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Cooler Heads

Politics 

 Kyoto Goes into Force

On February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol came into force internationally.  Thirty-four nations are now committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012.  Reductions may be made by a variety of methods, including buying surplus credits from former Soviet-bloc countries, trading credits for reductions already achieved, providing clean fuel technology to developing countries, and also by actually reducing emissions. 

Although legally binding in some sense, the Kyoto Protocol contains no enforcement provisions for those nations that fail to fulfill their commitments.

There appears to have been little in the way of spontaneous public celebration of the protocol’s coming into force.  In a series of demonstrations around the United Kingdom on February 12 organized by the Campaign Against Climate Change, around 350 campaigners braved the rain in London to complain about the lack of American involvement in the protocol.  A protest in Edinburgh attracted 25 people.  “We want to express just how aghast we are that the U. S. is not joining the rest of the world,” said Phil Thornhill, the Campaign’s chairman, “And we want to create a groundswell of global opinion against them and any country that doesn’t play its part.”

 

Thornhill also admitted that the protocol will do nothing to reduce global temperatures.  He said, “The coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol is something to be celebrated not so much because it will bring down emissions to any significant degree—it won’t—but because it demonstrates the will of the great majority of the world community to address the problem of global climate change….  Now the pariah status of Bush’s U. S.—as the nation whose obduracy threatens the entire global community with catastrophe on a scale never seen before—is plain for all to see.”

 

Also in London, a team of Greenpeace agitators attempted to celebrate the day by disrupting after-lunch trading at the International Petroleum Exchange.  Trading at the Exchange still follows the old-fashioned “pit” system where traders, often from the local working class, make money by shouting trades across the floor.  Greenpeace hoped to disrupt this trading by setting off alarms and otherwise drowning out the trades.

 

After obtaining entry by jamming a door open, the activists did succeed in disrupting trading, but were surprised at the vigor of the traders’ reaction to this disruption of their livelihood. The activists’ class snobbery was palpable.  The Times of London (Feb. 17) takes up the story:

 

“What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.  ‘We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,’ one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. ‘I've never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.’  Another said: ‘I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso [ExxonMobil] last year and they were angels compared with this lot.’ Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: ‘Sod off, Swampy.’” [Swampy was the nom-de-guerre of an environmental activist in the early 1990s who would thwart road-building projects by tunneling under the planned route with his bare hands.]

 

“Protesters conceded that mounting the operation after lunch may not have been the best plan.  ‘The violence was instant,’ Jon Beresford, 39, an electrical engineer from Nottingham, said.  ‘They grabbed us and started kicking and punching.  Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.’”

 

Officials of the Exchange are considering whether to press charges against the Greenpeace activists.

 

Senators Hagel, McCain, Lieberman Propose Global Warming Bills  

 

On February 10, Senators John McCain (R.-Az) and Joseph Lieberman (D.-Conn.) announced that they would be re-introducing their Climate Stewardship Act in the Senate this year.  The bill was defeated in the last Congress (SA. 2028) by a vote of 55-43 and only got to the floor of the Senate as part of a compromise aimed at passing the omnibus energy bill.  The Energy Information Administration calculated that SA. 2028 would cost the nation $776 billion, and it is clear that the bill, being less restrictive than Kyoto, would have even less effect on global warming than that treaty.

 

The day before, Senator Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.), sponsor of the 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution against the Kyoto Protocol that passed 95-0, announced he would be introducing three global warming-related bills, the Climate Change Technology Deployment in Developing Countries Act, the Climate Change Technology Deployment Act, and the Climate Change Technology Tax Incentives Act.  These bills were introduced on February 15 as S. 386, 387, and 388.

 

In a speech to the Brookings Institution, Hagel characterized each of his proposed bills:

 

“The Climate Change Technology Deployment in Developing Countries Act provides the Secretary of State with new authority for coordinating assistance to developing countries for projects and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity.  It supports the development of a U. S. global climate strategy to expand the role of the private sector, develop public-private partnerships, and encourage the deployment of greenhouse gas reducing technologies in developing countries.

 

“This bill directs the Secretary of State to engage global climate change as a foreign policy issue.  It directs the U. S. Trade Representative to negotiate the removal of trade-related barriers to the export of greenhouse gas intensity reducing technologies, and establishes an inter-agency working group to promote the export of greenhouse gas intensity reducing technologies and practices from the United States.  The legislation authorizes fellowship and exchange programs for foreign officials to visit the United States and acquire the expertise and knowledge to reduce greenhouse gas intensity in their countries…. 

 

“The second bill, the Climate Change Technology Deployment Act, supports establishing domestic public-private partnerships for demonstration projects that employ greenhouse gas intensity reduction technologies.  My plan provides credit-based financial assistance and investment protection for American businesses and projects that deploy advanced climate technologies or systems.  Federal financial assistance includes direct loans, loan guarantees, standby interest coverage, and power production incentive payments…. 

 

“This bill directs the Secretary of Energy to lead an inter-agency process to develop and implement a national climate strategy provided by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. It establishes a Climate Coordinating Committee and Climate Credit Board to assess, approve, and fund these projects….

“The third bill, the Climate Change Technology Tax Incentives Act, amends the tax code to provide incentives for investment in climate change technology.  It makes permanent the current research and development tax credit, which otherwise expires on Dec. 31, 2005.”

 

S. 388 in Section 1612 also creates transferable credits for early actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a Department of Energy registry to validate and track them.

 

EU Commission Drops Targets from Post-2012 Strategy

 

The European Union Commission announced its strategy for negotiations on the post-2012 phase of the Kyoto Protocol on February 9.  It immediately came under fire from environmental groups for failing to include any new targets for future greenhouse gas emission reductions.

 

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Fighting climate change is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity.  We will continue to lead by example, but we will also continue to pressure hard for all of our international partners to come on board.  I am convinced that it is still possible to keep to our commitment of limiting temperature increases to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius.  What is more, our projections indicate that the costs associated with the post-2012 strategy as outlined today are manageable for our economies.”

 

The Commission's report recommends that the EU's post-2012 strategy include the following elements:

 

“Broader international participation in reducing emissions.  The EU should continue to lead multilateral efforts to address climate change, but identify incentives for other major emitting countries, including developing countries, to come on board.  During 2005, it should explore options for a future regime based on common but differentiated responsibilities.

 

“Inclusion of more sectors, notably aviation, maritime transport, and forestry since deforestation in some regions significantly contributes to rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

 

“A push for innovation in the EU to ensure the development and uptake of new climate-friendly technologies and the right decisions on long-term investments into the energy, transport, and building infrastructure.  The continued use of flexible market-based instruments for reducing emissions in the EU and globally, such as the EU emissions trading scheme.  Adaptation policies in the EU and globally, which require more efforts to identify vulnerabilities and to implement measures to increase resilience.”

 

Blair Government’s Actions Continue to Clash with Rhetoric

 

As has been the case for the past few months, the actions of the British government on global warming continue to be at odds with its rhetoric, particularly that of Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King.  Prime Minister Tony Blair told a panel of MPs on February 7 that he would not countenance a climate-related tax on aircraft fuel, asking them, “How many politicians will vote to end cheap air travel with an election coming up?” (Guardian, Feb. 8)

 

Moreover, his government blocked an attempt by a backbench MP to introduce legislation aimed at encouraging “public facilities like hospitals and schools and private developments to utilize renewable energy heating systems fuelled by renewable sources including biomass, solar power, and ground heat.  It would have allowed energy suppliers to either invest in their own supplies of renewable heat energy or buy in ‘credits’ from companies that specialize in the technology” (The Journal, Feb. 8).

 

The measure had been backed by 200 MPs from all parties and by pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).  The NFU president perhaps betrayed the reason for his union’s support when he told the Journal, “No one is more aware than farmers of the very real effects of climate change, and British agriculture is eager to help tackle this problem through supplying carbon neutral biofuels for transport, and biomass for heat and electricity.”

 

The Blair government also reacted angrily when the European Commission informed it that it would forbid an increase in the allocations the UK Government had proposed to give to industry for the start of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  The row caused the delay of UK trading, which had been expected to begin with the allocation announcement on February 7 (Daily Telegraph, Feb. 8).  Mr. Blair told the panel of MPs that, “The reason our figure has changed from the estimate is because the facts have changed.”

 

Economics

 

British Energy Prices to Rise 5 Percent

 

A UK government watchdog has reported that the government’s plans to require a certain amount of electricity to come from renewable energy sources will increase consumer energy prices by 5 percent.  The government, however, will gain revenue as a result of the obligation.

