June 1999

 London Group Opposes Energy Tax

Several influential British groups have criticized the governments proposal to impose energy taxes to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Confederation of British Industry, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Royal Society (Englands counterpart to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences), and the Royal Academy of Engineering argue that the tax would hurt business and do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The tax was proposed in a report prepared by a task force headed by British Airways Chairman Lord Colin Marshall, under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Transport, and the Regions. The Marshall report was criticized by the Royal Commission, which said that the government should tax carbon emissions rather than energy use and that the proposed tax would fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering concur that “the planned levy on the use of energy is deeply flawed.”

The Confederation of British Industry argued that the tax would jeopardize economic growth and particularly the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998 where England agreed to economically rebuild Northern Ireland (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 16, 1999).

IEA Analysis of EU Proposal

The EUs proposal to cap emission trading has led to a heated debate over the flexible mechanisms within the Kyoto Protocol. A new analysis by the International Energy Agency shows the effects of the proposal on the ability of countries to reduce emissions. According to the report, the EU proposal would restrict the amount of emission allowances that could be purchased by the developed countries to 1.09 billion tons of CO2. “This would amount to 42 percent of the difference between their projected emissions in the year 2010 (if no emissions-cutting actions were to be taken) and the emissions they will be allowed under the Protocol; it would amount to 34 percent for other industrialized countries.”

The EU proposal would also restrict the amount of emissions that could be sold by countries that would have surplus permits. The IEAs World Energy Outlook estimates that in the year 2010 emissions from Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine will be 574 million tons lower than 1990 levels, and these countries would be able to sell the total amount. But under the EU proposal the amount that these countries could sell would drop to 190 million tons. “Russiawould be limited to selling approximately 30 percent of its potential,” said the IEA (Europe Energy, June 11, 1999).

Bill to Ban Early Action Crediting

Recent attempts to implement the Kyoto Protocol have come under the guise of giving emission credits to companies that voluntarily engage in reducing CO2 emissions. The first proposed bill of this type was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Chafee (R-R.I.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.). Another “credit for early action” bill is expected to be introduced soon in the House by Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Calvin Dooley (D-Cal.).

In response to these bills and other actions by the Clinton-Gore Administration, Representative David McIntosh (R-IN) has introduced a bill, “Stand up for Small Business, Family Farms and the U.S. Constitution” (H.R. 2221). The bill explains that “credit for early action” legislation constitutes implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and would pave the way to ratification by building a “pro-Kyoto business constituency.”

This would occur because companies that participate in the program would receive “credits potentially worth millions of dollars but which would have no actual cash value unless the Kyoto Protocol, or a comparable domestic regulatory program, were ratified or adopted,” according to Mr. McIntosh.

The bill would also prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating CO2 as a pollutant. The bill points out that, “When the Congress enacted and amended the Clean Air Act, it did not delegate to the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Such regulation would constitute a usurpation of legislative power” as well as constituting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The bill says that, “no Federal Agency has authority to promulgate regulations to limit emissions of carbon dioxide unless a law is enacted after the date of enactment of this Act that specifically grants such authority.”

Finally the bill would make permanent the prohibitions set forth in the Knollenberg provision that prevents the use of federal funds to implement or contemplate the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

GAO: Clinton Climate Report Flawed

The Clinton Administration is required by law to submit a “Report to Congress on Federal Climate Change Expenditures.” But, according to the General Accounting Office, the report is not really useful. The report states that “discussion of climate change activities and the performance goals set out in the report are organized by program or group of programs,” which “does not correspond to either the line items in the presidents budget nor completely to the tables in the report itself on spending by program or program element.”

The GAO comments that this limits the reports usefulness. Users of the report “cannot identify line items in the presidents budget, for example, those with large dollar amounts or those for which an increase in funding is being requested. Nor can users easily identify in the report what activities are planned and what performance goals have been established” (The Electricity Daily, June 11, 1999).

Deadlocked Bonn Meeting Ends

A conference held in Bonn, Germany to lay the groundwork for the upcoming 5th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP5), ended on June 11 with little progress to report.

The European Union has played a very proactive role in the negotiations with several proposals. For example, the EU has called “for broader faster action and identifying priority sectors.” It also presented a European Commission Communication on “reflecting environmental policies in other sector-specific policies, particularly those with a direct bearing on the climate (energy, taxation, transport, agriculture, industry).” The EU also continued to push for “a system to police compliance with the undertakings,” and the creation of “a compliance system that is comprehensive, consistent, uniform, efficient and effective.”

There appears to be a slight softening among developing countries regarding their participation. One group of countries, which includes Korea, Argentina, and Mexico, said they would be willing to pursue greenhouse gas policies. Most developing countries, including China, continue to oppose commitments of any sort. The OPEC countries continue to work to prevent implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (Europe Environment, June 15, 1999).

The EU and the U.S. continue to butt heads over flexible mechanisms. The EU wants to limit their use to 50 percent of total emissions reductions, while the U.S. wants unlimited trading. Frank Loy, U.S. under secretary of state for global affairs, argues that the negotiations could come crashing down unless significant progress is made in the next few years.

Loy argued that flexible mechanisms would greatly reduce the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol, and would allow for developing country participation. Said Loy, “Eventually capital transfers under the Kyoto Protocol will dwarf those from official assistance.” (Financial Times, June 15, 1999).

Global Warming: A Matter of Faith?

The National Council of Churches is launching a year-long interfaith campaign to garner support for action against global warming. The campaign will focus on four states. According Richard Killmer, environmental justice director for the NCC, the states “have been chosen for specific reasons,” — Michigan because of the auto industry, Iowa because it holds the first presidential caucuses, and West Virginia and Pennsylvania because of their fossil fuel sectors.

The Interfaith groups are planning to lobby legislators, unions, and business leaders, getting churches involved in energy conservation, and placing opinion pieces in local media. (Greenwire, June 11, 1999). See www.webofcreation.org/NCC/Workgrp.html.

“Early Action” Bill Postponed

Rep. Rick A. Lazio (R-N.Y.), who’s weighing a run for Senate, postponed introduction of an “early action credit” legislation to meet with opponents of the idea. Lazios decision was prompted when David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, sent him an “urgent memorandum” expressing deep concerns from the “entire conservative community” about the bill. Keene urged Lazio to “seriously consider the enormous political and policy downsides of supporting [the bill] . . . I would be surprised if those conservative leaders whom you are currently courting in New York do not share our view on this.”

OR Senate: Dont Implement Kyoto

The Oregon Senate has approved a bill barring new rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions until the federal government ratifies the Kyoto Protocol. Supporters of the Oregon measure call it financial protection for state businesses and communities threatened by the global warming treaty. Environmentalists called the legislation a regressive move in a traditionally green state (States News Service, June 22, 1999).

Ozone Layer Affected by Sun

The thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica is due to the sun and not people, according to research by Yang Xuexiang, a professor of geological sciences at Changchun University of Technology in China. Yang believes the changes are caused by solar wind, a current of high-energy particles, rather than the use of CFCs. His research was published in the May Chinese edition of Scientific American.

Yang argues that ozone depletion resulted from solar wind making the atmosphere at the South Pole thinner, from volcanic eruptions in the southern hemisphere, and from solar high-energy particle currents. The conventional wisdom is that ozone depletion is caused by the use of freon by man. Yang points out that freon use is concentrated in the northern hemisphere, not over the South Pole (AFP, June 20,1999).

High Heat, Low Carbon

The hypothesis that carbon dioxide levels exert a significant influence on the Earths climate is being rethought. We reported in the last issue of Cooler Heads that researchers have found that 15 million years ago the temperature was significantly warmer than it is today, and yet atmospheric CO2 levels were lower. A new study in Science (June 11, 1999) finds that 48 million years ago, in the Eocene era, temperatures were 5 degrees C warmer than now but that CO2 levels were not significantly different.

“Some authors,” says the study, “have suggested that middle Eocene CO2 was two to six times as high as the preindustrial level of 280 parts per million, whereas others have suggested values similar to that concentration or only slightly higher.” The researchers studied ancient marine sentiments and found that CO2 concentrations were between 180 ppm to 550 ppm, the most likely value being 385 ppm. The authors conclude that either the climate system is very sensitive to small changes in CO2 or that something else caused warmer temperatures.

