|The Week That Was
June 16, 2001
For an irreverent but profound look at the energy policy debate, read
Mark Steyn's discussion. We don't know if he is British or Canadian; but
he is truly funny. Next week we will examine how well (or badly) the US
handles energy "crises"
The Week That Was June 16, 2001 brought to you by SEPP
In the meantime, there was much infighting in formulating the US policy. Robert Novak tells us what happened. The real heroes were Dick Cheney and his staff. They deserve our gratitude.
Not all Bush aides on the team
June 14, 2001
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
When the final draft of his Monday speech about global warming on the eve of his presidential visit to Europe was presented to George W. Bush, he could barely believe his eyes. It contained specific--and huge-- commitments of U.S. money. At the eleventh hour, the president had all reference to dollars stricken. That was only the final step in the toning down of President Bush's message to the Europeans about climate change. According to administration sources, the text was changed considerably, in substance as well as money, over the span of a week. The good news for Bush's core constituency is that he had the wit and courage to correct a policy running out of control. The bad news, said one high-ranking official, is ''the president is not being well- served when he is forced to correct the final decision.'' Intense secrecy inside the Bush administration and blanket denials that there are no disagreements cannot hide the truth. For weeks, a contingent of greens inside the administration has been pressing the president to look more and more like Al Gore. Bush has been forced to fight his own advisers in order to maintain his rejection of the Kyoto treaty and his call for more science to determine the true causes of climate change. The last such encounter was over substantial government spending to combat global warming, proposed in his Monday speech. According to administration sources, Deputy National Security Adviser Gary Edson inserted the money figures on his own initiative. A veteran of the Reagan and first Bush administrations, Edson, under the new president, has established himself as a formidable bureaucratic infighter and a leading proponent of a forward position on global warming. His ally has been John Bridgeland, deputy domestic policy adviser in the White House, who has coordinated the task force on global warming. In private meetings, Bridgeland has argued that giant industrial concerns are enthusiastic about plans to voluntarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions in tacit fulfillment of the Kyoto accord. Edson and Bridgeland are not alone as middle-level staffers confronting solid opposition from on high. Environmental Protection Administrator Christie Whitman has pressed for control of CO2 emissions from her first day in office, and she is supported by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (called ''Mr. Global Warming'' by dismissive congressional conservatives) and Bridgeland's boss, domestic policy chief Josh Bolten. Behind closed doors of the task force, they urged Bush to embrace the global warmers and come out for caps on CO2 emissions. An e-mail floating around the capital last week listed a proposed schedule that would finally eliminate these emissions by the year 2050. White House aides, with some passion, denounced this report as a fantasy. However, other administration officials contend that at one point, a draft of the president's speech did call for voluntary CO2 emission controls as the message he would carry to Europe. The Bush greens ultimately failed. In task force meetings so restricted that the senior staffers of Cabinet members were not permitted to attend, the CO2 caps were removed after considerable debate. That retained the president's renouncing of the Kyoto accord, contending that its emission targets are ''arbitrary and not based on science.'' Such was the set policy when Bush discovered the generous expenditures of money that had been slipped into the speech and called for help from top adviser Karen Hughes to make a quick rewrite. Thus, just as the conventional wisdom in Washington had the president turning tail on climate change, he kept to his longtime position that more scientific inquiry is needed. It was not easy. The nearly leak-proof Bush White House has kept the internal debate secret. But it also has limited the contributions from congressional specialists on climate change such as Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. In his 21st year as a member of Congress, Craig has some procedural advice for the new president. ''I do not know why they don't have a designated official who could help form a clear policy (on climate change),'' Craig told me. That might save the president the burden of editing major policy speeches at the eleventh hour.
Robert Novak appears on CNN's ''Capital Gang'' at 6 p.m. Saturday
and ''Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields'' at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
BACK TO THE ENERGY STONE AGE?
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle put it quite well, if idiotically, last Thursday: " is not a plan for America's future, it's a page from our past. It relies almost exclusively on the old ways of doing things: drilling more oil wells, burning more coal and using more natural gas." He left out more nuclear energy, but . . . well, yes. In the past we had abundant energy and ever increasing prosperity. If we don't develop sources of energy, the future will be unlike the past we and our children will have to make do with less and less.
Mr. Daschle thinks conservation is the answer. Conservation is useful if it means producing and using energy more efficiently. Engines summoned by marketplace demand have been getting more efficient for 200 years. But it's not enough. What Mr. Daschle means by conservation is giving up energy-consuming activities. If we cut back 10 percent per year on our energy use, in only 10 years we will not need any energy; we will live by our muscle power. Mankind has tried that; it's called the Stone Age.
(From Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, May 23)
By Frederick Seitz
"New research findings have identified declines in the extent of Arctic Sea ice and its thickness over the past several decades. The average thickness from the ice surface to the bottom of the ice pack has declined by about 40 percent. A related study . . . estimate the probability that the observed trends could be caused entirely by natural variability is less than 2 percent. This research suggests that human activities are very likely contributing to the loss of Arctic ice."
That is how the U.S. Global Change Research Program public relations department characterized one of the group's top accomplishments last year. The report of the Arctic meltdown was greeted with doomsday headlines and as confirmation of humans being the source of global warming. In January, the World Resources Institute even trumpeted that finding as a reason President George W. Bush should resume climate talks and seek ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an action that would require a 30 percent cut in U.S. fossil fuel use at substantial cost to workers and the economy.
In recent weeks, though, there has been some good news about Arctic ice that the media has chosen to ignore. A Swedish researcher, performing a re-examination of the data garnered on Arctic ice by U.S. submarine measurements, reported in Geophysical Research Letters in March that there has been no thinning of ice in the Arctic Sea for the last dozen years. And last week, at an international meeting of Arctic scientists, Greg Holloway, a Canadian scientist who has studied the Arctic for decades, provided a reason for the discrepancy: Arctic ice oscillates with the winds in 50-year cycles. The submarines´ measurements didn't take the movement into account.
The point of this is not to say the initial Arctic ice study was bad science or that the most recent reports are free of flaws. It is to caution the public and policy-makers against being rushed to action by scaremongers and the media who broadcast their message. For the science of climate change, despite what proponents of the theory of global warming claim, is hardly settled. It is filled with uncertainty.
That is not merely my conclusion. It was the message delivered in a National Academy of Science's report, "Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade." The report issued in 1999 was requested by the government as a critique of the first decade of research into global climate change and as a guide for the next decade.
As a former president of the NAS, I appreciate the efforts of the scientists drawn together to explore issues of public import. So do the media, which often pick up NAS findings and report them to the public. What was noticeable about the Pathway's report and subsequent follow-ups is the absence of attention by the press. And the question is why? Is it because this report upset as do the studies on Arctic ice the preconceived notions that the science of climate change is settled and mankind is its cause?
A key conclusion of the NAS scientists was that "a great deal more needs to be understood . . . about global environmental change before we concentrate on 'mitigation´ science." It warned that: "Anthropogenic global change [that is, change in the climate caused by mankind] cannot be assessed without adequate understanding and documentation of natural climate variability on time-scales of years to centuries in other words, without adequate baseline understanding." It found that "the impressive, and abrupt, swings in climate recorded over the past several thousand years may, if anything, understate the potential for natural climate variability."
The report work noted uncertainties in measurement of sea level and temperature. It posed a dozen research questions about greenhouse gases that needed answering. It raised serious reservations about the modeling being used as confirmation of global warming. It called for better observations of conditions on the lands, oceans and in the atmosphere before drawing meaningful conclusions. Follow-up NAS reports have reiterated many of these same reservations. A report "The Science of Regional and Global Change: Putting Knowledge to Work," for example, noted: "We still do not have sufficient knowledge or analytical capability to fully assess the magnitude of . . . changes."
Such findings point to the need not for rapid action by policy-makers, as pushed by certain European diplomats and environmental organizations, but for more research on climate and its variability. And those researchers shouldn't be pressured by politics or encouraged by publicity to find a particular answer. They should be given the space, the time, the funding and support to seek and find the truth.
The science of climate change today does not call for rash action that
could wreak havoc with economies worldwide and even cause worse damage
to the environment over time. Indeed, the science tells us such self-inflicted
economic damage is unnecessary, unwarranted and foolish. It is time that
story came out.
OUR PLANET IN DANGER?
When President George Bush announced a few months after his inauguration that the United States would not implement the Kyoto Protocol on global warning, his political opponents in the Democrat Party publicly deplored what he had done and privately celebrated it.
They believed they had found the heavy-duty issue that could enable them to recapture the White House. Their propaganda mills began to grind out the message that Bush and Dick Cheney are willing to pollute the air and spoil the water to protect the interests of "big oil."
As usual, the undeclared liberals in the mainstream media cooperated fully in helping the Democrat Party make its case. According to the Media Research Center, the major networks gave almost 70 percent of their airtime on global warming to the pro-Kyoto doomsayers.
This is how CBS's John Roberts reported the story: "Global temperatures on the rise, glaciers retreating, storms more frequent and severe - a looming crisis, say many scientists, of the greenhouse effects. Yet, claiming potential harm to the economy, the White House today confirmed it will abandon the global accord to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, the number one greenhouse gas."
Doing its part, Time Magazine made this scathing assertion in a 15-page special report: "Except for nuclear war or a collision with an asteroid, no force has more potential to damage our planet's web of life than global warming."
Given this background, I would like for you to participate in a short test, sampling your knowledge of the Kyoto Protocol. The correct answers are revealed below. No peeking allowed.
Since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, how many nations subject to its provisions have ratified it? A) 155; B) 50; C) 1.
In July 1997, the U.S. Senate voted on a resolution that declared the United States would not ratify the Kyoto Treaty. How did the vote turn out? A) Most Democrats voted against this resolution, and most Republicans voted for it; B) There was no difference between the two parties.
Some developing nations are exempted from the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty. What percent of the world's population is exempt? A) 10 percent; B) 40 percent; C) 80 percent.
The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to: A)maintain greenhouse gases at their current level; B) reduce greenhouse gases from current levels by 5 percent by 2012; C) reduce greenhouse gases 5 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2012.
There is a clear consensus among knowledgeable scientists that global warming is a dangerous reality caused by human activity, and that full compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will solve the problem. A) Yes; B) No.
Here are the answers: 1) C - Only Romania has ratified the treaty. 2) B - The vote against ratification was unanimous. 3) C - China, India, Brazil and Mexico are among the exempt nations. 4) C - However, Clinton volunteered the United States would reduce its emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels. 5) B - There is no scientific consensus.
Charli E. Coon of the Heritage Foundation writes, "Failing to include developing countries in the reduction goals will negate any reductions that industrialized countries could achieve." For example, "World coal use will increase by 30 percent between 1999 and 2020, with China and India alone accounting for 90 percent of that increase."
Dr. Kenneth Green, director of the environmental program at the Reason Public Policy Institute, concluded that the Kyoto Protocol is based on simplistic models that "project an appearance of certainty that is not supported by the evidence in underlying technical reports and ... mainstream science journals."
James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies concluded that entirely too much emphasis has been given to carbon dioxide. As noted by The Washington Post, Hansen's study should "remind us that climate issues are complex, far from fully understood and open to a variety of approaches. It should serve as a caution to environmentalists so sure of their position that they're willing to advocate radical solutions, no matter what the economic cost."
John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, speaks for many environmental scientists when he writes, "Climate models are at the infancy of being able to predict the climate future."
Bush did the right thing. He is not willing to put his country at risk and stifle its economy based on suspect data and flawed models purporting to forecast what the climate will be like 20 years from now.
sent to us by Howard Hayden
Thomas Friedman's column in today's New York Times bashes President Bush for his "decision to pull the U.S. out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called for industrialized nations to steadily reduce their carbon dioxide emissions." Mr. Friedman reports that Mr. Bush "bowed to the oil companies and pulled the U.S. out of Kyoto." The column refers to "what Mr. Bush did in trashing Kyoto."
The Kyoto Protocol was trashed as far as the U.S. was concerned long
before Mr. Bush got to the White House. On July 25, 1997, the U.S. Senate
voted 95-0 in favor of the Byrd-Hagel resolution instructing U.S. negotiators
that any greenhouse gas reduction agreement must apply to developing countries
as well as to industrialized nations such as America. The actual Kyoto
agreement violated these instructions. On January 30, 1998, the executive
committee of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling on President Clinton
"to refrain from signing the proposed Kyoto Protocol to the U.N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change." On July 18, 2000, the Senate
passed, 97-2, an Interior Appropriations bill that included a ban on the
use of any of the money to implement the Kyoto Protocol. The Clinton-Gore
administration never even submitted the Kyoto Protocol for ratification
by the Senate, even while it went through the motions of continuing the
Kyoto "process" and trying to modify the treaty.
from the Wash Post, courtesy of reader Bob Hershey
The government of New Zealand has been scrambling this week to squelch
an uproar over a plan to impose a flatulence tax on farm animals. The
idea would be to tax farmers between $4 and $60 for each sheep and cow
"for the dangerous gases the animals produce through dung, urine
and flatulence," according to one news report. The nitrous oxide
and methane produced by the animals are believed to contribute to global
warming. The proposal, which could cost New Zealand's farmers up to $5
billion by one estimate, was aimed at complying with Kyoto pact guidelines
to reduce greenhouse gases. New Zealand only produces 0.2 percent of world
greenhouse gases, but 55 percent of that comes from farm animals. An embassy
official here who is said to be expert on this matter confirmed that a
government "advisory group" had proposed the tax!
COMMONSENSE FROM A SPANISH LADY
The latest news is an article in Dutch newspaper that the European Commissioner on Energy Affairs, Loyola de Palacio, has said that nuclear energy will be necessary for at least the next 40 or 50 years. (that means Europe have to built more nuclear power plants, instead closing them down as the German government decided last year).
(In Holland there is just one nuclear power plant (400MW) left and the Dutch parliament decided that this plant should be closed in 2004. This plant got an upgrade in the year 1999, for about 100 million guilders! (50 million US dollars) and is now one of the most modernized nuclear power plants in Western Europe. After the speech of de Palacio in Arnhem, maybe the parliament will take that stupid decision back.)
The use of coal fired power plants will also be necessary, because it is the only fuel Europe has enough in reserve and which price will be stable for many years. (I think she has in mind Poland and Russia, because the coal for the Dutch power plants comes except from those two European countries, from the US, Colombia, Australia and some other countries outside Europe).
She also said that there is no replacement available for nuclear power plants: "If we close down all the nuclear power plants, we can't comply to the Kyoto agreement. And who are we at that point to criticize the United States".
BUT FROM GERMANY, ANOTHER NUCLEAR VIEW -
MAINZ, Germany, June 11 -- For much of the last 20 years, the slogan of the Green party was ``Atomkraft. Nein Danke'' -- Nuclear Power. No Thanks. On Monday, environmentalists here got their wish when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder signed a deal to shut off the country's last reactor by 2025, a move that contrasts sharply with President Bush's pledge to pursue nuclear power as a solution to U.S. energy woes. (NBC)
Comment: Gee, Schroeder may not be in office then
Rising sea levels, massive flooding, stronger and more frequent hurricanes -- if scientists' dire predictions about global warming come true, Florida's property insurers stand to lose billions. The state's low-lying, densely populated coastline already is susceptible to tropical storms and flooding. Global warming would only increase that risk. But the insurance industry has yet to be convinced that climate change poses a threat to its profits. "At State Farm we do not see global warning as an issue that drives anything," says State Farm Florida spokesman Tom Hagerty. "We have not changed any of our plans or policies on the basis of global warming information or on the various hurricane activity forecasts." State Farm isn't alone in shrugging its shoulders, says Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, a group of companies that insures the insurers. "The industry doesn't treat it as a serious issue," Nutter says. "It's not factored into rating decisions."
Comment: Mr. Nutter seems to have changed his mind. But European insurers and re-insurers are still talking scared. So why don't they raise rates?
One of the 11 scientists who prepared the National Academy of Sciences' recently released report on climate change charges that The media focused on the summary of the report instead of the body of the study. By doing so, the press presented a misleading story, says Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
How, exactly, did the press err?
Although the full text noted that 20 years was too short a period for estimating long-term trends, the media seized on a portion of the summary to conclude that greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activity, causing surface air and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise -- without noting the qualifications in the body of the report.
Lindzen says the primary conclusion of the NAS report was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled.
One reason for this uncertainty, the report states, is that the climate is always changing -- so distinguishing small recent changes in global mean temperature from the natural variability, which is unknown, means we do not know the relationship between global climate changes and water vapor, clouds, storms, hurricanes and other factors.
The panel is confident that a doubling of carbon dioxide by itself would produce only a modest temperature increase of one degree Celsius.
Lindzen thinks there was similar misinterpretation in reporting the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study. The main report was prepared by scientists. But the Summary for Policymakers -- the only part ever read or quoted -- was prepared by government representatives, not scientists, and does not provide suitable guidance for U.S. policymakers.
Source: Richard S. Lindzen (MIT), "Scientists' Report Doesn't Support Kyoto," Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001.
SEPP Comment: But the "hastily prepared" (acc. to
Lindzen) Summary of the NAS report was also misleading. Here are some
questions that need answers:
ENVIRONMENTALISTS TRY TO BLOCK NEW WIRELESS TOWERS -
Environmental groups are mounting a bare-knuckled campaign to oppose many of the USA's proposed new wireless towers. They say the towers are a death trap for birds, harmful to nearby wetlands and just plain unsightly (USA Today)
OK fellows, but what about windmills? A little consistency please!