April 2004

National Center for Policy Analysis


Congressional Briefing

Global Warming

What Do We Really Know vs. What We Are Told


Thursday, April 22, 2004, 10am – 11:30am

Room SD-406, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C.


Few issues generate more debate or emotion from activists than global warming. This Earth Day, the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) examines whether fears of human-induced climate change are based on sound science and what impact proposed solutions will have on the climate and the economy.

  • Is the science behind global warming fears sound or shaky?

  • How has the issue been distorted by scientists, politicians and the media?

  • What impact will the Kyoto Protocol or McCain-Lieberman have on the climate and/or the economy?

  • What steps are states taking to combat climate change? Will it work, and at what cost?
  • Come hear leading scientists and policy analysts set the record straight about the reality of climate change.

    Speakers include:


    David Legates

    Director of the Center of Climatology

    University of Delaware

    Adjunct Scholar, NCPA


    Myron Ebell

    Director, International Environmental Policy

    Competitive Enterprise Institute


    Pat Michaels

    Professor of Environmental Sciences,

    University of Virginia

    Senior Fellow, CATO Institute


    Alexandra Liddy Bourne

    Director, Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Task Force, American Legislative Exchange Council

    Adjunct Scholar, NCPA

                   For more information or to RSVP, please contact Matt Moore or Anna Frederick; 

    Phone: 202-628-6671; Email: mmoore@ncpa.org  Visit us online at www.ncpa.org

    Leading Canadian and U.S. climatologists are taking issue with “exaggerated” reports, including one recent study commissioned by the Pentagon, that say global warming could suddenly plunge the world into an ice age.

    It is simply not going to happen, say the scientists, who are rejecting the widely disseminated theory that rapidly melting polar ice and glaciers could so upset circulation in the Atlantic Ocean that it will trigger rapid global cooling within a decade.

    […]Columbia University climatologist Wallace Broecker, in a letter in today’s Science, says the report, which has been generating headlines around the world, makes gross exaggerations.

    He also believes the science behind the scenario is seriously flawed.


    There has been much alarmist speculation recently that global warming could trigger the collapse of the Gulf Stream.  Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at MIT, sent a letter to Nature magazine (published in the April 8 issue) stating that such a trigger effect is nearly impossible.

    Wunsch wrote that, The Gulf Streams existence is a consequence of the large-scale wind system over the North Atlantic Ocean, and of the nature of fluid motion on a rotating planet.  The only way to produce an ocean circulation without a Gulf Stream is either to turn off the wind system, or to stop the Earths rotation, or both.  He added, The occurrence of a climate state without the Gulf Stream any time soon within tens of millions of years has a probability of little more than zero.  

    Following the questions raised by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick over the quality of the data employed by Dr. Michael Mann of the University of Virginia in compiling his now infamous hockey stick graph, Manns interpretations of proxy temperature data are now coming under fire from within the community of paleoclimatologists.

    In 2002, Esper et al. published in Science magazine a temperature record for the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1000 years that looked quite unlike the hockey stick.  Both the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Little Ice Age were clearly evident.  In the March 23 edition of Eos, Esper and other colleagues examine why this should be so.  According to the Greening Earth Society, Esper basically eliminates all the possibilities except the technique used to process tree-ring data sets the primary information relied on to construct early portions of the temperature reconstructions.

    The problem with tree rings appears to be that their variations reflect more than year-to-year climate differences (temperature and/or precipitation). As the trees age, tree-ring production changes and introduces a spurious trend in the tree-ring series. This aging effect differs among tree species, as well as within species, depending on the trees growing conditions (soil type, elevation, slope aspect, etc.). It becomes difficult to separate trends due to aging from those due to climate.

    Although various research groups use different techniques to account for this problem, the absence of ground truth (true temperature) makes it impossible to ascertain whose technique is best. Esper uses a method aimed at retaining long-period (greater than a century or so) variations in the tree-ring records, whereas Mann uses a method that virtually eliminates all long-term variation.  Esper concludes, Higher-frequency [decadal] climate variations are generally better understood than lower-frequency variations.

    Meanwhile, David S. Chapman, Marshall G. Bartlett, and Robert N. Harris of the University of Utah, published in the April 7 edition of Geophysical Research Letters an examination of how Manns imputation of temperatures from boreholes contradicts their work.  Mann argues that borehole records of ground surface temperature (GST) do not accurately reflect surface air temperature (SAT) because of the effects of snowfall.  Chapman et al., however, have found that (1) GST tracks SAT extremely well at time scales that are appropriate for climate change considerations.  (2) Snow cover can either warm or cool the ground relative to a no snow case and need not lead to any bias. (3) Finally, our observations have not revealed any physical process that would explain the supposed preconditioning of GST by a prior season SAT.

    In describing the differences between their work and Manns, Chapman et al. use surprisingly strong language for a scientific paper.  They describe three of Manns conclusions as misleading, and his end-point analysis as erroneous and just bad science.

    At a July 2002 hearing on the Bush Administrations climate initiative, James Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), testified that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would reduce U.S. economic output by up to $400 billion in 2010.  In contrast, a 1998 study done by President Clintons Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that the costs of implementing the Protocol would be $7 billion to $12 billion annually in lost output. 

    The General Accounting Office has analyzed the stark difference between the two studies and concluded that there are two principal reasons for it.  First, the Bush Administrations estimate assumed that all reductions would be achieved domestically, while the Clinton Administrations estimate assumed that compliance would be largely achieved through the purchase of emissions reductions from other nations.  Second, the economic growth rate assumed by the Bush study (2.3 percent a year for 1995 through 2010) was higher than the growth rate assumed by the Clinton study (2.1 percent for the same time period), and thus forecast a higher level of emissions.  (GAO report, January 30, 2004).

    In Canada, Action Plan 2000 earmarked $210 million in government funding to promote technologies that reduced greenhouse gas emissions in industry and transportation and gave $125 million to cities to encourage use of such technologies.  Another $100 million went to promote foreign demand for these Canadian solutions.  Despite these efforts, Canadas greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 were the highest ever.  This puts Canada well off the mark of reducing emissions by 5.2 per cent from 1990 levels as called for in the Kyoto Protocol.

     We seriously underestimated the difficulty of getting reductions and overestimated the payoff from new technologies, said a senior official working on climate change.  Nevertheless, last month the Canadian federal budget allocated $1 billion more to support new environmental technologies.  Ottawa is also offering the one ton challenge, in which it calls on individual Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one ton.  (Toronto Star,  April 5 and 6).

    Aviation demanded and received a separate, special deal in the Kyoto Protocol, but several governments and the European Union are now actively exploring ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes.  The goal is to reduce airline passenger demand, and the methods being considered are additional taxes on air travel or including airlines in a cap-and-trade system. 

    Emissions from aviation are substantial.  For example, in the United Kingdom aviation accounts for 15 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, and this is estimated to grow by two thirds by 2050.  Cheaper flights and more passengers account for most of the projected increase.

    The German Environment Ministry is arguing that government regulation is a necessity and has suggested that aviation be included in the EUs proposed carbon cap-and-trade system. On the other hand, the British Airports Authority has reacted to speculation by insisting that it would only enter an emissions trading system if it were on a global scale.  Caroline Corfield, head of media relations for BAA, has stated, If you put prices up, it will have an impact on demand.

     Trucost, a group which advises investors on corporate environmental and social risk, estimates the average price increase for airline tickets will be 2 per cent and will continue to increase as the cost of reducing emissions rises.  This will most affect low-income passengers, who tend to be more price sensitive.  (The Observer, Mar. 24, Edie, Mar. 24.)

    The British Governments Sustainable Development Commission is worried that the United Kingdom will not be able to meet its Kyoto targets because its economy is behaving in too American a fashion.  The Commission, chaired by former Green Party head Jonathan Porritt, frets in a report to Prime Minister Tony Blair released April 14 that, American-style patterns of growth in aviation, road transport and fuel use are wholly unsustainable and will damage the quality of life of present and future generations.

    Mr. Porritt remarked that, while economic growth has been faster in the UK than any other European country, this is accompanied by much greater inequality in income, and a long-hours, high-pressure employment culture more characteristic of American society.  The report calls on the UK government to use taxation to affect the price of energy and fuel and calls for ministers to adopt more “joined up” thinking over the next five to 10 years.  (Daily Telegraph, Apr. 14)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, has formally recommended that Russia reject the Kyoto Protocol.  Ratifying Kyoto, he said, would mean setting up bodies to limit economic growth not only on a national level, but also on a supranational level. An organ of legal interference in the internal affairs of the country would be created.

    The Kyoto Protocol, Dr. Illarionov explained, is based on flawed science which claims there are man-made factors behind global warming.  He believes that Russias economy will grow so fast over the next decade that emissions will increase substantially.  If Russia agrees to Kyoto it would have to constrain economic growth or be forced to buy emissions quotas from other nations.
    Dr. Illarionov went further when speaking to journalists on April 14.  He said, First we wanted to call this treaty an interstate Gosplan, but then we realized that a Gosplan is much more humane, so we should call the Kyoto Protocol an interstate gulag.  In a gulag, people were at least given the same rations, which did not lessen from one day to the next, but the Kyoto Protocol proposes decreasing rations day by day.

    The Kyoto Protocol is a death treaty, no matter how strange this seems, because its main purpose is to stifle economic growth and economic activity in countries that assumes obligations under this protocol.  Some reports suggested that Dr Illarionov even compared the treaty to Auschwitz.  (Reuters, Interfax).

    The campaign web site of Senator John Kerry (DMass.) only briefly mentions what the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party would do about global warming if elected.  The issues section says, When John Kerry is president, the U.S. will reengage in the development of an international climate change strategy to address global warming, and identify workable responses that provide opportunities for American technology and know-how(http://www.johnkerry.com/issues/energy/).

    However, in an October 2003 document, John Kerrys Comprehensive Vision for a Cleaner Environment, A Stronger Economy, Healthier Communities (http://www.johnkerry.com/pdf/long_enviro.pdf), he has much more to say.  On international arrangements he says:  Bushs abrupt and unilateral decision to abandon discussions with the world community on climate change was early evidence of this Administrations misguided approach to dealing with the community of nations. Dropping out of international implementation of the Kyoto Protocol was foolhardy then, and it is even more obviously foolhardy today. In our absence, many of our major trading partners in Europe and elsewhere have been working on the details of international programs to manage greenhouse gas emissions. American interests are on the sidelines, having no ability to influence the development of a system that will profoundly affect the global approach to resource protection and investment in climate change technologies.
    The document notes that Kerry has demonstrated a long commitment to addressing climate change beginning as a participant at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that produced the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and calls  climate change the globes most serious environmental challenge.  It continues: John Kerry will reinsert the United States into international climate change negotiations. He will reestablish our nations credibility and influence over the process.  The Kerry Administration will come to the international table with a serious domestic climate change program in hand.

    That domestic program will be centered on a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  The statement continues: John Kerrys plan recognizes that we must take immediate action to halt and reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our carbon footprint while the economy expands. Leveraging pioneering state and regional programs, Kerrys plan calls for all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions to participate in a cap and trade emissions reduction program for CO2 and other greenhouse gases (not just utilities, as some have suggested), so that the power of the marketplace can be directed to encourage that the most cost-effective reductions be made, whether at coal-fired utilities or from automobile tailpipes.  This cap-and-trade program will reinforce other near-term initiatives that drive down emissions without reducing economic output.

    In addition Kerry offers a predictable mix of measures to require energy conservation and efficiency, such as higher CAF standards for automobiles.  Kerry would also require increased use of renewable energy.  Subsidies for rural America are not neglected: We can capture emissions reductions opportunities in forests, rangelands, and farmland by providing financial incentive for no-till agriculture and maintaining and increasing natural carbon sinks such as forests and rangelands.

    Finally, The Kerry plan will establish the Energy Security and Conservation Trust Fund to invest in the hydrogen economy and other promising technologies, with clear targets for increasing the number of hydrogen powered cars and trucks on the nations roads.  Because of the importance of coal to our energy mix, the Kerry Administration will actively support technologies that separate and sequester CO2 when extracting the energy from coal.

    Keen observers will have noticed that one of John Kerrys key campaigning points recently has been the current high price of gasoline.  According to a study by the American Council for Capital Formation in 2000, the Kyoto Protocol would add 71 cents to the price of each gallon.