These studies have scientists rethinking the carbon/warming link. “We may have to think harder about whats driving the [climate] system on these long time scales,” says paleoclimatologist Thomas Cowley of Texas A&M University. “It could be the whole carbon dioxide paradigm is crumbling.” Paleo-oceanographer Edward Boyle of MIT said these studies suggest that “we need to reconsider the prevailing dogma.” These scientists argue that CO2 is still a powerful source for short-term climate changes. But on very long scales many other factors may explain climate change.

U.S. Droughts Lasted for Decades

Scientists who study the Earths past climate are learning that change is the norm and rapid change is not uncommon. Research carried out in North Dakota has discovered severe and long lasting droughts in the plains of the U.S. during the last 12,000 years. Bison bones found at the bottom of Spiritwood lake suggest a rapid onslought of drought that drew down water levels very rapidly. “The draw-down in this period was ferocious, as much as 20 feet,” according to Allan Ashworth a geologist at North Dakota State University.

With the recession of the glaciers, the Red River Valley was cool and wet and was covered by a spruce forest. “Then bang it goes into the prairies,” said Ashworth. “The implication is that the regional climate begins to be much drier right around 8,000 years ago. Ever since then, weve been into prairie.” Ashworth says that we dont yet understand why “the climate has become much more oscillatory between dry and wet phases.” Ashworth explains that “were only just starting to really define some of these patterns, or refining them so we can really start talking about them with enough confidence” (The Associated Press, June 14, 1999).


  • From the Science and Environmental Policy Project (www.sepp.org): “Turning to smog-avoiding nuclear power, complaints by enviros about deceptive ads have led the Better Business Bureau to get the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. What’s all the fuss about? It seems that Nuclear Energy Institute ads “falsely” claim that reactors make power without emitting greenhouse gases. Apparently, the NEI didn’t mention that the uranium fuel was made using electricity from coal plants. So what about the wind turbines that pack 150,000 pounds of steel, concrete, and fiberglass per turbine? How about that for “embedded carbon”?
  • A new survey by the American Geophysical Union finds that Americans are less concerned than ever about global warming. “The more we talk about warming,” says the study’s director, John Immerwahr, “the [more the] public’s concern goes down.” (Time, June 21, 1999).

  • Emissions Trading not the Answer

  • Problems with the Perfect Solution? — Review and Critique of Current Global Climate Change Proposals

  • Emissions Trading No Solution

  • U.S. Makes CO2 Trading Proposal

  • Costs of Kyoto will be High Regardless of Flexible Mechanisms
  • Can Emission Trading Lower Cost?

    The Clinton Administration has claimed that international emission trading would substantially lower the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. A recent paper published by Resources for the Future agrees with that assessment, but with an important caveat. “If all countries use domestic tradable permit systems to meet their national targets and also allow for international trades,” then costs will be minimized, say the researchers. “But when some countries use non-trading approaches such as greenhouse-gas taxes or fixed quantity standards, cost-minimization is not assured.”

    The researchers, Robert Hahn with the American Enterprise Institute, and Robert Stavins with the John F. Kennedy School of Government, argue that emissions trading is still an attractive approach to meeting the Kyoto targets, but that “individual nations choices of domestic policy instruments to meet the Kyoto targets can limit substantially the cost-saving potential of an international trading program.”

    According to Hahn and Stavins, “nation-states are not simple cost-minimizing agents.” For example, governments may discourage trading, even though it may be the cost-minimizing instrument, in order to protect the revenue it gets through carbon taxes. Even if they were cost minimizers, say Hahn and Stavins, “they tend to lack the information required to make such cost-effective trades.”

    Preferably, governments would devolve their quota of permits to private entities that would then be allowed to trade freely. The authors argue that this is unlikely, however. A more likely outcome is some sort of mixed system with tradable permits, carbon taxes and fixed quantity standards. This, according to the authors, would lead to heavy use of the other flexible mechanisms, such as joint implementation (JI) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

    Two of the main assumptions in nearly all of the analyses of the costs of reducing greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol are “that all countries adopt a domestic tradable permit system,” and “that all countries adopt either a domestic tradable permit system or a domestic greenhouse gas tax instrument and adopt a tax rate that equals the international equilibrium permit price.” If either assumption holds, then emission trading would lead to cost minimization. However, “if neither…are valid which we believe to be the more likely outcome then our analysis has several implications for global climate policy and research.”

