Vol. VI, No. 25

Vol. VI, No. 25

December 10, 2002

Politics

 

Canadian House Approves Kyoto

 

On Dec. 10, the Canadian House of Commons voted 195 to 77 to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change after a long and often acrimonious debate.   The measure, which will face its next test in the Senate, was mostly supported by the Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party.  The Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party opposed ratification.

 

Prime Minister, Jean Chretien said of the vote, “It is a great day for Canada, a great day for the environment and a great day for the future of our kids.”  He failed to mention, however, that the treaty would be tremendously expensive and have no measurable impact on global temperatures.  Much of the impetus for Chretien’s support for ratification seems to be to put pressure on the U.S.  According to Environment Minister David Anderson, “It is important for a North American country to ratify.  We will see much more interest in the United States to take part in the process.”

 

The major point of contention has been the effect the Kyoto Protocol, which would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 6 percent below 1990 levels, would have on Canada’s economy.  The government claims that the cost will be small, just a 0.4 percent reduction in GDP by 2010 and 60,000 fewer jobs created.  But  the  opposition  argues  that  the government has been less than honest in its economic projections. 

 

Bob Mills, a Canadian Alliance member who filibustered the motion for 11 hours, said that, “This treaty is asking people to reduce carbon use by 20 percent.  However, this treaty would increase their costs anywhere from 25 percent to possibly 100 percent for the very things they need to live.  We have talked about the loss of jobs.  We have talked about the billions of dollars this can cost for simply reducing CO2.”

 

Critics also argue Kyoto compliance would be virtually impossible for Canada anyway, and any attempt to do so would send major industries packing or put them out of business.  The auto parts manufacturing industry, for example, which relies heavily on exports to the U.S. could be hurt by differential standards in automobile manufacturing, according to Mills (Washington Post, December 11, 2002).

 

Greens Sue EPA to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions

 

Several environmental groups filed suit in federal court on Dec. 5 to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate automotive emissions of carbon dioxide.  The lawsuit, brought by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the International Center for Technology Assessment, argues that the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the agency to reduce air pollution from automobiles that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

 

The groups initially petitioned the EPA in 1999 to regulate CO2.  The EPA opened a public comment period on the petition, and the groups claimed in their lawsuit that most of the 50,000 comments received supported classifying CO2 as a pollutant under the CAA.  “EPA’s stalling tactics are doing real damage in the fight against global warming,” said Joseph Mendelson, ICTA’s legal director.  “It’s time for the Bush Administration to get its head out of the sand” (Greenwire, December 6, 2002).

 

The claim that the majority of public comments favor a particular interpretation of the law is an odd legal argument to say the least.  Legal interpretations are not made through referendum.  Several legal analyses by law firms, industry groups and congressional committees have concluded that there is no legal authority in the CAA to regulate CO2. 

 

The most damning evidence against the environmentalist’s argument comes from within the CAA itself.  The only place in the CAA that even mentions CO2 is in the context of “nonregulatory strategies.”  The act clearly stipulates in the portion that mentions CO2 that, “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to authorize the imposition on any person of air pollution control requirements.”

 

1200 Attend Climate Pow-Wow

 

The Bush Administration's Climate Change Science Program held a mammoth workshop on its draft strategic plan for climate research on December 3-5 at Washington's Wardman Park Marriott Hotel.  Over 1200 people attended the event organized by Dr. James R. Mahoney, Assistant Secretary of Commerce.

 

The purpose of the 170-page strategic plan is to lay out the two-to-four-year climate research agenda.  Its focus is on identifying the major uncertainties in climate science and the research needed to reduce those uncertainties.  Written comments will be accepted until January 13, 2003.  The plan may be down-loaded at www.climatescience.gov.

 

Mahoney re-assured attendees in his closing remarks that federal funding for climate research would increase from the approximately $1.7 billion now being spent, but cautioned that because of difficult budget conditions the increases would not be large.  Other major speakers included IPCC Chairman R.K. Pachauri, Secretary of Energy Spence Abraham, Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, and G.O.P. Obasi, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.

 

Dr. John Marburger, head of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the workshop that the strategic plan would build on the good work of the U. S. Global Change Research Program.  That program's National Assessment on the impacts of climate change, published in 2000, has been thoroughly discredited as junk science and was even disavowed by the Bush Administration.

