Vol VII, No 25

Vol VII, No 25

December 25, 2003

Politics

Little Happens at Gloomy COP-9

 

The ninth conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-9), held in Milan, Italy, from December 1 to 12, was a low-key affair made gloomy by statements from Russian officials that Russia could not ratify the Kyoto Protocol in its present form and by an extraordinary announcement by Margot Wallstrom, the European Union’s environment commissioner.  Wallstrom warned that only two of the EU’s fifteen members—the United Kingdom and Sweden—were on course to meet their Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Agreement was reached on several technical issues related to implementing the Kyoto Protocol.  The most contentious issue was whether carbon sinks using genetically modified organisms could be counted.  Environmentalists denounced the use of “Frankentrees” on the grounds that one environmental catastrophe should not be used to precipitate another.  However, delegates finally agreed that each country’s own laws on GMOs would determine whether GMOs could be used in that country.         

With prospects for Kyoto dimming, many side events put on by NGOs and governments were on the subject of what to do next.  It seems unlikely that a second commitment period after 2012 can be agreed.  Thus, various alternatives were discussed, often with a fair degree of candor.  It seemed to the editor that two broad camps were being formed at COP-9. 

In the pragmatist camp were those NGOs that support a wide variety of future approaches to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  The working idea at present is that all these approaches could be part of an a la carte menu that nations could choose from in order to fulfill their second round commitments.

The idealist camp has settled on promoting the “contraction and convergence” model developed by Aubrey Meyer of London’s Global Commons Institute.  Contraction and convergence assigns every person on Earth an identical emissions quota.  Over time, this quota would be reduced to the level of average emissions in the poorest countries.  In the meantime, richer nations could buy rights to emit from poorer nations.  As the quota went down each year, the cost of buying them would go up, so that in theory national per capita incomes would converge at the level of the poorer nations.  

 

Dr. R. K.  Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tried to liven up the proceedings by putting out a press release attacking Ian Castles and David Henderson, who have published a devastating analysis of the IPCC’s climate scenarios.  The claims made in the press release will only sound plausible to those who have not read Castles and Henderson.

 

The United States sent a large delegation of approximately sixty officials, headed by Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky and Senior Climate Negotiator Harlan Watson.  They made presentations on the U. S.’s technological research initiatives.  In addition, a congressional delegation headed by Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, spent December 10 and 11 at the meeting.  Senator Inhofe did create a stir at a briefing when he gave a 45-minute speech on the flawed science supporting global warming alarmism.  He and two of his colleagues, Senators Larry Craig (R-Id.) and Craig Thomas (R-Wy.), were immediately denounced in a multi-page press release complete with photos of the three put out by the National Environmental Trust, an NGO pressure group of questionable trustworthiness.

 

The big event for the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, the United Nations Environment Programme, and several other groups was the launch of the “international climate symbol.”  It consists of a blue and green Earth with a candle flame on top dripping white wax down the side.  This symbol can be viewed at www.saveourclimate.org.

 

EU Commissioner “Torpedoes” Kyoto

 

At the same time as the European Union’s intergovernmental summit on the proposed EU constitution was dissolving in acrimony, cracks began to appear at the commissioner level in EU unity over its approach to the Kyoto Protocol.

 

EU Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told a meeting of member state energy ministers in Brussels that it would be “suicide” for the EU to follow the Kyoto treaty if Russia did not ratify.  “The time has come for us to face reality,” de Palacio said. “We can't go on pretending that everything is fine when it's not.” 

 

Italian Industry Minister Antonio Marzano, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, added further fuel to the fire when he said the EU could suffer competitively if it was alone in implementing Kyoto.  According to Reuters (Dec. 17), he went on, “Clearly we (energy and environment ministers) are going to have to pool our resources on this...if we are going to find a balance.”

 

Environmentalists have reacted angrily to the Commissioner’s stance.  “(She) is actively torpedoing the EU's efforts to keep Kyoto alive,” Stephan Singer, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s climate and energy policy unit, said in a statement (Reuters, Dec. 18).

