Friday, April 4, 2008

The Week Ahead: April 7-11

Next week, the EPW Committee will conduct two hearings.

On Wednesday, April 9th at 10:00am, the Committee will hold a legislative hearing on S. 1870, the Clean Water Restoration Act (Feingold).  Last December, the committee held a very brief oversight hearing on wetlands and jurisdictional waters under the Clean Water Act reflecting the Rapanos Supreme Court case.  The hearing highlighted questions and concerns surrounding the courts decision and a variety of current jurisdictional interpretations.  The Feingold bill is written to strike the word “navigable” in the Clean Water Act and replace it with “waters of the U.S.”.  This conversion will increase the federal jurisdictional reach compromising individual property rights and increasing construction costs for many public and private projects.  To testify at next week's hearing, Republicans invited a cattleman from Montana and an elected County Engineer from Ohio to discus concerns that Feingold bill will significantly delay a majority of projects that require any earth movement, whether it’s for routine property maintenance, economic development, flood protection, or even habitat improvement.  They will also express concern that the bill will not provide the American public with cleaner water but will lead to increased construction costs for homes as well as construction costs on vital transportation infrastructure like bridges and roads.


Witness List:

The Honorable Carol Browner, Principal, The Albright Group; Former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Honorable Peter Grannis, Commissioner, New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Joan Card, Water Quality Division Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

David P. Brand, P.E., P.S., Sanitary Engineer, Madison County

Randall P. Smith, Smith 6-S Livestock

The EPW Committee will also conduct a nominations hearing on April 10, 2008. Senator Inhofe is pleased to support David Hill’s nomination to be EPA’s General Counsel.  Mr. Hill is a highly qualified nominee who was confirmed by the Senate in 2005 for his current position as the General Counsel at the Department of Energy. Senator Inhofe looks forward to a non-contentious hearing and hopeful for quick confirmation by the Senate.

Inhofe Opening Statement: Hearing on the Delay of the Polar Bear Listing Decision

April 2, 2008

Good morning.  This is our second hearing in 3 months on the polar bear.  The focus of this hearing is on the Department of the Interior’s failure to meet its court-ordered and statutory deadlines for making a listing decision and the subsequent lawsuit brought by environmental groups.  The decision is overdue by 90 days and many of my Democratic colleagues are outraged by the delay.

I firmly believe that statutory and court-ordered deadlines should be met.  However, this is not the first time that the Fish and Wildlife Service has missed one of these deadlines.  For example, in July 1998, the Clinton Administration proposed to list the Canadian Lynx as threatened under ESA.  The final rule was published in March 2000—exceeding the statutory one-year deadline by more than 250 days.  It is my understanding that from 1998-2000, the prior administration had a 10% success rate in getting listing decisions made within the one-year statutory window.  So this is not an unprecedented occurrence, nor is it unique to the Bush Administration.

It is very telling that my Democratic colleagues have chosen this missed deadline over which to get so upset.   And the fact that we have had two hearings on a single listing decision reinforces my belief that listing the polar bear is not about protecting the bear, but about using the ESA to achieve global warming policy that special interest groups can not otherwise achieve through the legislative process.  Worldwide polar bear population numbers are at or near all-time highs, especially in comparison to 40-50 years ago.  A majority of populations are considered stable, some are increasing.  I worry that we have spent, and will continue to spend, too much time and money examining a healthy species and manufacturing ways to predict its demise, when there are hundreds of species legitimately on the list that need these scarce department resources. 

The ESA is simply not equipped to regulate economy-wide greenhouse gases, nor does the Fish and Wildlife Service have the expertise to be a pollution control agency.  The regulatory tools of the ESA function best when at-risk species are faced with local, tangible threats.  Greenhouse gas emissions are not local.  Without objection, I would like to enter in the record a law review article written by Florida State Law School professor JB Ruhl entitled “Climate Change and The Endangered Species Act.”  In his article, Professor Ruhl states, “Accurate prediction of climate change effects on local ecological conditions is, for now (and perhaps always will be) beyond the capacity of ecological models.”  In essence, we can’t scientifically establish a direct causal link from a CO2 molecule in Oklahoma or in Wyoming or in China to a direct effect on a polar bear in Alaska.  We can’t say which molecule is responsible.  So how do you know who the culprit is and how do you regulate their activity under ESA?  I look forward to hearing from Bill Horn, a former Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Reagan Administration on this point.

