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Pro-Kyoto Amendment Passes House
On May 16 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the State Department Budget Authorization (H.R. 1646) by a 352 to 73 vote. Included in the bill was an amendment to urge the Bush Administration to continue its participation in the Kyoto negotiations. Reportedly, the amendment was added to the bill in the International Relations Committee on May 2 when several Republican congressmen had momentarily left the room. The amendment passed in committee 23-20 on a nearly party line vote, with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) being the only Republican to vote for the amendment.
The amendment reads in part: “SENSE OF CONGRESS- It is the sense of the Congress that the United States should demonstrate international leadership and responsibility in mitigating the health, environmental, and economic threats posed by global warming by—
· “taking responsible action to ensure significant and meaningful reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from all sectors; and
· “continuing to participate in international negotiations with the objective of completing the rules and guidelines for the Kyoto Protocol in a manner that is consistent with the interests of the
United States and that ensures the environmental integrity of the protocol.”
The amendment wasn’t challenged on the floor of the House, because, according to a committee spokesman, the Bush Administration had indicated that it would continue to participate in future negotiations. However, since the amendment specifically urges the administration to negotiate “with the objective of completing the rules and guidelines for the Kyoto Protocol,” the House action clearly goes beyond stated administration policy (Greenwire, May 14, 2001).
In an attempt to pre-empt the Bush Administration’s forthcoming energy plan, congressional Democrats have released a plan of their own. If implemented, it would greatly exacerbate the energy crisis rather than solve it.
The first proposal is to put price controls on wholesale electricity prices by calling on Congress to pass either the Feinstein-Smith bill (S. 764) or the Inslee bill (H.R. 1468) “that will return the West to just and reasonable cost-of-service based rates until March 1, 2003.” This displays an appalling lack of basic economic understanding. Price controls invariably lead to shortages because they do nothing to depress demand or increase supply. They were the cause of gasoline shortages and gas lines in the 1970s.
Other proposals in the Democrat’s plan are similarly ill-conceived and counter-productive. It has been reported that the Bush Administration’s energy proposals to be released on May 17 will focus on increasing energy production, removing supply bottlenecks created by government regulations, and rebuilding and enlarging America’s energy infrastructure.
Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) arrived at the press conference, held at the Capitol Hill Exxon gas station, to unveil the Democratic energy plan in a large SUV. When asked about Gephardt’s apparent hypocrisy, his spokesman Eric Smith said with a straight face, “We don’t say anything about changing people’s lifestyles” (New York Post, May 16, 2001). To the contrary, their plan is all about government forcing people to change their lifestyles.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change announced on May 15 that Rio Tinto has joined its Business Environmental Leadership Council. London-based Rio Tinto is one of the world’s largest multi-national mining conglomerates. It is also a major coal producer.
Rio Tinto is the first mining company to join the Pew Center’s Council. The Pew Center is a leading industry-front group, now comprised of 33 corporations that hope to profit from higher energy prices. The Pew Center was founded in 1998 and is largely funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was based on the Pew family’s Sun Oil Company fortune.
Other corporate members of the Pew Center are: ABB; Air Products and Chemicals, Alcoa; American Electric Power; Baxter International; Boeing; BP (Beyond Petroleum); California Portland Cement Co.; CH2MHILL; Cummins Inc.; DTE Energy; DuPont; Enron; Entergy; Georgia-Pacific; Holnam; IBM; Intel; Interface Inc.; Lockheed Martin; Maytag; Ontario Power Generation; PG&E Corporation; Rohm and Haas; Royal Dutch/Shell; Sunoco; Toyota; TransAlta Corp.; United Technologies; Weyerhaeuser; Whirlpool and Wisconsin Energy Corporation.
Several articles have recently appeared praising those industries that are positioning themselves for what they believe to be the inevitable regulation of CO2 emissions. The Wall Street Journal (May 10, 2001), the New York Times (May 15, 2001), and Business Week (May 14, 2001), have all taken the view that industry should go ahead with CO2 reductions even if President Bush won’t.
Business Week advised business CEOs to “explain [to President Bush] that globalization is the most powerful force acting on all governments, economies, and societies, and that an international strategy must be based on ramping up economic engagement,” and that, “We need better arrangements for environmental protection and social safety nets to cushion change.” Presumably, the president should agree to cut carbon dioxide emissions, even though there is no plausible justification for such action, in the name of globalization.
The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “Utilities May Be Greener Than Bush,” argued that, “A substantial segment of the electric-utility industry was almost as disappointed [as environmentalists]” over President Bush’s decision to not regulate their emissions of CO2. “Sensible, farsighted utility executives look at the world as it is, no as they wish it to be,” opined the Journal. The Journal quotes Exelon Corp.’s chief executive John Rowe as saying, “There’s mandatory carbon capping in the long-term future,” and calls him a “realist.”
But what exactly does the Journal expect these utility executives to say? The utility industry is a government-protected monopoly that has never had to operate in a competitive environment. As the Journal pointed out, “Not so long ago, regulated utilities saw environmental rules as a nuisance but not a threat to profits. Every extra dollar spent on pollution-control gear increased the value of the asset base that regulators use to set electric rates.” More regulation meant higher rates and more profits for utilities.
“Utility executives fear, with some reason,” said the Journal, “that they will spend heavily on an old coal plant to reduce sulfur, nitrogen and mercury emissions, and then be forced to shut it anyhow because new limits on CO2 arrive.” But begging to be regulated now won’t create a stable regulatory climate. It will only embolden regulators to impose even heavier regulation in the future.
James DeLong, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted the profit motive behind the utility industry’s support for CO2 regulation on www.techcentralstation.com.  Some have bet billions of dollars on a rapidly diminishing global warming threat giving them a vested interest in regulation, said DeLong. Moreover, “A cap and trade system would be a bonanza for utilities that derive their power from non-coal sources because they would then get the equivalent of a royalty on every kilowatt hour produced by coal-fired plants.”
The United Kingdom’s climate change levy is starting to take a heavy toll on manufacturers in the country. According to London’s Times (May 15, 2001), it has “more than tripled the pace of cost increases in Britain’s industry after its introduction last month, official estimates have revealed.”
Business leaders are warning the government that the tax could sink some manufacturing companies that are already struggling to stay solvent. “This is the most badly-designed and ill-conceived economic instrument of recent times,” said Martin Temple, Director-General of the Engineering Employers’ Federation. Another article in the same issue of the Times notes that the market is so tight manufacturers cannot pass the costs of the levy to their customers, meaning that it is cutting directly into profits.
One of the most widely cited “evidences” of global warming is the increase in “torrential” rainfall in the United States. A paper by Tom Karl of the National Climate Data Center, which appeared in 1995 in Nature magazine, had found a positive trend in heavy precipitation for much of the U.S., Canada and Europe in the last century. Specifically, Karl’s study found one additional day every two years that experiences rainfall of over 2 inches in a 24-hour period, but no increase in precipitation events of over 3 inches. Not much to get excited about.
A new study, which complicates the ability to link global warming and rainfall, appears in the May issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The researchers discovered a natural 65-80 year cycle in sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. Using sea surface temperatures from 1856 to 1999, they found a temperature fluctuation of 0.4 degrees C, which they dubbed the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.
The warm phases occurred during 1860 to 1880 and 1940 to 1960 and the cool phases during 1905 to 1925 and 1970 to 1990. During the warm periods, the U.S. sees less than normal rainfall. We are currently in a warm period, which could mean “We may have once again entered a period such as 1930-1960,” said the study’s lead author, David B. Enfield when the U.S. climate was much drier (Associated Press, May 14, 2001).
Enfield, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said that this ocean cycle “could obfuscate our assessment of global warming response.”
Global warming projections coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been steadily decreasing with each new iteration of its assessment report, suggesting that the more we learn about climate the less likely global warming will be a problem. The release of the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report shocked everyone by raising projections from a 1 to 3.5 degree C warming over the next 100 years to 1.4 to 5.8 degrees.
The new projections raised a lot of eyebrows, given that there has been no real change in scientific evidence or in our ability to detect manmade global warming. One of those who have expressed concerns over the presentation of the new scenarios is Stephen Schneider, a major booster of catastrophic global warming theory.
Schneider points out in an article in Nature (May 3, 2001), that “This sweeping revision depends on two factors that were not the handiwork of the modelers: smaller projected emissions of climate-cooling aerosols; and a few predictions containing particularly large CO2 increases.”
Schneider asks, “How likely is it that the world will get 6 degrees C hotter by 2100?” That “depends on the likelihood of the assumptions underlying the projections.” According to Schneider, “the IPCC decided to prepare a special report on emissions scenarios (SRES) to produce a family of updated projections.” The group that met to make up these scenarios included academic scientists, environmental organizations, industrial scientists, engineers, economists, and systems analysts.
