Why The “Sense Of Congress On Climate Change” Provision Should Be Stripped From H.R. 4

The findings presented in the Sense of the Congress provisions do not rest on a sound scientific footing and if carried out would greatly harm the U.S. and indeed the world economy without having any noticeable affect on the Earth’s climate.  The following is a point by point refutation of the Sense of the Congress findings and conclusions.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


a) Findings. – The Congress makes the following findings.


1)       Evidence continues to build that increases in atmospheric concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases are contributing to global climate change.


Response:  This statement has no policy relevance.  Carbon dioxide, for instance, is a greenhouse gas.  All else being equal, more CO2 in the atmosphere will warm rather than cool the planet.  But that statement alone does not lead to the conclusion that CO2 emissions must be reduced.


2)       The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that ‘there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities’ and that the Earth’s average temperature can be expected to rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit in this century.”


Response: The IPCC’s claim about “new and stronger evidence” is simply untrue.  The higher prediction is not based on new evidence or on a new understanding of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change, but on an unwarranted change in the assumptions about future population growth, economic growth and fossil fuel use.  It was also a result of changing the assumptions about sulfate aerosols.


In correspondence to Nature[1] magazine, Thomas Stocker, a “coordinating lead author of one of the chapters, lead author of the technical summary and a member of the drafting team of the summary for policy-makers,” noted that “although climate modeling has advanced during the past five years, this is not the main reason for the revised range of temperature projections.  The higher maximum warming by the year 2100 stems from a more realistic view of sulfate aerosol emissions.  The new scenarios assume emissions will be reduced substantially in the coming decades, as this becomes technically and economically feasible, to avoid acid rain.  Sulfate emissions have a cooling effect, so reducing them leads to higher estimates of warming.”


But recent studies have shown that another kind of aerosol, black soot, cancels the cooling effect of sulfate aerosols and so the assumption that they offset warming from greenhouse gases is no longer valid.[2]


Stephen Schneider, a professor at Stanford University and staunch proponent of the global warming agenda, also expressed reservations in Nature[3] about the new socioeconomic assumptions.  According to Schneider, “This sweeping revision depends on two factors that were not the handiwork of the modelers: smaller projected emissions of climate cooling aerosols; and a few predictions containing particularly large CO2 emissions.”


To come up with the outlandish carbon dioxide projections, IPCC Chairman Robert W. Watson formed a group of academic scientists, environmental organizations, industrial scientists, engineers, economists, and systems analysts, that decided to “create ‘storylines’ about future worlds from which population, affluence and technology drivers could be inferred.”  These storylines “gave rise to radically different families of emission profiles up to 2100 – from below current CO2 emissions to five times current emissions,” according to Schneider.


To get the final “dramatic revision upward in the IPCC’s third assessment,” he wrote, “it combined the climate sensitivities of seven general circulation models (GCMs) with the “six illustrative scenarios from the special report” within a simple model to get 40 climate scenarios.


To add insult to injury, these storylines were not subjected to peer review.  In fact, they were added to the IPCC report during a “government review” after the scientific peer review was concluded.


3)       The National Academy of Sciences confirmed the findings of the IPCC, stating that “the IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue” and that “there is general agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong within the past twenty years.”  The National Academy of Sciences also noted that “because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments upward or downward.”


Response: Again, these statements do not imply that government action should be taken to reduce greenhouse gases.  It is the magnitude, not the existence of warming that is important.


Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT, and one of the 11 scientists who compiled the NAS report, stated in a June 11, 2001 editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, that “the NAS never asks that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them.”


Moreover, he explained that “Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds).


“But – and I cannot stress this enough – we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions.”


With regards to the NAS report’s conclusions about the IPCC, Lindzen asserts, “The panel was finally asked to evaluate the work of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, focusing on the Summary for Policymakers, the only part ever read or quoted. The Summary for Policymakers, which is seen as endorsing Kyoto, is commonly presented as the consensus of thousands of the world's foremost climate scientists. Within the confines of professional courtesy, the NAS panel essentially concluded that the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers does not provide suitable guidance for the U.S. government.”


4)       The IPCC has stated that in the last 40 years, the global average sea level has risen, ocean heat content has increased, and snow cover and ice extent have decreased, which threatens to inundate low-lying island nation’s and coastal regions throughout the world.