Finally, when I was Chairman, we heard testimony before the committee that the Act’s strict timelines make it nearly impossible for the scientists to do a thorough job.  And, the Act’s terms, such as “foreseeable future” -- on which the polar bear decision rests -- pose complex problems for decision makers.  The Director of the Service testified in January that he needed extra time to review additional science before making the final decision on the polar bear.  While every deadline should be met, I believe it is most important, given the implications of a polar bear listing, that we get this right the first time.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. 

 


 

TURNING ESA INTO GLOBAL WARMING POLICY; EPW Hearing Reveals Special Interests Motivations Behind Listing the Polar Bear

April 4, 2008

“If the polar bear is listed, the ESA [Endangered Species Act] will become a climate change law,” writes Senator John Barrasso in an excellent blog post on The Hill’s Congress Blog. The result, Senator Barrasso warns, means that “…anything thought to contribute to global warming could be shut down — even in Wyoming.”

Amazingly, these efforts come as worldwide polar bear population numbers are at or near all-time highs, especially in comparison to 40-50 years ago.  A majority of populations are considered stable and some are increasing.

Yet turning ESA into climate change law is exactly what Democrats and their liberal special interest allies have in mind, as revealed during the April 2, 2008 Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on listing the polar bear under ESA. The implications of such a policy would lead to drastic increase in litigation and anxious “creative” lawyers ready to find ways to shut down energy production.

William P. Horn, former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in 1985-1988 (responsible for the ESA program) and with experience serving on the Board of Environmental Sciences and Toxicology of the National Academy of Sciences, addressed these ramifications of turning ESA into a global warming law, stating at the hearing:

“Does someone go to court and say a locality, by allowing activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions, is therefore causing arctic sea ice to melt harming the polar bear, i.e. taking the polar bear, is that local government now culpable under the ESA for allowing that activity to go on.  We’ve got 4 or 5 precedents along that line that I would anticipate “creative” attorneys to take and run with….

“If the Service has to consider all of these things and if emissions and their cumulative impact are causing climate change which is causing sea ice melting, which is in turn harming the bears, the FWS is going to be obligated to consult on virtually every activity that results in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Senator Inhofe, concerned about these tremendous implications, asked Mr. Horn to comment further about how the FWS could establish a link between greenhouse gas emissions in one part of the country –say Oklahoma or Wyoming – and relate it to any impact on polar bears in Alaska. Here is the exchange:

Senator Inhofe:  Based on your experience, do you agree that it will be difficult to legitimately establish links between greenhouse gas emissions in one part of the country to effects on a single polar bear population, maybe in Alaska?

Mr. Horn:  Someone comes in to build a particular new highway interchange in some location….How does it [FWS] determine that the emission attributable to that highway project are the ones that are essentially causing the sea ice to melt, and how do you make that connection?  Can you even, is that connection even capable of being made and is the FWS the agency to do that.  I think the answer is no.” 

Sen. Inhofe:  My concern would be that there are activist judges that would be trying to force this, this link.  Do you agree with that? 

Mr. Horn:  Yes. 

Kassie R. Siegel with the Center for Biological Diversity, asked to address this point head on by Senator Barrasso during the hearing, did her best to come up with a “creative” answer.

Sen. Barrasso: Could you a little bit address some of these issues about emissions under Section 7?  Is it the intention of your organization, if there is going to be a coal-fired power plant planning to be constructed someplace, if the polar bear is listed, that then you would say, ‘well, we need to use all of our legal abilities to attempt to block that construction?’

Ms. Seigel:  It is extremely important that the FWS carry out the Section 7 consultation process in order to protect polar bears…We also believe, however, that the FWS has to address the fundamental problem here, which is greenhouse gas emissions, and that the Section 7 consultation process is the appropriate venue to do that for major sources of greenhouse gas emissions….We think the section 7 of the ESA is part of the solution and has an important role to play. 

Sen. Barrasso:  That was a creative answer, but I’ll take it as a YES.

These groups also made it clear they want to use the polar bear to stop oil and natural gas production, not only in Alaska but wherever it occurs.

Ms. Seigel:  I would like to note that while global warming is the primary threat to polar bears, they are threatened by other things as well, such as oil and gas development….Section 7 will clearly be very successful in addressing other threats to polar bears.”

 Furthermore, in comments filed with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Greenpeace and the CBD urged the Service to force greenhouse-gas-emitting projects, even those not in Alaska, to account for potential affects on the bear before they can go forward.  They write,

It is simply not possible to fully discuss the threat to the polar bear from global warming without…regulatory mechanisms to address greenhouse gas emissions.” 

