Cooler Heads, Vol VIII, No 20
“Forced” Russian Decision Puts Kyoto Protocol on Verge of Ratification
Acting contrary to the advice of the country’s top scientific and economic advisers, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cabinet agreed in principle on September 29 to send the Kyoto Protocol to Russia’s parliament, the Duma, for consideration.
The decision was not accompanied by either a statement from the President in support of the protocol or any other explanation of why the decision has been taken. Economy Minister German Gref, a supporter of the protocol, commented that implementing the protocol would involve “hard work” for the country and that it could be detrimental if the wrong method of implementation were chosen (Moscow Times, Sept. 27).
Chief Economic Adviser Andrei Illarionov said that the move was political in nature, “It’s a political decision. It’s a forced decision, and it’s not a decision we are making with pleasure.” At a press conference in Washington, D. C. on October 1, he called the Kyoto Protocol “an assault on economic growth, the environment, public safety, science, and human civilization itself,” but said that he was not able to comment on the political nature of the decision.
Several commentators suggested that the move was a quid pro quo to the European Union in exchange for Russian entry to the World Trade Organization and visa-free travel for Russian citizens across the European Union (Independent, Oct. 1). It has also been speculated that the decision to ratify is part of Putin’s “charm offensive” to lessen European criticism of his Chechen policies.
Although Russian ratification is now likely, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, believed to be an ally of Illarionov on the issue, explained that he expected “heated debate” on the issue in the Duma. Outlining the considerations he thought the Duma would take into account, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee, told Interfax news agency, “The economic factor would have a decisive role, environmental considerations would come second, and political expediency would matter less” (Sept. 30).
Moreover, the second chamber of parliament, the Russian Federation Council, seems hostile to the proposal. The head of the economic policy committee of the Council, Oganes Oganian, told Interfax (Oct. 1), “There are a lot of representatives of various business organizations, including aluminum, oil and energy ones, among the senators. These people are opposed to ratifying the document because these organizations will have to fork out for the environment.”
Kosachev initially suggested that the ratification debate would not take place until December, but there are indications that a vote is planned this month. Sergei Vasilyev, head of the National Carbon Union, however, told Greenwire (Oct. 1) that, “The Duma could slow down the process in order to win concessions from other participant countries.” He went on, “It would mean that until the Europeans give valid and reliable guarantees to Russia, they will not have their Kyoto Protocol.”
The Bush Administration’s reaction to the decision was relaxed. Harlan Watson, the administration’s chief climate change negotiator, told The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 1), “It was up to Russia to decide what it was going to do. From our point of view, it really didn't make any difference whether Kyoto entered into force or not.”
If the Duma approves ratification, the Kyoto Protocol will come into effect ninety days after official notification of Russian ratification is received by the UNFCCC secretariat. This will be too late for the tenth Conference of the Parties, scheduled for mid-December in Buenos Aires, to become an official Meeting of the Parties.
Attempt to Exempt NOAA from Data Quality Act Abandoned
On September 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted out an appropriations bill that included a provision to exempt the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from following the requirements of the Federal Data Quality Act (FDQA). After the provision came to light and attracted intense criticism, Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the subcommittee chairman in charge of the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments (S. 2809), on September 23 announced that he would remove it from the bill (Greenwire, Sept. 24).
The FDQA is meant to prohibit federal agencies from using or disseminating information that does not meet minimal standards of objectivity, quality, and utility. NOAA is one of the principal scientific agencies in the federal government and is in charge of most climate research.
The clause was reportedly inserted by Senator Fritz Hollings (D-S. C.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. It reads, “Provided further, That section 515 of Public Law 106-554 and any regulations and guidelines promulgated under such authority shall not apply on or after the date of enactment to research and data collection, or information analysis conducted by or for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
Distinguished Signatories Take On British Political Consensus
In a letter to the Times of London dated September 22, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson (now Lord Lawson of Blaby) and other notables attacked the political consensus in the United Kingdom that action is needed now on global warming (see previous issue).
The letter said, “Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made major speeches last week on climate change and the policies that are supposedly required to deal with it (reports, September 14 and 15). It appears that, in this area, Tony Blair and Michael Howard are of one mind. They hold the same alarmist view of the world, and call for much the same radical – and costly – programme of action.
“Both leaders assert that prospective climate change, arising from human activity, clearly poses a grave and imminent threat to the world. Such statements give too much credence to some current sombre assessments and dark scenarios, and pay no heed to the great uncertainties, which still prevail in relation to the causes and consequences of climate change. There are no solid grounds for assuming, as Messrs Blair and Howard do, that global warming demands immediate and far-reaching action.
“The actions that they call for chiefly comprise a range of higher targeted subsidies, and of stricter controls and regulations, to limit CO2 emissions. These measures would raise costs for enterprises and households, both directly as consumers and as taxpayers. They would make all of us significantly and increasingly worse off. There are no worthwhile gains to set against these costs. It is absurd to argue, as the Prime Minister did in his speech (and Howard took a similar line), that such policies can “unleash a new and benign commercial force”. The new opportunities created for high-cost ventures come as the direct result of suppressing opportunities for their lower-cost rivals: this is already happening in power generation.