 

The workshop included 24 smaller break-out sessions in which invited panelists discussed specific sections of the report followed by comments from the audience.  Some of the issues discussed included climate modeling, observational and monitoring systems, the carbon cycle, climate variability, land use, and human contributions and responses to climate change.

 

Economics

 

IPCC’s Bad Economic Assumptions

 

Leading statisticians and economists are attacking the economic assumptions used in the Third Assessment Report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The report claims that the world could heat up by as much as 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C (2.52 to 10.44 degrees F) over the next century, which represents a major jump from its previous forecast of 1 to 3.5 degrees C (1.8 to 6.2 degrees F).

 

Much of the basis for the modeling projections that came out of the IPCC report are based on economic models, which employ assumptions about economic and population growth, energy use and so on.  But according to many economists the models contain serious technical errors and make outlandish assumptions about future economic growth rates.

 

The leading critics are Ian Castles, former head of Australia’s Bureau of Statistics, and David Henderson, former chief economist at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Both have written letters to IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri about their concerns. Pachauri, an economist himself, has promised to give the matter serious attention.

 

One of the major problems with the manner in which the IPCC came up with its economic growth estimates is that they were derived from pre-determined emissions projections.  As noted by the National Post (November 27, 2002), the IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios “set about creating economic forecasts that appear to support” the desired projected increase in global temperatures and imposed “emissions forecasts on economic models,” which led to “scenarios that economists say make no sense.”

 

They are an “insult to science....an insult to serious analysis” said John Reilly, a leading economic modeler at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.  He accuses the IPCC of fishing for economists willing to manipulate the long-range models to get the desired results.  In fact, “They wanted our group [at MIT] to do this, but we just refused.”

 

In order to get to the 5.8 degree C prediction, the SRES concocted a scenario that assumed that the combined GDP of the developing countries would overtake that of the developed OECD countries in 30 years and be three times greater than OECD levels by 2100.  Developing world per capita GDP would equal that of the OECD by 2060, meaning that, “Real incomes in the whole of the developing world will be many times greater than those in the richest countries in the world today,” according to Castles.

 

To achieve this per capita growth rate, Asia and Latin America would have to grow at the torrid pace of between 50 to 65 percent per decade for several decades, a growth rate that has never been sustained over any appreciable period of time.  The IPCC also assumed that per capita growth in the developed countries would have to come to a near standstill.

 

The SRES also vastly overestimated the gap in per capita income between rich and poor countries, at about 40 to 1 instead of the true value of 10 to 1, by using improper measuring tools.  Thus, the amount growth needed to close the gap is much smaller than estimated by SRES, which also means that emissions projections would also be much smaller.

 

Petroleum Necessary for Economic Development

 

One of issues that the World Summit on Sustainable Development attempted to address was “how to bring modern energy services to the one-third of humanity whose development and survival requirements suffer from a lack of them,” writes Kirk Smith, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Berkeley, in an editorial titled, “In Praise of Petroleum?” in the Dec. 6 issue of Science.  The premise of the WSSD paper, which attempts to answer this question, was that, “for the poor as for everyone else, only renewable energy sources qualify as sustainable.”

 

According to the WSSD paper, fossil fuels are limited and pose a threat to the climate, whereas biomass fuels are sustainable.  Smith questions both claims.  He argues that the use of biomass in poor countries “contributes to local depletion of biomass resources” and presents health problems due to “high emissions of pollutants.”

 

The use of fossil fuels in developing country households would not contribute appreciably to the “environmental burden of fossil fuels,” writes Smith.  If all 2 billion people lacking adequate energy supplies shifted to liquefied petroleum gas, for example, it would only add 2 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and would actually reduce emissions harmful to human health. 

 

Moreover, petroleum resources “are more than sufficient to supply all conceivable household needs far into the future.”  Finally, affordable, reliable, and sustainable renewable energy sources are not available.  “Does it make sense to ask the poor to take on novel devices and fuels that have never been tried elsewhere, because otherwise we may add a bit of GHG emissions or shorten the petroleum era by a few weeks?” asks Smith.

 

Smith recommends that the rich countries increase their fuel efficiency to offset fossil fuel use in the poor countries. He argues that an improvement in the fuel economy of the world automobile fleet of just 0.5 percent per year “would free up sufficient fuel energy for the cooking needs of all 2 billion people well before the year of the next Earth Summit (Rio+20).” 

 

The history of energy use in developed countries, however, is that of a long, sustained increase in fuel efficiency accompanied by increased energy use, so that isn’t likely to solve anything.  However, Smith’s assessment that petroleum should be an essential part of the economic development of poor countries is one that should be taken seriously.

 

European Union May Fail to Meet Kyoto Target

 

Yet another report has been released finding that the European Union will probably not meet its Kyoto target, this time from the European Environment Agency.  The report lays out the case for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.  “Achieving ‘sustainable’ atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system but allowing economic development, would require substantial (50 to 70 percent) global reductions in total greenhouse gas emissions.”  The first step to that goal is the ratification and compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.

 

The EU’s Kyoto target is a reduction of emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels.  The EU experienced a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the early 1990s, which stabilized during the second half of the 1990s and then began increasing again in 1999 and 2000.  About half of the decrease in emissions during the early 1990s, according to the report, was due to German reunification and economic restructuring that shut down inefficient East German industry and energy market liberalization and fuel switching in the United Kingdom.

 

In 2000, six EU countries (Finland, France, Germany, Luxemborg, Sweden and the United Kingdom) were on track to meet their differential burden-sharing targets.  The remaining members, (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) are not likely to meet their targets.  If current trends continue, to the EU emissions will be at 4.7 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.  The report is available at http://reports.eea.eu.int.

 

Science

 

Record Arctic Melting or More Hyperbole at the New York Times?

 

According to the New York Times (December 8, 2002), melting of Greenland glaciers and Arctic Ocean sea ice last summer reached record levels.  This is just more evidence, says the intrepid newspaper, that the Arctic is rapidly warming.  Although the Times does allow for natural climate oscillations it also fingers “human-driven changes to the environment like destruction of the ozone and the emission of carbon dioxide,” which could “accelerate and enlarge the effect.”

 

The Times bases its story on findings that were presented at a news conference at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Boulder Colo.  By the end of the summer, according to the scientists at the news conference, Arctic Ocean sea ice coverage bottomed out at two million square miles.  The average summer minimum, since measurements began in 1978, has been 2.4 million square miles.  “That was probably the craziest summer I’ve ever seen up there,” said Mark Serreze, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  “It’s the kind of change we’d expect to see [from global warming],” said James Morrison of the University of Washington. 

 

The researchers claim that sea ice coverage hasn’t fallen so low since the 1950s (was that cause by global warming too?), and that if current trends continue year-round coverage could fall by 20 percent by 2050.  Serreze stated, “I believe we will continue to see reductions in sea ice cover, because I think we are having an effect on the climate,” he said.  “The rate of that change is debatable.”

 

There are several problems with this story, however.  First, satellite measurements of the earth’s temperature, which began in 1979 and show little to no warming, are often criticized for being too short-term to offer definitive answers.  But the Times has no qualms about touting a similarly short regional sea ice record as evidence for global changes.

 

Second, according to an article published in the November 18 issue of EOS, the official journal of the American Geophysical Union, the loss of sea ice coverage in the Arctic isn’t really out of the ordinary.  As noted by a  review of the article on the Greening Earth Society’s website (www.greeningearthsociety.org), the Arctic has was as warm or warmer than it is now several decades ago. 

 

According to Igor Polykov, author of the EOS article, “Two distinct warming periods from 1920 to 1945, and from 1975 to the present, are clearly evident … compared with the global and hemispheric temperature rise, the high-latitude temperature increase was stronger in the late 1930s to early 1940’s than in recent decades.”  He also notes that, “We examined the long-term observational records of fast-ice thickness and ice extent from four Arctic marginal seas … the analysis indicates that long-term trends are small and generally statistically insignificant.”  This is a very different story than the one told by the New York Times.

 

Of course, the Times isn’t exactly a stranger to making outlandish global warming claims.  On August 19, 2000 it reported that open water had been observed near the North Pole, something that hadn’t happened in 50 million years.  The story, which later had to be retracted, was based on a press release faxed to the Times by a researcher who saw the open water, but had no expertise on Arctic sea ice.

 

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