1996 Global Climate Coalition Science and Technology April Minutes and Membership

These documents reflect meeting minutes and work product of the industry-led Global Climate Coalition’s (GCC) Science and Technology Assessment Committee (STAC). The GCC opposed greenhouse gas regulations through direct engagement and collaboration with affiliated climate deniers from 1989 to 2002. Its membership spanned across the automotive, utility, manufacturing, petroleum, and mining industries. These documents demonstrate the broad-based and well-funded efforts to carefully pick apart established climate science, emphasize uncertainty, and advocate for regulatory delay.

This document reflects the Global Climate Coalition’s (GCC) Science and Technology Assessment Committee’s (STAC) April 1996 meeting minutes and materials. This document was submitted during discovery in Green Mtn. Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie and Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep, Inc. v. Witherspoon. Covered in part by The New York Times in 2009, the documents are released in full here.

Sent to the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), a member of STAC, these documents summarized the committee’s most recent conference call; other attachments included a STAC membership list, materials regarding “concepts not adequately addressed in the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] (IPCC) Second Assessment Report,” and a series of GCC climate change backgrounders.
Several months after STAC Co-Chair and Mobil Corporation’s Lenny Bernstein accepted anthropogenic climate change, debunked “contrarian theories” relying on natural warming as an explanation for increased global temperatures, and allowed those criticisms to be redacted from the final copy of GCC’s 1995 climate science primer, GCC released an overview of its work, which argued that climate change is “part of a natural warming trend.” Nearly all of the evidence cited in that overview is drawn from the attached GCC report attempting to discredit the IPCC.

I. STAC Membership filled by fossil industry

The April minutes listed STAC membership, including many members who worked for, or had strong ties to, to the fossil fuel industry.

STAC members at this time who were under the direct employ of corporations include: Brian Flannery and Barry Friedlander, Exxon Corporation; Stephen Pezda, Ford Motor Company; Eric Ridenour, Chrysler Corporation; John McManus, American Electric Power; Porter Womeldorff, Illinois Power Company (now Ameren); Mike Stroben, Duke Power (now Duke Energy); Robert Gehri, Southern Company; Jon Heuss, General Motors; and Richard Janoso, Pennsylvania Power and Light.  
Beyond members working directly for corporations, this STAC meeting was also comprised of trade association employees: John Kinsman from denial group Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Howard Feldman and Mitchell Baer from the American Petroleum Institute, and Ned Leonard from Western Fuels Association (who later went on to work with EEI and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity). A complete STAC mailing list from 1997 is available here.

II. Undermining IPCC and Engaging with Governments

The minutes, sent by STAC Co-Chair and Mobil Corporation’s top climate scientist, Lenny Bernstein, summarized points made on the conference call. Bernstein wrote, “Porter Womeldorff [representing Illinois Power Company] provided a list of topics which were sources of the uncertainty in the scientific assessment of climate change. STAC agreed that it would be worthwhile trying to put together write-ups on these topics.” Topics highlighted were: models, sea level rise, solar variability, carbon dioxide, and temperature record/measurement.

The minutes also highlighted GCC’s Communications Committee work on their own report, “Climate Change Assertions and Facts.” STAC provided its comments to API’s Thomas Kirlin, referring to him in the minutes as “coordinating development of the piece.”

GCC’s Bronson Gardner outlined eight issues in the minutes that he deemed to be “inadequately addressed in underlying chapters of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report,” each of which “generated controversy during the [Work Group 1] (WG I) plenary session of which most of the authors of the Synthesis Report wanted to avoid discussing.”

Some of the items on Gardner’s list included: “Quantification of anthropogenic and natural effects in climatic data … Definitions of Key Words [sic] … Discussion of natural warming and cooling trends … [and] A clear and detailed explanation of the phrase ‘discernible human influence.’” Gardner presented a “conflict between what scientists may mean when using these terms and what policymakers may mean,” wondering “why isn’t it possible that most, if not all, of the observed warming is due to natural forces, and that the enhanced greenhouse effect is strictly an issue for the future?”