 

The revelation by Ms. Seigel and other liberal special interest groups of their intent to use ESA to shut down all energy development lead Senator Craig (R-ID) to remark, “But as a father and a grandfather, I, too, am passionately concerned that we make our public policy work, and we don’t attempt to use some [policy] as a surrogate and a block for others.”

 

Polar Bears Potential ESA Listing Called "Regulatory Monster"

For the second time in the past three months, the EPW Committee conducted a hearing on the decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The potential listing of the polar bear under ESA is being promoted by many activists as a way to save the bear. Today’s hearing also focused on the  Department of the Interior’s failure to meet its court-ordered and statutory deadlines for making a listing decision and the subsequent lawsuit brought by environmental groups.

FACT: Worldwide polar bear population numbers are at or near all-time highs, especially in comparison to 40-50 years ago.  A majority of populations are considered stable and some are increasing. Listing polar bears under ESA will alter the original intent of ESA and may create “a regulatory monster of unprecedented proportions.”

William P. Horn, former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in 1985-1988 (responsible for the ESA program) and experience serving on the Board of Environmental Sciences and Toxicology of the National Academy of Sciences, testified today: 

“It would be a mistake to list the presently healthy and sustainable polar bear populations as a threatened species under the ESA. Such action will produce a variety of adverse consequences including (1) creating an ESA listing precedent that opens Pandora’s Box in the form of other unwarranted listings that will diminish resources available for bona fide wildlife conservation and recovery efforts, (2) setting the stage for new rounds of litigation and judicial activism to turn the ESA into a regulatory monster of unprecedented proportions, and (3) harming existing successful polar bear conservation and management programs…A decision to list a presently healthy species – exhibiting no present trajectory toward endangerment − based on large scale hemispheric models forecasting problems 50 years in the future is a radical departure from the language of the ESA. It pushes the decision horizon far into the genuinely unseeable future, is predicated on uncertain intervening events where it is difficult if not impossible to tie those events directly to specific on-the-ground situations, and will likely precipitate the subsequent listing of an array of otherwise healthy species which might also be forecast to face problems a half century or more from now. By stretching the ESA and encompassing under its umbrella an unknown number of such species, finite monetary and staff resources will be further divided and resources diminished and diverted from conservation and recovery of species facing bona fide imminent threats and where FWS is actually capable of conserving such species. That is bad conservation strategy and bad policy.” 

Horn also cautioned that listing polar bears under ESA will open the door to massive litigation.

“The predicate of the listing is that greenhouse gas emissions are triggering melting of the Arctic Sea ice habitat upon which the polar bears depend. Yet ESA provides – and FWS possesses − no authority or expertise to regulate such emissions on a national, hemispheric, or global basis. Clearly, FWS cannot tell the governments of China or India to stop building new coal fired power plants. A polar bear listing will also trigger a sequence of events in which FWS is compelled to expand the scope of its regulatory activities into realms (e.g., air emissions) where it cannot be effective as a matter of fact or law. The agency will be pressed well beyond its expertise and resources to become the uberregulator of our nation’s greenhouse gas emitting electrical and transportation systems. That will detract from focus on areas and species where FWS can be effective and conserve genuinely at-risk species.” 

The headline-grabbing missed statutory deadline is not an unprecedented occurrence, nor is it unique to the Bush Administration. Statutory and court-ordered deadlines should be met but it is not the first time that the Fish and Wildlife Service has missed one of these deadlines. For example, in July 1998, the Clinton Administration proposed to list the Canadian Lynx as threatened under ESA.  The final rule was published in March 2000—exceeding the statutory one-year deadline by more than 250 days.  From 1998-2000, the Clinton Administration reportedly had a 10% success rate in getting listing decisions made within the one-year statutory window. 

The decision is overdue by 90 days, and the two Democrats who showed up at the EPW hearing took the opportunity to express outrage over the delay.  It is very telling that the Democrats chose this missed deadline over which to get so upset. The fact that the EPW Committee has had two hearings on a single listing decision reinforces the point that the listing of the polar bear is not about protecting the bear, but about using the ESA to achieve global warming policy that special interest groups can not otherwise achieve through the legislative process.

 

Related Information:


U.S. Senate Minority Report Debunks Polar Bear Extinction Fears

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This report details the scientists debunking polar bear endangerment fears and features a sampling of the latest peer-reviewed science detailing the natural causes of recent Arctic ice changes. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that the polar bear population is currently at 20,000 to 25,000 bears, up from as low as 5,000-10,000 bears in the 1950s and 1960s.  A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain noted that the polar bear populations “may now be near historic highs.”  The alarm about the future of polar bear decline is based on speculative computer model predictions many decades in the future. And the methodology of these computer models is being challenged by many scientists and forecasting experts. (LINK)

 

Impact: New York Times Features EPW Polar Bear Report

The New York Times reported this week on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Minority report debunking fears of polar bear extinction. John Tierney's January 31 article, titled "Polar Bears and Seer Suckers," called the EPW Minority's report "persuasive at debunking the predictions of polar bears going extinct this century."

