Vol. IV, No. 23

Vol. IV, No. 23

November 14, 2000

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COP-6 Off to Shaky Start

The sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change got off to a shaky start this week.  This is supposed to be the concluding conference to finalize the Kyoto Protocol, but there appears to be little movement on the major issues that have plagued the negotiations from the beginning.

According to a Reuters story (November 15, 2000), the disagreement between the European Union and the United States over the use of emissions trading is as sharp as ever.  “So far, I haven’t seen anyone move their position by one centimeter,” said Raul Estrada, Argentina’s special representative for the environment.  The EU believes that the developed countries should reduce emissions through “tough domestic policies.” 

Indeed, the EU probably won’t budge from its negotiating stance.  Its 15 nations agreed to form a “united front in demanding tough rules for compliance,” that would “ensure countries made most of their emissions cuts through domestic action rather than through emissions credits or other ‘flexible mechanisms,’” according to a November 8 Reuters story.  The EU also agreed to demand firm sanctions against countries which miss their targets and strict limits on the use of so-called ‘carbon sinks’ – uses of forests, which absorb carbon to account for some of a country’s target.

 The U.S. and its allies, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, want full emissions trading that would allow them to purchase credits from developing countries and Russia as part of their compliance strategy.  Adding to the standoff is a deal struck between the U.S. and fourteen Latin American countries “to push for full-scale trading in greenhouse gas emissions as a solution to global warming.”  The emission credits would be created through U.S. funding of rainforest preservation in Latin America (Financial Times, November 6, 2000). 

The “G-77 plus China” Group are also trying to present a united front in the negotiations.  But their coalition is fracturing due to several disagreements.  In general, the group wants the industrialized nations to commit to tough emissions reduction targets.  But small island states worried about rising sea levels, for instance, have little in common with oil producing countries in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia claims that it would lose $25 billion per year as a result of Kyoto and wants to be compensated.  “There will be no outcome if our concerns are not adequately addressed,” warned Mohammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation.

IPCC Peer Review Process a Sham

Controversy continues to surround the leaked draft of the Summary for Policymakers of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment Report (TAR).  New charges resemble the complaints made about the Second Assessment Report’s (SAR) summary of 1996.  In that report, the statement, “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate,” was inserted into the summary after the report had gone through scientific peer review.

In the TAR’s Summary, a major conclusion of the report has once again been inserted after the peer review process was completed.  According to Patrick Michaels, a University of Virginia climatologist, the Summary “dramatically increased the upper limit of its forecast [from the SAR] of the 21st century’s temperature increase, from 4.5 degrees C to 6.0 degrees C.”

“But,” said Michaels, “the document the IPCC sent out for scientific peer review contained no such number.  Indeed, after the scientists reviewed it, the maximum value was 4.8 degrees C.”  This alteration “inserted after the document had circulated among scientific reviewers,” said Michaels, changed the “report’s most crucial conclusion at the 11th hour, after the scientific peer review process had concluded.”

The change was inserted during the “Government Review” in which nonscientist reviewers comment on the draft.  According to Michaels, “The 6 degree C figure is based upon a socio-climatological model,” which “relies upon a number of illogical scenarios called ‘storylines’.”  These storylines first appeared in a non-peer reviewed paper by Tom Wigley, a climatologist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, published by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a Kyoto cheerleader group.  Indeed, Pew’s press release announcing the study said that Wigley’s scenarios would be incorporated into the IPCC report. 

Finally, according to Michaels, the IPCC’s peer review process “isn’t really peer review in the classic sense, for the IPCC retains ‘veto power’.”  Under real peer review, the reviewers’ comments must be incorporated into a study, but under the IPCC’s system, “It is up to the original authors to review the scientific comments and decide which to keep and which to ignore.”

Political Slant is Clear in IPCC Summary

Cooler Heads has compared copies of the April and October drafts of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers.  The changes between the two drafts reveal the political motives behind the whole IPCC process.  The overall tone of the Summary went from one of inquisitiveness to one of assertion.

Several headings were changed.  Headings such as “Is the climate changing?” and “How well do we model climate and understand climate changes?” were changed to “An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system” and “Confidence in the ability of models to project future climates has increased.”

Some changes are blatant attempts to present a more alarmist tone.  Statements that bolster catastrophic warming claims were accompanied by statements of uncertainty in the April draft, but were eliminated in the October draft.  Statements that cast doubt on the manmade global warming hypothesis had statements of uncertainty added in the October draft.  For example, the April draft states that there has been a 40 percent decrease in Arctic summer or early autumn sea-ice extent, but that “Limited sampling, however, leaves open the possibility that these changes may not reflect broad areas of the Arctic.”  This caveat is dropped from the October draft.

