May 2003

Pew Center Reports Back Mandatory Limits on Emissions

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change released two reports on May 15 analyzing what it viewed as the best options available to tailor a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions program for the U.S.A.

The first report, “Emissions Trading in the U.S.: Experience, Lessons and Considerations for Greenhouse Gases,” (lead author, Danny Ellerman of MIT) examines the history of emissions trading in respect to other environmental concerns such as acid rain. Ellerman argues that a well designed program can “provide a framework to meet emissions reduction goals at the lowest possible cost.” Trading programs provide incentives by motivating those who can reduce emissions at low cost to reduce emissions more than under a command and control mechanism. The authors find that the historic programs have succeeded in lowering the cost of meeting targets for emissions reduction and at the same time have “enhanced not compromised the achievement of environmental goals.”

The authors also examined voluntary features and concluded that they may merit inclusion in any greenhouse gas emissions trading program, but caution that their role should be “determined by weighing the cost savings benefit against the emissions increasing potential.”

The second report, “Designing a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program for the U.S.”, examines three options for such a program: cap and trade (in several forms), a greenhouse gas tax, and sectoral hybrid programs. The examination of cap and trade programs looked at a conventional program, a “downstream” program where the sources of greenhouse gas emissions are required to surrender allowances equal to their emissions, and an “upstream” program that applies to fuel suppliers, requiring them to surrender allowances equivalent to the carbon content of the fuels they distribute.

The authors found that a downstream program would be “unadministrable” while an upstream program would raise the costs of gasoline and home heating unacceptably. A greenhouse gas tax would be politically infeasible. The authors therefore argue that a hybrid scheme combining a downstream program with product efficiency standards that would aim to reduce emissions from automobiles and appliances.

The authors admit that their preferred scheme would be more costly and administratively complex than other proposals, but “may score better on political acceptability because it constrains domestic greenhouse gas emissions while largely shielding consumers from fuel price increases.” Consumers, in other words, will not associate the rise in their cost of living with Greenhouse Gas Reduction efforts.

European Emissions Trading Price Lower than Expected

European investment bank Dresdner Bank has estimated that the right to emit a ton of carbon dioxide will probably trade at a price of around 10 ($11.69) in the European emissions certificates market in 2005.

The estimate is based on approaches from interested brokers. The head of Dresdners corporate sustainability division, Armin Sandhoevel, told reporters that the upper bound of trading would probably be around 20.

This estimate is considerably below the price range assumed by the European Commission of 20-33 during the first period of trading, scheduled for 2005-2008.

This news will be a blow to Germany, whose ailing economy contains most of the companies liable to sell high-value emissions owing to the shutdown of heavy industry in East Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Spain, Austria and the Netherlands are the likely beneficiaries. (Reuters, May 26)

Effect of Land Use Change on Climate Greater than Thought

Last year, Roger Pielke, Sr., of Colorado State University added another complicating factor to the debate over what causes rising surface temperatures when he coauthored a major study that found that land use changes may be at least as important as greenhouse gas emissions in accounting for climate change. Growing urban areas, deforestation and reforestation, agriculture and irrigation can have strong influences on regional temperatures, precipitation and large-scale atmospheric circulation.

Now, new research from Eugenia Kalnay and Ming Cai of the University of Maryland backs up Pielkes conclusions. By comparing observed surface temperatures with a reconstruction of global weather over the past 50 years, they were able to estimate the impact of land-use changes on surface warming.

They concluded that there had been an average increase of 0.27C in surface temperature per century attributable to urban and other land-use changes. This represents half the observed change in the range of daytime temperatures, and is twice as high as previous estimates based on urbanization alone. (Nature, May 29)

Hazy Picture over Aerosols

Coming hard on the heels of the findings that soot may be responsible for more atmospheric warming than was previously thought (see previous issue), a team of researchers has looked again at the question of how much the atmosphere might be cooled by the presence of sulfate aerosols.

Their research, published in the Perspectives section of Science magazine, compared the likely cooling effects of aerosols worked out from first principles with the likely effects predicted by climate models. They found a discrepancy between the two that they were unable to explain.

The authors argue that their findings suggest that anthropogenic activity will certainly lead to a strong “forcing” of the Earths climate between 2030 and 2050. However, they also admit that the discrepancy means that “the possibility that most of the warming to date is due to natural variability must be kept open.” (Science, May 16)


Point / Counterpoint

“[Kyoto] is about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world.”

– EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, (quoted in the Independent, Mar. 19, 2002)

“Of course its about money, about rubles. They are trying to calculate how much [the Kyoto protocol] will give.”

– Wallstrom, in response to Russian reluctance to ratify the protocol, (quoted by Reuters, May 12)

Energy Bill Prompts Rash of Proposals

The Senate energy bill, S. 14, when published in draft form contained a climate change title. Three specific provisions raised alarm bells for many the requirement for a national strategy to “stabilize and over time reduce net U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases,” including annual reports; a revival of the Clinton-Gore Administrations White House climate czar and office; and a program to award credits for early action in reducing emissions.

Following protests against the title, such as a letter to Sen. Pete Domenici (R.N.M.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and sponsor of the bill, signed by representatives of 21 nonprofit organizations including members of the Cooler Heads Coalition, the title was dropped from the draft bill. Nor does the bill contain any reference to a higher CAFE standard, a Renewable Portfolio Standard for utilities, or an expanded ethanol mandate.

These omissions have led to a rash of proposed amendments. The Environment and Public Works committee has passed out an ethanol mandate similar to last year’s 5 billion gallon per year mandate with some slight improvements. The mandate will ban the current most popular additive MTBE, which has been accused of contaminating groundwater. Ethanol, however, has environmental problems of its own, as more emissions are generated in the production of the added ethanol than in the burning of the gasoline it replaces. Sens. Schumer, Clinton, Feinstein, and Boxer have signaled that they will again try to defeat the ethanol mandate, but are unlikely to succeed.

The Senate is scheduled to resume floor debate on the bill on Monday 2 June and will continue debate throughout the week. Several Senators are likely to propose amendments reinstating climate change provisions to the bill. It is probable that the Energy and Natural Resources Committees ranking Democrat, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D.N.M.), will offer language similar to that approved in Titles X, XI and XIII in last years Energy bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Daschle (D.S.D.).

Other possibilities include climate change proposals sponsored by Sens. McCain, Lieberman, Jeffords, Carper, Gregg and possibly others. Any proposal to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for automobiles is likely to be defeated following last years lopsided vote against them.

Further developments will be featured in the next newsletter.

Christy Testifies to House Resources Committee

The House Resources Committee held a field hearing in Saint Clairsville, Ohio on May 13 on the potential economic effects of Kyoto-style policies on coal-dependent communities. A bleak future for Ohios coal communities if CO2 emissions are limited was described in testimony by Robert Murray, a major independent coal producer, Eugene Trisko, representing the United Mine Workers of America, Gary Obloy of the Community Action Commission of Belmont County, and others.

Dr. John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, described the shaky scientific basis for global warming alarmism. He then widened the discussion of the negative social and economic effects of energy-rationing policies by drawing on his experiences as a missionary in east Africa.

Christy expanded on his comments in a May 22 letter to the chairman of the Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo (R.Calif.), in which he wrote:

“I’ve always believed that establishing a series of coal-fired power plants in countries such as Kenya (with simple electrification to the villages) would be the best advancement for the African people and the African environment.

“An electric light bulb, a microwave oven and a small heater in each home would make a dramatic difference in the overall standard of living. No longer would a major portion of time be spent on gathering inefficient and toxic fuel. The serious health problems of hauling heavy loads and lung poisoning would be much reduced.

“Women would be freed to engage in activities of greater productivity and advancement. Light on demand would allow for more learning to take place and other activities to be completed. Electricity would also foster a more efficient transfer of important information from radio or television. And finally, the preservation of some of the most beautiful and diverse habitats on the planet would be possible if wood were eliminated as a source of energy.