Tierney noted that polar bear extinction fears are "being stoked to build support in the U.S. for listing them as a ‘threatened' or ‘endangered' species even though it's not clear that their overall numbers are declining." (LINK) Tierney noted that the EPW Minority's polar bear report featured "one very hard piece of evidence that casts doubt on the doomsday predictions: a polar bear jawbone that appears to be at least 110,000 years old, meaning that polar bears have survived eras with considerably warmer temperatures than today." [Note: For more on the discovery of an ancient jaw bone which "confirms the polar bear was a morphologically distinct species at least 100,000 years ago" and thus survived past warming periods, see - LINK]

 

Polar Bear Pandering By Debra Saunders (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Link to Column

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California delivered a speech in the Senate last week in which she linked global warming to the San Diego wildfires, Darfur, the imminent loss of the world's polar bears and even a poor 14-year-old boy who died from "an infection caused after swimming in Lake Havasu," because its water is warmer. Forget arson. Forget genocide. Forget nature. There is no tragedy that cannot be placed at the doorstep of global-warming skeptics. Oh, and there's no need to acknowledge that the regulations or taxes necessary to curb emissions by a substantial degree might damage economic growth. According to Boxer, laws to curb greenhouse gases - this country would have to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half over 12 years to meet the latest international community goals - will do good things for the American economy and create lots of jobs. It's Nostradamus Science wedded to Santa Claus economics. It is rhetoric such as Boxer's - an odd combination of the-end-is-near hysteria and overly rosy economic scenarios - that keep me in the agnostic/skeptic global-warming camp. Boxer and Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that Boxer chairs, have been engaging in a running debate on global warming. Last month, Inhofe took on the Al Gore suggestion that polar bears are in peril because of global warming. Inhofe pointed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimates that show the polar bear population at about 20,000 to 25,000 bears - up from the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 polar bears in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Canadian Survey Reveals Polar Bears Populations Increasing - Nearly Tripled Since 1980's

National Post By Don Martin Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Link To Article

Their status ranges from a "vulnerable" to "endangered" and could be declared "threatened" if the U.S. decides the polar bear is collateral damage of climate change.

Nobody talks about "overpopulated" when discussing the bears' outlook.Yet despite the Canadian government 's $150-million commitment last week to fund 44 International Polar Year research projects, a key question is not up for detailed scientific assessment: If the polar bear is the 650-kilogram canary in the climate change coal mine, why are its numbers INCREASING?

 

MANY AGREE POLAR BEARS SHOULD NOT BE LISTED AS THREATENED UNDER ESA

EPW FACT OF THE DAY February 7, 2007

FACT: Many Canadian indigenous peoples, international governments and conservation groups clearly agree with Dr Foote’s position that the polar bear should not be listed. The following comments below were submitted by groups during the US Fish and Wildlife Service petition process regarding the listing of the polar bear: Inuvialuit Game Council (Represents the collective Inuvialuit interest in wildlife and wildlife habitat) "Sound polar bear populations all overlap the ISR ("Inuvialuit Settlement Region"). These populations of polar bears have helped sustain the Inuvialuit for generations to do so. Currently, these populations are healthy and thriving … we can see no justification for up-listing polar bears to ‘threatened status’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act … "at this point in time, there is not enough information to say that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct due to predicted shift in climate … Due to our close relationship with these populations, we, along with other user groups, would be the first to see signs of trouble and we would make sure, through the co-management system, that appropriate management actions are taken to ensure the sustainability of these populations."

 

INHOFE SPEECH ON POLAR BEARS AND GLOBAL WARMING

January 4, 2007

Mr. President, I rise today to address the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent action to begin formal consideration of whether to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Over the next year, the Fish and Wildlife Service will examine scientific and commercial data regarding the health of the polar bear population and evaluate the presence of any threats to its existence.  The question that the Fish and Wildlife Service must answer is:  Is there clear, scientific evidence that current worldwide polar bear populations are in trouble and facing possible extinction in the foreseeable future? As the Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the issue over the next year, I feel confident they will conclude as I have, that listing the polar bear is unwarranted. In the proposal, the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges that for seven of the 19 worldwide polar bear populations, the Service has no population trend data of any kind.   Other data suggest that for an additional five polar bear populations, the number of bears is not declining and is stable.  Two more of the bear populations showed reduced numbers in the past due to over hunting, but these two populations are now increasing because of hunting restrictions. 

