You are here

Vol.VII, No 22

Cooler Heads Digest


Vol.VII, No 22


Senate Defeats Lieberman-McCain Bill to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U. S. Senate defeated a scaled-down version of Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139, on October 30 by a vote of 55 to 43.  Forty-five Republicans and ten Democrats voted against the measure.  Thirty-seven Democrats were joined by six Republicans in favor.

The Democrats voting against were Baucus, Breaux, Byrd, Conrad, Dorgan, Landrieu, Levin, Lincoln, Miller, and Pryor.  Republicans voting for were Chafee, Collins, Gregg, Lugar, McCain, and Snowe.  Democrats Edwards and Ben Nelson missed the vote.

Lieberman and McCain gained some additional support for their cap-and-trade bill by making special deals for some sectors of the energy economy and by offering only the phase one target of cutting emissions to 2000 levels by 2010.  The obvious hypocrisy of this ploy became apparent during the floor debate.  The initial emissions cap will do nothing to address the alleged potential problem of global warming, so further, much more expensive reductions would be necessary.  S. 139 would create the structure and incentives necessary to make those further reductions.  This goal is made explicit in the section on “Ensuring Target Adequacy,” which would require the Under Secretary of Commerce to review the emissions reduction targets in relation to the aim of stabilizing greenhouse gas levels at a safe level.     

Senator McCain warned repeatedly that they would be bringing the bill back to the floor again and again.  However, immediately after the vote, Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.), who led the opposition to the bill, moved that S. 139 be referred back to the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he chairs.  S. 139 was discharged from the committee to the floor as part of the unanimous consent agreement to pass the energy bill in July.  It lacks the votes to be voted out of committee.

Attorneys General Appeal EPA Decision on CO2


Following the EPA’s decision that it lacked legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new motor vehicles, state attorneys general from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and eight other states have joined forces to appeal the decision.  California filed a separate appeal, as did environmental groups including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA).  The cities of Baltimore and New York City have also appealed.


Joseph Mendelson, legal director at ICTA, told Greenwire (Oct. 23), “This is THE greenhouse case.  This is the one that will determine whether the Clean Air Act grants authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions … We're challenging EPA's finding that Congress never intended to give authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.”


An EPA spokesman responded, “No Clean Air Act provision specifically authorizes climate change regulation.  Congress has taken up the issue of climate change numerous times, but hasn't enacted legislation that gives EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  That said, the agency is moving forward with a number of voluntary programs that will reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions.”


The states suing EPA are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.  American Samoa and the District of Columbia have also joined the suit.  The environmental groups suing the agency are Bluewater Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.


Reaction to Russia


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put off ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has led to a variety of confused reactions from the climate change industry and their backers.


IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri was only able to assert, “I don't think a negative decision on Kyoto would be in Russia's interest overall.”  He went on to say, “Russia is a large country with a rich history and has ambitions to emerge once again as a global power.  It cannot, therefore, gain in standing politically if it does not join hands with other countries in doing what is required to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases.” (Reuters, Oct. 17).


EU ministers responded by merely restating their position as held before the Moscow conference.  The environment ministers of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement concluding, “Climate change is a real problem. Over the last few years, we have begun to experience more extreme climatic phenomena.  This summer, parts of Europe faced an exceptional heat wave and drought that caused deaths and illness among older age groups, heat stress to livestock, forest fires, and damage to crops.”


They went on, “The scientific community has gathered convincing evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.  Extreme events, such as heat waves or heavy precipitation, will be more frequent, more intense.  What we experienced this summer is effectively an illustration of what we are likely to see more frequently in the not too distant future.  The international community needs to act with determination to deal with this problem…. There is no credible alternative to [Kyoto] on the table.  We call upon Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.”  (BBC News Online, Oct. 23).


The David Suzuki Foundation in Canada alleged that Putin was being “leaned on” by President Bush and could not have come up with his decision independently


The World Wildlife Federation’s representative in Moscow, meanwhile, concluded that the current position was irrelevant:  “But the Kyoto accord is a win-win proposition for Russia.  One can expect the government and legislature to move ahead with ratification next summer, when the elections are over and they can return to considering Russia's long-term interests.” (International Herald Tribune, Oct 28).




EU Backs Away from Kyoto


According to the Wall Street Journal Europe (Oct. 29), European Union diplomats are suggesting that some member governments are backing away from a promise under the Kyoto protocol to give aid to poorer countries.  The EU had promised in 2001 to contribute €450 million ($523 million) from 2005 on to developing countries in order to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The dispute centers on how the cost will be shared, with Spain, Greece and Portugal wanting to contribute less than had been agreed.  The southern EU member countries argue that they are poorer than northern countries and so should pay €20 million less each, but EU law requires that countries pay in proportion to their emissions rather than to their wealth.


Meanwhile, the Journal also reported that the European Parliament is delaying the first reading of a bill designed to regulate emissions trading, putting at risk a deadline of 2005 for implementing the legislation.  The EU estimates that trading would reduce the €3.4 billion cost of implementing Kyoto by about €680 million.


The EU is currently on target to cut by emissions by 4.7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.  The Kyoto Protocol requires an 8 percent reduction.


Replacement for Kyoto Urged


An article in Environmental Science and Technology (Oct. 13), the journal of the American Chemical Society, suggests that a global treaty focusing on intercontinental air pollution could be a better approach to controlling climate change than the Kyoto Protocol. The researchers claim that, by cooperating to reduce pollutants like ozone and aerosols, countries could address their own regional health concerns, keep their downwind neighbors happy and reduce the threat of global warming in the process.


