October 1998

Christy and Spencer Respond to Critics

For the last 18 years, John Christy at Earth Systems Science Laboratory (ESSL), University of Alabama, Huntsville and Roy Spencer at NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center have constructed a global temperature record using measurements from microwave sounding units aboard satellites. These data have confounded the warming predictions of climate models, and in fact show a cooling trend from 1979 to 1997.

Recently, the accuracy of these data have been challenged in the peer reviewed literature, the most important criticism coming last month (Cooler Heads, August 19, 1998) from Frank Wentz and Matthias Schabel (WS) of Remote Sensing Systems. They claimed that the satellite data is distorted by orbital decay. Christy and Spencer, along with Elena Lobl, (CSL) also of ESSL, in a new study published in the Journal of Climate (August 1998) painstakingly trace their methodology in constructing the temperature record. While the CSL paper was submitted prior to the publication of the WS paper, it does address the WS papers criticisms.

CSL show how they intercalibrate each of the eight satellites separately to remove the biases that result from various factors. Specifically, CSL performed the adjustment to account for drift-error and cyclic fluctuations. This is relevant to the WS article in that the analysis by CSL removed a large part of the bias created by orbital decay, even though they were not aware of it at the time.

CSL also responded to a paper in Nature (March 13, 1997) by James Hurrell and Kevin Trenberth (HT) of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The HT article claimed to have discovered spurious downward jumps in the satellite record that resulted from changing the satellites. Removing the jumps changes the temperature trend from negative to positive, according to HT. After careful analysis, however, CSL “found no such jumps by comparison with independent satellite and traditional atmospheric measurements.”

Water Vapor Still Not Resolved

One of the most important and least understood components of the global warming hypothesis is the role of water vapor feedback. Water vapor is by far the most powerful greenhouse gas and accounts for nearly all of the natural greenhouse effect.

According to global warming proponents, increases of carbon dioxide will warm the planet by slightly increasing evaporation and water vapor in the troposphere. This increase in tropospheric water vapor is what accounts for most of the warming in global warming projections.

The problem is that nobody knows for sure whether this feedback is positive (enhancing the effects of increased carbon dioxide) or negative (canceling the effects of carbon dioxide). Richard Lindzen, a climatologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that the feedback will be negative, and that increased carbon dioxide will actually dry out the upper troposphere. A study last year in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (June 1997) by Roy Spencer of NASA and William Braswell of Nichols Research Center found that the tropical free troposphere is much dryer than represented in the climate models an early indication that Lindzen may be right.

An article in Science (August 21, 1998) discusses the difficulties in detecting a trend in the water vapor content of the troposphere. The entire enterprise is plagued with inadequate instrumentation and conflicting agreement between types of instruments. A change to better sensors may also give the false impression “that the upper troposphere is drying simply because of the better instrumentation.”

The author of the article, David Rind of NASA, concludes, “so far, there has been no evidence to indicate that a strong negative water vapor feedback in the upper troposphere will in fact arise as climate warms. However, without our being able to observe upper tropospheric and stratospheric water vapor with sufficient accuracy over a long enough time period to see ongoing trends, some uncertainty will remain in this most important of climate sensitivity feedbacks.”

DOE Study Found to be Misleading

One of the first economic analyses used by the Clinton administration to downplay the costs of reducing carbon emissions was the “Five Lab” study done by the Department of Energy. The studys conclusions, as found in the Executive Summary and the “Analysis Results” section, “are not derived from, nor supported by, the technical chapters that analyze each energy-using sector.”

“Some of these main conclusions of the Five Lab study are merely ad hoc assumptions,” according to a new report by Ronald J. Sutherland at the American Petroleum Institute. The paper, A Critique of the “Five Lab” Study, also claims that “the Five Lab study uses a methodology to estimate costs and benefits that is inconsistent with the economic principles of cost-benefit analysis.”

The “Analysis Results” chapter shows the estimated reduction in carbon emissions under three scenarios: business as usual, efficiency and high efficiency/low carbon (HE/LC). The HE/LC scenario assumes a fee of $25 and $50 per ton of carbon dioxide. But, as Sutherland points out, “The results reported for a $25 and $50 carbon fee were not obtained from analyses in three of the four sectors.” In fact, “there is no correspondence between the assumptions actually used in the analytical sections of this study and the $25 and $50 carbon permit fee.” Thus the claim by the administration that the costs of carbon emission reductions are negligible are based on ad hoc assumptions not from the actual sector modeling analyses.

Other ad hoc assumptions found in the Analysis Result section include the discount rates used in the “Optimistic” (low discount rate) and “Pessimistic” (high discount rate) scenarios. Sutherland points out that “the discount rates do not appear in the sector modeling analysis, but are only discussed in the “Analysis Results” chapter as a key component of the Five Lab study.” Surprisingly, the Five Lab study states: “These discount rates are not those that describe current market behavior, but rather are reflective of costs of capital if the market did invest in energy-efficiency measures.” In other words the rates used were not actual rates.

The Five Lab study also claims that the benefits of reducing carbon emissions outweigh the costs. Sutherland shows, however, that the study ignores costs such as those “associated with policies designed to encourage technology adoption, such as rebates, subsidies and accelerated depreciation, higher energy prices imposed on consumers, nor the cost of prematurely retiring productive coal plants,” among others. Finally, the study failed to estimate the monetary benefit of the climate change improvement. In short it got both the costs and benefits wrong.

SO2 Trading Costlier Than Claimed

A Public Utilities Fortnightly report (May 15, 1998) casts doubt on claims that SO2 trading is a workable model for carbon emissions trading. Evidently, the full costs of the sulfur reduction have not yet been realized and wont be known until Phase II of the program is fully implemented.

Proponents of the Kyoto Protocol have pointed to the U.S. acid rain program as an example of how to reduce emissions inexpensively. Like the acid rain program, the argument goes, the cost of reducing greenhouse gases will be negligible.

Heres why the acid rain program cant be used for comparison purposes: Phase II of the SO2 program will require that all major “fossil units” participate, and the cap will be lower than in Phase I. Utilities over-complied during Phase I and “banked” their emissions allowances in anticipation of the lower Phase II cap. At some point during Phase II, utilities will fully draw down their banked allowances and the real costs of compliance will be revealed.

Currently allowances are selling for about $100 per ton even though the marginal cost of compliance is actually $500. This is because utilities had difficulty in estimating their marginal costs. As a result, they may have invested “too heavily in control measures, creating more allowances for sale than needed to achieve the cap in any given year,” causing allowance prices to fall below actual marginal cost.

Once Phase II is fully implemented, long run marginal costs will equal the price of allowances. These costs should fall well within the range estimated by critics of sulfur emission controls.

The comment in August by Bill Richardson, President Clinton’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Energy, that global warming advocates had been “outgunned” came as a surprise to those of us who have been watching the huge amount of cash being amassed by interest groups focussed on this issue. The U.S. government, of course, has been spending roughly $2 billion a year on global warming and now proposes a new $6.3 billion package, which includes a set-aside for public “education.”

But in addition, Pew Charitable Trust has pledged some $50 million over the next 10 years to promote this issue to the press and the public, largely through the National Environmental Trust and the Pew Center for Global Climate Change. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation just donated $1.5 million to train 60 “scientist-communicators” to work the press on global warming. Millions more have been donated by the W. Alton Jones Foundation and other foundations. The issue has been a major focus of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and dozens of other green activist organizations. On the industry side, approximately $13 million was spent on a nationwide ad campaign in the fall of 1997. Word is that industry plans a similar ad campaign this fall.

In the run-up to the next round of global warming talks, in Buenos Aires in early November, we thought it would be useful to try to gauge how the global warming debate is faring here in the United States. We did a Lexis-Nexis search of editorials and commentary in major publications, using June 1, 1998 as the starting point. We figured that beginning at this date would be a better measure of global warming’s sustainibility as an issue, and would also reflect any concerns raised by the Vice President’s many press briefings over the summer.