The call also addressed “GCC’s actions in response to a request from the State Department for input on a number of issues which will be discussed at the next round of UN climate change meetings in July.” GCC continued to voice its opinion to government officials until at least 2001, eventually influencing President George W. Bush, “in part,” to reject the Kyoto Protocol.

III. GCC Backgrounders

This series of “backgrounders” focused on three topics: understanding “the uncertainties” of climate change, the “shortcomings and limitations” of climate models, and “understanding carbon dioxide (CO2).”

“Science and Global Climate Change: What Do We Know? What are the Uncertainties?”

This document cited research from industry-funded climate deniers like Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels, and Fred Singer, despite Bernstein discrediting both Lindzen’s and Michaels’ work five months earlier in GCC’s draft primer. In the primer, Bernstein determined that “Michaels’ questions about the temperature record [were] not convincing arguments against any conclusion that we are currently experiencing warming as the result of greenhouse gas emissions” and that Lindzen’s “evidence [was] still weak.”

Describing the greenhouse effect as “a natural phenomenon,” GCC contended that “scientists differ on whether the increase in the concentrations of these [greenhouse] gases will cause an ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’ … because the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood.”

The backgrounder cast doubt on “inexact and uncertain” climate models in “project[ing] future temperature and climate change scenarios.” Further, the paper presented modeling as “unable to resolve how, where, or even whether potential global climate change can affect specific regions of the planet,” though the report neglected to specify which regions of the planet are of concern for members.

The piece repeated some of GCC’s most common talking points, stating that “increasing atmospheric CO2 levels may in fact accelerate plant growth” and prioritizing sound policy could be enacted only after “resolving scientific uncertainty.”

“Climate Models: Shortcomings and Limitations”

This backgrounder doubled down on climate model unreliability, warning policy makers that “while these models are useful tools for scientific research, they are not yet reliable enough to serve as the basis for …  public policy decisions.”

Reiterated throughout the backgrounder was the potential economic cost of mitigating climate change. Described as “multi-billion dollar decisions” based on projections for which “scientists, at best, can only express ‘low confidence,’” the backgrounder emphasized the need for “significant improvement in paleo data” to resolve “uncertainties regarding climate change.” According to Harvard University’s David Levy and Sandra Rothenberg, “general equilibrium economic models” like the ones cited by the GCC are “more complex and rest on less secure theoretical foundations than [general circulation models]” used by climate scientists.

The backgrounder concluded with a statement that “the GCC supports a coordinated international research program … in addition to independent and industry sponsored research. GCC also supports activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that make sense in their own right, thus continuing sound business practices.” Examples of such emission reductions were not provided.

“Understanding Carbon Dioxide (CO2): Future Trends in Emissions and Emissions Control”

The final backgrounder minimized anthropogenic contributions to spiking CO2 levels by describing the ways in which “carbon dioxide levels have varied widely during the Earth’s history.” While conceding that the increase in atmospheric CO2 “since the mid-1700s” was “largely a result of industrialization and the increased burning of fossil fuels,” these emissions were portrayed as necessary.

The document also questioned the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and climate change, stating that “scientists cannot be certain whether the increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas will cause any significant climate change.” The United States’ contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions were also minimized: “U.S. contribution of manmade CO2 … has significantly declined over the past twenty years and will continue to decline. Additional reductions in the United States’ CO2 emissions would be relatively insignificant in the context of reducing global greenhouse gas concentration levels.” Reiterating the financial burden of taking steps to reduce emissions, the backgrounder threatened “severe unemployment, decreased international competitiveness of U.S. goods, and other grave economic disruptions.”

Finally, the backgrounder placed the burden of emission reductions on “developing countries and countries with economies in transition,” which represent “the greatest opportunities (and needs) for controlling the growth in CO2 emissions.”

Interested in more GCC documents? See more in the full Global Climate Coalition collection.

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