The study, from researchers at Columbia, Harvard and Princeton universities, acknowledges a need to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but proposes that a treaty dealing with air pollutants, like ozone and aerosols, could be a better first step because it unites the interests of all countries concerned.  As aerosols and ozone contribute to large-scale climate problems, the researchers argue, the implications of controlling them go beyond air pollution into the realm of climate change.


The researchers suggest a treaty based loosely on the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), which initially addressed acid rain deposition in Europe through voluntary participation. The convention has since been amended to cover a broad range of pollutants, and participants include countries from Western and Eastern Europe as well as the United States and Canada.


Expanding such a treaty to include Asia would give the United States even more incentive to participate, the researchers claim, since westerly winds spread pollution from that part of the world to North America. (Eurekalert, Oct. 15)


Environmentalists Target BP and Shell


Despite BP’s image (“Beyond Petroleum”) as the most ‘environmentally-friendly’ oil giant, it is coming under increased attack from environmental groups in the UK.  Rising Tide-described by London’s Guardian on Oct. 23 as a “loose-knit group of green activists”-organized a rowdy demonstration at a talk given by BP chairman Lord Browne in London that day.  The activities included a protestor interrupting Lord Browne during his speech with a series of accusations against the company.


Friends of the Earth also confirmed that it was “re-evaluating relations” with BP and Royal Dutch Shell because of their “apparent failure to turn rhetoric into action.”


A climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Roger Higman, told the Guardian, “ExxonMobil is still the bad guy, but we are getting increasingly frustrated with BP and Shell, which talk about climate change but put their money into [oil and gas] developments in places such as Russia and the Middle East rather than renewable schemes.  We are not going to be cozy with them because they are doing bad things.”


Rising Tide claims BP invests less than 1 percent of its annual budget on solar and other renewable energy sources, which it points out is much less than they spend on advertising and public relations.  It said, “Don't be fooled by oil company public relations that the only people opposing their destructive agenda are privileged western environmentalists.  In fact resistance to big oil's constant need to find new oil-rich frontiers is most determined amongst some of the world's poorest people.”




Hockey Stick Data Wrong?


The “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the last thousand years was featured prominently in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report and the National Assessment on Climate Change and is a key component of the case for action on global warming.  It shows an unprecedented spike in temperatures in the 20th century.  That graph is based extensively on research by University of Virginia assistant professor Michael Mann and others in 1998 and 1999.


Now, however, two Canadians with expertise in statistical analysis, Stephen McIntyre and economics professor Ross McKitrick, have looked again at the source data, supplied to them by Mann’s research associate at his request, and found considerable errors in the way the data was collated.  They were unable to replicate Mann’s results either by re-running his calculations once the errors were corrected or by constructing their own data set from the original sources.  Their reconstruction of the Mann et al. data set from the original sources shows clearly that there was a period of greater warmth than the last century in the 15th century, and that the spike is not unprecedented.  They have suggested that Mann should account for the discrepancies.


Mann’s initial response was that this was a “political stunt.”  Further comments were published on the web log of freelance propagandist David Appell.  They suggested that McIntyre and McKitrick (“M&M”) had used the wrong data set and that the correct data was publicly available.  McIntyre and McKitrick responded with the e-mail exchanges that showed that Mann’s associate had sent them the data they used at Mann’s request.  Mann also suggested that they should have used 159 proxies rather than the 112 they did.  McIntyre and McKitrick responded with e-mails showing that Mann’s associate referred to 112 proxies (which accorded with references to 112 proxies in the original published research articles).  The article has been published on the web by Energy and Environment (<>) , an English journal, and will appear in the November printed issue.   Further details can be found at McKitrick’s website: (<>.  No doubt there is much more to come before this controversy is settled.

 Solar Frenzy

German scientists from the Max Planck Institute along with Finnish scientists from Oulu University have reconstructed sunspot activity over the past millennium.  They conclude that the sun has been in what they term a “frenzy” since 1940, which may be a factor in global warming.


The research is based on amounts of the beryllium 10 isotope found in ice deposits in both Greenland and the Antarctic.  The team also discovered a burst of activity between 1100 and 1250, which corresponds closely to the usually agreed extent of the Medieval Warm Period, but the scientists note that there were fewer sunspots then than today.


The scientists found that the current surge is 2.5 times as great as the long-term average and that solar activity closely matched average temperatures on Earth. 


Spokesman Sami Solanki said that, despite discovering a new climate influence, the team still believed the recent surge in warming was caused by fossil fuel emissions.  “Even after our findings,” he was reported as saying, “I would say the sharp increase in global temperatures after 1980 can still be mainly attributed to the greenhouse effect arising from carbon dioxide.” (News24, South Africa).


Hockey Stick Crowd Dismiss Medieval Warm Period


Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Malcolm Hughes of the University of Arizona (partners with Michael Mann in the research referred to above), together with Henry Diaz of NOAA, have written an article concluding that the Medieval Warm Period was not global.  In “Climate in Medieval Time,” published in the Oct. 17 issue of Science, they argue that there is not enough evidence to conclude that regional warm spells between 500 AD and 1500 AD occurred simultaneously.


The scientists concluded that medieval average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere “were not exceptional” because some regions cooled whereas other regions warmed.  They also dismiss solar arguments, noting that recent modeling studies show that increased solar irradiance does not warm Earth's surface at all locations. Instead, they say, ozone absorbs ultraviolet radiation, warming the stratosphere and altering atmospheric circulation patterns. If such changes happened in the 12th century, they could well have altered large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns linked to the Arctic Oscillation, thereby warming some regions but not others. (Science Daily, Oct. 20)




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

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus Association

Small Business Survival Committee


Editor: Myron Ebell                                                                Managing Editor: Iain Murray