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The U.S. State Department has submitted formal comments criticizing the draft Synthesis Report of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Synthesis Report is a 120-page summary of the TAR and was prepared by a subgroup of those involved with the IPCC, headed by IPCC chairman Robert Watson. The critique was submitted in preparation for an IPCC meeting scheduled on September 24-29 in Wembley, England.
The State Department argues that the Synthesis Report dos not “reflect the same balance and tone regarding uncertainties that appear in the underlying report. There continues to be a lack of balance in some sections of the Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report and in the report itself. … Our specific comments seek to ensure that information is presented in a way that reflects its characterization in the TAR.”
The State Department is concerned about the accuracy of the Synthesis Report because it will be available to the public on the IPCC’s website, while the TAR itself will only be available as an expensive three-volume book.
One of the issues to be discussed at the meeting is the future role of the IPCC. It is considering expanding its scope to include assessments in support of other international environmental conventions, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer (Electricity Daily, September 19, 2001). The draft Synthesis Report is available at www.ipcc.ch .
The European Union recently announced an initiative to harmonize the development of renewable sources of energy among its member states. The initiative, coordinated by State Secretary for Energy and Sustainable Development Olivier Deleuze, creates two objectives for all members of the EU. Firstly, they must increase the percentage of aggregate energy supplied in their states by renewable sources to 12 percent by 2010. Secondly, they must increase the percentage of electricity supplied by these sources to 22.1 percent by the same date.
In addition, members must create a certification program to ensure that renewables are available to consumers in their domestic markets, accelerate the authorization of plants for renewable producers, and ensure that connection costs to distribution networks do not discriminate against them.
The EU has promised to conduct a re-evaluation of this directive in 2004. On its passage, Deleuze stated, “In Bonn, Europe saved the Kyoto Protocol. Now, it has to give to itself the means to achieve it” (www.eu2001.be/ ).
Local residents of a small rural community in Great Britain have succeeded in defeating the construction of a biomass power plant. The proposed wood-fueled power plant, costing 10 million pounds sterling, was turned down by the North Wilshire District Council following an appeal by Ambient Energy, the company behind the plan.
Ambient Energy argued that the power plant would produce enough energy for 10,000 homes without creating greenhouse gas emissions. But a group organized by Cricklade residents, known as BLOT (Biomass Lumbered on our Town) argued that the plant, that would include two 80 foot chimney stacks and two 50 foot burners would be an eyesore, and create an increase of traffic of heavy trucks. Rodney Baker, the planning inspector said, “The scheme would have a noticeable and harmful effect on the character and amenity of the landscape” (Western Daily Press, September 17, 2001).
Residents of Eugene, Oregon have voted by a greater than 2 to 1 margin to reopen a downtown pedestrian mall to vehicle traffic (Associated Press, September 19, 2001). The margin of the vote is surprising in that Eugene, home of the University of Oregon, is known throughout the Northwest as the People’s Republic of Eugene for its leftist politics.
The pedestrian mall was the centerpiece of a 1971 urban renewal plan that was supposed to “bring new life to the city’s center, providing shoppers with a progressive, car-free city core geared to pedestrian traffic” (The Oregonian, September 17, 2001). The anti-car plan backfired, however, as businesses fled to the suburbs due to decreased sales.
“If you do it and it doesn’t work, then you change it. And they never changed it,” said Bill Combs, Jr., who moved his shoe store from the downtown mall in 1990. “No traffic. No cars. That was the problem. They essentially killed retail downtown.”
The state of New Jersey has unveiled a voluntary cap and trade program for carbon dioxide emissions. According to John J. Fialka of The Wall Street Journal, the program creates incentives for companies, government agencies, and individual consumers to trade credits for emissions.
The plan is the brainchild of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who led a task force to calculate the expected costs of rising sea levels in 1994. This effort led current New Jersey state environmental minister Robert Shinn, Jr. to conclude that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be the most cost-effective approach to abating the rise in sea levels in 1997.
After making this announcement, Shinn conducted an audit of existing voluntary greenhouse gas reduction programs in New Jersey and concluded that the state could reduce its emissions to 3.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2005. This led him to demand the state’s seven largest utilities to develop a standardized measurement system for their emissions. In addition, he persuaded nine major companies with headquarters in the state to sign a “covenant of sustainability” under which they promise to monitor and reduce emissions.
The “carrot” of the program is funded through the “societal benefit charge” imposed on electricity users through the state’s electricity restructuring. This fund, used to compensate individuals and companies that participate in the trading and reduction program or install energy-efficiency or renewable energy equipment, is expected to generate more than $358 million over the next three years.
New Jersey joins Massachusetts as the only states currently regulating carbon dioxide emissions. New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida, and Illinois are considering similar programs (Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2001).
The IPCC’s assessment reports and especially its summaries for policymakers have been criticized from many quarters and have been shown to contain many errors and weaknesses. One of the most recent criticisms, and perhaps the most devastating, is the one authored by Dr. David Wojick, president of Climatechangedebate.org, who has a Ph.D. in mathematical logic and philosophy of science.
In the report, The UN IPCC’s Artful Bias, Wojick analyzes the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for Working Group I, which deals with the science, of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report. According to Wojick, the SPM “is an artfully constructed presentation of just the science that supports the fear of human induced climate change. It is as one sided as a legal brief, which it resembles.” Wojick goes on to argue, “A line by line analysis of the SPM reveals that all of the science that cuts against the theory of human interference with climate has been systematically omitted.”
The first problem that Wojick presents is that the IPCC ignores the errors in the surface temperature data. The SPM claims, “The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6 degrees C.” The certainty expressed in this statement, says Wojick, is unwarranted.
Despite the many problems with the surface temperature record, the IPCC only briefly mentions the urban heat island effect and claims that all errors have been taken into account, without explanation. But as Wojick explains, “There is no way to correct for most measurement errors, including the urban heat island effect. The magnitude of these errors, which may be quite large, is simply unknown. The supposed corrections that have been made to date are merely guesswork.”
Moreover, the temperature data that we have is not a random sample of the Earth’s surface, but a “convenience sample,” or data that is the most convenient. The IPCC’s “reference to data gaps,” says Wojick, “suggests that sometimes a station did not record, or the data is bad, not that there is in actuality no data for most of the earth, most of the time. So the fact that we merely have a convenience sample is either omitted, or cleverly disguised.”
The importance of this point is that the IPCC has calculated its confidence levels as if it had a random sample. Given that the sample is not random, the margin of error in the data is much larger than suggested by the IPCC.
Other problems with the IPCC’s SPM is how it glosses over the “profound contradiction” between the satellite temperature record and the surface record, the huge uncertainties with regard to aerosols, the omission of natural sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and the inadequate treatment of the chaotic nature of the Earth’s climate. The full critique can be found at www.john-daly.com .
Another peer-reviewed scientific study of hurricanes has failed to find a trend in hurricane activity in the United States, let alone a link between hurricane activity and global warming. The study, published in Ecological Monographs (71: 2001), looks at hurricane data from 1620-1997.
What the authors found was that, “there was no clear century-scale trend in the number of major hurricanes.” They did find that there were more lower intensity hurricanes reported in the 19th and 20th centuries than there were in the 17th and 18th centuries. But the authors attribute the difference to “improvements in meteorological observations and records since the early 19th century.” Also, the data from the last 200 years show that there were five of the strongest category hurricanes reported in the cooler 19th century and only one reported during the 20th century.
• The Skeptical Environmentalist Looks at Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol
Professor Bjorn Lomborg will speak at a Cooler Heads Coalition congressional and media briefing from noon to 1:30 PM on Thursday, 4th October, in Room HC-5 of the U. S. Capitol. Lomborg is author of the Skeptical Environmentalist, which was published in the U. S. this month by Cambridge University Press and which has received rave reviews. Those wishing to attend the briefing must Rsvp to Michael Mallinger at CEI: telephone (202) 331-1010, ext. 254, or e-mail: email@example.com . Please give your name, affiliation, phone number, and e-mail address.
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