Of Climate Change Alarmism, CO2 Taxes (i.e. “Cap and Trade”), and Solutions to High Energy Prices

8 06 2008

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, USA

“Climate Change Collapse” by the Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2008

The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/public/us) provided this commentary on the failure of “Climate Change / Cap and Trade” legislation in the U.S. Senate on June 5, 2008. Read the full article here. Following are some key quotes from the article titled “Climate-Change Collapse“. Please note that any underlining or bold text in the following article exerpts are added by myself as blogger-in-chief to highlight certain key points in the quoted sections of the article.

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“Backers of the Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill always knew they would face a veto from President Bush, but they wanted to flex their political muscle and build momentum for 2009. That strategy backfired. ….. Those groups spent millions advertising and lobbying to push the cap-and-trade bill through the Senate. But it would appear the political consensus on global warming was as exaggerated as the alleged scientific consensus. ….. Even John McCain, a cap-and-trade original co-sponsor, now says that this scheme won’t fly until China and India sign on – which could be never.”

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“Senators also criticized Warner-Lieberman’s failure to clearly specify what would happen with the vast revenues the climate bill would generate – some $1 trillion over the first decade, which environmental groups wanted as a slush fund to finance “green technologies. …… The Natural Resources Defense Council desperately tried to persuade Congress in the 11th hour that the expensive price tag is a bargain because “the cost of inaction” would reach $1.8 trillion by 2100 due to increased hurricanes and rising oceans – an argument without a shred of scientific or fiscal credibility.”

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Conservative political columnist George Will wrote two articles for the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/) that are clearly spell out the related issues of “cap and trade” and “energy development”.

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“Carbon’s Power Brokers” by George Will, Washington Post, June 1, 2008

Will’s June 1, 2008 Washington Post article titled “Carbon’s Power Brokers” (read whole article here) identifies the Lieberman-Warner bill’s central feature that was make deliberately ‘less than obvious to the general public’. In so many words, “cap and trade” legislation is essentially a less transparent form of taxation upon business’ energy production and use, and would have accomplished greatly expanded control of the U.S. economy by the newly formed environmental/energy use-control bureaucracy within the U.S. government. Following are some key quotations from the article:

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“Speaking of endless troubles, “cap-and-trade” comes cloaked in reassuring rhetoric about the government merely creating a market, but government actually would create a scarcity so that government could sell what it had made scarce. ……. Businesses with unused emission allowances could sell their surpluses to businesses that exceed their allowances. The more expensive and constraining the allowances, the more money government would gain.”

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“If carbon emissions are the planetary menace that the political class suddenly says they are, why not a straightforward tax on fossil fuels based on each fuel’s carbon content? This would have none of the enormous administrative costs of the baroque cap-and-trade regime. And a carbon tax would avoid the uncertainties inseparable from cap-and-trade’s government allocation of emission permits sector by sector, industry by industry. So a carbon tax would be a clear and candid incentive to adopt energy-saving and carbon-minimizing technologies. That is the problem.”

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A carbon tax would be too clear and candid for political comfort. It would clearly be what cap-and-trade deviously is, a tax, but one with a known cost. Therefore, taxpayers would demand a commensurate reduction of other taxes. Cap-and-trade — government auctioning permits for businesses to continue to do business — is a huge tax hidden in a bureaucratic labyrinth of opaque permit transactions.”

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Will’s June 5, 2008 Washington Post article titled “The Gas Prices We Deserve” (read whole article here) discusses the ramifications of political choices made by elected representative of the U.S. government in regards to energy resource development. Will discusses U.S. policy decisions to date relating to the development (or lack there of) of existing domestic U.S. energy supply sources and the ramifications upon current and future U.S. energy supplies and prices. Following are some key quotes from the article….

“Seventy-two of today’s senators (…39 Democrats and 33 Republicans)….. have voted to keep ANWR’s estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil off the market. ….. Also disqualified from complaining are all voters who sent to Washington senators and representatives who have voted to keep ANWR’s oil in the ground and who voted to put 85 percent of America’s offshore territory off-limits to drilling. The U.S. Minerals Management Service says that restricted area contains perhaps 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — 10 times as much oil and 20 times as much natural gas as Americans use in a year.”

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“Drilling is underway 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.”

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“ANWR is larger than the combined areas of five states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware), and drilling along its coastal plain would be confined to a space one-sixth the size of Washington’s Dulles airport.”

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“Offshore? Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed or damaged hundreds of drilling rigs without causing a large spill. There has not been a significant spill from an offshore U.S. well since 1969. Of the more than 7 billion barrels of oil pumped offshore in the past 25 years, 0.001 percent — that is one-thousandth of 1 percent — has been spilled. Louisiana has more than 3,200 rigs offshore — and a thriving commercial fishing industry.”

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“In September 2006, two U.S. companies announced that their Jack No. 2 well, in the Gulf 270 miles southwest of New Orleans, had tapped a field with perhaps 15 billion barrels of oil, which would increase America’s proven reserves by 50 percent. Just probing four miles below the Gulf’s floor costs $100 million. Congress’s response to such expenditures is to propose increasing the oil companies’ tax burdens.”

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Sterrenberg Castle, Europe (here)

  • Friends, my opinion is that while climate change is real, it is as or more likely due to natural cycles of the Earth’s Sun and other climatic / environmental factors than to Man-Made / Anthropogenic Global Warming.

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  • Also, if “Cap and Trade” legislation were adopted into law, it would have resulted in the most far reaching and intrusive governmental regulatory control of the U.S. economy that has ever occurred. The inefficiencies of governmental control schemes are well known to any free market-oriented economist. Even with the aspect of “market-based trading of carbon credits”, the more essential and critical issue is that low cost, established energy resources would have been deliberately put aside for the sake of adopting high cost, as yet untested energy resources and technologies. Furthermore, with existing fossil fuel sources, the technology is either now available or relatively affordable to use that will allow plentiful supplies of U.S. oil, coal and natural gas to be used in a manner that is environmentally reasonable if not benign.

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  • As an economist, I fail to see why we as a nation insist on disallowing ourselves of making use of domestic sources of energy that would a) lessen our need for military action and involvement in such places as the middle east, b) would lessen our foreign trade deficit, and c) would provide jobs and a higher standard of living for U.S. citizens.

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  • At the core is these issues are the American people ourselves. As long as U.S. citizens fail to objectively perceive the fundamental economic issues involved, they/we/I will be continually missing the mark in regards to charting the best course for the economic future of our children and succeeding generations.

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Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President (1911-2004), Pro-growth Conservative Leader

  • I just cant or wont accept the idea that the U.S. should step away from doing things that will secure a healthy, growing U.S. economy both now and in the future. Conservatives need to lead on these issues for the sake of people that cant shape the future for themselves.

Cheers,

Churchlayman

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The San Juan Mountains, Southwestern Colorado, USA (here)

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Evidence of Positive Effects of Increased CO2 on Earth’s Plant Growth

27 05 2008

An accurate understanding of the natural processes associated with the fertilization of plants by carbon dioxide are critical in forming one’s opinion about the “man-made global warming” hypothesis. Do increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 ultimately have a positive or negative impact on plant growth? As is true in point after point in this debate about global warming and climate change, there is one school of thought that predicts increasing CO2 concentrations as damaging to plant growth, and another sees it as a positive. What you will read below is evidence for the “positive CO2 impact” point of view.

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This is the third post in a series presenting information from an academic paper by Arthur Robinson, et.al. from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (http://www.oism.org/). In this paper Robinson and his co-authors address the “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide ” (click here for a downloadable copy). The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (2007) published this article (see the following reference)…..

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Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

ARTHUR B. ROBINSON, NOAH E. ROBINSON, AND WILLIE SOON
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Road, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523 [artr@oism.org]. Published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (2007) 12, 79-90.

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Following are some direct quotations from the paper by Robinson, et.al.. Please go to the original paper for supporting figures and references, all of which have not be included in post. Any highlighting, underlined or bold text, or other attempts to emphasize particular parts of the text are of my doing (and not of the original authors).

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FERTILIZATION OF PLANTS BY CO2: pp. 8-9 of original article

How high will the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere ultimately rise if mankind continues to increase the use of coal, oil, and natural gas? At ultimate equilibrium with the ocean and other reservoirs there will probably be very little increase. The current rise is a non-equilibrium result of the rate of approach to equilibrium.

http://www.geocities.com/dieret/re/Biomass/biomasscyc.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. A simplified diagram of the carbon cycle

One reservoir that would moderate the increase is especially important. Plant life provides a large sink for CO2. Using current knowledge about the increased growth rates of plants and assuming increased CO2 release as compared to current emissions, it has been estimated that atmospheric CO2 levels may rise to about 600 ppm before leveling off. At that level, CO2 absorption by increased Earth biomass is able to absorb about 10 Gt C per year. At present, this absorption is estimated to be about 3 Gt C per year.

About 30% of this projected rise from 295 to 600 ppm has already taken place, without causing unfavorable climate changes. Moreover, the radiative effects of CO2 are logarithmic, so more than 40% of any climatic influences have already occurred.

As atmospheric CO2 increases, plant growth rates increase. Also, leaves transpire less and lose less water as CO2 increases, so that plants are able to grow under drier conditions. Animal life, which depends upon plant life for food, increases proportionally.

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(Following are examples from a large body of scientific studies showing increased plant growth in the last half century) …… (L)ong-lived 1,000- to 2,000-year-old pine trees have shown a sharp increase in growth during the past half-century. Figure 22 (in the paper) shows the 40% increase in the forests of the United States that has taken place since 1950. Much of this increase is due to the increase in atmospheric CO2 that has already occurred. In addition, it has been reported that Amazonian rain forests are increasing their vegetation by about 900 pounds of carbon per acre per year, or approximately 2 tons of biomass per acre per year. Trees respond to CO2 fertilization more strongly than do most other plants, but all plants respond to some extent.

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Wheat growth is accelerated by increased atmospheric CO2, especially under dry conditions. Figure 24 (in the paper) shows the response of wheat grown under wet conditions versus that of wheat stressed by lack of water. The underlying data is from open-field experiments. Wheat was grown in the usual way, but the atmospheric CO2 concentrations of circular sections of the fields were increased by arrays of computer-controlled equipment that released CO2 into the air to hold the levels as specified.

http://www.debruce.com/images/home_wheat_field.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. A Great Plains wheat field

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Figure 23 (paper) summarizes 279 experiments in which plants of various types were raised under CO2-enhanced conditions. Plants under stress from less-than-ideal conditions – a common occurrence in nature – respond more to CO2 fertilization. The selections of species …… were biased toward plants that respond less to CO2 fertilization than does the mixture actually covering the Earth, so (these results) underestimate .. the effects of global CO2 enhancement.

….(T)he green revolution in agriculture has already benefitted from CO2 fertilization, and benefits in the future will be even greater. Animal life is increasing proportionally, as shown by studies of 51 terrestrial and 22 aquatic ecosystems. Moreover, as shown by a study of 94 terrestrial ecosystems on all continents except Antarctica, species richness – biodiversity – is more positively correlated with productivity – the total quantity of plant life per acre – than with anything else.

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(end of quotations)

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To me the most valuable contribution of this section of the paper by Robinson, et.al. is the documentation of the large number of credible scientific studies that provide evidence for increased levels of plant and animal growth on the earth during the last half century – approximately the same time period over which atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing.

Of particular interest to someone from western Kansas such as myself is evidence that increased levels of CO2 would lead to increased wheat production in the face of dry / drought-prone crop production conditions.

Churchlayman

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Reasons for Not Accepting the “Man-Made Global Warming” Hypothesis

25 05 2008

This post continues discussion of a paper by Arthur Robinson, et.al. from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (http://www.oism.org/) addressing the “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide ” (click here for a downloadable copy). The article was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (2007). Following is the reference.

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Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

ARTHUR B. ROBINSON, NOAH E. ROBINSON, AND WILLIE SOON
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Road, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523 [artr@oism.org]. Published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (2007) 12, 79-90.

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In this paper Robinson and cohorts present extensive evidence against the hypothesis of “Human-Made Global Warming”. Following are selected experts from two sections of the paper, one discussing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, and the other, the Global Warming Hypothesis. Any marked, underlined, italicized, or bold text or bullets, etc. are added by myself to help emphasize certain key points presented by Robinson, et.al. Please read the original paper (referenced above) for full representation of the text, figures and references not included here. At the end of the quoted sections are some of my observations above how scientists with varying opinions regarding “man-made global warming” need to objectively and scientifically approach disciplinary debate on the issue.

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A. ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE: p. 6

The concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere has increased during the past century. The magnitude of this atmospheric increase is currently about 4 gigatons (Gt C) of carbon per year. Total human industrial CO2 production, primarily from use of coal, oil, and natural gas and the production of cement, is currently about 8 Gt C per year. Humans also exhale about 0.6 Gt C per year, which has been sequestered by plants from atmospheric CO2. Office air concentrations often exceed 1,000 ppm CO2.

To put these figures in perspective, it is estimated that…

  • the atmosphere contains 780 Gt C;
  • the surface ocean contains 1,000 Gt C;
  • vegetation, soils, and detritus contain 2,000 Gt C; and
  • the intermediate and deep oceans contain 38,000 Gt C, as CO2 or CO2 hydration products.

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Each year,…

  • the surface ocean and atmosphere exchange an estimated 90 Gt C;
  • vegetation and the atmosphere (exchange) 100 Gt C;
  • marine biota and the surface ocean (exchange) 50 Gt C; and
  • the surface ocean and the intermediate and deep oceans (exchange) 40 Gt C

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So great are the magnitudes of these reservoirs, the rates of exchange between them, and the uncertainties of these estimated numbers that the sources of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 have not been determined with certainty. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are reported to have varied widely over geological time, with peaks, according to some estimates, some 20-fold higher than at present and lows at approximately 200 ppm.

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Human production of 8 Gt C per year of CO2 is negligible as compared with the 40,000 Gt C residing in the oceans and biosphere. At ultimate equilibrium, human-produced CO2 will have an insignificant effect on the amounts in the various reservoirs. The rates of approach to equilibrium are, however, slow enough that human use creates a transient atmospheric increase.

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B. GLOBAL WARMING HYPOTHESIS: p. 7-8

The greenhouse effect amplifies solar warming of the earth. Greenhouse gases such as H2O, CO2, and CH4 in the Earth’s atmosphere, through combined convective readjustments and the radiative blanketing effect, essentially decrease the net escape of terrestrial thermal infrared radiation. Increasing CO2, therefore, effectively increases radiative energy input to the Earth’s atmosphere. The path of this radiative input is complex. It is redistributed, both vertically and horizontally, by various physical processes, including advection, convection, and diffusion in the atmosphere and ocean.

When an increase in CO2 increases the radiative input to the atmosphere, how and in which direction does the atmosphere respond? Hypotheses about this response differ…. Without the water-vapor greenhouse effect, the Earth would be about 14 ºC cooler. The radiative contribution of doubling atmospheric CO2 is minor, but this radiative greenhouse effect is treated quite differently by different climate hypotheses. The hypotheses that the IPCC (i.e., the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, here) has chosen to adopt predicts that the effect of CO2 is amplified by the atmosphere, especially by water vapor, to produce a large temperature increase. Other hypotheses, shown as hypothesis 2, predict the opposite – that the atmospheric response will counter act the CO2 increase and result in insignificant changes in global temperature. The experimental evidence …. favors hypothesis 2. While CO2 has increased substantially, its effect on temperature has been so slight that it has not been experimentally detected.

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The computer climate models upon which “human-caused global warming” is based have substantial uncertainties and are markedly unreliable. This is not surprising, since the climate is a coupled, non-linear dynamical system. It is very complex. (Figure 19 in the original paper) illustrates the difficulties by comparing the radiative CO2 greenhouse effect with correction factors and uncertainties in some of the parameters in the computer climate calculations. Other factors, too, such as the chemical and climatic influence of volcanoes, cannot now be reliably computer modeled.

In effect, an experiment has been performed on the Earth during the past half-century – an experiment that includes all of the complex factors and feedback effects that determine the Earth’s temperature and climate. Since 1940, hydrocarbon use has risen 6-fold. Yet, this rise has had no effect on the temperature trends, which have continued their cycle of recovery from the Little Ice Age (e.g. see discussion of this historic phenomena in the paper) in close correlation with increasing solar activity.

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Not only has the global warming hypothesis failed experimental tests, it is theoretically flawed as well. It can reasonably be argued that cooling from negative physical and biological feedbacks to greenhouse gases nullifies the slight initial temperature rise.

The reasons for this failure of the computer climate models are subjects of scientific debate. For example, water vapor is the largest contributor to the overall green house effect. It has been suggested that the climate models treat feedbacks from clouds, water vapor, and related hydrology incorrectly.

The global warming hypothesis with respect to CO2 is not based upon the radiative properties of CO2 itself, which is a very weak greenhouse gas. It (i.e., the global warming hypothesis) is based upon a small initial increase in temperature caused by CO2 and a large theoretical amplification of that temperature increase, primarily through increased evaporation of H2O, a strong greenhouse gas. Any comparable temperature increase from another cause would produce the same calculated outcome.

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Thus, the 3,000-year temperature record ….. also provides a test of the computer models. The historical temperature record shows that the Earth has previously warmed far more than could be caused by CO2 itself. Since these past warming cycles have not initiated water-vapor-mediated atmospheric warming catastrophes, it is evident that weaker effects from CO2 cannot do so.

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The “human-caused global warming” …. hypothesis depends entirely upon computer model-generated scenarios of the future. There are no empirical records that verify either these models or their flawed predictions. Claims of an epidemic of insect-borne diseases, extensive species extinction, catastrophic flooding of Pacific islands, ocean acidification, increased numbers and severities of hurricanes and tornados, and increased human heat deaths from the 0.5°C per century temperature rise are not consistent with actual observations. The “human-caused global warming” hypothesis and the computer calculations that support it are in error. They have no empirical support and are invalidated by numerous observations.

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Following are a few closing comments from this blogger’s perspective on objective scientific inquiries related to the “man-made global warming” hypothesis.

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As credible and responsible scientists we are required to critically examine relevant issues, to develop and to scientificly test hypotheses in our fields of disciplinary study. We are called to apply “due diligence” in the process of first developing testable hypotheses and then actually testing them according to accepted scientific methods. That said, emotionally and politically charged topics such as “man made global warming” are difficult to handle given their inherent public scrutiny and pressures. That responsible scientists will disagree on such an issue is to be expected – in fact, it is extremely healthy. As “iron sharpens iron”, logical objective, strenuous, energetic, multi-faceted and multi-sided debate of such an issue as this is necessary.

http://www.myastrologybook.com/Plato-Aristotle-history-of-astrology%4075.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. A painting of Plato and Aristotle (presumably debating some deep philosophical issue!)

In other words, let this debate regarding the legitimacy of the findings of those who accept the man-made global warming hypothesis be joined.  As a great professor of mine once said, “You have to know what we teach you but you dont have to believe it.”  How has science ever changed direction when narrow paradigms of disciplinary thought were the only ideas allowed a hearing in an academic discipline?

Churchlayman