Politics <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


Energy Secretary Defends Administration’s Commitment to Sound Science


Responding to a Washington Post op-ed by former American Prospect Online editor <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Chris Mooney that repeated allegations that the administration had ignored the scientific consensus supporting global warming alarmism, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham issued a strong defense of administration policy in a letter to the newspaper.


He wrote, “In “Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble” [Outlook, Feb. 29], Chris Mooney engages in more than a little doublespeak himself and does what he accuses the Bush administration of doing—twisting reality to fit his preferred hypothesis.


“Mr. Mooney claims that the 2001 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on climate change embarrassed the administration that commissioned it.  This is nonsense.  The administration is well aware of the scientific consensus that temperatures have warmed partly due to human activity.


“But acknowledging consensus is a far cry from implying, as Mr. Mooney does, that our understanding of climate change is complete.  Indeed, the same report also noted that “a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established,” and it identified a number of scientific areas that need further study to advance our understanding of climate change and support policy decisions.


“The administration's Climate Change Science Program strategic plan, released in July 2003, addresses many recommendations from the NAS report and is designed to accelerate research on the most important uncertainties in climate science.  An extensive review of the plan just published by the NAS, and ignored by Mr. Mooney, commends the program for seeking input from a broad array of scientists and stakeholders and concludes that 'advancing science on all fronts identified by the program will be of vital importance to the nation.'”


British Government Reprimands Alarmist Scientist


Despite supposedly having the backing of Prime Minister Tony Blair, UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King earned a dressing-down from senior civil servants after claiming that global warming was “worse than terrorism” (see previous issues).


According to the Independent (Mar. 7), “Ivan Rogers, Mr. Blair's principal private secretary, told Sir David King, the Prime Minister's chief scientist, to limit his contact with the media after he made outspoken comments about President George Bush's policy on climate change….  Since Sir David's article in Science was published, Downing Street has tried to limit the damage to Anglo-American relations by reining in the Prime Minister's chief scientist.


“In a leaked memo, Mr. Rogers ordered Sir David—a Cambridge University chemist who offers independent advice to ministers—to decline any interview requests from British and American newspapers and BBC Radio 4's Today.  ‘To accept such bids runs the risk of turning the debate into a sterile argument about whether or not climate change is a greater risk,’ Mr. Rogers said in the memo, which was sent to Sir David's office in February….


“Sir David, who is highly regarded by Mr. Blair, has been primed with a list of 136 mock questions that the media could ask if they were able to get access to him, and the suggested answers he should be prepared to give.  One question asks: ‘How do the number of deaths caused by climate change and terrorism compare?’  The stated answer that Sir David is expected to give says: ‘The value of any comparison would be highly questionable—we are talking about threats that are intrinsically different.’


“If Sir David were to find himself pushed to decide whether terrorism or climate change was the greater threat, he was supposed to answer: ‘Both are serious and immediate problems for the world today.’  But this was not what Sir David said on the Today programme on 9 January when the Science article was published.


“Asked to explain how he had come to the conclusion that global warming was more serious than terrorism, Sir David replied that his equation was ‘based on the number of fatalities that have already occurred’—implying that global warming has already killed more people than terrorism.”


Sir David does not appear to have repeated his contention since the Madrid outrages on March 11.


McCain Wants New Studies to Support His Legislation 


Senator John McCain has somehow overcome his long-time opposition to wasteful government spending in order to promote two costly new studies on global warming.  Since he believes that the science is settled on the issue, his purpose appears to be to provide support for his energy- rationing bill, the Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139.  First, he has asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to study the likely effects of global warming on federally managed lands.  


Bluewater Network, an environmental pressure group, boasted in a press release, “Prompted by a request from Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental nonprofit organization, Senators McCain and Hollings asked the GAO to identify the losses and stresses on all of America’s public lands (including coastal and ocean resources) that will result from global warming.  The GAO report would inventory the impacts of global warming and predict the timing of their environmental and socio-economic consequences.  In addition, the Senators are asking the GAO to identify the resources that can be saved by adaptive measures such as construction of sea walls to protect coastal lands, and improved networks of reserves to protect species.”  Bluewater Network point out that global warming is “a direct consequence of industrialization.”


Second, McCain’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed out a bill that would spend $60 million to establish a research program for studying “abrupt climate change” within the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The bill was passed out by voice vote and with little discussion on March 8.  The sponsors are Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Washington Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Vermont Independent Senator Jim Jeffords.


Lomborg Case Quietly Dropped


It escaped the attention of most of the world’s press that had earlier gleefully reported the news of his conviction for “scientific dishonesty,” but the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty on March 12 dropped their case against Bjørn Lomborg, author of the international environmental best-seller, The Skeptical Environmentalist, following the quashing of its initial verdict by the government’s science ministry.


The Environmental Assessment Institute, headed by Dr. Lomborg, issued a press release that quoted him as saying, “The committee decision is as one would expect….  More than two years have passed since the case against my book was started.  In that time every possible stone has been turned over, yet DCSD has been unable to find a single point of criticism that withstands further investigation.”


Lomborg continued, “DCSD have reached the only logical conclusion.  The committee has acknowledged that the former verdict of my book was invalid.  I am happy that this will spell an end to what has been a very distasteful course of events.”  The release concluded, “The DCSD translated their first judgment into English.  Today's announcement is only available in Danish.”




UN Admits Russian Emissions Forecasts are Wrong


The growing realization that Russia is serious about not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol has reached the pages of Science magazine.  In an article entitled, “A Eurasian Tiger Threatens to Maul Kyoto” (Mar. 5), reference is made to a draft report from the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that says that, “The data underlying the U.N.’s emissions forecasts for Russia are full of holes and out-of-date.”


The last official communication from Russia to the UNFCCC, submitted in November 2002, predicted that Russia’s emissions would not surpass 1990 levels before 2015.  However, the new review suggests that the communication “does not include emissions data from important energy sources,” including plans to double coal production.


The article also quotes Alexander Golub of Environmental Defense, who once predicted that, “Solid economic growth without significant energy efficiency reforms might propel Russia beyond its Kyoto emissions limits far sooner than the U.N. had predicted.”  He now thinks, however, that Russia will remain “well within” Kyoto limits, so it would not hurt to ratify the protocol.


Golub’s arguments seem to carry little weight in the Kremlin.  The article quotes economist Peter Kaznacheev, who said, “‘It’s unlikely Russia will make profits from carbon dioxide quota sales.’”  And meeting Kyoto targets is out of the question: The targets “are hardly affordable,” says Kaznacheev.  Russia’s rising fortunes, therefore, could be the Kyoto treaty’s ultimate misfortune.”


Costs of Kyoto Begin to Dawn on Britain


The economic ramifications of the British Government’s decision to adopt stricter-than-Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions are finally being looked into by British officials and industry leaders.


According to the BBC (Mar. 10), an adviser to the government has warned that Britain’s power supplies could be interrupted owing to lack of capacity by 2006.  Meanwhile, a report by the bipartisan House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee has warned, “There is a danger that there is currently insufficient investment in the network to replace in a planned and orderly way equipment which is reaching the end of its life….  Simply to maintain present performance levels, capital expenditure by the network owners would have to double.”  The report suggested that consumers would have to pay an extra ₤1 billion in higher electricity prices to redress the balance.


The same day, London’s Times reported on a new paper by the Royal Academy of Engineering on the cost of renewable energy.  It summarized, “Even the cheapest forms of renewable energy will cost at least twice as much as gas or nuclear power for the foreseeable future, according to a new report that questions the viability of the Government's energy strategy.”


The paper quoted the report as saying, “The energy consultant PB Power, which prepared the report, found in a comparison of energy costs that electricity generated from gas turbines or modern nuclear plants is by far the cheapest, at 2.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh).  Onshore wind power, the cheapest renewable energy, costs 3.7p per kWh and offshore wind power costs 5.5p per kWh.  And the cost of both is increased further by the need for back-up conventional power sources to ensure that supplies remain constant when the wind is not blowing.”


Then, on March 12, yet more of the cost of the government’s green policies came to light.  The Guardian reported, “Water and sewerage customers in England and Wales could be forced to pay more than the 30% extra in real terms over the five years from April 2005, originally foreseen by regulator Ofwat.  It follows tough new environmental guidelines from ministers.  Business bodies warned that industry could see their power bills rise by up to 30%—with a knock-on effect on domestic consumers—if the government sticks to its plans to enforce a 16.3% cut in greenhouse gases under an EU carbon emissions trading scheme that takes effect on January 1, 2005.”


