January 1999

Proponents of the theory of global warming predict more floods and droughts will occur unless their programs to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are carried out. But a new study to be published tomorrow in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reports there is little evidence that floods or droughts are becoming more severe.

  • In a survey going back as far as 1914 of 395 streams nationwide, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey say streams are carrying more water on average, but there was “no signal of a trend toward increased flooding.”

  • While damage from floods and droughts has been on the rise in the 1990s, most experts believe that is the result of people building more structures on flood plains and moving to areas with less reliable water supplies.

  • If anything, the researchers concluded, the trend since at least the 1940s — and perhaps the beginning of the century — is that the continental U.S. “is getting wetter, but less extreme.”

  • Of the 36 days of the year when the most water is running — the highest flow days — only 4 percent of gauges showed increases, while 5 percent showed decreases.

The researchers found no evidence that increases in flood or drought damage was due to drastic changes in weather patterns.

Source: Lee Bowman (Scripps Howard), “Dire Global Warming Forecasts Unfulfilled,” Washington Times, January 14, 1999.

Support is steadily building for proposed legislation that, if passed, could seriously erode industry opposition to limits on greenhouse gas emissions. According to the New York Times (January 3, 1999), “big companies are maneuvering to push through legislation giving them valuable credits for early actions to control the waste gases that the binding treaty would strictly limit.”

It also states that “the legislation would mark a significant shift in the debate in the Senate over climate change, potentially moderating the opposition to the treaty among big industry groups and linking their financial interests to the goals of treaty supporters.”

The legislation, sponsored by senators John Chafee (R-RI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Connie Mack, (R-FL), would give “ton-for-ton credits to any of the more than 150 companies that can document reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions under various voluntary federal programs.”

Its interesting that this legislation would only apply to a few businesses. As mentioned in the last issue of Cooler Heads, since there is no provision in the Kyoto Protocol for early credits, those awarded will have to be subtracted from the U.S. target, leading to a higher target for those companies not covered under the proposed legislation.

In a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, Senator Chafee said “the good guys who take action now will be rewarded by having these actions count.” He also said “this credit program may also make early greenhouse gas reductions financially valuable to the companies who make them.”

While some environmental groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, favor the legislation, others have criticized it. The National Environmental Trust says that the bill “does not provide sufficient guarantees that emission reductions credited under it will actually result from reduced emissions, as opposed to phantom paper reductions.” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed out that “there is a lot of money involved, and there is going to be a lot of ferocious jockeying to control who gets the money. It is going to be pretty intense.”

Something Funny with Peer Review

As reported in our last issue, Thomas Wigley with the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a paper in Science claiming to have detected the human influence on global warming. Atmospheric scientist Fred Singer with the Science and Environmental Policy Project challenged the findings of the paper. In a response to Singer, Wigley included the following comments of the reviewers to his paper:

Referee #1: “Overall evaluation: Excellent and excitingpresents an insightful and deceptively simple analysis”

Referee #2: “Overall evaluation: excellent and excitingan exciting paper using an underutilized techniquedeserves rapid publication”

Referee #3: “This is an excellent and exciting paperhas some very interesting and important resultsa novel, yet simple approach”

Wigley commented, “I hope you will note the uniformity of the referees opinions.”

To which Singer said, “We certainly did. In fact, we are still trying to calculate the statistical probability that three reviewers, wholly unknown to each other and examining the paper independently–as they should–would each come up with the rather unusual phrase excellent and exciting” (www.sepp.org).

Scientists Argue about 1998 Weather

With the end of 1998, there has been a lot of ink spilled in the press about the odd and sometimes devastating weather that occurred over the last year. A few scientists want to blame global warming, others think it is just more of the same natural variation weve always experienced. “Of course, we have natural variability, but that doesnt account for what went on,” says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “We dont have definitive answers, but there is reason to believe this is part of the signals of global warming we may be seeing.”

Jerry Mahlman, director of NOAAs Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, disagrees. “Theres no bad guy out there,” Mahlman insists. “Basically, were getting jerked around by the same stuff thats been jerking us around for a long time.” Mahlman is referring to El Nio and La Nia that have a powerful effect on the earths weather patterns.

One thing that atmospheric scientists have learned is that El Nio/La Nia oscillations affect the path of the jet stream that moves weather systems around the globe. El Nio causes the jet stream to flow steadily across North America, suppressing hurricanes and tornadoes. La Nia pushes the jet stream north which “sets off a loopy pattern that streams in over the Northwest, curves down into the countrys mid-section and back up toward the East Coast” bringing heavy winter storms, spring tornadoes and more hurricanes. “All hell breaks loose,” according to Jim OBrien, director of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University.

Theres another reason why 1998s weather has seemed so strange, according to Mahlman. “A lot of topsy-turviness is an impression born of the fact that weather in the news has gotten a lot sexier than it used to be,” Mahlman says. “Everybodys interested in it. You hear more about weather far from where you live than you used to . . . . Everybody has a heightened sense of weather as something that can get you.”

Scientists like Trenberth argue that global warming will lead to a nightmare scenario of weather-related global catastrophes. Others think it is “hysterical nonsense.” Theres little evidence to support such scenarios, and even if it does happen, they argue that a certain amount of global warming would be a good thing. “We have this gigantic heat engine made up of land, water, air, ice that makes it so wonderful for us to live here,” says OBrien. “[Global warming] means youve just thrown another log on the fire” (Palm Beach Post, December 31, 1998).

Record Cold Temperatures in the Midwest

Most of the environmental reporters around the country are fond of pointing out record high temperatures that occur around the country whenever they discuss global warming. When temperatures are colder than ordinary theres a deafening silence. For example, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post (December 8, 1998) mentioned the unseasonable warm temperatures experienced in the eastern United States at the time in an article about global warming. He failed to mention, however, that at the same time the western United States was experiencing record cold temperatures.

Currently much of the nation is experiencing abnormally frigid conditions. According to an Associated Press article, “winter showed no mercy across much of the nation yesterday, bringing a record cold reading of 36 degrees below zero to Illinois, more than a foot of new snow to heavily blanketed upstate New York and rare frigid conditions all the way south to the Gulf Coast.”

The death toll from the cold weather stands at 91, most occurring from traffic fatalities from slick roads. In Mobile, Alabama the temperature dropped to 18 degrees, breaking a 75 year old record (Washington Post, January 6, 1999). So far, Al Gore has not attempted to link the cold weather to global warming.


Canadas Environment Minister Christine Stewart made some startling remarks at a meeting with the editorial board of the Calgary Herald. “No matter if the science is all phony,” she said, “there are still collateral environmental benefits,” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She also revealed the true agenda of the global warming activists. “Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.” Such is the marriage between old welfare statism and the new environmentalism (Financial Post (Canada), December 26, 1998).


  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released a monograph, titled Doomsday Dj vu: Ozone Depletions Lessons for Global Warming. Author Ben Lieberman argues that rather than serving as a successful model for the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol should serve as a cautionary tale. Its mistakes would be greatly amplified if repeated under the Kyoto Protocol. The study can be obtained from CEIs website at www.cei.org or by contacting CEI at (202) 331-1010.

  • The transcripts from the Cooler Heads science briefings for congressional staff and media and CEIs Costs of Kyoto lectures are becoming available on CEIs website at www.cei.org. Transcripts currently available include, Climate Change: Insights from Oceanography, by Dr. Roger Pocklington; Global Warming: Evidence from the Satellite Record, by Dr. John R. Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer; Global Warming and Vector-Borne Disease: Is Warmer Sicker? by Dr. Paul Reiter; Kyoto & Our Collective Economic Future: Economic & Energy Underpinnings, by Mark P. Mills; and most recently available, Emissions Credits: The Supply and Demand Gap, by Robert Reinstein.

Kyoto: Costs Exceed Benefits

Its one thing when climate treaty opponents demonstrate that implementing the Kyoto Protocol will be expensive and harmful to the economic wellbeing of the American people. Its quite another when a Yale economist who advocates collective global action to prevent global warming comes to the same conclusion. On December 18, at a seminar sponsored by Resources for the Future, William Nordhaus argued that the Kyoto Protocol is “flawed, and maybe fatally flawed.”

According to Nordhaus, the protocol has two serious shortcomings. First, it does not require the developing countries to restrict their rapidly growing emissions. Second, reliance on emission trading is a bad idea. When you have a fixed supply of a good, as would be the case with emission credits, it leads to a great deal of price volatility, Nordhaus said. This could lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses per year. Nordhaus favors a system of harmonized taxes on emissions.

Nordhaus also argued that the Kyoto Protocol is “much too ambitious” and will be too costly to implement. According to his economic model, the Kyoto Protocol would have modest benefits but substantial costs. He also argued that the economic effects of global warming will be modest. Nordhaus did several runs of the model under different policy scenarios. The optimal scenario (a perfect treaty, with perfect agreement on the perfect policies with perfect implementation) was virtually identical, in terms of the effects on the economy, to the scenario in which we wait ten years before acting. Both scenarios would lead to significant economic benefits. Regardless Nordhaus argued that we should act now, and that procrastinating now will make it easier to procrastinate in the future. The Kyoto scenario would lead to significant economic losses (www.weathervane.rff.org).

Low Gasoline Prices Assailed

Nineteen ninety-eight has seen the lowest gasoline prices in recent memory. For the U.S. prices for regular unleaded gasoline has fallen to 97.4 cents per gallon. While most people are thrilled with this development some “wet blankets” are arguing that prices are too low. The New Republic (December 21, 1998) exclaims, “We have long said that gas prices should be higher.” These low prices, it argues, provide the perfect opportunity for the government to “raise prices in a way that will benefit the public as a whole, rather than either OPEC or the Exxon Mobil Corporation.” It then proposes a 17 cents-per-gallon increase in the federal excise tax on gasoline. Increasing gas prices, says TNR, “would go a long way toward solving many of the negative side-effects of cheap gas.”

If the government had the cash instead of the people, it could save Social Security, raise the Earned Income Tax Credit, or provide health care for the working poor, according to TNR. This, of course, ignores the benefits of cheap gas. Spending less on gasoline allows people to spend more on other things, such as food, clothing, housing, and even retirement and health care.

A new attempt to implement the Kyoto Protocol without Senate ratification is underway. A bill introduced by Senators John Chafee, Connie Mack and Joseph Lieberman, would give early credit to U.S. industries for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. These credits, in theory, could be applied to reductions that would be required under the Kyoto Protocol. The Government Accounting Office has determined that there would be several difficulties to overcome:

  • “how to determine what qualifies as a creditable reduction of emissions;

  • determining who owns the emissions reductions;

  • whether emission reductions should be reported at the organization, project, or another level; and

  • how claims of emission reductions should be verified.”

These issues, the GAO report said, “are complicated and will require difficult choices” (BNA Daily Environment Report, December 22, 1998).

The bill, S.2617 “Credit for Voluntary Early Action Act,” is rapidly gaining support from the business community as a means to lessen the pain of emissions reductions in the event of ratification. What many have seemed to miss or ignore is that such a bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all the tools necessary to begin implementation of the Kyoto Protocol without ratification and would repudiate the Byrd/Hagel resolution. The bill would put into place all of the necessary monitoring, measuring and enforcement tools necessary to implement Kyoto.

The EPA, for example, has various permitting schemes and enforcement efforts that give it leverage. EPA gets to negotiate credits arrangements with companies. So a company seeking permit approval under Title V of the Clean Air Act, or a company seeking to negotiate a settlement in an enforcement case, may experience EPA pressure to pursue credits as a tacit condition for permit approval.

Another problem with the bill is that there is no provision for early credits under the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, all early credits granted by the federal government would be subtracted from the U.S. target. This means that any reduction in one firms emission reduction requirement would increase anothers reduction requirements, turning the program into a huge rent-seeking boondoggle. Furthermore, the bill assumes the existence of emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol, even though negotiations on emissions trading are at a standstill. If no emissions trading system materializes then credits for early action will be worthless.

No Smoking Gun Yet

Climate modelers have been laboring diligently to find the statistical smoking gun that would show once and for all that humans are responsible for global warming. So far they have been unsuccessful even though billions of tax dollars have been dedicated to the task. The search continues, however.

In a recent issue of Science (November 27, 1998) Thomas Wigley with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and colleagues claim to have found the human finger-print in the global temperature data. They arrived at this conclusion by running two model simulations without natural or anthropogenic external forcing in order to mimic natural variation. They then added anthropogenic forcings such as carbon dioxide and aerosols and a natural forcing, solar radiation. They wanted to determine if one type of forcing or the other or both combined best explain the difference between the control-run model and the observed temperature data. They also took into account lags that may occur between the actual forcing, a change in solar radiation, for example, and the climate response.

Wigley, et al, found the “best-fit” by adjusting the climate sensitivity of the different forcing effects to minimize the “modeled and observed global-mean temperatures.” They then subtracted “best-fit and specific-sensitivity results” from the observed data. The result showed that a combination of anthropogenic forcing and changes in solar radiation most closely matches the climate model control-run.

The researchers made the critical assumption “that the . . . control-run data provide a reasonable representation of the unforced behavior of the real climate system.” If this is true, say the authors, “then a marked difference between the observations and the control-run results would provide evidence of external forcing effects in the observed temperature record.” They do indeed find a large difference. There are three possible explanations for the differences, however: “gross errors in observations, lack of realism of model control runs, or the existence of external forcing effects in the observations.”

The authors discount the first two possibilities. The quality of the data is not in doubt, they claim. However, Fred Singer an atmospheric scientist with the Science and Environmental Policy Project, argues that the data prior to 1945 is of very poor quality, especially in the Southern Hemisphere (The Electricity Daily, December 21, 1998). Second they argue that “there is no evidence to suggest that they [climate models] underestimate the magnitude of internal variability on time scales of 20 to 100 years by the large amount required to explain the . . . differences.” If this is true, however, climatologists should be able to forecast the annual temperature for the next 20 to 100 years. Few climatologists would make that claim.

The Dust Bowl Cometh

The dust bowl of the 1930s was not a one-time occurrence according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Using tree rings, submerged tree trunks, archaeological finds, lake sediments, and sand dunes, they were able to construct a history of drought events in the Midwest. According to Connie Woodhouse, one of the researchers at the University of Colorado, “Theres this 20-year periodicity of drought, were not sure what that is due to, but it seems to be fairly regular . . . . So if thats true, we should be expecting another drought, maybe a big drought in the next two years.”

The researchers also found that in the last 700 years there have been two “mega-droughts” that lasted for two to four decades each. A sixteenth century mega-drought lasted 20 to thirty years and may have stretched from the West to the East Coast. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that such droughts occur naturally, some scientists still cant resist linking manmade global warming. According to Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “With global warming there is an expectation that if conditions do set up right with droughts, that the droughts could be more severe and last longer than they have in natural conditions in the past” (Knight Ridder Newspapers, December 16, 1998).

Important Ocean Data Gathered Amid Controversy

One of the most important experiments to measure ocean temperatures has been very successful regardless of attempts by the greens to thwart research. The researchers used “loudspeakers submerged off the coast of Hawaii and California to generate low-frequency booming sounds.” Listening devices were used to measure sound speed that indicates the ocean temperature since sound moves faster through warmer water. The method has allowed scientists to accumulate detailed information about ocean temperature. Carl Wunsch, a professor of physical oceanography at M.I.T. claims that when merged with satellite data and other instruments the new data is “far better than anything weve ever had before.” Wunsch says that “I can tell you whats going on in the Pacific Ocean, day by day, in three dimensions.”

The data also suggests that computer climate models may be excessively pessimistic in their predictions regarding such things as sea level rise. The researchers compared their findings with one such model and found that reality is far more complex than modeled. Factors other than thermal expansion, such as tides and changes in salinity also affect the elevation of the ocean. Walter Munk, a professor emeritus of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego and a project leader, says that “My own feeling is that the models have not been adequately tested, and it is dangerous to make major economic decisions on the basis of model predictions.”

Green activist groups such as Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council tried to stop the project, claiming that the sounds could damage marine life, even though marine biologists had determined that it was harmless. The project spent large amounts of money and time trying to quell environmental concerns, severely hampering the projects effectiveness. The project is now on hold and may not be revived, even though it could provide valuable information on the oceans and their effect on climate (The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 11, 1998).

Atlantic Storms May Suppress Global Warming

According to oceanographers, storms in the Atlantic ocean, and in particular the North Atlantic, act like a “giant pump” that keeps carbon in circulation. Hurricanes, for example, “churn up water to a depth of as much as 500 metres. . . transferring carbon dioxide from the surface to deeper levels of the ocean.” This allows the surface waters to absorb more carbon dioxide. Oceanographers believe that the North Atlantic alone has absorbed as much as one-quarter of manmade carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The findings were presented at a conference at the University of Bremen in Germany (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, December 14, 1998).


  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released a monograph, titled Doomsday Dj vu: Ozone Depletions Lessons for Global Warming. Author Ben Lieberman argues that rather than serving as a successful model for the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol should serve as a cautionary tale. Its mistakes would be greatly amplified if repeated under the Kyoto Protocol. The study can be obtained from CEIs website at www.cei.org or by contacting CEI at (202) 331-1010.
  • The transcripts from the Cooler Heads science briefings for congressional staff and media and CEIs Costs of Kyoto lectures are becoming available on CEIs website at www.cei.org. Transcripts currently available include, Climate Change: Insights from Oceanography, by Dr. Roger Pocklington; Global Warming: Evidence from the Satellite Record, by Dr. John R. Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer; Global Warming and Vector-Borne Disease: Is Warmer Sicker? by Dr. Paul Reiter; Kyoto & Our Collective Economic Future: Economic & Energy Underpinnings, by Mark P. Mills; and most recently available, Emissions Credits: The Supply and Demand Gap, by Robert Reinstein.