    First, “a truly cost-effective international emission trading program is not compatible with the notion of full domestic sovereignty regarding instrument choice.” Second, “with most combinations of domestic policy instruments, a significant fraction of Annex B (countries with Kyoto targets) international exchanges would have to be in the form of joint implementation (and CDM in the case of exchanges with non-Annex B nations). But, JI (and CDM) will likely involve relatively high abatement costs and transaction costs.” Third, “real-world abatement costs associated with the execution of a feasible program may be much greater than implied by simulations of the cost-effective solution.” The paper can be found at www.weathervane.rff.org.

    High Temperatures with Low CO2

    Scientists are still uncertain about the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the earths temperature, although it is generally thought that higher concentrations of CO2 will increase global temperatures and vice versa. Recent studies have cast doubt on that hypothesis, however. In the March 12 issue of Science researchers showed, using ice core samples, that during three deglaciations temperature rises occurred before higher CO2 levels.

    A new study published in Paleoceanography (June 1999) finds that CO2 concentrations were very low during the Miocene Climatic Optimum of about 14.5-17 million years ago, a period that experienced extremely high global temperatures that were about 6 degrees C higher than present.

    It has been thought that the high Miocene temperatures were caused by a combination of high CO2 levels and changes in the ocean. But the new study presents evidence that the CO2 levels were about 180-290 parts per million by volume, compared to the current level of 360 ppmv. The low levels of CO2 persisted throughout the entire Climatic Optimum and began to rise in concert with a global cooling and expansion of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that occurred at about 12.5-14 million years ago (Nature, May 27, 1999).

    Solar Magnetism and Global Warming

    Evidence that the Sun plays a major role in climate change continues to mount, casting doubt on the CO2-global warming link. A new study in Nature (June 3, 1999) has found that the Suns magnetism has increased dramatically over the last one hundred years. The researchers, according to a commentary article in the same issue, “use records of geomagnetic activity, monitored in England and Australia since the nineteenth century, to show that the weak general magnetic field on the Sun has more than doubled over the past 100 years.”

    The researchers note that the solar wind “drags some magnetic flux out of the Sun to fill the heliosphere with a weak interplanetary magnetic field.” These fields block cosmic rays that contain charged ion particles that contribute to the formation of ice crystals and water drops in the atmosphere, increasing cloud cover. A reduction in cosmic ray influence reduces cloud cover, allowing more sunlight to reach the earth.

    The Suns general magnetism is also related to its brightness, although this is not well understood. Moreover, sunspots generate strong magnetic fields that also correspond to greater solar luminosity. These two types of magnetic fields appear to have different sources, but, “it is curious that the general level of both fields has increased by about the same degree over the last 100 years, suggesting some hidden commonality.” These phenomena lead to a more vigorous Sun that is about 0.1 percent brighter.

    The increase of solar magnetism has been about 131 percent over the last 91 years. From 1964 to 1996 the Suns magnetism has increase by 41 percent. This brightening has occurred during the same time as the measured surface warming experienced on Earth.

    Alaska Entering a Cold Spell 

    Warmer temperatures in Alaska over the last few years have been cited as evidence of global warming. But as with other types of anecdotal evidence no research has linked Alaskas warming spell with greenhouse gases. Now scientists believe that the warming period is a result of a natural 25-year cycle that causes climatic conditions in Alaska to swing back and forth between cold and warm periods.

    The recurring weather cycle is called the Pacific (inter) Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and scientists believe that Alaska has “just finished roughly 25 years of good fishing, warmer ocean temperatures, early ice pack melt-offs and fairly mild winters.” Now Alaskans can “look forward to about 25 years of gray summers, harsh winters, poor fish returns and a lingering ice pack.” In fact, it has already begun. Salmon fishing in Bristol Bay has deteriorated significantly in the last two years, water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska have cooled this year and the melting of the Arctic ice pack is long overdue. Similar conditions existed in the 1960s with very harsh winters.

    According to scientists at the University of Washingtons Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Oceans, the 25-year pattern can be traced back 300 years. The PDO also influences the pattern of salmon returns. When salmon returns are high in Alaska they are low in Washington and Oregon, and vice versa. In 1915, for example, “Bristol Bay salmon returns were abysmal when Washington and Oregon had one of the best salmon fishing years in history,” and “in 1939, the Bristol Bay catch was regarded as one of the greatest in history, while Washington and Oregon recorded one of the worst” (Anchorage Daily News, June 7, 1999).


