January 2001

IPCC: Kyoto would be Costly

Working Group III of the IPCC report predicts that compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would reduce economic growth by as much as 2 percent per year in the industrialized countries, according to the January 9 issue of Japan Times. This closely matches predictions by several other economic studies. Economic growth rates in industrial countries hover around 2 percent per year. That would be consumed by the Kyoto Protocol.

Who Profits from Kyoto?

Bruce Yandle, an economist at Clemson University, recently identified several “Baptist and Bootlegger” coalitions that are driving global warming policy in the January issue of Hoover Digest (www-hoover.stanford.edu).

The first group he identifies is the “alternative energy bootleggers.” Enron Corporation is a major provider of low-carbon natural gas. In 1997 it announced the creation of the Enron Renewable Energy Corporation “to take advantage of the growing interest in environmentally sound alternatives of power in the $250 billion U.S. energy market.” Enron endorsed President Clintons $6.3 billion plan to fight global warming, $3.6 billion of which would go to subsidize renewable energy technologies.

The National Corn Growers Association and Archer-Daniels-Midland, a producer of corn based ethanol fuel, have touted ethanol as a global-warming-friendly fuel. They succeeded in getting a 5.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax incentive for ethanol producers.

Several economic studies have shown that the Kyoto Protocol would be devastating to the coal industry, but would greatly benefit the natural gas industry and to a lesser degree the oil industry, both of which would step in to fill the vacuum left by coal. This explains why so many oil companies left the Global Climate Coalition and became crusaders for global warming policy, according to Yandle.

IPCC Releases Political Summary

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on January 20, approved and released the Summary for Policymakers of its Third Assessment Report. As with the Second Assessment Report in 1995, the Summary bears little resemblance to the actual report, which has not yet been approved for final release. The report itself is replete with caveats that give little support for the catastrophic warming scenario touted by anti-energy activists (commonly known as environmentalists).

The summary, on the other hand, is a political document that exists primarily to bolster the claims of the anti-energy zealots, not to summarize the report. As Robert Watson, chairman of the IPCC, said in a press conference releasing the summary, “This adds impetus for governments of the world to find ways to live up to their commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The summary claims that the earths temperature could rise much faster than previously thought and that last century was the warmest in the past thousand years. The Second Assessment Report, which was released in 1995, gave a prediction that the earth could warm by 1 to 3.5 degrees C by the year 2100. The “best estimate” was a 2 degree C warming by 2100, about a third lower than the IPCCs best estimate in 1990. The new report has dramatically increased that estimate to 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C, even though no new evidence has come to light to warrant such a dramatic change.

The summary claims that the 20th century has been the warmest in the last 1000 years. This conclusion is based on a suspect set of data derived from tree rings, which purports to show a stable climate from the years 1000 to 1900. It then crudely attaches the 20th century surface temperature data to produce a dramatic warming thereafter. When these two different (and incompatible) data sets are combined, the resulting graph resembles a hockey stick lying on its back, blade up.

It is very difficult to extract any information about past temperature variations using tree ring data. What it does tell us is whether the “combined micro-environmental conditions during the growing season [of a particular year] were favorable to [tree] growth or not (The Hockey Stick: A new low in climate science, www.microtech.com.au/daly).”

These conditions include rainfall, temperature, atmospheric carbon concentrations, and so on. Singling out the temperature effect is a highly speculative business. Moreover, the samples used in the tree ring data were limited to the Northern Hemisphere, leaving much of the planet unsampled. The IPCC report, nonetheless, presents the hockey stick graph as representing a global temperature trend.

The hockey stick represents a radical departure from the well-established historical temperature record, which has been derived from several proxies, including the written historical record, ice core samples, and tree ring data, among others. Those records show that the earth was much warmer during the Medieval Warm Period that spanned much of the first half of the millennium. The 20th century was cooler than the Medieval Warm Period and the warming that occurred could easily be explained by a natural emergence from the Little Ice Age, an episode that also mysteriously disappears in the IPCCs new tree ring data.

The summary states that, “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” It turns out, however, that the evidence comes from computer-generated climate models, which, of course, isnt evidence at all.

“There is a longer and more closely scrutinized temperature record and new model estimates of variability,” says the summary. “The warming over the past 100 years is very unlikely to be due to internal variability alone, as estimated by current models.” Why the internal variability estimated by computers is valid is not explained. A look at real climate variability over the long term clearly shows that the current warming is well within natural variability.

Finally, computer models are still incapable of replicating the present climate using known climate conditions. Moreover, the several models in existence give such widely divergent predictions it is difficult to know what to make of them. A model that cannot predict the present certainly shouldnt be used to predict a hundred years into the future.

A Rift in the IPCC “Consensus”?

