Late Edition - Final
Skeptics Gather to Discuss Why Global Warming Isn't Such a Big Worry
BYLINE: By ANDREW C. REVKIN
SECTION: Section A; Column 0; National Desk; Pg. 12
LENGTH: 1250 words
More than 600 self-professed climate skeptics are meeting in a Times Square hotel this week to challenge what has become a broad scientific and political consensus: that without big changes in energy choices, humans will dangerously heat up the planet.
The three-day International Conference on Climate Change -- organized by the Heartland Institute, a nonprofit group seeking deregulation and unfettered markets -- brings together political figures, conservative campaigners, scientists, an Apollo astronaut and the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus.
Organizers say the discussions, which began Sunday, are intended to counter the Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers, who have vowed to tackle global warming with legislation requiring cuts in the greenhouse gases that scientists have linked to rising temperatures.
But two years after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded with near certainty that most of the recent warming was a result of human influences, global warming's skeptics are showing signs of internal rifts and weakening support.
The meeting participants hold a wide range of views of climate science. Some concede that humans probably contribute to global warming but they argue that the shift in temperatures poses no urgent risk. Others attribute the warming, along with cooler temperatures in recent years, to solar changes or ocean cycles.
But large corporations like Exxon Mobil, which in the past financed the Heartland Institute and other groups that challenged the climate consensus, have reduced support. Many such companies no longer dispute that the greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels pose risks.
From 1998 to 2006, Exxon Mobil, for example, contributed more than $600,000 to Heartland, according to annual reports of charitable contributions from the company and company foundations.
Alan T. Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said by e-mail that the company had ended support ''to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.''
Joseph L. Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, said Exxon and other companies were just shifting their stance to improve their image. The Heartland meeting, he said, was the last bastion of intellectual honesty on the climate issue.
''Major corporations are painting themselves green around global warming,'' Mr. Bast said, adding that the companies have shifted their lobbying and public relations efforts toward trying to shape climate legislation in their favor. He said that contributions, over all, had continued to rise.
But Kert Davies, a climatecampaigner for Greenpeace, who is attending the Heartland event, said that the experts giving talks were ''a shrinking collection of extremists'' and that they were ''left talking to themselves.''
Organizers expected to top the attendance of about 500 at the first Heartland conference, held last year. They also point to the speaker's roster, which included Mr. Klaus and Harrison Schmitt, a geologist, Apollo astronaut and former senator.
A centerpiece of the 2008 meeting was the release of a report, ''Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Planet.'' The document was expressly designed as a challenge to the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This year, the meeting will focus on a more nuanced question: ''Global warming: Was it ever a crisis?''
Most of the talks at the meeting will challenge climate orthodoxy. But some presenters, including prominent figures who have been vocal in their criticism in the past, say they will also call on their colleagues to synchronize the arguments they are using against plans to curb greenhouse gases.
In a keynote talk Sunday night, Richard S. Lindzen, a professor at M.I.T. and a longtime skeptic of the mainstream consensus that global warmingposes a danger, first delivered a biting attack on what he called the ''climate alarm movement.''
There is no solid scientific evidence to back up the models used by climate scientists who warn of dire consequences if warming continues, he said. But Dr. Lindzen also criticized widely publicized assertions by other skeptics that variations in the sun were driving temperature changes in recent decades. To attribute short-term variation in temperatures to a single cause, whether human-generated gases or something else, is erroneous, he said.
Speaking of the sun's slight variability, he said, ''Acting as though this is the alternative'' to blaming greenhouse gases ''is asking for trouble.''
S. Fred Singer, a physicist often referred to by critics and supporters alike as the dean of climate contrarians, said that he would be running public and private sessions on Monday aimed at focusing participants on which skeptical arguments were supported by science and which were not.
''As a physicist, I am concerned that some skeptics (a very few) are ignoring the physical basis,'' Dr. Singer said in an e-mail message.
''There is one who denies that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which goes against actual data,'' Dr. Singer said, adding that other skeptics wrongly contend that ''humans are not responsible for the measured increase in atmospheric CO2.''
There are notable absences from the conference this year. Russell Seitz, a physicist from Cambridge, Mass., gave a talk at last year's meeting. But Dr. Seitz, who has lambasted environmental campaigners as distorting climate science, now warns that the skeptics are in danger of doing the same thing.
The most strident advocates on either side of the global warming debate, he said, are ''equally oblivious to the data they seek to discount or dramatize.''
John H. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama who has long publicly questioned projections of dangerous global warming, most recently at a House committee hearing last month, said he had skipped both Heartland conferences to avoid the potential for ''guilt by association.''
Many participants said that any division or dissent was minor and that the global recession and a series of years with cooler temperatures would help them in combating changes in energy policy in Washington.
''The only place where this alleged climate catastrophe is happening is in the virtual world of computer models, not in the real world,'' said Marc Morano, a speaker at the meeting and a spokesman on environmental issues for Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma.
But several climate scientists who are seeking to curb greenhouse gases strongly criticized the meeting. Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University and an author of many reports by the intergovernmental climate panel, said, after reviewing the text of presentations for the Heartland meeting, that they were efforts to ''bamboozle the innocent.''
Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations office managing international treaty talks on climate change, said, ''I don't believe that what the skeptics say should provide any excuse to delay further'' action against global warming.
But he added: ''Skeptics are good. It's important to give people the confidence that the issue is being called into question.''
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The New York Times March 8, 2009 Sunday
Late Edition - Final
If Water Is Scarce, The Work Isn't
BYLINE: By EILENE ZIMMERMAN.
Fresh Starts is a monthly column about emerging jobs and job trends.
LENGTH: 869 words
THE Earth may be two-thirds water, but only about 1 percent of that water is actually usable for human consumption and agriculture. What's more, as the planet warms and the population shifts, even that 1 percent is at risk.
That is why demand for hydrologists has been predicted to grow 24 percent from 2006 to 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hydrologists study the distribution, circulation and physical properties of water, with hydrogeologists focusing specifically on groundwater. (According to the United States Geological Survey, there is 100 times more water beneath the ground than there is in all the world's lakes and rivers.)
''Hydrologist is a fairly broad term, but generally, any research or problems having to do with water, there's a hydrologist working on it,'' said Matthew C. Larsen, a hydrologist and associate director for water at the Geological Survey.
Most hydrologists did not earn degrees in hydrology; in fact, only a handful of undergraduate and graduate hydrology programs exist across the country. It is far more common for hydrologists to come from a hard-science or engineering background. Though it is possible to enter the field with a bachelor's degree -- most often as a lab technician -- moving up in the career requires an advanced degree, Mr. Larsen said.
After creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and passage of the Clean Air Act in 1977 and Superfund legislation in 1980, hydrologists' work was largely focused on water quality. Today, however, ''an increasing percentage of hydrologists are interested in water quantity and supply, which is an emerging issue and where global climate change plays a big role,'' said Dork Sahagian, professor of earth and environmental science at Lehigh University and director of its Environmental Initiative in Bethlehem, Pa.
''But concern with water quality -- which involves local, site-based issues -- still drives the job market,'' he said. ''Most hydrologists in this part of the world are still hired to cope with the availability of clean water for drinking and municipal supplies.''
Hydrologists use samples of water and soil, which they have traditionally collected themselves by wading out into a river or lake. Computers, however, have changed the nature of that field work. The Geological Survey now uses computerized samplers set up in rivers and streams throughout the nation.
But some field work is still required, especially early in a hydrologist's career, and is often considered a perk -- the ability to work outdoors and in beautiful places. That work could involve inspecting a dam, drilling a well or measuring a river's flow.
''I used to say the worst day in the field still beat the best day in the office,'' said Mark Wigmosta, a hydrologist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, an Energy Department research center in Richland, Wash. ''I don't spend as much time out in the field, and I miss it. My work now is primarily in front of a computer.''
In fact, computers have revolutionized hydrology in ways beyond sampling. Data collected in the field is now plugged into complex mathematic models that allow hydrologists to make predictions -- for example, about the effect of climate change on sea levels. The models also help them develop recommendations for solving problems, like how much water can be diverted from a river to combat a drought.
''People interested in hydrology often don't understand you need to be very strong in math,'' said Michael Boufadel, an engineer and hydrologist and the chairman of the civil and environmental engineering department at Temple University in Philadelphia.
They also need to communicate well, because their research is often written in reports and presented to others -- to policy makers, if they work in the public sector, or to clients in the private sector.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 28 percent of hydrologists are employed by the federal government, at the Geological Survey and the Defense Department. An additional 21 percent work for state agencies and state departments of conservation. Others work in architecture, engineering and for management, scientific and technical consulting firms.
SCOTT D. WARNER, principal hydrogeologist and a vice president at the environmental consulting firm Amec Geomatrix in Oakland, Calif., said demand for his firm's services had been strong since the 1980s. ''Our firm is growing, even in this economic downturn,'' he said. Much of Amec's work is with municipal water districts that need to find ways to manage their water and predict their needs.
Salaries for hydrologists range from an entry level of about $35,000 to well into six figures for the most senior scientists at consulting firms. Jobs in consulting firms generally pay higher salaries than those with the government.
But few choose the profession to become rich, Mr. Warner said. Most often, the reason is that the work is fulfilling. ''We're not oil tycoons, but we feel good about the type of work we do and the problems we solve,'' he said. ''You really learn something new every day.''
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The New York Times March 7, 2009 Saturday
Late Edition - Final
Little Impact Is Foreseen Over New York's Proposed Change for Emissions Allowances
BYLINE: By KATE GALBRAITH; Danny Hakim and Cornelia Dean contributed reporting.
SECTION: Section A; Column 0; National Desk; Pg. 13
LENGTH: 707 words
A move by Gov. David A. Paterson to increase the free allowances for carbon-dioxide emissions that New York gives power plants is unlikely to undermine efforts by nine other states that signed a landmark pact to reduce global warming, officials said on Friday.
Last fall, 10 states from Maryland to Maine agreed to cap the emissions from hundreds of power plants and to make them pay for polluting. Under this carbon-trading pact, known as the Regional GreenhouseGas Initiative, each state issues its own tradable permits, or allowances, for each ton of carbon-dioxide pollution.
States auction most of the allowances, but many power producers have complained about being forced to pay for them.
Mr. Paterson's willingness to increase free allowances angered environmentalists and surprised officials in the other states. They reacted by reaffirming their commitment to the current carbon-trading pact.
''We think it's a New York issue, and we don't see it having any impact in other states, including New Jersey's program,'' said Jeanne Herb, the policy director for New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, in a widely echoed sentiment. ''Nor do we envision that it will have any real impact on the auction prices.''
Officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island said they expected little impact in their states.
In New York, Morgan Hook, a spokesman for the governor's office, seemed to play down Mr. Paterson's efforts to change the policy. ''There has been no commitment to increase the free allowances yet,'' Mr. Hook said. ''The governor has made a commitment to look at the regulations if there is a need to look at the regulations.''
That could happen, he said, when the state's Department of Environmental Conservation learns definitely how many power producers were eligible for free allowances from the last carbon auction, in December.
Two of Mr. Paterson's top aides said in interviews on Thursday that the governor had promised to address the industry's concerns, and that a preliminary review by the Department of Environmental Conservation had already indicated that the number of free allowances was not enough.
Mr. Hook also said that the next three auctions would not be affected even if the state decided to reopen its regulations because any change would face requirements including a period for public comment.
Experts emphasized that even if New York made the change, the overall number of allowances in the program -- the region's total amount of carbon emissions allowed -- is capped and therefore cannot rise. Many states, including New Jersey, have already made provisions to ease the cost burden on power plants that had made fixed arrangements to sell their power long before carbon-trading was in place, which is the source of New York's problem.
Changing the rules for how carbon allowances are allocated may be more difficult in other states, many of which would have to consult their legislatures, rather than do it through the executive branch, as New York can.
Still, the carbon market was clearly rattled by the news. Trading of carbon allowances reached a record level on Friday, most likely because of the news about New York, said Evan Ard, a spokesman for Evolution Markets, a carbon markets broker. But Mr. Ard said prices -- which are perpetually low -- were not volatile.
The carbon-trading pact ''has struggled with credibility from Day 1, given the starting overallocation of emissions allowances,'' Alex Rau, of the carbon-trading firm Climate Wedge, said in an e-mail message.
''And behavior from the regulators like this will only undermine what little confidence there has been in the market,'' Mr. Rau continued.
Donald McCloskey, the director of environmental strategy and policy at PSEG, a New Jersey-based energy company, said he would not seek more free allowances from New Jersey regulators.
Mr. McCloskey said New York's potential move merely strengthened the case for a national carbon-trading program like the one the Obama administration hopes to introduce.
Under a national system, he said, ''these interstate differences would be removed and largely reduced by having one carbon market, one set of rules that the whole nation operates under.''
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The New York Times March 7, 2009 Saturday
Late Edition - Final
A Need to Clear the Air
SECTION: Section A; Column 0; Editorial Desk; EDITORIAL; Pg. 20
LENGTH: 430 words
Gov. David Paterson of New York, whose list of friends in the political world seems to be growing shorter by the week, could soon be forced to cross off another group: the environmental community.
Environmentalists -- and for that matter anyone who worries about climate change -- were disturbed to learn on Friday that Mr. Paterson had agreed in a closed-door meeting with energy executives last fall to reopen rules governing New York's participation in a landmark pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The news followed other setbacks, including proposed budget cuts that seemed to environmentalists to disproportionately impoverish the Environmental Protection Fund, which finances critical open-space projects. The governor has promised to refill the fund with a new and more ambitious bottle redemption program. But the new bottle bill is hardly a sure thing, and the beverage industry has hired some of Albany's most powerful lobbyists to beat it.
No program is more important to environmentalists than the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a laboriously negotiated agreement aimed at gradually reducing power plants emissions of carbon dioxide across 10 states. The agreement requires power companies to buy allowances for every ton of pollution they emit -- partly as a disincentive to discourage pollution, and partly to raise money for clean energy investments.
