September 2003

Energy Conference Steers Clear of Climate Change So Far

House and Senate conferees working to produce a comprehensive energy bill have made some progress in various areas. So far they have released draft language on the subjects of hydrogen, clean coal technology, the Alaska natural gas pipeline, energy efficiency and personnel. No mention has yet been made of any climate change provisions.

On hydrogen, the joint conference chairmen, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), said that the “provisions include the full range of research, development and deployment actions required to advance the nation toward significant use of hydrogen as soon as possible.” The language does not mandate specific goals for utilization of hydrogen-powered vehicles by specific dates, as was required in the Senate bill. Instead, it sets a broad target that hydrogen-powered vehicles should make “significant inroads” into the market by 2020. The draft language sets aside $2.15 billion for the purpose by 2008, less than the Senate bill, but more than the House bill.

According to Greenwire (Sept. 10), “Conference leaders have expressed a desire to expedite the work of the conference committee by using as many of last year’s agreements as possible before working on the more controversial issues such as those dealing with electricity policy and market structure, climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, renewable portfolio standards, taxes, ethanol mandates and hydropower reform.” CAFE standards are not regarded as controversial because the House and Senate bills treat the issue in similar fashion.

Russia Unlikely to Ratify Kyoto This Year Despite EU Bribes

The European Commission has allocated EUR2 million ($2.3 million) to Russia to support the Kyoto Protocol program. Jorge Moreira da Silva, permanent European Parliament Rapporteur on Climate Change, announced that Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol would lead to large investments from European companies, desperate to buy credits to enable them to continue operating without having to cut their emissions levels. Deputies of the Russian Parliament, however, have indicated that they will not be ratifying the protocol soon, despite statements from the environment ministry that they would do so. The parliamentarians seem to have sided more with Russia’s economics ministry, saying that Moscow needs to approach the issue gradually after examining its impact on the Russian economy. In a statement, deputies from parliamentary committees dealing with ecological and economic issues said, “It is necessary to examine the whole problem of Kyoto ratification, not just in its ecological aspect, but also studying the economic interests of the country.” (,

Satellite Data under Fire Again

Satellite readings of atmospheric temperature have long been a thorn in the side of greenhouse theorists, because they fail to show atmospheric warming at the level their theory demands. A new study manipulates the current data to provide that warming trend. Konstantin Vinnikov of the University of Maryland and Norman Grody of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a paper on, the online supplement to Science magazine on September 11, in which they calculate that the lower atmosphere has warmed by 0.5 F per decade since 1978.

The findings have been attacked not only by John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who along with colleague Roy Spencer produces the generally-accepted satellite temperature data, but also by Frank Wentz of Remote Sensing Systems in California, which has published data that finds more of a warming trend than Christy’s data. Wentz told the Wall Street Journal (Sep. 12), “It just adds noise to the whole debate.”

Christy went further, saying, “I think it’s a paper that should not have been published … There are many fatal problems with it.” The principal objection is that Vinnikov and Grody did not correct the measurements for inaccuracies introduced by the heating up of the satellites by the sun. “They allowed it to remain in the data,” he told Cox News (Sept. 12), “and it corrupted all of their calculations, like a computer virus.” Grody responded that he did not think Christy should have made the adjustments. He did not address the objection that Christy’s data are closely corroborated by weather balloon measurements.

Michael Mann, an assistant professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia who has recently played historian in an attempt to back up his claim that 20th century warming was unprecedented in human history, took on the role of satellite expert in the Cox News story. He said, “It becomes increasingly difficult for climate change ‘contrarians’ to try to make the argument, as they often do, that this satellite information in any way calls into question the far more robust ground observations.”

European Flooding Not Unusual

European headlines in the summer of 2002 were dominated by the news of severe flooding across central Europe. The Vltava flooded the Czech capital of Prague and its floodwaters then caused the Elbe to break its banks in Dresden and other German cities. Five years earlier, the river Oder had caused similar problems in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The media and politicians pointed the finger of blame firmly at global climate change, with the clear implication being that something new was at work and things could only get worse.

New research from Michael Mudelsee and colleagues from the University of Leipzig published in Nature (Sept. 11) looks at data reaching as far back as 1021 (for the Elbe) and 1269 (for the Oder). They conclude that there is no upward trend in the incidence of extreme flooding in this region of central Europe.

The researchers write, “For the past 80 to 150 [years], we find a decrease in winter flood occurrence in both rivers, while summer floods show no trend, consistent with trends in extreme precipitation occurrence. The reduction in winter flood occurrence can partly be attributed to fewer events of strong freezing-following such events, breaking river ice at the end of the winter may function as a water barrier and enhance floods severely. Additionally, we detect significant long-term changes in flood occurrence rates in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, and conclude that reductions in river length, construction of reservoirs and deforestation have had minor effects on flood frequency.”

UK Met Office Gives Everyone a Climate Model

Taking a leaf from another scientific quest for something of which there is no scientific evidence, SETI-the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, the UK Meteorological Office has decided to enlist the public’s help in refining its data. They have released a computer program that runs a version of their climate model on a desktop computer, enabling the Met Office to assess its performance. The model will produce different results depending on what information is fed into it. By having the model run on a great many machines, the researchers will get a better idea of the range of results it produces and how they are distributed.

The reasoning behind the decision reveals one of the biggest problems with climate models, that their interpretation is largely guesswork. “We can’t predict which versions of the model will be any good without running these simulations, and there are far too many for us to run them ourselves,” Dr Myles Allen of Oxford University told Reuters. “Together, participants’ results will give us an overall picture of how much human influence has contributed to recent climate change and the range of possible changes in the future,” he added.

The model can be downloaded from, but needs a fairly modern computer to run. Several early downloaders have noted that it cannot be manipulated and provides little value to anyone running it. Some disruption to internet connections has also been reported.

Russian Scientists Question Alarmism

In an article dated September 9th for Novosti, the official Russian information agency, Alexander Frolov, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, stated baldly that, “Russia does not believe in apocalyptic forecasts” of global warming.

He wrote, “The “grimaces” of climate are due mainly to natural fluctuations, with man-made causes having only a partial effect. On the other hand, the climatic system is incredibly complex, depends on many factors, and is driven by direct and reverse forces that turn cause into effect and back again, and so are hard to translate into credible quantitative estimates of ongoing changes.” He went on, “I am not one inclined towards extreme views. Surely, one should take note of the climate warming, adopt preventive measures, evacuate people from risk zones, restore the rivers to their normal regimens, make adaptations, etc. Fluctuations that we observe are in effect random events resulting in an increasingly unstable climatic system. Growing instability, however, actually means only the possibility, not the inevitability, of some or other change.”

Meanwhile, according to, “In a recent discussion published in the Russian journal Geomagnetizm i Aeronomiya (Vol. 43, pp. 132-135), two scientists from the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences challenge the politically-correct global warming dogma that vexes the entire world. Bashkirtsev and Mashnich (2003) say that ‘a number of publications report that the anthropogenic impact on the Earth’s climate is an obvious and proven fact,’ when in actuality, in their opinion, ‘none of the investigations dealing with the anthropogenic impact on climate convincingly argues for such an impact.'”

The Russians commend the work of Friis-Christensen and Lassen on the correlation between sunspot activity and climate and back it up with their own research. They find such a close correlation that they are able to predict that because of the lessening activity over the next few solar cycles, the Earth may enter a cooling phase. Indeed, they say, “The available data of observations support our inference about the cooling that has already started,” because “the average annual air temperature in Irkutsk, which correlates well with the average annual global temperature of the surface air, attained in 1997 its maximum equal to +2.3C” and afterwards “began to diminish to +1.2C in 1998, +0.7C in 1999, and +0.4C in 2000.”


From the Miami Herald’s Cancun edition for September 12 comes this gem from a page 3 “point of view” column by Tere Carpinelli of Le Voz de Mexico:

“Believe it or not, one expert even believes that millions of menopausal Baby Boomer women are partly to blame for the rise in the Earth’s temperature! ‘There are more than 900 million middle-aged women worldwide in the early stages of menopause who are experiencing what are commonly known as hot flashes on a regular basis,’ professor of meteorology Dr. Cyrill Sanders told a convention of environmental experts in Osaka, Japan. “That is why the Earth is warming at an increasing rate and there is no end in sight. Sanders said he and his team discovered a clear correlation between the number of women entering menopause over the past 25 years and steadily increasing temperatures.”

As far as we can tell, the source of this ridiculous claim was an August 19 issue of Weekly World News, which ranks below Scientific American for credibility. Perhaps Carpinelli was not sure that this was a joke because of the constant confounding, perpetuated by environmental groups, of correlation and causality.

Poor Families Cut Food Bills when Heating Costs Rise

Stanford researchers have discovered that poor families cut back on food as well as heat when their heating costs increase. Both poor and rich families increase their spending on home fuel in winter, but rich families also spend more on clothing and food during the cold season. The poor, on the other hand, who spend less on clothing and on food at home, end up eating 10 percent fewer calories in the winter, according to research to be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

“Our results suggest that poor American families face stark choices in cold weather … and that poor parents are only imperfectly able to protect their children from cold-weather resource shocks,” said Jayanta Bhattacharya and colleagues of Stanford Medical School.

The researchers found that poor families spent an average of $9 less per month on food for the home with a 10-degree drop in temperature. By comparison, rich families increased their home food spending by $11 per month when the temperature dropped. “Poor families reduced food expenditures by roughly the same amount as their increase in fuel expenditures,” Bhattacharya explained.

The researchers also warned against any argument that the reduction in caloric intake would be a good thing in view of the supposed obesity crisis facing America. They pointed out that, “Seasonal cycles in calorie intake, which is what our results imply, may not have the same positive or even desirable health consequences as might caloric restriction among the obese.”

Cinergy Pledges 5% Emissions Cut

Cinergy Corp., one of the largest coal-fired electric utilities in the nation, has pledged to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent by 2012, at a cost of $21 million. Most of the money will be spent on upgrading the efficiency of current power plants and on incentives to reduce consumer demand during hot days. The company may also invest in “offsets” such as carbon sequestration projects in agriculture or forestry.

Cinergy has appointed political pressure group Environmental Defense as a consultant in the move. Fred Krupp, president of the group, called Cinergy’s decision, “the type of corporate leadership that’s going to help break the paralysis in Washington on this issue.” Krupp explained this by saying the initiative showed “You can generate a lot of electricity profitably and still protect the planet.”

Cinergy has long been a major proponent, alongside DuPont and the now-defunct Enron, of greenhouse gas credit trading schemes. Regarded as one of the “filthy five” by environmentalists, Cinergy has some of the oldest coal-fired power plants in the country, which were grandfathered in by the Clean Air Act, and will benefit from any credits given for upgrading its plants.

EPA Refuses to Label CO2 a Pollutant

Attempts by environmental groups to circumvent Congressional authority and achieve their goals through the back door were set back on August 28, when the Environmental Protection Agency turned down requests to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The environmentalists hoped that EPA would use the Clean Air Act, which allows it to regulate substances if they are could be reasonably expected to harm human welfare. The Act lists “climate” as an area of human welfare.

Jeffrey R. Holmstead, the assistant administrator who oversees air programs, said that the act “does give us authority to do research on climate change, not to issue regulation … Where there is a major public policy issue, Congress needs to decide.” The general counsel, Robert E. Fabricant, issued a memorandum that said, “E.P.A. cannot assert jurisdiction to regulate in this area.”

The EPA had been asked to declare the life-sustaining gas detrimental to human welfare by a coalition of environmental groups and two north-eastern states that filed petitions under the Act. Fabricant based his reasoning on the 2000 Supreme Court decision, Food and Drug Administration v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco, which said the F.D.A. could not try to regulate tobacco as a “drug” and cigarettes as a “device.”

Holmstead clarified, “The Supreme Court said where there is a major public policy decision to be made, an agency can’t just go out and use a broadly worded statute to deal with that.” Fabricant added, “It is clear that an administrative agency properly awaits congressional direction on a fundamental policy issue such as global climate change, instead of searching for an existing statute that was not designed or enacted to deal with that issue.” (New York Times, Aug. 28)

Pressure Grows for Separate Electricity Bill

Following the reaction to the August blackouts, senior Congressional Democrats led by House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) are pushing for the energy bill conference to strip out electricity reliability provisions into a separate electricity bill. The idea is reported to be gaining favor among Senate Democrats, who are considering adding electric reliability provisions as a rider to the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill currently being debated on the Senate floor.

Dingell has said his reliability proposal will address three issues: the reliability of the transmission system, the reliability of generating supply, and the adequacy of mechanical, human and electronic controls on the system. He told Greenwire (Sept. 3) that the particulars of his bill would be similar to the reliability language in the existing energy legislation, and that he might be able to accommodate other issues within the bill in order to get it through Congress. “But I can’t tell you what those are,” Dingell added. “In a poker game, I never show my hole card.”

Congressional Republicans have so far resisted the calls, stating that the issue is better dealt with as part of a comprehensive energy bill. Senate Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici (R.-N.M.) has so far sent “mixed signals” as to his preferred route for ensuring electricity reliability according to a Schwab analyst quoted by Greenwire.

Scientists Play Historians

Stepping up the attack on the study by Willie Soon et al. that demonstrates that there is nothing unusual about temperatures in this century, Michael Mann’s coauthor Philip Jones of the University of East Anglia played amateur historian when he tried to explain away common knowledge about past warm and cold spells in Northern Europe. He pointed the Guardian (Sept. 1) towards the part of their paper (see last issue) that contends that many of the obvious indicators of past temperature variability do not mean what people suppose they mean.

Mann et al. contend that the medieval presence of vineyards in Britain is meaningless because there are 350 vineyards there now, compared to 50 or 60 in the Middle Ages. In arguing thus, they ignore advances in technology that allow vineyards to prosper in colder climates as well as increases in population (there were 5-6 million people in England before the Black Death, making the rate of vineyards to people almost twice as high as it is today).

They also allege that the Viking colonization of Greenland was motivated by exile, not by a search for good climate. This may be true, but has no bearing on the fact that evidence from insect habitats shows that Greenland was livable at that time but ceased to be afterwards. The Viking settlers were forced to abandon Greenland when they were no longer able to grow hay to feed their livestock.

Finally, the researchers allege that the Little Ice Age-era “frost fairs” on the River Thames in London were possible only because the design of London Bridge dammed the tidal flow of salt water upstream. This appears to ignore the fact that that particular design of London Bridge was first built in 1176, while frost fairs did not begin till much later. Whatever the effects of the bridge, temperatures much colder than today would still have been necessary for the river to freeze.

A wealth of information on the Little Ice Age as a global phenomenon may be found in University of California archaeologist Brian Fagan’s book, The Little Ice Age, published by Basic Books in 2000. The chapters on “The Great Hunger” and “The Specter of Hunger” are especially instructive. Apparently, Mann and Jones have not had time to read it.

Satellite Wars

The attempts to discredit John Christy and Roy Spencer’s satellite data that show no appreciable warming in the atmosphere over recent years continue. Ben Santer and his colleagues, who prefer the recalibration of the data from Remote Sensing Systems because it fits their climate model better, argue in a letter to Science (Aug. 22) in response to Christy’s criticisms of their data that the independent validation of Christy’s data by weather balloon measurements are “not an unambiguous ‘gold standard’ for the evaluation of satellite data.”

The Greening Earth Society comments (, “Different agencies and researchers have put together several different compilations of the weather-balloon data records. Each has been carefully scrutinized and corrected to the best ability of the respective researchers in order to account for the data problems Santer describes. The methods used to make these corrections vary across research groups. Yet, when the final data are combined and global trends examined, the trends fall very close to (and in most cases are slightly less than) the UAH satellite record.

“Santer and his co-authors would be in a much stronger position if the global trends from weather-balloon data were all over the board, with some closer to the RSS trend than to the UAH trend. But that isn’t the case. The consistency of results indicates that the weather-balloon record errors Santer is so worried about are not nearly as problematic as they lead the reader to believe they are. This is because the errors are accounted for. As a consequence, any claim that climate models are better than actual observations rings hollow.

“There remains a large discrepancy between the patterns of temperature change at the surface and those in the lower to middle atmosphere (especially in the tropics) that the model does not replicate. This discrepancy indicates a fundamental weakness in the current generation of climate models. Something in their internal workings fails to parameterize negative feedback loops that appear to be ridding the atmosphere of excess greenhouse heating. As a result they overestimate future warming rates. The controversy continues.”


The Cato Insitute will hold a briefing on “McCain-Lieberman on Global Warming: a Journey to Nowhere,” at noon on Friday, September 12, in Room B-369, Rayburn House Office Building. The speaker will be Patrick Michaels, Cato senior fellow and professor at the University of Virginia. Lunch will be provided. Reservations, which are required, may be made on the Cato web site at or by calling Krystal Brand at (202) 789-5229. The briefing will also be broadcast live online.

Economists Suggest Environmental False Alarms are Justified

Straying from hard science into the realm of economics, Science magazine published an article in its August 29th issue entitled “False Alarm over Environmental False Alarms.” The authors, S.W. Pacala and S.A. Levin of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton, E. Bulte of the Department of Economics at Tilburg University, the Netherlands, and J.A. List of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department at the University of Maryland (and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers), argued that the potential downside risks of environmental hazards are so great that the environmental community should continue to raise alarms on which policy might be based even in the knowledge that “some of them will turn out to be wrong.” The authors conclude that, “Given the potential to save millions of additional lives, this is no time to turn down the sensitivity of our environmental alarm” (emphasis added).

The article appears to be little more than an economic justification of Stephen Schneider’s admission to Discover magazine in 1989 that, “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.” Schneider, along with Paul Ehrlich and Maurice Grubb, provided the authors with “helpful comments on an earlier draft.”

The article also contained disparaging remarks about Bjorn Lomborg’s book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. An early draft called it “officially discredited,” although the published article softened that to a mention of the decision of the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty.

Australia’s Howard Rejects Carbon Trading Advice

Australian Prime Minister John Howard rejected a carbon trading scheme in the face of advice to pursue the policy from the Treasury and the Department of the Environment, according to the Melbourne newspaper, the Age (Sept. 1). Other special interests advocating the scheme included the Business Council of Australia, which alleges in a report circulated to Australia’s top 100 companies that restricting greenhouse emissions would be less damaging to the economy than the “uncertainty” created by the Federal Government’s current voluntary greenhouse reduction measures.

Howard’s cabinet rejected carbon trading primarily on the basis that it would drive existing industry abroad. An official spokesman told the Age, “Australia remains opposed to adopting the whole Kyoto framework because that would impose penalties on Australian industry which would not be imposed on industries in competitor countries.”