|The Week That Was
July 26, 2003
1. New on the Web: EPA HAS AN INSTITUTIONAL AND IDEOLOGICAL BIAS FAVORING
CLIMATE CHANGE DISASTERS. Hyping the science, EPA bureaucrats keep undercutting
the White House. The incoming EPA administrator will face a tough job.
2. THE STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT: WHAT YOU WON'T HEAR FROM THE EPA.
NEWS CONFERENCE ON JULY 28 AT 10 AM AT NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, WASHINGTON,
3. SUPERNOVAE HAVE INFLUENCED EARTH'S CLIMATE. STUDY LEADS TO REDUCED
EFFECTS FROM CO2
4. NUCLEAR RADIATION LEADS TO FEWER CANCERS: THE ULTIMATE HORMESIS
5. CO2 SEQUESTRATION APPEARS SUSTAINABLE, FOREST EXPERIMENTS SHOW
6. REPORTS ON NEW ZEALAND METHANE TAX FROM CANADA AND MALAYSIA: IT
2. News conference will highlight new results on global warming in light
of missing report from EPA
The Independent Institute will be holding a timely news conference on
Monday, July 28, at 10:00 a.m. at the National Press Club, in Washington,
With the recent resignation of Christine Todd Whitman as EPA Director
and the EPA not including global warming in its recent "State of
the Environment" report, the Independent Institute will host a news
conference to discuss what should have been the "State of the Environment"
-- with specific attention to global warming.
The event will feature five leading climate scientists and the release
of the new Independent Institute report: "NEW PERSPECTIVES IN CLIMATE
CHANGE: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us"
JOHN R. CHRISTY, Director of the Earth System Science Laboratory at
University of Alabama at Huntsville's Johnson Research Center, and the
scientist who pioneered measurement of the earth's temperature from space.
ROBERT E. DAVIS, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of
and author with Nancy Novicoff of several studies on the relationship
human health and global warming.
DAVID R. LEGATES, Director of the Center for Climate Research at the
of Delaware who is working with NOAA on forecasting precipitation which
greatly affect the earth's climate.
WENDY N. NOVICOFF, Professor of Medicine and Director in the Quality
Performance Improvement Program with the Health System at the University
Virginia, and author with Robert Davis of several studies on the relationship
between human health and global warming.
S. FRED SINGER, former EPA senior official and research fellow at the
Independent Institute, who designed the first satellite instruments for
atmospheric ozone and was first Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite
For your review, here is a copy of the press release for the program:
For further details of the event, please contact
Ms. Valerie Walston
Public Affairs Director
The Independent Institute
510-632-1366 x116 Phone
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
3. The Earth's position in the galaxy, not CO2 build-up, is at the
root of global warming
By Prof. Tim Patterson, in the National Post (Toronto), July 14,
On July 1, the prestigious Geological Society of America (GSA) released
a blockbuster scientific paper that fundamentally challenges the view
that carbon dioxide is the principal driver of climate change. Apart from
its scientific importance, it has political implications as well, since
it pulls the rug out from under the Kyoto accord. Co-authored by University
of Ottawa geology professor Dr. Jan Veizer and University of Toronto-trained
astrophysicist Dr. Nir J. Shaviv, this study shows that changes in atmospheric
carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas most targeted by Kyoto, has had little effect
on Earth's long-term temperature variations compared to natural causes.
In a unique cross-disciplinary study, Veizer and Shaviv combined their
perspectives of Earth sciences and astrophysics to show the primary driver
of Earth's major climate swings over the past half- billion years almost
certainly originates with the most violent natural phenomenon known --
supernovas, the cataclysmic explosions that end the normal life of the
galaxy's largest stars.
At first glance, such an announcement sounds like sensational fodder for
Canadian newspaper editorial pages and TV and radio talk shows. Yet, because
of the complexity of the science involved, most media, particularly the
CBC, which focused instead on a simpler but less significant pro-Kyoto
announcement from Geneva, merely ignored the story. Those in the press
who sensed correctly that the GSA paper was crucially relevant to today's
climate-change debate were faced with the impossible task of quickly understanding
and immediately reporting upon a scientific discovery that would take
someone trained in the field many hours to properly interpret. Not surprisingly,
the few media reports that did come out on the issue left readers more
perplexed than informed. Like the brilliant but short-lived supernovas
it references, the study was briefly described in confused articles on
several newspaper front pages and then virtually disappeared.
Throughout the 20th century, the sun continued to brighten and so, not
surprisingly, the Earth warmed. This direct heating effect may be responsible
for about a third of the warming observed in the past 100 years. Scientists
who have argued that greenhouse gases are causing climate change acknowledge
that the sun plays a role, but still insist the majority of the warming
has been caused by greenhouse gas increases.
But the computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) to support the need for Kyoto are weak at modelling changes
in cloud cover. This matters acutely because low-lying clouds cool the
Earth by reflecting much of the incoming sunlight back into space, while
wispy, high clouds tend to trap heat. Overall, clouds are likely a cooling
influence, so anything that diminishes cloud cover in general will indirectly
warm the Earth, especially if the reduction is mostly in lower clouds.
Surprisingly, increases in solar activity tend to reduce cloud cover,
so solar effects may be far more important than indicated by direct heating
To begin to appreciate the significance of the Veizer paper, it is important
to first understand how increases in the sun's activity diminish cloud
Clouds form more readily when tiny particles in our atmosphere, known
as aerosols, pick up electric charges and so act as more effective nuclei
for the collection of water droplets. Recent theoretical and experimental
studies demonstrate that galactic cosmic rays -- high-energy particles
that originate in deep space -- are one of the sources that act to charge
aerosols and thereby create more low-lying clouds. So anything that reduces
galactic cosmic rays hitting the Earth will indirectly warm the planet.
This is where the sun comes in. When our star is more active, not only
does it give off more radiant energy that warms us, but it also emits
more solar wind -- a continuous stream of very high-speed charged particles.
These particles act to deflect the galactic cosmic rays that would ordinarily
hit the Earth, leading to less cloud formation and a diminished cooling
effect. In other words, the reduction in cloud cover amplifies direct
solar heating, so most of the past century's warming may be completely
natural and attributable to changes in the activity of our sun. This would
imply that carbon dioxide emissions have had little effect, and will consequently
have little impact in the future.
When the IPCC report was being written, specialists in the field knew
there was good evidence this natural amplification of the direct heating
effect of the sun could explain recent warming. However, the IPCC left
the idea aside under the label "Very Low Scientific Understanding,"
partly because of the short length of time for which good data existed.
Even though the solar-cosmic ray climate link appeared to many experts
to be more meaningful than the CO2 climate connection, skeptics of the
cosmic ray theory have argued we are unable to differentiate between the
impact of CO2 and solar activity when the only data we have was during
a period when both were increasing in unison.
Thanks to Veizer and Shaviv, the missing data now has been provided.
By analyzing the fossilized remains of seashells, Veizer has been able
to reconstruct the Earth's temperature record for the past half-billion
years, the period during which there have been hard-shelled sea creatures.
Surprisingly, this record displays a repeating cycle of temperature increases
and decreases every 135 million years, a period that corresponds with
no known terrestrial phenomena. Independently, Shaviv had determined galactic
cosmic rays striking the Earth have been varying with about the same periodicity
over an even longer time frame. Once Veizer and Shaviv made the connection,
they wondered whether they were looking at a reflection of some sort of
regular celestial phenomenon in the climate history of the Earth.
Indeed, it appears they were. Our solar system passes through the bright
arms of the Milky Way Galaxy with approximately the same regularity as
the long-term temperature changes Veizer had discovered. And because interstellar
matter bunches up in the galaxy's arms, we see the birth of large, very
bright, but short-lived stars that end their lives as supernovas while
still inside the arms, giving off powerful bursts of galactic cosmic rays.
The changes in galactic cosmic ray intensity due to our passage through
the arms of the Milky Way are much larger than those caused by variations
in the output of our sun. Consequently, the corresponding temperature
variations were significant enough for Veizer to see in his "seashell
thermometers" even though they occurred hundreds of millions of years
So the process works like this:
- When we are in the bright arms of the galaxy, we are relatively close
to more supernovas, the galactic cosmic ray intensity is consequently
high, we therefore have more cooling clouds, and so we see colder periods
on the Earth;
- When we are out of the arms and galactic cosmic ray strength is low,
there are less clouds and the Earth is warmer.
Veizer and Shaviv conclude that 75% of the temperature variability in
the last half-billion years is explained by cosmic ray changes as we move
in and out of galactic spiral arms.
Yet, over the same time frame, the geologic record shows essentially no
correlation between CO2 levels and temperature even though CO2 levels
have been up to 18 times higher than today. In fact, CO2 concentration
was more than 10 times higher than current levels during the Ordovician
glaciation, about 440 million years ago.
Veizer and Shaviv use their study results to conclude that a doubling
of today's CO2 levels would result in a change in low-latitude sea temperatures
of about 0.5C. This translates into a global temperature rise of only
about 0.75C instead of the 1.5-to-5.5C global warming predicted by the
IPCC. This new forecast compares favourably with other predictions (e.g.
MIT's Richard Lindzen, 1997) and matches the rate of change observed by
weather satellites over the past 22 years.
Of course, all of this is fabulous news for normal Canadians and the environment.
This study, as well as many others that have come out recently, support
the contention that the IPCC's conclusions are obsolete and the scientific
rationale for Kyoto has evaporated. While reducing the air pollution that
threatens our health and damages the natural world continues to be important,
no sensible person wants to throw billions down the drain fighting climate
change if humanity has essentially no impact.
Dr. Tim Patterson, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences
at Carleton University, specializes in Paleoclimatology.
4. Nuclear Radiation leads to fewer cancers: The ultimate Hormesis experiment.
At the ongoing 48th Annual Meeting of the Health Physics Society in San
Diego, I encountered poster paper P.78 entitled "The Beneficial Health
Effects of Chronic Radiation Experienced in the Incident of Co-60 Contaminated
Apartments in Taiwan." This paper has 14 authors, all associated
with nuclear and radiation protection organizations in Taiwan, including
one from the National Taiwan University. The lead authors are W.L. Chen
and Y.C. Luan, Nuclear Sciences and Technology Association, 4th F, W.
245, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.
About 20 years ago, 180 apartment buildings comprising about 1700 apartments
were built using rebar containing Co-60 from a discarded source. It was
about 10 years before this incident was discovered. This paper discusses
the incidence of cancer and detectable genetic defects in about 10,000
people who lived from 9 to 20 years in these apartments. The highest irradiated
apartment had dose rates of about 0.5 Sv per year and the lowest about
0.02 Sv per year. The paper describes dosimetric reconstruction showing
that the average total excess dose for the 10,000 people in the study
was about 0.4 Sv, while some had total doses as high as 6 Sv.
The authors compared the approximately 10,000 people in this study with
published cancer mortality statistics and reported an expected incidence
of about 217 cases of cancer during the study period. The actual number
of cases found was only 7. This demonstrated about a 97% reduction in
cancer incidence for people living in the high-radiation environment of
these contaminated apartments. They found a similar reduction in "genetic
defects". The authors could not find any obvious confounding factors
associated with their study.
The abstract of this paper is found in a recent published HPS Journal
Supplement. You can write to the authors to get the whole paper.
[Reported by Dr. Otto Raabe]
SEPP comment: The ave. yearly dose is about 3 milliSv (300 millirem),
although it can be many times that in certain locations. A concentrated
exposure of 5 Sv (500 rem) is generally lethal.
5. CO2 Sequestration Appears Sustainable, Forest experiments show
The idea that carbon sequestration via forests is a sustainable option
for reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has come under attack
in recent years. The theory is that new forest growth will quickly become
saturated and will start returning stored carbon to the atmosphere by
2050. New research from Luo et al published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles
suggests that this may not be the case.
The researchers examined a new forest called Duke Forest established
in 1983 in North Carolina. Beginning in 1996, they started enriching 30
meter diameter plots with CO2 to concentration 200 ppm above ambient,
while maintaining control plots at the ambient level. The studies revealed
"sustained photosynthetic stimulation at leaf and canopy levels which
resulted in sustained stimulation of wood biomass increment and a larger
C[arbon] accumulation in the forest floor at elevated CO2 than at ambient
The researchers then developed a model for studying the long-term sustainability
of sequestration. In a scenario where atmospheric CO2 concentration gradually
rises from 378 ppm in 2000 to 710 ppm in 2001, they calculated sustained
carbon sequestration rising from 69 units to 201 in 2100. (co2science.org,
6. Lorne Gunter reports on New Zealand methane tax from Edmonton, Alberta:
New Zealand farmers call it the Farm Animal Ruminant Tax - get it, the
F-A-R-T tax. And they're outraged about it.
In June, the New Zealand government announced that beginning next year
it would levy a tax of about a dollar per cow and 15 cents per sheep because
- wait for it - the animals' flatulence is contributing to global warming.
That's right, New Zealand's government is worried that as the country's
10 million cows and 45 million sheep graze in their pastures, the gaseous
substance they backwardly expel may be wafting up into the atmosphere
and causing the Earth to warm. So - I'm not making this up - in order
to meet its commitments to the Kyoto accord, New Zealand is going to tax
cow toots in hopes that will somehow prompt farmers to find a way of limiting
the methane their livestock emit.
The average farmer faces a $300 annual charge.
Canada is the only major industrial country - the only one - to take Kyoto
seriously. The United States, Australia and China have opted out of the
deal. Russia is balking. Japan and Europe have ratified, but haven't made
serious emission-reduction commitments.
However, in New Zealand, Canada may at last have found a country as loopy
as we are about Kyoto.
A flatulence tax may not stop global warming, but a tax on politicians'
emissions might cut down on some hot air.
I'm Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Journal and that's the Last Word.
New Zealand methane tax, as reported in Star Publications (Malaysia),
July 15, 2003
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Farmers are mailing parcels of sheep and
cow manure to lawmakers to protest a so-called "flatulence'' tax
on greenhouse gas emissions from their flocks and herds, the New Zealand's
postal service complained Tuesday.
The service said about 20 reeking packages and envelopes had been sent
to the nation's Parliament and that the protest - dubbed the "Raise
a Stink'' campaign - was endangering the health of postal workers.
Farmers are angry that the government has levied the tax to raise 8 million
New Zealand dollars (US$4.7 million) a year - about 300 New Zealand dollars
(US$177) for average farms and ranches - for research into methane gas
emissions from agricultural animals.
Millions of sheep, cattle and other animals that graze on New Zealand's
lush farmlands are thought to produce 55 percent of the country's greenhouse
New Zealand Post spokesman Ian Long said sending manure by the mail was
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