The April draft also states, “The observed changes in the intensity and frequency of tropical and extratropical storms, such as hurricanes, are dominated by interdecadal-to-multidecadal variations, with no clear long-term trends.  There is no evidence for systematic changes in severe local storms, such as tornadoes.”  The October draft repeats the observation that there is no clear evidence of long-term trends in hurricane frequency, but adds that, “data are often sparse and inadequate.”  This occurs repeatedly throughout the draft.

The section on climate modeling underwent significant alterations to bolster claims about accuracy.  The statement from the April draft, “The complexity of the processes in the climate system prevents the use of extrapolation of past trends or statistical and other empirical techniques for projection of the future,” was dropped from the October draft.  Also, the April draft claims that several models have been able to reproduce 20th century climate driven by natural as well as manmade forcings, but the October draft only mentions manmade forcings. 

Two statements in the April draft, “Simulation of some extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, remains problematic,” and “Based on the record of past climate changes, we know that the possibility of rapid and irreversible changes in the climate system exists, such as altered ocean circulation patterns.  However, there is a large degree of uncertainty about the likelihood of such transitions,” were dropped in the October draft.  Added to the October draft, however, is the extremely controversial claim that, “Some aspects of model simulations of ENSO, monsoons and the North Atlantic Oscillation have improved.”

Forecasts of CO2 concentrations, as well as temperature changes, were different in the two drafts.  In April the projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations were given as 550 to 800 parts per million by 2100.  In October it became 540 to 970 ppm.  The summary noted that the 1996 SAR forecast a temperature change of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C over the next 100 years.  The April draft put the range at 1 to 5 degrees C.  In October, it became 1.5 to 6 degrees C. 

Since nothing changed within the TAR itself from April to October, it is clear that the numbers have been fudged to bolster the pro-Kyoto, anti-energy agenda.

Clinton Seeks to Regulate CO2

In an effort to keep the Kyoto negotiations alive, President Clinton has called for federal regulations to limit CO2 emissions.  The plan calls for a “cap and trade” system similar to U.S. emissions trading programs to control smog and acid rain.

According to the New York Times (November 10, 2000), “Any such expansion of pollution rules would probably require action by Congress, where there is significant opposition to the idea.  But the administration contends that without this kind of step, a global treaty to reduce the risks of global warming will probably fail.”  Currently there are no federal laws that would allow regulation of CO2 emissions.

Clinton’s announcement was timed to co-incide with release of the final version of the National Assessment on Climate Change, which otherwise attracted little media notice.  The National Assessment has been mired in controversy and is currently the target of a lawsuit filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Alert, 60 Plus Association, Heartland Institute, Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, and Sen. James Inhofe.


Kyoto’s Impact on Trade and Growth

A new report by economists David Montgomery and Paul Bernstein of Charles River Associates makes it clear why the 180 countries involved in international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gases are having a tough time coming to an agreement.  The problem is that there would be winners and losers under the Kyoto Protocol and the different compliance scenarios would produce different winners and losers.

According to the study, compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would result in a loss of economic welfare to the tune of $900 million to $1.4 trillion from 2010 to 2030.  Flexibility mechanisms such as emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism could lower costs somewhat.  “Only full participation of developing countries in a system of global permit trading can reduce costs significantly below $1 trillion, and the option is not a possibility under the Kyoto Protocol,” says the study.

These costs will not be limited to developed countries, however.  Since all countries are linked through international trade, the costs of Kyoto will be partially shifted to developing countries.  “Changes in patterns of international trade will shift costs of compliance with Kyoto onto some non-Annex B countries, who will be caught in a terms of trade squeeze, paying more for goods they purchase from Annex B countries and receiving less for the goods they sell.”  Other developing countries will gain through increased competitive advantage over energy intensive industries in developed countries, whose costs will increase under Kyoto.

The Clean Development Mechanism, which allows developed countries to invest in low cost energy reductions in developing countries, could reduce costs of compliance.  But, says the study, “The greatest issue with CDM is whether it will be so burdened with administrative costs and restrictions on the nature and location of projects, or taxed as a source of revenue for the Secretariat (the ‘levy’), that investment in CDM projects will not make good economic sense.”

Moreover, “Not all of the flows of funds into CDM represents a net gain to the host country.  Projects that meet CDM guidelines will cost more than conventional projects, and the additional resources used to build CDM projects will not be available to produce goods sustaining the consumption needs of the population.”

The CDM, which was designed to transfer wealth from the developed to developing countries as an incentive for developing countries to participate, could produce division among developing countries.  “Countries like China and India, that export energy-intensive goods and benefit from energy price increases in Annex B countries, can be made worse off by the success of CDM, because CDM reduces some of the global trade distortions that benefit those countries.”


The Real Greenhouse Effect

The George C. Marshall Institute has just released a published manuscript of a speech given on May 17 by Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T.  The speech, Climate Forecasting: When Models are Qualitatively Wrong, argues that climate models are wanting compared to real world data.

Dr. Lindzen begins by discussing the “real greenhouse effect.”  According to him, the explanation as presented to the public of what constitutes the greenhouse effect is misleading.  The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains, for instance, that sunlight passes through the atmosphere to illuminate the earth’s surface.  Some sunlight is reflected, but much is absorbed.  Greenhouse gases, primarily clouds and water vapor, act like a blanket that prevents heat escaping from the earth, and the earth gets warmer.

In reality, said Lindzen, “Infrared gases, not the surface, are what send the radiation back to space. … Indeed, space cannot ‘see’ the surface, by and large, except at the poles.  Instead, space sees some level about five kilometers up, in the troposphere.”  This level is known as the “characteristic emission level” (CEL).  A doubling of CO2 would cause the CEL to move out about 150 meters, says Lindzen.  “But because the temperature of the air decreases with height, this new level is colder.  And because it is colder, it emits less radiation to space.  That creates an imbalance, and the greenhouse effect requires that balance be reestablished.  Essentially, to make up for raising the CEL 150 meters, the temperature has to increase about 1 degree C at the CEL.”

“How this impacts earth’s surface is not at all clear,” said Lindzen.  Events at five kilometers are connected to events at the surface by processes such as motions of the air so it is thought that the surface will follow suit.  “That gives you a 1 degree C increase at the surface…maybe.”

So where do the estimates of warming from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C come from?  Through feedbacks that amplify the initial warming caused by increases in greenhouse gases.  A positive feedback is one that amplifies warming and a negative feedback is one that dampens it.  The models show that as temperature warms the air holds more water vapor, the principal greenhouse gas.  This is a positive feedback that amplifies warming.

The problem with the models is their use of average cloud cover or average humidity.  “We know that thinking in terms of averages is not appropriate.  Rather, observations show very dry air in some regions, very moist air in others, and very sharp boundaries between them,” said Lindzen.

Looking at how these moist and dry regions react to changes in atmospheric CO2 is the key to understanding global warming, according to Lindzen.  He has found “that the area of cloudy regions went down 15 percent for every 1 degree C increase in temperature,” a negative feedback. 

Lindzen concludes, “If you calculate the impact of this negative feedback on the globe as a whole, the impact is larger by a factor of four than the total positive feedbacks in the most sensitive current models.  What this means is that even if there were a factor-of-five uncertainty in what we’ve seen – which is a large uncertainty – the models that predict that doubling carbon dioxide would increase temperature 1.5 degrees to 4 degrees C, would now predict an increase of 0.6 degrees to 1.5 degrees C.”

CO2 and Biodiversity

An editorial by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change argues that the rising concentration of atmospheric CO2 increases biodiversity.  The article cites two studies, one in Nature (406) and the other in the Annual Review of Ecology and Sytemics (30).  The Nature study found that, “At continental scales, the diversity of plants and animals usually increases monotonically with productivity.”  The ARES article found that, “At larger spatial scales it has been observed that diversity tends to increase linearly with productivity.”

This means that biodiversity increases at the same rate as plant productivity.  It has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 enhance plant productivity.  According to the article, “Pulling these two observations together, we conclude that one of the best things we could possibly do to preserve the biodiversity or species richness of the planet is let the carbon dioxide content of the air continue to rise, rejecting all overt attempts to curtail anthropogenic CO2 emission via Kyoto-style interventions.”  See http://www.co2science.org/.


·        The George C. Marshall Institute has published a study, Climate Models and the National Assessment, by Dr. David Legates, Associate Professor of Climatology in the Center for Climatic Research, University of Delaware.  Legates criticizes the National Assessment’s misuse of Global Climate Models to predict regional impacts of global warming.  To get a copy of the study, contact Jeff Salmon or Mark Herlong at (202) 296-9655.  A press release may be found at www.marshall.org.  

·        The Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis has published a monograph, Applying the Precautionary Principle to Global Warming, by Indur M. Goklany.  Goklany argues that “the so-called ‘precautionary principle’ – often invoked to justify a greenhouse gas control policy – must consider not only risks that such a policy might reduce but also risks that it might generate.”  For more information, contact Robert Batterson at (314) 935-5676.  The CSAB web site’s address is csab.wustl.edu.          

·        To receive the Cooler Heads Newsletter by e-mail, please contact the editor at mebell@cei.org.