Cooler Heads

Cooler Heads

December 07, 2004

 Politics

COP-10 Opens in Buenos Aires with Attacks on US Intransigence

As the tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change began in  Buenos Aires on December 6, various interest groups lined up to criticize America’s stance on global warming.

The meeting began with a dispute over item 8 of the agenda, which focused, among other things, on disaster reduction.  The U.S. objected to the item’s relevance to Kyoto and a heated debate ensued.  The item is believed to have been placed on the agenda at the behest of NGOs wishing to test whether America can be sued over damages arising from climate-linked disasters.

With countries lining up to attack the U.S., American representatives defended their position.  White House science adviser John Marburger told the Washington Post (Dec. 5), “The U.S. position is maybe the only rational position, to identify and promulgate application of new technologies.  To do anything meaningful requires a dramatic cessation or reduction of economic activity.  It's simply not practical at the present time.”

Dr. Harlan Watson, who had been described as “irresponsible to the point of being criminal” in a Der Spiegel article (Dec. 6), delivered a major address to the conference in his capacity as the State Department’s senior climate negotiator and special representative and alternate head of the

U.S. delegation.  In it, he said, “The United States has chosen a different path [to the Kyoto Protocol], and I want to make it clear that we are taking substantial actions to address climate change.  The United States remains committed to the Framework Convention, and we are doing much to contribute to its objective.”  He went on to outline the three-pronged U.S. approach to climate change, which includes “slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing U.S. greenhouse gas intensity (emissions per dollar of output); laying groundwork for current and future action through major investments in science, technology, and institutions; and cooperating internationally with other nations to develop an efficient and effective global response.”

Watson also drew attention to America’s international efforts to foster partnership aimed at addressing climate change without suppressing energy use.  “Bilaterally, we have partnerships with 14 countries and regional organizations, and are working with them on over 200 projects in the areas of climate change research and science, climate observation systems, clean and advanced energy technologies, and policy approaches to reducing GHG emissions,” he said.  “We also continue to assist many developing country efforts to build the scientific and technological capacity needed to address climate change.”

Argentina's environment minister Ginés Gonzalez Garcia opened the conference in Buenos Aires According to the BBC (Dec. 7), “His country had already experienced major changes. High rainfall, violent storms and increased levels of disease were all blamed on climate change, he said.”  Senor Garcia went on to suggest that developing nations should be given “material assistance” (i.e. foreign aid) to lessen the impacts of climate change already occurring.

The G77 group of developing countries, together with China, issued a statement Monday, which declared that they do not want to discuss new commitments under Kyoto, because of the special and differentiated responsibilities of rich and poor countries.  The stated justification for the unwillingness to take on new commitments is that wealthy countries have not yet fulfilled their FCCC obligations, rather than their own poverty.

Blair Admits Britain will Fall Short of its Ambitious Target  

British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech on December 7 admitted that the United Kingdom will miss its ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2010.  He did predict that the UK is on target for reductions of 14 percent, which would slightly surpass its Kyoto commitment under the EU bubble.  The current emissions level is 7 percent below 1990, identical to the level when Blair’s government took office in 1997.

The announcement came only days after Blair appeared to admit publicly that the Kyoto Protocol would have little effect (PA News, Nov. 30) and that a “different way forward” was needed.  Speaking at his monthly press conference, the prime minister said that without U.S. participation there was little hope of securing the action needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.  “I think everybody accepts that the American position is not going to change on Kyoto,” he said.  “The important thing is to get a dialogue with America on how we recognize both the scale of the problem on greenhouse gas emissions and a process that enables us to confront and deal with it.”

He went on, “One thing is for sure: however much we want to criticize America, without America’s participation there’s not much of a prospect of getting the action we require.  On the other hand, I don’t think anyone is believing (sic) America is going to come into this themselves.  What I am trying to do is find a different way forward therefore in order to handle this issue.”

In other UK government news, the department with responsibility for climate change, the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has issued a new Five Year Strategy on Energy which includes, “Developing a new approach to Climate Change Communications—to communicate the urgency of climate change and the part which we all can play in tackling it. Defra expects to contribute substantial new resources over the period 2005-08 to raise awareness and change public attitudes towards climate change.”

Environmentalists Squabble Over Global Warming Strategy

Two prominent members of the green lobby, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, have written a gloomy tract entitled, “The Death of Environmentalism,” which argues that the lack of progress on global warming (from their perspective) indicates systemic problems with the way the environmental movement organizes itself.  Sierra Club president Carl Pope has written a detailed reply to their points.  (Both sides of the ongoing debate can be accessed at  http://www.thebreakthrough.or/blog.php).

Shellenberger and Nordhaus recommend that environmentalism as they define it must ally much more closely with other liberal causes.  They conclude, “Environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be.

“Above all else, we need to take a hard look at the institutions the movement has built over the last 30 years.  Are existing environmental institutions up to the task of imagining the post-global warming world?  Or do we now need a set of new institutions founded around a more expansive vision and set of values?

“If, for example, environmentalists don’t consider the high cost of health care, R&D tax credits, and the overall competitiveness of the American auto industry to be “environmental issues,” then who will think creatively about a proposal that works for industry, workers, communities and the environment?  If framing proposals around narrow technical solutions is an ingrained habit of the environmental movement, then who will craft proposals framed around vision and values?

“One thing is certain: if we hope to achieve our objectives around global warming and a myriad of intimately related problems then we need to take an urgent step backwards before we can take two steps forward.”

Pope agrees with Shellenberger and Nordhaus that, “A) We are making inadequate progress on global warming; b) We have inadequately mobilized public concerns and values to create political pressure. As a result, decision makers have not been forced to confront the need for fundamental changes in the way our society uses carbon (and other greenhouse gases); c) This inadequacy is related to a common set of failings and weaknesses which afflict progressive social movements in general, by contrast with the reinvigorated and more strategically integrated efforts of the hard right.” 

He disputes, however, that there is anything wrong with the current structure of the environmental movement.  He concludes, “Global warming is a more abstract, distant problem; the economic transformation required is bigger; it needs deeper, more robust, more sustained collaborations; it needs to be harnessed to a broader vision of a new economic order.  There is more than enough hard work to go around.  We ought not to get distracted by conversations about ‘the death of environmentalism’; we should avoid allowing ourselves to be divided by glib generalizations about generational divides; we should above all be creative, not destructive.”

Economics

Auto Makers Sue California over CO2 Regulations

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers filed suit in federal court on December 7 to overturn the State of California’s new greenhouse gas emissions requirements for vehicles.  The alliance, which represents General Motors, Ford Motor, Daimler Chrysler, BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen, argues that the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) regulations violate federal law because they create new fuel efficiency standards and only the federal government has the authority to do that.

The lawsuit echoes concerns raised by CEI’s Marlo Lewis, who wrote in his September 21 submission to CARB, “Proponents of AB 1493 deny that California’s adoption of greenhouse gas emission standards for cars would establish de facto fuel economy standards.  However, CARB’s proposals regarding “Engine, Drivetrain, and Other Vehicle Modification,” on pages 49-61 of its report, are identical in substance, and very nearly in detail, to a set of fuel economy proposals offered by the National Research Council (NRC) in its 2002 report, Effectiveness and Impact of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards.  Like the NRC, CARB touts camless valve actuation and other modifications in engine valve trains, variable compression ratios, gasoline direct injection, continuously variable transmission, 42-volt electrical systems, hybridization, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance reduction, and vehicle weight reduction, among other design and engineering changes….

“The text of AB 1493 clearly implies that CARB is to regulate fuel economy. AB 1493 requires CARB to achieve ‘maximum feasible’ greenhouse gas emission reductions that are also ‘cost-effective,’ defined as ‘Economical to an owner or operator of a vehicle, taking into account the full life-cycle costs of a vehicle.’  CARB rightly interprets this directive to mean that the reduction in ‘operating expenses’ over the average life of a vehicle (assumed to be 16 years) must exceed the ‘expected increases in vehicle cost [purchase price] resulting from the technology improvements needed to meet the standards in the proposed regulation.’  But the vast majority of ‘operating expenses’ to be reduced are expenditures for fuel.  In the context of AB 1493, reduced ‘operating expenses’ chiefly means increased fuel economy.”

Demonstrating once again that appeasement wins no friends, environmental groups reacted angrily to Ford and Toyota’s involvement.  Jim Marston of Environmental Defense told the New York Times (Dec. 8), “It’s especially disappointing to see Ford and Toyota filing suit, since they've been positioning themselves as environmentally sensitive manufacturers.”

Big Foundations Support Energy Suppression Plan 

The self-styled “National Commission on Energy Policy” released a report December 8 that calls for greenhouse gas suppression measures in the guise of a national energy policy.  As well as calling for tougher CAFÉ standards and a taxpayer-subsidized natural gas pipeline from Alaska, the panel recommended a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.  Any company that exceeded its limits would be able to buy emission credits from another operation.  But if a facility could not find enough credits to buy, it would have to ratchet back those emissions or pay the federal government $7 for every metric ton of CO2 equivalent over its limit (Houston Chronicle, Dec. 8).

Reacting to the proposals, CEI’s Myron Ebell termed the panel, “A lobby for special interests and big government masquerading as an official-sounding panel of unbiased experts.  The commission was designed to promote taxpayer-subsidized industries and environmental extremist causes at the expense of consumers.”

The commission is funded by several major left-wing foundations known for promoting the interests of the wealthy elite: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Energy Foundation.

“Rather than proposing policies that would help provide affordable energy, this group will try to sell a permanent energy diet to the American people in the name of doing something about global warming,” said Ebell.  “For those who believe only rich people should be able to enjoy the benefits of abundant energy, this is the group for them.”

Bank’s Appeasement Fails to Satisfy Greenpeace

U.K.-based bank HSBC has pledged to implement a carbon-neutral plan by 2006 to reduce the company's environmental impact. Bank officials said HSBC hopes to balance its carbon dioxide emissions by planting trees, increasing energy efficiency and trading carbon credits (Financial Times, Dec. 6).

“In 2003, HSBC's CO2 emissions from using electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and business travel were more than 550,000 [metric] tons,” CEO Stephen Green told the newspaper.  “We need to act now to reduce our emissions.”

The company said its emissions total would increase to 700,000 tons next year as the result of acquisitions, or about 2 to 3 tons for each employee. The cost of becoming carbon neutral is expected to cost the bank $7 million in 2005.

Nevertheless, the bank’s attempt at appeasing the environmental movement failed to impress Greenpeace.  Greenpeace UK’s Chief Scientist revealed he is no stereotypical tree-hugger when he told the BBC (Dec. 6), “Planting trees is of questionable benefit: what if there is a forest fire?”

Science

Wine Harvest Data Show Several Warm Periods in Earlier Centuries

A study of wine harvest dates in France from the 1300s to the present day provides more evidence that recent decades are not unprecedented in their warmth.  The study, published in the November 18 issue of Nature magazine, looked at harvest dates of Pinot Noir grapes in Burgundy.  The date the grapes ripen is closely related to summer temperatures.

The researchers had expected to find that the 1990s were unprecedented, but found that the region had been about as warm as the 1990s in the 1380s, 1420s, and 1520s, and then through the 1630s to the 1680s, before it cooled off again.

The research is especially significant as the record forms the longest continuous measure of temperatures in which dates are actually written down.

The researchers nevertheless argued that the 20th century remained unprecedented because the warming trend was longer than any other.  In addition, the researchers found that the localized French heat wave of 2003 was completely unprecedented.

2003 Heat wave Caused by Man, Model Alleges

A study published in the December 2 Nature (Stott, P.A., Stone, D.A., Allen, M.R., “Human contribution to the European heat wave of 2003”) alleges that the freak European heat wave of 2003 was most likely caused by anthropogenic global warming.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers of course relied on a climate model, which attempted to differentiate between projected temperatures with and without man-made forcings.  The model went on to predict that such heat waves will become common by mid-century.

As the Greening Earth Society’s World Climate Alert was able to reveal, however (http://www.co2andclimate.org/wca/2004/wca_28b.html), this model is based on data that seriously overestimate anthropogenic forcings:

“And how might Stott [the lead researcher] know this? A climate model tells him so, of course — a climate model that factors in a 0.83 percent per year increase in the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration.  This is an intriguing assumption in light of the fact the actual increase was 0.39 percent in the 1970s, 0.45 percent in the 1980’s, and 0.42 percent during the 1990s.  The last three decades, in other words, average something like half what the climate model (and Stott) assumes.

“Climate models largely are linear with respect to the warming they project related to increasing carbon dioxide.  As a consequence, the model that is the basis for this particular Nature article over-predicts warming during the next several decades by the same 50 percent! It can’t help but to do so.”

World Climate Alert’s Patrick Michaels was able to confront one of the modelers with this error.  He relates, “Senior editor Patrick J. Michaels confronted Myles Allen (listed as third author of the new Nature article) with this climatologic reality when they appeared together live on BBC-TV.  Allen’s defense?  They use the wrong number because, he says, that’s the number the UN uses and it is a respected scenario.  Later, under the glare of the studio lights, Allen admitted that if one were to ‘tune’ their model with a realistic CO2 rise instead of their looney 0.83 percent scenario, the result would be exactly the amount of warming Michaels has projected for years — a mere three-quarters of a degree rise per half-century.   So which do you trust, reality or a made-up scenario?”

Fu Claims Study Validated, Spencer and Christy Disagree

A study released earlier this year by Fu et al. claimed to have re-assessed the atmospheric satellite temperature record to demonstrate that it agreed with greenhouse theory and global warming alarmism.  The satellite record’s custodians, John Christy and Roy Spencer, pointed out in response that the method used by Fu’s team had been discarded a decade ago for introducing too much error.

Fu et al. have now written a second study, to be published December 15 in the Journal of Climate, where they claim that direct temperature data from other scientists at NOAA and the UK’s Hadley Center validate their model.  Their press release claimed to find a tropospheric warming trend of 0.2° C. per decade.

Nevertheless, Spencer wrote in Tech Central Station (Dec. 3), “For the period they examined (1979-2001), our (UAH) lower tropospheric temperature trend is +0.06 deg. C/decade, while their estimate of the (whole) tropospheric trend is +0.09 deg C/decade.  You might notice that the difference between these two trends is small, considering the probable error bounds on these estimates and the fact that the two techniques measure somewhat different layers.  Also, their method depends on belief in the radiosonde-measured trends in the lower stratosphere, even though we know there are larger errors at those altitudes than in the troposphere—and most published radiosonde trends for the troposphere show little or no global warming (!).  As is often the case, the press release that described the new study made claims that were, in my view, exaggerated. Nevertheless, given the importance of the global warming issue, this line of research is probably worthwhile as it provides an alternative way of interpreting the satellite data.”

Spencer also points to another study published in Nature that finds fault with Fu’s methodology: “The other study, published by Simon Tett and Peter Thorne at the UK's Hadley Centre, takes issue with the original Fu et al. method. Tett and Thorne claim that when the technique is applied to a variety of radiosonde, reanalysis, and global model simulation datasets in the tropics, it leads to results which are more variable than the UAH technique produces. It also mentions the dependence of the method on the characteristics of the radiosonde data that are assumed.”

Etc.

Consensus Con

In a widely-publicized piece in the December 3 issue of the inaptly-titled journal Science, historian Naomi Oreskes attempted to demonstrate that there is not a single scientist who disagrees with the alarmist consensus on climate change.

Oreskes argues that in her study of 998 abstracts of scientific journal articles on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 relating to climate change, 75 percent indicated agreement with the consensus and 25 percent did not mention it.  Therefore, there is a Soviet-level 100 percent support for the alarmist position within the scientific community.

Curiously, the database that she used shows ten times as many articles on climate change as she inventories.  Her article gives no clue of this.  Other shortcomings of her methodology are too obvious to go into here, but we thought readers might also be interested in her economic and political thesis: “Our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it.”

Announcements

Cooler Heads Coalition Welcomes Two New Members

The Cooler Heads Coalition is pleased to announce the addition of two new member organizations: the Liberty Institute in New Delhi, India and the Lavoisier Group in Melbourne, Australia.  Both are active in their own countries and internationally in the global warming debate.  The Liberty Institute’s web site may be found at: http://www.libertyindia.org/.  And the Lavoisier Group’s web site may be found at: http://www.lavoisier.com.au/.  

For Your Letter to Santa

Those stuck for what to buy friends and loved ones this Christmas might consider Michael Crichton’s new novel, State of Fear, published in the U. S. and Britain by Harper Collins on December 7.

The book revolves around the uncovering of a global conspiracy.  We won’t spoil your enjoyment by giving further details, but suffice it to say that global warming alarmism plays a major part and the villains are not corporate executives.

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

Lavoisier Group, Australia

Liberty Institute, India

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus Association

Small Business Survival Committee