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Response to Senator Russ Feingold - Climate Change Legislation

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  • Mike Neuman
    October 3, 2003 Senator Russ Feingold 716 Hart Senate Office Building Washington D.C. 20510-4904 Dear Senator Feingold, I was pleased to receive your reply
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 28, 2003
      October 3, 2003
      Senator Russ Feingold
      716 Hart Senate Office Building
      Washington D.C. 20510-4904

      Dear Senator Feingold,

      I was pleased to receive your reply last month to my letter and to
      see you've already been working on the issue of climate change. Of
      the two pieces of legislation you're reviewing, I'd say the
      Liebermann-McCain bill (S. 139) comes closest to what is really
      needed, right now, to begin dealing with this issue.

      Nationwide programs and enforceable regulations, as would be
      authorized by S. 139, are now imperative to curb the rising
      greenhouse gas accumulations in our atmosphere from human fossil fuel
      burning activities. Concerted actions to bring about significant
      greenhouse gas emission reductions, throughout the U.S. economy, are
      needed at all levels of government, the private sector, by NGOs, and
      by individuals and families alike. It is the overwhelming consensus
      of scientific opinion that rising greenhouse gas accumulations from
      extensive burning of fossil fuel burning over the last century are
      causing the earth's average temperature, including the oceans, to

      S. 139 would create a system that would lead to more immediate
      reductions in cumulative greenhouse gas quantities from the U.S than
      the alternative of instituting a voluntary registry system. Because
      of the long delay that has already occurred, we cannot afford to
      further delay major actions to reduce greenhouse gases from the
      United States. These reductions must begin now.

      Doing essentially nothing will only leave the U.S. population,
      environment and economy increasingly vulnerable to more dangerous
      consequences from global warming, essentially jeopardizing future
      economic and social sustainability on the entire planet. Because the
      U.S. is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere --
      emitting roughly 25% of the annual amount from human activities - the
      U.S. has, therefore, a major responsibility to reduce its
      contributions to the problem.

      Under S. 139, reductions in annual greenhouse gas quantities emitted
      to the atmosphere would be accomplished through the employment of a
      market-driven credit system, not unlike the tradable allowances
      system used for other air pollutant emissions in the U.S. and other
      countries. Entities that substantially reduce their annual greenhouse
      gas amounts would earn credits they could trade to other entities
      unable to reduce their total greenhouse gas amounts. Greenhouse gas
      reductions could begin as soon as the program can be established; and
      the creation of that program should be "fast tracked".

      Tom Daschle's bill (S. 17), on the other hand, does not immediately
      put into place a mechanism that would reduce greenhouse gas
      quantities emitted from the U.S. The sole act of reporting of
      greenhouse gas quantities by using a registry system would not
      function to reduce the annual quantities in a timely enough manner to
      slow down the rate of global warming.

      It is essential that a massive program for greenhouse gas reductions
      be put into place, as soon as possible. Until major and significant
      greenhouse gas emission reductions begin to be made, greenhouse gas
      quantities will build in the atmosphere to higher and higher levels
      of concentration. Moreover, because of their exceedingly long life in
      the atmosphere (decades and centuries), greenhouse gases released to
      the air now -- from a multitudes of sources -- will remain in the
      atmosphere for decades and even centuries.

      Research on monitoring and mitigating global warming, on finding ways
      to derive energy safely without burning fossil fuels, and on adapting
      to a warming climate in the United States, in the meantime, must be
      made. Actions to reduce current levels of greenhouse gas emissions
      from the U.S. should not be delayed in abeyance of completing such
      research. Nor should measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in
      the present wait for any committee to reexamine the consequences of
      the U.S. reentering the Kyoto Protocol.

      Regarding the operating details of the mandatory cap and trade system
      for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are bound to be some
      glitches in the implementation of such a system for a parameter like
      carbon dioxide, which is common to all burning activities. For
      example, it could be especially difficult to achieve maximum emission
      reductions from the transportation and residential sectors' burning
      of fossil fuels for energy.

      The transportation sector itself pumps out more greenhouse gases to
      the atmosphere than the other three end use sectors (industrial,
      commercial and residential). Roughly a third of the greenhouse gases
      emitted from the U.S. comes from motorized transportation.

      Transportation's source of greenhouse gas emissions is varied. It
      comes from: automobile drivers, truck drivers, airline users, NASCAR
      drivers, motorized recreational vehicle users and others. The
      adoption of measurably higher fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and
      automobiles could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
      coming from transportation. Combining such an approach with a
      strategy that would pay financial rewards for fewer numbers of miles
      driven (by the average family or individual), in combination with
      higher fuel taxes to fund the incentive programs, would serve to
      reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector even

      A similar market-driven strategy to reduce the demand for commercial
      jet travel could be employed, whereby Americans who don't fly at all
      during the year would be financially rewarded (rebated) for not
      flying. Huge amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted in jet travel,
      much of it being primarily for recreational vacations and business
      excursions. When the need to protect the climate is factored in, it
      may be that the country can no longer afford to subsidize air travel
      that is not absolutely essential. While cutting down on such travel
      would certainly have economic repercussions to the airline and
      tourist industries, there is no denying the fact that the greenhouse
      gas quantities from jet travel represent a tremendous burden on the
      atmosphere, already.

      Energy use by the residential sector would also be difficult to
      regulate since it is individual home owners and apartment dwellers
      who are the decision-makers on how much electricity or fuel is used
      in the home, or how much insulation is used and other energy
      conservation measures adopted.

      A program that would require utilities to offer financial incentives
      to households who use significantly less energy per individual living
      in the household, over a year's time, might be an effective way to
      bring about better energy conservation practices in the home. Funds
      for these programs could be generated through charging higher rates
      for energy use to households and business that use significantly more
      fossil fuel derived energy than the average, rather than the current
      practices of rewarding heavy users of energy with lower per energy
      unit prices. A source for additional details on these kinds of
      program can be found at:

      I thought you might also like to know that I have been working with a
      group of other citizens from the Madison/Middleton on the issue of
      climate change.

      Our group is called "Preserve Our Climate", and we have been engaged
      in doing educational outreach and advocacy about the issue of global
      warming for the past 2-3 years now. We've worked closely with the
      Union of Concerned Scientists over the past 2 years, including
      outreach and public release of their recent excellent report:
      Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes region (April 2003). We
      would be pleased to meet with you or your representatives at your
      Middleton office, upon your request, concerning the findings of that
      report or any other informational needs or input you might be seeking
      regarding the issue of climate change.

      In closing, I am attaching a fact sheet I prepared regarding the
      status of the changing climate and greenhouse gas concentrations and
      sources. I hope this is helpful to your decision-making regarding
      this issue of paramount importance for the country and all of the
      world's populations.


      Michael T. Neuman
      Attachment A

      Facts and Figures: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Accumulations and Rising

      There is no question that warming is occurring. According to the
      National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National
      Climate Data Center, there have now been 88 consecutive months that
      the global monthly temperature (land and ocean) has exceeded the
      corresponding average monthly temperature during the period 1971 -
      2000. The 10 warmest years since record keeping began in 1880 have
      occurred in just the last 13 years.

      According to a recent study published in the "Journal of Geophysical
      Research Letters" (August 31, 2003), the Northern Hemisphere is
      warmer now than it's been in at least the last 2,000 years. The study
      examined the trunks of ancient trees, ice cores, vegetation patterns
      and historical records before concluding that the late 20th century
      warmth is "unprecedented for at least roughly the past two millennia
      for the Northern Hemisphere". The study also concludes the earth has
      warmed faster in just the last 20 years than its temperature has
      historically fluctuated over periods of one hundred years and more.

      An analysis of data from the National Climate Data Center (1895-2001)
      and the Midwest Climate Center (1900-2000), in "Confronting Climate
      Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on Our Communities and
      Ecosystems", by George W. Kling (Ph.D), Katharine Hayhoe (M.S.),
      Lucinda B. Johnson (Ph.D.), John J. Magnuson (Ph.D.), Stephen Polasky
      (Ph.D.), Scott K. Robinson (Ph.D.), Brian J. Shuter (Ph.D.), Michelle
      M. Wander (Ph.D.), Donal J. Wuebbles (Ph.D.) and Donald R. Zak
      (Ph.D.), a report of the Union of Concerned Scientists and The
      Ecological Society of America (April 2003), shows that in the period
      1998-2001, annual average temperatures in the region increased by 2
      to 4 degrees F (1 to 2 degrees C) over the long-term average in the
      region (U.S. and Canada), and were up to 7 degrees F (4 degrees C)
      warmer in winter in the region.