 

According to the Times (Feb. 11), “The generation of 10 per cent of the country’s energy from renewable sources, a central part of the Prime Minister’s plan to put Britain at the forefront of international efforts to tackle climate change, are set to cost the consumer more than £1 billion a year by 2010.

 

“The National Audit Office’s report on renewable energy said that the Government was on course to achieve a significant increase in renewable power but that challenges remained if the 10 per cent target was to be reached by 2010. Progress had been slow, with only 2.4 per cent of energy coming from renewable sources in the past financial year, against a hoped 4.3 per cent.

 

“Development of renewable energy is being encouraged by the Renewables Obligation, which buys renewable power for £70 per megawatt hour, compared with a market price closer to £25 per megawatt hour.  Public support for the renewables industry is expected to average £700 million a year between 2003 and 2006. Two thirds of this will come from the Renewables Obligation, with costs passed on to consumers through higher bills.  As consumers face higher bills, the Treasury will gain between £500 million and £1 billion from the complicated subsidy system established to encourage windfarms and other sources of renewable energy.”

 

Sir David Calls for Restrictions on India and China

 

Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the British government, has suggested that China and India should no longer be exempt from emissions reduction targets.  Speaking to a gathering of Indian scientists in Bangalore (Times, Feb. 7), he added, “In the next phase, we need to discuss with China, discuss with India how to (make them) come aboard the process….  It would be fair to say the Chinese government is very much aware of this problem and the Indian government is keen to listen to what we have to say.”

 

This characterization is somewhat at odds with the actions of Chinese and Indian representatives at the COP-10 meeting in Buenos Aires, where they strongly resisted calls for mandatory emissions targets.  Sir David’s grasp of geopolitics is illustrated by his further statement expressing optimism that the United States would become a full party to the Kyoto Protocol, “If you talk to people in the United States, you will find they are keen to get involved.”

 

A Taxing Solution

 

A UK-based economist has provided a novel solution to the problem that feasible global warming mitigation measures cost a fortune now while providing no benefit for many years: tax the unborn.  Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick suggests “Global Warming Bonds” which would reward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  The bonds would be financed by future taxes.

 

Oswald commented, “What is required is an innovative way to allow unborn babies to vote with their wallets….  In return for a cooler globe, our offsprings’ offspring would pay more tax to the governments of their era….  Future generations pass us down their money; in return we pass them up our low temperature. All generations gain.  And this would be fair, because those future generations will be richer than we are, and they want us to alter our actions to help them.”

 

Oswald’s reasoning, presumably assisted by a crystal ball, is that “unborn voters of the next century would have different priorities….  We like old sports cars and oil-fired central heating….  They want us to have small new cars and use solar panels.  Global Warming Bonds would provide people with a reason to change how they act.” (Betterhumans.org, Feb. 9)

 

Science

 

UK Conference Highlights Alarmism

 

As part of his commitment to dedicate his chairmanship of this year’s G-8 summit to climate change issues, Tony Blair’s government hosted a scientific conference in early February that was charged with answering policy-related questions such as, “What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?”

 

The conference quickly dumped any attempt to answer such questions.  John Schellnhuber, from the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climatic Research and chairman of the opening session, warned that setting precise global danger levels may be “mission impossible” (New Scientist, Feb. 1).  Stanford’s Stephen Schneider, famed for his alarmism over global cooling in the 1970s, returned to the topic of ice to demonstrate the problem.  As New Scientist summarized, “The loss of ice will affect Eskimos' way of life.  ‘Is that dangerous from their perspective? It probably is’ [said Schneider]. But ships will enjoy faster passage through an ice-free Arctic.  So what should be prioritized?  ‘That's exactly the kind of conflict you will have,’ he said.”

 

The conference descended into a succession of alarmist presentations, concentrating on worst-case scenarios.  New Scientist again summarizes: “Chris Rapley from the British Antarctic Survey revealed that ice sheets in Antarctica—which in total contain enough water to raise sea levels by nearly 60 metres - are undergoing dramatic change.  The new view of Antarctica is of a ‘giant awakening’ he said.  Carol Turley from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK said the oceans are becoming more acidic because they are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Others presented new assessments of the thermohaline circulation, which drives the gulf stream that warms Europe.  It may be more likely to collapse than we realized, warned Mike Schlesinger, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champana.”

