May 2001

Solar Energy or Sunstroke?

California residents are finding that solar energy is not such a hot idea. According to a May 29 article by William Booth in the Washington Post, although Los Angeles wants to become the “Solar Capital of the World,” consumers are not buying it. The city has offered to pay for half the cost to outfit a home with solar power, which costs between $10,000 and $20,000. Even with a $10,000 rebate, only about 40 homes have installed solar power. This is a tad short of the goal of 100,000 homes.

People are not converting to solar power for a number of reasons, but mostly because it does not save money. It takes an average of 20 years for a solar power system to pay for itself, but could take as long as 36 years, even with the subsidy.

Houses must have south-facing roofs and be shade free to be eligible for solar panels. Owners must also maintain the panels by cleaning off pollution, dust and leaves, a monumental task in smoggy LA. “It is not an economic proposition at this point,” said Terry Peterson, a solar expert at Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif.

Another big problem is that solar power users are still subject to rolling blackouts. People cannot live off the grid, unless they buy a large bank of batteries, which costs thousands of dollars more. Most solar homes do not produce enough electricity to be completely free of the power company. The sun supplies a typical house in Southern California with solar panels with anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of its power. Nationally, solar power now supplies 300 megawatts of electricity, which is roughly equal to one mid-sized traditional power plant.

For all its failings, solar power is still well subsidized. The LA power department has committed $75 million over the next five years to solar energy. California lawmakers have required that utilities spend 3 percent of their revenue on efficiency, conservation and renewable energy. With laws like these, it is no wonder that California is the home of the rolling blackout.

EU Wont Meet Targets

The European Union reacted with disdain and outrage when President Bush announced in March that the United States is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. Now, however, the EU might want to thank the US, as they will probably not be able to meet Kyotos targets and timetables, according to a May 23 Reuters story.

While overall the EUs emissions are down 4 percent from 1990 levels, Europe will still need to make major cutbacks in order to have emissions down 8 percent by 2010. If the EU continues its current course, their emissions will only be 1.4 percent below the 1990 level by 2010.

With the possible exception of Germany and the United Kingdom, European countries will find it very difficult to comply with Kyotos mandates. Frances emissions have increased by 11 percent, which is about the same as the United States. Belgiums emissions are up 13.5 percent and Ireland, which has experienced fabulous economic growth, has seen its emissions increase 29 percent.

The added expense of trying to fight global warming could hurt the EUs already perilous economy. With the recent economic downturn, governments may lack the political will to force economic sacrifices on their peoples.

Bush May Propose Kyoto-lite

While the Kyoto Protocol looks dead at the moment, it might be coming back to life. The Bush administration is currently working on an alternative to Kyoto that should be ready for the EU-U.S. summit meeting in Goteborg, Sweden this June.

Although the administrations deliberations on the new plans have been secretive, the May 25 issue of Inside EPA said the plan would probably include technology development, market mechanisms, such as emission trading, and carbon sequestration. European leaders are skeptical, however, that the plan will come out in time for the meeting in Sweden. In fact, they are skeptical that it will be out in time for the international climate change treaty negotiation in Bonn this July.

Wilfried Schneider, deputy director of press and public affairs for the European Commission, said US participation is critical to the climate talks. “There is no point” in trying “to solve global pollution without the United States, the greatest polluting country.”

To complicate the issue, the Democrats have taken over the Senate. In the past, both Democrats and Republicans have been against Kyoto, but now many Democrats may support Kyoto in part because the president is opposed to it. Democrats, such as Senators John Kerry (D-

Mass.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.Dakota), have reportedly been discussing offering a resolution to replace the Byrd-Hagel Resolution.

NAS Reviewing Climate Science

The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the Bush Administration, has convened a committee of scientists to review global warming science. The project will cover much of the same ground as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Some of the questions to be addressed include, “Is climate change occurring? If so, how?” and “Are greenhouse gases causing climate change? What is the relative contribution of each of the major gases?” They are expected to deliver their results to the White House next month.

Members of the committee include:

  • (Chairman) Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone (NAS) is the chancellor of the University of California at Irvine and the Daniel G. Aldrich Professor in the Departments of Earth System Science and Chemistry.

  • Dr. Robert E. Dickinson (NAS) is a professor of dynamics and climate in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • Dr. James E. Hansen (NAS) is head of the NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

  • Dr. Eric J. Barron is director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Environment Institute and distinguished professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University.

  • Dr. Inez Y. Fung (NAS) is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor for the Physical Sciences, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences, and a professor in the Departments of Earth & Planetary Science and of Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management at the University of California at Berkeley.

  • Dr. Richard S. Lindzen (NAS) is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusets Institute of Technology.

  • Dr. John M. Wallace (NAS) is a professor of atmospheric sciences and co-director of the University of Washington Program on the Environment.

  • Dr. James C. McWilliams is the Slichter Professor of Earth Sciences in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Institute for Geophysics at the University of California at Los Angeles.

  • Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland (NAS) is the Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry and Earth System Sciences at the University of California at Irvine.

  • Dr. Edward S. Sarachik is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and an adjunct professor in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington.

  • Mr. Thomas R. Karl is the director of the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

World Attacks Bush Again

International reaction to President Bushs national energy policy has, with the exception of Italys new leader, been hysterically negative.

Mr. Jan Pronk, Dutch Environment Minister and chairman of the sixth Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, blasted the plan, saying, “Disconnecting energy and climate policies from each other is fairly disastrous. We were expecting an all inclusive program but that didn’t happen” (Agence France Presse, May 18, 2001). This is an odd expectation given President Bushs clear rejection of carbon dioxide regulations. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan used his commencement address at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University to berate the U.S., accusing the administration of putting the world at risk. “Make no mistake all countries will suffer,” he said, calling U.S. actions a “grievous setback” (UPI, May 20, 2001).

With Italys election of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Bush now has an ally in Europe for many foreign policy decisions that other European officials have criticized. He remarked, “I am on whatever side America is on, even before I know what it is” (Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2001).

Berlusconis leading candidate for environment minister, Altero Matteoli, has praised Bushs energy plan stating that “Europe dreams, while Bush sees reality and marks the trail for everyone” (BBC, May 20, 2001).

Climate and Mosquito-Borne Disease

One of the worlds leading experts on mosquito-borne diseases, Dr. Paul Reiter, with the Center for Disease Control, Dengue Branch, has published a study in the March 2001 supplement of Environmental Health Perspectives. It has been claimed that a warming planet could lead to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases (often erroneously referred to as tropical diseases), such as malaria and yellow and dengue fever into the higher latitudes. Reiter looks at past climate history to better understand how these diseases interact with climate.

To understand how climate affects the transmission rates and geographic ranges of mosquito-borne disease, Reiter examines the historical record of these diseases during the different climatic episodes of the Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, which was very similar to the current climate, and the Little Ice Age.

Although Reiter discusses the existence of malaria during the Dark Ages and the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age is of most interest, since it waned only recently (circa 1850) and was “probably the coldest era of any time since the end of the last major ice age,” according to Reiter. “Yet despite this spectacular cooling, malaria persisted throughout Europe.”

Malaria was found in most of England and parts of Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was also endemic as far north as Denmark, the coastal areas of southern Norway, and much of southern Sweden and Finland. It was also found in the Baltic provinces of Russia and at similar latitudes in Siberia.

At the end of the Little Ice Age, malaria declined throughout these areas, with the exception of Russia, as global temperatures increased. This was due to several factors that are attributable to greater wealth that resulted from a warmer and more benign climate. Russias volatile political situation throughout the first half of the 20th century prevented the decline of malaria experienced throughout Europe. Reiter gives similar accounts of yellow and dengue fever.

He concludes that although the “recent resurgence of many of these diseases is a major cause for concernit is facile to attribute this resurgence to climate change.”

Indeed, the histories of these three diseases “reveal that climate has rarely been the principal determinant of their prevalence or range; human activities and their impact on local ecology have generally been much more significant. It is therefore inappropriate to use climate-based models to predict future prevalence.”

To Sink or Not to Sink?

According to the New York Times (May 24, 2001), “two new studies are challenging the idea that planting forests could be a cheap way to absorb emissions of carbon dioxide.” The studies appeared in the May 24 issue of Nature.

Unfortunately, the Times and other newspapers have misrepresented what the studies actually say. Rather than looking at whether trees are effective carbon sinks, the studies investigated “the degree to which extra CO2 in the air enables trees to produce extra biomass that removes an additional amount of CO2 from the atmosphere above and beyond the large and visibly-obvious amount trees are currently removing from the air,” according to the CO2 Science Magazine ( Nearly half of a trees dry mass is made up of carbon extracted from the air.

