Vol. V, No. 25
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Administration Considering Climate Policies
After a delay caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has resumed considering its global warming policies. A paper listing options was discussed at a Cabinet meeting on December 3. Various schemes for “voluntary” emissions trading are still on the list. Sources have told Cooler Heads to expect the announcement of a set of policies in January.
It has been clear since President Bush’s June 11 speech that two major parts of the administration’s package will be refocused initiatives on climate science and new technologies. Much less clear is whether any programs will be proposed to try limit carbon dioxide emissions. President Bush decided in March to oppose regulation of CO2 emissions from electric utilities, but that has not stopped key members of the administration from continuing to toy with ideas for incentives, early action credits, or “voluntary” trading.
Potential supporters of these schemes to cut CO2 emissions include EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Glenn Hubbard, CEQ Chairman James Connaughton, Domestic Policy Council staffers Josh Bolten and John Bridgeland, and National Security Council staffer Gary Edson. Connaughton, Bridgeland, and Edson are in charge of co-ordinating administration policy on global warming.
The Financial Times (December 4, 2001) reported that the North American Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) had arranged a meeting between the U. S., Canada, and Mexico for December 7 to discuss setting up a greenhouse gas permit trading program. The CEC was created as part of the environmental side agreements accompanying the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Prelude to CO2 Regulation
Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Az.) have introduced new bills that lay the groundwork for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The Emission Reductions Incentive Act (S. 1781), which McCain along with Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) introduced on December 6, would create a new “national voluntary registry system for greenhouse gas trading among industry” in the Department of Commerce. It’s not clear how it would work, but McCain said that he intends it to be the first step toward creating a mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions.
Senator John Kerry introduced his Global Climate Change Act (S. 1716) on November 15. It would establish an inter-agency Climate Change Action Task Force and an Office of Climate Change Action within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and require them to come up with a “climate change action strategy” and budget.
The strategy must include plans for “implementing emission reduction standards and specific mitigation approaches that will substantially reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations….” S. 1716 would also create within the National Institute of Standards and Technology a mandatory system for measuring, verifying, and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to make timely reports would be fined at $25,000 per day.
Other provisions in Kerry’s bill would create much of the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and also a watchdog office reporting to Congress. Both bills are available at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Daschle Energy Bill on the Fast Track
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on December 5 introduced his Energy Policy Act, S. 1766, which contains major global warming provisions. Daschle placed his bill directly on the Senate calendar, thereby bypassing the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and announced that he would bring it to the floor in February.
S. 1766 contains a stunning number of new federal programs (over 60), studies (over 40), federal offices or agencies (around a dozen), subsidies, mandates, and payoffs to nearly every special interest that can afford a lobbyist in Washington. On the other hand, the bill contains very little in the way of removing regulatory roadblocks to rebuilding America’s energy infrastructure or increasing energy supplies.
The main global warming provisions are recycled from other Senate bills, including major parts of S. 1008, the Byrd-Stevens Climate Change Strategy and Technology and Innovation Act as amended and voted out of the Commerce Committee. It also includes titles 3-6 from Senator John Kerry’s Global Climate Change Act (S. 1716-see preceding story), parts of Senator Bingaman’s energy bill (S. 596), the language in the Foreign Relations Re-authorization Act (S. 1401) that encourages President Bush to resume negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, and the international technology deployment title from Senator Frank Murkowski’s Climate Change Risk Management Act (S. 1294).
Back to Turnips and Cabbage
The distance most food products travel over the course of their production, processing, packaging, and distribution has increased by more than fifty percent between 1978 and 1999, according to a new report published by the British environmental group, Sustain-the Alliance for Better Food and Farming. The report, entitled “Eating Oil: Food Supply in a Changing Climate” (www.sustainweb.org), states that transportation of food products now accounts for 33 to 40 percent of all UK road freight and that the goods used to produce an average holiday turkey dinner are typically moved more than 24,000 miles before consumption.
The study claims that transportation of food products could potentially exhaust UK fuel reserves by 2040. The authors state that moving a single calorie of carrot from South Africa to the UK requires the use of 66 calories of fuel.
Andy Jones, the lead author of the report, claims that “The food system has become almost completely dependent on crude oil…Food distribution is…a major contributor to climate change and other forms of pollution. The environment and society cannot continue to bear the costs. We need to invest, now, in regional and local food systems combined with fair trade initiatives that will bring about a more secure, sustainable, and fair food system.” (Reuters, December 12, 2001).
Kyoto Would Harm New Zealand’s Economy
A new report by the National Bank of New Zealand warns that compliance with Kyoto would weaken that nation’s economy, when the government keeps its pledge to ratify the treaty in September 2002.
According to the bank’s calculations, New Zealand’s economy could experience a permanent loss of output of 0.5 to 1 percent of GDP. “The potential loss of activity would be far greater if not for a substantial fall in the value of the New Zealand dollar against all non-ratifying nations,” according to the report. In other words, the U.S. refusal to ratify Kyoto will make it easier for New Zealand to meet its reduction targets.
