Vol. VI, No. 22

Vol. VI, No. 22

October 29, 2002

Politics

 

COP-8 Declaration under Fire

 

A draft “Delhi Declaration on Climate Change,” which is to be adopted at the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-8) currently underway, is being attacked by both the European Union and the G-77 and China.  The declaration was rejected by the EU as “disappointing, unacceptable, and biased.”

 

“We find the declaration concentrated on adaptation and not on the mitigation of greenhouse gases,” said Thomas Becker, an EU spokesman.  “There is no mention of the Kyoto Protocol in the declaration.”  The EU also objects to the attempt to link global warming to sustainable development.  “To link these issues completely will not be wise from a negotiation point of view,” said Becker.  “We are not at all pleased with trying to start such a trend” (BNA Daily Environment Report, October 29, 2002).

 

The EU’s objection to the linkage is probably due to the U.S.’s ability to redefine sustainable development in terms of poverty eradication and economic development, which are not compatible with Kyoto’s objectives. Indeed, the draft recognizes, “that poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns, and protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development.”

 

The draft also talks about technological advancement and transfers, capacity building, economic diversification, and strengthening of institutions, things that the U.S. insisted should be the focus of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.  It also states, “Policies and measures to protect the climate system against human-induced change should be appropriate for the specific conditions of each Party and should be integrated with national development programs, taking into account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.”

 

The G-77 and China also expressed disappointment in the document and demanded that it contain a call “to urge ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by all parties that have not done so.”  The declaration should also name Africa as the region suffering the most from climate change (Outlook India, October 29, 2002).

 

What will Canada do next?

 

Canada can’t seem to make up its mind on what to do about Kyoto.  On October 24, the federal government released a plan that would require major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and a 20 percent reduction in energy use by individual Canadians.  The plan would reduce emissions by 180 megatons, but fall short of the Kyoto target by 60 megatons.  The government hopes this shortfall can be accounted for through a variety of other measures, including claiming credits for natural gas and hydroelectric exports to the U.S.

 

The plan has met with significant opposition from the provincial governments and industry.  On October 28, energy and environment ministers from Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, gathered at a one-day meeting in Nova Scotia, rejected the federal government’s plan to implement Kyoto.  “All of the provinces have agreed that the federal plan is inadequate, and now we have a new plan to develop a national plan,” said Lorne Taylor, Alberta’s environment minister.  “We have a provincially led process, instead of a federally led process, and that’s the way it should have been in the first place.”

 

The provinces have come up with their own 12-point approach to address climate change.  It calls for “full and informed” input from all Canadians, a plan that ensures that no province will bear an unreasonable share of the burden and that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction.  It also says that all “real emissions reductions since 1990 should be recognized, that all credits for forest and agricultural sinks go to the province or territory that owns them, that the plan maintain the competitiveness of Canadian industry, that the federal government should continue to demand credit for “clean energy” exports to the U.S., and that the plan should include incentives to encourage the use of energy sources that emit less carbon (BNA Daily Environment Report, October 29, 2002).

 

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has rejected requests from the provinces to meet with them and to delay Kyoto ratification.  “My intention - as long as something unusual doesn’t happen - is that we will ratify Kyoto before Christmas,” he told reporters.  I think some people only have one goal in mind, and that is to postpone and postpone.  It is not what we said to Canadians in the Speech from the Throne.  We made a clear commitment that there would be ratification before Christmas.”  Chrétien added that he won’t be meeting with the premiers and territorial leaders until next year (Toronto Globe and Mail, October 30, 2002).

 

On the international front, it appears that Canada has backed away from its request to be allowed to count natural gas and hydroelectricity exports to the U.S. towards its Kyoto target.  Instead, it is asking for an assessment of the role of trade in less greenhouse gas intensive energy sources in meeting Kyoto’s objectives.  If the new proposal is accepted, Canada would not object to having the old proposal dropped from the agenda.

 

Russia:  Will it or won’t it Ratify Kyoto?

 

Russia has sent mixed signals on whether it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol.  At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, Russia stated that it really had no economic interest in ratifying the protocol, but then reversed that statement a short time later and said that it would ratify by November.

 

Now Russia says that it could be as long as a year before it ratifies Kyoto.  The protocol has been sent to various ministries for an assessment, said Nikolai N. Pomoshnikov, an official with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affair.  Ratification would require amending various domestic laws, which would take three months to a year.

 

Pomoshnikov also said that “long-term impacts [of global warming] are still not clear and so there is a need to understand the implications of climate change.”  To that end Russia has announced that it will hold a World Conference on Climate Change in Moscow in Fall 2003 (Outlook India, October 26, 2002).

 

Economics

 

New Mexico Jumps into Wind Power Project

 

Another Southwestern state is making a big splash in the renewable energy market.  New Mexico’s largest utility company, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), announced on October 22 that it will team up with Florida-based FPL Energy to build the nation’s third-largest wind generation facility.

 

The project, known as the New Mexico Wind Energy Center, will be located in Quay and De Baca counties 20 miles northeast of Fort Sumner.  It will cost $200 million dollars and will include 136 wind turbines that will reach 240 feet into the sky.  The turbines will be the tallest structures in the state and will sprawl across 9,600 acres.

 

It is estimated that the 204-MW plant will provide electricity for about 94,000 average-sized New Mexico homes, or about 4 percent of PNM’s total power production.  PNM readily admits, however, that wind is an intermittent energy source and that the project will not provide a steady source of electricity.  In fact, the facility will operate mostly during the spring months when wind conditions are optimal, or about 30 percent of the time.

 

“The scale of this project will put New Mexico on the map as one of the nation’s leading producers of renewable energy,” said PNM Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Sterba.  “As renewable technology continues to improve, and costs come down, it is clearer than ever that smart business decisions and environmental stewardship can successfully coexist.  PNM is thrilled to play a role in making renewable energy an everyday reality in New Mexico.”

 

Despite Sterba’s rosy outlook, the project will rely on a “green tariff,” a small monthly premium paid by participating customers, to cover its costs.  It is still unknown how much the wind-generated electricity will cost New Mexicans.  Charles Bensinger of the Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy joined Sterba at the press conference to praise PNM and to encourage New Mexicans to participate in the project.  “PNM has really challenged us to put our money where our mouth is,” said Bensinger. “We want to make that 200 megawatts go really fast.”

 

Science

 

Rises in Precipitation not due to Greenhouse Gases

 

Two new studies suggest that the increases in storminess and rainfall that have been measured in the U.S. may be due to causes other than anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.  One study in the October 24 issue of Nature looks at natural variability in the northeastern United States and finds that storminess in that region varies over regular cycles.

 

The study took core samples from 13 small lakes in Vermont and eastern New York with steep surrounding hillslopes, deep water and inflowing streams with sandy deltas.   These characteristics allowed the researchers to get a high resolution data set.  What they found was that the “frequency of storm related floods in the northeastern United States has varied in regular cycles during the past 13,000 years (13 kyr), with a characteristic period of about 3 kyr.”  During that period there were four peaks in storm frequency; 2,600 years, 5,800 years, 9,100 years and 11,900 year ago.

 

These findings are supported by other independent records from the North Atlantic.  In particular, data from central Greenland ice cores correspond very well with the New England data.  What this suggests, according to the study, is “control of both by large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns,” which in turn correlates “with the characteristic patterns of sea level pressure associated with the Arctic Oscillation.”

 

The study argues that, “The existence of natural variability in storminess confounds reliable detection of anthropogenic effects.”  It also notes that, “During the past ~600 yr, New England storminess appears to have been increasing naturally,” and that if this pattern continues it “would continue to increase for the next ~900 yr.”  It concludes, “Because climate synopses compiled from instrumental records cannot distinguish underlying natural increases in storminess from anthropogenic effects, detected increases in contemporary storminess may not be a reliable indicator of human-induced climate change.”

 

Another study in the Journal of Applied Meteorology does find an anthropogenic component to increased rainfall, but not due to greenhouse gases, but rather due to urbanization.  Using satellite data, the researchers found that rainfall rates are enhanced 20 to 40 miles downwind from city centers.  Compared to upwind areas, rainfall rates were between 48 and 116 percent greater.  The cause is greater heat generated from cities compared to natural landscapes.  The rising warm air contributes to thunderstorm development, which then releases its moisture downwind.  These two studies may well account for the increased precipitation in the United States over the last century.

 

Apparent increase in Antarctic Icebergs due to Better Detection

 

A new study in the current issue of EOS Transactions, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, says that there has been no increase in the number of large Antarctic icebergs as has been reported.  “The dramatic increase in the number of large icebergs as recorded by the National Ice Center database does not represent a climatic change,” said Brigham Young University electrical engineering professor David Long.  “Our reanalysis suggests that the number of icebergs remained roughly constant from 1978 to the late 1990s.”

 

Long and his student assistants developed a computer processing technique to increase the sharpness of the images collected from NASA satellites.  The satellites employed a “scatterometer” that was used to measure wind speed and direction  by bouncing radar beams off the ocean floor.  The resolution of the images wasn’t good enough to detect icebergs.  Long’s innovation makes it possible to determine accurately the number of icebergs.

 

“Dr. Long’s analysis shows that the increase is only an ‘apparent increase,’ and that it is premature to think of any connection between this kind of iceberg (growth) and global warming,” said Douglas MacAyeal, a University of Chicago glaciologist who tracks icebergs.  “His research, particularly … his amazing ability to detect and track icebergs, is really the best method,” to determine iceberg activity.

 

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

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

JunkScience.com

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus AssociationSmall Business Survival Committee