 

 

Unless you've been hibernating for the winter, you have no doubt heard the many alarms about global warming. Now even the Bush Administration is getting into the act, at least judging from last week's decision by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to recommend that the majestic polar bear be listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The closer you inspect this decision, however, the more it looks like the triumph of politics over science. "We are concerned," said Mr. Kempthorne, that "the polar bears' habitat may literally be melting" due to warmer Arctic temperatures. However, when we called Interior spokesman Hugh Vickery for some elaboration, he was a lot less categorical, even a tad defensive. The "endangered" designation is based less on the actual number of bears in Alaska than on "projections into the future," Mr. Vickery said, adding that these "projection models" are "tricky business." 

 

NARUC Praises Inhofe for Introducing Yucca Mountain Legislation

In a March 17, 2008 letter, The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) wrote to commend Senator Inhofe for his leadership in introducing Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008. Specifically, NARUC praises the bill for containing “many necessary and practical provisions that if enacted would help put the Yucca Mountain geologic repository program back on track as envisioned in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” NARUC is an association representing the State public service commissioners who regulate essential utility services, such as electricity, gas, telecommunications, water, and transportation, throughout the country, who have long supported efforts to ensure the development and opening of Yucca Mountain.

On January 24, 2008, Senator Inhofe, together with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Larry Craig (R-ID), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kit Bond (R-MO),  Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), introduce the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008, a bill that reforms the licensing process for authorizing construction, operation, and closure of the Yucca Mountain repository. 

 

The NARUC letter states:

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) commends you and your co-sponsors for your leadership in introducing the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008, S. 2551. The bill contains many necessary and practical provisions that if enacted would help put the Yucca Mountain geologic repository program back on track as envisioned in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. It would also provide greater certainty to those considering development of new nuclear power plants in the United States about whether the spent fuel disposal problem can be solved in a timely manner.

 

In addition to incorporating many of the elements the Secretary of Energy said are essential to development of the Yucca Mountain repository in the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act proposed in 2006 and 2007, S. 2551 takes an innovative approach to the repository licensing basis. While 10,000 years seemed like a mindbending regulatory period for the radiation standards that the Environmental Protection Agency first established in 2001, the draft proposed revision developed by EPA following a court ruling proposed that the period of peak dose be extended to one million years. The alternative proposed in Section 101 of S. 2551, a phased licensing approach, is a much more realistic solution, as it acknowledges that future technologies will likely provide different solutions than are available today. While there remains uncertainty over how the repository will perform for a million years, few who are familiar with the design of the repository and the nature of the waste will challenge that it will perform safely for 300 years.

 

This approach is in the spirit of a 2003 report by the National Research Council at the request of the Department of Energy (DOE) called One Step at a Time. We appreciate your leadership in proposing this new approach and have advised our State public utility regulators of your bill. Your proposed legislation is consistent with NARUC’s recently reaffirmed resolution of Guiding Principles for Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste, a copy of which is provided for your information. A copy has also been sent to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

 

Please keep our association in mind as you consider nuclear waste disposal reform. Our members, public utility regulators across the United States, support timely reform of the nuclear waste disposal program on behalf of the millions of electric ratepayers who pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund.

 

Related Links:

 

Watch Live: Heritage Foundation Discussion on Yucca Mountain

Ten Years Overdue

Yucca Mountain Bill Introduced

Link to Inhofe Floor Statement

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT... OIL REFINEMENTS (Wall Street Journal Editorial)

The Wall Street Journal

OIL REFINEMENTS

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

April 2, 2008; Page A14

http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB120709392928281829.html


The latest in the series of pointless gestures that constitute Congressional energy policy came yesterday, when executives from five major oil companies were paraded before Ed Markey's House hearing on global warming. They served as political props for Members to denounce rising gas prices, ventilate Dick Cheney conspiracy theories and otherwise advertise their ignorance of the markets they purportedly oversee.


Democrats, for instance, might rejoice over higher energy costs, which is precisely the eco-policy they've been advocating for years. Until Congress finds a way to abolish the price mechanism, paying more for gasoline is the only signal that will tell Americans to cut their consumption. How exactly do Democrats think a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime is going to work?

The oil executives performed a public service by pointing out other economic realities. About 70% of the price of gasoline is determined by the global price of crude, which is rising because of world-wide demand and volatility in the commodities markets, not to mention the Federal Reserve's easy-money policy. Congress might also look to its gas mandates and the corset it has laced around domestic production.

It's true that industry profits are at a record high, but oil is a classic boom-and-bust business, which is why billions in capital investments are folded back into exploration and production...

Mr. Markey also used the occasion to threaten special tax increases, grilling the executives about $18 billion in "subsidies," which are actually a tax deduction that Congress itself extended to all manufacturers, including Big Oil...

### 

Media Hype on "Melting" Antarctic Ignores Record Ice Growth

March 27, 2008 

The media is once again hyping an allegedly dire consequence of man-made global warming. This time the media is promoting the ice loss of one tiny fraction of the giant ice-covered continent and completely ignoring the current record ice growth on Antarctica. Contrary to media hype, the vast majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years and ice coverage has grown to record levels since satellite monitoring began in the 1979, according to peer-reviewed studies and scientists who study the area. (LINK)

Former Weather Channel Meteorologist Joe D’Aleo rejected the hype surrounding the recent Wilkins Ice Shelf collapse in Western Antarctica. “The shattered part of the Wilkins ice sheet was 160 square miles in area, which is just 0.01% of the total current Antarctic ice cover, like an icicle falling from a snow and ice covered roof,” D’Aleo wrote on March 25. (LINK) “We are very likely going to exceed last year’s record [for Southern Hemisphere ice extent]. Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica’s ice sheet is also starting to disappear,” D’Aleo added.

 

Climate scientist Dr. Ben Herman, past director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and former Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, stated, “It is interesting that all of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) stories concerning Antarctica are always about what's happening around the [western] peninsula, which seems to be the only place on Antarctica that has shown warming. How about the net ‘no change’ or ‘cooling’ over the rest of the continent, which is probably about 95% of the land mass, not to mention the record sea ice coverage recently.”  

 

Former Colorado State Climatologist Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., presently senior scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, chastised the media’s Antarctic reporting as “typical of the bias that many journalists have.” Pielke wrote on March 25, “The media has ignored in their reporting the increase in Antarctic sea ice cover in recent years, with, at present, a coverage that is well one million square kilometers above average.” Pielke added, “Unfortunately, it appears that most journalists just parrot the perspective of the first news release on these climate issues, without doing any further investigation. If this is inadvertent, they need to be educated in climate science. If deliberate bias, they are clearly advocates and the reporters should be clearly and publically identified as having such a bias. In either case, the public is being misinformed!” (LINK)

 

But the news media sadly tossed out objectivity and balance when it came to this new Antarctic story. Media headlines blared: Bye-bye, Antarctica? (Salon Magazine 3-26-08); Massive ice shelf collapsing off Antarctica (C/Net News 3- 26-08); Slab of Antarctic ice shelf collapses amid warming (Reuters 3-26-08); Ice shelf 'hangs by a thread' (Sydney Morning Herald 2-26-08).

 

True to form, Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein could not allow himself to include any scientists or peer-reviewed studies countering alarm over the allegedly “melting” Antarctic. Borenstein instead hyped alarm by writing on March 27, “Scientists said they are not concerned about a rise in sea level from the latest event, but say it's a sign of worsening global warming.” [Note: Borenstein has a long history of incomplete reporting on global warming. See here and here. Also see related links section below for examples of the media's shoddy environmental reporting. In addition, ABC World News Sunday anchor Dan Harris this week produced a low brow smear segment on atmospheric physicist Dr. Fred Singer, a prominent dissenter of man-made climate fears. ABC News violated basic journalistic standards by citing "anonymous" scientists to attack Dr. Singer. See: here, here, here and here. ]       

 

Yet, if only the media would spend a moment to get beyond the hype and alarmism, they would discover that scientists are already thoroughly debunking the media characterization of the “melting” Antarctic. [Note: 2007 and now 2008 are overwhelmingly turning into the “tipping points” for climate alarmism as new peer-reviewed studies continue to debunk rising CO2 fears, a U.S. Senate minority report reveals over 400 scientists dissented from man-made climate fears, and more and more scientists continue in 2008 to declare themselves skeptical of a man-made climate “crisis.” The Earth’s failure to continue warming has also confounded promoters of man-made climate fear. Here is a sampling of inconvenient developments for climate alarmists in 2008 alone: 1) Oceans Cooling! Scientists puzzled by “mystery of global warming's missing heat”- LINK  2) New Data from NASA’s Aqua satellite is showing “greatly reduced future warming projected as a consequence of carbon dioxide.”- LINK  3) Former NASA Climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer found not one peer-reviewed paper has 'ruled out a natural cause for most of our recent warmth' – LINK 4) UN IPCC in 'Panic Mode' as Earth Fails to Warm, Scientist says – LINK  5) UN IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri “to look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century.”- LINK  6) New scientific analysis shows Sun “could account for as much as 69% of the increase in Earth's average temperature” – LINK & LINK.  7) An International team of scientists released a March 2008  report to counter UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate” – LINK 8) MIT Climate Scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen’s new analysis finds the Earth has had “No statistically significant warming since 1995.”- LINK ]

