Enron Fallout Hits Global Warming
Enron Corporation’s spectacular downfall has begun to affect the ongoing debate over U.S. global warming policies. On January 13, the Washington Post carried a front-page article by Dan Morgan that describes Enron working with the Clinton-Gore Administration on the Kyoto Protocol. The article quotes an internal Enron memo that concludes that Kyoto would be “good for Enron stock.”
The Post quotes another Enron memo that states that Kyoto would “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”
Enron executives believed that mandatory carbon dioxide reductions would benefit Enron’s natural gas production, pipeline, and trading businesses. As the leading energy trader and middleman, they believed that Enron was also in a prime position to profit from any emissions trading program that was created to reach the Kyoto targets.
Enron did not give up after President Bush decided to withdraw the U. S. from the protocol. Jerry Seper, in a front-page Washington Times story on January 16, reported that Enron continued to push the Bush administration to adopt an emissions trading program for carbon dioxide.
Robert Novak’s syndicated column (Chicago Sun-Times, January 17, 2002) revealed more details of Enron Chairman Ken Lay’s contacts with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense [Fund].
Novak wrote that “Lay has been painted as a heartless advocate of free market economics when he was actually working behind the scenes for control of energy emissions, establishing alliances with the most radical environmental pressure groups. Enron was not about ideology and certainly not partisanship, but was using governmental contacts to maximize profits.”
Patrice Hill, in another front-page article in the Washington Times (January 21, 2002), further detailed Enron’s lobbying as part of the “Clean Power Group” for emission trading, and the Lay-Krupp-O’Neill connection through the Heinz Center.
The other advocates for some kind of emissions trading scheme seem to be laying low and also downplaying their connections to Enron. For example, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a leading foundation-funded industry-front group for energy-suppression policies, recently removed Enron from the list of members of its Business Environmental Leadership Council and removed many documents that mention Enron from its web site (www.pewclimate.org ). Some of these documents can still be found archived on major search engines such as Google.
Some of the corporations that push emissions trading are not only on the defensive politically. Fortune (January 7, 2002) noted that the stock prices and credit ratings of other “energy merchants” were falling. Companies counting on making money from the hidden tax of energy rationing may not be good investments.
German Industry Opposes European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme
German industry has come out in public against the European Union’s scheme to trade greenhouse gas emissions permits. In a November 28, 2001 letter to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a number of major German corporations, including Thyssen Krupp, Bayer, and BASF, state that the EU Commission’s “Draft Guidelines for Emissions Trading at the Company Level for CO2” would be “economically unbearable for German industry.”
In an attachment to their letter, the German companies explain their main objections to the EU’s draft guidelines. First, the trading scheme would punish companies that are expanding production and provide “shutdown premiums” to companies that were cutting production and closing facilities. This would encourage moving production to other countries.
The attachment details other problems with the EU’s emissions trading plan - most of them economic. For example, “Emission trading heightens the costs of national businesses, which are already subject to special burdens affecting their global competitiveness from eco-taxes, the Renewable Energies Law, the CHP [combined heat and power] Preliminary Law, the planned CHP law, and self-imposed obligations.”
Another objection is that the EU’s plan would “lead to centralized production, employment, and investment controls by Brussels [that is, by the EU].”
Maine Co-Op Against Regulating CO2
The Eastern Maine Electric Co-operative came out against regulating carbon dioxide emissions at a board meeting on January 23. The directors passed a resolution that charges the chief executive officer “with the objective of helping prevent such economic harm by using his resources to influence legislators, regulators, executives and administrative departments with respect to the C02 issue.” The board also requires the CEO to educate the public about global warming issues.
The Antarctic is Cooling
A forthcoming study in Nature, that has appeared on its website as an “advance online publication,” has found that the Antarctic has been cooling for some time now (www.nature.com ). This contradicts the findings of the climate models upon which the case for global warming is built. They predict that the Earth’s poles will warm more rapidly than the rest of the Earth.
According to the study, “Climate models generally predict amplified warming in the polar regions, as observed in Antarctica’s peninsula region over the second half of the 20th century.” The new study finds that “Our spatial analysis of Antarctic meteorological data demonstrates a net cooling on the Antarctic continent between 1966 and 2000, particularly during summer and autumn.” The McMurdo Dry Valleys, for example, have cooled about 0.7 degrees Celsius per decade during this period of time.
The authors conclude that, “Continental Antarctic cooling, especially the seasonality of cooling, poses challenges to models of climate, and ecosystem change.”
The research into the continents temperature record was motivated by the unexpected coldness of the summers, according to lead author Peter Doran with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. “Two or three years ago when we were waiting for the big summers, we noticed that they didn’t come,” said Doran. We were thinking that warm summers were the norm, and we were saying, ‘It’s going to get back to normal,’ but it never did” (Washington Post, January 14, 2002).
Michael Oppenheimer, chief scientist for Environmental Defense isn’t buying it, however. “I’d be very careful with this,” he told the Washington Post. “My general view has been that there’s simply not enough data to make a broad statement about all of Antarctica.”
Of course, lack of data has never stopped Oppenheimer from making “broad” statements about the whole Earth. In a November 2000 Environmental Defense press release he stated, for instance, “The 1990s, likely the hottest decade of the past thousand years, capped decades of shrinking glaciers, thinning Arctic ice, intensifying rainstorms, and rising seas,” and that this means that, “The world must end its dependence on fossil fuels that are too dirty and too expensive. Governments must take action now.”
It seems that the climate models have struck out. Strike one: they can’t simulate the current climate. Strike two: they predict greater and more rapid warming in the atmosphere than at the surface. The opposite is happening. Strike three: they predict amplified warming at the poles, which are cooling instead.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet is Growing
A new study appearing in Science (January 18, 2002) concludes that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is thickening, rather than thinning as was previously thought. Earlier studies found that in the Ross Sea Sector, “The grounding line (the point where the ice sheet loses contact with its bed and begins to float) has retreated nearly 1300 km along the western side of the Ross Embayment,” since the last glacial maximum.
This led researchers to predict that the entire WAIS would collapse in 4000 years, implying a sea-level rise of 12.5 to 15 centimeters per century. This was based on a measurement of a loss of ice mass of -20.9 ±13.7 gigatons per year.
The authors of the new study, Ian Joughin and Slawek Tulaczyk, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, note, “The ice-discharge estimates of earlier studies relied on relatively sparse in situ measurements of ice-flow velocity. For some ice streams the…estimates were based on only one or two velocity measurements.”
The new study used satellite remote sensing to get better measurements. Contrary to earlier studies, the authors found “strong evidence for ice-sheet growth (26.8 ± 14.9 gigatons per year).” They conclude, “The overall positive mass balance may signal an end to the Holocene retreat of these ice streams.”
Hansen Downgrades Warming Threat
James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 18, 2002) that downgrades the magnitude of global warming.
According to his analysis, the growth rate of climate forcing from greenhouse gases peaked in 1980 and has since declined from about 5 watts per square meter (W/m2) per century to about 3 W/m2 per century. When all forcings, both negative and positive, are taken into account total net forcing is about 1.6 ±1.1 W/m2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes a 4 W/m2 forcing. As the study notes, “Most climate simulations, as summarized by the IPCC, do not include all of the negative forcings; indeed, if they did, and other forcings were unchanged, little global warming would be obtained.”
Hansen and his co-author Makiko Sato, with Center for Climate Systems Research at the Columbia University Earth Institute, predict that “Global warming at a rate +0.15 ±0.05 degrees C per decade will occur over the next several decades.” This is what the so-called skeptics have been saying all along.
Hansen and Sato put an interesting twist on their argument, however. They state that “the slowdown was caused mainly by phase-out of CFCs” (chlorofluorocarbons), which are also greenhouse gases, under the Montreal Protocol. The previous claim that sulfate aerosol emissions are masking the warming is no longer satisfactory since that has been cancelled out by the discovery of an equal but opposite forcing from black carbon.
Despite Hansen’s latest conclusion that the planet will only warm about 1.5 degrees C over the next century, a miniscule amount, he still argues for international cooperation to stop global warming. He calls for a “cooperative, not punitive” program of technology transfer from developed to developing world to reduce emissions.
News from Australia
Opponents of the Kyoto Protocol in Australia are clearly making progress in their campaign to defeat ratification. The Canberra Times (January 10, 2002) recently published an op-ed by Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute that attacks the Lavoisier Group in vitriolic terms.
The Lavoisier Group provides the principal intellectual and organizational opposition in Australia to Kyoto and was organized by our colleague, N. Ray Evans of Melbourne. Hamilton accuses the Lavoisier Group of painting the UN’s global warming negotiations as “an elaborate conspiracy in which hundreds of climate scientists have twisted their results to support the ‘climate change theory’ in order to protect their research funding.” Sounds plausible to us.
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