Response:  It is true that sea levels have risen the last 40 years, but that is only half the truth.  According to the IPCC, “There is no evidence for any acceleration of sea level rise in data from the 20th century data alone (pg. 663).”[4]  The last acceleration in the rate of sea level rise occurred in the 19th century long before man contributed significantly to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.  Rising sea levels, therefore, cannot be attributed to man’s greenhouse gas emissions.


The Arctic ice sheet does appear to be shrinking in both extent and thickness.  But since the ice sheet is floating it already fully displaces an equivalent amount of water, so it has no effect on sea levels.  Moreover, measurements of sea ice extent in the Arctic begin in the 1970s.  According to the IPCC, “Some of this pattern of warming has been attributed to recent trends in the atmospheric circulation of the North Atlantic Oscillation and its Arctic-wide manifestation, the Arctic Oscillation (pg. 125).”


A later discussion of these natural phenomena, however, suggests that more than “some of the pattern” may be attributed to them.  “A sharp reversal is evident in the NAO index starting around 1970 from a negative towards a positive phase [the phase that leads to warming in the Arctic].  Since about 1985, the NAO has tended to remain in a strong positive phase, though with substantial interannual variability (pg. 152-153).”


The IPCC report concludes, “The changes in atmospheric circulation over the Atlantic are also connected with much of the observed pressure fall [associated with warmer temperature] over the Arctic in recent years (pg. 153).”  Thus we see that warmer temperatures and melting sea ice may be due to natural oscillations, unconnected to manmade greenhouse gases.  Since these regime shifts occur every 20 to 30 years it may be that we are headed into a negative phase which would cause lower temperatures and increases in sea ice.


If the Antarctic were to collapse, it would significantly raise sea levels.  But as the IPCC notes, that Antarctic sea ice extent and thickness have increased.  More recent research shows that Antarctic temperatures have cooled since 1966,[5] and that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is thickening rather than thinning.[6]


5)       In October 2000, a U.S. government report found that global climate change may harm the United States by altering crop yields, accelerating sea-level rise, and increasing the spread of tropical infectious diseases.


Response:  The report referred to is the U.S. National Assessment report, Climate Change Impacts on the United States.  The report was so thoroughly discredited that it was never officially released.  Technical reviewers, both global warming boosters and skeptics, strongly criticized the report.


Two well known scientists, who support the global warming theory, are very critical of the report. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research argued that “There are major problems with the report, in terms of structure and the content.” He also noted that, “The two models used are quite different and give different results, so how can they both verify against the observed data?” Finally, “The article I referred to (elsewhere) on the use and abuse of climate models describes appropriate use of models. Here is a classic example of misuse and abuse of them.”


James Hansen of the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction pointed out that, “The projected 1% per year or 2- to 3-fold 21st century increase in CO2 assumed in this study may be pessimistic. From what I understand, it over predicts recent trends, and may not account for observed slowing of the rate of global population growth. I didn't find supporting evidence in the accompanying technical paper. Therefore, I think that it is overstated. Either cite empirical evidence or acknowledge uncertainties in this and other projections.”


Some of the comments were appropriately flippant. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said the report seemed to be “written by a committee of Greenpeace, Ted Turner, Al Gore and Stephen King (for the horror lines). I saw no attempt at scientific objectivity.”  Jae Edmonds of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory commented that, “The current version of the report reads more like an advertising supplement to Time Magazine than a national assessment.” And later, “The example of flooding in New York is needlessly hyperbolic. If you want to go that route, and I don’t recommend it, why don’t you get out the old picture from the cover of Parade Magazine of the Statue of Liberty covered with water up to her arm pits.”[7]


The problem with the report is that it attempted to do the impossible, that is, to make regional scale predictions about climate change.  Predictions about what would happen in the U.S. as a result of global warming have no scientific validity.


The IPCC noted in its report that “coherent picture of regional climate change via available regionalization techniques cannot yet be drawn (pg. 623).”  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted on its website, with regard to regional climate modeling, 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.”[8]  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.”[9]


6)       In 1992, the United States ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the ultimate objective of which is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.  Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”


Response:  According to S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric scientist and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, “No one knows what constitutes a ‘dangerous’ concentration. There exists, as yet, no scientific basis for defining such a concentration, or even of knowing whether it is more or less than current levels of carbon dioxide. We do know that stabilization at 1990 levels, according to the IPCC, would require cuts in energy use of 60-80 percent worldwide. Such a policy would not only severely damage our economy but foreclose economic development for most of the world’s populations and condemn them to poverty.”[10]


7)       The UNFCCC stated in part that the Parties to the Convention are to implement policies “with the aim of returning …. to their 1990 levels anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases” under the principle that “policies and measures …. should be appropriate for the specific conditions of each Party and should be integrated with national development programmes, taking into account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.”