 

Below are a few samples of what scientists have said in the past few days since the Antarctic “melting” stories have hit the media:

 

1) Climate Scientist Dr. Ben Herman, past director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and former Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, is a member of both the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth’s Executive Committee and the Committee on Global Change. Herman commented on March 25:  

 

“That ice [the media is hyping] is just a tiny fraction of the Antarctic ice and probably the increase each winter more than compensates.  The ice loss does not show up, at least not yet on the Illinois site, http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere, which still shows increasing sea ice heading into [Southern Hemisphere’s] winter. It is interesting that all of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) stories concerning Antarctica are always about what's happening around the (Western) peninsula, which seems to be the only place on Antarctica that has shown warming. How about the net ‘no change’ or ‘cooling’ over the rest of the continent, which is probably about 95% of the land mass, not to mention the record sea ice coverage recently,” Herman wrote on March 25.

 

2) Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo served as the first Director of Meteorology at The Weather Channel, was the Chief Meteorologist at Weather Services International Corporation and served as chairman of the American Meteorological Society's (AMS) Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting. D’Aleo commented on his website Icecap.us on March 25:

 

“The shattered part of the Wilkins ice sheet was 160 square miles in area, which is just 0.01% of the total current Antarctic ice cover (just 0.003% of the extent last September), like an icicle falling from a snow and ice covered roof.  And this winter is coming on quickly.  The latest satellite images and reports suggest the ice has already refrozen around the broken pieces. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60% ahead (4.0 vs 2.5 million square km extent) of last year when it set a new record. The total ice extent is already approaching the second highest level for extent since the measurements began by satellite in 1979 and just a few days into the Southern Hemisphere fall season and 6 months ahead of the peak.  We are very likely going to exceed last year’s record [for Southern Hemisphere ice extent]. Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica’s ice sheet is also starting to disappear,” D’Aleo wrote on march 25. (LINK)

 

# #

 

Other scientists and peer-reviewed studies have recently debunked the notion of a “melting” Antarctic as well.

 

3) Former Virginia State Climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger, a senior researcher with New Hope Environmental Services posted comments on Antarctica in February on their website WorldClimateReport.com. Michaels and Knappenberger wrote a February 27, 2008, article titled “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating”: “Another major article on temperature trends in the Antarctic has appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research by a team of scientists from Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, and the Goddard Space Flight Center; the research was funded by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs Glaciology Program. […] That is correct – despite all you have heard elsewhere on the subject, the South Pole has been cooling over the past half century. The previous research team also reported that any warming in Antarctica has slowed and the cooling has accelerated in the more recent three decades. According to Monaghan et al., yet another team previously examined Antarctic temperatures and “noted that prior to 1965 the continent-wide annual trends (through 2002) are slightly positive, but after 1965 they are mainly negative (despite warming over the Antarctic Peninsula).” The truth from Antarctica is hard for the greenhouse crusade to accept, and in the long run, the truth from Antarctica might melt away the flimsy, well-publicized claims about global climate change—especially the concerns of a rapid sea level rise.”

 

4) In addition, the media’s reporting on the alleged “melting” of Antarctica fails to take into account other factors. “Volcano, Not Global Warming Effects, May be Melting an Antarctic Glacier” read a headline in a January 21, 2008, article. The article read in part: Scientists have discovered a layer of volcanic ash and glass shards in Antarctica, evidence of an old eruption by a still active volcano that researchers believe may be contributing to the thinning of Antarctic glacial ice. Hugh F.J. Corr and David G. Vaughan, two scientists with the British Antarctic Survey, recently published their discovery of the volcanic layer in the journal Nature Geoscience. The discovery is unique, according to Dr. Vaughan. He said, “This is the first time we have seen a volcano beneath the ice sheet punch a hole through the ice sheet.” The volcano’s heat could possibly be melting and thinning the ice and raising the speed of the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. (Other links on Antarctic Volcanoes: Map of volcanoes in Antarctica; and NASA Image of Antarctic Peninsula and pacific ring of fire groups of volcanoes. )

