October 1999

Bonn is Underway

The fifth Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is under way in Bonn, Germany. Some of the issues to be considered include the use of flexible mechanisms, such as emission trading, and developing country participation.

The conference opened with a speech by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who called for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002. He told the delegates that the industrialized nations must set an example for developing countries. Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the convention, applauded Schroeders speech and that the proposal is “an encouraging goal” (Greenwire, October 26, 1999).

Greens Launch Propaganda Blitz

Maybe youve seen them television ads with disturbing images of natural disasters and a somber voice claiming that global warming will lead to global climate chaos. Its all part of a new, multimillion-dollar campaign by Green pressure groups to convince Americans to hand control over their energy future to international bureaucrats.

The ads warn Americans of the causes and consequences of global warming, claiming that it will lead to more hurricanes, droughts, fires, and so on. One ad even claims that global warming will cause an increase in childhood asthma. “Asthma,” begins the ad, “Its striking more and more of our kids. In just 13 years, the number of children with asthma has more than doubled. Scientists know that global warming is real and heating up the planet. More heat means more smog, and smog can trigger asthma attacks for our kids.”

The television, radio and print ads, sponsored by the National Environment Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, are funded by an array of left-wing charitable foundations. The Turner Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the John Merck Fund, and the W. Alton Jones Foundation have provided $8 million for the ads and $3 million for grassroots efforts. Turner is also providing money to the League of Conservation Voters to sponsor presidential debates on environmental issues (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 6, 1999).

In concert with the ads, several Green pressure groups are releasing “studies” about global warming. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature, released a report that warned of flooding in New York and Tokyo, droughts in Latin America, and the destruction of Australias Great Barrier Reef. “Evidence for the warming of our planet over the last 200 years is now overwhelming,” claims WWF. With no action to curb emissions, the climate on earth over the next century could become warmer than any the human species has lived through” (ABC News, October 19, 1999).

U.S. PIRG, part of a web of groups associated with fearmonger extraordinaire, Ralph Nader, has also released a report repeating the tired litany of disasters supposedly linked to global warming. The claims by these groups are based on pure speculation, however. They are not supported by the scientific literature (www.igc.apc.org/pirg/uspirg).

Businesses Are Eager to Look Green

The global warming debate has been cast by Green activists as a moral battle between greed and profit versus saving the planet. The dynamics of the debate are slowly changing, however, as businesses are beginning to pay lip service to the claim that the production of goods and services is destroying the planet. Businesses that make the switch are transformed from public enemy, in the eyes of Green activists, to venerable icons. Few commentators suggest, however, that the profit-seeking impulse that drives businesses initial resistance to government regulation may be at work in their apparent change of heart.

An article in the Wall Street Journal (October 19, 1999) discusses the change in corporate Americas global warming stance. The article notes that “some of the nations biggest companies are starting to count greenhouse gases and change business practices to achieve real cuts in emissions.” Moreover, “many of them are finding the exercise is green in more ways than one: Reducing global warming can lead to energy-cost savings.”

The Journal notes another motivation for the change in corporate behavior. “Many U.S. multinationals trying to keep pace with Europes faster approach simply dont want to be on the extreme end of the political spectrum, especially if they want a seat at the table where regulations are being crafted. Some hope to forestall or dilute legislation by reducing emission voluntarily.”

One company, American Electric Power, admits that its primary motivation for joining a business group that has “moderate” views on global warming is to be able to influence future standards. “Once you realize that you cant kill this thing, then its incumbent upon you to try to be a player in the process of shaping policies,” said Dale Heydlauff, the utilitys vice president of environmental affairs.

Greens Petition EPA to Regulate CO2

A coalition of Green activists petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 emissions from new cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act on October 20. The coalition claims that cars and light trucks in the U.S. are largely responsible for global warming, and threatened to file suit against the EPA to force them to regulate automobile emissions. The EPA has the discretion under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide, according to the coalition.

According to Chris Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, “The Clean Air Act never specifically mentions global warming gases except to say that they cant be regulated.” And Rep. David McIntosh, chairman of the Subcommitte on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs, has said, “EPA has somehow missed the obvious. The Clean Air Act is a carefully structured statute with specific titles that establish specific regulatory programs to accomplish specific objectives.The Clean Air Act is not a regulatory blank check.”

The coalition includes Green pressure groups such as Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth and the National Environment Trust, and renewable energy industry groups such as Bio Fuels America, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and several state solar energy associations.

Global Warming Science Uncertain

There are still large gaps in our understanding of the causes of global warming, according to a new study by the National Research Council, Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. The 600-page report argues that more research money is needed for global climate observations systems.

Before we begin spending money on “mitigation science”, we should learn more about the fundamentals of global warming science, according to the report. “Our current ability to answer these scientific questions is seriously blocking progress in critical policy development.” The report also warns that policymakers should not assume that we know everything we need to know about climate just because there are international negotiations to mitigate global warming.

International agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, “are based on a general understanding of some causes and characteristics of global change,” says the reports preface. “However, there remain many scientific uncertainties about important aspects of climate change” (BNA Daily Environment Report, October 19, 1999).