Some of the state's power producers that negotiated long-term contracts to sell power years ago complain that the program squeezes them unfairly because they are now forced to absorb the additional costs of the allowances -- without being able to adjust the contracts. They are asking for more free allowances than the modest number the program already provides. This would help their bottom line but would also reduce the amount of money flowing to clean energy projects.
The power generators tried out their argument last year on the state's top environmental officials and got nowhere. So, last fall, they went directly to Mr. Paterson, where they found a sympathetic ear and a promise to reopen the agreement to see whether more free allowances could be provided.
The governor's office says that any changes would have to follow a careful, transparent rule-making process. It has the feel, however, of a done deal. In any case, his apparent willingness to listen to only one side of the case raises serious questions about the way he makes decisions. It also sends a bad signal to other states, which for years have looked to New York for leadership -- not backsliding -- on climate change. 23 of 50 DOCUMENTS
The New York Times March 6, 2009 Friday
Late Edition - Final
Paterson Shifts On Emissions, Drawing Fire
BYLINE: By DANNY HAKIM; Kate Galbraith contributed reporting.
At the urging of the energy industry, Gov. David A. Paterson has agreed to reconsider a key rule New York adopted as part of a 10-state pact aimed at reducing the threat of global warming by cutting power plant emissions.
Mr. Paterson appeared to overrule the State Department of Environmental Conservation in making the move, which would reopen state regulations to provide power plants leeway to release greater amounts of emissions at no additional cost. Administration officials said the governor was concerned the rule might unfairly burden the energy industry.
His decision infuriated environmental groups, which learned of Mr. Paterson's decision just this week, though he met with energy executives privately last fall and assured them he would take the step.
''We're extremely troubled by this development,'' said Jackson Morris, an energy expert at Environmental Advocates of New York. ''I have trouble even fathoming what played out.''
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which New York signed onto four years ago, established a system whereby power producers were required to obtain what are called allowances, which permit them to release certain levels of carbon dioxide emissions. They typically obtain the allowances by buying them at auction or trading them.
The requirement for utilities to obtain the allowances in this way was established not only as a financial disincentive to discourage them from polluting, but as a way for states to raise money for greener energy initiatives.
Mr. Paterson does not plan to withdraw from the climate accord, but has agreed to increase the number of free allowances provided by the state, which would lower the industry's costs of compliance.
The industry says the system hurts those power producers that signed long-term contracts with utilities years ago, without being able to factor in the price of the allowances. The additional allowances would be distributed to those that signed long-term contracts. ''It's a hard decision but it's a responsible decision to reopen it,'' said Judith Enck, the state's deputy secretary for the environment.
Industry executives asked that the free allowances, which currently allow for the release of 1.5 million tons of emissions, be increased to 6.5 million tons, which, according to the most recent auction price, could save them $16.9 million.
Although the administration has said it will follow the required public process and listen to all sides, officials are making it clear in discussions with environmental groups and energy executives that the governor intends to heed the industry's request, though he has not decided how many more free allowances to provide.
Gavin Donohue, chief executive of the Independent Power Producers of New York, said he was having trouble last year persuading Department of Environmental Conservation officials to listen to the industry's concerns. So he went directly to the governor, he said, and got results.
''D.E.C. was not going to address it in a way that was adequate enough for industry,'' he said, adding, ''The governor recognized the legitimate inequities in the proposal that D.E.C. had put on the street and was very concerned about undue cost on business.''
Asked if she supported the change, Ms. Enck, who was a longtime environmental activist before joining the state government under Eliot Spitzer, responded, ''My personal views don't really matter.''
Environmentalist groups worry that Mr. Paterson's decision could set a precedent for other Northeastern states to revisit their regulations, and say the governor's move sends the wrong message to Washington as the Obama administration contemplates federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmentalists are perplexed that Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, would weaken a landmark agreement among Northeastern states that was championed by a Republican predecessor, George E. Pataki.
They are also criticizing what they see as a secret process with an industry that has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Governor Paterson's campaign coffers.
Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Advocates of New York, sent a letter on Wednesday to the governor's top deputy, Larry S. Schwartz, protesting the move.
Abigail Dillen, a staff lawyer with Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, said the move ''sets a precedent that if you're a disgruntled operator, you can just go back to New York State.''
For several months, there have been tensions in the Paterson administration over maintaining previous environmental goals amid a recession and budget crisis. The administration briefly considered creating a special panel with the power to review all regulation, and the governor said at the time that the greenhouse gas initiative might be affected in such a review.
''What we are trying to avoid is what we have felt at times were institutional regulations that are inflexible,'' he said then.
Indeck, an Illinois-based power producer which operates a plant in upstate New York, is suing the state over the initiative, arguing that it unfairly affects Indeck and other companies with long-term contracts.
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The New York Times