Vol. III, No. 5

Vol. III, No. 5

March 02, 1999

Politics

Iceland Will Not Sign Kyoto

The first major defection from the Kyoto Protocol comes from an unlikely source. Iceland’s foreign minister Halldor Asgrimsson announced that his country will not sign the Kyoto Protocol unless his country is allowed to substantially increase its greenhouse gas emissions. Iceland’s target under the Kyoto Protocol is a 10 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels. But the government argues that this is too stringent, and is demanding to be allowed a 25 percent increase. Even one new industrial plant could increase Iceland’s emissions by 10 percent, according to the government. Only Iceland, Turkey and South Korea among the OECD countries are expected to miss Kyoto’s March 15 signing deadline. So far only two countries, Fiji and Barbuda & Antigua have ratified the treaty (ENDS Daily, March 3, 1999).

Oklahoma Senate Committee Rejects Implementation

One of the ploys used by the Clinton Administration to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification is to convince the states to make greenhouse gas reductions by providing grants and other benefits. The state of Oklahoma, however, has taken a first step towards rejecting administration overtures. The Senate Energy, Environmental Resources and Regulatory Affairs Committee voted 9-4 on February 18 to advance Senate Joint Resolution 6 to the full Senate for consideration.

The resolution, sponsored by committee chairman and Senator Kevin Easley (D- Broken Arrow), states that the Oklahoma Legislature should not take any action to reduce greenhouse gases until the Kyoto Protocol is properly ratified. The resolution also states that implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would lead to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, higher electricity rates, income losses and lower output.

Senator Lewis Long, a Democratic supporter of the resolution said, "I think we need to stop and tell the federal government to go fly a kite on some of these issues and let us take care of our own business here in the United States instead of a bunch of bureaucrats telling us what we can do and can’t do" (The Sunday Oklahoman, February 21, 1999).

British MP Attacks Greenpeace

At a meeting of the Commons Environment select committee, Teresa Gorman a Tory MP for Billericay, accused Greenpeace of "demonizing" the energy use and raising fears about global warming. She asked Labour Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace UK, "isn’t the demonization of carbon gases over the top, and your organization has to answer for that?" She noted that there are other factors that may be responsible for climate change, such as volcanic eruptions and sunspots. Gorman also said, "it was not the job of governments to ‘burden their populations,’ with carbon taxes" (Press Association Newsfile, February 24, 1999).

IPCC Chairman: Science Doesn’t Matter

We’ve always suspected that proponents of the global warming scare really don’t care what the scientific evidence shows. Now a statement by Robert Watson, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms our suspicions. At a sustainable development conference in Tokyo, Watson argued, according to the Asahi News Service (February 24, 1999), that "governments can’t wait until the cause and effect of global warming have been definitely established because the time to reverse the damage may take centuries." Watson also argued that the business community must not turn a blind eye to environmental problems that will affect sustainable development. To do so, said Watson, would have adverse effects on their bottom line.

Economics

Cooler Heads Briefing Faults "Early Action"

On February 22 the Cooler Heads Coalition sponsored an economic briefing for congressional staff and media. The briefing, which featured Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Mark Mills of Mills, McCarthy & Associates, discussed the Mack-Chafee "Credit for Early Action" plan.

Lewis discussed the political problems with the bill. He explained that the bill would create winners and losers within the business community. Those who earn early credits will do so at the expense of those who are unable to. The bill will also create a pro-Kyoto constituency among the winners since their credits would be worthless unless the Kyoto Protocol is ratified.

Mills argued that "early action" on emission reductions is a nonstarter because you can’t do it, it wouldn’t work, and it won’t matter. Mills maintains that currently fossil fuels supply 85 percent of the U.S. energy supply and is forecast to reach "90 percent of all increases in energy supply vital to a growing economy." Substantial reductions in fossil fuel use would depress the U.S. economy.

Mills argues that "early action" would not work. It would require a "vast bureaucracy to track, validate and regulate the millions of existing and prospective activities of the entire market that uses $500 billion in energy annually." Most energy use in the U.S. is in the form of electricity. Restricting electricity use, says Mills, would "threaten the entire technological infrastructure of the ‘new’ information economy that is almost exclusively electrically-fueled."

Finally, Mills argues that even if we could do it and it did work, it wouldn’t matter. Even if we burned all available fossil fuel in the next twenty years, "the net result would not significantly change the future atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide."

Kyoto Can’t be Met With Current Technology

The Clinton Administration has based much of its Kyoto-will-be-painless argument on the claim that the energy efficient technology needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions is already on the shelf and just needs to be installed. A new study by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), however, takes issue with that claim.

According to the report "the time frame proposed by the Protocol will not be sufficient to accommodate the enormous investment of R&D and human resources needed to meet the carbon emission reduction goals." To meet the goal the U.S. would need to reduce its carbon emissions by 551 million metric tons (MMT). But, says the report, "maximum utilization of currently available technologies might result in a reduction of carbon emissions by an estimated 79 to 164 MMT by 2008-2012 time frame."