    • On May 26 Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D- Cal.) submitted an amendment to the House Science Committee that is virtually identical to the Knollenberg Amendment that prohibited federal agencies from implementing the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification.

    A certain amount of confusion surrounds the amendment, however. Lofgren, a proponent of the Kyoto Protocol, states in a press release that, “The House and Senate have already agreed to adhere to the Kyoto language. Yet as originally drafted, H.R. 1743 would have undercut that commitment. My amendment simply reiterates that commitment, allowing the EPA to continue to work to limit greenhouse gases.”

    Lofgren also argues that, “we have agreed to reduce emissions in line with the Protocol. Such action is vital no only for the health of the world environment, but also to make us ready to ratify the Protocol if and when developing countries meet emissions standards.”


    • The Cooler Heads is sponsoring an economics briefing for congressional staff and media on June 18. The briefing will feature Robert Bradley, director of the Institute for Energy Research in Houston, Texas. Mr. Bradley will discuss “The Economic and Environmental Transformation of Fossil Fuels.” It will be held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 366, at 12:00 noon.

    Implementation Sans Ratification

    A leaked EPA document dated April 23, describes an April 7 meeting between EPA and White House staffers, and private sector officials, where a pilot program to test emission trading between the U.S. and Russia was proposed. According to the document, the U.S. is “considering the possibility of establishing a linked emissions trading/joint implementation pilot program with Russia.” The plan has also been “favorably” received by other countries who are part of the “Umbrella Group.”

    “The purpose of the possible pilot programs would be to demonstrate that compliance, measurement, registry, and certification of trades could be ensured in Russia, answering concerns expressed about the practicability of the Kyoto mechanisms in Russia,” the document said. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Science Committee, is concerned about the propriety of the proposal given the absence of Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

    In a letter to Carol Browner, EPA administrator, Sensenbrenner requested detailed information regarding the proposal. Sensenbrenner reminded Browner that the administration has repeatedly said that it will not try to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification, and that the 1999 appropriations legislation bars the administration from such activities.

    “Quite frankly, I fail to see how it [the proposal] is consistent with administration policy, as stated by [the Office of Management and Budget], or with the purposes and plain meaning of the VA-HUD Appropriations Act for fiscal year 1999 for anyone in the U.S. delegation to even initiate discussions with the Umbrella Group, which includes the Russian Federation, for such programs to test the interests of U.S. business in such programs,” said Sensenbrenner (BNA Daily Environment Report, May 28, 1999).

    Federal Government to Reduce Emissions

    On June 3 President Clinton ordered federal agencies to “reducegreenhouse gas emissions attributed to facility energy use” to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. It also requires each agency to “reduce energy consumption per gross square foot of its facilitiesby 20 percent by 2005 and 35 percent by 2010 relative to 1985.”

    These goals seem to be at odds with the Clinton Administrations claims that we can comply with Kyoto without lowering energy use, but by simply using energy more efficiently. Yet the executive order requires a greater reduction in energy use than in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The order also requires the greater use of renewable energy. The federal government will be required to install 2,000 solar energy systems at federal facilities by the end of 2000 and 20,000 by the end of 2010 as part of the Million Solar Roofs initiative. The executive order can be found at the www.whitehouse.gov.

    U.S., E.U. Still at Odds Over Emission Trading

    Representatives from 150 countries are meeting on Bonn, Germany to continue talks about how to implement the Kyoto Protocol, and to prepare for COP-5 this coming November. Progress has come to a standstill due to a dispute between the U.S. and the European Union, over the use of emission trading. The U.S. wants to have unlimited emission trading while the E.U. wishes to limit emission trading, forcing governments to achieve most of their emissions reductions within their own borders.

    Chief U.N. climate official Michael Zammit Cutajar said it is “highly unlikely” that the dispute will be settled before the November meeting (The Toronto Star, June 1, 1999). State Department spokesman James Foley reiterated the U.S. commitment to unlimited trading, and pointed out that the E.U. accepted the Kyoto language that sets no quantitative limits (The Electricity Daily, June 4, 1999).

