Thursday, July 15, 2010

The U.S. Constitution, Global Warming, Environmental Protection

In order to discuss the role that the U.S. Constitution plays in determining the appropriate course of action regarding global warming and environmental protection, CARE has turned to former U.S. Senator (Represented New Mexico) and Apollo astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt. Our contributing writer uses his expertise as a former geologist to build the case that carbon dioxide is NOT the cause of an impending global warming disaster. Quite the contrary, his data-driven analysis strongly suggests that the greenhouse gas effect aids humanity by making the planet more habitable rather than less habitable. At one point he states that "All we really know at present is that natural variations in climate have been very complex, often extreme, and all before human industrial activity existed."

After considering the science behind climate variation, Senator Schmitt points out that local/state environmental challenges rather than global environmental degradation should become the focus of concerned citizens within the context of the 2010 election. The best way to achieve this is to apply the interstate commerce clause to environmental challenges and to resist attempts to erode constitutional liberties in the name of environmental ideology. This is an ideal read for those that wish to link sound science with meaningful public policy reforms.

Climate (Temperature) and the Constitution #3

Ten thousand years of natural, post-Ice Age climate variability should give pause to those who maintain that current slow global warming and carbon dioxide increases result largely from human use of fossil fuels. Public confidence in that position also suffers from the exposure of fraudulent academic and bureaucratic behavior aimed at overriding normal processes of skeptical scientific review and debate.

Observational data and interpretations related to global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide deserve close examination before taking irrevocable and dangerous regulatory actions. If there were no other factors affecting temperature at the Earth¹s surface, the balance between heat from the sun and heat re-radiated from the Earth to space would give an average surface temperature of about zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Centigrade). Not good. Fortunately, natural greenhouse heat trapping effects of atmospheric water and to a much lesser extent carbon dioxide and methane, add about 146 thermal watts per square meter (versus the Sun¹s irradiance of 1366 watts per square meter) so that the average surface temperature of the Earth becomes about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Centigrade), making the planet habitable rather than being a ball of ice covered rock and water with occasional volcanic eruptions.

Geological investigations indicate that over the last 600 million years average global surface temperature appears to have been buffered roughly at a maximum of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade). The last 53 million years being significantly colder than the previous average, as indicated by oxygen isotopes of shells in sea floor cores, but comparable to other cold periods in the geologic past. During this 600 million year period, major cold perturbations to about 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees C) occurred about every 150 million years. Over that period, carbon dioxide decreased from an estimated maximum of about 7000ppm 550 million years ago to minimum of about 300ppm around 300 million years ago (current level at 385ppm) without changing the long-term average temperature at the Earth¹s surface.

Around 43 million years ago, declining carbon dioxide concentration reached about 1400ppm, followed by three oscillations during the next 10 million years with amplitudes of about 1000ppm. Temperature apparently remained relatively constant during these ancient carbon dioxide oscillations except during the most recent when oxygen isotope ratios indicate a sharp drop in temperature 33.5 million years ago, that is, about the time ice sheets began to accumulate on Antarctica. Relative to today¹s values, declining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels remained relatively high (740-1400ppm) as Antarctica cooled.

About 22 million years ago, with its continued slow migration away from Africa, Australia, and South America, the ocean distribution and ocean currents around Antarctica began to resemble modern configurations, with partial deglaciation of that continent beginning about 14-15 million years ago. A particularly warm two million years for the tropical Earth latitudes developed about 4 million years ago even as sea surface temperatures slowly declined toward present levels. This seemingly contradictory situation apparently related to a long-term north-south expansion of the warm tropical ocean waters resulting in a factor of four reduction in the sea surface temperature gradient from the equator to at least 34ºN (~2ºC gradient versus ~8ºC, today) that lasted until about 1.5 million years ago. Along with disruptions of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, convective tropical Hadley circulation apparently slowed during this long period with both effects probably leading to significant global climate impacts.