Response:  See previous response.


8)       There is a shared international responsibility to address this problem, as industrial nations are the largest historic and current emitters of greenhouse gases and developing nations’ emissions will significantly increase in the future.


Response:  The “problem” has not yet been defined or even identified.  Until it is, there is little hope of rationally addressing it.  Any efforts in the absence of adequate information would likely be dangerously counterproductive.


9)       The UNFCCC further stated “developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof,” as these nations are the largest historic and current emitters of greenhouse gases.  The UNFCCC also stated that “steps required to understand and address climate change will be environmentally, socially and economically most effective if they are based on relevant scientific, technical and economic considerations and continually re-evaluated in the light of new findings in these areas.”


Response:  See previous response.


10)   Senate Resolution 98 of the 105th Congress, which expressed that developing nations must also be included in any future, binding climate change treaty and such a treaty must not result in serious harm to the United States economy, should not cause the United States to abandon its shared responsibility to help reduce the risks of climate change and its impacts.  Future international efforts in this regard should focus on recognizing the equitable responsibilities for addressing climate change by all nations, including commitments by the largest developing country emitters in a future, binding climate change treaty.


Response: See previous responses to numbers 6 and 8.


11)   It is the position of the United States that it will not interfere with the plans of any nation that chooses to ratify and implement the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC.


Response:  Agreed.  This also implies that the U.S. should formally remove its signature from the Kyoto Protocol, clearing the way for other countries to bring it into force.  For the protocol to come into force, Annex I signatories representing 55 percent of Annex I emissions must ratify the treaty.  The U.S. refusal to ratify makes that task very difficult.  If the U.S. were to remove its signature from the treaty, the threshold would be significantly lower, removing any U.S. obstacles to other countries’ desire to bring it into force.


12)   American businesses need to know how governments worldwide will address the risks of climate change.


Response: This does not justify U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.


13)   The United States benefits from investments in the research, development and deployment of a range of clean energy and efficiency technologies that can reduce the risks of climate change and its impacts and that can make the United States economy more productive, bolster energy security, create jobs, and protect the environment.


Response:  The only beneficiaries from federal investments (read subsidies) in clean energy and energy efficiency are select special interests, not the U.S. as a whole.  The U.S. government has already subsidized the renewable energy industry to the tune of tens of billions of dollars over the last 25 years with little to show for it.  Non-hydro renewables contribute almost nothing to the nation’s energy supply, increase energy prices, reduce productivity and does nothing for the environment.


b) Sense of the Congress. – It is the sense of the United States Congress that the United States should demonstrate international leadership and responsibility in reducing the health, environmental and economic risks posed by climate change by:


1)       taking responsible action to ensure significant and meaningful reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from all sectors:


Response:  What does “responsible action” mean when the problem has yet to be identified?  If the speculative catastrophic scenarios of global warming are true, then nothing short of vast decreases in fossil fuel use will have any climatic consequences.  If the Kyoto Protocol were fully implemented, it would decrease the amount of warming likely to occur by 2050 by a mere 0.07 degrees Celsius, an amount too small to detect. 


2)       creating flexible international and domestic mechanisms, including joint implementation, technology deployment, tradable credits for emissions reductions and carbon sequestration projects that will reduce, avoid, and sequester greenhouse gas emissions; and


Response:  A greater understanding of so called market mechanisms is leading economists to doubt their effectiveness.  According to Dr. Ross McKitrick, an economist with the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada, tradable credit systems are incredibly inefficient, and the most efficient policy would be a straightforward carbon tax.  Apart from the obvious political pitfalls of such a tax, McKitrick warns that the costs of a carbon tax would swamp any possible benefits.


The real impetus behind market mechanisms is that, unlike a tax, they hide from taxpayers the true costs of energy rationing shielding politicians from criticism, and create a carbon cartel that would transfer wealth already in use throughout the economy to the members of the cartel, i.e., those lucky enough to receive the initial allocation of permits.


3)       participating in international negotiations, including putting forth a proposal to the Conference of the Parties, with the objective of securing United States’ participation in a future binding climate change treaty in a manner that is consistent with the environmental objectives of the UNFCCC, that protects the economic interests of the United States, and recognizes the shared international responsibility for addressing climate change, including developing country participation.