“It is not only the Prime Minister and Mr. Howard who are advancing questionable economic arguments. We consider that the treatment of economic issues by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not up to the mark. It is time for finance and economics ministries everywhere, including HM Treasury, to wake up to this situation and take action.”
The letter was also signed by Wilfred Beckerman (Emeritus Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford), Ian Byatt (Director-General of Water Services, 1989-2000), David Henderson (Visiting Professor, Westminster Business School), Julian Morris (Executive Director, International Policy Network), Alan Peacock (David Hume Institute, Edinburgh), and Professor Colin Robinson (Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Surrey).
CARB’s Assumptions Questioned
After two days of hearings, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on September 24 unanimously approved its plan to require automakers to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new cars and trucks sold in the State starting in 2009. The regulations, which implement Assembly Bill 1493, signed into law by then-Gov. Gray Davis in July 2002, require automakers to reduce GHG emissions by 22 percent in 2012 and 30 percent in 2016.
The regulation sets “fleet average” standards measured in grams per mile of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent emissions. For passenger cars and light trucks, each automaker must ensure that the average emissions of the vehicles it sells in California do not exceed 323 grams per mile in 2009, 233 grams per mile in 2012, and 205 grams per mile in 2016.
AB 1493 requires CARB to achieve “maximum feasible” and “cost-effective” GHG emission reductions from new vehicles. As Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other critics have noted, however, it is not possible to achieve “maximum feasible” reductions without forcing automakers to substantially increase auto fuel economy. Yet federal law prohibits states from enacting laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy.
CARB claims that its rule is “cost-effective,” arguing that fuel savings from the technologies automakers will deploy to meet the GHG standards will more than outweigh any increase in vehicle purchase price. But this is a tacit confession that the rule is in fact fuel economy regulation by another name.
Sierra Research, Inc., in a report written on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, finds multiple problems with CARB’s cost-effectiveness calculation. CARB inflated vehicle costs in the 2009 baseline (no regulation) case by unrealistically assuming universal adoption of expensive new technologies such as 5- and 6-speed automatic transmissions. CARB used an unrealistically low markup factor to estimate how much retailers would charge for cars incorporating GHG-reducing technologies.
In addition, CARB knocked 30 percent off the cost estimates of key technologies based on nothing more than its alleged “experience” and the potential for “unforeseen innovations.” CARB forgot to take into account California’s 8 percent sales tax. CARB overestimated fuel savings by using EPA’s fuel economy model, which assumes slower average driving speeds and acceleration rates than prevail in California. CARB implausibly assumed that consumers continue to value fuel savings years after most cars are sold or scrapped.
The net effect of such errors, according to Sierra Research, is that, “The actual cost of the proposed standards will exceed an optimistic estimate of the present value of the fuel savings for an average California driver by approximately 200%.” Whereas CARB estimates a net lifetime saving of $1,703 for a new passenger car sold in 2016, Sierra estimates a net loss of $3,357. “The results of the proposed regulation can therefore be expected to include reduction in vehicle sales, longer retention of older vehicles on the road, and an increase in ozone precursor emissions.”
Copies of the Sierra Research report may be obtained by calling (916) 444-6666. CEI’s comments on the final rule may be found at http://www.cei.org/pdf/4218.pdf.
China Puts Economy Before Environment
Hong Kong’s air quality is suffering as China continues to emphasize economic growth. According to a Reuters article (Sept. 21), the autonomous region’s air pollution hit a record high on September 14. Most of the pollution, says Reuters, is attributable to coal-fired power plants in China along with traffic fumes.
Although Hong Kong itself has converted taxicabs to run on liquefied petroleum gas, “Double-digit growth in individual car ownership in the neighboring province of Guangdong compounds the problem.” In power generation, CLP Holdings burned 50 percent more coal in 2003 than the previous year and also cut its use of gas as it discovered overestimates in reserves in the South China gas field.
Reuters also points out that, “China’s leaders are aware of the environmental price of breakneck growth but their main priority is to ensure a strong economy to help ease a labor glut.”
British Research Center Proposes Energy Rationing
The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Prediction, the influential British alarmist body, has proposed reintroducing rationing to the United Kingdom’s economy, with a market flavor.
Dr Kevin Anderson and Richard Starkey are developing a system called Domestic Tradable Quotas or DTQs. Under this system, every British citizen would have a ration of carbon emissions, which could be traded in a market.
David Fleming, credited with coming up with the idea, explicitly tied the idea to the hugely unpopular rationing of commodities during and after the Second World War. He said, “When I was a child, in the years after the war, I didn’t like sweets [candy] and sold my sweet ration to other children. I suppose, in a sense, I’ve been thinking about DTQs all my life.”
Dr Anderson said, “DTQs are a viable approach to carbon taxes. As people make their choices, the system will help drive the market to lower carbon approaches. We’ve all seen how protests can bring the country to a halt if the price of petrol increases by just a few pence. DTQs could nurture much-needed public support – it’s all about giving people choices.”