Our search, of course, did not include television, which has been largely pro-warming, nor radio, which has been largely against it. Both radio and television reach tens of millions of listeners. Very small newspapers were deliberately excluded, in part because they tend to be strongly conservative and would likely skew the results in the “No” column. News articles would have been too numerous to count, but we figured that editorials and commentary should reflect their impact.

A few of these commentary articles are clearly meant to be self-serving, i.e. industry representatives, Green activists, nuclear engineers promoting nuclear power. Only the editorials reflect the official position of the publications themselves, though all of the articles reveal what their readership has been seeing. We plan to keep a running tally through the end of the year, so if we’ve missed items, please bring them to our attention.

In reviewing this list, several things jumped out at us. First, 41 of the 66 articles appeared in August, a reflection of the Clinton administration’s–and particularly Mr. Gore’s–promotion of the issue. Second, there was a curious dearth of support on either the editorial or commentary pages at two major newspapers that strongly promote global warming on the news side: the New York Times and the Washington Post. Finally, there was a general failure of representatives of either industry or green activist organizations to attack this issue on the commentary pages. Of the industry-based articles that did appear, several were middle-of-the-roadish. The one Green group commentary piece, from Ozone Action, presented a shrill argument for an industry plot. Both industry and activists are working directly with the U.S. government. But it would be arrogant if either thinks that deals can be struck without convincing the American people that such policies are needed or in any way useful.

Over the next two months, perhaps we shall get a clearer picture of what Bill Richardson meant when he said the U.S. government is being “outgunned.”

For now, if it means losing the debate on the pages of major newspapers and magazines, Richardson appears to be right.

Editorials Opposing Kyoto Treaty: 25 publications — 13 editorials, 26 commentary articles

Charleston (SC) Post and Courier: Former government scientist Joseph McDowell in a column “Why is this debate still alive when no credible evidence has been found to support global warming theory?” (8/5/98)

Chattanooga (TN) Free Press: Free Press Editor and Publisher Lee Anderson in a column “there is still no proof of the wild global warming claims of the alarmists who ignore natural climate cycles (8/4/98)

Chicago (IL) Sun Times: Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner in a column says “global warming paranoia just a lot of hot air” (6/19/98)

Chicago (IL) Tribune: Column by Joan Beck says “global warming verdict still up in the air.” 7/9/98)

Detroit (MI) News: Editorial “It is regrettable that the National Council of Churches has embraced Mr. Gore’s line (on global warming).

Freelance writer Daniel Hager in a column “Many of us, taking a longer view of climate history, remain skeptics” (7/20/98)

Duluth (MN) News Tribune: Citizens Research Council President Clyde Nelson in a column “Must we rush into the unknown abyss of treaties that supersede our own Constitution in a mad rush to avert a disaster when even today large numbers of learned scientists cannot seem to agree on the cause, or the impact (of global warming) on the world’s population?” (8/1/98)

Electricity Daily: Editorial critical of “Hansen’s Global Warming Index” (7/27/98)

Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram: Knight-Ridder columnist John Carlisle asks “Is the sun to blame for global warming? Biggest factor on earth’s temperature is 93 million miles away” (7/6/98)

Investor’s Business Daily: Editorial “(The U.S. EPA) is committed to spending your money to persuade you to tell your senator to get on the global warming bandwagon…The EPA calls this educational outreach. It smells like lobbying” (8/4/98)

Junk Science Home Page Publisher Steve Milloy and Michael Gough of the Cato Institute in a column say scientist Frederick Seitz is the “prime target of a government smear campaign” as part of the “broader effort to squelch scientific debate on global warming” (8/7/98)

Journal of Commerce: Editorial notes evidence that the Earth’s climate from 1000-1200 A.D. was about 1 degree Celsius warmer than today, with no input from cars or power plants. (7/6/98)

Small Business Survival Committee chief economist Raymond Keating in a column blasts White House economist Janet Yellen’s view that the costs of Kyoto will be small (7/16/98)

Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute “For farmers of the world, the Kyoto treaty could mean a 75 percent surge in energy prices, leading to radically higher prices for such energy-expensive inputs as machinery, pesticides, and fertilizer.” (9/1/98)

Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal: Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates VP Mary Novak, in a column “Instead of hobbling our economy with costly new regulations, we should pursue alternatives to the Kyoto Accord” (8/14/98)

Little Rock (AK) Democrat-Gazette: Editorial “No wonder (Gore) always seems so uncomfortable…He’s not a statesman. He’s a weatherman…The man really missed his calling” (7/13/98

Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal: Kentucky Farm Bureau President William Sprague “America’s most potent agricultural trading competitors…won’t have to shoulder the same cost increases that our producers have to bear (under Kyoto)” (8/29/98)

Montgomery (AL) Advertiser: Editorial “There remains much legitimate dispute about the extent of global warming and its impact on humankind.” (8/13/98)

Omaha World-Herald: Editorial “(Gore) seems to be seeking votes by crying out that the sky is falling” (8/14/98)

National Review: Cover story by Jonathan Adler of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says “global warming is not a threat to health or the economy. Plans to address it are” (8/17/98)

The Patriot-Ledger (Quincy, MA): Columnist D.A. Mittell, Jr. writes “let’s cut the alarmist claptrap on warm Earth.” (9/5/98)

Philadelphia Inquirer: Columnist David Boldt “We’d be idiots to lash ourselves to growth-slowing policies based on a very dubious, very long-range weather forecast.” (8/25/98)

Providence (RI) Journal-Bulletin: Mackubin Thomas Owens in a column complains about the ramifications of “global warming vs. U.S. security” (7/31/98)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Editorial “Science is mostly irrelevant to Gore…What Gore is trying to do is drum up support for the Kyoto treaty” (7/21/98)

Editorial “Nothing in the natural world is static…Won’t someone please tell Al Gore?” (8/25/98)

UVA Prof Patrick Michaels in a column “(Americans) know when someone is yelling fire in a crowded greenhouse” (8/18/98)

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO): Center for the New West President Philip Burgess in a column “Nearly every publicly available study estimating the true costs of Kyoto ends up with dramatically higher cost estimates than those used by Clinton-Gore true believers” (8/4/98)

Salt Lake (UT) Tribune: National Center for Public Policy Research VP David Ridenour in a column “The unusually hot air blowing this summer has come from the White House, not from global warming” (8/16/98)

Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review: Columnist John Webster “on the basis of this uncertainty and exaggeration, the United States would be crazy to don a regulatory straitjacket”: (8/14/98)

Tampa (FL) Tribune: Editorial says “Gore’s attempt to link Florida fires to global warming is pseudo-science” (7/12/98)

Washington (DC) Times: Editorial “Al Gore Warms Up: Is there any misfortune, disaster or otherwise unwelcome phenomenon out there that (Gore) can’t blame on alleged global warming?” (7/16/98)

Syndicated columnist Oliver North writes “…no matter what Kyoto says, businesses aren’t going to stop using fossil fuels. They will simply stop using them in the United States. And…that means fewer jobs” (7/18/98)

UVA Prof. Patrick Michaels writes about “false alarms in the greenhouse” (7/20/98)

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chief Economist J.T. Young in a column writes that the Administration has virtually no blueprint for action behind its proposal to spend $6.3 billion on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (8/4/98)

Cato Institute foreign policy analyst Gary Dempsey in a column says ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is “courting global disaster.” (8/4/98)

National Center for Public Policy Research VP David Ridenour writes about “cooler readings of the heatwave hype” (8/19/98)

Editorial “The Clinton Administration has created an industry of its own to sow fear of climate change worldwide.” (8/31/98);

UVA Prof. Patrick Michaels “Mr. Gore is not talking about the globe’s temperatures after all, and the science he’s peddling hasn’t even been peer reviewed” (8/31/98)

Editorial talks about foundation funding to promote global warming in “deep pockets, hot air.” (8/31/98)

Supporting Kyoto Treaty: 19 publications — 11 editorials, 8 commentary articles

Atlanta Constitution: Editorial “We can ignore these warnings if we choose. But our children and grandchildren may find it hard to ignore the legacy of our greed and selfishness” (8/19/98)