Sea Level: Rising or Falling?

As empirical data about global warming continues to roll in scientists become more and more aware of just how little they know about the climate system. Data from Australias National Tidal Facility of recent sea level trends in the Pacific area, for example, give a mixed picture. The following are sea level measurements from several sites in the Pacific:


Length [months]


Cook Is.


















Marshall Is.









Solomon Is.



Papua NG



As the table shows, there is no clear-cut answer as to what is happening to sea levels in the Pacific. If we average the data, we get a sea level fall of -11.2 mm/yr., but this still tells us almost nothing and has little meaning to an island such as Tonga, which is experiencing sea level rise. Given the large differences in sea level change its difficult to know what is going on (www.vision.net.au/~daly).

Governments Agree on Kyotos Costs

Economic studies attempting to ascertain the costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol almost invariably come to the same conclusion: it will be expensive (the lone exception being a study conducted by the Presidents Council of Economic Advisers). Many of these studies have been criticized as being paid for by industry, and therefore not credible. However, they are rarely criticized on the merits, and for good reason: they are conducted by highly competent economic forecasting firms.

Moreover, these studies are generally supported by studies conducted by government agencies. Mary Novak, Senior Vice President of WEFA Energy Services, evaluated five different government assessments of the costs of the Kyoto Protocol at a conference sponsored by the American Council for Capital Formation on October 13.

Novak reported that the studies are very pessimistic. The five assessments were conducted by the European Commission Directorate General for Energy, the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Department of Energys Energy Information Administration, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

These studies all find that the energy sector would be required to make massive reductions in carbon emissions. They also argue that CO2 emissions are closely linked to all aspects of economic growth and that energy use is essential to improving economic well being.

The studies also found that due to the long-lived nature of energy-using capital equipment, it would be very expensive to further improve energy efficiency in the short time frame contemplated by the Kyoto Protocol. Meeting the Kyoto targets is further complicated in European countries where they are moving to retire nuclear capacity.

Finally, the studies argue that opportunities for meeting the targets through fuel substitution (gas for coal, for instance) are few since there have already been significant advances made along these lines. All of the studies agree that Annex B countries will be unable to meet their Kyoto targets without large carbon taxes or extensive use of flexible mechanisms.

Canada Will Feel Kyoto Pain the Most

So far the U.S. has been nearly alone in its skepticism of global warming claims and the need to spend billions of dollars to prevent it. The Canadians, however, are becoming more and more squeamish about the Kyoto Protocol and its implications.

They have good reason to worry. A new study by Charles River Associates, an economic consulting firm, shows that of all the industrial nations Canada could face the highest costs to reduce energy emissions. “Of all the OECD countries,” says the study, “Canada is probably in the most disadvantageous position to respond to the Kyoto Protocol.” Compliance could reduce Canadas annual economic growth by 0.66 to 2 percent per year.

To meet its Kyoto targets, Canada would have to reduce its energy emissions by 28 percent below the levels that would otherwise be reached in 2010. This would mean raising gasoline prices by 24 cents a liter and doubling natural gas prices. This could also hurt Canadian industrys ability to compete in international markets, since they are already a comparatively high-cost producer (Financial Times, October 26, 1999).

The following articles are from reports detailing the Kyoto Treaty negociations in Bonn, Germany. This round of negociations was used as a preparatory round for the next series of talks in The Hague in 2000.

The Cost of Kyoto Under Multi-gas Abatement Strategies

Several studies have been conducted to determine the costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. The conclusions of these studies have ranged from the Clinton-Gore Administration study that claims very little cost to studies conducted by private economic consulting firms that have estimated much higher costs.

A new study appearing in Nature (October 7, 1999) takes a look at abatement costs from a different angle. Whereas most studies have concentrated on the costs of meeting Kyoto targets by reducing CO2, the Nature study, conducted by researchers at MIT, takes into account the fact that participating countries can reduce multiple gases under the Kyoto Protocol.

The researchers rank the six different gases according to marginal abatement costs under the assumption that a country will begin their abatement efforts with lowest-cost options first, moving towards the higher-cost options until the target is met. They also look at three different scenarios; a CO2 target and control, a multi-gas target with CO2 control only, and a multi-gas target and controls. Whereas previous studies concentrated on the first scenario, the Nature study concentrates on the two latter scenarios.

According to the study, under the first scenario the U.S. emission target would be 571 megatons of carbon equivalent (MtC equiv.). The cost would be $187 per ton of carbon equivalent (tC equiv.). Under scenario two, the U.S. would have to meet a target of 650 MtC equiv. at a cost of $229 per tC equiv. Under scenario three, the target would be the same as scenario two at a cost of $150 per tC equiv.

The media has made much of this study and its claim that a multi-gas strategy would significantly reduce the costs of meeting the Kyoto target. It should be noted that the lowest cost option is still far greater than the costs estimated by the Presidents Council of Economic Advisers, which claims that abatement costs will be $14 – $23 per ton of CO2 abated.

