Vol. VI, No. 23

Vol. VI, No. 23

November 12, 2002

Politics

 

COP-8 Boosts Adaptation and Poverty Eradication

 

The Eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded on Nov. 1 with the European Union in full retreat. 

 

The major accomplishment of the conference was the approval of the Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, which represents a major shift of emphasis from energy suppression to economic development and adaptation.  “The emphasis on adapting is a profound turnabout from the course set a decade ago after President George Bush and other world leaders signed the [UNFCCC],” according to the New York Times (November 3, 2002).  Prior to Delhi, “the emphasis was always about curbing emissions to prevent dangerous changes in the climate system.”

 

The emphasis on adaptation suited the United States, which sees itself as an economically developing country, and the less developed countries, which hope to rise out of poverty.  The declaration states, “that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties.”

 

The original draft of the declaration contained no mention of the Kyoto Protocol.  The EU, as well as Russia and the G-77, demanded that the declaration,   “strongly urge  Parties that have not already done so to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a timely manner,” which language ended up in the final draft.  Russia and the G-77 also successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a finding that, “Africa is the region suffering the most from the combined impacts of climate change and poverty,” a scientifically baseless statement.

 

For its efforts, the United States was awarded the “Super Fossil Award” by the Climate Action Network.  The award, which is usually just the “Fossil of the Day,” was given to the U.S. delegation for having the audacity to claim that economic growth is good for the environment and for refusing the put the economy into the tank.

 

Bush Administration Outlines Strategic Plan on Climate Research

 

The Bush administration has released a draft strategic plan on climate research that will attempt to reduce the large uncertainties that still plague the issue.  In February 2002, President Bush announced the formation of the Climate Change Science Program, which would coordinate and direct U.S. climate research efforts.  The draft plan begins the process of clarifying the unsettled issues in climate science.

 

Some of the uncertainties that will be addressed have to do with things as fundamental to our understanding as natural variability.  “The challenge,” according to the draft plan, “is that discerning whether human activities are causing observed climatic changes and impacts requires detecting a small, decade-by-decade trend against the backdrop of wide temperature changes that occur on shorter timescales (season to years).”  Attribution and detection, then, will be a major focus.  Relevant to this approach is the need to beef up the observational foundation of climate research.  Too much emphasis has been laid on climate modeling and not enough on observation of the climate.  The plan also discusses the potential impacts of a changing climate, whether caused by man or something else.

 

The guiding principles of the plan are encouraging.  First, “The scientific analyses conducted by the CCSP are policy relevant but not policy driven.”  This seems to be a departure from the Clinton administration’s tactic of doing research in support of its alarmist agenda.  Second, “CCSP analyses should specifically evaluate and report uncertainty.”  Finally, “CCSP analyses, measurements, projection and interpretations should meet two goals: scientific credibility and lucid public communication.”

 

The draft plan will be debated at a major workshop open to the public on December 3-5 in Washington, D.C.  A copy of the draft plan and information about the workshop are available at www.climatescience.gov.

 

Canadian Support for Kyoto Wanes

 

According to a new public opinion poll funded by the Alberta government, Canadians are just about evenly split on whether the country should ratify the Kyoto Protocol or reject it in favor of a “made-in-Canada” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The poll by Ipsos-Reid found that 45 percent of Canadians want the government to withdraw from Kyoto and go it alone, while 44 percent want the government to ratify Kyoto.  This poll contrasts sharply from the results of a poll conducted for the Liberal Party by Ekos.  That poll found overwhelming support for Kyoto ratification, with 79 percent showing support, with only Albertans opposed to the treaty.  The methodology of that poll, however, has not been released.

 

The Ipsos-Reid poll asked respondents if they prefer to “withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and develop a made-in-Canada plan for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, ratify the Kyoto Protocol or do nothing.”  The poll found a drop in support for Kyoto throughout most of Canada, although Ontario and Quebec still favor the treaty.  Still, only a plurality (46 percent) of those polled in Ontario support Kyoto.  Quebec is the only province showing majority support (55 percent).  Opposition to Kyoto is strongest in the Western provinces.

 

These results represent a major turnaround from an earlier Ipsos-Reid poll which found 74 percent support for Kyoto, but that poll did not include the made-in-Canada option.  Also revealing is that opposition to Kyoto was strongest among those who showed the greatest awareness of the accord.

 

A more recent poll conducted by The Sun (November 7, 2002), a pro-Kyoto publication, has found even less support for Kyoto.  The poll stated, “Some people think Canada needs to ratify the Kyoto Accord as proposed by the federal Liberal government because it will have a positive impact on our environment. Other people think that Canada should not ratify the accord until there is a better understanding of its impact on the economy. Which of these two opinions best reflects your view?”

 

Fifty five percent of Canadians responded that Chretien should not ratify the protocol, 32 percent support ratification, with the remainder undecided.

 

Energy Bill Officially Dead

 

On Nov. 13, the Senate energy conferees voted against a counter offer to a proposal offered by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), killing any chances of an energy bill being passed by the 107th Congress.  The decision to not pass a bill in this Congress was strongly supported by the White House, which did not want a bill that didn’t have an electricity title.

 

Tauzin’s significantly-stripped-down proposal would have only contained reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act and pipeline safety legislation.  The Republican take over of the Senate is likely to change the dynamics of the debate.  The new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources will be Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be handed over to James Inhofe (R-Okla.), both of whom will likely favor legislation to increase energy supplies.

 

Economics

 

Emissions Credits Need Government Mandate

 

Critics of emissions trading have long warned that such programs are thinly disguised wealth redistribution schemes with very few, if any, environmental benefits.  They also warn that offering tradable credits to companies that “voluntarily” reduce emissions of greenhouse gases would create a business lobby demanding a mandatory cap.  Without the cap, such credits would be virtually worthless.

 

These warnings have been borne out by a recent “demonstration trade” of greenhouse gases between the chemical company Dupont Co. and the electric utility Entergy Corp.  The 125,000 metric ton “supply” of greenhouse gas credits was “created” by Dupont, which voluntarily reduced emissions in 2001 at an acid plant located in Orange, Texas.

 

The transaction prompted bellyaching from Entergy spokesman Larry Daspit, who complained that, “Under present U.S. environmental regulations there’s no market for this kind of trade.  There are clearing houses for these transactions, but there is no U.S. government mandate.  When you do your financials, you can’t have a line item for this right now because there is no U.S. mechanism.”

 

Natsource, an international emissions brokerage firm, estimated that the trade would have been worth $315,000 under a cap.  An emissions broker for Natsource stated that “Companies are managing the liability of expected government requirements by trading now.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to do so” (Reuters, November 1, 2002).

 

Kyoto Will Be Costly For Canadians

 

The Canadian Taxpayers Union has released a study estimating that Kyoto-related costs would reduce Canada’s annual household income by about $2,700 by 2010.  The study notes that the government estimates that Canada’s CO2 emissions will reach 809 megatons by 2010 and that Canada’s Kyoto target is 571 MT, so it must reduce emissions by 240 MT or about 30 percent.

 

The study’s author, Ross McKitrick, an associate professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, says that the government hasn’t been honest about what it will take to meet the Kyoto targets.  “The federal government is currently focusing its advertising campaign on proposals such as ‘turning down the thermostat’ and doing laundry in cold water.” 

 

Such efforts would be wholly inadequate, however.  Even if “all Canadians implemented a suite of such household-level energy efficiency measures, it would only reduce emissions by 0.4 MT,” says McKitrick.  The Kyoto target is 600 times larger, so such discussions are clearly irrelevant.  “Kyoto ultimately means a fundamental restructuring of the economy.”

 

Moreover, says McKitrick, federal discussion papers on strategies for meeting Kyoto lack sufficient detail to be useful.  An April 2000 discussion paper offered four options that were eventually dropped as being infeasible or inadequate.  A new draft plan was released in October, but, says McKitrick, “This one contains even less detail….  It is a blend of elements from previous plans, leaves 25 percent of the required emission reductions unaccounted for, and includes no economic cost estimates.  On this basis they are now seeking approval from Parliament for rapid ratification.”

 

Due to the lack of specifics, McKitrick adapted previous economic studies that closely resemble the current plan to come up with cost estimates.  Meeting the Kyoto target would mean a permanent loss of income to the average household of $2,700 or 5.5 percent.  Job losses would be on the order of about 1.5 percent and real wages would fall by 5.8 percent.  McKitrick conclude, “In light of the fact that Kyoto yields no economic or environmental benefits, this is obviously a bad deal for Canadian households and should be rejected.” 

 

The study is available at www.taxpayer.com.

 

Science

 

Prospects of Stabilizing Emissions Appear Bleak

 

In a major challenge to the conventional wisdom, a team of scientists has delivered a devastating blow to the Kyoto Protocol in a review of energy technologies published in the November 1 issue of Science. 

 

The lead author is Martin Hoffert, a physicist at New York University.  Also notable among the authors are the popular science fiction writer Gregory Benford, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine, Michael Schlesinger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, and Tom Wigley, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and long time promoter of climate alarmism. 

 

The review, which takes catastrophic global warming claims at face value, argues that our fossil fuel-dominated energy system “cannot be regulated away.”  Indeed, the only real solution is “the development within the coming decades of primary energy sources that do not emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”

 

This challenge is presented in stark terms.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for a stabilization of greenhouse gases at levels that avoid “dangerous anthropogenic (man-made) interference with the climate system.”  The authors argue that stabilization at levels as low as 450 parts per million (ppm) may be necessary to do this.  “Targets of cutting to 450 ppm...could require Herculean effort," says the report. "Even holding at 550 ppm is a major challenge.”

 

Currently, the world’s power consumption is about 12 trillion watts, 85 percent of which is supplied by fossil fuels.  By 2050, energy consumption will be as much as three times the amount currently produced by fossil fuels.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in its latest report that, “Known technological options could achieve a broad range of atmospheric CO2 stabilization levels, such as 550 ppm, 450 ppm or below over the next 100 years or more.”  The authors disagree.  “This statement does not recognize the CO2 emission-free power requirements implied by the IPCC’s own reports.... Energy sources that can produce 100 to 300 percent of present world power consumption without greenhouse emissions do not exist operationally or as pilot plants.”

 

The authors assess various possible methods to achieve the requisite greenhouse gas reductions, such as efficiency improvements, decarbonization and sequestration, renewables, nuclear power, and geoengineering.  Nuclear fusion appears to be the best option, according to the review. “Despite enormous hurdles,” it says, “the most promising long-term nuclear power source is still fusion.”  The other potential solutions considered by the authors are far from promising.

 

Decarbonization is moving from high carbon fuels such as coal to low carbon fuels such as natural gas, and eventually to carbon neutral fuels such as hydrogen.  But hydrogen does not exist in geological reservoirs and must be extracted from fossil fuel feedstocks or water.  “Per unit of heat generated, more CO2 is produced by making H2 [hydrogen] from fossil fuel than by burning the fossil fuel directly,” says the review.  Getting the hydrogen from water is even less viable.

 

Renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is not a viable solution either.  “All renewables suffer from low areal power densities,” write the authors.  Thus they require enormous amounts of land.  Moreover, “Renewables are intermittent dispersed sources unsuited to baseload without transmission, storage, and power conditioning.”

 

The article concludes that the ability to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions without seriously damaging the economy is not possible at this time.  “CO2 is a combustion product vital to how civilization is powered.”  All of the approaches discussed in the paper to replace fossil fuels “have serious deficiencies that limit their ability to stabilize global climate.”

 

Global Warming and Heat-Related Mortality

 

One of the speculative impacts of global warming is the increase of heat-related mortality due to rising summertime temperatures.  A study in Climate Research (September 6, 2002) finds that there is no evidence to support that claim.

 

The team of researchers, led by Robert Davis of the University of Virginia, looked at the impact of high temperatures on daily mortality rates over four decades in six major metropolitan areas along the U.S. east coast from north to south.  What they found was that in the three southernmost cities, there were few significant mortality effects related to temperature extremes.  But in the three northernmost cities, there was a significant decline in population-adjusted mortality rates.

 

What this means is that, “These statistically significant reductions in hot-weather mortality rates suggest that the populace in cities that were weather-sensitive in the 1960s and 1970s have become less impacted by extreme conditions over time because of improved medical care, increased access to air conditioning, and biophysical and infrastructure adaptations.”  They note that, “This analysis counters the paradigm of increased heat-related mortality rates in the eastern U.S. predicted to result from future climate warming.”

 

Etc.

 

·    Last Sunday, Al Gore guest-starred as the voice of his own disembodied head in the animated Fox series Futurama.  The episode was written by Gore’s daughter Kristin, and according to the Washington Post (November 2, 2002), “Gore’s preserved cranium hosts an emergency summit to determine how to combat global warming caused by robot emissions.”  Oddly enough, this wouldn’t be the most outlandish thing the Gore has said about global warming.

 

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