Friday, February 1, 2008

The Week Ahead: February 4-8

Next Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 10:00am in the EPW Committee hearing room (SD-406), the EPW Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Perspectives on the Surface Transportation Commission Report.” The hearing follows this past weeks hearing in which the EPW Committee received the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission’s recently released report and heard from several Commission members. Next week’s hearing will provide Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters an opportunity to express her views of the Commission’s report.  


The Commission recommended a dramatic restructuring of the nation’s surface transportation programs, with a vision of reducing congestion by 20 percent.  It found that without dramatic increases in investment, congestion and deteriorating infrastructure would choke the economy.  The report called for a minimum of $225 billion annually to be spent by all levels of government on transportation, a 150 percent increase from today’s level of investment.  The report recommended increasing the federal gasoline tax by 25 to 40 cents to pay for this investment.


Secretary Peters, the Chairman of the Commission, joined by two other Commissioners, voted against the final report.  In their dissenting views, they evision including a reduced federal role in surface transportation.  They oppose any increase in the gas tax; preferring financing investment through increases in existing tolls, converting existing interstate into toll roads, and expanded public-private partnerships similar to the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll road deals. 


Witness List:  

Panel I: 

The Honorable Mary E. Peters, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation 

Panel II: 

The Honorable Debra L. Miller, Secretary, Kansas Department of Transportation 

Janet F. Kavinoky, Director, Transportation Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce 

Gregory M. Cohen, President and CEO, American Highway Users Alliance

Jay Etta Hecker, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office




The Week in Review - Opening Statement: Hearing on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Report

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Link to Statement 

Link to Video of Statement

Thank you Madame Chairman.   It is safe to say that the anticipation for the Commission Report has been high.   We recognize that we need to give critical thought to our transportation policy as we move into reauthorization in 2009.   The results of the Commission’s study will be an important part of those deliberations.

First, I want to thank the individual Commissioners for their efforts.  I recognize that it took time and dedication on your part to not only attend meetings and public hearings, but some of you had to learn an entire new subculture - the Federal-Aid Highway world.  This next bill will be my fourth reauthorization and I am still learning how this program works, so I congratulate and thank you for sticking with it to come up with this comprehensive report.

I think the important lessons to take from the report are that if we don’t take dramatic action, growing congestion and deteriorating pavement conditions will choke the US economy.  Another key finding is that both the current model of stovepiped modal decisions and the current program structure are outdated. That being said, I am not sure I agree with all of your conclusions.  Specifically, I’m concerned that the report seems to expand the role of the Federal government at the expense of the States.   I have long advocated for the reverse.   I am a firm believer in a national transportation system, but think our current federal-aid program has expanded beyond that to be a state and local system paid for with federal-aid dollars.

I am interested in hearing more of  your thoughts behind some of the recommendations.   For example, I believe you are heading us in the right direction in collapsing the program into more targeted focus areas, but I am not sure I agree with all of your new programs.  Nonetheless, I appreciate you starting the discussion and look forward to learning more of what you envision.   As stated earlier, if we are to successfully address our pressing infrastructure needs, I believe we need to think beyond individual modal needs and talk about how they all work together.  Certainly, for this to be successful, highways users cannot be the only mode contributing.  If I understand your recommendation, I believe your transit user fee proposal is an indication you agree with me on this point.

Two of your proposals, environmental streamlining and increased focus on safety, were among my highest priorities during the last reauthorization.   We labored long and hard to reach consensus on streamlining the environmental approval process, so I am curious to better understand what more you propose be done.   Likewise, we created a new core Safety program that requires States to develop a comprehensive safety plan that must focus on the biggest safety problems in the state, then use the new Safety money to address those problems.   Again, I am interested in your views on why that is not working.

Finally, I have to comment on the proposed financing mechanism.  I believe increasing the federal fuel tax by the amount proposed in your report is not doable.   Furthermore, I am not convinced it is necessary.  Certainly, given the balances in the Highway Trust Fund, an increase in the fuel tax must be considered, but not to the level you propose.  I had hoped that the Commission would have considered in more detail alternative financing mechanisms that could eventually replace the fuel tax as the primary method to collect revenue for transportation.   As vehicles become more fuel efficient, the existing funding model of paying per gallon of fuel will not be effective. 

Again, I appreciate your efforts and thoughtful recommendations and look forward to discussing them further with you.

Inhofe Honored by NSSGA for Work on Highway Bill

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 


Senator Inhofe Receives the NSSGA's Congressional Transportation Leaders Award

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) honored Senator Inhofe this week for his leadership in implementing the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Transportation Equity Act – a legacy for users (SAFETEA-LU). NSSGA presented Senator Inhofe with their Congressional Transportation Leaders award.  In announcing the honor on January 2, 2008, the NSSGA complimented Senator Inhofe for his leadership, writing: 

“This award recognizes your important role in implementing the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Transportation Equity Act – a legacy for users (SAFETEA-LU). Combined with your concern for the soundness of the Highway Trust Fund and the future of transportation infrastructure in the United States, our association has been inspired to honor both your vision and your persuasive hard work. Your efforts in this area help build America’s economy by assuring that our people and our nation’s products are able to move safely and efficiently along environmental sensitive heights, in and out of air and seaports, and via inland waterways and rail.” 

The Oklahoma Aggregates Association recently highlighted NSSGA’s recognition of Senator Inhofe, and added their support for Senator Inhofe’s work on transportation issues: “Senator Inhofe is one of the best friends and advocates of a modern, safe and efficient surface transportation system we have in Washington.” 

Click on the following link to learn more about Senator Inhofe’s National Infrastructure and Public Works Accomplishments.

Opening Statement: Hearing Examining Threats and Protections for the Polar Bear

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Link to Opening Statement Video

Link to Minority US Senate Report Debunking Polar Bear Extinction Fears

Link to Senator Steven's Statement


Good morning.  Much has been said about the polar bear, the threats it allegedly faces and what should be done about it.  In 2006, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, under force of litigation, proposed to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act based on concerns over retreating Arctic sea ice. 

The Service asserts that the reason for a decline in one or two bear populations is climate change.  To make that assertion, they rely on hypothetical computer models showing massive loss of ice, including a recent US Geological Survey modeling predicting that shrinking sea ice could eliminate 2/3 of the world's polar bears by 2050. 

This is a classic case of reality versus unproven computer models.  I look forward to the testimony of Scott Armstrong, an Ivy League professor and the nation's leading expert in forecasting methodology, who, along with an arctic climate change expert, authored a paper that challenges the USGS modeling.  The decision on whether or not to list the bear rests entirely on computer models.  If those models are invalid, then any decision based on them is not justifiable. 

Ironically, physical observation of the bear tells a much different story.  The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are currently 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears.  In the 1950s and 1960s, estimates were as low as 5,000-10,000 bears.  Canadian biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor, the director of wildlife research with the Arctic government of Nunavut, dismisses these fears with evidence based data on polar bear populations in Canada, where 2/3 of the world's bears reside.  "Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present."    

Just last month, researchers discovered an ancient polar bear jaw that dates back more than 100,000 years, to a time far warmer than the present.  One award-winning geologist and professor from the University of Iceland said about the discovery "that despite the on-going warming in the Arctic today, maybe we don't have to be quite so worried about the polar bear."  I would like to enter into the record a fact sheet I prepared with statements from biologists and wildlife scientists who have taken issue with the predictions of the demise of the polar bear.  I would also like to put in the record separate statements from Dr. Susan Crockford a Canadian Evolutionary Biologist and Dr. Matthew Cronin a Professor of Animal Genetics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

The fact is that the polar bear is simply a pawn in a much bigger game of chess.  Listing the bear as a threatened species 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.  These groups have made their agenda clear.  In comments filed with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity 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 wrote, "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." 

But the people who will suffer first under an ESA listing are the local, indigenous people in Alaska and Canada.   For example, Alaska's shipping, highway construction and fishing activities will have to be weighed against the bear.  Furthermore, the decision to list the polar would irreparably damage a culture.  On January 14, two groups representing Canadian Inuit people asserted that environmental groups are "using the Polar Bear for political reasons against the Bush Administration over greenhouse gas emissions."  According to President Mary Simon of ITK in Canada, "The Polar Bear is a very important subsistence, economic, cultural, conservation, management, and rights concern....It's a complex and multilevel concern. But it seems the media, environmental groups, and the public are looking at this in overly simplistic black and white terms."  I would like to enter the statement into the record and I look forward to the testimony of Richard Glenn, an Inupiaq Eskimo native from Alaska, who is a sea ice geologist and a subsistence hunter. 

The bear is also being used as a tool to stop or slow natural resource development in Alaska.  Last week, on the House side, witnesses supporting the listing of the polar bear stated that no oil and gas leases should be allowed until the bear is listed, its critical habitat designated and a recovery plan put in place.  That could be a very long time.  We have species that have been on the ESA list for decades and still don't have a recovery plan.  Oil and gas exploration in Alaska accounts for 85% of the state's revenue and 25% of the nation's domestic oil production.  The price of crude oil is nearing $100 a barrel.  Eliminating a quarter of the US oil production will make us more dependent on foreign sources of oil, not less. 

The bottom line is that the attempt to list the polar bear under the ESA is not based on any current polar bear decline but is founded entirely on computer climate models and predictions that are fraught with uncertainties.  Unfortunately, the bear is being used as a back door to climate change regulation.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

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

Link to Report:  


Link to PDF version:


[See also the U.S. Senate Report released December 20, 2007, “Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007” - LINK ]  


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)


Scientists Debunk Fears of Global Warming Related Polar Bear Endangerment:



Canadian biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor, the director of wildlife research with the Arctic government of Nunavut: “Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present,” Taylor said. “It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.” (LINK)


Evolutionary Biologist and Paleozoologist Dr. Susan Crockford of University of Victoria in Canada has published a number of papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. “Polar bears, for example, survived several episodes of much warmer climate over the last 10,000 years than exists today,” Crockford wrote. “There is no evidence to suggest that the polar bear or its food supply is in danger of disappearing entirely with increased Arctic warming, regardless of the dire fairy-tale scenarios predicted by computer models.” (LINK)


Award-winning quaternary geologist Dr. Olafur Ingolfsson, a professor from the University of Iceland, has conducted extensive expeditions and field research in both the Arctic and Antarctic. “We have this specimen that confirms the polar bear was a morphologically distinct species at least 100,000 years ago, and this basically means that the polar bear has already survived one interglacial period,” Ingolfsson said. “This is telling us that despite the on-going warming in the Arctic today, maybe we don't have to be quite so worried about the polar bear.” (LINK)


Internationally known forecasting pioneer Dr. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania and his colleague, forecasting expert Dr. Kesten Green of Monash University in Australia, co-authored a January 27, 2008 paper with Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon which found that polar bear extinction predictions violate “scientific forecasting procedures.” Excerpt: The study analyzed the methodology behind key polar bear population prediction and found that one of the two key reports in support of listing the bears had “extrapolated nearly 100 years into the future on the basis of only five years data - and data for these years were of doubtful validity.” (LINK)


Biologist Dr. Matthew Cronin, a research professor at the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks: “We don’t know what the future ice conditions will be, as there is apparently considerable uncertainty in the sea ice models regarding the timing and extent of sea ice loss.  Also, polar bear populations are generally healthy and have increased worldwide over the last few decades,” Cronin said. (LINK) & (LINK)


Naturalist Nigel Marven is a trained zoologist, botanist, and a UK wildlife documentary maker who spent three months studying and filming polar bears in Canada's arctic in 2007. “I think climate change is happening, but as far as the polar bear disappearing is concerned, I have never been more convinced that this is just scaremongering. People are deliberately seeking out skinny bears and filming them to show they are dying out. That’s not right,” Marven said. (LINK) & (LINK)


Biologist Josef Reichholf, who heads the Vertebrates Department at the National Zoological Collection in Munich: “In warmer regions it takes far less effort to ensure survival,” Reichholf said. “How did the polar bear survive the last warm period? … Look at the polar bear’s close relative, the brown bear. It is found across a broad geographic region, ranging from Europe across the Near East and North Asia, to Canada and the United States. Whether bears survive will depend on human beings, not the climate.” (LINK)


