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The deal's off

"The deal's off" Continued...

Issue: "Homegrown terror," Dec. 5, 2009

Boxer's tactic might have won admiration from far-left environmentalists, but it was criticized by moderate Republicans in the Senate, whose votes are pivotal if a cap-and-trade bill reaches the floor.

The Kerry-Boxer bill calls for a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. Under the cap-and-trade approach, companies would have to buy emissions permits-each allowing the release of one metric ton of CO2-and trade them with other companies as needed. A similar bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives in June and is awaiting Senate action.

But even Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia hesitated: "The balance on this is among people like myself who come from coal state [sic] and manufacturing states who can't just sort of meet the Copenhagen deadline. We've got to be satisfied it's a good bill and I'm not at this point."

Rockefeller has reason to be wary. A recent Pew survey showed the number of Americans who say there is solid evidence of global warming has dropped 20 percentage points since 2007. Americans are more concerned about healthcare legislation and the stability of the economy than the weather, and a cap-and-trade bill doesn't come off as a great way to jump-start jobs.

In its current form, the House version of cap-and-trade could cause 2.5 million job losses and a national GDP loss of $9.4 trillion by the year 2035, according to the Heritage Foundation. The policy group estimates a typical family of four would pay $829 more on average for one year's utility bills.

With Democrats divided on the Kerry-Boxer bill, insiders say it may be pushed to the side for a fresh proposal. Although that means it's unlikely a cap-and-trade bill will reach the Senate floor until 2010, UN leaders still hope to capitalize on Copenhagen's momentum and strike a political (as opposed to legal) deal in December-with treaty language to be worked out next year.

The week after the Barcelona talks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came to the United States and met with Senate leaders, including John Kerry, D-Mass. The same day, Kerry announced he would be working with other senators to put together "a sort of framework, or outline" of the Senate's position that negotiators could take to Copenhagen in December.

Chris Horner, a best-selling author and environmental policy attorney, told me that Kerry's announcement was "pomposity," a signal of support without substance. With the cap-and-trade bill struggling, it's clear the Senate doesn't have the two-thirds vote necessary to ratify the UN's extreme proposals.

Sticking points

By Daniel James Devine

The man who, in 2003, debunked a famous "hockey stick" graph showing a sharp rise in 20th-century global temperatures is still looking for fishy climate data. Steve McIntyre, a retired Canadian who analyzes obscure climate data at ClimateAudit.org, has recently uncovered another faulty climate-history study. In the process he's drawn attention to a lack of data disclosure in the scientific community.

Since weather, temperature, soil quality, and other factors are believed to influence the size of tree rings, climate scientists take core samples from trees and try to determine the past temperature of a region by measuring the rings. A study of larch trees from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia was published in 2000 by Keith Briffa, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. Briffa's analysis showed the 20th century to be unusually warm compared with the previous two millennia-forming the familiar hockey stick shape on a timeline. In subsequent years the Yamal analysis was used to support at least eight studies, including one Briffa published in Science in 2006.

To check it out for himself, McIntyre asked Science to disclose the original tree core information, which had never been published. Science demurred, in spite of the data disclosure rule it maintains for its authors. But another journal Briffa had published in, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, agreed to enforce its own disclosure policy. Several months later the Yamal data appeared online.

What McIntyre found surprised him: The 1990s, the most significant portion of the graph in terms of warming, were represented by only 12 tree core samples, very few by science standards. When McIntyre supplemented those cores with others also collected from Yamal, the curve of the hockey stick largely flattened out.

In response, Briffa denied he chose the tree cores in order to get a preconceived temperature, but didn't deny the 12 tree cores might have given an inaccurate result. Instead, he and his colleagues posted online a new analysis of the Yamal Peninsula, making use of a wider array of data. Their resulting graph still showed 20th-century warming, but slightly less than what the original Yamal study suggested.

Whatever the verdict on Yamal, McIntyre's investigations demonstrate the value of making climate data freely available at the time of initial publishing. "There should be a demand for due diligence," says McIntyre, who's awaiting unfulfilled data requests for eight scientists. "I've had some luck in getting data . . . sometimes it takes four years."

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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