      An analysis by Patrick J. Neuman of Midwest Climate Data Center
      temperature data recorded at NWS airport weather stations around the
      Midwest found similar results. For the 5-year period 1998-2002,
      Neuman found increases in temperature ranging from 1.1 - 3.6 degrees
      F above the average period of record temperatures for the sites.
      Several sites from Wisconsin were included in this study. Average
      annual temperatures for 1998 through 2002 were the highest for a 5-
      year period at numerous NWS cooperative climate stations, with the
      years of data going back as far as 1896 for many of the Midwest
      stations, and back to 1926 for the more Eastern stations (PA & NY).
      <http://www.mnforsustain.org/table_of_contents.htm>> (scroll
      to "climate change")

      Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased

      The atmospheric concentration level of carbon dioxide, the most
      abundant of the greenhouse gases, has risen from a background level
      of approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in the mid-1800s, to a
      level of 375 ppm at present - an increase of over 33%. Considering
      the huge size of the atmosphere, a one-third increase in the
      atmosphere's concentration level of carbon dioxide gas is hugely
      significant; the amount of increase has been estimated at 170 billion
      tons over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

      The amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere over the
      past 150 years of fuel burning by humans, in inventions such as the
      automobile, coal and natural gas fired electricity generating plants,
      industrial furnaces, incandescent and florescent lights, air
      conditioning, airplanes, trucks, locomotives, ships, and other
      machines that rely on internal combustion for energy, is by no means
      a small amount, despite what global warming skeptics may claim.

      According to laboratory analysis of ice cores take from deep within
      Greenland's glaciers, today's concentration levels of CO2 in the
      atmosphere are higher than they've been in at least the last 400,000
      years, perhaps even millions of years before then, as well.

      There is a huge differences between now and the more distant past in
      terms of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere on a
      daily and annual basis. Earth is now home to 6.3 billion people now
      versus approximately 150 million people at the beginning of the first
      millennium. A sizable number of the 6 billion people living today on
      the planet burn fossil fuels on a regular basis, with each individual
      person sending several tons of heat-trapping gases into the
      atmosphere. The United States and a number of other highly developed
      countries (Canada, Australia, Western Europe) send large yearly
      amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere per individual person,
      with the U.S. per capita emission of the greenhouse gas carbon
      dioxide exceeding 20 tons per year, on average.

      Greenhouse gas emissions:

      For each gallon of gas, 22 pounds of CO2 are emitted to the
      atmosphere (plus other greenhouse gases). Each ton of coal burned in
      power plants or other furnaces adds 7,320 pounds of carbon dioxide to
      the atmosphere. Each therm of natural gas burned in furnaces or
      appliances adds 11 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

      The total amount of CO2 that has accumulated in the atmosphere since
      1900 is 170 billion tons, plus there are all the other greenhouse
      gases that are also increasing: methane, nitrous oxide,
      hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur
      hexafluoride (SF6). The global warming potential of these chemicals
      range from 140 to over 11,000 times the warming potential of CO2, and
      their lifetime in the atmosphere ranges from hundreds to thousands of

      From a report planned for release later this month (Neuman, 2003)

      "Earlier in the Year Snowmelt Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for
      Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota", final draft at:

      " Trends were shown for recent earlier in the year annual snowmelt
      runoff at three river stations within the Northern Great Plains and
      Upper Midwest."


      "the period from the mid 1980s to the snowmelt runoff period in 2003
      had the earliest annual snowmelt of record, substantially earlier
      than the 1920s to early 1950s period."

      Archived mean daily river flow data by the USGS is extremely
      important data for use in assessment of climate change. Daily river
      stage data has been collect on a continuous basis throughout the U.S.
      Mean daily flow data has been archived by USGS scientists, based on
      stage and other, for thousands of river stations in the U.S. for more
      than 100 years.

      The St. Croix River, which was included in the report by Neuman is a
      National Scenic River Way. The Upper Mississippi River in Minnesota
      and Wisconsin has just recently become a National Park.

      Neuman P. J. 2003. "Changes in the Timing of Snowmelt Runoff at River
      Stations within the Northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest, and
      Changes in Monthly (January - April) Dewpoint at Climate Stations
      near the River Stations " for presentation at the National Weather
      Service (NWS) Climate Prediction (CPC) workshop Oct 20-23, Reno NV.
      Final draft report 11 September 2003 sent to NWS North Central River
      Forecast Center for the CPC October Workshop.
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