About 2.75 million years ago, major ice ages began to oscillate with periods of warmth (interglacials). This occurred in spite of the concurrent anomaly in the tropical sea surface temperature gradient. Ten specific high latitude ice ages took place in the last million years, apparently correlated with a change in the dominant solar influence on cooling from the Earth's 41,000-year orbital obliquity cycle to its 100,000-year eccentricity cycle. A significant decrease in the overall concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide occurred at about the same time as this change in orbital influence with even greater, temporary reductions associated with each ice age; however, the reported data do not support a causal association of this decrease in carbon dioxide with the overall cooling during this million-year period.

Terminations of past ice ages appear to be associated with increased solar heating (insolation), as orbital influences changed, and not with triggering increases in carbon dioxide levels; although such increases certainly accompanied the terminations. Recent suggestions that increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide forced temperature changes and ice age terminations over the last 20 million years or so suffer from science¹s inability to adequately time-correlate changes in carbon dioxide levels with changes in global temperature, i.e., correlation does not, by itself, mean causation. As carbon dioxide release from the oceans due to warming lags warming by hundreds to thousands of years, no support exists for a conclusion that a specific natural carbon dioxide change forced a specific temperature change.

The lesson in these variations in values for atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature through geologic time, at least at a million-year or so time-resolution, appears to be that increases and decreases in carbon dioxide have not triggered global temperature changes as derived from fossil oxygen isotope ratios. Other long-term geological and solar-related phenomena may have overwhelmed any broad greenhouse effects related to carbon dioxide; or, alternatively, the proxies used for estimating ancient atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations may be invalid. All we really know at present is that natural variations in climate have been very complex, often extreme, and all before human industrial activity existed.

Studies of Antarctic ice cores indicate that Earth-surface temperatures several degrees warmer than present existed during the four preceding interglacials of the last 420,000 years. At a low time-resolution of 1000s of years, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere apparently did not rise above 290ppm (compared to 385ppm today), and its changes would appear to be correlated directly with temperature changes. On the other hand, high time-resolution ice core data indicates that both increases and decreases in atmospheric carbon dioxide lag associated increases and decreases in global temperature by hundreds to a thousand years for major long-term temperature variations. The rise or fall in average ocean temperature would be expected proceed any effect on stored carbon dioxide due to the oceans¹ relatively high mass and slow circulation.

A particularly prolonged warm period in the current interglacial between 9000 and 6000 years ago has been documented, most recently in oxygen isotopic analyses of Greenland ice sheet cores. That warm period resulted in significant thinning of Greenland¹s ice sheet to thicknesses within a 100m of those of today. Several other warm periods have occurred since, the most pronounced of which has been termed the Medieval Warm Period (500-1300).

Warm periods, sometimes referred to as "climate anomalies," of this nature were largely highly beneficial to fledgling human cultures.

After a century-long transition from the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age of 1400-1900 recorded the most recent interval of significant global cooling. Global cooling characterized the Little Ice Age in most regions, accompanied in some areas by droughts. By 1400, however, Artic ice pack had enclosed Iceland and Greenland and driven Viking settlers away from their farms on those islands. By the end of the 1600s, in response to the continued climate cooling, glaciers had advanced over valley farmlands cultivated as those same glaciers receded during the Medieval Warm Period.

Indeed, essentially all of the consequences of warming prior to 1300 reversed during the next several hundred years of the Little Ice Age.

Since about 1660, gradual global warming of about 0.9 degree Fahrenheit (0.5 degree Centigrade) each 100 years has occurred, although decades-long cooling events have interrupted this trend. Antarctic sea ice, however, now has been expanding northward for about two decades after indications in the Law Dome ice core of an additional gradual decline between about 1960 and 1990.

Although the observational, historical, and geological evidence indicates strongly that global scale changes in the climate, ocean chemistry, and biological activity have roots in natural processes, the concentration of human pollution in local areas of the Earth have documented adverse impacts.

It remains increasingly in the economic and societal interests of the private sector and State governments to stop and reverse the unnatural changes for which they bear constitutional responsibility.

Private sector, State, and Federal control of their contributions to regional local pollution effects, and consumer, shareholder, and voter insistence on prevention and cleanup, form an integral part of the nation¹s future. Appropriate and restrained Federal regulation within the Founders¹ logically constrained intent of Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the Constitution, that is, the Commerce Clause, can contribute greatly to the instigation of this new environmental ethic.