 

Skeptical voices were not unheard at the conference, although Andrei Illarionov, chief economic adviser to President Putin of Russia, complained of censorship.  “This is not science.  It's propaganda,” Illarionov told Reuters (Feb. 8).  “And the aggression shown towards those who do not share these views shows they totally lack any foundation.”

 

U. S. Department of the Interior Policy Analyst Indur Goklany did manage to give a poster presentation on the expected effects on human health of global warming, which pointed out that the effects were severe because of the underlying problems, not because of temperature change.  Those underlying problems could be solved for a fraction of the cost of policies such as Kyoto, an approach which would save far more lives.  His paper was received politely, but received virtually no publicity.

 

New Study Shows Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age

 

A new paleoclimatological study, “Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution data,” published as a letter in the February 10 issue of Nature, finds that there has been significant natural variability in the climate over the past 2,000 years.  The authors are Anders Moberg, Karin Holmgren, and Wibjorn Karlen of Stockholm University and Dmitry M. Sonechkin and Nina M. Datsenko of the Hydrometeorological Research Center of Russia.

 

The press release for the study, put out by the Swedish Research Council, says, “A new study of climate in the Northern Hemisphere for the past 2000 years shows that natural climate change may be larger than generally thought. 

 

“The most widespread picture of climate variability in the last millennium [the “hockey stick”] suggests that only small changes occurred before the year 1900, and then a pronounced warming set in.  The new results rather show an appreciable temperature swing between the 12th and 20th centuries, with a notable cold period around AD 1600.  A large part of the 20th century had approximately the same temperature as the 11th and 12th centuries.  Only the last 15 years appear to be warmer than any previous period of similar length….”

 

The press release also points to another reconstruction (the study by Von Storch et al.) that finds similar results and says, “The fact that these two climate evolutions, which have been obtained completely independently of each other, are very similar supports the case that climate shows an appreciable natural variability—and that changes in the sun's output and volcanic eruptions on the earth may be the cause.

 

“This means that it is difficult to distinguish the human influence on climate from natural variability, even though the past 15 warm years are best explained if one includes human influence in the simulations. The new study underscores the importance of including natural climate variability in future scenarios. It is not only the humans that can cause appreciable climate changes—nature does it all the time by itself.”

 

Polar Bear Population Increasing

 

Contrary to the claims of environmental organizations and their ideological friends in the scientific community, it appears that polar bear numbers are increasing in Canada.

 

As the Press Association reported (Feb. 7), “According to new research, the numbers of the giant predator have grown by between 15 and 25 per cent over the last decade.  Some authorities on Arctic wildlife even claim that hunting, and not global warming, has been the real cause of the decrease in polar bear numbers in areas where the species is in decline.  

“A leading Canadian authority on polar bears, Mitch Taylor, said: ‘We're seeing an increase in bears that's really unprecedented, and in places where we're seeing a decrease in the population it's from hunting, not from climate change.’  Mr. Taylor estimates that during the past decade, the Canadian polar bear population has increased by 25 per cent - from 12,000 to 15,000 bears.

“He even suggests that global warming could actually be good for the bears, and warns that the ever-increasing proximity of the animals to local communities could mean that a cull will be required sooner rather that later if bear numbers are to be kept under control.”

 

Etc.

 

Chavez Uses Global Warming as a Paper Tiger

 

Venezuelan demagogue Hugo Chavez has added global warming to his litany of reasons why the United States rather than his own policies cause Venezuela’s woes.  According to South African channel News24 (Feb. 11), “President Hugo Chavez called on Thursday for calm and blamed global warming for a fourth day of torrential rains that have left 14 people dead in Venezuela.  The rain is caused by “world problems, global warming, which the powerful nations do not want to discuss,” Chavez told state-owned VTV television, alluding to United States rejection of the Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

 

Announcement

 

Blog Wars

 

In answer to the realclimate.org web log set up for Michael Mann and colleagues by Environmental Media Services, Steve McIntyre of McIntyre and McKitrick fame has set up a web log at http://www.climateaudit.org that sets out his case against the hockey stick in great detail.  No major PR firms were involved in its creation.

 

 

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Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

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