    A new report released by the Paris-based International Energy Agency shows that the European proposal to cap emissions trading would heavily impact on the U.S. According to the study, a cap would reduce the ability of the U.S. trade emissions by as much as 66 percent.

    With unlimited trading U.S. companies could trade as much as 2.07 million tons of CO2, whereas a cap would reduce the volume of trade to 674,000 tons, forcing the U.S. to implement new emissions regulations. Melinda Kimble, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state, argued that “eliminating flexibility or to reduce it so its no longer cost-effective is just going to endanger the agreement” (Greenwire, June 7, 1999).

    Costs of Kyoto will be High Regardless of Flexible Mechanisms

    One of the most hotly debated issues of global warming is the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. Some private sector estimates put the cost as high as $300 billion per year, while the Clinton Administrations Council of Economic Advisors claims it will cost no more than $12 billion per year. The administration argues that the large difference between the two estimates is the assumption of flexible mechanisms such as emission trading and joint implementation.

    A new study, sponsored by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, concludes that the cost of complying with Kyoto will be high regardless of the use of flexible mechanisms. The study, authored by Stephen P. A. Brown, Senior Economist and Assistant Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, notes that the Kyoto Protocol, “would not actually reduce global CO2 emissions. Instead, it would merely slow their growth.”

    The DOE estimates that worldwide CO2 emissions will rise by 45 percent for the period 1990 to 2010. If Kyoto is implemented there will be a 30 percent increase in CO2 emissions. For the U.S. to comply it will have to reduce emissions by 25 percent below its projected 2010 emissions.

    The NCPA study, “compares the worldwide benefits of U.S. reduction of CO2 emissions with the worldwide costs.” The benefits are “the economic value of the avoided environmental damage that might arise from global warming,” and the costs are the “economic opportunities lost as a result of using less fossil fuel.” According to the study, the benefits of reducing energy use only justifies a reduction of CO2 emissions equal to 14 percent of that required by the Kyoto Protocol. That is, Kyoto requires seven times more CO2 reduction than can be justified.

    Without the use of flexible mechanisms, compliance with Kyoto would lower GDP by 3.6 to 5.1 percent by 2010, or between $330 billion to $467 billion. With flexible mechanisms those costs are only reduced slightly, from 3 to 4.3 percent of GDP. Brown concludes, “if reducing CO2 emissions is similar to purchasing insurance against the possible consequences of global warming, these figures suggest that U.S. compliance with the Kyoto accord represents a costly and excessive insurance.” The study can be found at www.ncpa.org/studies/s224.html.

    Satellite Data Contradicts Gov. Bush, Shows Cooling Trend

    After a hot 1998 due to El Nio, 1999 seems to be returning global temperatures, as measured by satellites, to their previous downward trend. According to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabamas Earth System Science Laboratory, the advent of La Nia, the cool phase of El Nio, is quite obvious in the record. “Compared to seasonal norms, April 1998 was the hottest month in more than 20 years,” Christy said. “But this April it was quite cool in the tropics.”

    Christy also points out that from April 1998 to March 1999 the global average temperature dropped almost nine-tenths of a degree Celsius (about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The Northern Hemisphere in April 1999 was slightly warmer than the 20-year average while the Southern Hemisphere was slightly cooler. Overall, April was 0.01 degrees Celsius cooler than normal.

    Trees Do Better With More CO2

    Hundreds of studies and experiments have confirmed that the earths plant life flourishes in a carbon dioxide rich environment. The latest study, appearing in Science (May 14, 1999), confirms these findings. In the latest experiment researchers installed a gas delivery system in a 13-year-old loblolly pine plantation. The system increases CO2 concentrations on 30-meter diameter plots within the continuous forest.

    The researchers argue that currently “trees that use the C3 mechanism of photosynthesis are carbon-limited at the current atmospheric CO2 concentrations,” and that “the stimulation of photosynthesis by elevated CO2 may increase the capacity of forests to store carbon in wood and soil organic matter.”

    The researchers found during the two years of the experiment that the diameters of the trees exposed to concentrations of CO2 double ambient levels, increased by about 26 percent relative to the control trees. CO2 enrichment also increased litterfall and fine root increment. “Such an increase in forest net primary production globally would fix about 50 percent of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide projected to be released into the atmosphere on the year 2050.”

