There is nothing coincidental about common déjà vu features of a CO2 climate crisis-premised war on fossil fuels and a hysterically-hyped sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission acid rain environmental calamity a half-century ago.
Both scams have claimed to be based upon dire computer model-based predictions calling for costly interventions. Both also involved the same sorts of crony constituencies: alarmist “scientific authorities,” deep-pocket NGO promoters, and headline-hungry politicians eagerly rewarded by swarms of credulous media reporters.
The acid rain scare began in 1967 when Svant Odén, a soil scientist at the Agricultural College of Uppsala, wrote a broadly circulated sensationalist article about forestry damage he attributed to a “chemical war” between nations of Europe in the leading Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.
Growing public concern regarding environmental impacts of industrial-sourced acid rain prompted the Swedish government to convene a group of experts to investigate the matter which was chaired by Bert Bolin, the head of Stockholm’s International Meteorological Institute.
The Bolin panel’s 1971 report was a flimsy political document clothed in scanty science which authoritatively concluded that, “The [human] emission of sulfur into the atmosphere . . . has proved to be a major environmental problem.” The assessment only sheepishly mentioned that European forests had actually seen considerable increases.
One also had to read 50 pages further into the report to discover that the “has proved to be” reference wasn’t really assured at all. It went on to say, “It is very difficult to prove that damage, such as reduced growth rates due to the acidification of the soil and related changes in the plant nutrient situation, has in fact occurred.”
This disclaimer regarding the existence of scientific certainty is reminiscent of another one buried 774 pages into IPCC’s Third Assessment Report summary exactly three decades later. It stated, “In research and modeling of the climate, we should be aware that we are dealing with a chaotic, nonlinear coupled system, and that long-term predictions of future climate states is not possible.”
In 1980, under President Carter’s prompting, the U.S. Congress passed legislation for a ten-year National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP). Nevertheless, neither the U.S. nor the U.K. signed a 1985 Helsinki Protocol which committed Western parties to cut their emissions to 30 percent below 1980 levels.
The Reagan administration established a nine-member panel under NAPAP to conduct peer reviews of more than 3,000 scientific studies that had previously been conducted by research groups convened under a Carter Memorandum of Intent with Canada. NAPAP’s 1987 review harshly criticized the poor scientific quality of the model-based studies. It also concluded, “The vast majority of forests of the United States and Canada are not affected by decline (emphasis in the original).”
Although the more than half-billion-dollar 10-year- long acid rain study yielded no “smoking gun,” the EPA had begun establishing the groundwork to regulate sulfur dioxide even before those NAPAP results were in.
Media-fueled environmental alarm had provided a welcome pretense for SO2 “allowance trading” under the Clean Air Act of 1990, the precursor for UN-Kyoto Protocol climate-alarm- premised carbon-capping proposals which followed.
Media frenzy surrounding Senator Al Gore’s 1988 Congressional hearings on global warming provided a dream opportunity for Enron, one of the biggest SO2 trading market players, to also cash in on climate alarm. Enron then owned the largest natural gas pipeline outside of Russia.
They reasoned that since their natural gas market was competing with coal — a larger CO2-emitter — a carbon cap-and-trade market modeled upon SO2 credit exchanges would be a huge boon to their business.
Enron’s CEO Kenneth Lay had met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in the White House on Aug. 4, 1997 to prepare a strategy for the upcoming UN Kyoto conference that following December. This was the first step toward creating a global carbon-trading market that Gore and Enron both coveted.
An internal Enron memorandum stated that Kyoto would “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside the restructuring [of] the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”
Al Gore and his partner David Blood, the former chief of Goldman Sachs Asset Management were poised to make windfall profits selling CO2 offsets as stakeholders in the Chicago Climate Exchange. Lobbying before a 2007 Joint House Hearing of the Energy Science Committee, Gore told members, “As soon as carbon has a price, you’re going to see a wave [of investment] in it . . . There will be unchained investment.”
Fortunately, Congress didn’t bite, and it was Enron that ultimately got capped.
Ironically, SO2 blamed for forest damage and CO2 attributed to a looming climate disaster are both natural plant fertilizers that make the world greener. And once again, costly emission-credit trading scams premised upon unsupportable crisis hyperbole benefit no one.
No — not even Bambi.