Vol. IV, No. 12
National Assessment: Scientific Fraud, Media Hype, and Legal Problems
The U.S. National Assessment on the Climate Change Impacts on the United States was made available for public comments on June 12 at www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/.
The release of the document has been accompanied by a media storm of articles claiming that the report constitutes predictions about the future of U.S. climate, even though the report says that its claims are not predictions, but “reasonable scenarios” of what could happen.
The scientific basis for the report is weak, indeed. One of its primary assumptions is that effective atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will increase by about 1 percent per year leading to a temperature rise of 5 to 10 degrees F. In reality, concentrations have only increased 0.4 percent per year for the last two decades, putting estimates at more than twice as high has they should be.
The Washington Post (June 12, 2000) noted that the two computer climate models that underlie the findings of the National Assessment often come to very different conclusions. The article quoted Dr. Fred Singer, atmospheric physicist and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, who noted that, “One [model] turns it [North Dakota] into a desert, the other into a swamp.” The Post also noted that,
“Central Kansas shows an increase in soil moisture of 25 percent in one projection; in the other, it loses 50 percent. North and South Carolina have dramatic rainfall increases in one model, and decreases of up to 10 percent in the other.”
There are also serious problems with modeling the climate at regional scales as attempted in the report. Several statements have been made describing the impossibility of such an endeavor. The forthcoming United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change report notes that, “a coherent picture of regional claim change via available regionalizatoin techniques cannot yet be drawn.”
The EPA says on its website that the models “are still not accurate enough to provide reliable forecasts of how the climate may change; and the several models often yield contradictory results.” Finally, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, which produced one of the models used in the National Assessment, states that, “in areas where coasts and mountains have significant effect on weather (and this will be true for most parts of the world), scenarios based on global models will fail to capture the regional detail needed for vulnerability assessments at a national level.”
Problems with the National Assessment extend far beyond the science, however. The National Assessment synthesis team is a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) chartered by the National Science Foundation under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Under the act, FACs must comply with several guidelines, in the interest of transparency and public disclosure. The National Assessment has not met all the requirements.
For example, all meetings must have a designated federal officer present. Several of the National Assessment meetings did not, which means that the meetings didn’t actually take place. Also, several of the meetings were unlawfully closed to the public. Anything produced at these meetings, therefore, may not be considered toward the draft report. There were other violations as well.
Christopher C. Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, has requested that the NSF keep the report in the public docket and avoid releasing it in final form until it is in compliance with FACA.
Bonn Meeting Prepares for COP-6
Negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol resumed on June 5 in Bonn, Germany to prepare the way for a political deal for the sixth conference of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November, according to the climate convention’s executive director, Michael Zammit Cutajar.
One of the major disagreements continues to be between the European Union and the United States. The EU wants to limit the amount of greenhouse gas reductions that can be achieved through emission trading to 50 percent. The remainder must be achieved through domestic emissions reductions. The U.S., on the other hand, wants no limits on the use of emission trading (AP Worldstream, June 12, 2000).
Some of the issues being negotiated are;
· setting up a monitoring system for an emissions trading system;
· whether countries should get emission reduction credits through the use of carbon sinks and nuclear power;
· how to assure compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol (Agence France Presse, June 5, 2000).
An unexpected development has arisen in the negotiations, according to David Wojick of Electricity Daily. Some of the delegates are arguing, pursuant to Article 13.6 of the protocol, that the Kyoto Protocol cannot be amended until it actually comes into force, creating a catch-22 situation.
The U.S. Senate, for example, in 1997 unanimously advised the U.S. delegation to Kyoto that it would not ratify a treaty that did not include specific targets for developing countries, which the Protocol failed to include. The Kyoto Protocol cannot be amended unless ratified, but the U.S. Senate will not ratify it unless it is amended.
Petition to Regulate CO2 in Cars
On October 20, 1999 the International Center for Technology Assessment and other groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate automobile emissions of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has announced that it will provide a public comment period for the petition. The action would not constitute the start of the regulatory process, but is “common practice regarding petitions for rulemaking” (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 5, 2000).
Cooler Heads Coalition Wins in Court
The U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. has granted a motion by the Cooler Heads Coalition to require the EPA to produce documents responsive to numerous Freedom of Information requests regarding back door implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, up to February this year. All of this is to be part of EPA’s response to the original complaint, due next week.
In objecting to the Cooler Heads attempt to expand their production, EPA informed the Court of its intent only to produce documents up to June of last year – the date of the original requests – per the Agency's rules published in the CFR, and as is standard practice. The Assistant U.S. Attorney handling this matter, representing EPA, opposed the attempt to effectively update those requests, or combine another complaint with the original one. Cooler Heads argued that EPA’s delay rises to the level of extraordinary, requiring extraordinary relief.
The Court agreed, meaning that the EPA must produce seven more months’ worth of documents exposing its non-compliance with the Knollenberg provision and other activities. This undoubtedly will result in EPA coming back to the Court and requesting another extension, which in return for granting the motion the Court would likely allow. The likely volume of those documents means this would be an unqualified win even with a longer wait.
Gore’s Grandiose Initiative
Cooler Heads has acquired a copy of the Gore campaign’s “Clean Energy, Stable Climate and Health Environment Initiative,” scheduled to be released on June 26. The document defines what Gore meant in Earth in the Balance when he said that protecting the environment would require a “wrenching transformation.”
The campaign document claims that “This initiative will be nonbureaucratic and completely market based,” followed by, “With the help of industry leaders, labor, financial experts, farmers, environmental leaders, urban revitalization experts, consumer advocates, state and local government leaders and others, tough performance-based criteria will be established.”
The initiative contains subsidies for everyone from big to small business, labor, farmers, families, homeowners, and so on. It promises a new generation of vehicles, comfortable and affordable new homes, and new jobs for skilled labor. It also promises to keep American industry on the cutting edge, to improve quality of life through more transportation choices, to enhance national security, and just about anything else one might throw in.
Gore’s phony free market rhetoric may appeal to the public, but the reality is that this initiative is reminiscent of policies in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
Germany Rethinking Eco-Tax
Higher gasoline prices in Germany have sparked a movement to eliminate the ecological tax, a tax on fuels and energy. The pressure is coming from opposition parties, car manufacturers and the National Council on the Environment. “We appeal to the federal government to rethink the eco-tax concept and stop further increases immediately,” said Peter Paziorek, the Christian Democratic Union’s environmental expert. “The federal government, with its insistence on the eco-tax, endangers the ecological consensus within the German population.”
The government responded that the eco-tax was not to blame for the higher prices, despite the fact that it raised gasoline prices by 27 percent. Low production quotas by OPEC countries, high gasoline demand in the U.S., and the weak Euro are primarily responsible for higher prices, it claimed. The government also reconfirmed its commitment to further increases in the eco-tax (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 6, 2000).
Enviros Strike Back at Lawsuit
Environmental pressure groups named in the commercial defamation lawsuit brought by the Western Fuels Association (WFA) have asked the federal court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it would violate their first amendment rights.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are guilty of engaging in “aggressive commercial ventures that falsely represent the effects of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, specifically from coal,” noted the BNA Daily Environment Report (June 6, 2000). Such actions constitute “commercial defamation” in violation of Section 43 of the Lanham Act.
Brent Blackwelder, executive director of Friends of the Earth, characterized the lawsuit as “a desperate attempt by an industry absolutely unwilling to face reality. It has lost the scientific debate. It is losing the public debate. And so it is now looking to the courts to stop debate as a last resort to help maintain its dirty profits.”