Finally, the study assumes a 2.4 degree C rise in temperature over the next century under a business as usual scenario. The study argues that meeting the Kyoto target under the second and third scenarios will reduce the assumed temperature rise by about 17 percent or roughly a half-degree by the year 2100, although reductions in the poles may be much greater.

Are Tradeable Emission Permits the Solution?

Tradeable emission permits have been touted by the Clinton-Gore Administration as the path to cheap compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. Several studies have cast doubt on these claims, such as the study by the Energy Information Administration and a policy brief by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A new study by Roy Cordato, an economist and holder of the Lundy Chair of Business Philosophy at Campbell University, takes a more fundamental look at the claims behind tradeable emission permits.

Cordato assumes, for the sake of the study, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes predictions of global warming are true. He argues that for claims about emission trading to be true several things must be known. First, the costs and benefits of global warming must be known. “To be certain of the costs and benefits,” says Cordato, “we must know how the resources that would have to be shifted to avert global warming would be used if no action were taken, and how people would value those resources in their alternative uses.”

He further argues that, “We must be able to guess the choices and gauge the feelings of people not yet born, living during a period 50 to 100 years from now and beyond. There is no scientific way to determine this information; it is beyond our knowledge.” The report will be available soon at www.iret.org.

Ice Sheet Retreat is Natural and Inevitable

Proponents of the global warming hypothesis argue that the retreat of polar glaciers supports their views. Others disagree, arguing that the melting of glaciers cannot be tied to manmade global warming and are likely a result of natural processes. A new study in Science (October 8, 1999) supports the latter view.

According to the study, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has retreated 1300 km since the last glacial optimum 20,000 years ago. A complete collapse of the WAIS would cause sea level to rise by 5 to 6 meters. For the last 7,500 years, the grounding line of the WAIS has retreated approximately 120 meters per year, and, according to the study, “recent measurements indicate that the grounding-line retreat is continuing at about the same rate.” If the retreat continues at the same rate the “complete deglaciation will take about 7,000 years.”

The studys authors conclude, “We suggest that modern grounding-line retreat is part of ongoing recession that has been under way since early to mid-Holocene time. It is not a consequence of anthropogenic warming or recent sea level rise. In other words, the future of the WAIS may have been predetermined when grounding-line retreat was triggered in early Holocene time. Continued recession and perhaps even complete disintegration of the WAIS within the present interglacial period could well be inevitable.”

The study supports arguments made at the Cooler Heads briefings for congressional staff and media. Both Dr. David Malmquist of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research and Dr. S. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, argued that sea level rise is primarily a natural process.

Global Warming May Lower Sea Levels

Last week we reported on Fred Singers Cooler Heads briefing to congressional staff and media where he argued that on decadal time scales there is an inverse relationship between global temperatures and sea levels, due to sea surface evaporation that transports moisture to the polar ice caps.

Now, Dr. John Bratton of the US Geological Survey argues that global warming could cause sea level to fall for an entirely different reason. Dr. Bratton argues that temperature rise would cause the melting of “clathrates” which are “sea-floor crystals of ice which enclose gases such as methane.” When these crystals melt, the gas escapes leaving a hole that could cause sea levels to fall by as much as 25 meters. Dr. Bratton estimates that sea level will fall by about 1.5 meters due to this phenomenon.

Dr. Bratton says that the expected fall in sea level from clathrate melting “is of the same order of magnitude as those associated with the thermal expansion of the oceans, melting of non-polar ice and melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet” (BBC News, October 7, 1999).

Isle of the Dead: The Death Knell of Global Warming?

Generally accepted estimates of sea level rise over the last century has been about 18 centimeters. This number has been arrived at using various direct measurements and proxy data. A new data point, however, threatens to challenge the current estimates. In 1841, the famous Antarctic explorer Captain Sir James Clark Ross, for whom the Ross Sea is named, and Thomas Lampriere, an amateur meteorologist, marked the mean sea level in the rock face of a small island known as the Isle of the Dead (used as a burial ground for dead convicts). The position of the mark was based on three years of sea level observations.

The mark was recently rediscovered and is now thirty centimeters above mean sea level, suggesting a large fall. According to John Daly, who maintains the website Still Waiting for Greenhouse, “when we look at the Ross-Lempriere 1841 bench mark, one thing becomes crystal clear: There has been no sea level rise this century none at all.”

Others have argued that something else may be responsible for the apparent discrepancy. David Pugh of the Southhampton Oceanographic Centre agues that the mark was a high water mark, not a mark of the mean sea level (BBC News, October 6, 1999). But Daly argues that Captain Ross explicitly stated on several occasions that it was a mean sea level mark. Even assuming that it is a high water mark, the current high water level is 30 to 36 centimeters above mean sea level or at the same level as the mark, meaning that at best there has been no sea level rise.

Other causes for the apparent fall in sea level have been suggested, such as tectonic uplift or a “blip” in the data during the time the mark was struck. These other causes, even taken together, would only account for a fraction of the sea level drop indicated by the mark, however. For further details see www.vision.net.au/~daly/.