The Guardian concluded, “Ministers came under fire from both the CBI [Confederation of British Industry] and EEF [an association of manufacturers]…over their ambitious plans for CO2 trading which, the government says, should increase power bills by no more than 6%.  Industrial and retail customers, who already face a combined £1.5bn bill over 10 years to rebuild the grid system and hefty increases to meet the switch to renewables, will pay considerably more—10 to 30%—than government forecasts, the two bodies said.


“The EEF said UK power prices would surge faster than in Europe unless ministers persuaded other EU states to adopt its more stringent standards and urged a delay to the new scheme.  ‘While the rest of Europe drags its heels, Britain's manufacturers are going to have to run much faster to meet the UK's ambitious target,’ said Martin Temple, EEF director-general.”




Nature Ignores Science on Greenland Ice Shelf


A feature article, “Rising Tide,” in the March 11 issue of Nature claims that global warming is melting Greenland’s ice so rapidly that the whole ice sheet may melt and cause sea levels to rise significantly.  However, as the Greening Earth Society’s World Climate Alert  points out, the Nature article is at variance with published scientific research, which finds that Greenland warmed rapidly in the 1920s without causing disastrous melting of the ice sheet, but has been in a cooling trend since 1940. 


The most recent of a number of research articles that contradict Nature is “Global Warming and the Greenland Ice Sheet,” by P. Chylek, J. E. Box, and G. Lesins, which appears in the March issue of Climate Change.  The article’s abstract says, “Since 1940, however, the Greenland coastal stations data have undergone predominantly a cooling trend.  At the summit of the Greenland ice sheet, the summer average temperature has decreased at the rate of 2.2°C per decade since the beginning of the measurements in 1987.  This suggests that the Greenland ice sheet and coastal regions are not following the current global warming trend.”


The authors found the most pronounced warming “…in the 1920s when the average annual surface air temperature rose between 2°C and 4°C in less than 10 years…at a time when the change in anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases was well below the current level.”


World Climate Alert points out, “A 1°C warming of the coastal stations would cause an increase in the melt area of 73,000 square kilometers, as Chylek et al. note.  Given the 1°C to nearly 2°C cooling found in the coastal stations, Chylek’s team makes this conservative statement, ‘The results are inconclusive for the ice sheet as a whole, owing to the large uncertainties when balancing very large, difficult to measure, offsetting quantities.’  They add, ‘Even the direction in which the mass of the Greenland ice sheet is currently changing is in dispute.’  In other words, anyone who claims Greenland is melting won’t find a lot of support in the scientific literature.”


NASA Finds Global Climate Models Overestimate Warming


A NASA press release dated March 16 contains interesting news for those who have disputed the strength of positive water vapor feedback effects in global climate models.


The release states, “A NASA-funded study found some climate models might be overestimating the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere as the Earth warms.  Since water vapor is the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, some climate forecasts may be overestimating future temperature increases….


“Ken Minschwaner, a physicist at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, N.M., and Andrew Dessler, a researcher with the University of Maryland, College Park, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., did the study.  It is in the March 15 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.  The researchers used data on water vapor in the upper troposphere (10-14 km or 6-9 miles altitude) from NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).


“Their work verified water vapor is increasing in the atmosphere as the surface warms.  They found the increases in water vapor were not as high as many climate-forecasting computer models have assumed.  ‘Our study confirms the existence of a positive water vapor feedback in the atmosphere, but it may be weaker than we expected,’ Minschwaner said….


“In most computer models relative humidity tends to remain fixed at current levels.  Models that include water vapor feedback with constant relative humidity predict the Earth's surface will warm nearly twice as much over the next 100 years as models that contain no water vapor feedback.


“Using the UARS data to actually quantify both specific humidity and relative humidity, the researchers found, while water vapor does increase with temperature in the upper troposphere, the feedback effect is not as strong as models have predicted.  ‘The increases in water vapor with warmer temperatures are not large enough to maintain a constant relative humidity,’ Minschwaner said.  These new findings will be useful for testing and improving global climate models.”





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