On the other hand, unconstitutional coercion will make matters worse while at the same time eroding essential liberties. The long road back to constitutional protection of the environment begins with the elections of 2010.


Harrison H. Schmitt is a former United States Senator from New Mexico as well as a geologist and former Apollo Astronaut. He currently is an aerospace and private enterprise consultant and a member of the new Committee of Correspondence

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Obama’s Deliberate Katrina

If you're fed up with the blatant incompetence of the federal government as demonstrated by its inability to contain the Gulf Coast oil spill, then you don't want to miss CARE's latest blog post. Our contributing writer is Paul Driessen, an established author that has long advocated energy policies that actually work. Paul builds the case that the Obama administration along with other elements of the federal bureaucracy is deliberately magnifying the severity of the Gulf Coast oil spill in order to ram through a malicious political agenda.

The federal thugs calling the shots have dismissed regulatory protections that could have helped prevent the oil spill, implemented regulations that hurt our economy and further damage our environment, "rejected 21 offers of help from 17 different nations" (in reference to the Jones Act), and have further politicized science to justify their draconian drilling moratorium. Paul's commentary is compelling and we're confident that you will never look at the role that the federal government plays in energy policy the same way ever again.

Bungling the BP Oil Spill Cleanup? Or Never Letting the Crisis go to Waste?

Back in May, a television news program asked me if I’d tell America the BP oil spill is President Obama’s Katrina. We discussed the spill’s causes, effects and cleanup effort, but I wouldn’t give them the “red meat” they were looking for. So I lost my 15 minutes of national fame.

Since then, it has become obvious that the Katrina analogy is inappropriate. The 2005 hurricane was marked by abject failures by the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana governor, and initially inept responses by FEMA and the Bush administration.

The 2010 oil spill is defined by yeoman’s efforts by Gulf Coast governors – and an Obama administration response that is leagues beyond inept. It is proactively incompetent and obstructionist, as though it is determined not to let this crisis go to waste – but to prolong and intensify the environmental and economic calamity, to advance its political objectives: shutting down offshore leasing and drilling, bringing the US oil industry into the automotive-banking-housing-healthcare sphere of federal control, forcing a massive shift to costly renewable energy, and ramming cap-tax-and-trade through Congress.

How else can anyone explain the litany of bureaucratic decisions that have squandered opportunities to shield beaches, fisheries and estuaries from the expanding slick, before hurricanes hammer cleanup efforts? Ponder this unconscionable malfeasance by the EPA, Corps of Engineers, Interior Department, Fish and Wildlife Service, OSHA, Justice Department, White House and Congress, which:

* Exempted BP from normal environmental reviews, from requirements that BP have viable plans in place and equipment on location to deal with any blowout and spill, and from oversight of its intended removal of drilling muds from the drillstem despite signs of dangerous pressure building in the well.

* Opposed surface and subsurface use of dispersants and rejected offers of dispersants from Britain.

* Compelled crews to employ 4-inch hoses to vacuum up oil by the quart, after President Obama objected that he “can’t suck it up with a straw.” Rejected state-of-the-art skimmers from the Netherlands, because the skimmers send a little oil back into the ocean, while collecting seawater mixed with oil, segregating the oil and discharging the water. (EPA demands that any water discharged from the skimmer be 99.99% oil-free. In other words, it demands that all the oil be left in the ocean, to be driven onto beaches and into sensitive estuaries – rather than permitting ships to collect 95% of the oil, and discharge the rest.)

* Rejected other state-of-the-art vessels, because the Jones Act prohibits the use of even specialized foreign crews in US waters. All together, says the State Department, the feds have rejected 21 offers of help from 17 different nations. (The president could waive the Jones Act, as President Bush did after Katrina, but apparently doesn’t want to offend his union allies.)

* Stands poised to reject help from the Taiwanese tanker-turned-skimmer, “A Whale,” which is now steaming toward the Gulf, to aid the cleanup – on the same bogus Jones Act and “pollution” grounds.

* Refused to allow the building of berms, because dredge and fill operations might cause environmental impacts – as though the massive intrusion of oil into marshlands would have no effect on wildlife.

* Forced Alabama to remove barriers it had installed to protect the state’s beaches, and move them to Louisiana waters.

* Appointed a scientific advisory board to assess the spill response – then falsely claimed the panel had approved the imposition of a drilling moratorium that was actually added to its recommended actions only after the scientists had signed off on the proposed plan. The drilling ban’s severe impacts on Gulf state employment and revenues were ignored by Interior and the White House, which likewise ignored a Federal District Court order to lift the moratorium until the matter could be fully adjudicated.

* Instead of coordinating an effective cleanup, appointed an oil spill investigation panel that includes the dean of the Harvard Engineering School, a former EPA administrator, the head of an anti-drilling environmental activist group, an anti-oil former US senator, and three others. Not one has actual expertise or experience in drilling or oil spill cleanup.

* Threatened criminal prosecutions, thereby chilling witness discussions and testimony, rather than working to learn what precisely went wrong on April 27 and coordinate a successful cleanup effort.

* Held congressional inquisition hearings, to grandstand, browbeat industry officials, and gloss over MMS regulatory and oversight failures – long before a factual investigation could be completed into the accident and response to it, and amid threats of criminal prosecution for anything witnesses might say.

To top it off, in the face of an environmental catastrophe largely perpetrated and perpetuated by a deliberately incompetent and intransigent federal government, rabidly anti-drilling Congressmen Waxman, Markey and Stupak have now introduced HR 5626, the Blowout Prevention Act. The bill requires that any company seeking a drilling permit must first guarantee that it could prevent any future blowouts; promptly stop any blowout, even if the blowout preventers and other measures fail; and drill a relief well within 90 days of any blowout.

This “domestic oil production prohibition” bill sets safety standards that are as impossible to meet, as requiring that all oil tankers prove they will never have an accident, even if they are forced to negotiate the obstacle courses that these same legislators intend to create off our shores, by installing thousands of wind turbines along our coasts. In conjunction with other anti-drilling initiatives, the bill would greatly increase the number of tankers coming to the United States with crude oil and refined products – thus increasing the number of major tanker accidents.

Even a six-month moratorium could cost 20,000-30,000 jobs in the Gulf Region. If HR 5626 and other measures are implemented, the ban could easily become permanent – destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs. Once the big rigs leave, most won't be back for years, as they will be in high demand in counties that do want to drill. Meanwhile China, Cuba and other countries will be drilling in our backyard, off Florida for example, using their rules and technologies, tapping into US reservoirs, and threatening our coasts.

Anyone who’s read my book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power / Black Death, knows I am no fan of BP. It screwed up big time in the Gulf, cutting corners and failing to respond properly to tests and other signs of trouble downhole, further compounding its awful environmental and workplace safety record.

However, there is simply no justification for these actions by the Obama administration and Democrat Congress, which seem determined to magnify the crisis – to further hobble the nation’s oil and gas industry and the countless companies, workers, families, hospitals, schools and charities that depend on it. Indeed, America runs on reliable, affordable petroleum fuels for almost two-thirds of all the energy we consume. It counts on offshore oil for millions of jobs and billions in royalty and tax revenues.

Enough is enough. The Gulf States must take control of their energy, economic and environmental future. In the long term, this means conducting complete investigations into corporate and government failures – and imposing civil and criminal penalties for misfeasance and malfeasance, as appropriate.

In the near term, the Gulf States should make it clear that these are their beaches, estuaries, coastal waters, jobs and revenues – and they will no longer tolerate the abject failures that have defined the authoritarian federal takeover of this oil spill response effort.

The states have a right, and a duty, to make decisions about booms, berms, skimmers and every other aspect of the cleanup – based on what their experts advise, and perhaps regardless of what the EPA, Coast Guard or other federal agencies might say.

Only then will this nightmare be brought to an end.

Paul Driessen is author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ∙ Black death ( and senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, whose new book (Freezing in the Dark) reveals how environmental pressure groups raise money and promote policies that restrict energy development and hurt poor families.