Cooler Heads

Cooler Heads

November 23, 2004

Politics 

Putin Signs Kyoto Ratification, Submits Documents to UN

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin finally signed the Kyoto ratification act into law on November 5. The law “stipulates the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol together with the supplemented statement by the Russian Parliament, which says that Russia's obligations under the protocol will have grave consequences for its economic and social development” (Novosti, Nov. 5).

 

The ratification documents were received by the United Nations on November 18, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued the following statement:

 

“I am very glad to announce that today I received the Russian Federation’s instrument of ratification for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I congratulate President Putin and the Russian Federation for their leadership in making it possible for the Protocol to enter into force—as it will, 90 days from tomorrow, on 16 February 2005.

 

“This is a historic step forward in the world’s efforts to combat a truly global threat. Most important, it ends a long period of uncertainty. Those countries that have ratified the Protocol, and which have been trying to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases even before its entry into force, now have a legally binding obligation to do so.

 

“Businesses that have been exploring the realm of green technology now have a strong signal about the market viability of their products and services. And the financial community and insurance industry, which have been trying to ‘put a price’ on the risks associated with climate change, now have a stronger basis for their decision-making on incentives and corporate performance.

 

“All countries must now do their utmost to combat climate change and to keep it from undermining our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. I therefore take this opportunity to urge those developed countries that have not ratified the Protocol to ratify it and limit their emissions.

 

“The Parties to the Climate Change Convention will have their next major meeting in Buenos Aires from 6 to 17 December. I hope they will use that occasion to seize the promising possibilities that have been opened up by this major development.”

 

Bush and Blair Discuss Global Warming

 

As expected, British Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the issue of global warming with President George W. Bush during Blair’s post-election visit to Washington.

 

Following the meeting, Blair told the BBC (Nov. 14) that he had a “good talk” with the President on the subject, but that it would be senseless to try to persuade America to join the Kyoto Protocol.

 

“We do want agreement that this is a serious issue and that we need to make progress on it. And so my ambition for the G-8 next year is that we get into a proper dialogue,” he said. “In other words, to get a basic agreement of what the science tells us, and secondly then to start a process which will allow us to identify the means of combating it

 

“Kyoto will come into effect now and, of course, American companies throughout the world will be affected by Kyoto, because the Russians having signed it.

 

“What is important, though, is to get America into a new dialogue, that allows us to sort this out over the long term, and that's what I'll try and do…. What are we going to do if we don't engage with America?”

 

London’s Independent, a long-standing cheerleader for alarmist policies, wrote that (Nov. 14), “On climate change the Prime Minister is beginning to edge towards Mr. Bush's position that new technologies are the way to tackle global warming” and summed up the visit as, “An opportunity missed. He has allowed the President to push him towards Mr. Bush's own ‘solution’.”

 

On November 21, the Independent went further, reporting “senior Washington sources” as saying that the President has “reprimanded Tony Blair for sounding the alarm over global warming and pressing for international action to combat it…. They report that the White House has objected to the Prime Minister placing the issue at the top of the agenda when he heads the G8 group of the world's most powerful nations next year, and to the strong tone of his recent speeches warning of climate change.”

 

RFF Releases Policy Blueprint

 

Environmental think tank Resources for the Future published a new book on November 17 in which is set out “a new and broad-ranging energy and environmental blueprint for the nation.”

 

New Approaches on Energy and the Environment: Policy Advice for the President suggests a range of policies, none of which appears to be particularly new. They include:

 

“Create a comprehensive framework for controlling the release of U.S. greenhouse gas through emissions trading to curb global warming –even in the absence of an international agreement.

 

“As part of a deficit reduction strategy, institute a ‘carbon tax’ on fossil fuels based on their hydrocarbon content.

 

“Support enactment of a national Renewable Portfolio Standard, to step up the role of renewable energy and lay the groundwork for an even more potent ‘Green Power’ sector in coming decades.

 

“Focus air pollution management on accelerating new standards to curb the concentration of fine particulates in the air, which are associated with premature deaths and hospitalizations.

 

“Incorporate new technologies to implement pay-as-you-drive auto insurance that will encourage motorists to drive less, thus easing congestion, reducing traffic deaths, saving fuel, and curbing smog and other pollutants.

 

“Severely proscribe the release of major pollutants from electric power plants.

 

“Establish a Bureau of Environmental Statistics, tasked with providing complete information on the state of the environment to the government, creating better understanding trends and issues, and enabling the design of effective, efficient policies.”

 

The Bush administration currently shows no signs of adopting any of these policies.

 

Global Warming Incurs Royal Displeasure

 

Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is reported (the Observer, Oct. 31) to have expressed displeasure at American reluctance to take action on global warming.

 

She “was understood to have asked (British Prime Minister) Mr. Blair's office to lobby the U.S. after observing the alarming impact of Britain's changing weather on her estates at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, and Sandringham House, in east England.”

 

The managing editor notes that Bills of Attainder are still legal in the United Kingdom.

 

Economics

 

Conference Hears Problems with SRES

 

A conference held at the American Enterprise Institute on November 16 looked in detail at problems with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, the document upon which alarmists base their projections that temperatures will rise 10°F over the next century.

 

Professor David Henderson of the Westminster Business School in London discussed the specific criticisms of the IPCC’s scenarios and the larger problems with the SRES Committee and the IPCC that he has developed jointly with Ian Castles, the former chief statistician of the Australian government (see past issues passim).

 

Henderson made it clear that the SRES is based on economic and statistical assumptions that are at variance with accepted practices in those two disciplines. The most important single failing of the SRES is that it uses market exchange rates (MER) rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) to compare economic outputs in different countries. This violates the internationally agreed to System of National Accounts, which specifies that PPP comparisons should be used. The practical result is that the SRES assumes wildly improbable rates of economic growth in developing countries and therefore wildly improbable rates of growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The conference also heard objections from Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University, who pointed out that sensible economic models would not try to project beyond about thirty years. McKibbin strongly criticized the SRES decision not to impart likelihoods to the scenarios, which led to politicians and media latching on to the 10°F increase without any idea of how unlikely it was.

 

The conference also heard from Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and Mark Strazicich of Appalachian State University, who have been working on a statistical analysis of the likelihood of the SRES scenarios coming about. Based on an analysis of the historic growth rate for emissions, McKitrick and Strazicich’s current findings suggest that only 7 of the 43 SRES scenarios are remotely likely (within 5 standard deviations of the mean) and that these all fall in the lower end of the range of projected emissions and therefore of projected temperature increases.

 

Coal Becomes More Important

 

A Wall Street Journal examination (Nov. 17) has found that coal is becoming ever more important as a global energy source, much of the increase being attributable to China.

 

The Journal summarizes, “Part of the problem is that demand in China appears to be growing faster than regulators’ ability to police emissions. A few years ago, when demand wasn't so strong, the Chinese government moved to shut thousands of substandard coal operations. Chinese coal production tumbled by more than 25 percent to about 500 million tons of oil equivalent in 2000, according to BP data.

 

“Then China's economy took flight. By 2003, Chinese coal production had soared to 842 million tons of oil equivalent. If recent trends hold, production could rise to nearly one billion tons of oil equivalent this year.

 

“Chinese officials have announced ambitious plans to diversify the country's energy supply, quadrupling its nuclear-power generation capacity by 2020 and adding numerous terminals to process imported liquefied natural gas. Chinese officials say these and other investments should reduce coal's share of the country's power needs to about 54% from 67% currently, while natural gas will increase to 10% from 3% now.

 

“But many independent economists doubt that coal's share in China will decline significantly, given that coal is inexpensive and plentiful. Most of China's new power plants are coal-fired, and will be around for decades. Adding more nuclear, gas, and hydroelectric facilities will involve massive investments that could make the power they generate more expensive, limiting its attractiveness. In the U.S. and Europe, however, the cost of cleaning up coal plants and the anticipated cost of carbon capture, as well as a run-up in natural-gas costs, are making nuclear power more competitive.”

 

British Industry Fights Back

 

A report published November 8 by the influential leftist British think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research condemned the British government for scaling back its environmental tax demands on British industry.

 

The paper’s author, transportation analyst Tony Grayling, said that the Climate Change Levy, a carbon tax, had not increased since 2001 and, “The business lobby has to take its share of the blame for that, particularly the CBI [Confederation of British Industry].”

 

CBI Director-General Digby Anderson reacted with fury, telling the Independent on Sunday, “This is a bizarre time to suggest an increase in the levy. The manufacturing recovery is under threat. Raw material costs are spiraling. Energy prices are going through the roof.

 

“Oil has risen 70 percent in price in a year. As if that is not enough, the government has just announced tougher targets for British business under the emissions trading scheme. Business is busting a gut to keep up and these people seem completely oblivious to the whole thing.”

 

Poverty and Global Warming

 

Graham Sarjeant, financial editor of London’s Times adroitly summarized the current policy dilemma in a piece for his paper entitled, “Do you want global warming, nuclear power, or poverty” (Oct. 29).

 

In it he wrote, “On present policies, the rise of China and India from poverty is incompatible with any attempt to slow, let alone halt, global warming. A choice has to be made to keep poor people poor or to take our chances on the environment.

 

“Europe’s drive for wind power and other forms of renewable energy, sensible though they seem, will make no contribution to resolving this dilemma in the foreseeable future. On IEA’s well-founded projections, the share of renewables in EU energy demand will double to 12 per cent from 2002 to 2030. At the same time, nuclear power will shrink from 15 per cent to 7 per cent, so the EU will rely more on fossil fuels.”

 

Sarjeant finished his piece by saying, “Other hard decisions would have to be made if we are to make much difference before 2030. One accepted in Europe but not where it counts—in America—is that petrol should sell at not less than the equivalent of $1 per litre to accelerate the drive for fuel economy. The other is that the West should make a wholesale switch to nuclear power stations, which do not emit carbon dioxide. New generations may be able to use new technologies. For us the choice is between global warming, nuclear power, and trying to keep poor people poor, a choice our leaders lack the courage to make.”

 

Science

 

Arctic Report’s Selective Use of Data

 

The Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment released November 8 contains some quite extraordinary uses of scientific data. In one instance (on page 23) a graph showing rising temperatures in the Arctic region is presented with no citation whatsoever. The data presented is seemingly at variance with well-known sources of Arctic temperature data.

 

Nor does the report cite other well-known research into Arctic temperature variability. The work of Igor Polyakov, for instance, is not mentioned. His 2002 paper in the journal Eos, “Trends and Variations in Arctic Climate Systems,” for instance, found that, “Two distinct warming periods from 1920 to 1945, and from 1975 to the present, are clearly evident…. Compared with the global and hemispheric temperature rise, the high-latitude temperature increase was stronger in the late 1930s to the early 1940s than in recent decades.”

 

Similarly, the works of Jonathan Kahl, who found no greenhouse warming in the Arctic ocean, and Roman Prybylak, who found substantial cooling (30 percent greater than the ACIA finds) at the North Pole from 1940-70, are nowhere mentioned.

 

Finally, the research of Petr Chylek is conspicuous only by its absence. Chylek, now of Los Alamos National Laboratory and until recently at Dalhousie University in Halifax, published an article earlier this year in Climate Change, which finds that annual temperatures in Greenland have decreased markedly since 1987 and that, “Summer temperatures, which are most relevant to Greenland ice sheet melting rates, do not show any persistent increase during the last fifty years.”

 

With such a selective use of data, the scientific credibility of the ACIA has to be in serious question.

 

Bearing the Brunt

 

One aspect of the ACIA that got a great deal of newspaper space was the supposed threat to polar bears (e.g., “Polar Bears May Face Demise,” Washington Post, Nov. 8). The concern is that, as sea ice breaks up earlier in a warmer climate, polar bears may be less able to roam and feed. The empirical evidence for this is a decline in polar bear weight observed over the last 30 years.

 

Although the evidence does point to slimmer bears, other evidence suggests that there has been no decline in actual numbers. In some areas of northern Canada, polar bears are becoming a serious threat to public health, with increasing numbers recorded and Inuit hunters have asked permission to hunt more. Other surveys in Alaska have recorded higher polar bear density in recent years. This may suggest that with the bear population increasing, the reason for the loss of weight is related to more animals competing for the same food supply.

 

Scientists Send McCain the Facts

 

Responding to the ACIA, on November 16 Senator John McCain (R.-Az.) held his seventh and probably last stacked hearing on climate change science in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. As is usual, he invited only experts from the alarmist camp, which prompted several more measured scientists to send him a letter setting out their views.

 

The scientists pointed out that sediment and ice core samples show that the Arctic has experienced past warming that cannot be attributed to greenhouse gas concentrations. The letter also pointed to the history of strong year-to-year variability of Arctic temperatures. The scientists drew attention to the need for advances in Arctic climate science in both models and measurements in order to achieve a more complete and accurate picture of the Arctic climate.

 

The following climate experts signed the letter: R. Tim Patterson, PhD, professor of geology at Carleton University; Tim Ball, PhD, retired professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg; Anthony Lupo, PhD, professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri, Columbia; David Legates, PhD, associate professor in climatology at University of Delaware; Patrick Michaels, PhD, professor of environmental sciences, University of Virginia; George Taylor, MSc Meteorology; Gary D. Sharp, PhD, scientific director of the Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study; Roy W. Spencer, PhD, principal research scientist, the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Jon Reisman, associate professor of economics and public policy; University of Maine at Machias/ Maine Public Policy Institute Scholar; Willie Soon, PhD, science director, Tech Central Station; and Sallie Baliunas, PhD, enviro- science editor, Tech Central Station.

 

Meanwhile, at the South Pole

 

There was an Antarctic scare to go alongside the Arctic one as Nature magazine published a study (Nov. 4) that Antarctic krill populations are declining by as much as 80 percent as a result of global warming reducing sea ice cover.

 

Unfortunately for Nature and the researchers, the Greening Earth Society’s World Climate Alert reveals a gaping hole in the argument—the paper does not contain data for the duration of “fast ice” cover during the winter. As the Alert explains, “There was no change in the duration in ‘fast sea ice’ at the South Orkneys between 1975 and 2000. That’s the time associated with the steep decline in krill density. How can declines in sea ice related to global warming be responsible for decimation of the krill population when winter sea ice duration is not declining at the locus of the relationship?”

 

As the Alert further points out, the real decline in sea ice cover came during the first half of the century, with no serious results for krill. As Steve Nicol, a krill expert from the Australian Antarctic Division, told the Los Angeles Times (Nov.4). “Could we really have lost 900 million tons of krill without anyone noticing? I don’t think so. You would expect to see most of the predators in decline, and this doesn’t appear to be happening.”

 

Etc.

 

Watch for the Eye in the Sky

 

On October 25, the UK government’s Energy Savings Trust issued a report entitled “Forecasting the Future” that dealt with the supposed harmful effects of global warming. It included the following scenario, oblivious to the Orwellian overtones:

 

“Picture this scene in the year 2050. It’s a cold and dark winter’s morning. You get up and switch on the light, powered by energy stored from solar electric cells and the mini-wind turbine on the roof. The central heating comes on, using an energy efficient ‘A’ rated condensing boiler and heat pump, which turns waste heat into electrical power.

 

“The house soon becomes warm and snug, thanks also to the triple glazed windows fitted with special heat insulating glass, draught-proof automatic doors, and thick insulation in the walls and roof.

 

“The tiny amount of heat which leaks out into the outside world will be picked up on a satellite in space, monitoring any waste heat from homes, offices, and factories. If you leak too much heat, it sends a message to the local energy office and they’ll send you a bill for harming the environment.

 

“A computer chip in your kettle will buzz a warning if you overfill it and waste electricity. You sit down to watch the morning news on a low energy flat-screen TV screen. You jump in your electric car powered by a fuel cell that runs on methanol, a renewable fuel made from crops. And as for the car itself, it’s made of Soya oil! The oil is converted into a strong plastic that never rusts, and when the car is scrapped it can be recycled like compost!

 

“Public transport provides a cheap and easy alternative to the car. A bus or tram gets you to the local station to take a train for the rest of your journey. Mind you, this isn’t the clanking train of olden days—the engine is driven by powerful magnets, which levitate the train above the track and shoot it along at some 300 mph at a fraction of the cost of electric or diesel engines, which were a waste of energy.

 

“The highest property prices these days are for homes away from rivers and coasts at risk of flooding, and that are equipped with latest features, like shading and natural ventilation, to prevent overheating in the summer.

 

“This picture of an energy efficient future may sound like a fantasy, but it’s all possible with today’s technology if only we invested in the technology now.”

 

 

THE COOLER HEADS COALITION

 

Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Americans for Tax Reform

American Legislative Exchange Council

American Policy Center

Association of Concerned Taxpayers

Center for Security Policy

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Fraser Institute, Canada

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy

JunkScience.com

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus Association

Small Business Survival Committee