 

5) Another inconvenient fact that the media likes to avoid is Antarctica ice extent GREW to record levels in 2007. A September 11, 2007, article on IceCap.US explained: “While the news focus has been on the lowest ice extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979 for the Arctic, the Southern Hemisphere (Antarctica) has quietly set a new record for most ice extent since 1979. This can be seen on this graphic from this University of Illinois site, The Cryosphere Today, which updated snow and ice extent for both hemispheres daily. The Southern Hemispheric areal coverage is the highest in the satellite record, just beating out 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2006. Since 1979, the trend has been up for the total Antarctic ice extent.” (LINK)

 

6) A January 12, 2008, peer-reviewed paper in AGU (American Geophysical Union) found “A doubling in snow accumulation in the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1850.” The abstract of the paper by Thomas, E. R., G. J. Marshall, and J. R. McConnell, states: We present results from a new medium depth (136 metres) ice core drilled in a high accumulation site (73.59°S, 70.36°W) on the south-western Antarctic Peninsula during 2007. The Gomez record reveals a doubling of accumulation since the 1850s, from a decadal average of 0.49 mweq y−1 in 1855–1864 to 1.10 mweq y−1 in 1997–2006, with acceleration in recent decades. Comparison with published accumulation records indicates that this rapid increase is the largest observed across the region. (LINK) & (LINK)

 

7) A February 2007 study reveals Antarctica is not following predicted global warming models. Excerpt: “A new report on climate over the world's southernmost continent shows that temperatures during the late 20th century did not climb as had been predicted by many global climate models." The research was led by David Bromwich, professor of atmospheric sciences in the Department of Geography, and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University. [See: Antarctic temperatures disagree with climate model predictions - (LINK) ]

 

8) Dr. Duncan Wingham, Professor of Climate Physics at University College London and Director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modeling, has presented evidence that Antarctic ice is growing. According to a December 15, 2006, article in Canada's National Post, "Early last year at a European Union Space Conference in Brussels, for example, Dr. Wingham revealed that data from a European Space Agency satellite showed Antarctic thinning was no more common than thickening, and concluded that the spectacular collapse of the ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula was much more likely to have followed natural current fluctuations than global warming."  "One cannot be certain, because packets of heat in the atmosphere do not come conveniently labeled 'the contribution of anthropogenic warming,' " Wingham said, noting that the evidence is not "favorable to the notion we are seeing the results of global warming." Wingham and his colleagues found that 72% of the ice sheet covering the entire land mass of Antarctica is growing at the rate of 5 millimeters per year. "That makes Antarctica a sink, not a source, of ocean water. According to their best estimates, Antarctica will ‘lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm' per year" the National Post article reported. (LINK)

 

9) Statistician Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and professor at the Copenhagen Business School, questioned former Vice President Al Gore's claims about Antarctica in a January 21, 2007, Wall Street Journal op-ed. "[Gore] considers Antarctica the canary in the mine, but again doesn't tell the full story. He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years. The U.N. panel estimates that Antarctica will actually increase its snow mass this century. Similarly, Mr. Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but doesn’t mention that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing. Shouldn't we hear those facts?" Lomborg added. (LINK)

 

10) UN scientist Dr. Madhav L. Khandekar, a retired Environment Canada scientist and an expert IPCC reviewer, noted in 2007 that the Southern Hemisphere is COOLING. Dr. Khandekar wrote on August 6, 2007: "In the Southern Hemisphere, the land-area mean temperature has slowly but surely declined in the last few years. The city of Buenos Aires in Argentina received several centimeters of snowfall in early July, and the last time it snowed in Buenos Aires was in 1918! Most of Australia experienced one of its coldest months of June this year. Several other locations in the Southern Hemisphere have experienced lower temperatures in the last few years. Further, the sea surface temperatures over world oceans are slowly declining since mid-1998, according to a recent world-wide analysis of ocean surface temperatures.” (LINK)

 

11) Ivy League Geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack, the chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that the Earth has been warming for about 20,000 years, and humans have only been collecting data for about 200 years. "For most of earth's history, the globe has been warmer than it has been for the last 200 years. It has only rarely been cooler," Giegengack said according to a February 2007 article. (LINK) Giegengack further explained that extremely long geologic timescales reveal that "only about 5% of that time has been characterized by conditions on Earth that were so cold that the poles could support masses of permanent ice."

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