They decided to “create ‘storylines’ about future worlds from which population, affluence and technology drivers could be inferred.” These storylines “gave rise to radically different families of emission profiles up to 2100 – from below current CO2 emissions to five times current emissions,” wrote Schneider.
Schneider says that he “strongly argued at the time that policy analysts needed probability estimates to assess the seriousness of the implied impacts,” but the group decided to express “no preference” for each scenario. The result has been the assumption that the higher bound is just as likely as the lower. “But this inference would be incorrect,” said Schneider, “because uncertainties compound through a series of modeling steps. Uncertainties in emissions scenarios feed into uncertainties in carbon-cycle modeling, which feed into uncertainties in climate modeling, which drive an even larger range of uncertain climate impacts. This ‘cascade of uncertainties’ is compounded by the very wide range of emissions offered by the SRES authors.”
To get the final “dramatic revision upward in the IPCC’s third assessment,” it combined the climate sensitivities of seven general circulation models (GCMs) with the “six illustrative scenarios from the special report” within a simple model to get 40 climate scenarios.
Schneider attempts to construct a probability distribution of these different temperature scenarios, finding that only 39 percent show a warming of 3.5 degrees or higher. Under a more comprehensive range of 108 scenarios using 18 GCMs, only 23 percent would result in a warming of over 3.5 degrees. Schneider “arbitrarily” assumes that temperature increases of 3.5 degrees C and over would have dangerous climate consequences.
Schneider’s calculations broadly agree with an MIT study we reported on in our April 18 issue. It found that there is a “far less” than one percent chance that temperatures would rise to 5.8 degrees C or higher, the upper bound of the IPCC’s projections, while there is a 17 percent chance the temperature rise would be lower than 1.4 degrees, the IPCC’s lower bound.
Thousands of studies have been conducted to determine the effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on plant growth. The overwhelming weight of evidence is that higher levels of CO2 increase plant growth. More recently scientists have looked into effects of higher CO2 concentrations on the quality, not just the quantity, of the food supply.
To get to the bottom of this research, Sherwood Idso of the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory and Keith Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change have reviewed over 250 peer-reviewed studies (Environmental and Experimental Botany, 45, 2001). They find “that the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content will continue to increase food production around the world, while maintaining the nutritive quality of that food and enhancing the production of certain disease-inhibiting plant compounds.”
Some research had suggested that CO2 induced growth lowers nitrogen and protein concentrations in plants, possibly having a deleterious effect on animal and insect herbivores. But, said the Idsos, “Few solid conclusions can be drawn, however, in light of the fact that many CO2 enrichment studies have not detected significant reductions in foliage nitrogen or protein concentrations.”
Moreover, “Nitrogen concentrations of all plants decline in response to increasing plant biomass, irrespective of the cause of the biomass increase.” This result is “highly dependent on nitrogen supply and virtually disappears when nitrogen is freely available to the roots.”
The paper looks at several other components of plant quality in relation to animal and human health and finds that higher CO2 concentrations do not have a harmful effect and in many cases has a beneficial effect.
· On June 19, 2001 Barrow, Alaska experienced a rare thunderstorm. The National Weather Service noted in a public advisory statement that it was only the third thunderstorm to occur in Barrow since 1978. From that point on, the story took on a life of its own. News stories around the world reported that it was Barrow’s first ever thunderstorm and that it signaled the arrival of global warming.
On May 2, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on global warming. In his opening remarks, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said that global warming has already revealed itself in Alaska. He said that several communities along Alaska’s Arctic coast, including Barrow, would need to be relocated due to rising seas. The May 5 Nando Times story which reported on Stevens’s comments again stated, “Last June, Barrow experienced its first-ever thunderstorm.”
John Daly (www.john-daly.com ) decided to look into these claims of rising seas and relocations. As it turns out, there is a tide gauge 200 miles from Prudhoe Bay along the same stretch of coastline as Barrow. The tide gauge measurements show no increase in sea levels along Alaska’s Arctic coast. The inundation of certain Alaskan villages is due to coastal erosion, not sea level rise. It also turns out that there are no plans to relocate Barrow as Senator Stevens claimed.
· The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released a report on several new global warming studies published since the final draft of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report was approved in August 2000. The report, “Latest Global Warming Report Already Obsolete ,” by CEI environmental policy analyst Paul Georgia, concludes that these new studies cast serious doubt on some of the IPCC’s most basic assumptions, leaving its conclusions in shambles. The report can be obtained at www.cei.org .
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
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
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George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee