Vol VIII, No. 9

Vol VIII, No. 9

May 05, 2004

Politics 

IPCC Chair Trots Out Hitler    

 

Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), compared Bjørn Lomborg, Danish statistician and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, to Adolf Hitler in an interview with Jyllandsposten, a leading Danish newspaper (Apr. 21).

 

Pachauri said, “What is the difference between Lomborg's view of humanity and Hitler's?  You cannot treat people like cattle.  You must respect the diversity of cultures on earth.  Lomborg thinks of people like numbers.  He thinks it would be cheaper just to evacuate people from the Maldives, rather than trying to prevent world sea levels from rising so that island groups like the Maldives or Tuvalu just disappear into the sea.  But where's the respect for people in that?  People have a right to live and die in the place where their forefathers have lived and died.  If you were to accept Lomborg’s way of thinking, then maybe what Hitler did was the right thing.”  (English translation published on the internet by DR Nyheder)  

 

The Skeptical Environmentalist’s longest chapter is devoted to global warming.  In it, Lomborg accepts the IPCC’s scientific assessment reports as the basis of his analysis.  What Pachauri apparently objects to is that Lomborg concludes that the Kyoto Protocol would do almost nothing to reduce the rate of global warming, but at enormous expense.  For a fraction of the costs of Kyoto, many pressing environmental problems afflicting poor countries could be addressed.

 

In searching for other resemblances between Lomborg and Hitler, it is to be noted that both are vegetarians, although Pachauri may be as well.  Unlike Hitler or Pachauri, Lomborg has been awarded the Julian Simon Prize by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, so in that respect it could be concluded that Pachauri has more in common with Hitler than does Lomborg.

 

This is not the first time Pachauri has launched an ad hominem attack on his critics since becoming chairman of the IPCC.  In December in Milan at the ninth Conference of the Parties to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Pachauri sent out a press release attacking the motives and affiliations of Ian Castles, former chief statistician of the Australian government, and David Henderson, former chief economist of the OECD.  Castles and Henderson have pointed out that the “storylines” used to produce IPCC’s predictions of future warming are based on ludicrously improbable economic assumptions.

 

Public Opinion Cools on Warming

 

According to a series of Gallup polls around Earth Day, the American public is becoming less concerned about global warming and the environment generally.

 

The Aspen Times reported (Apr. 22), “A national poll conducted to coincide with Earth Day today shows that Americans are well aware of global warming.  They just aren't very concerned about it.  The Gallup organization measured concern over environmental issues between March 8-11 and found that 51 percent of Americans worry ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ about global warming.  That's down from 58 percent in March 2003.“About 47 percent of respondents both this year and last said they worry ‘only a little’ or ‘not at all’ about global warming, according to the Gallup Tuesday Briefing, a branch of the famed national pollster.”

 

Although the figures suggest a majority of Americans are still concerned about the issue, the Aspen Times was right to play down this aspect of the poll as it has a margin of error of ±3 percent, meaning that the two groupings of concern levels overlap in their confidence intervals.  It is perfectly possible that more Americans are unconcerned than concerned about the issue.

 

Another Gallup poll ranked concern for the environment against other major issues of the day.  This one found that people are more concerned about healthcare, crime, drugs, terrorism, the economy, illegal immigration, unemployment, hunger and homelessness, and the availability and affordability of energy than they are about the quality of the environment.  Only race relations ranked lower as an issue of concern of the 12 issues suggested.

 

The poll found that 62 percent of Americans worry a great deal or a fair amount about environmental quality, down from 77 percent in March 2001.

 

Summarizing recent polls and their relationship to the presidential election, AEI scholar Karlyn Bowman wrote in Roll Call (Apr. 28), “Democrats lead the GOP as the party better able to handle the environment.  Given the Democrats’ strength on the issue, it’s surprising that Bush’s marks on handling it have been pretty even during his presidency.  In the March Gallup poll, 41 percent thought the president was doing a good job handling the environment and 46 percent a poor job, down from 44 percent to 43 percent in March 2003.  Bush’s ratings on the environment at a couple of points during the presidency have been similar to Bill Clinton’s at the same stage of his presidency.

 

“Bush’s relatively even ratings may derive from the fact that other issues such as the economy, Iraq, and terrorism loom larger than the environment.  In every poll this year that has asked the question, the environment has ranked close to the bottom as a priority.  Although people have concerns about the environment nationally, they are satisfied with the quality of the environment where they live and that, too, may dampen concern,” Bowman concluded.

 

EPA to Delay Final Mercury Rule

 

On April 29th, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt announced that the deadline on the final regulation controlling mercury emissions from power plants would be extended to March 15, 2005 from Dec. 15, 2004.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, which obtained the initial deadline as part of a lawsuit settled by the Clinton administration, offered the extension so that EPA could conduct more analysis on the rule and solicit additional public comment.  Leavitt said EPA would conduct “whatever analysis is necessary to ensure the right decision is made and meet the goal of protecting public health in the most effective way possible.”

