July 2004

DETROITFord announced a Sept. 3 rollout date for its new Ford Foresight, a hydrogen-powered SUV that, if it reaches sales projections, will deplete the earth’s supply of hydrogen by 2070. “America has asked for a car that does not use fossil fuels, and we’ve delivered,” Ford CEO William Ford Jr. said Monday. “With an engine nearly 20 times as powerful as that of our gas-burning SUV, the 11-ton Foresight will be unaffected by the price-gouging whims of OPEC, as it uses water electrolysis to gather fuel from the oceans and the fresh mountain air.” Ford acknowledged that, when hydrogen supplies are depleted, the usefulness of the Foresight, as well as life on earth as we know it, will end. (The Onion, Americas leading parody news source, found on the web June 15).

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science panel on June 15 (see last issue), Michael Oppenheimer, of Princeton University and former holder of the Barbra Streisand Chair in Environmental Studies at Environmental Defense, told the audience, “The sea-level rise over the past century appears greater than what the model says it should be,” and that, “The [Greenland and Antarctic] ice sheets may be contributing more than the models predict.”  These statements completely contradict the latest scientific evidence on this topic.

Publishing in Geophysical Research Letters (Vol. 31, 2004), Cambridge Universitys Peter Wadhams and Scripps Institution of Oceanographys Walter Munk described their careful calculations of the known contributions to sea-level rise (ocean warming, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and mid-latitude glaciers) over the last century. Their conclusion was, “We do obtain a total rise which is at the lower end of the range estimated by the IPCC.”

They also commented, “One interesting consequence is that the continental run-off which is allowed after subtracting the effect of sea ice melt is considerably lower than current estimates of sub-polar glacier retreat, suggesting a negative contribution from polar ice sheets (Antarctica plus Greenland) or from other non-glacial processes.” That is, as previous studies have concluded, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are probably thickening rather than melting.

A recent study conducted by G. Zhou and colleagues (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101, 2004) suggests once again that no strong correlation exists between global warming and malaria outbreaks. This stands in stark contrast to the oft-repeated claims of self-described malaria experts, such as the physician Paul Epstein.

In seven study sites conducted in the East African Highlands, Zhou et al. found that “malaria dynamics are largely driven by autoregression and/or seasonality” and that “the observed large among-site variation in the sensitivity to climate fluctuations may be governed by complex interactions between climate and biological and social factors,” including “land use, topography, P. falciparum genotypes, malaria vector species composition, availability of vector control and healthcare programs, drug resistance, and other socioeconomic factors,” among which are “failure to seek treatment or delayed treatment of malaria patients, and HIV infections in the human population,” which they say have “become increasingly prevalent.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the scientific consensus of malariologists, rather than climate change “experts,” is that climate is a minor factor in the recent spread of vector-borne diseases.

An overlooked study suggests that evidence from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia points to corals being strengthened, not weakened, by rising temperatures.

The study directly contradicts earlier findings by Kleypas et al. (1999) that received considerable media attention for its conclusion that the rising CO2 content of the Earths atmosphere would lower the saturation state of the carbonate mineral aragonite in the surface waters of the worlds oceans and lead to weaker, more fragile, and slower growing coral reefs.

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (www.co2science.org.), however, has drawn attention to a study by Lough and Barnes, published in 2000 in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, that assembled and analyzed the calcification characteristics of 245 similar-sized corals of Australias Great Barrier Reef. It found that increasing CO2 would increase, not decrease, the calcification of coral reefs. Their study notes that, “This increase of ~4% in calcification rate conflicts with the estimated decrease in coral calcification rate of 6-14% over the same time period suggested by Kleypas et al. (1999) as a response to changes in ocean chemistry.”

The Center comments, “In light of these real-world empirical-based calculations, and in stark contrast to the doom-and-gloom prognostications of the world’s climate alarmists, Lough and Barnes thus conclude that coral calcification rates may have already significantly increased along the GBR in response to global climate change.  And they are likely to increase even more, we would add, if the air’s CO2 content and temperature continue to rise in the years ahead.”

The July 1 issue of Nature magazine contains a correction by Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes (MBH) of mistakes in their 1998 Nature article that purported to give an accurate reconstruction of global temperatures over the past six centuries (the initial source for the hockey stick graph).  The brief notice does not contain the corrections beyond an uninformative list of data errors, but refers readers to www.nature.com/nature, where one can eventually also find changes to the studys methodology (referred to as “an expanded description of the methodological details”).

This highly unusual admission comes as the result of an article by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, associate professor of economics at the University of Guelph, that exposed serious errors in data and methodology.  The editors of Nature agreed and required Mann et al. to fix their mistakes.

“Corrigendum: Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries” ends with an extraordinary statement: “None of these errors affect our previously published results.”  McIntyre and McKitrick dispute this statement: “We have done the calculations and can assert categorically that the claim is false. We have made a journal submission to this effect and will explain the matter fully when that paper is published.”

It is also important to realize that this correction was not published as an Addendum, which, according to Natures published policy, is the case when “Authors inadvertently omitted significant information available to them at the time” but which does “not contradict the original publication,” as would surely be the case if MBH are correct in their assertion. Corrigenda are only published, “If the scientific accuracy or reproducibility of the original paper is compromised.”

Up until this climbdown, Mann, an assistant professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, had ferociously defended his hockey-stick papers and had launched several ad hominem attacks on McIntyre and McKitrick.  The corrigendum listed five references, but not the paper by McIntyre and McKitrick (“Corrections to the Mann et al (1998) Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemisphere Average Temperature Series,” Energy and Environment 14(6)) that first drew attention to his mistakes.

The hockey-stick purports to show that the global mean temperature was relatively constant through the first nine hundred years of the past millennium and then rose sharply in the twentieth century.  It was featured as proof of global warming in the U. N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment Report.  A number of papers have been published that challenge either the hockey sticks reconstruction of past temperatures (e.g., Esper et al., Science, 2002) or Manns handling of data in general (e.g. Chapman et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 2004).

Mann had to publish another correction to his published work in June in the Journal of Geophysical Results, following complaints from other paleoclimatologists that his methodology in another paper did not show as big a warming trend from the end of the Little Ice Age as is necessary. In other words, Mann underestimated how cold the Little Ice Age was.

The full debate over the “hockey stick” controversy can be followed at Ross McKitricks web site at http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/ research/trc.html.

At the Lincolnshire Environmental Awards, noted British conservationist Dr. David Bellamy dismissed wind farms cost effectiveness as “rubbish” and portrayed the supposed benefits of wind farms in reducing CO2 levels as a “ridiculous claim.”

Bellamy expressed outrage at global warming scare tactics and commented, “The latest is that global warming is a bigger threat than international terrorism. Tell that to the people of New York.” Dr. Bellamy also questioned the science suggesting that atmospheric CO2 increases raise global temperature, saying, “A paper called Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations over the last Glacial Termination, has proven that increases in temperature are in fact responsible for increases in CO2 levels. Not the other way round as claimed by the wind lobby.”

The famed environmental campaigner also castigated the economics of the wind industry, saying that the argument that wind power will have a significant effect on reducing CO2 concentrations, “is a complete non-starter when you consider that Britain has about 1,060 turbines that produce about 0.35 per cent of our electricity needs. With only 28 per cent of our CO2 emissions coming from the production of electricity, this means that these turbines displace less than 0.1 per cent of total CO2 emissions.”

Dr. Bellamy also pointed out that, “The thousands of turbines in Denmark have resulted in them having the dearest electricity in Europe – more than double the price here” (Lincolnshire Echo, June 12).

An analytical speech and paper debunking the claims of wind power by Glenn R. Schleede, a well-known energy consultant, will be discussed in the next issue.

At a time when SUVs are rapidly growing in popularity in Europe and several auto manufacturers, including Volkswagens Audi and General Motors Opel, have plans to launch new models, the vehicles have come under legislative and rhetorical fire in both France and the United Kingdom.

France is imposing a new tax on vehicles that emit the most greenhouse gases ranging from €1600 to €3200. This tax is aimed primarily at SUVs, but includes large passenger cars as well. Smaller vehicles that still emit the gases will be taxed from €400 to €800, while purchasers of “clean” cars will be given a tax break ranging from €200 to €700.

In the United Kingdom, Professor David Begg, chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, an independent advisory body to the Government, has said that the current average tax on SUVs of 165 ($421) per year is too low. He recommends raising that three- or fourfold to reduce greenhouse emissions by “giving customers a disincentive for buying such cars.” According to the Wall Street Journal (July 7), “The number of SUVs on UK roads is about 200,000, up 40 per cent from five years ago, Begg said. The government’s got to act for what’s right for society generally, rather than a really small percentage of car owners, he said.”

The authorities in the capital cities of both countries reflect their national governments attitudes. The Paris City Council has proposed banning all SUVs from the city in order to reduce congestion (although such an act would likely prove illegal), while recently re-elected Mayor of London has called people who drive SUVs in London “complete idiots.”

Rhode Island and Hawaii enacted renewable portfolio standards for electric utilities in June. The Maryland legislature also passed a renewable portfolio standard bill by a veto-proof margin.

Rhode Island enacted a law requiring electricity retailers to include an increasing renewable portfolio in their sales. By December 31, 2006, they will be required to source 3 percent of their sales from renewable energy, with the amount increasing in subsequent years. The legislation is designed to encourage new renewable energy sources (only 2 percent may come from existing sources) and can be read at http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText04/HouseText04/H7375A.htm.

Hawaii enacted a law imposing a renewable portfolio on the states public utilities in increasing amounts until 2020. The first milestone is a requirement of 8 percent by the end of 2005. The law does, however, allow the utilities to miss the target if they cannot meet it in a cost-effective manner. It can be found at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessioncurrent/bills/SB2474_hd2_.htm.

The Maryland legislature passed a renewable portfolio standard for the states electricity retailers by a veto-proof margin. Electricity suppliers must produce 1 percent of their electricity from “Tier 1” renewable resources in 2006. The requirement will rise by 1 percent every two years, reaching 7 percent in 2017. Tier 1 includes solar, wind, ocean, qualifying biomass, geothermal, landfill or wastewater methane, renewably-fueled fuel cells, and small hydroelectric plants.  In addition, 2.5% of the portfolio each year must be generated by either Tier 1 or Tier 2 resources, until 2017, when all renewable generation must be from Tier 1.  Tier 2 includes hydroelectric power, incineration of poultry litter, and waste-to-energy. The bill can be read at http://mlis.state.md.us/2004rs/bills/hb/ hb1308e.rtf.

The Western Governors Association approved a resolution unanimously that established a feasibility study into providing 30,000MW of clean energy by 2015 and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. The full resolution can be read at http://www.westgov.org/wga/policy/04/clean-energy.pdf.

In a remark sure to anger European Greens, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he is so serious about tackling global warming that nuclear power needs to be considered as an energy source.

In remarks to a committee of the British House of Commons on July 6, he said that American sources were admitting that global warming might be a problem, “Butwhy is nuclear power ruled off the agenda? That’s where they do have the point.” He went on, “It’s not sensible for us to say…we are just shutting the door. You can’t remove it from the agenda if you are serious about climate change.”

Blair pointed out that “whatever the famed British influence” on America, he had proved unable to persuade the U. S. to adopt the Kyoto Protocol and rightly stressed that the Congress is more important on this subject than the President. The friendly nature of his remarks about the United States also hints that suggestions (including some from his own civil servantssee last issue) that he planned to use the issue of global warming to engineer a rift with America next year are exaggerated.

Blair did, however, suggest that India and China, fast becoming major emitters of carbon dioxide, would need to be more involved in finding ways to reduce emissions. Both countries have stated that they will not accept restrictions on their emissions. Indias Congress Party won a surprise victory in their recent election partly on the basis of a promise to bring electric power to the nations millions of poor. There is currently no way for this to occur using renewable energy (Reuters, July 5).

The Competitive Enterprise Institute submitted comments on July 7 to the California Air Resources Board (CARB)s draft proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles in the State. Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at CEI, argues first that the proposals are fuel economy regulation by the back door:

“The main greenhouse gas emitted by motor vehicles is carbon dioxide (CO2), an inescapable byproduct of the combustion of gasoline and other carbonaceous fuels. Because commercially proven technologies to filter out or capture CO2 emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles do not exist, the most feasible way to implement AB 1493 is via regulations increasing vehicle miles traveled per unit of fuel consumedin other words, via fuel economy regulations.

“However, as CARB is surely aware, the federal Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975 preempts state action in the field of automobile fuel economy regulation. A law that effectively and significantly requires automakers to increase fuel economy is a fuel economy mandate, however named.”

Lewis also argues that the proposals impose costs without benefits: “The “maximum feasible” greenhouse gas reductions contemplated by AB 1493 are also supposed to be “cost-effective.” However, no regulation devised by CARB can be cost-effective, because no statewide program can effectively address the alleged problem of global warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

“Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research calculated that full implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by all industrialized countries, including the United States, would avert only 7/100ths of a degree C of global warming by 2050too small an amount for scientists reliably to detect. Any greenhouse gas reductions from a single sector within a single State would have even less effect on atmospheric CO2 concentrations and, hence, on global climate change. Therefore, a CARB-administered AB 1493 program can have no discernible benefit to people or the planet. Yet the program will have measurable costs: up to $1,047 in additional expense for category 1 passenger car/light duty trucks and $1,210 for category 2 light duty trucks, according to CARB [page iii]. A program with substantial consumer costs and no detectable benefits is not cost-effective.”

Finally, CEI points to the cost imposed by the proposals on the consumer: “To help policymakers design “climate friendly” transportation systems, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change recently published a report, by David L. Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Andreas Schafer of MIT, entitled Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation. The Pew report openly calls for fuel economy measures to reduce greenhouse gas reductions. However, the authors reveal that fuel economy mandates tend to impair consumer welfare.

“Citing the NRC fuel economy report and other relevant literature, Greene and Schafer estimate that the “present value of fuel savings for a typical passenger carincreases to $1,000 at $34 mpg and $2,000 at 44 mpg” over a “14-year vehicle life cycle.” However, fuel economy improvements also increase the sticker price of new cars, so much so that the “net value to the consumer (fuel savings minus vehicle price increase) is relatively modest, increasing to a maximum of about $200 at 33 mpg and decreasing to zero at 39 mpg.” But, that modest gain occurs only over the cars full 14-year life cycle. Most people sell or trade in their cars before 14 years. The survey literature suggests that most consumers will not invest in higher fuel economy unless they expect a payback in 2.8 years. Thus, for most consumers “no net savings are available from increasing fuel economy.” Indeed, Figure B on page 15 of the Pew report indicates that, as fuel economy increases to 37 mpg, the typical consumer loses $500 in net value.”

Lewis concludes by urging CARB to “brief Governor Schwarzenegger and the California legislature on the practical and legal impossibility of carrying out its mandate.”