 

Russian Position Further Clarified

 

Russia’s position on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol continues to baffle those who do not follow the Russian press.  Following the statement of President Putin’s chief economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, on Dec. 2 that Russia would not ratify Kyoto “in its present form,” environmentalists and their allies have clung to the words the next day of Deputy Economics Minister, Mukhmed Tsikanov, who said that Russia was continuing, “to move towards ratification.”

 

These interpretations ignore the fact, evident from reports from Novosti, the Russian Information Agency, and the Moscow Times, that Dr. Illarionov was actually repeating a statement made at a private meeting by President Putin himself.  As Novosti said, “At the meeting Vladimir Putin stated a position regarding Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol: it cannot be ratified in its present form as limiting the development of the Russian economy.”  Dr. Illarionov himself underlined this when he told a news conference on Dec. 4, “The statement I made two days ago repeated word for word what the Russian president said at his meeting with EU representatives.”  The statement by Minister Tsikanov was directly dealt with when Dr. Illarionov told Heritage Foundation fellow Ariel Cohen, “When Deputy Minister of Economy said recently that Russia is still negotiating, I corrected him saying that he reflected the Russian position in August.  Things are different in December.”  (Tech Central Station, Dec. 16).

 

Although not as widely reported as Tsikanov’s statement, some have pointed to the comments of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov during a visit to Kyoto on Dec. 16, when he said that Russia was moving towards ratification, but that Moscow needed to weigh the consequences of the protocol's ratification and be convinced that other countries would take on similar burdens.

 

Dr. Illarionov clarified the position further on Dec. 17, according to the Interfax news agency, when he said that, “Only 32 out of 210 countries have ratified the protocol and committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions….  Russia could join the protocol if more countries did, he said.  Moreover, Russia should be excluded from the addendum listing the countries for which reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is mandatory when they sign the protocol….  Another option would be excluding the emission reduction commitments from the protocol, he said.”  None of these options is likely to be attractive to Kyoto enthusiasts.

 

Joke on Kyoto

 

As COP-9 opened, Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, gave her vision of the future of the Kyoto Protocol (BBC News Online, Nov. 29).

 

She began by ignoring reality in praising China’s “progress” on greenhouse gas emissions.  Apparently unaware of recent re-estimates of the amount of Chinas CO2 emissions and India’s recent announcement that it will accept no restrictions on emissions (see the Oct. 30 edition of the newsletter), Ms. Waller-Hunter said, “Countries like India, China, and Cuba are all waiting for the protocol's clean development mechanism to start working—that will let richer countries invest in projects to cut greenhouse gases in the developing world.  The rapidly industrializing countries see their environmental and economic interests coinciding.  China is really decoupling energy use from GDP.”

 

Ms. Waller-Hunter went on to admit that the Kyoto Protocol would have very little effect beyond preparing the world for much harsher restrictions.  She said, “It's wrong to think the protocol will do so little that it's insignificant.  It's a very important first step that can lead to much more far-reaching measures.  Yes, it's a peanut, but a vital one in the long run.”

 

“At the moment only the industrialized (Annex One) countries have to cut their emissions, but within a few years these cuts will be obligatory for every country.  We have to look at a future of increasing carbon constraints.”

 

Waller-Hunter then admitted that to get poorer countries to sign up would entail a form of massive redistribution of wealth from developed to developing countries when she said, “We shall have to find ways of making the principle of equity a reality, or it will be very hard to get the poorer countries involved.”  Equity in emissions means equal per capita rights to emit greenhouse gases, which would require the developed world to buy the capacity it needs to sustain its economies from the developing world.

 

Economics

 

WHO Blames Preventable Deaths on Global Warming

 

The World Health Organization used the occasion of COP-9 to issue an alarmist estimate of 150,000 deaths in 2000 caused by global warming.