IPCC Chairman Robert Watson has a science degree, but he is not a practicing scientist. Indeed, he has been a political operative his whole life, and his pronouncements on the subject of global warming carry about as much weight as those by Greenpeace. The lead authors of the IPCCs Third Assessment Report are practicing scientists, however, and many of their comments seem to contradict Dr. Watsons.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria who holds the Canada Research Chair in atmospheric science is a lead author of the UN report. He stated that, “Based on the science you simply cant make the statement that it is going to warm faster.” People who argue otherwise dont understand the IPCC report, said Weaver.

The Toronto Star (January 23, 2001) points out that what was released on the 20th was an 18-page summary that was “hammered out during four days of horse-trading among officials from 99 governments.” These officials are often erroneously referred to as scientists in the press.

Gordon McBean, a former head of the Meteorological Service in Canada who was heavily involved in the Second Assessment Report said, “It is misleading to say the situation is worse.” Both scientists, however, do believe that man is the cause of the warming that weve seen so far.

Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also a lead author of the report. He stated, “The public is led to think that hundreds, even thousands, of scientists formed a consensus about this report. The truth is that were not even asked.”

Bush Administration Seeks Delay

The Bush Administration has reportedly asked to postpone for two months negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol now scheduled to be held in Bonn, Germany in late May and early June. According to an Associated Press story, the State Department announced on January 24 that it needed the additional two months in order to take, in spokesman Rick Boucher’s words, “a thorough look at the U.S. policy on climate change.” This extra time would presumably be used to bring the U.S. negotiating position into conformity with the Bush campaigns explicit opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.

The continuation in Bonn of the sixth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed to after COP-6 collapsed in the Hague, Netherlands last November. COP-7 is scheduled for Marrakesh, Morocco in November.

Teamsters Oppose the Kyoto Protocol

The 1.5 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters has adopted a resolution opposing the Kyoto Protocol. It states, “The International Brotherhood of Teamsters will oppose the Kyoto Protocol and any like treaty, legislative or regulatory action that causes job loss and mandates internationally disproportionate greenhouse gas reductions.” It also called for a “short- and long-term comprehensive energy strategy that will assure that energy is adequate and affordable for American families and that prevents energy shortfalls that destabilize the economy” (Greenwire, January 23, 2001).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claimed that the year 2000 was the fifth warmest since 1880. Other temperature records find less warming. The year 2000 was only the 14th warmest year since 1979 according to the satellite temperature record, and it was only the 9th warmest year since 1880, according to records that include only measurements from meteorological stations.

It looks as though the NOAA data, which is cited by government officials and the news media may be the least accurate according to a study, which recently appeared in Geophysical Research Letters (January 1, 2001). The NOAA datasets “are a mixture of near-surface air temperatures over land and sea water temperatures over oceans,” according to Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Since actual air temperature data over many large ocean areas are nonexistent, the NOAA uses sea surface temperatures as a “proxy”, assuming that sea surface temperatures and air temperatures move in lock step. This is not the case, according to the data compiled by Christy and his colleagues at the Hadley Centre of the United Kingdoms Meteorological Office, who worked on the study. The researchers used buoy data in the tropical Pacific Ocean to compare “long-term (8-20 year) trends for temperatures recorded one meter below the sea surface and three meters above it.”

What they found was a significant discrepancy. “For each buoy in the Eastern Pacific, the air temperatures measured at the three meter height showed less of a warming trend than did the same buoys water temperatures at one meter depth,” Christy said. The difference is a near-surface seawater warming trend of 0.37 degrees C per decade and an air temperature trend of only 0.25 degrees C per decade during the 20-year period tested. Replacing the sea surface temperatures with the air temperature data reduces the Earths global warming trend by a third, from 0.19 to 0.13 degree C per decade.


  • Beyond Petroleum, formerly British Petroleum, told the British Parliament on January 18 that fuel taxes are being used by the government primarily to raise revenue and not to achieve environmental results. According to a January 19 Reuters story, BPs written submission to Parliaments Environmental Audit Select Committee states that, “We have observed that governments are apparently more driven by revenue than environmental objectives when setting the level of fuel duties.”

BPs report argues that the level of gas taxes in the United Kingdom, which amounts to three-quarters of the price paid at the pump, is ineffective and therefore unjustified. Reuters quotes the report: “We have also questioned the environmental efficacy of motor fuel taxes, mainly because they have so little effect on consumer behavior. The lack of alternatives and the importance of the motor car in modern life has left consumers with little option but to pay whatever tax is levied by the government.”

Cooler Heads reported in the November 1, 2000 issue that much higher gas taxes in Britain have not succeeded in reducing demand, thereby making it much harder to reach the carbon dioxide emission limits set by the Kyoto Protocol. It is not clear how BPs implied support for lower taxes would help to meet the Kyoto limits. BP is still selling motor fuels throughout the world, and in fact is Britain’s largest fuel retailer.


  • Freedom 21 is sponsoring a debate on “The Future of the Kyoto Protocol” at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2001. Featured speakers are the Rt. Hon. John Gummer, MP, and Dr. Alan Keyes. The event is designed to present fundamentally different views of the future of the Treaty, especially for the benefit of new Beltway residents, whether they be in Congress or the Bush Administration.

  • The February 2001 issue of Discover magazine features an article about Dr. John Christy and his scientific views about global warming and his personal views about global warming policy.

Umbrella Group to Hold Secret Meeting in Sunny New Zealand

The Japan Times (December 29, 2000) has reported that the so-called Umbrella Group, which includes Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, will hold “secret” talks in New Zealand to forge a joint strategy for future climate negotiations.

The meeting’s purpose is to try to figure out how to revive the moribund talks that collapsed last November in the Hague at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. One of the major sticking points at COP-6 was over the extent to which carbon sinks can be counted toward meeting emissions reductions. The Umbrella Group wants much more credit for sinks than does the European Union. Another controversial issue is the use of so-called flexible mechanisms. The Umbrella Group wants full use of emissions trading, for example, while the EU wishes to limit the use of such mechanisms.

The talks have been scheduled for February, which means that the new Bush Administration will have very little time to prepare their position or to put a new negotiating team in place. President-elect Bush opposed the Kyoto Protocol in his campaign, but no official position is expected until after he takes office.

Bush Cabinet Looks Stronger on Kyoto with Abraham at Energy

Since our last issue, President-elect George W. Bush’s cabinet picks look much less wobbly on global warming than the early nominations of Paul O’Neill to be Treasury Secretary and Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to head EPA. Bush nominated former Senator Spence Abraham to be Secretary of Energy on January 2.

In the Senate, Abraham was a solid opponent of the Kyoto Protocol. He sponsored legislation to repeal the federal excise tax on gasoline during last summer’s price spike and supported abolishing the Department of Energy. It’s also no surprise that, as a senator from Michigan, he was one of the leading opponents of raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards on automobiles.

Secretary of Energy looks like it will be a key position in the early months of the new administration. Current energy shortages may get worse, and candidate Bush laid out an ambitious long-term plan to increase production and reduce supply bottlenecks.

In addition, Kyoto opponents have a strong ally in Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card, Jr. Card served as secretary of transportation in the George Bush Administration, as president of the Alliance of American Automobile Manufacturers, and most recently as vice president in charge of General Motors’ Washington, D.C. office.

Antarctic Ice Sheet Retreating More Slowly Than Thought

“New evidence suggests that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is retreating more slowly and contributing less to rising global sea levels than scientists once thought,” according to research summarized in a NASA news release (http://science.nasa.gov). The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco on December 16.

“Our previous best estimates that the ice sheet as adding 1 millimeter per year to global sea level are almost certainly too high,” said Robert Bindschadler, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Scientists believed that the WAIS had reached its maximum growth 20,000 years ago, at about 3 times its current size. The new evidence, however, shows that it was still growing as little as 8,000 years ago.

According to Bindschadler’s analysis, “More rapid retreat approximately 7600 years ago and possible near-stability in the Ross Sea sector at present suggests a slow rate of initial retreat followed by a more rapid-than-average retreat during the late Holocene, returning to a near-zero rate of retreat currently” (http://earth.agu.org/meetings/fm00top.html).

“Bindschadler points to “the geologic record of dated stages in the retreat of the ice sheet’s continental base as evidence that it has shrunk in fits and starts,” according to the NASA news release. “Such episodic retreats may be controlled more by the varying depth of the underlying surface and water than by the changing climate.”

Global Temperatures in 2000: Hot or Cold?

The New York Times on December 19 proclaimed 2000 was “one of the hottest years since 1860,” even though the year wasn’t over and therefore not all the data had been collected yet. According to the World Meteorological Organization, said the Times, “2000 was the 22nd successive year that global temperatures have been above the average of the 1961-1990 base period.”

The use of 1961-1990 as the base period is suspect, however. That period encompasses a fairly long global cooling trend that began in 1940 and lasted through most of the 1970s. So it’s not surprising that temperatures since then have been above that particular average.

Preliminary data from the satellite measurements made by John Christy and Roy Spencer, on the other hand, show that global temperatures in the year 2000 were cooler than the running average since 1979. The overall trend since 1979 is plus 0.04 degrees C per decade, according to Christy, of the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Red River Floods Not Caused by Global Warming

Flooding along the Red River in 1997 devastated parts of Canada and destroyed Grand Forks, North Dakota. Government officials from Canada and the U.S. (President Clinton and Vice President Gore) blamed the floods on global warming. Indeed, the Red River-climate change link has become ingrained in global warming folklore.

A new study shows that such a claim is entirely erroneous, however. Appearing in Natural Hazards (21: 2000), the study points out that the Red River has “a high natural potential for flooding” due to the fact that “it is located on a former glacial lake bottom.” In spite of the natural flood hazard posed by the area, development has continued to increase, thereby leading to ever-higher costs related to flood damage.

The 1997 flood was the largest of the 20th century, but it is smaller than floods that occurred in the 19th century. A slightly larger flood occurred in 1852, and in 1826 a catastrophic flood occurred that discharged 40 percent more water than the 1997 flood.

It’s a Cold, Cold Winter

The U.S. has just experienced its coldest November to December period in the 106-year temperature record in the lower 48 states, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center. The World Climate Report (January 8, 2001) argues that these figures are likely to go down even further when the final data comes in. “The early returns are largely from urban stations whose concentrated economic activity is known to produce artificial warming, while rural stations, slower to report, are free from this effect and therefore could likely lower the preliminary average,” noted WCR.

In Siberia, one of the two areas in the world that is supposed to warm up more rapidly than any other, according to climate models (the other being Northwest North America), they are experiencing life threatening cold temperatures. The city of Barnaul recorded its lowest temperature in the last 100 years on January 7, 67 degrees below zero F. Authorities evacuated patients from poorly-heated hospitals.

In Krasnoyarsk the month of December never saw temperatures rise above minus 58 degrees F. People are keeping gas ovens running nearly 24 hours a day just to keep their homes at around 50 degrees F, and the freezing temperatures are disrupting the distribution of water.

Forecasters are worried that January could be even worse. According to UPI (January 7, 2001), “Weather forecasters confirm an old Russian tradition according to which the harshest weather can be expected during the so-called ‘Baptist Frost,’ the week following January 19.”

EIA Analyzes Multi-Emissions Reduction Proposals

Several bills have been floating around Capitol Hill which propose mandatory coordinated multi-emissions reductions of SO2, NOx and CO2. The Bush campaign also pledged in its energy policy statement to propose legislation to reduce emissions of these three gases as well as mercury through a “multi-pollutant” approach. At the request of former-Rep. David McIntosh, then-chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs, the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has issued a study that analyzes “the potential costs of various multi-emission reduction strategies to reduce the air emissions from electric power plants.”

To analyze the potential costs, EIA assumes an emissions trading scheme similar to the one used in Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 to reduce SO2 emissions. It also assumes a reduction in SO2 and NOx of 75 percent below 1997 levels and a reduction of CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2005 to 2008 and a further reduction to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. It also analyzes the difference in costs between separate programs for each of the gases and an integrated reduction approach.

The costs of reducing NOx and SO2 emissions would do little to raise electricity prices above EIA’s business-as-usual projections. The cost of electricity to consumers would rise 5.9 cents per kilowatt-hour as a result with or without the emissions reductions. However, the annual cost of a separate CO2 program would be $90 to $121 billion over the same period, raising consumer electricity prices by 8.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

An integrated approach where emission targets for the three gases were met simultaneously would lower the cost of emissions reduction by $5 to $11 billion. The loss to GDP under the integrated approach would be $60 to $115 billion in 2005 and $60 to $84 billion in 2010.

According to EIA, “The impact on electricity prices is projected to be much larger in the CO2 cap and integrated cases than in the NOx and SO2 cap cases. Because there are currently no commercially available technologies for removing and storing (sequestering) CO2 and none is expected to be available during the projection period, the only way to make large reductions in CO2 emissions is to reduce the consumption of fuels with relatively high carbon content and improve the efficiency of energy production and use.”

In other words, SO2 and NOx reductions can be met through installation of emission reduction equipment in existing plants, but reductions in CO2 emissions will require retiring coal-fired power plants and constructing natural gas (if gas supplies increase) power plants or perhaps more-efficient coal-fired power plants. The bottom line is that including CO2 emissions reductions in a multi-emission reduction strategy would significantly raise consumer energy prices. The report can be downloaded at http://www.eia.doe.gov.

U.S. Energy Crisis: A Reality Check

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (December 29, 2000) discusses the real energy problems that George W. Bush will face as President. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not on the list.

Among those problems are, “fear of heating-oil shortages in the Northeast, record high natural-gas prices, and soaring electric bills and threats of blackouts in California. Bush was facing reality when he told a group of reporters, ‘When we’re undersupplied as a nation and demand increases, prices will go up.'” The solution, said Bush, is to raise supply through higher production.

Most experts agree, however, that there is little the president can do in the short term. “He’s going to have to look down the road on how he can improve the situation and keep it from happening again,” said Robert Ebel, director of energy programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Energy shortages and much higher prices may be one of the main causes of the current economic slowdown. However, the current energy crunch is minor compared to what would be required to meet the Kyoto emissions limits.