Vol. VIII, No. 8

Vol. VIII, No. 8

April 14, 2004

Politics 

Candidate Kerry on Kyoto and Global Warming

 

The campaign web site of Senator John Kerry (D—Mass.) only briefly mentions what the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party would do about global warming if elected.  The issues section says, “When John Kerry is president, the U.S. will reengage in the development of an international climate change strategy to address global warming, and identify workable responses that provide opportunities for American technology and know-how” (http://www.johnkerry.com/ issues/energy/).

 

However, in an October 2003 document, “John Kerry’s Comprehensive Vision for a Cleaner Environment, A Stronger Economy, Healthier Communities” (http://www.johnkerry.com/pdf/ long_enviro.pdf), he has much more to say.  On international arrangements, he says,  “Bush’s abrupt and unilateral decision to abandon discussions with the world community on climate change was early evidence of this Administration’s misguided approach to dealing with the community of nations.  Dropping out of international implementation of the Kyoto Protocol was foolhardy then, and it is even more obviously foolhardy today.  In our absence, many of our major trading partners in Europe and elsewhere have been working on the details of international programs to manage greenhouse gas emissions.  American interests are on the sidelines, having no ability to influence the development of a system that will profoundly affect the global approach to resource protection and investment in climate change technologies….”

 

The document notes that Kerry has demonstrated a long commitment to addressing climate change beginning as a participant at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that produced the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and calls climate change “the globe’s most serious environmental challenge.”  It continues, “John Kerry will reinsert the United States into international climate change negotiations.  He will reestablish our nation’s credibility and influence over the process.  The Kerry Administration will come to the international table with a serious domestic climate change program in hand….”

 

That domestic program will be centered on a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  The statement continues: “John Kerry’s plan recognizes that we must take immediate action to halt and reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our carbon footprint while the economy expands. Leveraging pioneering state and regional programs, Kerry’s plan calls for all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions to participate in a cap and trade emissions reduction program for CO2 and other greenhouse gases (not just utilities, as some have suggested), so that the power of the marketplace can be directed to encourage that the most cost-effective reductions be made, whether at coal-fired utilities or from automobile tailpipes.  This cap-and-trade program will reinforce other near-term initiatives that drive down emissions without reducing economic output.”

 

In addition, Kerry offers a predictable mix of measures to require energy conservation and efficiency, such as higher CAFÉ standards for automobiles.  Kerry would also require increased use of renewable energy.  Subsidies for rural America are not neglected: “We can capture emissions reductions opportunities in forests, rangelands, and farmland by providing financial incentive for no-till agriculture and maintaining and increasing natural carbon ‘sinks’ such as forests and rangelands.”

 

Finally, “The Kerry plan will establish the Energy Security and Conservation Trust Fund to invest in the hydrogen economy and other promising technologies, with clear targets for increasing the number of hydrogen powered cars and trucks on the nation’s roads….  Because of the importance of coal to our energy mix, the Kerry Administration will actively support technologies that separate and sequester CO2 when extracting the energy from coal.”

 

Keen observers will have noticed that one of John Kerry’s key campaigning points recently has been the current high price of gasoline.  According to a study by the American Council for Capital Formation in 2000, the Kyoto Protocol would add 71 cents to the price of each gallon.

 

Kremlin Aide Advises Putin to Kill Kyoto

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, has formally recommended that Russia reject the Kyoto Protocol.  Ratifying Kyoto, he said, would mean setting up bodies to “limit economic growth not only on a national level, but also on a supranational level. An organ of legal interference in the internal affairs of the country would be created.”

 

The Kyoto Protocol, Dr. Illarionov explained, is based on flawed science that claims there are man-made factors behind global warming.  He believes that Russia’s economy will grow so fast over the next decade that emissions will increase substantially.  If Russia agrees to Kyoto, it would have to constrain economic growth or be forced to buy emissions quotas from other nations.  

 

Dr. Illarionov went further when speaking to journalists on April 14.  He said, “First we wanted to call this treaty an interstate Gosplan, but then we realized that a Gosplan is much more humane, so we should call the Kyoto Protocol an interstate gulag….  In a gulag, people were at least given the same rations, which did not lessen from one day to the next, but the Kyoto Protocol proposes decreasing rations day by day….

 

“The Kyoto Protocol is a death treaty, no matter how strange this seems, because its main purpose is to stifle economic growth and economic activity in countries that assumes obligations under this protocol.”  Some reports suggested that Dr Illarionov even compared the treaty to Auschwitz.  (Reuters, Interfax).