The idea has been proposed to Parliament by means of a ten-minute rule bill (which means it stands little chance of becoming law). A second reading in the House of Commons is scheduled for this month. (Innovations Report, Sept. 21)
Hockey Stick Reduced to Sawdust
Once again (see previous issue), a new study finds that the “hockey stick” reconstruction of past temperatures produced by Michael Mann and colleagues is based on methodological errors and shortcomings. In “Re-constructing Past Climate from Noisy Data” (Science Express, Sept. 30), Hans von Storch and colleagues first looked at the likelihood of being able to get an accurate climate signal from historical proxy data (tree rings, boreholes, ice cores, etc.) by estimating the amount of statistical “noise” inherent in such data. They discovered that the amount of noise was such that it was likely that hockey-stick like reconstructions had severely underestimated past climate variability.
This would explain why the hockey stick, which claims to show that the global mean temperature during the first 900 years of the last millennium was relatively stable and then rose sharply in the twentieth century, failed to show evidence of the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Little Ice Age, for which there is a great deal of historical and paleo-climatological evidence. The hockey-stick graph was featured prominently in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, published in 2001.
In a commentary on von Storch et al’s paper, T. J. Osborn and K. R. Briffa, prominent paleo-climatologists from the University of East Anglia, stress the importance of the findings. They say, “The message of the study by von Storch et al. is that existing reconstructions of the NH temperature of recent centuries may systematically underestimate the true centennial variability of climate” and, “If the true natural variability of NH [northern hemisphere] temperature is indeed greater than is currently accepted, the extent to which recent warming can be viewed as “unusual” would need to be reassessed.”
In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, von Storch commented, “We were able to show in a publication in ‘Science’ that this [hockey stick] graph contains assumptions that are not permissible. Methodologically it is wrong: rubbish.” Von Storch also pointed out the IPCC’s role in cutting off questioning on the subject: “It remains important for science to point out the erroneous nature of the Mann curve. In recent years it has been elevated to the status of truth by the U. N. appointed science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This handicapped all that research which strives to make a realistic distinction between human influences and climate and natural variability.”
Von Storch also commented on Mann’s defense of his now thoroughly discredited research. “His influence in the community of climate researchers is great,” he said. “And Mann rejects any reproach most forcefully. His defensiveness is understandable. Nobody likes to see his own child die. But we must respect our credibility as research scientists. Otherwise we play into the hands of those skeptics of global climate change who imagine a conspiracy between science and politics.”
Consensus: Hurricanes Not Caused by Global Warming
Florida’s bad luck in being hit by four hurricanes this summer has been pounced on by alarmists. Mark Lynas, whose main claim to fame is to have shoved a pie in the face of Bjørn Lomborg, wrote gleefully in The Washington Post (Sept. 19), “It almost seems as though the storm was trying to deliver a forceful reminder of the reality of climate change and the need to act now to address it.” Later on, he referred to “nature’s fury.”
Scientific experts, however, agree that global warming is not a factor in the current spate of hurricanes. Nor is the trend likely to get worse. Scientists from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, told the Post (Sept. 3), “It's a fact that nobody so far has been able to show – from the observed storms – a tendency to have more intense storms.” Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told UPI on September 20 after another hurricane had hit, “The intensity of current hurricanes such as Ivan cannot be attributed to global warming.”
One widely reported study (by Knutson and Kuleya, published in the Journal of Climate) did suggest that, “A greenhouse gas induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms.” However, the study appears flawed in that, to begin with, it estimated growth in greenhouse gas concentrations at 1 percent per year, rather than the currently occurring 0.4 percent per year, which results in much higher concentrations by mid-century, which is when the risk of destructive storms is supposed to increase.
The study is also testable against the historical record. Sea surface temperatures have been increasing since the 1880s. There is no correlation in the Global Historical Climatology Network’s record between sea surface temperature increase and hurricane intensity.
The George C. Marshall Institute will host a roundtable briefing on October 12 by Conrad Lautenbacher, Jr., Under Secretary of Commerce, on NOAA’s Global Earth Observation System. The event will begin at noon at the National Press Club. Lunch will be provided. Reservations may be made by calling (202) 296-9655 or by e-mail to email@example.com.
The Cato Institute has published Meltdown: the Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media, by Patrick J. Michaels, research professor of environmental studies at the University of Virginia, a Cato senior fellow, and a speaker at several Cooler Heads Coalition briefings. The book may be ordered online at www.catostore.org.
Frontiers of Freedom’s Center for Science and Public Policy has published a white paper titled “How Safe are We from the Fish We Eat?” It may be downloaded at http://ff.org/centers/ csspp/pdf/mercury092804.pdf.
The Institute for Energy Research has posted the text of a speech by Richard S. Lindzen to the Houston Forum on September 9 on “Climate Alarm: Where does it come from?” Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has spoken at several Cooler Heads Coalition briefings. The text of his speech may be accessed online at www.iertx.org.
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
Defenders of Property Rights
Fraser Institute, Canada
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee