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Bush Team Developing Kyoto Alternatives
The Bush Administration is in the process of developing domestic alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol to present to UN climate negotiators at their November meeting in Marrakech, according to the Wall Street Journal (August 20, 2001).
The article by Jeanne Cummings reports that President Bush’s proposals will involve a number of domestic initiatives, including additional funding for research on the causes of global climate change, for technologies to sequester carbon dioxide, and to study the regional impact of global warming.
Bush’s adoption of a domestic plan is viewed by many as a response to criticism he has received from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D, SD) and House Democratic leader Richard Gephart (D, MO). In a recent speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Daschle addressed Bush’s refusal to negotiate at the UN’s recent climate talks in Bonn: “Instead of asserting our leadership, we are abdicating it. Instead of shaping international agreements to serve our interests, we have removed ourselves from a position to shape them at all.”
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said recently on NBC's Meet the Press: “I'm optimistic that we'll have initiatives that we can go to Marrakesh and talk about with the world leaders that will show that we're serious about solving the problem [and] that the Kyoto solution is really not a solution at all.”
President Bush has a cabinet-level task force working on the global warming issue. The task force, which met the week before Congress went on recess and included Sen. Chuck Hagel (R, Neb.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R, La.), gave the President positive feedback on his domestic alternatives, Card said.
The governments of Japan and the United States have agreed to hold ministerial talks on the Kyoto Protocol in late September. According to Yomiuri Shimbun (August 6, 2001), the Japanese delegation will try to persuade the U. S. either to rejoin the protocol or to present an alternative international agreement at COP-7 in Marrakesh beginning on October 28.
CNN reported on August 9 that Japanese officials are now leaning toward ratifying Kyoto with or without U. S. participation. The Japanese government has wavered over what to do ever since the Bush administration walked away from Kyoto in March.
According to CNN, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said that, “It isn’t the United States we are concerned about. [The problem] is the details of the treaty, which have not been decided.” Another official added, “We have to know what we will be ratifying, and we were unable to draw out such details at Bonn.”
Claims of Chinese Emissions Cuts are Disputed
A new pair of studies challenges the Chinese government’s claim of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In an August 15 story in the Washington Post, John Pomfret reports that a study funded by the World Bank questions the Chinese government’s statistics asserting that Chinese coal consumption fell during 1999.
In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing stated according to the Post that the Chinese government lied about the number of coal mines it shut down and about the speed with which it replaced coal with gas-based and hydroelectric power over the last five years.
This news casts doubts on a pair of reports claiming China has made progress in cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory stated in April that since 1996, China’s energy output fell 17 percent and its carbon dioxide emissions fell 14 percent. The European Union’s office in Beijing reported that China increased its energy efficiency and reduced its coal consumption by 30 percent over the same period.
These conclusions, promoted in a press release/report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, were cited by Erik Eckholm in a front-page New York Times story on June 15. We love to say it: We told you so. In the June 27 edition of Cooler Heads, David Wojick of Electricity Daily pointed out that, “The only way this cut could be real is if people in China stopped cooking and heating their homes, since industrial and electric power coal consumption did not drop. Such an explanation is highly unlikely.” The U.S. Embassy’s report supports Wojick’s conclusion - stating that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions have dropped “little, if at all.”
The Chinese government confirmed that its estimates regarding coal reductions may have been too high. Zhou Dadi, director of the Energy Research Institute and the government’s State Development Planning Commission, said that the United States Embassy is right to question their numbers, but that “we are clearly decreasing our coal consumption.”
United Kingdom Adopts Internal Cap-and-Trade Scheme
On August 14, the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (<http://www.defra.gov.uk/ >) announced the adoption of a “voluntary” greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme to take effect in April of 2002. The program’s goal is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by two million tons per year by 2010. Although participation in the program is described as voluntary, companies that join but fail to achieved their promised reductions will face economic sanctions.
Firms that join must either pledge to make cuts or purchase emissions allowances from other companies. The actual emissions trading scheme is scheduled to take effect in 2005.
The UK government has pledged to provide up to £215 million in subsidies over the next five years to companies that participate. Companies that fail to meet their reduction targets will be forced to forfeit their subsidies and face more stringent targets in subsequent years.
United Kingdom’s Environmental Minister Michael Meacher stated, “The UK climate change program could cut greenhouse gas emissions to 23 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. I expect our scheme to make a significant contribution and at the same time benefit both business and the environment by stimulating and financially rewarding innovation and investment.”