Baltimore Sun: Penn State Prof. of nuclear engineering Anthony J. Baratta promotes “using nuclear power to cool the planet” (6/17/98)

Boston Globe: Editorial “…stop heeding a few powerful but shortsighted interests and take the global threat seriously” (8/14/98)

Chicago Tribune: Editorial “prudence and common sense–and mounting scientific evidence–(suggest) that global warming must be taken seriously” (8/9/98)

Des Moines Register: Editorial “The environment we’re comfortable with simply can’t handle all the greenhouse gases” (8/17/98)

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Editorial “global warming is too serious to be used for partisan advantage” (8/12/98)

Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram: Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins “we continue to report global warming as though it were a debate among scientists. It is not.” (8/13/98)

Las Vegas Review-Journal: UNLV geology Prof. Stephen Rowland in a column writes “…our children and grandchildren will pay a far higher price and suffer serious consequences if we ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence” (7/26/98)

Los Angeles Times: Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins writes “debate dries up on global warming” (8/16/98)

Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal: Editorial “…the warming trend is going to impose big costs on governments and business enterprises all over the world” (8/13/98)

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Editorial “This summer might be a harbinger of the calamity to come” (8/12/98)

Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger: Editorial “The long-range threat is going to continue–no matter what the forecast shows.” (8/24/98)

North Carolina News & Observer: NCSU nuclear engineering Prof. Donald Dudziak in a column “Mounting evidence that the planet may be warming…require(s) a larger role for nuclear power” (7/17/98)

Palm Beach Post: Editorial “these fluctuations are not normal…” (8/24/98)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Editorial “Americans are going to have to face the fact that fighting global warming and its consequences will cost some money” (8/12/98)

Salt Lake (UT) Tribune: Ozone Action Executive Director John Passacantando in a column “Go ahead and listen to the fossil fuel lobbyists bad-mouth the president and vice president for talking about what is increasingly the most obvious global threat we have ever faced” (8/16/98)

Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review: Columnist Carol MacPherson “global warming is a fact” (8/14/98)

Vancouver (WA) Columbian: Columnist Michael Zuzel writes “Taking action carries a cost, but as recent weather strongly suggests, so does not taking action” (7/19/98)

Washington Post: Editorial calls on Congress to remove riders to the EPA’s funding bill that would bar “contemplation of implementation” of the Kyoto Protocol” (7/21/98)

GLOBAL WARMING/KYOTO–MAYBE: 7 publications — 2 editorials, 6 commentary articles.

Boston Globe: Massachusetts Petroleum Council Executive Director Frank Tivan, in a column “No thoughtful observer would dismiss warming out of hand. But given the scientific debate over the problem, the economic pain is skewed way out of proportion.” (8/11/98)

The Economist: Editorial “…at the very least it seems sensible to invest in better thermometers” (8/15/98)

Insight magazine: Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci in a column writes “By agreeing to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions and leaving the accord’s impact on military operations ambiguous, the administration effectively has hamstrung the Defense Department’s ability to protect U.S. national security…The Senate must demand a blanket exemption for all military operations” (6/15/98)

Journal of Commerce: American Petroleum Institute Executive VP William O’Keefe in a column writes that there are “sensible steps” that can be taken to address climate change: energy efficient technology, voluntary emissions reductions, including developing nations in any emissions reduction campaign (7/6/98)

Harvard Prof. Robert Stavins in a column “contrary to overly optimistic claims…it could cost the U.S. economy between 0.3 percent and 3 percent of the annual gross national product to meet the U.S. targets under the Kyoto Protocol….Such costs are not trivial, but neither do they represent national economic catastrophe.” 8/7/98)

Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch: Media General News Service White House Correspondent Marsha Mercer in a column “Gore evidently believes people may be ready for an environmentally aware president who can save us from climate doom” (8/16/98)

Tampa (FL) Tribune: Editorial “Gore’s half answer to global warming” (8/30/98)

Washington (DC) Times: NASA scientist Roy Spencer in a column writes “were it not for the standoff between the White House and Congress over the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and the concern over recent high temperatures, this would be just another technical debate hashed out on the pages of scientific journals” (9/3/98)