 

Although the data purportedly related to 3 years ago, the WHO researchers had no problem referring to the 20,000 deaths caused by this year’s heat wave in Europe, where, for many of the deaths, cultural and economic aspects were contributory factors.  The researchers also ignored concerns that they had not counted any lives saved by warmer winters, saying, “There will be winners and losers … In a tropical city like Delhi, an increase in temperature is probably not going to save a lot of lives” (Associated Press, Dec. 11).

 

Most of the deaths were attributed to recent rises in preventable tropical diseases, such as malaria.  Many observers actually attribute the rise in malaria to the decrease in the use of the pesticide DDT under pressure from environmentalists.  Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris told Reuters (Dec. 11), “It is naive to predict the effects of global warming on malaria on the mere basis of temperature….  Why don't we devote our resources to tackling these diseases directly, instead of spending billions in vain attempts to change the weather?”

 

Insurers Claim Global Warming Cost $60 Billion in 2003

 

Also presenting tales of doom at COP-9 was the “Finance Initiative” of the United Nations Environment Programme.  Using primary data collected by reinsurance company Munich Re, UNEP calculated that global warming-triggered natural disasters cost the world $60 billion in 2003, up $5 billion from 2002.

 

The biggest single element was the European heat wave, which cost the agricultural industry $10 billion, closely followed by floods in China that cost $8 billion and US tornadoes that cost $3 billion.

 

As is usually the case with these calculations, the alleged costs ignore the fact that more and more people are living, working and investing in areas historically susceptible to extreme weather conditions.  They also ignore the fact that, as the head of the World Meteorological Organization has admitted (see the July 23 issue of the newsletter) that there is not enough evidence to demonstrate that such extreme weather events are caused by global warming, or have increased in frequency (rather than being an artifact of increased reporting).

 

Science

 

Urban Heat Island Effect Still an Issue

 

British scientist Phillip Stott reports on an intriguing new piece of research on his highly recommended EnviroSpin Watch web log (http://greenspin.blogspot.com).  Canadian researcher Dr. Ian G. McKendry (University of British Columbia) has compiled a ‘progress report’ on the question of the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect for the latest issue of Progress in Physical Geography: (PIPG 27[4], 2003, pp. 597-606).

 

Stott quotes him as saying, “UHIs continue to present a problem for the detection of changes in the global surface temperature record (the so-called ‘greenhouse effect’).  Typically, the urban bias is removed from climate records based on relatively simple regression models that utilize population size as an indicator of the urban excess....Several studies have recently exploited long historic records to illustrate that such methods may not be sufficient to correct adequately for the ‘urban bias’.”  

 

According to Stott, McKendry “further points out that recent studies have also begun to examine more closely the effects of UHI intensity on meteorological conditions, a topic first considered in 1951.  Some of this new work indicates that the UHI effect may well be implicated in changes in both precipitation and storm patterns.”

 

Stott calls the article an “extremely well-referenced review.”  McKendry concludes: “Recent studies suggest that attempts to remove the ‘urban bias’ from long-term climate records (and hence identify the magnitude of the enhanced greenhouse effect) may be overly simplistic.  This will likely continue to be a contentious issue in the climate change community.”

 

McIntyre and McKitrick Praised

 

The careful investigation of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick into Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” data has received praise from sources not usually friendly to climate science skepticism.

 

Writing in London’s Observer (Dec. 7), influential British left-winger Will Hutton castigated the reception given to McIntyre and  McKitrick’s paper, saying, “An important and neutral paper by Canadians Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick suggests that the best guess is that, while temperatures are currently rising, they probably lie within the range for the past 600 years.  Environmentalists, just as in a battle over a new runway, are being as partisan in their use of science as their opponents.”

 

Meanwhile, University  of  California Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller, a long-time supporter of global warming alarmism, wrote in MIT’s Technology Review (Dec. 17), “Last month’s article by McIntyre and McKitrick raised pertinent questions.  They had been given access (by Mann) to details of the work that were not publicly available.  Independent analysis and (when possible) independent data sets are ultimately the arbiter of truth.  This is precisely the way that science should, and usually does, proceed.  That’s why Nobel Prizes are often awarded one to three decades after the work was completed—to avoid mistakes.  Truth is not easy to find, but a slow process is the only one that works reliably.

 

Muller continued, “It was unfortunate that many scientists endorsed the hockey stick before it could be subjected to the tedious review of time.  Ironically, it appears that these scientists skipped the vetting precisely because the results were so important.”

 

More Fiddling with Paleoclimatology

 

There is further evidence for the existence of the Little Ice Age—in Europe at least—in new research on the history of violins, of all things.  Two researchers believe they have found the answer in paleoclimatology to why Stradivarius’s violins are so good.

 

The Associated  Press reports (Dec. 8), “Grissino-Mayer at Tennessee and Dr. Lloyd Burckle at Columbia suggest a ‘Little Ice Age’ that gripped Europe from the mid-1400s until the mid-1800s slowed tree growth and yielded uncommonly dense Alpine spruce for Antonio Stradivari and other famous 17th-century Italian violinmakers.

 

“The ice age reached its coldest point during a 70-year period from 1645-1715 known as the Maunder Minimum, which was named after the 19th century solar astronomer, E.W. Maunder, who documented a lack of solar activity during the period.

 

“Stradivari was born a year before the Maunder Minimum began, and he produced his most prized and valued stringed instruments as the period ended—his golden period from 1700-1720.

 

“We would suggest that the narrow tree rings that identify the Maunder Minimum in Europe played a role in the enhanced sound quality of instruments produced by the Cremona [Italy] violinmakers,” Grissino-Mayer and Burckle write, noting that “narrow tree rings would not only strengthen the violin but would increase the wood's density.”

 

“The onset of the Maunder Minimum at a time when the skills of the Cremonese violinmakers reached their zenith perhaps made the difference in the violin's tone and brilliance,” they conclude.

 

AGU Issues Statement on Climate Change

 

The American Geophysical Union has issued its long-awaited new position statement on climate change (available on the internet at http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/climate_change_position.html).  The position paper is the usual blend of carefully worded scientific platitudes used to back up alarmist rhetoric.

 

For instance, the statement says, “Model projections of future global warming vary, because of differing estimates of population growth, economic activity, greenhouse gas emission rates, changes in atmospheric particulate concentrations and their effects, and also because of uncertainties in climate models.”  In other words, many non-scientific factors are essentially guesswork, compounding the scientific uncertainties.

 

The statement goes on to stress investment in “education of the next generation of climate scientists.”  Could the AGU be worried that some scientists might not naturally incline towards study of climate science without the lure of research grants?  Why ever not?

 

Announcements

 

Federal Government Seeks Contributors for IPCC Report

 

The following announcement appeared in the Federal Register on Dec. 12:

 

United States Climate Change Science Program

 

ACTION: Request U.S. nomination of experts for consideration as coordinating lead authors, lead authors, contributing authors, expert reviewers, and review editors for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 

SUMMARY: The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open, transparent basis, the scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation.  The IPCC has three working groups: Working Group I assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change; Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it; and Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change.  The IPCC provides scientific, technical, and socio-economic advice to the world community, and in particular to the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through its periodic assessment reports and special reports.  The IPCC has decided to continue to prepare comprehensive assessment reports and agreed to complete its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

 

The U.S. Government has received a request from the IPCC to nominate experts for consideration as coordinating lead authors, lead authors, contributing authors, expert reviewers, and review editors for the different chapters and volumes of the Fourth Assessment Report.

 

Further information on this request—such as the IPCC request for nominations, the approved outlines of the three IPCC working groups for the AR4, a description of the roles and responsibilities associated with them, and a nomination form that must be completed for each nominee—may be found at either the IPCC Secretariat (http://www.ipcc.ch/ar4/nominations/nominations.htm) or CCSP (http://www.climatescience.gov)

 

DATES: Completed nomination forms for each nominee should be returned to the Climate Change Science Program Office (ipcc_nominations@usgcrp.gov) by noon Monday, January 5, 2004.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Allen, U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Suite 250, 1717 Pennsylvania Ave, NW., Washington, DC

 

 

 

 

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