U.S. Derided for Failing to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro became a United States bash-fest. This year’s "Earth Summit Plus-5" meeting at the United Nations in New York continued that tradition. Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a clear reference to the U.S., stated, "The biggest responsibility [for averting climate change] falls on those countries with the biggest emissions . . .
We in Europe have put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit." Britain has called for steep emission cuts and increases in foreign aid to help developing countries grow without increasing emissions. Other countries, Germany included, called for a new international environmental bureaucracy.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary echoed Blair’s concern, "I don’t have a problem with the American Administration. The American public have not come to terms with their energy consumption." Britain and Germany’s posture is a bit disingenuous, however. Though they will successfully meet the voluntary emission targets agreed to at Rio, this is a result of economic conditions, not environmental policy. According to Nature magazine (June 12, 1997), Tony Blair can declare success mainly because Margaret Thatcher "crushed" the power of the coal miners, Labour’s strongest supporters. Germany’s success results from being able to shut down extremely inefficient and polluting factories and power plants in East Germany.
What the Europeans haven’t come to terms with is that their policies and the policies of the respective member governments have put their economies in a lurch. Pushing the U.S. to adopt similar regressive European policies is not going to help their industries compete with the U.S., rather it will hurt the world economy, dragging everyone down.
Clinton Responds to Critics
In his June 26, 1997 address before the United Nations President Clinton defended his environmental record, citing several "successes" such as toxic dump cleanup and his recent decision to implement new air quality standards.
Turning to climate change Clinton went through a litany of horrors associated with warming: "Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at their highest levels in more than 200,000 years and climbing sharply. If this trend does not change, scientists expect the seas to rise two feet or more over the next century." He continued, "Climate changes will disrupt agriculture, cause severe droughts and floods and the spread of infectious diseases, which will be a big enough problem for us under the best of circumstances in the 21st century."
Clinton announced that he would convene a White House Conference on Climate Change, "to convince the American people and Congress that the climate change problem is real and imminent . . . to lay the scientific facts before our people to understand that we must act, and to lay the economic facts there so that they will understand the benefits and costs" (New York Times, June 27, 1997).
Clinton proposed several measures to be taken to address global warming. First, he promised a billion dollars in foreign aid over the next five years to help promote energy efficiency, better resource management and economic growth in developing countries. $150 million per year will be direct aid focused on technical assistance and training to improve forest and energy sector management. $25 million per year will be in the form of USAID credit financing for climate-friendly development projects.
Second, new and stronger environmental guidelines will be required for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to encourage responsible investments. OPIC will be required to make annual reports on its power sector project and OPIC will not be allowed to finance mining, drilling or infrastructure projects in ecologically sensitive areas. Third, the President urged increased use of new energy-saving technologies, such as automobiles that are three times more fuel efficient. He also pledged to have solar panels on one million roofs by 2010 (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 27, 1997).
Administration Continues Looking Ahead to Kyoto
Listening to the environmentalists, one might get the impression that the Clinton Administration completely backtracked on its commitment to sign a treaty in Kyoto, Japan. Statements by the administration following the Earth Summit, suggest otherwise:
- President Clinton stated that for the U.S. to do its part, "we must first convince the American people that the climate change problem is real and imminent." He promised to "personally . . . take a role . . . so that our people understand why we must act." He repeated the Administration’s position that the industrialized nations must sign the treaty with binding emissions reductions and establish an international trading system for emission allowances.
- Katy McGinty, who chairs the Council on Environmental Quality, affirmed the Administration’s stance on Kyoto, "We need legally binding emissions standards," asserting that "voluntary is not sufficient."
- "This is a global problem," stated McGinty. "This job gets much more difficult if China and the rest of the developing nations do not become part of the solution." To make them part of the solution the administration has promised $1 billion in foreign aid.
(BNA Daily Environment Report, June 27, 1997)
Global Warming as Opportunity?
Nature magazine ("Seizing global warming as an opportunity," June 12, 1997) argues that the conference in Kyoto represents a major opportunity for countries to "devise sound economic policies that make sense both scientifically and environmentally."
Britain’s stance, for example, on emissions reductions has met with skepticism given the Labour’s past distrust of environmentalists. The Green’s relentless attacks against industrial growth has succeeded at the expense of Labour’s base. Nature argues, however, that skepticism is unjustified. By linking climate change policies with energy conservation and increased public transportation, Labour can successfully commit Britain to aggressive targets.
This tactic will allow developed nations to sell binding targets to the public. Nature concludes, "Their greatest opportunity is that a growing sense of crisis over global warming will focus minds on the need to rethink our use of energy and other resources, and to accept the pain that this will inevitably require."
But is the goal to save the planet from ecological catastrophe or simply to lower energy use? Nature admits in the article that more science is needed, that better and more credible models must be developed. Indeed, it warns governments against relying too much on climatologists! Regardless, Nature argues for signing a treaty because reducing energy use is a good thing in and of itself. Global warming is just a convenient excuse.
CAFE Cheapens Life
Twelve hundred more Americans will die on the nation’s highways if the Federal auto fuel economy requirements known as CAFE are raised to 40 mpg, according to a new study, CAFE’s ‘Smashing Success’: The Deadly Effects of Auto Fuel Economy Standards, Current and Proposed, released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "The latest rush to join the global warming bandwagon is in the form of proposals for greater fuel economy standards," said study author, CEI Policy Analyst Julie DeFalco.
CAFE legislation, passed by Congress in 1975, has contributed to about half of the thousand pound decrease in the average weight of cars over the last twenty years, decreasing crashworthiness.
The current CAFE standard of 27.5 mpg was responsible for between 2,700 and 4,700 deaths in 1996.
To order the study contact CEI at (202) 331-1010.
IPCC’s Policymakers Summary: A Political Document
Attending a speech by S. Fred Singer in Helsinki, Finland, Robert Reinstein, former chief State Department negotiator on the climate treaty under the Bush administration, confirmed that the Policymakers Summary of the IPCC report did not reflect the views of the scientists but was negotiated by international delegations. "Because of this," he stated, "the summary must be considered purely a political document, not a scientific one."
Singer noted that it is the Policymakers Summary, not the science, that is the impetus behind proposals to negotiate binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 (PR Newswire, June 23, 1997).
Japan’s Split on Climate Treaty
According to Nature, (". . . as Japan seeks to bridge split on emissions policy," June 12, 1997) Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and their Environmental Agency cannot agree on reduction methods and targets to be negotiated in their own country in December. For now, a compromise consists of a flat-rate emissions reduction for developed countries and a per capita-based emission ceiling for developing countries, allowing total emissions to increase while decreasing per capita emissions.
The two ministries, however, still cannot agree on how or how much to reduce emissions. MITI believes that population growth will make total reduction impossible. Many are concerned that Japan’s disagreements may cause a very complex treaty process to unravel. Some observers feel that international pressure must be used to encourage the Japanese cabinet to make the decision.
Former IPCC Chairman: Greens Cannot be Trusted
It has become standard procedure for advocates of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to link extreme weather events, such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, etc., to rising global temperatures. But according to the former chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Bert Bolin, "There has been no effect on countries from any current change." Attempts by activists to establish such a link "is why I do not trust the Greens," stated Bolin.
During a debate with University of Virginia atmospheric physicist, S. Fred Singer in Stockholm, Sweden, Dr. Bolin argued that there has been some human influence on the climate, however, "man-made increases in temperature are so small as to be barely detectable." As to Timothy Wirth’s assertion that global warming science is "settled," Bolin said, "Tim Wirth may have said that but I’ve talked with him and I know he really doesn’t mean it" (PR Newswire, June 23, 1997).
Scientists Must Influence the Political Process
Christian Azar and Henning Rodhe argue in Science ("Targets for Stabilization of Atmospheric CO2," June 20, 1997) that scientists should play a role in determining what amount of human interference in the climate system should be considered dangerous even though, they admit, that it is "ultimately a question of value judgments that can only be settled in the political arena."
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for a stabilization of greenhouse gases below "dangerous" levels. But, states Azar and Rodhe, no one really knows what that level is since the potential impacts from any given level of greenhouse gas is uncertain. The IPCC has estimated that a doubling of CO2, for instance, would lead to a 1.5 degree to 4.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature, a rather large range of uncertainty. Because of the uncertainty, Azar and Rodhe argue that scientists must participate in the debate or "decision makers and social scientists, like economists, [will be] in an even more difficult position."
What is Azar’s and Rodhe’s "scientific" assessment: "It appears that to keep the changes in global temperature within the range of natural fluctuations during the past millennium, . . . atmospheric CO2 concentration has to be stabilized at around 350 parts per million by volume (ppmv)." This would keep the temperature variation at around 1 degree Celsius. They state that until proven otherwise, that a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature should be considered a critical level. To achieve stabilization at 350 ppmv would mean a 50 percent decrease of CO2 emissions worldwide, below current levels, over the next century.
Michaels Responds to Gelbspan
In a broadside against greenhouse "skeptics" Ross Gelbspan accused "a tiny band of scientists" of distorting the scientific "consensus" and advancing the interests of corporate polluters. Unfortunately for Gelbspan, Science’s Richard A. Kerr (May 16, 1997) went searching for that consensus and was unable to find it. What he found was a lot of "’silent doubters’: meteorologists and climate modelers who rarely give voice to their concerns. . ." One of the scientists to whom Gelbspan referred was Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia. In an article in the Washington Post ("Holes in the Greenhouse Effect?" June 22, 1997) Michaels responds. Whereas, Gelbspan claims that industry money has swung the climate change debate in their favor Michaels argues that industry spends about $35,000 per year on each of a few climate researchers, compared to the $2.1 billion spent by government. Indeed, 84 percent of Michaels’ funding comes from taxpayers.
Michaels also discusses the scientific controversy. Although the skeptics pointed out in 1990 that computer models were predicting much more warming than observed, it wasn’t until 1995 that the IPCC admitted as much. The argument made, according to Michaels, was, "Either it’s not going to warm up as much as we said it was, or something (like sulfate aerosol) is reducing the warming."
An article in Nature by Benjamin Santer bolstered that argument showing a correspondence between temperature and the presence of sulfates (sulfates reflect heat, cooling the planet). The study began in 1962 and ended in 1987. The problem with Santer’s model is that it only assumed a change in the amount of warming radiation of 1.25 watts. The correct number is 2.5 watts, which when plugged into Santer’s model produced more warming than models that have already been abandoned. Furthermore, when the data is run from 1958 to 1995 the correspondence disappears.
Finally, satellite measurements show a statistically significant cooling since 1979. These measurements perfectly match weather balloon data. Computer models predict a 0.35 degree Celsius warming over the same period.
Labor and Industry Warn Senate Against Targets
Labor and manufacturing officials warned the Senate on June 26 against signing a climate change treaty without requiring compliance by developing countries (BNA Environment Report, June 27, 1997). Officials claimed that reducing greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels would require a 50 percent increase in the price of natural gas and electricity and a twofold to fourfold increase in the price of coal. They also warned that such a treaty would send 1 million U.S. jobs to developing countries. According to David Montgomery, vice president of Charles River Associates, the industries hardest hit would be producers and miners of cement, aluminum, ferrous metals, iron ore, paper, stone and clay, fertilizers, chemicals, and glass.
Robert Repetto, vice president and senior economist at the World Resources Institute, argued that these predictions are "gross simplifications of the real world." Though Repetto agreed that a stabilization of emissions would lead to a 1 to 2.4 percent loss of GDP in 2020 for the U.S. he disputed the warnings of trade disadvantages. He also conceded that without commitments from the developing nations it would be impossible to stabilize emissions. But, he argued, developing countries have already taken steps to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Kyoto: What will be required
The following is reported in a United Mine Workers of America/Bituminous Coal Operators Assn. climate change briefing paper, From Rio to Kyoto, 1997: "A 1996 U.S. EPA study concluded that massive life-style changes – such as requiring new vehicles to achieve 63 mpg by 2010 and retrofitting existing homes with state-of-the-art appliances and other energy-saving technologies – would not allow the U.S. to reduce emissions below 1990 levels.
Cutting our emissions by 10% or more below 1990 levels would require huge reductions of industrial and transportation energy use, extensive residential energy conservation programs, and elimination of coal use. Coal represents 30% of domestic energy production, and provides more than half of total U.S. electricity. The U.S. does not have adequate supplies of natural gas or alternative fuels to replace coal use by electric utilities (emphasis in original)."
Check out the National Consumer Coalition’s Cooler Heads website at www.globalwarming.org .
Another useful website, featuring a 17-expert online debate discussing the credibility of the IPCC report, can be found at http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/ 
The Competitive Enterprise Institute will be holding a one day conference, "The Costs of Kyoto," on Tuesday, July 15 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For more information contact Nicole Hamilton at (202) 331-1010.
The Australian APEC Study Center and The Frontiers of Freedom Institute will be holding an international conference, "Countdown to Kyoto," in Canberra, Australia, August 19-21.
The following are town hall meetings being organized by Vice President Gore’s office and the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy to "examine the vulnerability of various regions of the US to climate variability and climate change and to aggregate information across regions to support a national scientific assessment:"
- July 14-16, Seattle. NOAA co-hosting with Univ. of Washington
- July 29 - August 7, Aspen, CO. Meeting at the Aspen Global Change Institute to assess national impacts of climate change.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will be holding a six-part series beginning July 1 titled, "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast." The event is free, no tickets needed. For information call (202) 357-2700.