The report evaluates several possible technologies that may be helpful in reducing carbon emissions, and finds that most are either nonviable or would have minimal impact on U.S. emissions. The federal government, for instance, has been heavily involved in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles that would use fuel cells as a power source for transportation. The ASME argues that "it is not yet clear that ... fuel cells will be developed for commercialization by 2008/2012. A massive infusion of R&D funding would be needed to make this happen."

"Commercial air travel," according to the report, "is the second largest and fastest growing transportation subsector." It is also the most dependent on petroleum. The report states that replacements for kerosene jet fuel are still "many decades away." The Clinton Administration has also claimed that household electrical appliances is another sources for potentially large energy efficiency improvements. It has proposed new energy efficiency standards as part of its plan to reduce carbon emissions. According to ASME, however, "much of the technology for residential heating, cooling, hot water, and refrigeration equipment is reaching its theoretical limit or can only be increased at a significant cost."

Energy supplied by biomass is highly favored by the Greens. But biomass requires massive amounts of land to produce the necessary fuel. The report points out that to fuel a 2600 MW plant at a 65 percent capacity factor "would require one half of the State of Ohio’s available farmland and forests." The maximum amount of energy that could be produced from biomass would be about 210 billion KWH per year or about 3 percent of the total amount of energy demand projected for 2010. Wind power is also expected to contribute a maximum of about 2 to 3 percent of total electricity needs.

What, according to the ASME, would be required to meet the Kyoto target? A massive reduction in the use of coal from 50 percent of energy mix to 15 percent in 2010 and zero percent by 2030. An increase in the use of natural gas from 11 percent to 56 percent. The report also argues that "the nuclear option must be included in any long-term strategy for the reduction of carbon emissions."

Kyoto Will Cost Agriculture Billions

Last week we reported that a recent Pew Center on Climate Change study claimed that global warming would have little effect on U.S. agriculture. A new study, sponsored by five national agriculture organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Corn Growers Association, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Grange and United Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Association, shows that global warming policy under the Kyoto Protocol will do severe damage to U.S. agriculture.

According to the study by Sparks Companies, Inc., an agriculture consulting firm, agriculture costs could increase by 8.8 percent or $16.2 billion. The study also shows that the compliane with the treaty would boost gasoline prices by 29.5 percent by the year 2010, electricity by 54 percent, and natural gas by 110.9 percent. The study also claims that American farmers would be faced with lowered demand for their goods because they would be forced to compete with farmers in countries that are not bound by the treaty. This could lead to a reduction in farm income of more than 50 percent.

"The impact of the treaty would be a financial last straw for many family farms," said Dean Kleckner, President of the AFBF. "The Clinton Administration has committed to a flawed treaty without releasing its own analysis of the impact the protocol would have on U.S. agriculture. Meanwhile, agriculture has completed three studies, all of which show devastating financial consequences for farmers and ranchers" (Topeka Capital Journal, February 23, 1999).

Science

Model Study Shows Mixed Results

A study appearing in the February 25 issue of Nature attempts to ascertain the regional effects of global warming on Europe. Using a climate model from the UK Hadley Center the researchers attempted to determine what effects global warming may have on river flow and wheat yield, both of which are affected by temperature and rainfall. The purpose of the experiment was to see if they could distinguish the impacts of human-induced global warming from natural multi-decadal climate variability.

The results showed that increasing anthropogenic carbon emissions significantly changed river runoff relative to natural variability in northern and southern Europe, but showed no change for western and central Europe. They also found that wheat productivity was very sensitive to natural climate variability. Only Denmark, Finland and Italy showed a marked increase in wheat yield as a result of human-induced global warming. "Elsewhere," according to the study, " climate-change impacts on mean wheat yield are indistinguishable from those due to natural climate variability." Wheat yield was also highly sensitive to increases in CO2 concentrations.

An article discussing the study that also appeared in Nature said that "the clear message of this work is that greater efforts are needed to take account of the ‘noise’ of natural climate variability when considering the ‘signal’ of climate change."

Global Warming Guru Advises Caution

Stephen Schneider is most famous for predicting global cooling in the seventies and then reversing himself to predict global warming in the eighties. As one of the most visible and radical proponents of the global warming theory and international control on energy use he is now urging the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be cautious when making its projections. In an internal paper for the IPCC, Schneider argues that it is a "well-documented tendency for scientific committees to overstate the confidence of their guesstimates." Schneider argues for a "consistent assessment and reporting of the uncertainties." No more statements like "the balance of evidence suggests," which, according to the New Scientist (February 20, 1999), was the "result of a straw poll among themselves [the IPCC]."

Announcements

  • The transcripts from the Cooler Heads science briefings for congressional staff and media and CEI’s Costs of Kyoto lectures are available on CEI’s website at www.cei.org. Transcripts currently available include, Climate Change: Insights from Oceanography, by Dr. Roger Pocklington; Global Warming: Evidence from the Satellite Record, by Dr. John R. Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer; Global Warming and Vector-Borne Disease: Is Warmer Sicker? by Dr. Paul Reiter; Kyoto & Our Collective Economic Future: Economic & Energy Underpinnings, by Mark P. Mills; Emissions Credits: The Supply and Demand Gap, by Robert Reinstein; and Hot Times or Hot Air: The Sun in the Science of Global Warming, by Sallie Baliunas.