-related summer mortality."
Finally, William Gray at Colorado State University, showed that global atmospheric circulation experiences distinct multi-decadal variations which effect hurricane activity, El Niño events, sea-surface temperatures, global mean temperatures and many other related weather anomalies.
For example, the period from the mid-1940s to late 1960s experienced a different general circulation patterns than the period of 1970-1994. Gray hypothesizes that these differences are due to variations in the strength of the global ocean thermohaline circulation, in particular the Atlantic portion, which fluctuate on 20-50 year time scales, according to ice core data going back thousands of years.
When the circulation is stronger, North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures are warmer than normal and vice versa. Gray predicts that we will see an increase in the frequency of intense hurricanes as a result of warmer sea-surface temperatures due to a stronger thermohaline circulation. Abstracts of these papers can be found at www.ametsoc.org/AMS/meet/meet_79page.html .
Temperature Accuracy too Good to be True?
Newspapers across the United States are reporting that 1998 was the hottest year on record. That may be true (though it may not, as we’ll show below), but what is truly astounding is the degree of accuracy that is being claimed by NASA. According to NASA 1998’s global average temperature was 58.496 degrees F, higher than the previous record of 59.154 degrees F recorded in 1995.
The Electricity Daily (January 19, 1999) makes a back of the envelope estimate that it would take about 8 billion temperature sensors, evenly distributed over the globe, to ascertain the global average temperature to within a degree of accuracy. "Especially since temperature can vary 50 degrees in one day, and 100 degrees in a year, in many places," it says. In reality there are only 7,000 sensors, about one per 30,000 square miles, and most of these sensors are clustered in the U.S. and Europe, leaving much of the globe entirely unmeasured.
Moreover, the temperature record upon which global warming advocates base their claims goes back to 1880 "when most of the globe was scientifically uninhabited." The coverage in those days was about "one questionable station per million square miles in many cases." The conclusion, "basically we have no worldwide mean temperature data. Period . . . . We know nothing about global mean temperature. Nothing, nothing, nothing at all."