    New Book Looks at Extreme Weather and Civilization

    We have argued in these pages that the ability to adapt to changes in climate is the greatest protection against the dangers of catastrophic events. This view is generally confirmed in a new book titled Floods, Famines and Emperors: El Nio and the Fate of Civilizations. The author, Brian Fagan, anthropology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, looks at the havoc El Nio has wreaked upon civilizations over thousands of years, and claims that it contributed to the downfall of civilizations from Egypts Old Kingdom to the classic Maya culture on the American continent.

    An important message of the book, according to reviewer David Lashkin, is that “catastrophically fluctuating weather patterns are a natural characteristic of Earths atmosphere, and civilizations unable to adapt to these violent meteorological swings have been destroyed in the past and will be destroyed in the future.” Two main determinants of whether a civilization survives climatic change is “carrying capacity” and “the flexibility of their social structures and customs.” Rigid, “top-heavy” societies are more vulnerable to catastrophe than dynamic societies (The Washington Post, May 20, 1999).


    • The U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Convention called global warming “the greatest threat” to whales. The delegation is calling for research into the effects of global warming on whales’ food supplies. It has also warned that global warming could cause melting of the polar ice caps, bringing more ships into contact with whales and interfering with their habitats.

    • So-called renewable energy seems to be getting less popular as the energy of choice among certain factions within the Green community. Recently the National Trust in England has “pledged to fight green energy schemes such as wind farms where it judges them unacceptable intrusions into Britains remaining wild places,” according to The Guardian (May 20, 1999).
    • Apparently Maurice Strong, known for his gentlemanly manner, completely lost it when he learned that a fellow oil man Bob Peterson, head of Imperial Oil, said that compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would devastate Canadas economy. Strong, a former energy CEO himself, and currently the United Nations special adviser on the environment accused Peterson of being “behind the times” and a “dinosaur.”

    He also said that “Mr. Peterson had his counterparts in earlier days when the Petersons of that day were against abolishing child labour, they were against sanitation, they were against abolishing slavery.” The National Post (May 21, 1999) commented that “Mr. Stongs intemperate outburst may be tantamount to an admission that his perverse crusade to save the planet by destroying the global economy is grinding to a halt.”

    Texas Governor Declares Belief in Global Warming Theory

    The GOP presidential frontrunner, George W. Bush, may have conceded the global warming debate to Vice President Al Gore. After having said that the “science is still out” on global warming, Bush has reversed himself saying, “I believe there is global warming.”

    According to Governor Bush, “Ive had some briefings recently, and Im becoming more convinced that the science proves theres global warming” (Washington Times, May 21, 1999). This is good news for the Gore camp given that the Vice Presidents strident pronouncements on global warming and the need for a “wrenching” transformation to prevent it could be damaging fodder in the hands of his opponents.

    Republicans see Green in Warming

    Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said, “Republicans will make climate change policy an issue in rural America for the 2000 election,” according to Greenwire (May 19,1999). The farm state Senator favors doling out $13 million over the next three years to the Agriculture Department to determine how farmers can cash in on the global warming bandwagon. The money would go to carbon cycle research to find evidence that North America farmland absorbs greenhouse gases.

    Environmentalists oppose the research because they worry that the findings may be used by Kyoto opponents to argue against U.S. reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

    U.S., Australia Attack EU Stand on Emission Trading

    Both the U.S. and Australia have voiced their dismay at the EUs recent decision to restrict the use of emission trading under the Kyoto Protocol. On May 17 the EU approved a measure that would restrict the use of “flexible mechanisms,” such as emission trading and joint implementation, to make sure that most greenhouse gas reductions are domestic. The EU has always maintained that emissions reductions should occur primarily within the individual countries.

    The U.S. accused the EU of changing the Kyoto agreement that makes no mention of limiting the use of flexible mechanisms. “This new action by the EU is an attempt to rewrite the Kyoto Protocol,” the State Department said in a statement. “The U.S. government is disappointed by (the) statement of the European Union seeking to restrict the use of emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol” (Agence France Presse, May 19, 1999). An Australian diplomat in Brussels said, “Australia feels that a decision along the lines the EU is talking about would restrict the flexibility mechanisms to the point that they would effectively be neutered” (Reuters, May 18, 1999).

