You are here

Vol VIII, No 19

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol VIII, No 19

Politics 

Blair Puts Global Warming at Top of International Agenda               

 

In a major speech delivered September 14, British Prime Minister Tony Blair detailed his plans to use the British positions as chair of next year’s G8 summit and president of the European Union during 2005 to put action to prevent global warming back at the top of the international agenda.

 

Mr. Blair began his speech by saying, “What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse gases…is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming, and is simply unsustainable in the long-term.  And by long-term I do not mean centuries ahead.  I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own.  And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment.  I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.”

 

After laying out the evidence for these assertions, Blair said, “Even if there are those who still doubt the science in its entirety, surely the balance of risk for action or inaction has changed.  If there were even a 50% chance that the scientific evidence I receive is right, the bias in favor of action would be clear.  But of course it is far more than 50%.

 

“And in this case, the science is backed up by intuition.  It is not axiomatic that pollution causes damage.  But it is likely.  I am a strong supporter of proceeding through scientific analysis in such issues.  But I also, as I think most people do, have a healthy instinct that if we upset the balance of nature, we are in all probability going to suffer a reaction.  With world growth, and population as it is, this reaction must increase.

 

“We have been warned.  On most issues we ask children to listen to their parents.  On climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children.  Now is the time to start.”

 

According to the prime minister’s official spokesman, Blair’s plan includes three major goals.  First, Blair intends to seek an international agreement on the science and the threat posed by global warming.  Second, he will seek “to obtain agreement on a process to identify the science and technology measures necessary to meet the threat.”  And third, he will seek the active involvement of major developing nations, particularly China and India, in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The British prime minister also announced plans for a scientific conference preparatory to the G8 meeting: “Prior to the G8 meeting itself we propose first to host an international scientific meeting at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter in February.  More than just another scientific conference, this gathering will address the big questions on which we need to pool the answers available from the science:  ‘What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?’ and ‘What options do we have to avoid such levels?’”

 

Mr. Blair took pains not to personalize the issue as a disagreement with President Bush.  Referring to American concerns over Kyoto, he said, “Our efforts to stabilize the climate will need, over time, to become far more ambitious than the Kyoto Protocol.  Kyoto is only the first step, but provides a solid foundation for the next stage of climate diplomacy.  If Russia were to ratify that would bring it into effect.  We know there is disagreement with the U. S. over this issue.  In 1997 the U. S. Senate voted 95-0 in favor of a resolution that stated it would refuse to ratify such a treaty.  I doubt time has shifted the numbers very radically. 

 

“But the U. S. remains a signatory to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the U. S. National Academy of Sciences agree that there is a link between human activity, carbon emissions, and atmospheric warming.  Recently the U. S. Energy Secretary and Commercial Secretary jointly issued a report again accepting the potential damage to the planet through global warming.”

 

British Tory Leader Pledges to Do More on Climate than Blair

 

On September 13, the day before Prime Minister Blair’s speech outlined above, the leader of Britain’s opposition Conservative Party gave a major speech that accused Blair of not doing enough on global warming.  Michael Howard, M. P., pledged that a future Tory government would do much more to implement policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom and internationally.

 

Howard said, “The instinct of our prime minister is to lecture people.  But on his watch CO2 emissions have actually risen.  He has set ambitious long-term targets for CO2 emissions reductions, but few people outside government believe that there is a coherent plan for achieving them.”

 

The Conservative leader also contrasted Blair’s failure to persuade the Bush Administration to ratify the Kyoto Protocol with his success in 1992 in persuading President George Bush to attend the Earth Summit and to sign the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.  “One of the greatest challenges I faced as Secretary of State for the Environment was to persuade the Americans to participate in the first Earth Summit.  …I vividly remember my 24 hours of shuttle diplomacy in Washington before the Rio Summit, ending with me in the White House persuading the Americans not just to attend, but to sign up to the climate change convention, the forerunner of Kyoto.”

 

Howard then laid out his plans to address global warming if his party were voted into office at the next election.  They include “re-asserting [Britain’s] international leadership,” creating a global cap-and-trade emissions scheme, “renewing the drive for a diverse renewable energy sector,” and “re-focusing on increased energy efficiency.”  His government would demand that global carbon trading be “rigorously policed.”  In addition, Howard promised to phase out by 2014 the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which replaced chlorofluorocarbons in refrigeration and air conditioning as a result of the Montreal Protocol.

 

McCain Holds Rally for Alarmists

 

Senator John McCain (R-Az.) on September 15 held another pep rally to build support for his energy rationing legislation, the so-called Climate Stewardship Act (S. 139).  The event was advertised as a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which McCain chairs.

 

The hearing focused on junk science studies on regional impacts of global warming.  As has become his custom, McCain solicited testimony only from witnesses who support his alarmist views on global warming. 

 

According to Greenwire (Sept. 13), “Asked about his strategy, McCain said last week he is looking to ‘get a vote, get a vote, get a vote’” on S. 139.  However, it now looks unlikely that he will be able to get a floor vote during the remainder of the 108th Congress.

 

At a briefing held the same day in the Senate’s Russell Building and sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Dr. Richard Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, discussed abrupt climate changes and their possible connection to anthropogenic global warming. 

 

Although the information he presented suggested that abrupt climate shifts occur much more frequently during ice ages, Alley used an analogy to imply that human activities could cause sudden climate change.  Mankind is “rocking the canoe”—the canoe being the global climate system.  When a canoe is rocked, most of the time it rocks back and forth and eventually steadies itself, but occasionally it flips over and sinks.   Alley said that by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere we were rocking the canoe and that at some point it might tip over.  This is a new and more sophisticated version of the well-known scientific theory that the global climate is a sleeping beast that mankind is poking with a stick (in the form of greenhouse gas emissions).  It is not clear whether flipping over the canoe will have worse consequences than waking the sleeping beast.

 

Canadian Emissions Outpacing U. S.

 

According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail (Sept. 8), Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased at a faster rate than in the United States since 1990.  The figures, agreed by both governments, show that Canada’s emissions have grown by 20 percent, while America’s have risen by only 14 percent.  If emissions generated by Canadian energy exports to the U. S. are removed, then the Canadian rise drops to 15 percent.

 

Harlan Watson, chief climate negotiator for the U. S. State Department, said the figures showed how difficult emissions reductions are.  He told the Globe and Mail, “As we say, actions speak louder than signing pieces of paper….  I don't want to be harsh on Canada.  We have some of the most self-righteous folks in Europe, of course, and they're [also] having a great deal of difficulty.  Energy use accounts for something in the order of 80 per cent of the emissions.  Until we get a handle on that, there's no way to get from here to there, absent an economic collapse.”

 

Economics

 

Conference Board and Environmental Defense Join Forces

 

The Conference Board, a nonprofit business membership organization, published an “executive action report” on September 7 titled “Climate Change: Clear Trajectory—Haze in the Details.”  The report is based on the global warming propaganda conference organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (see the June 23 issue).  The Conference Board notes that their participation in the AAAS event was “facilitated” by the pressure group Environmental Defense and thanks the Turner Foundation for financial support.

 

The report quotes Michael Oppenheimer, now at Princeton University and former long-time holder of the Barbara Streisand Chair at Environmental Defense, on sea-level rise.  It also refers to Richard Alley’s flipping-the-canoe theory (see article above on McCain) and, mixing metaphors, asks whether melting glaciers, such as on Mt. Kilimanjaro, are the “canary in the coal mine.”  On the subject of computer climate models, the Conference Board quotes Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research: “Myth: Models can’t simulate what we’ve already observed.  Reality: Models are doing quite well simulating the 20th century and up to 1000 years previously.”

 

The report’s author, Dr. Charles Burnett, said, “Given the increasing costs of, and uncertainties surrounding, the reliability of traditional energy sources and growing pressures for higher standards of citizenship and contributions to global sustainability, businesses that ignore the debate over climate change do so at their peril.”

 

The report comments, seemingly oblivious to the climate policies of the company referred to, “Corporate boards will be increasingly expected to evaluate potential risks associated with climate change.  The frequently cited ‘Enron effect’ will likely result in increased pressure on boards to evaluate potential costs and risks associated with mitigation either of carbon emissions or the effects of actual climate changes.”

 

A recent report requested by the shareholders of American Electric Power showed that the costs to the company of the relatively modest and ineffective Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act could amount to close to $1 billion by 2030 (Greenwire, Sept. 7).  There is little pressure on business to disclose the potential costs of regulations to reduce emissions.

 

Senate Republicans Release New Report on IPCC Scenarios

 

A new report from the Senate Republican Policy Committee looks at the poor state of economic analysis in current projections of global temperatures.  The document, “Scientists Set Off Wrong Alarm Bells with Global Warming Conclusions,” examines the criticisms of Ian Castles and David Henderson and the reactions to the criticisms.

 

Castles and Henderson (see previous issues, passim) have produced a devastating analysis of the economic assumptions underlying the scenarios used in computer models by the U. N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “Third Assessment Report” to predict future global temperatures.  The RPC paper summarizes the ensuing debate.   

 

The paper concludes that it is the IPCC’s status as a body with a political, rather than scientific, agenda that led it to such “technical sloppiness and use of dubious assumptions.”  The paper argues that the “Principles Governing IPCC Work” demonstrate that, “The IPCC exists to support the Framework Convention’s  predetermined conclusions, not to objectively assess whether global warming is real or not, or whether it would be potentially harmful or benign.”

 

The paper suggests that there is no indication that the next round of IPCC work will address these concerns.  As a result, the paper warns, “Policymakers should approach the IPCC’s claims with a healthy dose of skepticism before considering whether restrictions on energy use based on the IPCC’s conclusions are warranted. Alarm may well be in order – alarm that the IPCC’s science cannot be relied upon.”  The report can be found on the web at:  http://rpc.senate.gov/_files/Sept1004GlobalWarmingPG.pdf.

 

Science

 

Hockey Stick Now in Splinters

 

Canadian researchers Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have published an update on their work that raises even more doubts about the legitimacy of the so-called “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction of the University of Virginia’s Michael Mann and colleagues (MBH98).

 

Nature magazine, in which MBH98 originally appeared, recently published a Corrigendum by Mann, which corrects some of the errors uncovered by McIntyre and McKitrick.  Nature had also agreed to publish a further 800-word criticism by McIntyre and McKitrick of the methodology and results obtained by MBH98.  However, after adding a third reviewer who was much less supportive of their findings than those who recommended publication of the initial submission and after reducing the number of words allowed for the piece to 500, Nature informed McIntyre and McKitrick that they had decided against publishing their article.

 

Nature said, “In the light of this detailed advice, we have regretfully decided that publication of this debate in our “Brief Communications Arising” section is not justified.  This is principally because the discussion cannot be condensed into our 500-word/1 figure format (as you probably realise, supplementary information is only for review purposes because Brief Communications Arising are published online) and relies on technicalities that do not bring a clear resolution of the underlying issues.”

 

McIntyre and McKitrick comment that, “This decision primarily reflected the views of the new reviewer, who stated: ‘Generally, I believe that the technical issues addressed in the comment and the reply are quite difficult to understand and not necessarily of interest to the wide readership of the Brief Communications section of Nature. I do not see a way to make this communication much clearer, particularly with the space requirements, as this comment is largely related to technical details.’”  In other words, Nature decided that a discussion of fundamental issues of how the “hockey stick” was arrived at would not be of interest to many people.

 

McIntyre and McKitrick have posted their draft submissions and correspondence with Nature at http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/fallupdate04/update.fall04.html.  The site also discusses another aspect of their work, an investigation into various “lacunae and additional inaccuracies” in MBH98.  In the process, they describe how neither Prof. Mann nor Nature magazine have provided access to important parts of the data on which MBH98 relies.

 

They comment, “Reluctance on the part of Mann et al. and Nature to produce the results for their ‘experiments,’ and in particular for the AD1400 step, would be one thing if the source code that generated them were available; but the refusal to provide either one is completely unjustifiable, especially since Nature based its decision against our paper, in part, on claims about the RE statistics that can only be verified by looking at the "experiment" results.  We surmise, based on our implementation of the methodology, that the R-squared and Coefficient of Efficiency (as this is defined in paleoclimate studies) statistics fail to reach statistical significance for the AD1400 step. It may also show that there are other problems in MBH98 besides the ones that we have described already.”

 

They conclude, “While we are frustrated that the time invested in the Nature process did not result in their willingness to correct the publication record therein, it did at least allow us to clarify several methodological issues, especially the crucial role of the controversial bristlecone pine series.  We will submit a revised article to a peer reviewed publication.  We have also submitted an abstract for a planned presentation at the forthcoming AGU meeting in December.”

 

Earth Still Cooler than Normal

 

The global temperature readings for August 2004 from the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, based on satellite readings, show the recent trend of cooler than normal temperatures is continuing.

 

The global composite temperature for August was 0.07°C (about 0.13°F) cooler than the twenty-year average for 1979-1998, caused mainly by a cool Southern hemisphere.  The Northern hemisphere was 0.09°C warmer than the average.

 

UAH’s Dr. John Christy said that the data showed that, “For the continental U. S., August completed the coolest summer in a dozen years and the second coolest in the 26-year satellite record.”  Moreover, the coolest summer, 1992, was a result of factors not present this summer.  “That summer,” said Dr. Christy, “was cool due to the global shading from the Mount Pinatubo eruption.  This summer there isn’t anything like that to pin it on.  It was just a cool summer.”

 

 

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

Fraser Institute, Canada

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy

JunkScience.com

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus Association

Small Business Survival Committee