 

Britain Must Stop Economic Growth to Meet Kyoto Targets

 

The British Government’s Sustainable Development Commission is worried that the United Kingdom will not be able to meet its Kyoto targets because its economy is behaving in too American a fashion.  The Commission, chaired by former Green Party head Jonathan Porritt, frets in a report to Prime Minister Tony Blair released April 14 that, “American-style patterns of growth in aviation, road transport and fuel use are ‘wholly unsustainable’ and will damage the quality of life of present and future generations.”

 

Mr. Porritt remarked that, while economic growth has been faster in the UK than any other European country, “this is accompanied by much greater inequality in income, and a long-hours, high-pressure employment culture more characteristic of American society.”  The report calls on the UK government “to use taxation to affect the price of energy and fuel and calls for ministers to adopt more "joined up" thinking over the next five to 10 years.”  (Daily Telegraph, Apr. 14)

 

Economics

 

Aviation is the Next Target in Europe

 

Aviation demanded and received a separate, special deal in the Kyoto Protocol, but several governments and the European Union are now actively exploring ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes.  The goal is to reduce airline passenger demand, and the methods being considered are additional taxes on air travel or including airlines in a cap-and-trade system. 

 

Emissions from aviation are substantial.  For example, in the United Kingdom aviation accounts for 15 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, and this is estimated to grow by two thirds by 2050.  Cheaper flights and more passengers account for most of the projected increase.

 

The German Environment Ministry is arguing that government regulation is a necessity and has suggested that aviation be included in the EU’s proposed carbon cap-and-trade system.  On the other hand, the British Airports Authority has reacted to speculation by insisting that it would only enter an emissions trading system if it were on a global scale.  Caroline Corfield, head of media relations for BAA, has stated, “If you put prices up, it will have an impact on demand.”

 

 Trucost, a group that advises investors on corporate environmental and social risk, estimates the average price increase for airline tickets will be 2 per cent and will continue to increase as the cost of reducing emissions rises.  This will most affect low-income passengers, who tend to be more price sensitive.  (The Observer, Mar. 24, Edie, Mar. 24.)

 

Canada Not Doing Enough

 

In Canada, Action Plan 2000 earmarked $210 million in government funding to promote technologies that reduced greenhouse gas emissions in industry and transportation and gave $125 million to cities to encourage use of such technologies.  Another $100 million went to promote foreign demand for these Canadian solutions.  Despite these efforts, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 were the highest ever.  This puts Canada well off the mark of reducing emissions by 5.2 per cent from 1990 levels as called for in the Kyoto Protocol.

 

“We seriously underestimated the difficulty of getting reductions and overestimated the payoff from new technologies,” said a senior official working on climate change.  Nevertheless, last month the Canadian federal budget allocated $1 billion more to support new environmental technologies.  Ottawa is also offering the one ton challenge, in which it calls on individual Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one ton.  (Toronto Star, April 5 and 6).

 

GAO Examines Kyoto’s Costs

 

At a July 2002 hearing on the Bush Administration’s climate initiative, James Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), testified that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would reduce U.S. economic output by “up to $400 billion” in 2010.  In contrast, a 1998 study done by President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that the costs of implementing the Protocol would be $7 billion to $12 billion annually in lost output. 

 

The General Accounting Office has analyzed the stark difference between the two studies and concluded that there are two principal reasons for it.  First, the Bush Administration’s estimate assumed that all reductions would be achieved domestically, while the Clinton Administration’s estimate assumed that compliance would be largely achieved through the purchase of emissions reductions from other nations.  Second, the economic growth rate assumed by the Bush study (2.3 percent a year for 1995 through 2010) was higher than the growth rate assumed by the Clinton study (2.1 percent for the same time period), and thus forecast a higher level of emissions.  (GAO report, January 30, 2004).

 

Science

 

Two New Attacks on Hockey Stick by Paleoclimatologists

 

Following the questions raised by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick over the quality of the data employed by Dr. Michael Mann of the University of Virginia in compiling his now infamous “hockey stick” graph, Mann’s interpretations of proxy temperature data are now coming under fire from within the community of paleoclimatologists.

 

In 2002, Esper et al. published in Science magazine a temperature record for the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1000 years that looked quite unlike the hockey stick.  Both the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Little Ice Age were evident.  In the March 23 edition of Eos, Esper and other colleagues examine why this should be so.  According to the Greening Earth Society, Esper “basically eliminates all the possibilities except the technique used to process tree-ring data sets — the primary information relied on to construct early portions of the temperature reconstructions.

”The problem with tree rings appears to be that their variations reflect more than year-to-year climate differences (temperature and/or precipitation).  As the trees age, tree-ring production changes and introduces a spurious trend in the tree-ring series.  This aging effect differs among tree species, as well as within species, depending on the trees’ growing conditions (soil type, elevation, slope aspect, etc.).  It becomes difficult to separate trends due to aging from those due to climate.

“Although various research groups use different techniques to account for this problem, the absence of ground truth (true temperature) makes it impossible to ascertain whose technique is best.  Esper uses a method aimed at retaining long-period (greater than a century or so) variations in the tree-ring records, whereas Mann uses a method that virtually eliminates all long-term variation.”  Esper concludes, “Higher-frequency [decadal] climate variations are generally better understood than lower-frequency variations.”

 

Meanwhile, David S. Chapman, Marshall G. Bartlett, and Robert N. Harris of the University of Utah, published in the April 7 edition of Geophysical Research Letters an examination of how Mann’s imputation of temperatures from boreholes contradicts their work.  Mann argues that borehole records of ground surface temperature (GST) do not accurately reflect surface air temperature (SAT) because of the effects of snowfall.  Chapman et al., however, have found that “(1) GST tracks SAT extremely well at time scales that are appropriate for climate change considerations….  (2) Snow cover can either warm or cool the ground relative to a ‘‘no snow’’ case and need not lead to any bias.  (3) Finally, our observations have not revealed any physical process that would explain the supposed preconditioning of GST by a prior season SAT.”

 

In describing the differences between their work and Mann’s, Chapman et al. use surprisingly strong language for a scientific paper.  They describe three of Mann’s conclusions as “misleading,” and his end-point analysis as “erroneous” and “just bad science.”

 

Gulf Stream Safe If Wind Blows and Earth Turns

 

There has been much alarmist speculation recently that global warming could trigger the collapse of the Gulf Stream.  Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at MIT, sent a letter to Nature magazine (published in the April 8 issue) stating that such a trigger effect is nearly impossible.

 

Wunsch wrote that, “The Gulf Stream’s existence is a consequence of the large-scale wind system over the North Atlantic Ocean, and of the nature of fluid motion on a rotating planet.  The only way to produce an ocean circulation without a Gulf Stream is either to turn off the wind system, or to stop the Earth’s rotation, or both.”  He added, “The occurrence of a climate state without the Gulf Stream any time soon—within tens of millions of years—has a probability of little more than zero.” 

 

Etc.

 

In the context of the furor surrounding the 9/11 commission, S. Fred Singer, President of the Science and Environmental  Policy Project and Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, pointed out in a  letter to the Wall Street Journal (Apr. 13) that the Clinton-Gore administration did not regard terrorism as important as the global warming issue.

 

Quoting an essay in the American Outlook (Summer 2000), he noted, “But to the [then] Federal government, the greatest threat is something far different.  As [former Secretary of State] Warren Christopher assured his audience in May 1996 at Stanford University, the main threat is climate change produced by the burning of fuels [that keep us warm, light our homes, and run our cars].”

 

Indeed, some commentators have speculated that America’s supposedly unilateralist approach to the global warming issue may have spurred hatred among terrorists.  This prompted mid-Western satirist James Lileks to fulminate on his web log (www.lileks.com):

 

“Right now in a café in Beirut an educated man, a chemist by trade, schooled in the ways of the West, is reading an article about how the US will only spend $15 billion on AIDS and probably won’t reduce its carbon emissions to 1817 levels, and he throws down the paper in disgust: bastards!  I must join Al Qaeda, move to Iraq and kill the contractors who are upgrading their outmoded infrastructure!”

 

Reality actually tops Lileks’s satire: Osama bin Laden has publicly supported the Kyoto Protocol.

 

Announcements

 

The National Center for Policy Analysis is holding a congressional briefing on Earth Day, April 22, on “Global Warming: What do We Really Know vs. What We are Told.”  Speakers include David Legates of the University of Delaware, Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia and the Cato Institute, and Alexandra Liddy Bourne of the American Legislative Exchange Council.  The event will be held from 10 to 11:30 AM in Room 406 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. To RSVP or for more information, please call (202) 628-6671 or e-mail mmoore@ncpa.org.

 

Save the date.  The Cooler Heads Coalition is sponsoring a seminar on “The Impacts of Global Warming: a Scientific Appraisal” from 10 AM to 1:30 PM on Monday, May 3.  Speakers include: Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institut on vector-borne diseases, Nils-Axel Morner of Stockholm University on sea-level rise, and Madhav Khandekar recently retired from Environment Canada on storms and severe weather events.  Further details will appear in the next issue.  For information, please contact Myron Ebell at (202) 331-2256 or mebell@cei.org.

 

 

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 Association

Small Business Survival Committee