In a related move, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs adopted a new set of energy efficiency standards for British electricity and gas suppliers on August 17. Its new program, entitled the Energy Efficiency Commitment, will require energy suppliers to reduce energy consumption by a target amount of 64 terrawatt hours. The program is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 0.4 million tons per year.
The department has also mandated that energy suppliers ensure that at least one half of energy savings are achieved by reducing fuel consumption among poor households. It expects the program will save the average consumer £10 per year on gas and electricity.
This summer’s silly season has not generated anything approaching last summer’s top-of-the-front-page claim by the New York Times that “The North Pole is melting” because of global warming. The Times’s story by John Noble Wilford was based on only one source-a press release from a global warming nut, albeit one with an academic post at Harvard. As reported in the August 23 and September 6, 2000 issues of Cooler Heads, the story was obviously ludicrous and the Times was quickly forced to retract it.
Although nothing so delightful has been concocted for this August’s hottest days, Science Magazine is trying to entertain. In its August 17 issue, Science published an article on “Hidden Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation.” The article claims that more people die from air pollution than from traffic accidents in New York City, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Santiago, Chile. Reducing fossil fuel use to cut greenhouse gas emissions would therefore have the additional immediate benefit of saving lives and improving health.
There are several problems with the “study.” First, improving air quality has already been accomplished in cities like New York, where fossil fuels are still consumed in huge quantities, but few people now die because of air pollution. Second, the study doesn’t mention that cutting fossil fuel use will either be enormously expensive or force people to use much less energy, both of which have serious health consequences. Moreover, reducing fossil fuel use is by far the most expensive way to reduce air pollution.
Third, it is highly doubtful that more people die from air pollution than from traffic accidents in all but a few big cities in developing countries. And in most of those cities, the worst air pollution comes from things like using charcoal or cow dung for cooking. Using more fossil fuels in those cities could cut air pollution.
Fourth, the study implies that all greenhouse gases are pollutants. This last point was picked up by Paul Recer’s story for the Associated Press (August 16, 2001). Recer, whose title is given in the byline as AP Science Writer, lists carbon dioxide as one of the pollutants causing people to die prematurely.
More than eighty atmospheric scientists are attending the first “International Conference on Global Warming and the Next Ice Age” at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada this week. Sponsored by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the American Meteorological Society, the conference is one of the few to bring together large numbers of scientific supporters and skeptics of global warming alarmism for debate and discussion.
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported (August 22, 2001) that Dr. Petr Chylek, professor of atmospheric science at Dalhousie, “organized the conference so that theories on climate change other than conventional thoughts about global warming could be discussed.” Dr. Chylek decided to hold the event after reading a newspaper story that cited scientific research claiming that the Greenland glaciers were melting because of global warming, whereas his own research showed that earlier temperature increases had not led to melting.
Dr. Chylek further explained that many of his peers believe that natural factors such as solar radiation and variation in climate patterns are contributing to global warming. He asserted, “Scientists who want to attract attention to themselves, who want to attract great funding to themselves, have to find a way to scare the public…and this you can achieve only by making things bigger and more dangerous than they really are.”
Dr. Greg Holloway, professor of oceanography at the Institute of Ocean Studies in British Columbia, pointed out that many past periods of dramatic climate change - such as the ice ages - occurred without significant human influence. “Everybody’s ready for more evidence of global warming and not as ready for the scientific balance - which is what you are receiving here.”
• The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjorn Lomborg was published in Britain on August 15 by Cambridge University Press. CUP’s American edition is due on September 15. Lomborg, who is a professor of statistics at Aarhus University in Denmark, re-examines many of the controversial environmental claims originally made by Julian Simon and concludes that Simon got most things rights. Lomborg backs up his own conclusions with a huge amount of documentation.
Considering the amount of environmental heresy the book contains, it is astonishing how favorable the press reaction has been. The Economist (August 4, 2001) and the New York Times (August 7, 2001) ran long, flattering pieces on Lomborg and his book, which expands and updates the 1998 Danish version. The ever-so-politically-correct Guardian in London ran a three-part series by Lomborg.
The book’s longest chapter is devoted to global warming. Although Lomborg accepts the IPCC’s assessment reports, his conclusions are more in line with the Cooler Heads Coalition.
Here is just one sample: “Is it not curious, then, that the typical reporting on global warming tells us all the bad things that could happen from CO2 emissions, but few or none of the bad things that could come from overly zealous regulation of such emissions? And this is not just a question of the media’s penchant for bad news, as discussed in chapter 2, because both could make excellent bad news.”
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
Small Business Survival Committee