Setback for Trading
According to a December 9 story in London’s Independent, “The collapse of Enron and a series of bitter political spats are threatening to derail plans to establish emissions trading in Europe. Renewable energy companies, which had hoped to gain tens of millions of pounds in revenues from emissions trading in the near future, now fear that they will have to wait for as long as eight years before a viable trading platform is established.”
Climate Models are not Predictive
A recent paper in the journal Climate Research (November 2, 2001) reviews the scientific literature on the “common deficiencies in general circulation models (GCMs),” which serve as the basis for estimates of global temperature changes due to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the authors Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Sherwood Idso of the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, Kirill Kondratyev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Eric Posmentier of Long Island University, “Our review of the literature has shown that GCMs are not sufficiently robust to provide an understanding of the potential effects of CO2 on climate necessary for public discussion.”
The paper also states that, “Given the host of uncertainties and unknowns in the difficult but important task of climate modeling, the unique attribution of observed current climate change to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration, including the relatively well-observed latest 20 years, is not possible.”
One of the many examples given of model deficiencies is that of attributing climate changes to anthropogenic forcing. It has been estimated that the total increase in global average radiative forcing due to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution is 2.5 Watts per meter squared (W/m2). The estimated total for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations would add about 4 W/m2.
But “there are artificial energy or heat flux adjustments as large as 100 W/m2 that are used in some GCMs to minimize unwanted drift in the ocean-atmospheric coupled system.” Some models attempt to avoid the use of flux adjustments, but “fare no better because of other substantial biases, including major systematic errors in the computation of sea-surface temperature and sea ice over many regions, as well as large salinity and deep-ocean temperature drifts.”
As a result, “Those artificially modified and uncertain energy components of contemporary GCMs place severe constraints on our ability to find the imprint of a mere 4 W/m2 radiative perturbation associated with anthropogenic CO2 forcing over 100 to 200 years in the climate system.” Other problems are found in the GCMs’ treatment of “atmospheric temperature, surface temperature, precipitation and their spatial and temporal variability.”
So what good are the models? The authors argue, “The proper use of a climate model is to challenge existing formulations (i.e., a climate model is built to test proposed mechanisms of climate change) rather than to predict unconstrained scenarios of change by adding CO2 to the atmosphere.” In other words, GCMs should be used as experimental, trial and error devises to learn more about the climate system.
The authors conclude that “Progress will be made only by formulating and testing a falsifiable hypothesis…. as demanded by the rules of science.”
Abrupt Climate Change is the Norm
Although it is common knowledge that past changes in the climate have often been abrupt, a National Research Council press release that announced the fact gained widespread media coverage this week. The spin put on the NRC study, Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, by the press release and picked up in news stories was that the current gradual build-up of carbon dioxide levels resulting from burning hydrocarbon fuels could also cause an abrupt change in the climate (www.nationalacademies.org).
However, as the New York Times (December 12, 2001) correctly noted, “Most of the report focuses on abrupt changes that occurred naturally, long before humans dominated the landscape.” And these abrupt changes were caused by abrupt events, such as changes in the earth’s rotation, asteroids hitting the Earth, and volcanic eruptions.
There is simply no evidence that a gradual increase in radiative forcing could lead to an abrupt shift. Indeed, one recent abrupt shift in climate, the Great Pacific Climate Shift, continues to confound standard greenhouse theory.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the report is its discussion of the human response to abrupt climate change. It states, “It is important to not be fatalistic about the threats posed by abrupt climate change. Societies have faced both gradual and abrupt climate changes for millennia and have learned to adapt through various mechanisms, such as moving indoors, developing irrigation for crops, and migrating away from inhospitable regions.”
Go After Soot First
In February of 2001, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, published a study in Nature stating that black carbon or soot is a major contributor to global warming. He found “a higher positive forcing from black carbon than previously thought, suggesting that the warming effect from black carbon may nearly balance the net cooling effect of other anthropogenic aerosol constituents.”
The important implication of this paper is that the IPCC can no longer use sulfate aerosols as a reason why the atmosphere is not warming as much as predicted by the climate models, since the sulfate cooling effect that supposedly offsets greenhouse gas warming is itself being offset by black carbon. In other words, the predicted warming has failed to materialize.
Jacobson, however, comes to a different conclusion. At the American Geophysical Union’s 2001 Fall meeting in San Francisco, Jacobson argues that “If you want to control global warming, the first thing to go after is soot.” He stated that if we eliminated all fossil fuel soot emissions, about 5 million tons per year worldwide, it would reduce global warming by 40 percent. Moreover, “Controlling fossil fuel soot will not only slow global warming but also improve human health” (Reuters, December 11, 2001).
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
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee