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. 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, D.C.

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 the
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 Virginia,
and author with Nancy Novicoff of several studies on the relationship between
human health and global warming.

DAVID R. LEGATES, Director of the Center for Climate Research at the University
of Delaware who is working with NOAA on forecasting precipitation which will
greatly affect the earth's climate.

WENDY N. NOVICOFF, Professor of Medicine and Director in the Quality and
Performance Improvement Program with the Health System at the University of
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 measuring
atmospheric ozone and was first Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Center.

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
202-321-6208 cell

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, 2003

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 alone.

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 cover.

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 ago.

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 CO2."

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. (, July 16)

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 gases.
New Zealand Post spokesman Ian Long said sending manure by the mail was a crime.



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