 

Leavitt has proposed a mercury trading system, but earlier this month 45 Senators urged him to drop this strategy in favor of a new rule that uses the Clean Air Act’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) provisions.  This would require state-of-the-art pollution controls on all of the nation’s 1,100 coal- and oil-fired utilities.  John Kerry was among the 45 senators who asked Leavitt to drop the trading proposal.  With a desire to stick to his plan, Leavitt has rejected this request and, when asked, stated that the presidential election’s implications on the regulation would be minimal as “[EPA is] moving toward concluding [the] decision in an even-handed and proper way.”

 

EPA’s top air pollution official, Jeff Holmstead, has stated that the technologies needed to meet MACT provisions will not be commercially available by the deadline for utilities to reduce emissions.  Accordingly, Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said his group would remain “committed to working with EPA to highlight the need for realistic assumptions about the current state of mercury control technology.  An inflexible mercury control program can result in unacceptable fuel-switching from coal to natural gas, hurting American consumers, the elderly, and industrial workers.” 

 

On the other hand, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that he would continue to call on EPA to drop its trading plan.  “Extending the deadline on this deeply flawed rule moves us back for now from the brink of getting this indefensible plan, but what Administrator Leavitt still needs to do is to withdraw this proposal and produce a new one, grounded in science and in the public's interest,” Leahy said.  “We need a mercury plan that honors instead of insults the Clean Air Act.” (Greenwire, April 30).

 

Economics

 

Europe Expands Emissions Trading Directive, Prices Set to Rise

 

The European Parliament agreed April 20 to the directive expanding the scope of the new emissions trading scheme within the EU from January 1, 2005.

 

EUpolitix.com reported, “A full sitting of MEPs has backed a report on emissions trading which would mean heavily industrialized EU countries could pay the developing world to pass on its CO2 quotas, dictated by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.  And, according to amendments made by parliament, the scheme would be compulsory even if the international Kyoto agreement never enters into force.

 

“Alexander de Roo—the Dutch MEP responsible for the proposal in parliament—argues that such a move is necessary for industry to learn how to fight climate change, even without the Russian ratification necessary to make Kyoto legally binding.”

 

De Roo also commented on a notable omission, “Emissions rights from nuclear activities are explicitly excluded….  This legislation is ever greener than the Kyoto Protocol.”

 

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom argued that the directive would be good for business:  “The linking of the Kyoto mechanisms to our emissions trading scheme... will reduce costs for the companies participating in emissions trading and provide investors in green technology with the certainty they need.”

 

In related news, Irish electricity prices are expected to rise by 6 percent initially as a result of the new trading scheme.  According to Ireland.com (Apr. 17), the Irish electricity supply company ESB, “has warned of significant rises in electricity prices because of new requirements on carbon dioxide emissions.  The company has claimed that its quota allocation under the proposed CO2 emissions trading system for Ireland will cause its power generation costs to rise by up to 40 percent.

 

“This would in turn result in domestic prices rising by up to 20 percent if the increased costs of production are passed on in full.  Electricity industry sources have indicated a probable rise for consumers of six per cent in the coming years.”

 

NGOs Demand Closure of World Bank Climate Change Fund

 

A press release issued by NGO Carbon Trade Watch on April 19 called for the closure of one of the first funds set up to help developing countries cope with the costs of fighting global warming.  The release read, “More than 50 environmental and social justice NGOs and other groups have sent a letter of protest to the World Bank calling for the closure of its new emissions trading fund, The Prototype Carbon Fund.

 

“In the year of the World Bank’s 60th anniversary and in the run-up to intense protests in Washington, D.C. at their annual meeting this month, the groups state that the Bank’s new fund is destructive greenwash and has in fact created extra problems for communities and the environment.  The fund was set up in 1999 to facilitate the new trade in greenhouse gases created under the Kyoto Protocol.  The groups state that so far the fund has exacerbated existing human rights violations and furthered environmental destruction.

“One of the fund’s model projects is located in Brazil and involves the expansion of monoculture eucalyptus plantations owned by the corporation, Plantar.  The plantations were originally established by forcibly evicting geraiszeiros peoples from the land and since then the plantation’s owners have been accused of creating ‘slave-like conditions’.  Furthermore, the plantations have heavily polluted surrounding water sources, thus devastating the livelihoods of local farmers and fisher-folk. “The World Bank will fund the expansion of these plantations in order to generate ‘carbon credits’ for the international trade in greenhouse gases.  However, on top of the impacts upon the local environment and peoples, there is no guarantee that the project will actually have a permanent positive effect on the climate. 

 

“Marcelo Calazans from local Brazilian NGO, FASE-ES, states, ‘This and many other projects have terrible negative impacts on local people and environments and it is still unclear if there is any real benefits for the climate.  We believe that the Prototype Carbon Fund should cease operations and close down immediately.’”

 

IPCC Faces Criticism for Bad Economics in UK House of Lords

 

Lord Lawson, a former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, took the opportunity of an April 21 debate in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords to accuse the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of operating “an environmentalist closed shop that is unsullied by any acquaintance with economics, statistics or, indeed, economic history.”  The debate was initiated by Lord Taverne, a former minister in previous Labour governments, who asked the government whether they were satisfied by the economic and statistical work of the IPCC. 

 

Lawson said that Taverne had “put his finger on what is potentially a major scandal.”  The basis for this assessment is the criticism made by Ian Castles and David Henderson of the economic assumptions used by the IPCC (see lead story).  This view is upheld by a new report from the International Policy Network, which assesses the way in which the IPCC predicts future climate change. 

 

According to the IPN report, the IPCC appears to have exaggerated its estimates of temperature increases by using highly implausible scenarios of future growth in emissions of ‘greenhouse gases.’  It has done so by underestimating technological advancement and greatly overestimating gains in economic growth.  In order to gain credibility, the report argues that the IPCC should rely more heavily on the work of economic historians and statisticians.  (International Policy Network, Apr. 23).

 

Science

 

Day After Tomorrow Will Never Come

 

Following on from the comments by MIT’s Carl Wunsch that the Gulf Stream is safe as long as the wind blows and the Earth turns, several other scientists have used the pages of Science magazine (Apr. 16) to pour scorn on the conceit behind the forthcoming movie, The Day After Tomorrow.  The movie is predicated on the idea that unchecked global warming will cause an abrupt climate shift that will cause a new ice age in the United States.

 

Canadian scientists Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria and Claude Hillaire-Marcel of the Université de Quebec à Montreal tackled the subject in a Perspectives article entitled, “Global Warming and the Next Ice Age.”  They pointed out that the view of global warming causing an ice age “prevails in the popular press despite a relatively solid understanding of glacial inception and growth.”

 

The scientists’ review of the literature concluded that, “It is certainly true that if the AMO [Atlantic Meriodonal Oscillation] were to become inactive, substantial short-term cooling would result in western Europe, especially during the winter.  However, it is important to emphasize that not a single coupled model assessed by the 2001 IPCC Working Group I on Climate Change Science (4) predicted a collapse in the AMO during the 21st century.  Even in those models where the AMO was found to weaken during the 21st century, there would still be warming over Europe due to the radiative forcing associated with increased levels of greenhouse gases.”

 

Pointing out that models that do show AMO collapse are not “flux-adjusted” like newer models, they conclude, “Even the recent observations of freshening in the North Atlantic (a reduction of salinity due to the addition of freshwater) appear to be consistent with the projections of perhaps the most sophisticated non–flux adjusted model.  Ironically, this model suggests that such freshening is associated with an increased AMO (16).  This same model proposes that it is only Labrador Sea Water formation that is susceptible to collapse in response to global warming.

 

“In light of the paleoclimate record and our understanding of the contemporary climate system, it is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age.  These same records suggest that it is highly unlikely that global warming will lead to a widespread collapse of the AMO—despite the appealing possibility raised in two recent studies—although it is possible that deep convection in the Labrador Sea will cease.  Such an event would have much more minor consequences on the climate downstream over Europe.”

 

In the same issue, pioneering oceanographer Wallace Broecker dismisses the recent report rejected by the Pentagon that is predicated on a similar scenario.  He comments in his letter, “Exaggerated scenarios serve only to intensify the existing polarization over global warming.”

 

A Feverish Fate for Scientific Truth?

 

Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia and state climatologist of Virginia, has questioned the credibility of Nature magazine.  In an article in the April 8 issue the technique of “regional climate modeling” is dismissed as an unreliable exercise to assess and predict climate changes on small land areas such as the lower 48 states (only 2 percent of the planet). 

 

Nevertheless, another article in the same issue uses this defective technique of “regional climate modeling” to conclude that, “The Greenland ice-sheet (covering 0.4 percent of the planet) is likely to be eliminated by anthropogenic climate change unless much more substantial emission reductions are made than those envisaged by the IPCC.” 

 

In response to these contradictions, Michaels states that, “Nature published an alarming and completely misleading article predicting the melting of the entire Greenland ice cap in 1,000 years…using a regional climate projection.”  He continues, “If the models are no good over the U.S., they’re worse over Greenland….  This is nothing but tragic, junk science, published by what is (formerly?) the most prestigious science periodical in the world.”  (Washington Times, Apr. 27). 

 

 

 

 

Etc.

 

Poor People Don’t Need to Fly

 

In a peculiar echo of the Duke of Wellington’s famous remark that the railways were a bad idea because they let the poor move around the country, Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley suggested on April 15 that something had to be done about poor and middle class Britons flying too much. 

 

She wrote, “And yes, it would mean…charging the real environmental cost of cheap air travel, either levied on airports or aviation fuel, or both.  We should recognise that this reduces human happiness for the millions who benefit from it.  As with the congestion charge, we should accept that this would hit some poorer people's mobility, stealing a recent freedom away from them.  But we should remember that the boom in air travel is mainly fuelled by middle-class people flying more frequently.”

 

The UK’s Friends of the Earth has taken up the challenge, pointing out that the poor flying abroad for holidays is not necessary.  Richard Dyer told the BBC (Apr. 27), “The vast majority of flights are discretionary, for leisure….   These are not essential.”

 

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