Vol IV, No. 25
Ottawa Talks Can’t Break Ice Jam
The collapse of the global warming negotiations in the Hague last month has not ended President Clinton’s efforts to work out some sort of deal before he leaves office on January 20. Negotiators for the European Union and the Umbrella Group (The US, Japan, Australia, and Canada) met in Ottawa on December 6 and 7 at Clinton’s request, but the talks ended with little or no progress reported.
Today, the Norwegian environment ministry announced that they still hoped to arrange further high-level negotiations between the two sides in Oslo before Christmas.
The first obstacle remains disagreement over the use of sinks. The Umbrella Group would like unlimited use of sinks as a means to reduce net CO2 emissions. The EU wishes to restrict the use of sinks, preferring instead that emissions be reduced through reductions in fuel use.
The Edmonton Journal (December 10, 2000), pointed out the reason for the impasse. “While the US is the world’s No. 1 producer of carbon dioxide,” wrote Lorne Gunter, “it is not the No. 1 ‘net’ producer. Ditto Canada and Australia. The title of No. 1 emitter of CO2 belongs to the European Union, which lacks North America’s and Australia’s carbons sinks, natural mechanisms, such as forests, that absorb carbon dioxide from the environment.”
Although the Europeans have been blasting the US for its refusal to save the planet and touting their own green-colored virtue, the reality is based in a different kind of green: money. “The US, and to a lesser degree both Canada and Australia, wanted compliance with the Kyoto standards to be based on net emissions (total emissions less carbon sinks),” wrote Gunter.
The Europeans preferred a “total emissions-based method” that would “have placed a great burden on the Europeans’ major trading rival, the US, and given the EU an enormous competitive advantage while the US completely retooled its industrial base and passed hundreds of billions in costs onto its international customers or onto the backs of its own workers in the form of layoffs.”
“Demanding the total emissions standard only makes sense,” argued Gunter, “if your goal is, as the Europeans’ is, to cripple a rival economically, or, if your goal is, as the environmentalists’ is, to tear down free-market societies.”
What Happens When You Run Out of Emissions Credits?
California electricity shortages became much worse this week. High demand and cold weather combined with supply problems to threaten the state’s power grid with massive blackouts. Environmental concerns have caused regulators to prevent the construction of any large power plants for over a decade.
The problem has been made more severe by the fact that up to one third of the state’s generating capacity has been shut down in recent days. It turns out that not all of these shutdowns are due to breakdowns or needed maintenance. Some plants have been forced to shut down because they have run out of state emissions credits.
A December 9 article in the Washington Post noted that, “About 17 power generation plants – which together produce about 2,500 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2.5 million homes – were idle because they had reached their pollution limits.”
The Oakland Tribune (December 8, 2000), explained that, “The units not operating Thursday were under repair or had exhausted their annual allotment for emissions under air pollution standards, imposed on industries of all types by regional air quality management boards, according to government and industry officials.”
Once this interesting news became public, regulators quickly declared an emergency and allowed the closed utilities to resume production.
The next day the Tribune (December 9, 2000) reported, “More than half the electricity generation plants shut down because they reached annual air pollution limits were back in operation…easing the unexpected pre-winter supply crises.”
As expected, “Consumer and environmental groups decried the hasty arrangements as a sacrifice of environmental protections, triggered by corporate attempts to profit from the crisis and a failed state government effort to deregulate the electricity industry. It may be suspected that companies still holding emissions credits may also complain that the value of those credits has been reduced by this action.
IEA Predicts Rising Energy Use
The International Energy Agency recently released its World Energy Outlook 2000, which forecasts sharp increases in world energy use in the next two decades. The predictions are similar to those made by the US Energy Information Administration reported in our last issue.
The IEA states that, “The energy world depicted in the reference scenario of WEO 2000 is dynamic, expanding and rapidly changing. It assumes that the world economy will grow by 3% a year, that fossil fuel prices remain flat till 2010, then rise to $28 in today’s money by 2020. In that event, overall energy demand will grow by 57% over twenty years, just slightly below the rate in recent years. CO2 emissions will swell by 60% or 2.1% annually – one-third from power generation.” Note that the predicted CO2 increase is higher than the total energy increase.
Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, will still provide 90 per cent of the world’s primary energy, according to the report. Petroleum will continue to be the primary fuel, providing 40 percent of world’s energy. World petroleum use will rise from 76 million barrels a day to 115 million barrels per day in 2020, with poorer nations experiencing much faster growth rates than richer nations. The report can be obtained at http://www.iea.org/.
CO2 Demoted as Climate Driver
A new study in Nature (December 7, 2000) casts doubt on the role of CO2 in global warming. Ján Veizer, Yves Godderls, and Louis M. Francois have constructed a temperature record using the oxygen isotopic composition of tropical marine fossils. The new temperature record covers climate oscillations for the last 100 million years.
The prevailing view is that the climate fluctuations over the last 544 million years, known as the Phanerozoic eon, are linked to changes in CO2 concentrations. But Veizer et al have found that, “Calculations using proxy data for atmospheric CO2 reveal mismatches with both the climate and the oxygen isotope records.” In other words, changes in CO2 levels do not explain climate variation.
According to a news article accompanying the study, the authors used an “energy-balance climate model incorporating the proxy record of atmospheric CO2 to determine tropical sea surface temperatures during the Phanerozoic. The temperatures predicted with this model bear little resemblance to the climate record.” There are two possible explanations for the mismatch. Either the CO2 proxies are wrong, or our understanding of the role played by CO2 in climate changes is wrong. The authors conclude that the latter explanation is correct.
Sun Elevated as Climate Driver
Two new studies have added further confirmation that the sun plays a major role in climate change. A study in the Journal of Climate (13:3745-3759) uses a model “in which the solar dynamo and the climate are represented by low-order systems, each of which in isolation supports chaotic oscillations,” but sometimes resonate when run together, allowing “a weak forcing to have a dramatic effect.”
They conclude that, “The results of frequency analysis are sensitive to the duration of time series that is used. It is clear that the resonance provides a powerful mechanism for amplifying climate forcing by solar activity.”
Another study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (97:12433-12438), develops a solar-output model that was “compared with geophysical, archaeological, and historical evidence of warm or cold climates during the Holocene [the past 9,000 years].” The study found, “The evidence of periods of several centuries of cooler climates worldwide called ‘little ice ages,’ similar to the period anno Domini (A.D.) 1280-1860 and re-occurring approximately every 1,300 years, corresponds well with fluctuations in modeled solar output.” Moreover, “A more detailed examination of the climate sensitive history of the last 1,000 years further supports the model.”
The study concludes that the idea of “the modern temperature increase being caused solely by an increase in CO2 concentrations appears questionable.” The historical analysis of warm and cool periods during the Holocene clearly show that warm periods are much more beneficial to humans than cold periods.
The following recently appeared on John Daly’s website (http://www.vision.net.au/~daly): “November 2000 was the 2nd coldest November on record for the USA since 1895. Due to this, the year 2000 is no longer the USA’s warmest year on record, but is now instead the 4th warmest. If December is colder than average (and it’s off to a cold start), 2000 will be bumped even lower in the ranking.
“This comes on top of the chilly US summer and autumn of this year which negated the effect of the earlier warm winter and spring….December has continued that trend. Most of the weather experts in the US claim it is a natural anomaly (related to the record cold in the Western US jet stream patterns) and that further cold weather is forecast.”
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
Citizens for the Integrity of Science
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee