November 1999

Pew Runs for Cover

As reported in our last issue, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a letter from Jack Kemp, challenged the Pew Center on Climate Change, a major left-wing advocate of energy controls, to a series of scientific debates in Washington and other cities, “to review the evidence for and against Kyoto in a more thoughtful fashion.” The Pew Center has now responded.

Eileen Claussen, the President and Chairman of the Board of the Pew Center, wrote in response to the challenge, “The Pew Center was founded to advance the broader discussion surrounding climate change not the Kyoto Protocol with credible and thoughtful analyses that would lead to realistic solutions to a serious problem.”

She goes on to say that “The Center has also initiated a series of peer-reviewed studies [that] have helped define the credible parameters within which reasonable differences can be considered by those with a stake in the issue (our emphasis).” Translation: The science is in. Manmade global warming is real. The only reasonable difference of opinion can be in what to do about it. The claim of peer-review is dubious. The reviewers were most likely selected because their viewpoint matched Pews, not to provide an objective evaluation.

According to Miss Claussen, “An adversarial forum on the Kyoto Protocol would not do justice to the scale and complexities of the climate change issue. What is needed is serious and informed discussion (our emphasis).” Miss Claussen claims, therefore, that the science behind the global warming theory is no longer a topic of “serious” debate. “For these reasons, we respectfully decline your invitation to a debate on Kyoto,” wrote Miss Claussen.

IPCCs Draft Report Available

Those who follow the global warming debate have noticed that the evidence supporting catastrophic scenarios becomes weaker each year. But dont expect the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes third assessment report to reflect that reality, however.

According to the New Scientist (November 20, 1999), the draft of the IPCCs third assessment report takes quite a different view. “Unlike the last IPCC assessment five years ago, which concluded merely that the balance of evidence suggested that global warming was caused by humans, the latest report unequivocally points to humans as the culprits.”

The report claims that the world has been warming at a rate of 2 degrees C per century since 1976, and that this rate is “unprecedented” based on data from the past millenium. “Whats more,” reports the New Scientist, “climate modeling studies in the past five years all show that the patterns of warming match predictions based on the greenhouse effect much better than those based on alternative theories.”

Perhaps the most startling claim of the draft report is that even though solar influence is probably responsible for some of the warming experienced in the first half of the century, “Based on these factors alone temperatures would actually have fallen during the past two decades,” reports the New Scientist.

Other predictions include a collapse of the Greenland ice sheet over the next 1000 years and a subsequent rise in sea level of 7 meters and that forests may exhibit a “positive feedback” effect. After absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forests could succumb to heat stress and release their carbon. The draft of the IPCC report is available on the web at

Federal Budgets Kyoto Outlays

The Clinton-Gore Administration has been successful in gaining Congresss approval of increased funding to combat global warming, according to a White House press release. “The budget provides $1.1 billion for research and development of clean energy through the Climate Change Technology Initiative, including a 7 percent increase for energy efficiency investments to reduce pollution, create jobs, and save consumers money.”

The press release also boasts of extending tax credits for wind and biomass energy production through 2001. “These tax credits encourage no- (wind) and low- (biomass) emission energy production. The biomass tax credit encourages farmers to grow certain materials that can be burned to produce energy. Producing energy from wind and biomass preserves scarce energy resources and reduces our reliance on imported oil.” Finally, the administration claims that it was the last line of defense against attempts “to block common-sense actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution” (U.S. Newswire, November 18, 1999).

University Students Gunning for GCC

“UCLAs undergraduate student government has approved a resolution urging the University of California Regents to divest itself of holdings of industrial and manufacturing firms that the students say contribute to global warming,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Undergraduate Student Affairs Council voted 9-2 to divest holdings of Exxon, Ford, and General Motors, which are members of the Global Climate Coalition. Also, 58 UCLA faculty members have sent a letter to the regents urging them to divest holdings in GCC companies.

Students and faculty members of Grinnell College in Iowa have also signed a letter urging the trustees to “avoid investing any of the schools billion-dollar endowment fund in companies that oppose limits on greenhouse gas emissions.” The letter signed by members of a student group called “Free the Planet” and 28 faculty members said that they are opposed to investments in GCCs member companies.

Grinnell officials say that the college has not invested in any of these companies. The trustees will consider the proposal, however. Grinnell student Bill Holland says his group wants “the trustees to take a formal stand against investing in the firms,” as well as a resolution from the student government (The Des Moines Register, November 12, 1999).

Astronomical Cycles and Global Warming

Several factors have been implicated in climate change, including the sun, carbon dioxide, and changes in the Earths orbit. A team of researchers with the University of California-Berkeley has found that climate cycles are closely related to astronomical cycles. “Astronomy is responsible for almost all climate changes,” said project leader Richard Muller.

By examining sediment cores from the bottom of the oceans, the researchers found that ice ages last about 90,000 years followed by a warm period of about 10,000 years. They then examined astronomical cycles that influence the tilt of the Earths orbit and found that there is a close match between astronomical cycles and climate cycles. According to Muller, “When we look at ancient records of planets, these astronomical cycles appear in the climate record.

The gravitational forces from changes in the positions of other planets change the tilt of the Earths orbit. “By using the laws of physics, we can figure out what kind of cycles (other planets) induce on the orbit of the earth,” Muller said. Jupiter and Venus affect on Earths orbit the most. Jupiter because of its large mass and Venus because its relative proximity to Earth.

The researchers found that the Earth experiences ice ages when its orbit is less tilted and warm periods when it is more tilted. Unfortunately, they dont know why the tilt of the orbit influences climate. “We have lots of guesses and we are trying to figure out which one is correct,” Muller said. “The first guess is dust. Dust hitting the Earth has the same cycles as the ice ages.” But theres just not enough dust to account for dramatic climate change by itself, according to Muller, so there must be some feedback process at work.

“Our best guess as of right now is that changes in the dust affect the formation of clouds,” said Muller. “Remarkably, cloud formation is not well understood.” Muller does not discount manmade global warming, however. He argued that global warming is a near future phenomenon and that the coming ice age is in the distant future (University Wire, November 18, 1999).

Coral Reefs Rebound

The bleaching of coral reefs has been touted as one of the consequences of global warming. In a previous issue we highlighted a study that showed that coral bleaching may be part of a natural cycle. That finding now seems to be confirmed with the recovery of coral reefs throughout the world. The ProDivers News writes, “We are sure you will share our optimism and delight in the knowledge that coral growth and recovery is reported even in areas where extensive damage has been caused due to bleaching.” Information about coral reef recovery can be found on the web at

Disease Not Due to Global Warming

The recent outbreak of West Nile virus in the New York metropolitan area was linked by some to global warming. But, said Sidney Shindell, professor emeritus in the department of preventive medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, “Dont you believe it. Theres no evidence that global warming is to blame. If anything, travel affects the emergence of disease, and human migrations have been the main source of disease outbreaks throughout history.”

“To combat mosquito-borne illnesses effectively,” said Shindell, we must “strengthen our public health infrastructure and implement better disease-prevention strategies, not invest in schemes to reduce greenhouse emissions that will disrupt our economy and place even more lives at risk” (Wisconsin State Journal, November 14, 1999).

No More Extreme Weather

Environment Canadas (a government department) senior climatologist, David Phillips is a global warming skeptic. Though many of his colleagues claim that mans warming of the planet leads to more destructive weather, Phillips says there is no proof of such a link. “The point Ive argued about with my colleagues is all the weather weve seen in recent history cant be blamed on global warming,” said Phillips. “There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the ice storm in Ontario last year or the Red River flood in Manitoba were direct results of what were doing to the atmosphere.”

Phillips doesnt discount the possibility that mans influence on the atmosphere may lead to more extreme weather, but the evidence doesnt show it. Phillips blames much of the erroneous perception on the advent of “storm porn,” the medias overreaction to natural disasters. The perception of more extreme weather, says Phillips, may have more to do with increasing media coverage than actual changes.

Phillips argues that population growth is blame for perceived increases in natural disasters. “Weathers doing a bigger number of people,” says Phillips. “That doesnt make the weather more extreme. Its just that were bigger targets now. Were getting in the way of the weather” (The Edmonton Sun, November 14, 1999).

New York Times Flunks Energy Test

Few reporters have towed the Clinton-Gore Administrations global warming line more faithfully than William K. Stevens at the New York Times. A recent article attempted to convince readers that there is a trend toward the use of “more energy efficient fuels” that could considerably slow down global warming. Unfortunately, Stevens has a poor grasp of the mechanics of energy use, as pointed out in a recent article in The Electricity Daily (November 15, 1999).

According to the author, Howard Hayden, proprietor of The Energy Advocate, “Fuels themselves are not efficient or inefficient.” Efficiency is determined by “the ratio of the useful energy obtained divided by the energy contained in the fuel.” Efficiency, then, is a function of the machinery used to extract useful energy. The more useful energy a furnace can extract from a unit of fuel the more efficient, and vice versa.

Stevens, of course, is referring to the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of heat delivered, said Hayden. Stevens claims, for example, that fuels with high carbon content have been progressively replaced with fuels with low carbon content. “First wood, high in carbon, was eclipsed by coal, which contains less carbon.” Hayden points out that coal is all carbon, something of which Stevens is apparently unaware.

We are now using natural gas that has four hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. Stevens claims “that the day of hydrogen providing no carbon at all may be about to dawn.” But, “there are no sources of free hydrogen whatsoever on the Earth,” says Hayden. “All hydrogen must be freed from chemical compounds (such as water) at a high price a lot of energy. More energy, in fact, than will ever be released from burning the hydrogen.”

Emission Trading Not the Answer

In the October 18 issue of Business Week, University of Chicago economist and Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker extolled the virtues of emission trading. In response, Russell Jones of the American Petroleum Institute argued that emission trading is no panacea (November 15, 1999).

“Trading permits is really about wealth, or wealth transfer,” said Jones. Depending on assumptions, you can easily put the annual world market value of the permits in the $200 billion to $1 trillion range. Either auctioning or allocating those permits among and within countries would cause great political distress.”

Emission trading could increase “deforestation and therefore greenhouse emissions,” Jones argued. “Thats because trading could drive up the price of fossil fuels, leaving wood as the energy source of choice in the developing world.” Jones concludes, “Beckers observation that enforcement of compliance is a challenge shows a mastery of subtle understatement.”

Yawns in Bonn

The fifth Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded with little fanfare and with major decisions being put off until COP-6 in 2000. The conference had begun with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder calling on governments to ratify the Protocol so that it will be in force by 2002.

The dispute between the U.S. and the E.U. over whether there should be caps on the use of flexible mechanisms was tabled once again. But several technical issues were resolved, such as an agreement “on how to improve the rigor of national reports from industrialized countries and strengthen the guidelines for measuring their greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Other decisions,” according to a press release from the conference, “establish the process negotiators will follow over the coming 12 months. They will make it possible to finalize regimes for non-compliance, capacity building, emission trading, joint implementation, and a Clean Development Mechanism. They also point the way forward for determining how to address adverse effects on developing countries and how to account for net emissions from forests (which can act as carbon sinks).” The sixth Conference of the Parties will be held in The Hague on November 13-24, 2000.

Implementation Without Ratification?

The Clinton-Gore Administration has said repeatedly that it will do nothing to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to ratification by the U.S. Senate. Several actions by the administration, however, demonstrate that they are perfectly willing to pursue reductions of CO2 in the absence of ratification. Although administration proposals such as the Clean Technology Initiative and its support for “credits for early action” may not directly implement Kyoto, they are clearly meant to grease the skids to ratification, and perhaps make such a vote a mere formality.

