Congress will soon begin "debating" global warming. Nancy Pelosi announced in February that the House would pass global warming legislation by this coming July. "For 12 years," said Pelosi, "the leadership in the House of Representatives has stifled all discussion and debate of global warming. That long rejection of reality is over."
Now let's see… Congress will soon "debate" global warming, however "reality" will no longer be ignored and legislation will be passed. What happened to the "debate"? Let's face it: Congress is anti-science.
I do not make such statements lightly. However, we must be clear; little things such as "facts" do not dissuade a political juggernaut once momentum occurs. I remind you all of a study known as NAPAP.
A Review of the Acid Rain Debacle
In 1990, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA). Title IV of the CAAA was meant to control electric utility emissions of SO2 in order to eliminate acid rain. Acid deposition (commonly known as acid rain), "refers to a process by which certain types of pollutants chemically transform into acidic substances in the atmosphere and then fall to the earth…. Acid deposition may cause a variety of harmful effects to the ecosystems, agriculture, building materials, and possibly to human health" (Kahn, James R. 1998. The Economic Approach to Environmental and Natural Resources). This definition comes from a standard text in environmental economics.
Like the subject of air pollution itself, acid rain is not a new concept. In 1852 chemist Robert Angus Smith studied the relationship between the increasing amount of soot in Manchester, England and the increased amount of acidity in precipitation. He dubbed this phenomenon acid rain (LaBastille, Anne. 1981. "Acid Rain. How Great a Menace?" National Geographic 160, November). However, it was not until the 1980's that journalists began to hype the accusation that electricity-producing firms were ruining nature by causing acid rain. In the lead-in to her 1981 article on the subject, Anne LaBastille writes, "Deadly Waters: In an Adirondack stream, brook trout confined in a wire cage succumb to asphyxiation – a result of the water being polluted by rain- and snow-borne sulfuric and nitric acids. Acid rain has eliminated fish in thousands of lakes in Scandinavia and hundreds in the U.S. and Canada. Scientists believe acid rain comes from the burning of fossil fuels…" (ibid.).
As reported by Anderson, "The National Academy of Sciences predicted a hundred-fold increase in acid lakes by 1990 if SO2 emissions were not severely curtailed" (Anderson, William. 1999. Facts, Fiction and the Fourth Estate. Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University). This statement was made in spite of the fact that SO2 emissions had decreased by 42% between 1962 and 1981 and by 33% between 1971 and 1981 (Goklany, Indur. 1999. Clearing the Air: the Real Story of the War on Air Pollution). In response to media concerns, "President Jimmy Carter commissioned the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) to examine the damage being caused by acid rain and recommend solutions" (Anderson, 1999). Initially, Carter approved a ten million dollar yearly budget for the study. However, in 1982 President Ronald Reagan increased the annual budget to one hundred million dollars making NAPAP the most costly environmental study in United States history (thankfully, the final cost topped out at a mere $500 million).
In 1987, a report on the preliminary findings of the NAPAP study (known as the interim assessment) was presented to Congress. The initial findings showed no correlation between acid rain and increased acidity of lakes. "The reaction to the interim assessment by the environmentalists and their allies in Congress was fury and the firing of NAPAP's director, Dr. Lawrence Kulp, and the demand that the new director of NAPAP, Dr. James R. Mahoney, u2018rewrite' the report and produce u2018an implicit repudiation of the interim assessment'" (Brookes, Warren T. 1989. "The Continuing Mythology about Acid Rain." Human Events 2, September). According to Bast, Hill and Rue, release of the report to the general public was "delayed until after passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990" (1994. Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism).
The NAPAP study reached four conclusions contrary to those presented by the environmental movement: 1) Acid rain has not injured forests in either the U.S. or Canada; 2) Acid rain has had no observable effect on human health; 3) Acid rain has not injured crops, and may even have a positive effect on some crops; and finally, 4) acid rain has acidified only a very small number of lakes, and these can be restored to health by liming (ibid.).
In spite of the good news presented by the NAPAP interim assessment:
"Congress decided to include the anti-acid rain program in the 1990 amendments without waiting for the findings of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project [emphasis added]. Members reasoned that: (a) scientific evidence is seldom conclusive and the project's report would leave many questions unanswered; (b) enough information emerged between 1980 and 1990 to know the sources and destinations of acid rain; (c) an opportunity existed to pass a comprehensive clean air bill and it might not last long or occur again soon" (Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., The. 1991. The Clean Air Act Amendments: BNA's comprehensive Analysis of the New Law).
A similar report states, "Politicians, under heavy pressure from media and the environmental lobby, also chose to ignore the NAPAP report. The U.S. Senate spent just one hour discussing the report for which it spent $500 million in taxpayers' money. Incredibly, the report was never even presented to the House of Representatives" (Bast, Hill, Rue 1994).
What we can expect…
Congress passed the 1990 CAAA in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. The result? Natural gas prices, in real dollars, have doubled since 1990. Very soon, I predict the same fiasco will occur again. Congress, with no semblance of debate, will pass global-warming legislation which will shackle the American economy.
I remind you of the first paragraph of this article. Pelosi has stated that global warming is a reality and that legislation will occur. Our masters in Washington have spoken. Who needs debate?
March 21, 2007