Response: The U.S. should no longer participate in climate change negotiations, particularly with the European Union.  The European Union has been totally dishonorable in the negotiations to date. In Bonn, Germany in November 2000, the U.S. made concession after concession, but the EU refused to take yes for an answer, thereby scuttling the talks. The EU blamed U.S. negotiators and accused them of endangering the planet.


In truth, the EU’s green sympathies are a façade. European economies have stagnated for several years under the weight of onerous economic regulations and taxes, including heavy energy taxes. As a result, U.S. companies are out-competing EU companies. Rather than deregulate, the EU has sought to level the playing field by saddling U.S. companies with similar restrictions through the Kyoto Protocol.


The EU's commissioner for the environment, Margot Wallstrom, said as much when President Bush decided to forego domestic CO2 regulations. “This is not a simple environmental issue where you can say it is an issue where the scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations, this is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world. You have to understand what is at stake and that is why it is serious.”[11]


In other words, the EU is using the Kyoto negotiations to level the economic playing field with the U.S. by dragging the U.S. down.  President Bush rightly shunned Kyoto in the face of such obvious dishonesty.


Conclusion:  The “Sense of the Congress” provision passed out of the Senate is based on a house of cards.  Its supposed “findings” do not coincide with the latest scientific research, which does not support global warming catastrophist claims.  The best available scientific evidence suggests that the amount of warming likely to occur over the next several decades will be trivial, if not beneficial.


Embarking on any effort to ration energy use would impose significant costs on U.S. citizens with no hope of any return.  Compliance with Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy as much as $400 billion per year with virtually no effect on the climate.  As the Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg has pointed out, “We should not spend vast amounts of money to cut a tiny slice of the global temperature increase when this constitutes a poor use of resources and when we could probably use these funds far more effectively in the developing world.”[12]


Based on estimates by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum, Lomborg demonstrates “that the cost to the OECD countries of complying with Kyoto will – each year – by 2050 cost about as much as global warming will cost in 2100 (that is, about 2 percent of present GDP).  And almost the entire cost of global warming in 2010 must nevertheless be paid, because Kyoto emissions reduction will only delay the temperature increase about six years in 2100…. Put very simplistically, the world ends up paying for the trouble from global warming twice over – first, every year from 2050 we pay 2 percent of GDP for cutting CO2, and when reaching 2100 we pay 2 percent more because of higher temperatures which are almost unaffected by the Kyoto Protocol.”[13]


The “Sense of the Congress” should be to scuttle the whole Kyoto process and anything remotely similar to it.

[1] Thomas Stocker, “Climate panel looked at all the evidence,” Nature, 410: 299, March 15, 2001.

[2] Mark Z. Jacobson, “Strong radiative heating due to the mixing state of black carbon in atmospheric aerosols,” Nature, 409: 695-72, February 8, 2001.

[3] Stephen H. Schneider, “What is ‘dangerous’ climate change?,” Nature, 411: 17-19, May 3, 2001.

[4] IPCC, 2001: Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis.  Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Houghton, J.T., Y. Ding, D.J. Griggs, M. Noguer, P.J. van der Linden, X. Dai, K. Maskell, and C.A. Johnson (eds.)].  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

[5] Peter T. Doran, John C. Priscu, W. Berry Lyons, John E. Walsh, Andrew G. Fountain, Diane M. McKnight, Daryl L. Moorhead, Ross A. Virginia, Diana H. Wall, Gary D. Clow, Christian H. Fritsen, Christopher P. McKay, Andrew N. Parsons, “Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response,” Nature, 415: 517-520, January 31, 2002.

[6] Ian Joughin and Slawek Tulaczyk, “Positive Mass Balance of the Ross Ice Streams, West Antarctica,” Science, 295: 451-452, January 18, 2002.

[7] David E. Wojick, Not a Pretty Picture: What the Experts Say About the USGCRP National Assessment Report “Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change.”   http://www.co2andclimate.org/Articles/2000/scare1.htm.

[8] http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/climate/future/usclimate.html.

[9] http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/pubs/brochures/B2000/simulations.html.

[10] S. Fred Singer, Testimony before the House Small Business Committee, July 29, 1998.

[11] Stephen Castle, “EU Sends Strong Warning to Bush Over Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” The Independent (London), March 19, 2001.

[12] Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, (2001: Cambridge University Press), p. 322.

[13] Ibid, p. 304.