A recent action by the administration clearly shows it has no respect for constitutional processes. The U.S. Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by a 51-48 vote on October 13. Despite this rejection, the administration maintains that the treaty is the law of the land merely by virtue of the presidents signature.

According to an article in The Washington Times (November 2, 1999), Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote a letter to foreign governments stating that the U.S. is legally bound by the treaty despite the Senates rejection. “Despite this setback, I want to assure you that the United States will continue to act in accordance with its obligations as a signatory under international law, and will seek reconsideration of the treaty at a later date when conditions are better suited for ratification,” said Secretary Albright.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said in an interview, “We believe that so long as the presidentexpresses his intention to seek advice and consent pending whatever timeframe he chooses, customary international law applies.” In other words, as long as the administration has not given up on the treaty it is still legally bound to uphold it. The same logic could apply to Kyoto. Since President Clinton has not submitted it to the Senate for ratification, but plans to do so, the U.S. is bound to comply with its targets.

Further evidence of the administrations disrespect for the law is its latest attack on coal-fired power plants. Thwarted by the D.C. Court of Appeals in its attempts to impose overly stringent air-quality standards on utilities in Midwestern states, the Environmental Protection Agency has brought suit against seven electric utility companies for emissions at coal-fired power plants.

According to Ken Maize, editor of Electricity Daily (November 8, 1999), “EPA has concocted a novel, backdoor approach (to lower NOx emissions): claiming that what the utilities clearly believed were routine maintenance activities were actually major modifications under the Clean Air Act. Its a gigantic stretch.”

“The EPAs latest ploy is clearly extra-legal. The definition of routine maintenance has been long established, and none of the utilities charged in the EPA complaint were reckless enough or stupid enough to try to turn routine maintenance into a loophole,” wrote Mr. Maize. “A retrospective reinterpretation in what constitutes a major modification gives the agency a hammer to pound home its policy views.”

CEI Challenges Pew

The debate over global warming has deteriorated to thirty-second sound bites that consist of a litany of scare stories with no scientific basis whatsoever. In an attempt to raise the level of the debate, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has challenged the Pew Center on Climate Change, a major left-wing advocate of energy controls, to a series of scientific debates in Washington and other cities, “to review the evidence for and against Kyoto in a more thoughtful fashion.”

The letter was sent by Jack Kemp, a distinguished fellow at CEI, to the Pew Center and appeared in a full-page ad in Roll Call on November 2, 1999. So far the Pew Center has not responded to the challenge.

Why We Shouldnt Sweat Global Warming

In a briefing for congressional staff and media on November 5, sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition, Dr. Patrick Michaels debunked many of the global warming myths that have made their way into public debate over the last decade. Climate models have consistently overestimated climatic warming, and new research has proved that mild warming will likely be beneficial to human beings and the planet, according to Dr. Michaels, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia

“The warming we are seeing is largely confined to the areas of Siberia and northwestern North America, and the vast majority of that occurs during the winter months,” Dr. Michaels explained. Accordingly, the most likely result of a predicted 1.5-degree increase in temperatures over the next 100 years will be slightly milder winters in Siberia and Northern Canada, hardly doomsday effects.

The current, rather mild, warming projections come from many of the same researchers that made the apocalyptic warming predictions of a decade ago. Climatologists around the world have been progressively revising their predictions downward as their models improve. “It appears that the people who were the so-called small band of skeptics must have had a point,” Dr. Michaels commented.

Dr. Michaels critiqued media coverage linking “severe” weather to global warming. He noted that neither droughts, hurricanes, nor floods have increased significantly in the last 50 years. Regarding the infamous Dust Bowl drought of 1934, Dr. Michaels stressed how such events were part of the earths natural cycle: “Severe droughts have happened before, and theyre going to happen again. Except that the next time, itll be global warming thats responsible. No one will want to hear about all the times these kinds of event have happened in the past.”

The talk concluded with some very simple answers to the climate change debate. Temperature increases, concentrated in the coldest parts of the world, and mostly during winter, will, if anything, be beneficial. “Cold related deaths outnumber heat related deaths four to one,” Dr. Michaels pointed out.

Two members of Ozone Action passed out a one page “expos” of Dr. Michaels that misrepresented his views on global warming. During Q&A, Dr. Michaels confronted them but they had no response. Hopefully, Ozone Actions misperceptions regarding Dr. Michaels views have been cleared up.

The Costs of El Nio, La Nia

El Nio has taken a lot of heat for its alleged role in several adverse weather events. In our September 15 issue we highlighted a study that argued that El Nios influence on weather patterns is a net benefit to the U.S. economy. A new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (October 1999), by Roger Pielke with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Christopher Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gives further evidence that El Nio is a beneficial phenomenon.

The study looked at how hurricane activity was affected by the El Nio Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from 1925 to 1997. The authors found that most of the recent hurricane damage occurred during periods of transition between El Nio and La Nia. El Nio periods, however, experienced fewer damaging hurricanes than both the transition periods and periods of La Nia. “The average damage per storm of El Nio years is $800 million versus $1,600 million in La Nia years,” said the authors.

Green activists argued during the most recent El Nio that global warming would lead to more frequent and more intense El Nios that would have all sorts of adverse climatic consequences. Even if the Greens are correct about the link between global warming and El Nio (theres no evidence of a link in the scientific literature), they are wrong that it will be harmful. The evidence shows that El Nio is a good thing.

Sinking Carbon: Literally

The use of carbon sinks has been hotly debated, with Green activists, who dont want anything to interfere with the elimination of fossil fuels, being opposed to their use, and industry in favor of their use. The evidence is clear, however, that there is great potential in the use of carbon sinks, if removing CO2 from the atmosphere is the sort of thing one would like to do.

According to researchers at Kansas State University, one of the greatest potential carbon sinks is the prairie soils of Americas breadbasket. They argue that “Changes in farming techniques such as not plowing the soil and adjusting crop rotations so that land is left fallow for shorter periods can keep the carbon locked up in the soil for hundreds, if not thousands of years” (The Sunday Gazette Mail (Charleston, W.Va.), November 7, 1999).

Climate Science Position Statement from Germany

The German Meteorological Society has issued a position statement on the current state of climate science. The statement notes many of the shortcomings of current climate models, arguing that “It is therefore scientifically proven without a doubt that radiation fluxes in the system Earth/Atmosphere are changed through the increase of climate-relevant trace gases. Without consideration of feedback effects in the complicated climate system, this would certainly lead to a warming of the surface and troposphere. The real, scientifically challenging debate deals with the question to what extent the different feedback processes strengthen or diminish the warming from radiative forcing” (translation courtesy of Fred Singer). For further details see The Week that Was, November 6, 1999 at

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Slow

A new report by the Department of Energys Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that U.S. emission of greenhouse gases rose in 1998, but at a slower rate than the average for the last ten years. Since 1990, U.S. emissions have increased by about 1.2 percent per year on average. In 1998, however, emissions rose by only 0.2 percent over 1997 levels. The EIA also noted that U.S. emission levels remained about 10 percent above 1990 levels.

Many advocates of Kyoto style energy controls have pointed to this report as evidence that the use of fossil fuels is no longer linked to economic growth, since this decline occurred while the U.S. economy posted strong gains. The EIA argues, however, that the decline was due to a warmer-than-usual winter, which lowered demand for heating (BNA Daily Environment Report, November 8, 1999).

U.K. Needs Nuclear Power

Green pressure groups have dubbed global warming the greatest threat to the planet, so great that we must make severe reductions in energy use at great cost to prevent it. They are also adamantly opposed to the use nuclear power to stop this world-ending threat.

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, however, there may be little choice. These groups argue in a joint report “that the UKs stated intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting global warming, will only be met by accepting the need for nuclear power as a significant part of the energy mix,” according to the UK: Environment News (November 8, 1999). It looks like the Greens are going to have to decide which is the greater threat: global warming or nuclear power.