There are problems with the studies themselves, however. The study by Oren, et al. found that at nutrient-poor sites higher concentrations of CO2 had no detectable effect on the stimulation of biomass growth and only transient effects on nutritionally-moderate sites.

One of the problems with this study, as pointed out by CO2 Science, is that the researchers failed to measure changes in root biomass. Other studies have found similar changes in trunk biomass as the Oren, et al. study, but also found significant increases in root biomass.

The other study by Schlesinger and Lichter looked at carbon storage in soils in forest ecosystems. They found that a 200 parts per million increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations led to a statistically insignificant rise in the soils total carbon content of 15.5 percent in the top 30 cm of the soil.

At the beginning of the three-year study, the percent carbon values in the soil of the control sites was measured at 1.43 percent and 1.54 at the CO2-enriched sites. At the end of the experiment, the control sites percent carbon value dropped to 1.31 percent while the CO2-enriched sites increased to 1.59 percent.

“Viewed in this light,” according to CO2 Science, “the importance of atmospheric CO2 enrichment to soil carbon sequestration is immediately obvious. Under the site-specific conditions of the study in question, the soils of the forest plots growing in ambient air were actually losing carbon, i.e., they were carbon sources; while the soils of the plots exposed to the extra 200 ppm of CO2 were gaining carbon, i.e., they were carbon sinks.”

Of Sun and Things

Three new studies looking at how changes in solar radiation affect the climate have recently appeared, further confirming the suggested link between solar and climate dynamics.

A study in Science (May 18, 2001) used lake-sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico to reconstruct the regions climate history for the last 2,600 years. The reconstruction revealed a drought cycle of 208 years, which is similar to a 206-year variation in solar activity. The researchers conclude, “that a significant component of century-scale variability in the Yucatan droughts is explained by solar forcing,” which also “correspond with discontinuities in Maya cultural evolution.”

A Nature study (May 17, 2001) used stalagmite samples from northern Oman in Arabia as a proxy for variations in the tropical circulation and monsoon rainfall in the Indian Ocean over a period of 9.6 to 6.1 thousand years to the present. They compared this record to a record of changes in solar activity. “The excellent correlation between the two records suggests that one of the primary controls on centennial- to decadal-scale changes in tropical rainfall and monsoon intensity during this time are variations in solar radiation,” conclude the researchers.

Finally, Geophysical Research Letters (28: 2001) has published a study looking at how changes in the cosmic ray flux, caused by solar variation, affect precipitation. Using data on the cosmic ray flux recorded by ground-based neutron monitors and precipitation data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Climate Prediction Center Merged Analysis of Precipitation, the researchers found “evidence of a statistically strong relationship between cosmic ray flux, precipitation and precipitation efficiency over ocean surfaces at mid to high latitudes.”


  • In a May 3 speech to the Science and Technology Policy Colloquium sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Larry Lindsey, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy said the following about the Kyoto Protocol:

“This financial math is important when considering some of the biggest environmental challenges one faces today. When confronting long-run challenges – and the environment is certainly one of these – investments in the research and development of new technologies, with actual applications decades in the future, are far more cost-effective than trying to act with existing technologies.

“It is for precisely this reason that the Administration opposes the Kyoto protocol. We believe the Kyoto protocol could damage our collective prosperity and, in so doing, actually put our long-term environmental health at risk. Fundamentally, we believe that the protocol both will fail to significantly reduce the long- term risks posed by climate change and, in the short run, will seriously impede our ability to meet our energy needs and economic growth. Further, by imposing high regulatory and economic costs, it may actually reduce our capacity both to find innovative ways out of the environmental consequences of global warming and to achieve the necessary increases in energy production.” The full speech is available at

  • The Atmospheric Division of Australias Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organization (CSIRO) has released a new global warming brochure, Climate Change: Projections for Australia, filled with the usual scare stories about floods, droughts, heat waves, etc. The following appears at the end of the report (see


The projections are based on results from computer models that involve simplifications of real physical processes that are not fully understood. Accordingly, no responsibility will be accepted by CSIRO for the accuracy of the projections inferred from this brochure or for any persons interpretations, deductions, conclusions or actions in reliance on this information.

In Praise of “Green” Industry

Several articles have recently appeared praising those industries that are positioning themselves for what they believe to be the inevitable regulation of CO2 emissions. The Wall Street Journal (May 10, 2001), the New York Times (May 15, 2001), and Business Week (May 14, 2001), have all taken the view that industry should go ahead with CO2 reductions even if President Bush wont.

Business Week advised business CEOs to “explain [to President Bush] that globalization is the most powerful force acting on all governments, economies, and societies, and that an international strategy must be based on ramping up economic engagement,” and that, “We need better arrangements for environmental protection and social safety nets to cushion change.” Presumably, the president should agree to cut carbon dioxide emissions, even though there is no plausible justification for such action, in the name of globalization.

The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “Utilities May Be Greener Than Bush,” argued that, “A substantial segment of the electric-utility industry was almost as disappointed [as environmentalists]” over President Bushs decision to not regulate their emissions of CO2. “Sensible, farsighted utility executives look at the world as it is, no as they wish it to be,” opined the Journal. The Journal quotes Exelon Corp.s chief executive John Rowe as saying, “Theres mandatory carbon capping in the long-term future,” and calls him a “realist.”

But what exactly does the Journal expect these utility executives to say? The utility industry is a government-protected monopoly that has never had to operate in a competitive environment. As the Journal pointed out, “Not so long ago, regulated utilities saw environmental rules as a nuisance but not a threat to profits. Every extra dollar spent on pollution-control gear increased the value of the asset base that regulators use to set electric rates.” More regulation meant higher rates and more profits for utilities.

“Utility executives fear, with some reason,” said the Journal, “that they will spend heavily on an old coal plant to reduce sulfur, nitrogen and mercury emissions, and then be forced to shut it anyhow because new limits on CO2 arrive.” But begging to be regulated now wont create a stable regulatory climate. It will only embolden regulators to impose even heavier regulation in the future.

James DeLong, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted the profit motive behind the utility industrys support for CO2 regulation on Some have bet billions of dollars on a rapidly diminishing global warming threat giving them a vested interest in regulation, said DeLong. Moreover, “A cap and trade system would be a bonanza for utilities that derive their power from non-coal sources because they would then get the equivalent of a royalty on every kilowatt hour produced by coal-fired plants.”

Levy Imposes Heavy Burden

The United Kingdoms climate change levy is starting to take a heavy toll on manufacturers in the country. According to Londons Times (May 15, 2001), it has “more than tripled the pace of cost increases in Britains industry after its introduction last month, official estimates have revealed.”

Business leaders are warning the government that the tax could sink some manufacturing companies that are already struggling to stay solvent. “This is the most badly-designed and ill-conceived economic instrument of recent times,” said Martin Temple, Director-General of the Engineering Employers Federation. Another article in the same issue of the Times notes that the market is so tight manufacturers cannot pass the costs of the levy to their customers, meaning that it is cutting directly into profits.

Pro-Kyoto Amendment Passes House

On May 16 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the State Department Budget Authorization (H.R. 1646) by a 352 to 73 vote. Included in the bill was an amendment to urge the Bush Administration to continue its participation in the Kyoto negotiations. Reportedly, the amendment was added to the bill in the International Relations Committee on May 2 when several Republican congressmen had momentarily left the room. The amendment passed in committee 23-20 on a nearly party line vote, with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) being the only Republican to vote for the amendment.

The amendment reads in part: “SENSE OF CONGRESS- It is the sense of the Congress that the United States should demonstrate international leadership and responsibility in mitigating the health, environmental, and economic threats posed by global warming by

  • “taking responsible action to ensure significant and meaningful reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from all sectors; and

  • “continuing to participate in international negotiations with the objective of completing the rules and guidelines for the Kyoto Protocol in a manner that is consistent with the interests of the

United States and that ensures the environmental integrity of the protocol.”

The amendment wasnt challenged on the floor of the House, because, according to a committee spokesman, the Bush Administration had indicated that it would continue to participate in future negotiations. However, since the amendment specifically urges the administration to negotiate “with the objective of completing the rules and guidelines for the Kyoto Protocol,” the House action clearly goes beyond stated administration policy (Greenwire, May 14, 2001).

Dueling Energy Plans

In an attempt to pre-empt the Bush Administrations forthcoming energy plan, congressional Democrats have released a plan of their own. If implemented, it would greatly exacerbate the energy crisis rather than solve it.

The first proposal is to put price controls on wholesale electricity prices by calling on Congress to pass either the Feinstein-Smith bill (S. 764) or the Inslee bill (H.R. 1468) “that will return the West to just and reasonable cost-of-service based rates until March 1, 2003.” This displays an appalling lack of basic economic understanding. Price controls invariably lead to shortages because they do nothing to depress demand or increase supply. They were the cause of gasoline shortages and gas lines in the 1970s.

Other proposals in the Democrats plan are similarly ill-conceived and counter-productive. It has been reported that the Bush Administrations energy proposals to be released on May 17 will focus on increasing energy production, removing supply bottlenecks created by government regulations, and rebuilding and enlarging Americas energy infrastructure.

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) arrived at the press conference, held at the Capitol Hill Exxon gas station, to unveil the Democratic energy plan in a large SUV. When asked about Gephardts apparent hypocrisy, his spokesman Eric Smith said with a straight face, “We dont say anything about changing peoples lifestyles” (New York Post, May 16, 2001). To the contrary, their plan is all about government forcing people to change their lifestyles.

Rio Tinto Goes Pew

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change announced on May 15 that Rio Tinto has joined its Business Environmental Leadership Council. London-based Rio Tinto is one of the worlds largest multi-national mining conglomerates. It is also a major coal producer.

Rio Tinto is the first mining company to join the Pew Centers Council. The Pew Center is a leading industry-front group, now comprised of 33 corporations that hope to profit from higher energy prices. The Pew Center was founded in 1998 and is largely funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was based on the Pew familys Sun Oil Company fortune.

Other corporate members of the Pew Center are: ABB; Air Products and Chemicals, Alcoa; American Electric Power; Baxter International; Boeing; BP (Beyond Petroleum); California Portland Cement Co.; CH2MHILL; Cummins Inc.; DTE Energy; DuPont; Enron; Entergy; Georgia-Pacific; Holnam; IBM; Intel; Interface Inc.; Lockheed Martin; Maytag; Ontario Power Generation; PG&E Corporation; Rohm and Haas; Royal Dutch/Shell; Sunoco; Toyota; TransAlta Corp.; United Technologies; Weyerhaeuser; Whirlpool and Wisconsin Energy Corporation.

Rainfall Variability Caused by Nature

One of the most widely cited “evidences” of global warming is the increase in “torrential” rainfall in the United States. A paper by Tom Karl of the National Climate Data Center, which appeared in 1995 in Nature magazine, had found a positive trend in heavy precipitation for much of the U.S., Canada and Europe in the last century. Specifically, Karls study found one additional day every two years that experiences rainfall of over 2 inches in a 24-hour period, but no increase in precipitation events of over 3 inches. Not much to get excited about.

A new study, which complicates the ability to link global warming and rainfall, appears in the May issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The researchers discovered a natural 65-80 year cycle in sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. Using sea surface temperatures from 1856 to 1999, they found a temperature fluctuation of 0.4 degrees C, which they dubbed the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

The warm phases occurred during 1860 to 1880 and 1940 to 1960 and the cool phases during 1905 to 1925 and 1970 to 1990. During the warm periods, the U.S. sees less than normal rainfall. We are currently in a warm period, which could mean “We may have once again entered a period such as 1930-1960,” said the studys lead author, David B. Enfield when the U.S. climate was much drier (Associated Press, May 14, 2001).

Enfield, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said that this ocean cycle “could obfuscate our assessment of global warming response.”

Schneider Criticizes IPCC

Global warming projections coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been steadily decreasing with each new iteration of its assessment report, suggesting that the more we learn about climate the less likely global warming will be a problem. The release of the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCCs Third Assessment Report shocked everyone by raising projections from a 1 to 3.5 degree C warming over the next 100 years to 1.4 to 5.8 degrees.

The new projections raised a lot of eyebrows, given that there has been no real change in scientific evidence or in our ability to detect manmade global warming. One of those who have expressed concerns over the presentation of the new scenarios is Stephen Schneider, a major booster of catastrophic global warming theory.

Schneider points out in an article in Nature (May 3, 2001), that “This sweeping revision depends on two factors that were not the handiwork of the modelers: smaller projected emissions of climate-cooling aerosols; and a few predictions containing particularly large CO2 increases.”

Schneider asks, “How likely is it that the world will get 6 degrees C hotter by 2100?” That “depends on the likelihood of the assumptions underlying the projections.” According to Schneider, “the IPCC decided to prepare a special report on emissions scenarios (SRES) to produce a family of updated projections.” The group that met to make up these scenarios included academic scientists, environmental organizations, industrial scientists, engineers, economists, and systems analysts.

They decided to “create storylines about future worlds from which population, affluence and technology drivers could be inferred.” These storylines “gave rise to radically different families of emission profiles up to 2100 from below current CO2 emissions to five times current emissions,” wrote Schneider.

Schneider says that he “strongly argued at the time that policy analysts needed probability estimates to assess the seriousness of the implied impacts,” but the group decided to express “no preference” for each scenario. The result has been the assumption that the higher bound is just as likely as the lower. “But this inference would be incorrect,” said Schneider, “because uncertainties compound through a series of modeling steps. Uncertainties in emissions scenarios feed into uncertainties in carbon-cycle modeling, which feed into uncertainties in climate modeling, which drive an even larger range of uncertain climate impacts. This cascade of uncertainties is compounded by the very wide range of emissions offered by the SRES authors.”

To get the final “dramatic revision upward in the IPCCs third assessment,” it combined the climate sensitivities of seven general circulation models (GCMs) with the “six illustrative scenarios from the special report” within a simple model to get 40 climate scenarios.

Schneider attempts to construct a probability distribution of these different temperature scenarios, finding that only 39 percent show a warming of 3.5 degrees or higher. Under a more comprehensive range of 108 scenarios using 18 GCMs, only 23 percent would result in a warming of over 3.5 degrees. Schneider “arbitrarily” assumes that temperature increases of 3.5 degrees C and over would have dangerous climate consequences.

Schneiders calculations broadly agree with an MIT study we reported on in our April 18 issue. It found that there is a “far less” than one percent chance that temperatures would rise to 5.8 degrees C or higher, the upper bound of the IPCCs projections, while there is a 17 percent chance the temperature rise would be lower than 1.4 degrees, the IPCCs lower bound.

CO2s Positive Effects Confirmed

Thousands of studies have been conducted to determine the effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on plant growth. The overwhelming weight of evidence is that higher levels of CO2 increase plant growth. More recently scientists have looked into effects of higher CO2 concentrations on the quality, not just the quantity, of the food supply.

To get to the bottom of this research, Sherwood Idso of the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory and Keith Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change have reviewed over 250 peer-reviewed studies (Environmental and Experimental Botany, 45, 2001). They find “that the ongoing rise in the airs CO2 content will continue to increase food production around the world, while maintaining the nutritive quality of that food and enhancing the production of certain disease-inhibiting plant compounds.”

Some research had suggested that CO2 induced growth lowers nitrogen and protein concentrations in plants, possibly having a deleterious effect on animal and insect herbivores. But, said the Idsos, “Few solid conclusions can be drawn, however, in light of the fact that many CO2 enrichment studies have not detected significant reductions in foliage nitrogen or protein concentrations.”

Moreover, “Nitrogen concentrations of all plants decline in response to increasing plant biomass, irrespective of the cause of the biomass increase.” This result is “highly dependent on nitrogen supply and virtually disappears when nitrogen is freely available to the roots.”

The paper looks at several other components of plant quality in relation to animal and human health and finds that higher CO2 concentrations do not have a harmful effect and in many cases has a beneficial effect.


  • On June 19, 2001 Barrow, Alaska experienced a rare thunderstorm. The National Weather Service noted in a public advisory statement that it was only the third thunderstorm to occur in Barrow since 1978. From that point on, the story took on a life of its own. News stories around the world reported that it was Barrows first ever thunderstorm and that it signaled the arrival of global warming.

On May 2, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on global warming. In his opening remarks, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said that global warming has already revealed itself in Alaska. He said that several communities along Alaskas Arctic coast, including Barrow, would need to be relocated due to rising seas. The May 5 Nando Times story which reported on Stevenss comments again stated, “Last June, Barrow experienced its first-ever thunderstorm.”

John Daly ( decided to look into these claims of rising seas and relocations. As it turns out, there is a tide gauge 200 miles from Prudhoe Bay along the same stretch of coastline as Barrow. The tide gauge measurements show no increase in sea levels along Alaskas Arctic coast. The inundation of certain Alaskan villages is due to coastal erosion, not sea level rise. It also turns out that there are no plans to relocate Barrow as Senator Stevens claimed.


  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released a report on several new global warming studies published since the final draft of the IPCCs Third Assessment Report was approved in August 2000. The report, “Latest Global Warming Report Already Obsolete,” by CEI environmental policy analyst Paul Georgia, concludes that these new studies cast serious doubt on some of the IPCCs most basic assumptions, leaving its conclusions in shambles. The report can be obtained at

Ford Blames Itself Again

Ford Motor is announcing once again that its products are contributing to global warming and that it intends to do something to lessen the environmental damage that its vehicles are causing. The mea culpa will be in the companys forthcoming second annual Corporate Citizenship Report, according to a Wall Street Journal story (May 2, 2001).

According to the Journal, this years report is based on a series of talks Ford executives had last summer with radical environmental and progressive social groups. Those meetings identified global warming as one of three big issues the company should focus on. The others are improving human rights in developing countries where Ford has plants and persuading financial markets to reward Ford for focusing on environmental issues.

This last issue clearly limits Fords ability to respond to the threat of global warming. For example, a decision by Ford to get out of automobile and into bicycle production would probably not be rewarded by financial markets. The problem that Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. confronts as a committed environmentalist is that Ford makes nearly all of its profits from selling its larger vehicles, such as SUVs.

Bush Administration Seeks Advice

The New York Times reported on April 28 that the White House has held a number of high-level briefings on global warming since the administration announced in March that it would not propose regulating CO2 emissions from utilities and that it considered the Kyoto Protocol dead.

Regular attendees have included Vice President Cheney, Secretaries Paul ONeill from Treasury and Spencer Abraham from Energy, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, and several White House policy staffers.

The report by Andrew C. Revkin gives indirect support to rumors that the Bush Administration is considering several proposals to address global warming, including “voluntary” and mandatory cap-and-trade limits on CO2 emissions. In addition, the administration now apparently plans to bring a “constructive position” to the ongoing Kyoto Protocol negotiations in Bonn in July.

The New York Times claims, “There is a growing realization at the White House that the blunt rejection of the [Kyoto] treaty may have caused more problems than it solved.” It quoted one senior government official as saying, “The decisions six weeks ago were made in an appalling vacuum of information. A substantial portion of the people involved wish they had it to do over again. They might still have rejected Kyoto, but probably in a different way.”

“The list of speakers,” according to the New York Times, “has been dominated by scientists and policy experts who believe that a recent global warming trend is at least partly caused by humans, poses risks and requires a significant response to stem the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Those briefing the White House included: Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. James E. Hansen, a climate modeler with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. Daniel L. Albritton, head of the National Oceanic and Atmophseric Administrations (NOAA) Aeronomy Laboratory, Dr. Richard L. Schmalensee, the dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, William K. Reilly, former EPA administrator and current president of the World Wildlife Fund, and Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change Partnership, an industry front-group that favors Kyoto-style regulations.

Hearings Cool Senates Zeal

Two Senate hearings this week gave global warming alarmists little to cheer about. On May 1, the Commerce Committee heard from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lead authors Dr. Richard S. Lindzen and Dr. James Hansen, and co-chairmen of the IPCCs Working Groups I, II, and III: Dr. Venkatachala Ramaswamy, senior scientist at NOAAs Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Dr. James McCarthy, director of Harvard Universitys Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Dr. Jayant Sathaye, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

When asked what they would do to deal with global warming if they were legislators, four of the five witnesses endorsed “no regrets” actions and more scientific research. Dr. McCarthy opined that the IPCCs Third Assessment Report shows that more urgent actions are necessary. It is worth recalling that McCarthy was the source for the New York Timess story last August that the North Pole “was melting.” The Times quickly corrected McCarthys ridiculous claims.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committees hearing on May 2 was most notable for some of the remarks made by members of the committee. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) pointed to all the people who died of carbon monoxide (or is it carbon dioxide?) poisoning every year when they left their car engines running inside closed garages as evidence of how serious the problem of global warming is.

Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) blamed global warming for increasing smog and for higher asthma rates in children. She also noted that the administrations energy proposals would make it much harder to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Witnesses included Lindzen, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Dr. John Christy, professor with the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Most of the questions were directed at Jim Rogers, CEO of Cinergy, a major utility that burns 30 million tons of coal per year. Rogers told the committee that while he favored no regrets actions at this time, regulatory certainty was the most important policy for his company. The Congress should decide whether and exactly how it is going to regulate CO2 emissions so that utilities can plan future capital investments.

Man Blamed for Rising Sea Temperatures

Recently the news was full of stories about new and stronger evidence that man is causing the planet to warm. The stories were based on two new studies appearing in the April 13 issues of Science. According to Sydney Levitus, lead author of one of the studies, “We think this is some of the strongest evidence to date that human-induced effects are changing our climate” (Associated Press, April 13, 2001).

A closer examination of the studies reveals, however, that the claims are overblown. The studies rely on climate models, which arent evidence at all, but merely artificial constructions of what some scientists believe about the climate.

The study by Tim Barnett, et al. attempts to predict the ocean heat content averaged from the surface to 3,000 feet below the surface, from 1955 to 2000, that would result from CO2 forcing. The study claims that the match between the observed warming in the oceans and that produced by the model is very good, therefore suggesting that human activity is responsible for that warming.

To achieve this apparent match, however, the researchers “smoothed” the data by using the average value of each ten-year period rather than the raw data to fit it to the model results. But even the smoothed data does not fit well. Of the five oceans examined, all but one experienced a cooling from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s not replicated by the models.

The fit between the data and the models is achieved by using ocean temperatures down to 3,000 feet. The model in fact does a terrible job of replicating temperature changes at the oceans surface where greenhouse gases have the most immediate effect, but does a very good job of replicating temperatures at depths of 1,500 feet to 3,000 feet, which are largely unaffected by greenhouse gases. The modelss poor performance is hidden by averaging ocean temperatures over 3,000 feet.

The Levitus, et al. study is also questionable. It looks at historical records of ocean temperatures from the surface to 10,000 feet from 1955 to 1996. This study also smooths the data to achieve a better fit, which washes out an important ocean temperature shift that occurred in 1976-77, known as “the great Pacific climate shift.”

There was no statistically significant ocean warming before or after the 1976-77 temperature shift. Such sudden shifts can hardly be attributed to gradual increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, but by averaging the data, Levitus, et al. were able to construct a gradual temperature rise consistent with global warming theory.

More detailed criticisms of the studies can be found at and

Deforestation Blamed for Cooling

A possible new culprit for global warming has emergedtrees. A study by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has found cooling temperatures can be linked to deforestation, according to an April 24 Associated Press story.

The study looked at the period between 1000 and 1900, when the Earths temperature dropped two degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers found the places that cooled the most also experienced the most deforestation. Thus if deforestation causes cooling, then is it also the case that reforestation, which has been going on at a rapid pace in the U.S. for decades, will cause warming?

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness and Wind

Several studies have been done to determine what changes, if any, have occurred in sea ice cover and sea ice thickness in the Arctic. Interest in Arctic ice is fueled by the belief that the signs of global warming would be observed there first.

A paper by Greg Holloway and Tessa Sou, with the Institute of Ocean Sciences, in Sidney British Columbia, Canada, delivered at the 3rd annual Arctic Science Summit Week, an initiative of the International Arctic Science Committee, asks the question, “Is Arctic Sea Ice Rapidly Thinning?” The answer is “no.”

Detailed satellite observations from 1979 to 1999 show a decrease in sea ice cover of nearly 3 percent per decade. Observations of sea ice thickness have shown even more dramatic changes, but the data is sparse.

A study by Rothrock et al., which appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters, used U.S. military submarine cruise records from autumns of 1958, 1960, 1962, 1970 and 1976 and compared them to cruises in 1993, 1996, 1997. “Systematically over all the regions sampled by the submarines, thickness had markedly decreased from the earlier to the later period,” according to Holloway and Sou. There was an apparent decrease of thickness of 43 percent at the 29 locations where the records could be compared.

In earlier work, Holloway had constructed a “numerical ocean-ice-snow model to attempt to formulate a mutually consistent budget for freshwater and heat in the Arctic ocean-ice-snow system.” For the current study, the model was run from 1948 to 1999 and replicated the well-measured three percent per year reduction in ice cover consistent with observations. “However, model-estimated thinning was nothing like the rapid thinning reported from submarines,” a thinning of only 12 percent.

Holloway and Sou argue that the mismatch between the submarine measurements and model results suggest either problems with the model or inadequate data. They prefer the latter explanation due to the sparseness of the data.

The researchers suggest that, “The apparent ice loss was only a shifting of location of ice within the Arctic,” which the infrequent submarine sampling missed. How does the ice shift? “Large-scale wind patterns are ever-changing, and the Arctic ice pack is readily rearranged,” said Holloway and Sou. Moreover, the patterns of wind stress in the model resemble the pattern of thinning.

Holloway and Sou conclude “that the positions of submarine observations were exceptionally biased towards regions of thinning.”

“The actual results from the actual submarine surveys appear to be a fluke of timing coupled with the natural mode of Arctic sea ice variability,” said the researchers.