    EPAs Global Warming Web Site is Misleading

    Many who have studied the global warming issue know that EPAs global warming web site is biased, and barely mentions the raging scientific debate over the issue. A comprehensive analysis of the web site, conducted by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE), documents “how EPA presents the available body of science to the public.” The CRE finds that the information provided is misleading.

    The EPA claims, for example, that its web site is based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, notes the CRE study, the EPA does a poor job “of informing readers about important scientific caveats and major uncertainties” that are present in the IPCCs 1995 report.

    The EPA, for example, quotes the IPCC as saying, “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate,” but fails to quote the important caveats. For example, the IPCC states, “[The model results] cannot be considered as compelling evidence of a clear cause-and-effect link between anthropogenic forcing and changes in the Earths surface temperature.”

    The IPCC also argues, “our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability.” The full report, How OMB Data Quality Regulations will Help Resolve Disputes over Global Warming, can be downloaded from www.TheCRE.com.

    EPA and DOE Violated Federal Law

    A congressional hearing, sponsored jointly by the Senate Energy Research, Development, Production and Regulation Subcommittee, and the House National Economic Growth Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, was held on May 20 to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies have overstepped their regulatory authority with regard to budget requests to address global warming.

    GPRA Violations

    According to Jerry Taylor, the Cato Institutes Director of Natural Resources, the administrations budget request for the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) are in violation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. In particular, “no concrete performance or results measures are provided for most of the DOE or EPA budget accounts in which the administration seeks increased appropriations to address global climate change.”

    Those that do exist, said Taylor, “are founded upon dubious analysis and are without solid foundation.” Moreover, “they are disconnected from any assessment of their value to the national economy or to public health, rendering them of little use to the public.”

    Taylor was particularly critical of the administrations Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI). He argued that the administrations estimate that the EPAs CCTI activities would reduce carbon emissions by 354 million metric tons, and the DOEs activities will reduce emissions by 112 million metric tons “are so unrealistic that they cast doubt on the seriousness of the administrations attempts to comply with GPRA.”

    DOEs own five labs study estimates that a “high efficiency” scenario for the economy would only reduce emissions by about 120 million metric tons. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds only a 79 million metric ton decrease in emissions under a high efficiency scenario.

    Probably the most outrageous claims by the administration have to do with the cost-benefit analysis of global warming programs. An example is the claim that a 20 percent tax credit for residential electric heat pumps will be a net benefit for the economy. According to the EIA, a current model heat pump costs about $4,400 while one that would qualify for the tax credit would cost about $5,500. The tax credit would cover the $1,100 difference in cost. The total cost saving of such a purchase would be about $783, a net loss of $317 to the economy. Dividing the cost of the tax credit by the amount of greenhouse gases avoided puts the cost of reducing emissions at $349 per ton. Assuming a 10 percent discount rate puts the cost at $666 per ton.

    Knollenberg Violations

    Also testifying before the committees was William Lash, Professor of Law at George Mason University. He argued that the EPA is in violation of the Knollenberg Amendment that “prohibits implementation of the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification via regulation, rules, orders, or decrees by the executive branch.”

    The EPA argues that it has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under existing regulatory authority as long as the purpose of the regulation is not to implement the Kyoto Protocol. This, according to Lash, “is tantamount to saying that as long as the agency acts under the color of existing authority, and does not truthfully report what it is doing, it is in compliance with the Knollenberg Amendment.”

    This interpretation of the Knollenberg language is incorrect, however. The Amendments legislative history clearly shows, “the author of the Amendment intended it to preclude regulations implementing the Kyoto Protocol, even if those regulations were promulgated under the color of existing statutory authority.” Lash also argues, “in light of the fact that EPA chooses to interpret the Knollenberg Amendment as a practical nullity, Congress should seriously consider strengthening the Amendment to give it more teeth.”

    Lash also accused the EPA of crossing the line from educating the American public about global warming to advocating specific policy goals, such as the Kyoto Protocol, something that is prohibited under the Knollenberg Amendment.

    EPA conferences about global warming are clearly biased towards Kyoto, and with few exceptions present no dissenting voices. According to Lash, “EPA documents such as Cool Facts About Global Warming fail to provide even passing reference to the uncertainties and conflicts within the scientific community regarding climate change.”