“Providing energy from sources other than biomass (wood and dung), such as coal-produced electricity, would bring longer and better lives to the people of the developing world and greater opportunity for the preservation of their natural ecosystems.

“Let me assure you, notwithstanding the views of extreme environmentalists, that Africans do indeed want a higher standard of living. They want to live longer and healthier with less burden bearing and with more opportunities to advance.

“New sources of affordable, accessible energy would set them down the road of achieving such aspirations. These experiences made it clear to me that affordable, accessible energy was desperately needed in African countries.

“As in Africa, ideas for limiting energy use…create the greatest hardships for the poorest among us. As I mentioned in the Hearing, enacting any of these noble-sounding initiatives to deal with climate change through increased energy costs, might make a wealthy urbanite or politician feel good about themselves, but they would not improve the environment and would most certainly degrade the lives of those who need help now.”

Russia Cools on Kyoto

Following Americas decision not to move forward with the Kyoto Protocol, environmentalist attention has switched to Russia, as the protocol cannot become international law without Russian ratification. Russia had been expected to ratify the protocol this year as its ailing economy had already met emissions targets thanks to the forced closure of so many emissions sources.

However, following several years of strong economic growth, moves to ratify the protocol have slowed. German Gref, Minister for Economic Development and Trade, has been accused by the World Wildlife Fund of blocking ratification by failing to move the process forward. Speaking at the G8 meeting at the end of April, the junior Minister for Natural Resources, Irina Ossokina told Agence France Presse, “I would like to underline that we at the Ministry of Natural Resources are wholly and truly for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol but unfortunately we have a difference of opinion within the country We were hoping to ratify this summer but we were having difficulties with our economic advisors.”

Meanwhile, Russian scientists are playing a large role in organizing a major International Conference on Climate Changes, scheduled to take place in Moscow this fall. The chair of the conference, Yuriy Izrael, told Russian reporters, “We are looking forward to serious, interesting discussions We are not going to create new contradictions but … find out what is really going on on this planet – warming or cooling.”

Izrael went on to say, “The most important issue, whether [ratifying the Kyoto Protocol] will bring about an improvement of the climate or its stabilization, or its worsening, is not clear.” (AFP, April 27, St Petersburg Times, 13 May).

European politicians are fond of berating the United States for its failure to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but newly published figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA see show that all but four of the European Unions fifteen nations are increasing their emission of greenhouse gases.

In both 2000 and 2001, the latest years for which figures are available, the amount of six greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere increased in Europe as a whole. The EEA blames the 2001 increase on a colder winter that led most households to burn more fuel, but admits that higher use of transportation and greater use of fossil fuels in producing electricity and heat were also responsible.

Carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to 82 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, increased 1.6 percent in 2001, leaving them, coincidentally, 1.6 percent higher than in the baseline year of 1990. The EU pledged at Kyoto to reduce its total emissions by 8 percent of the 1990 level by the period 2008-2012.

Some countries are noticeably less efficient at achieving their Kyoto pledges than others. While the United Kingdom has already reduced its emissions by 12 percent against its target of a 12.5 percent reduction, Spain, which was required to limit growth in emissions to 15 percent, has in fact seen them increase by 32 percent to date. Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, which are all required to reduce emissions, have actually increased their production of greenhouse gases. Finland increased its emissions by over 7 percent in 2001 alone.

Only Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom seem to be on track to meet their public promises. France is very slightly off target. These nations include the three biggest economies in the EU. However, as the EU made a collective commitment to reduce its emissions, the overall trend taking the smaller economies into account is such that Europe is overshooting its target for emissions reduction.

Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at London University, told BBC News Online, “One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity. While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn’t have a snowflake in hell’s chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets.” (BBC News Online, May 6, 2003).

Menendez Amendment Threatens State Department Bill

On May 7, the House International Relations Committee approved an amendment to the State Department reauthorization bill that says the United States should “demonstrate international leadership” in climate change issues. The resolution, added to H.R. 1950 during a markup session and proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), contains language similar to that added to the Senate version of the bill by the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman on April 9.

The amendment was approved by the committee by 21 votes to 18, with Republicans Jim Leach (Iowa) and Chris Smith (N.J.) voting in favor alongside 19 committee Democrats (two Democrats missed the vote). Six Republican members of the committee were not present for the vote. They were: Elton Gallegly (Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Amory Houghton (N.Y.), Nick Smith (Mich.), Jo Ann Davis (Va.) and Katherine Harris (Fla.).

The amendment commits Congress to agreeing that “manmade greenhouse gases are contributing to global climate change” and accepts the conclusion of the IPCC that “most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Menendezs amendment also expresses concern over rising sea levels, changes in crop yields, and the spread of tropical infectious diseases.

Although Rep. Menendez said that he was “not here to advocate the Kyoto Protocol,” the amendment advocates Kyoto-style energy rationing mechanisms and urges the United States to rejoin the Kyoto negotiations in order to negotiate a second protocol.

The committee passed a similar amendment proposed by Rep. Menendez during the last Congress. It was removed during the conference stage owing to the efforts of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Fears that the House leadership might not send the bill to the floor if it contains the language were reflected by Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who said that he felt the amendment was unnecessary, given the administrations commitment to spend $1.7 billion on climate research this year.

The committee voted for the amendment despite a strong effort mounted by opponents. A joint letter criticizing the amendment was sent to the committee members by 33 non-profit groups. Signers included 12 members of the Cooler Heads Coalition: Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Frontiers of Freedom, American Legislative Exchange Council, 60 Plus Association, National Center for Public Policy Research, Center for Security Policy, Small Business Survival Committee, American Policy Center, Heartland Institute, and Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

Another joint letter from trade associations was organized by the National Association of Manufacturers. A detailed and exhaustively footnoted refutation of the amendments was produced and circulated by the Center for Science and Public Policy and CEI. (Greenwire, May 8, 2003)

Competing Lobbies Argue Over CO2 Caps in Senate

As the Senate begins debate on the energy bill, S. 14, a coalition of nine energy companies is supporting a bipartisan plan to reduce air emissions from electric utilities in preference to the competing Clear Skies plan supported by the Bush administration.

The Clean Energy Group (CEG), consisting of Conectiv, Consolidated Edison, Entergy Corp., Exelon Corp., KeySpan, PG&E National Energy Group, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., and Sempra Energy, dissents from the Bush administration’s suggestion that mandating carbon dioxide (CO2) controls from power plants is too costly and will wreak economic havoc.

CEG argues that the Clean Air Planning Act (CAPA), introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), reduces pollution far more than the administration’s Clear Skies legislation, including CO2 reductions omitted by Clear Skies, at only slightly greater cost $66.7 billion as against $65.4 billion over twenty years from 2005 to 2025. The Carper-Gregg Bill presents tougher standards and shorter timetables than Clear Skies. The EPA is preparing its own comparison of Clear Skies and the Carper bill, following Carpers request for an agency comparison at an April 8 Senate committee hearing.

The group also argues that the even stricter bill introduced by Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) with the support of environmental groups is far more costly than the Carper bill. A 2001 EPA analysis of an earlier Jeffords proposal to reach those same emission targets by 2007 concluded that overall costs would be between $13 billion and $30 billion annually.

Some voices in the Senate suggest the CEG analysis is tainted as the group includes members of the nuclear industry. The Carper bill would allow the nuclear industry to sell emission credits to coal-powered utilities at a profit, because the industry does not emit CO2. One lobbyist backing the Clear Skies plan says the Carper plan would provide “free money” to the nuclear industry.

Making the Data Fit the Model

Science magazine claimed, “A stubborn argument against global warming may be discredited by a re-analysis of the data central to its claims,” when it published, via, a paper by Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California on May 1. Santers team was tackling the well-known argument that atmospheric temperature data from satellites fail to show the warming trend found in surface level observations. By comparing a new dataset to a model that predicts warming in the troposphere, he was able to claim that his team had detected a warming trend of 0.1 degrees Celsius per decade.

This is considerably above the level of +/- 0.05 degrees C per decade previously accepted as demonstrated by the satellite data. The standard dataset is produced by a team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), led by John Christy. The new dataset, produced by Frank Wentz of Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) of Santa Rosa, California, is based on the idea that variations between satellites and their orbits can cause variations in the data that need to be accounted for. The RSS data remain unpublished, however, and Christys team has amended its data to account for the factors highlighted by Wentz.

The new study by Santer is based on the idea that there must still be something wrong with the UAH dataset because it fails to match the consequences for the troposphere proposed by the climate model Santer uses. That model appears to predict consequences for the stratosphere quite accurately. Because the RSS data match the predicted warming trend better, Santer suggests that the failure to find a warming trend in the UAH data may be due “an artifact of data uncertainties.”

Christy, however, was already undertaking a rigorous analysis of the UAH data to estimate its error range. His re-examination was published in the May 2003 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. By comparing the satellite data to independent data obtained from weather balloons, he was able to re-affirm the reliability of the UAH data. Santers paper suggested that there might be a problem with the balloon data as well.

Christy cast doubt on the reliability of Santers model, telling Reason magazine science correspondent Ron Bailey, “Its a lot easier to model the stratosphere because you only have to consider radiational effects. The troposphere is much messier. It contains complicated things likes clouds, convection, moisture and dust.”

He went on to tell the Oakland Tribune, “It does not bother me that our data do not agree with their virtual model of the world Its a curious way to do science, to use a model to verify data rather than the other way around. If you follow this too far down that road, youre in danger of saying, Its my theory thats correct and the real world thats wrong.” (Ron Bailey, Tech Central Station, May 1).

Soot May Pose More Problems than Previously Thought

The IPCCs Third Assessment Report issued in 2001 argued that “sulfate aerosol” emissions from burning coal helped cool the atmosphere, accounting for the lower than expected warming trend so far detected. Further research, however, from such individuals as James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, suggested that the presence of “black carbon” aerosols soot raises atmospheric temperatures as the particles absorb solar radiation. It was initially thought that the cooling effect of sulfate aerosols and the warming effect of black carbon cancelled each other out.

Hansen and his colleagues published further research on the subject in the May 13 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper looked at how smoke and other black carbon in the atmosphere interacts with sunlight and chemicals to contribute to climate change. The research team, from NASA, Columbia University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that “a rapid rise in worldwide temperatures over the last 50 years may be largely due to smoky particles in the air.”

Co-author and NASA scientist Dorothy Koch told the Los Angeles Times, “All black carbon does is absorb sunlight If you put more into the atmosphere, you increase the warming.” Other experts, like Stanford University climatologist and leading global warming alarmist Stephen Schneider, urged caution.

The study speaks directly to one of the central issues surrounding the adoption or rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. One reason the administration has given for rejecting the deal is the large accumulation of atmospheric pollutants over southern Asia known as the “Asian Brown Cloud.” The presence of the two-mile thick phenomenon appears to be due to forest fires, the burning of wood and dung in stoves and in the increased use of fossil fuels in developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol exempts developing countries from having to reduce their emissions from such sources. (Greenwire, May 6 2003).


With this issue, Iain Murray becomes Managing Editor of Cooler Heads. He has also joined CEI as a Senior Fellow in Environmental Policy. Iain was formerly Director of Research at the Statistical Assessment Service, where he examined a wide range of scientific problems in public policy and the media.

Iain writes regularly for and for United Press International. As a British citizen, he worked for the UK Department of Transport on railroad privatization before coming to the US in 1997. He holds an MA from Oxford University, an MBA from London University, and the Diploma of Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine.