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Vol. VII, No. 20
Vol. VII, No. 20
October 21, 2003
Moscow Conference Casts Doubt over Kyoto’s Future
The United Nations’ World Climate Change Conference, which concluded in Moscow on October 3, ended without reaching a consensus on the issue. A senior economic adviser to President Putin stated that he found the answers from the scientific organizers to his detailed questions over climate change science (which for the most part simply quoted from the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report issued two years ago) were unconvincing. When the debate was opened up to the floor on the final day, conference chairman Bert Bolin was forced to admit that nine out of 10 questions from the floor questioned the “consensus” on anthropogenic climate change.
After the conference, Russian advisers were at pains to stress that their skepticism towards Kyoto was based on genuine misgivings over the treaty’s scientific basis and the effects of climate change on Russia rather than simply a negotiating tactic to extract more concessions from the west. An unnamed source told Reuters Oct. 14, “I do not know how clearly what [the senior adviser] said was translated, but judging by the commentaries that appeared the words were interpreted as brinkmanship…. This is not a game, it is a very serious question…about the theory that (the protocol) is based on, and a number of other questions such as the economic issue."
At time of writing, there has been little official reaction to the conference’s outcome from Kyoto-supporting governments or environmental lobby groups. Annie Petsonk of Environmental Defense, who attended the conference, alleged in Greenwire (Oct. 15), “Scientists and economists who spoke in favor of Kyoto often found their microphones cut off and were not allowed to speak until the last day of the conference.”
However, sources suggest that high-level officials preparing for the UNFCC’s ninth Conference of the Parties in Milan in December are bowing to the inevitable. BNA’s Daily Environment Report reported (Oct. 10), “For the first time since its drafting, official discussions will include the possibility of combating climate change without the Kyoto Protocol, although talks will focus more on other issues that include the use and transfer of new technologies, capacity building in developing countries, and sustainable development.”
Schwarzenegger’s Campaign Cheers Environmentalists
According to Greenwire (Oct. 15), California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “policy agenda reads like an environmentalist's wish list.” He has set a target of reducing “air pollution by up to 50 percent, through incentives for clean fuel usage, and build hydrogen car fueling stations along California highways. The governor-elect also supports the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which would require that 20 percent of the state's power come from solar and wind power by 2017.”
In addition, he has promised to defend the state's greenhouse gas legislation against legal challenges, saying, “California's landmark legislation to cut greenhouse gases is now law, and I will work to implement it and to win the expected challenges in court along the way.”
Schwarzenegger’s campaign was not wholly attractive to the environmental lobby, which reacted badly to his suggestion that he might want to close down the state’s environmental protection agency as part of his campaign against government bureaucracy. However, Terry Tamminen, an unpaid adviser to Schwarzenegger on environmental issues, and executive director of Environment Now, told Greenwire that he hoped the new Governor would be able to work more closely with the White House than Gov. Davis did on issues like global warming and air pollution, saying, “As a Republican governor, Arnold is much more likely to be able to work with the Bush administration to resolve differences…. California could persuade the federal government to take another look at those policies.”
Deal on Energy Bill “Close”
Progress on the energy bill conference stalled over recent weeks, but Republican conference leaders are now confident they are ‘close’ to a deal on the outstanding disagreements over electricity, tax, and MTBE issues.
Those disagreements are over whether merchant power generators should have to pay for transmission upgrades and issues surrounding liability protection for and a federal ban on the fuel additive MTBE. Sources suggest that one of the issues (it is not known which one) has been sent to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) to try to reach some resolution. The package of tax incentives has not been finished, either.
The conferees have agreed to drop the Senate bill’s three climate titles and the 10 percent renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities. There is confusion over whether the provisions for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for an inventory of oil and gas resources in the outer continental shelf have been dropped. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D.-Conn.) had issued a press release congratulating Republican conference leaders for removing the provisions, but retracted his statement when no announcement was forthcoming.
Collusion Charges “Absurd”
Following an allegation by the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Maine that the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, had colluded with administration officials to sue the Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Data Quality Act over its dissemination of the junk-science based Climate Action Report 2002, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) has written to the White House asking officials to release to him any documents relating to the alleged collusion.
CEI rejected the charge as preposterous. “This started as a suit against a Clinton administration global warming report,” CEI President Fred L. Smith, Jr. said in a press release. “The accusations of collusion are absurd and just an attempt to divert attention from the real issue—that junk science is being used as the basis for climate change reports, which could lead to policies that cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars with little, if any, benefit.”
CEI’s legal action began against the Climate Action Report’s predecessor, the National Assessment on Climate Change, in October 2000.
Kyoto Ratification Latest
Since March of this year, eleven more countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol: Botswana, Ghana, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Namibia, Moldova, St. Lucia, Solomon Islands, and Switzerland. Of these, Switzerland is the only Annex I country subject to emissions controls under the pact, responsible for 0.3 percent of the emissions concerned.
Switzerland’s ratification brings the total percentage of Annex I emissions belonging to countries that have ratified the protocol to 44.2 percent. The USA (36.1), Australia (2.1) and Russia (17.4) together make up 55.6 percent, meaning that as long as either Russia or the U. S. fails to ratify the protocol, it cannot go into effect.
Prebon Reads Writing on the Wall
Prebon Energy, a leading global energy broker, has got out of the emissions trading business. The following is the statement from the company’s president explaining the decision
“To our Emissions Customers, After careful consideration, Prebon Energy has decided to exit the air quality trading markets effective immediately. Given current market conditions, we have decided to focus our energies in other areas where we believe we can offer value to our customers; including, but not limited to, the natural gas and electricity markets. Staff will be available to handle any queries regarding emissions trades that have either been consummated or are pending. Sincerely, Edward Novak, President, Prebon Energy.”
Emissions trading prices in Europe have failed to hit the levels predicted, while the voluntary exchange in the US has suffered from a dearth of buyers.
Wind Farms in UK Raise Environmental Objections
A long article in London’s Observer on October 5 pointed out the many and varied objections locals and environmentalists are raising against the wind farms springing up around the country in an effort to meet the United Kingdom government’s target of generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
Self-professed ‘left-wing environmentalist,’ Martin Wright, told the paper: “Since the Second World War, there's been a consensus that landscape matters…. That's broken down here. If people in London knew the place, they would be appalled. And yet we're portrayed as nuclear-loving nimbies in the press…. Wind turbines are a good idea in the right place.… But sticking hundreds of them on wild land is not a good idea. For a small, heavily populated country we have some stunning landscapes, but they're under threat of industrialization.”
The article also points out the threat to local avian wildlife: “Research shows, however, that wind farms are killing far more birds than the public realizes. A five-year study in California revealed that the Altamont Pass wind farm kills an average of 40 to 60 golden eagles a year, along with 'several hundred' hawks, falcons and other birds of prey. In Spain, a report commissioned by the regional government of Navarra concluded that 368 turbines at 10 sites had killed nearly 7,000 wild birds in a single year, including 409 vultures, 24 eagles and 650 bats.
“In Germany, studies show turbines have killed dozens of rare red kites…. Red kites are a conservation success story, brought back from the brink of extinction in this area [of the UK], but two were killed at this small site alone last summer. Other rare British birds are also under threat as the turbines proliferate…. A farm of 27 turbines, each 325ft high, at Edinbane on Skye has planning consent, despite RSPB objections that the site was too close to sea eagles and several breeding pairs of golden eagles, as well as merlin and hen harriers. All four species have the highest possible legal protection.”
Finally, as energy consultant and TV personality Professor Ian Fells pointed out, “To meet the 2010 target, Britain will have to build 400 to 500 turbines each year. Each will be a 3MW machine, bigger than anything yet seen. ‘I think they'll be doing well to get there by 2020,’ Fell says. ‘There's some wishful thinking in the latest White Paper. And wind power is not completely clean. You have to build huge concrete foundations and service roads and so on.’”
The Return of Malthus
In an inversion of the way Malthusian arguments usually run, a team of Swedish geologists has said that constraints on fossil fuel resources mean that there is not enough oil and gas available to fuel the doomsday scenarios of greenhouse gas production envisaged by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Geologists Anders Sivertsson, Kjell Aleklett and Colin Campbell of Uppsala University say there is not enough oil and gas left for even the most conservative of the 40 IPCC scenarios to come to pass. Their research suggests that the combined reserves of oil and gas amount to barely 3500 billion barrels of oil, which is considerably below the 5000 billion barrels assumed by the “best-case” IPCC scenario. The “worst-case” assumes 18,000 billion barrels, a level Aleklett calls “completely unrealistic.”
Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the IPCC team counters that their scenarios included a much broader and more internationally accepted range of estimates than the “conservative” Swedes put forward and told New Scientist (Oct. 3) that coal could be used to make up the difference. Aleklett conceded that coal could fill the gap, and both agreed that its use in such an eventuality would be “disastrous.”
Lindzen Meets the Mayors
In response to steps taken by the Mayors of Newton and Worcester, Mass., to mitigate the effects of climate change on their townships, Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published an open letter in The Washington Times on October 9.
He concluded, “Capping CO2 emissions per unit electricity generated will have a negligible impact at best on CO2 levels. It certainly will, however, increase the cost of electricity, and place those states pursuing such a path at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Why would any elected official want that, even at the admittedly severe risk of appearing politically incorrect?
“It is important to understand that the impact of CO2 on the Earth's heat budget is nonlinear. What this means is that although CO2 has only increased about 30 percent over its pre-industrial level, the impact on the heat budget of the Earth due to the increases in CO2 and other man-influenced greenhouse substances has already reached about 75 percent of what one expects from a doubling of CO2.
“Assuming that all of the very irregular change in temperature over the past 120 years or so—about 1 degree Fahrenheit—is due to added greenhouse gases—a very implausible assumption—the temperature rise seen so far is much less (by a factor of 2-to-3) than models predict.
“If we are, nonetheless, to believe the model predictions, the argument goes roughly as follows: The models are correct, but some unknown process has canceled the impact of increasing greenhouse gases, and that process will henceforth cease. Do we really want to put the welfare of the nation, much less any one community, at risk for such an argument? I for one would hope for greater prudence from my elected officials.”
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
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
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee