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IPCC, the Mythmaker
In its latest headline grabbing move, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released yet another Summary for Policymakers of an unfinished report. This summary claims to reflect the Working Group II report, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Like the summary released earlier of Working Group I’s report, it distorts the true state of climate science.
The move to release summaries that are written and approved by government bureaucrats, not scientists, before the reports themselves, guarantees that the reports will be largely ignored when they are finally released in the fall. And it ensures that the conventional wisdom about global warming will be shaped by the outlandish claims of the summaries and not the more-reasoned scientific reports.
That is the idea of course. The goal of the IPCC is not to produce a true picture of climate science, but to influence the political process. “Scientists and environmentalists … hope [the report] will prod political leaders to action,” according to the New York Times (February 19, 2001). Moreover, “Monday’s report warned that the United States – where skepticism about warming is strong in the new administration – would not escape a rise in flooding and storms that have caused billions of dollars in damage in recent years.”
Several ludicrous claims are made in the Summary, which purports to show the impacts of global warming. It argues, based on extreme warming scenarios, that every major variable affecting human well-being will worsen, and it ignores any ecological or economic benefits from a warmer climate. It claims, for instance, that there will be “increased energy demand for space cooling due to higher summer temperatures.” This statement ignores the credit side of the equation.
Global climate models predict, for example, that most warming will occur in the winter and at night and that there will be very little warming in the summer. This is what has been observed so far. This would lead to lower heating bills and only slight increases in cooling bills – a net benefit that the IPCC ignores.
Indeed, the El Niño of 1997-98, which led to milder winters and hotter summers, bears this out. A study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (September 1999) showed that there was a net benefit of $15 billion dollars, due in large part to the savings from lower heating bills.
The Summary also claims that global warming will increase exposure to vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever. Again, there is no evidence of a linkage between these diseases and global warming. These diseases are endemic to the northern latitudes and were wiped out by public health programs. As Dr. Paul Reiter of the Center for Disease Control has pointed out many times, these diseases flourish where there is poverty and have nothing to do with global warming.
The claims regarding flooding, droughts, heat waves, and so on are equally erroneous. The government functionaries who wrote the Summary ignore all mitigating factors and more importantly the empirical evidence. They rely almost entirely on computer model projections, which have been shown to be significantly at odds with the evidence.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Commerce Committee’s Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, recently called on President George W. Bush to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for a ratification vote. He believes that the treaty would be rejected, thereby clearing the way for the Bush Administration to propose alternatives, such as regional and bilateral agreements with other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CBS News, February 8, 2001).
According to press accounts immediately following climate negotiations last November at the Hague, Netherlands, the US was the skunk at the party. Its refusal to compromise, said the reports, led to the talks collapsing. European Union negotiators berated the US for its failure to cooperate.
As Cooler Heads (November 29, 2000) has already noted , the reality was quite different. A major player in the Hague negotiations has now confirmed our view. According to Canada’s Environment Minister, David Anderson, the EU refused to compromise. According to BBC News Online (February 13, 2001), Anderson claims that, “the European Union had stalemated the talks, and was holding the world to ransom.”
The talks failed because the EU would not budge on the use of sinks and the Clean Development Mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU wants to force countries to make most of their reductions domestically. But as Anderson points out, “There’s absolutely no difference whether you pull a ton of carbon out of the atmosphere in Kenya, or in Canada. And it doesn’t make the slightest bit of intellectual sense for Europeans to pretend otherwise.”
Ian McAllister, chairman and managing director of Ford Motor Company UK, has agreed to become the first Chairman of the Carbon Trust, a government-created body intended to promote reductions of carbon emissions. The Carbon Trust’s work, according to Environment News Service (February 13, 2001), “is aimed at promoting low carbon research and development, and helping business invest in energy efficient, low carbon technologies and practices.”
In other news from Ford, the automaker announced on February 16 that it will donate $5 million to the National Audubon Society. The corporate grant, the largest ever received by Audubon, “will support citizen science, education and conservation programs that protect wildlife and engage children and adults in developing an understanding and appreciation of nature that lasts throughout their lifetimes.”
This grant was not announced soon enough to help Ford escape being listed by Mother Jones magazine as one of the world’s worst corporations in its January 3, 2001 MoJo Wire (It should be noted that green-leaning BP also made the list of the world’s worst corporations.)
Producers of so-called renewable energy are concerned that the California power crisis may put them out of business. To ameliorate possible bankruptcy among California’s major power utilities, the state government has agreed to enter into long-term power contracts on behalf of the beleaguered utility industry. These long-term contracts could squeeze renewables out of the market. “Until this law gets changed, we're out of business in California, period,” said Rick Counihan, spokesman for Green Mountain Energy Co., once the largest “green energy” provider in the state.
According to a Los Angeles Times poll (February 18, 2001), Californians overwhelmingly favor the construction of new power plants in that state. Seventy five percent support construction of new power plants even within their own communities, although two-thirds oppose loosening environmental standards (Greenwire, February 20, 2001).
The UK government is set to implement its climate change levy in April despite complaints from smaller companies that it could hurt jobs and profits. Large, politically powerful industries have been able to secure concessions to lessen the blow of the levy. The steel industry, for instance, has received an 80 percent discount. Smaller companies, on the other hand, will be required to shoulder the full burden of the levy.
Hector Burdwisa, Vice-president of Koyo Bearings, a Japanese-owned firm, told BBC News (February 15, 2001) that his company has made every effort to use as little energy as possible in its production line. “All companies which use a lot of energy have over the last ten years been driving costs down, and trying to optimize the use of energy all the time,” said Burdwisa. This tax will not make one bit of difference to our effective use of energy. What it will do is put jobs at risk.” Koyo Bearings would face a levy of £100,000 per year when the levy comes into force.
The Engineering Employers’ Federation says that the levy could lead to a loss of more than a million jobs and that employees of small companies would be disproportionately hurt. “By doing it this way, companies are not going to have the money available to make the investments necessary, so the effect is that it’s going to put them under pressure as to whether they can continue in existence at all,” said EEF’s Director-General Martin Temple.
Environmental Minister Michael Meacher is unmoved, however. He claims, according to BBC News, that “virtually all firms should be able to find ways to save energy and it was in their long-term interests to do so.”
If the European Union is going to tackle global warming, then it must raise energy prices, according to the EU’s Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. “Increasing energy prices is of course something that we should not leave to the oil producing countries. A well planned policy for energy taxation is the way forward,” she said.
Wallstrom is worried that the EU’s power market deregulation policies are lowering Europe’s energy bills. “How can we expect electricity users to invest in more efficient machines, appliances or lighting systems when electricity is getting cheaper?” she asked. To offset the reduction in electricity prices caused by deregulation the EU should raise energy prices through taxes. This should be done through harmonization of energy taxes among the 15 EU members. “Those member states that currently resist higher energy taxes may soon come to understand that without them they will have difficulties to achieve their Kyoto targets,” she said (Reuters, February 4, 2001).
Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and a lead author of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, has publicly criticized the IPCC’s media campaign to generate public alarm about global warming. “The world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints,” he told the London Times (February 20, 2001). “There are 245 different results in that report, and this was the worst-case scenario. It’s the one that’s not going to happen. It was the extreme case of all the different things that can make the world warm.”
On the computer models that form the foundation of the IPCC report, Christy said, “You should approach climate models with a degree of awe and a sense of humor. They are incredible accomplishments of code-writing, but they are not the real world. They have many shortcomings – the sort of tiny shortcomings that can make long-term predictions suspect.” Indeed, said Christy, no model accurately portrays the current climate. How then can we trust future predictions?
Christy also noted that man’s impact on the earth is too small to detect. “Hurricanes are not increasing,” he said. “Tornadoes are not increasing. Storms and drought do not show any pattern of increasing or decreasing. The evidence shows we are living in a climate of natural variability. Variations of climate have always occurred, even when humans could not have had any impact!”
The specter of malaria in England from global warming is a red herring, according to Christy. “Malaria is not a warm weather disease and was endemic in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is constrained by simple public health measures. In countries wealthy enough to support a good public health infrastructure, there is little or no malaria, such as Singapore and northern Australia.”
Russia is experiencing its coldest winter in 50 years, according to official measurements. The average temperature in Siberia was – 40 degrees C and fell as low as – 70 degrees C (Arizona Republic, February 18, 2001). This is significant because according to greenhouse theory places such as Siberia should see the largest rise in temperatures from increases in atmospheric concentrations in greenhouse gases.
Because the coldest air masses on earth are also the driest, greenhouse gases exert a relatively larger influence on temperatures than in more humid regions, such as the tropics. Indeed, tropical temperatures should remain nearly steady.
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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