Polar bear expert Dennis Compayre, formerly of the conservation group Polar Bears International, has studied the bears for almost 30 years in their natural habitat and is working on a new UK documentary about the bears. “I tell you there are as many bears here now as there were when I was a kid,” Compayre said. “Churchill [in Northern Canada] is full of these scientists going on about vanishing bears and thinner bears. They come here preaching doom, but I question whether some of them really have the bears’ best interests at heart.” (LINK)


Botanist Dr. David Bellamy, a famed UK environmental campaigner, former lecturer at Durham University, and host of a popular UK TV series on wildlife: “Why scare the families of the world with tales that polar bears are heading for extinction when there is good evidence that there are now twice as many of these iconic animals, most doing well in the Arctic than there were 20 years ago?” (LINK)


Scientists and Recent Studies Cast Doubt on Man-Made Melting Of Arctic:


A NASA study published in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters on October 4, 2007 found “unusual winds” in the Arctic blew "older thicker" ice to warmer southern waters. Despite the media's hyping of global warming, Ignatius Rigor, a co-author of the NASA study, explained, “While the total [Arctic] area of ice cover in recent winters has remained about the same, during the past two years an increased amount of older, thicker perennial sea ice was swept by winds out of the Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. What grew in its place in the winters between 2005 and 2007 was a thin veneer of first-year sea ice, which simply has less mass to survive the summer melt.” […] “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” said Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of the study. (LINK)


A November 2007 peer-reviewed study in the journal Nature found natural cause for rapid Arctic warming. Excerpt: [The study] identifies a natural, cyclical flow of atmospheric energy around the Arctic Circle. A team of researchers, led by Rune Graversen of Stockholm University, conclude this energy flow may be responsible for the majority of recent Arctic warming. The study specifically rules out global warming or albedo changes from snow and ice loss as the cause, due to the “vertical structure” of the warming ... the observed warming has been much too weak near the ground, and too high in the stratosphere and upper troposphere. This study follows hot on the heels of research by NASA, which identified “unusual winds” for rapid Arctic ice retreat. The wind patterns, set up by atmospheric conditions from the Arctic Oscillation, began rapidly pushing ice into the Transpolar Drift Stream, a current which quickly sped the ice into warmer waters. A second NASA team, using data from the GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite, recently concluded that changes in the Arctic Oscillation were, “mostly decadal in nature,” rather than driven by global warming. (LINK) & (LINK) & (LINK)


A January 2008 study in the peer-reviewed journal Science found North Atlantic warming tied to natural variability. Excerpt: A Duke University-led analysis of available records shows that while the North Atlantic Ocean’s surface waters warmed in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000, the change was not uniform. In fact, the sub-polar regions cooled at the same time that subtropical and tropical waters warmed. This striking pattern can be explained largely by the influence of a natural and cyclical wind circulation pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), wrote authors of a study published Thursday, January 3 in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. Winds that power the NAO are driven by atmospheric pressure differences between areas around Iceland and the Azores. “The winds have a tremendous impact on the underlying ocean,” said Susan Lozier, a professor of physical oceanography at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences who is the study’s first author. […] “It is premature to conclusively attribute these regional patterns of heat gain to greenhouse warming,” they wrote. (LINK)


A November 2007 peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of NASA and university experts found cyclical changes in ocean currents impacting the Arctic. Excerpt: “Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming,” said James Morison of the University of Washington's Polar Science Center Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle, according to a November 13, 2007 NASA release. Morison led the team of scientists using data from an Earth-observing satellite and from deep-sea pressure gauges to monitor Arctic Ocean circulation from 2002 to 2006. Excerpt: A team of NASA and university scientists has detected an ongoing reversal in Arctic Ocean circulation triggered by atmospheric circulation changes that vary on decade-long time scales. The results suggest not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming. […] The team of scientists found a 10-millibar decrease in water pressure at the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole between 2002 and 2006, equal to removing the weight of four inches of water from the ocean. The distribution and size of the decrease suggest that Arctic Ocean circulation changed from the counterclockwise pattern it exhibited in the 1990s to the clockwise pattern that was dominant prior to 1990. Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, the authors attribute the reversal to a weakened Arctic Oscillation, a major atmospheric circulation pattern in the northern hemisphere. The weakening reduced the salinity of the upper ocean near the North Pole, decreasing its weight and changing its circulation. […] “While some 1990s climate trends, such as declines in Arctic sea ice extent, have continued, these results suggest at least for the 'wet' part of the Arctic – the Arctic Ocean – circulation reverted to conditions like those prevalent before the 1990s,” Morison added. (LINK)


NASA Study Blames Natural High Pressure Leading to More Sunny Days for Arctic Ice Reduction Excerpt: But experts say it was the peculiar weather Mother Nature offered up last summer - whatever caused it - that is largely to blame for the recent unusual events. There was a high-pressure system that sat over the Arctic for much of the summer. It shooed away clouds, leaving the sun alone to beat down. That created higher ocean temperatures, which in turn accelerated the melt. Son Nghiem, who led that NASA study on sea ice released this week, also pointed to unusual winds, which compressed sea ice, pushing it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and into warmer water where melting happened more quickly. (LINK)


A July 2007 analysis of peer-reviewed literature thoroughly debunks fears of Greenland and the Arctic melting and predictions of a frightening sea level rise. Excerpt: “Research in 2006 found that Greenland has been warming since the 1880s, but since 1955, temperature averages at Greenland stations have been colder than the period between 1881-1955. A 2006 study found Greenland has cooled since the 1930s and 1940s, with 1941 being the warmest year on record. Another 2006 study concluded Greenland was as warm or warmer in the 1930s and 40s and the rate of warming from 1920-1930 was about 50% higher than the warming from 1995-2005.  One 2005 study found Greenland gaining ice in the interior higher elevations and thinning ice at the lower elevations. In addition, the often media promoted fears of Greenland’s ice completely melting and a subsequent catastrophic sea level rise are directly at odds with the latest scientific studies.” [See July 30, 2007 Report - Latest Scientific Studies Refute Fears of Greenland Melt – (LINK)] 


In September 2007, it was announced that a soon to be released survey finds Polar Bear population rising in warmer part of the Arctic. Excerpt: Fears that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will die off in the next 50 years are overblown, says [Arctic biologist] Mitchell Taylor, the Government of Nunavut’s director of wildlife research. “I think it’s naïve and presumptuous,” Taylor said. […] The Government of Nunavut is conducting a study of the [southern less ice region of the] Davis Strait bear population. Results of the study won’t be released until 2008, but Taylor says it appears there are some 3,000 bears in an area - a big jump from the current estimate of about 850 bears. “That’s not theory. That’s not based on a model. That’s observation of reality,” he says. And despite the fact that some of the most dramatic changes to sea ice are seen in seasonal ice areas such as Davis Strait, seven or eight of the bears measured and weighed for the study this summer are among the biggest on record, Taylor said. “Davis Strait is crawling with polar bears. It’s not safe to camp there. They’re fat. The mothers have cubs. The cubs are in good shape,” Taylor said, according to a September 14, 2007 article. (LINK)


An August 2007 peer-reviewed study finds global warming over last century linked to natural causes: Published in Geophysical Research Letters: Excerpt: “Tsonis et al. investigate the collective behavior of known climate cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Oscillation. By studying the last 100 years of these cycles' patterns, they find that the systems synchronized several times. Further, in cases where the synchronous state was followed by an increase in the coupling strength among the cycles, the synchronous state was destroyed. Then a new climate state emerged, associated with global temperature changes and El Niño/Southern Oscillation variability. The authors show that this mechanism explains all global temperature tendency changes and El Niño variability in the 20th century.” Authors: Anastasios A. Tsonis, Kyle Swanson, and Sergey Kravtsov: Atmospheric Sciences Group, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. See August 2, 2007 Science Daily – “Synchronized Chaos: Mechanisms For Major Climate Shifts” (LINK)


According to a 2005 peer-reviewed study in Geophysical Research Letters by astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon, solar irradiance appears to be the key to Arctic temperatures. The study found Arctic temperatures follow the pattern of increasing or decreasing energy received from the sun. Excerpt: Solar forcing explains well over 75% of the variance for the decadally-smoothed Arctic annual-mean or spring SATs (surface air temperatures). […]  In contrast, a CO2-dominated forcing of Arctic SATs is inconsistent with both the large multidecadal warming and cooling signals and the similar amplitude of warming trends between cold (winter) and relatively warmer (spring and autumn) seasons found in the Arctic-wide SAT records. (LINK)


Meteorologist Craig James Debunks Myths about Northwest Passage Excerpt: The headline in this press release from the European Space Agency reads “Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in History.” (LINK) In history! That sounds like a long time. However, when you read the article you find “history” only goes back to 28 years, to 1979. That is when satellites began monitoring Arctic Sea ice. The article also says “the Northwest Passage - a long-sought short cut between Europe and Asia that has been historically impassable.” I guess these people flunked history class. It has been open several times in history without ice breakers. (LINK) The first known successful navigation by ship was in 1905. This is all very similar to the story on the NBC Nightly News Friday, 14 September 2007 where the story on water levels in Lake Superior never mentioned that the lowest recorded water level on the lake occurred in March and April 1926, when the lake was about 5 inches lower than it is now. Instead, NBC interviewed several people who could never remember seeing it this low and blamed most of the problem on global warming. Never mind that the area has seen below normal precipitation for several years and for most of this year has been classified as being in an extreme to exceptional drought. (LINK)


History of Northwest Passage - Navigated in 1905 and multiple times in 1940s (Note: 80% of man-made CO2 came after 1940) Excerpt: 2. ROALD AMUNDSEN: First Navigation by Ship 1905: In mid August, Amundsen sailed from Gjøahaven (today: Gjoa Haven, Nunavut) in the vessel Gjøa (LINK) […] On August 26 they encountered a ship bearing down on them from the west, and with that they were through the passage. From Amundsen's diary: The North West Passage was done. My boyhood dream - at that moment it was accomplished. A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat over-strained and worn - it was weakness in me - but I felt tears in my eyes. ‘Vessel in sight’ ... Vessel in sight. 3. ST. ROCH: First West-East Crossing 1940-1942: The St. Roch was given the task of demonstrating Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. It was ordered to sail from Vancouver to Halifax by way of the Northwest Passage. The St. Roch left Vancouver in June 1940 and on October 11, 1942, it docked at Halifax - the first ship to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Northwest Passage. The journey had taken almost 28 months. 4. ST. ROCH: Northern Deep-Water Route (East-West) 1944: The St. Roch was the first ship to travel the Northwest Passage through the northern, deep-water route and the first to sail the Passage in both directions. (LINK)


In a 2005 study published in the Journal of Climate, Brian Hartmann and Gerd Wendler linked the 1976 Pacific climate shift to a very significant one-time shift upward in Alaskan temperatures.


According to a 2003 study by Arctic scientist Igor Polyakov, the warmest period in the Arctic during the 20th Century was the late 1930s through early 1940s. Excerpt: Our results suggest that the decadal AO (Arctic Oscillation) and multidecadal LFO (low-frequency oscillation) drive large amplitude natural variability in the Arctic making detection of possible long-term trends induced by greenhouse gas warming most difficult.  (LINK)

# # #


Related Links:  

Opening Statement: Examining Threats and Protections for the Polar Bear  (January 30, 2007)

U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007 (Released December 20, 2007) 

Impact - New York Times Features EPW Polar Bear Report

Friday, February 1, 2008

[See also the U.S. Senate Minority Report released January 30, 2008, "U.S. Senate Report Debunks Polar Bear Extinction Fears" - Link ]   

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]

"The report points to, among other sources, an amusing analysis of the polar-bear predictions conducted by three researchers, including J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Armstrong, the editor of a standard text, ‘Principles of Forecasting,' is the originator of what he calls the Seer-Sucker Theory: ‘No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, seers will find suckers,'" Tierney wrote.

"Dr. Armstrong and his coauthors, Kesten C. Green of Monash University and Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, conclude that the most influential forecasts of polar-bear populations violate at least 73 of the 90 relevant principles of scientific forecasting," Tierney wrote. "They criticize the forecasters for making large extrapolations based on sparse data and questionable models, relying too heavily on a single expert, ignoring contradictory data and tailoring conclusions to fit a political goal (listing the polar bear as a ‘threatened' species)," Tierney added.

Methodology of Computer Models Challenged

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." As Tierney noted, 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.

Internationally known forecasting pioneer Dr. Armstrong, along with his colleague, forecasting expert Dr. Green co-authored a January 27, 2008 paper with Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Soon which found that polar bear extinction predictions violate "scientific forecasting procedures." The study analyzed the methodology behind key polar bear population prediction and found that one of the two key reports in support of listing the bears had "extrapolated nearly 100 years into the future on the basis of only five years data - and data for these years were of doubtful validity." (LINK)

"To date, there are no scientific forecasts of the polar bear population over the 21st century. Nor are there any forecasts to suggest that a decision to list them would produce benefits," Armstrong testified at the EPW hearing titled "Examining Threats and Protections for the Polar Bear," on January 30. (LINK) & (LINK)

Sea Ice Geologist Richard Glenn, the Board President of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, is a subsistence hunter. Glenn testified at the EPW hearing, "I believe that a threatened listing for the polar bear will do little to aid the polar bears' existence." (LINK)

"The proposed listing of the polar bear is not based on polar bear population levels or trends, but based on the art of modeling. There is not enough observational data as there should be for a listing. I am concerned that the listing is directed at being used as a legal tool to address climate change issues well away from the Arctic, not as a means to conserve a species," Glenn explained.

"There are many international mechanisms, laws and commissions set up to conserve and protect the polar bear. Some of these have been strengthened in recent years. In moving to the Endangered Species Act, let us not ignore those groups and activities and laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act," Glenn added.

Ocean researcher Dr. John T. Everett, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) senior manager and past co-chair of the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 2 Polar Regions Chapter, also expressed skepticism about polar bear endangerment fears during a separate April 17, 2007 House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans.

"Polar bears have endured warmer periods than are forecast by IPCC, having evolved into their present form some 700,000 years ago (or 100,000 years ago) (or 200,000 years ago) or before the beginning of the last interglacial) and their molars changed some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Importantly, polar bears were likely present in some final version of their present form, during the last interglacial (130-110,000 years ago) when there was virtually no ice at the North Pole and average Arctic temperatures at that time were 5.7 to 9.5 degrees F (3 to 5 degrees C) higher than present (IPCC, 2007). This date of evolution should be determined factually, as a first step, before taking action. If polar bears survived the past interglacial, the present warming may be of little consequence. In any case, the 20 polar bear populations need to be looked at individually, in terms of their threats and adaptability, and the management systems that govern their conservation," Everett testified.  (LINK)

Political Motives Behind Polar Bear ESA Listing

Canadian Inuit people have voiced strong objections about what they called "political reasons" behind the potential listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

"Similar to their Petition action to list the Polar Bear, we once again see these environmentalist groups pressuring the US government to make a decision on the Polar Bear," stated Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit of Canada on January 14, 2008.  "And they're doing this in a very public way by using the Polar Bear for political reasons against the Bush Administration over greenhouse gas emissions, and as Inuit we fundamentally disagree with such tactics." (LINK)

During the January 30, 2008 EPW hearing, Ranking Member Senator James Inhofe called the potential listing of the polar bear as a threatened species "a classic case of reality versus unproven computer models."

"Listing the bear as a threatened species is not about protecting the bear but about using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to achieve global warming policy that special interest groups can not otherwise achieve through the legislative process," Inhofe said. (LINK)

"But the people who will suffer first under an ESA listing are the local, indigenous people in Alaska and Canada.   For example, Alaska's shipping, highway construction, and fishing activities will have to be weighed against the bear. Furthermore, the decision to list the polar bear would irreparably damage a culture," Inhofe added.

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) called the potential listing of the polar bear under the ESA "unprecedented" in his testimony to EPW. 

"None of the almost 1,900 previously listed species were occupying their entire geographic range at the time of listing, yet the polar bear is readily found throughout the Arctic," Stevens said in testimony submitted to EPW. "None of the previously listed species had rising populations at the time of listing, yet the global population of polar bears has been steadily increasing for 40 years. This proposed listing is unique because it is based on mathematical models as opposed to biological observations," Stevens explained. (LINK)

"Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the proposed listing is the potential for it to undermine the ESA - our nation's most celebrated tool for species conservation. Models of climate change predict that global biodiversity may decline by 35 percent by 2050. Does this mean that we should list, in addition to the polar bear, the multitude of species that are currently abundant but may decline as a result of a changing climate? This is an unwarranted expansion in the interpretation of the ESA which could open the door for potential abuse of this law, to the detriment of species that would be affected by a weakened ESA and deviates from my original intent when I voted for this Act. But with the listing of the polar bear as threatened, the ESA would be used as a tool to curtail or eliminate the use of fossil fuels - not a goal of the ESA," Stevens said.

"Arctic sea ice has been declining for the past 200 years - well before modern industrial activity. Moreover, Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu of the International Arctic Research Center has found that the rate of melting has not changed despite recent increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," Stevens added.

# # #

Related Links:  

U.S. Senate Report Debunks Polar Bear Extinction Fears (January 30, 2008)

Opening Statement: Examining Threats and Protections for the Polar Bear  (January 30, 2008)

U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007 (Released December 20, 2007)   

TEN YEARS OVERDUE: January 31, 2008 Marks the 10th Anniversary of DOE's Deadline to Dispose Of Nuclear Waste

Thursday, January 31, 2008

In 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a deadline for the Department of Energy to begin moving spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste to Yucca Mountain. Today, January 31, 2008 marks the 10th anniversary. This delay is largely attributed to Senate appropriators under-funding this program for decades.

Fact: After spending 26 years and $8 billion dollars, DOE remains at least 9 years away from meeting that obligation in its most optimistic scenario. Yet appropriators cut $108 million from the Administration’s FY’08 budget request of $495 million. Who benefits from this?

Not electricity ratepayers.  They’ve paid $27 billion over the years for a service they still haven’t received. Ratepayers continue to pay about $750 million every year.  As Jim Kerr, member of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) and President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) testified before the EPW Committee on October 31, 2007,

 “If the repository solution is abandoned, what do we tell the communities adjoining the 72 reactor sites in 35 States where the spent fuel is stored today? What do the utilities seeking to invest in new nuclear power plants tell their prospective neighbors? What do we tell the ratepayers that have already invested more than $27 billion? When will they get a refund?”

Not the taxpayers.  They are footing the bill for the delay starting with $94 million spent on government lawyers to litigate 67 lawsuits, $290 million in damages that have been paid, $420 million in damages that the government lawyers are appealing, and projected damages that would likely total about $7 billion if DOE moves spent fuel in 2017 or $11 billion if they don’t move anything until 2020.

Not the states coping with the Cold War legacy of nuclear waste.  Without a repository to dispose of that legacy waste, clean-up can’t be finished. That means ANOTHER $500 million per year cost to taxpayers to fund continued storage of wastes that can’t be disposed of. Senator Craig (R-ID) addressed this issue on the Senate Floor this week, saying,

“There is no other disposable option for our Navy's high-level waste. Because of the configuration of the waste, of those reactor fuel rods, they cannot be reprocessed. So they, unlike the commercial reactor spent fuel rods, have to go into a permanent home and permanent waste. Idaho, South Carolina, and the State of Washington are all relying on Yucca Mountain for permanent disposal of this waste. So it is critical that this Senate, this Government, doesn't put aside the issue of Yucca Mountain, but that we deal with it in a forthright way, that we recognize there is truly a need for some geologic storage of our types of waste, especially our military waste that, in many instances, is stored in South Carolina, Washington, and my State of Idaho.”

Not the government employees.  Thanks to funding cuts for fiscal year 2008, 250 Nevada citizens will lose their jobs. A letter to the editor in the Las Vegas Review Journal from an employee who recently lost their job, sums it up best:  

“I am a victim of his $100 million budget cut, but I am not a disgruntled employee. I just speak from experience and the truth. I am too young to draw full Social Security benefits and too old to find another position. My only recourse is to sell my house in the depths of a housing depression and move to a more affordable state in the Midwest… I will not argue here about whether you are for or against the project -- the science speaks for itself.”

Perhaps the only ones benefiting from this delay are a handful of politicians using this issue as a way to score political points in one particular state.