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IPCC Releases Political Summary
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on January 20, approved and released the Summary for Policymakers of its Third Assessment Report. As with the Second Assessment Report in 1995, the Summary bears little resemblance to the actual report, which has not yet been approved for final release. The report itself is replete with caveats that give little support for the catastrophic warming scenario touted by anti-energy activists (commonly known as environmentalists).
The summary, on the other hand, is a political document that exists primarily to bolster the claims of the anti-energy zealots, not to summarize the report. As Robert Watson, chairman of the IPCC, said in a press conference releasing the summary, “This adds impetus for governments of the world to find ways to live up to their commitments … to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The summary claims that the earth’s temperature could rise much faster than previously thought and that last century was the warmest in the past thousand years. The Second Assessment Report, which was released in 1995, gave a prediction that the earth could warm by 1 to 3.5 degrees C by the year 2100. The “best estimate” was a 2 degree C warming by 2100, about a third lower than the IPCC’s best estimate in 1990. The new report has dramatically increased that estimate to
1.4 to 5.8 degrees C, even though no new evidence has come to light to warrant such a dramatic change.
The summary claims that the 20th century has been the warmest in the last 1000 years. This conclusion is based on a suspect set of data derived from tree rings, which purports to show a stable climate from the years 1000 to 1900. It then crudely attaches the 20th century surface temperature data to produce a dramatic warming thereafter. When these two different (and incompatible) data sets are combined, the resulting graph resembles a hockey stick lying on it’s back, blade up.
It is very difficult to extract any information about past temperature variations using tree ring data. What it does tell us is whether the “combined micro-environmental conditions during the growing season [of a particular year] were favorable to [tree] growth or not (The Hockey Stick: A new low in climate science, www.microtech.com.au/daly ).”
These conditions include rainfall, temperature, atmospheric carbon concentrations, and so on. Singling out the temperature effect is a highly speculative business. Moreover, the samples used in the tree ring data were limited to the Northern Hemisphere, leaving much of the planet unsampled. The IPCC report, nonetheless, presents the hockey stick graph as representing a global temperature trend.
The hockey stick represents a radical departure from the well-established historical temperature record, which has been derived from several proxies, including the written historical record, ice core samples, and tree ring data, among others. Those records show that the earth was much warmer during the Medieval Warm Period that spanned much of the first half of the millennium. The 20th century was cooler than the Medieval Warm Period and the warming that occurred could easily be explained by a natural emergence from the Little Ice Age, an episode that also mysteriously disappears in the IPCC’s new tree ring data.
The summary states that, “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” It turns out, however, that the evidence comes from computer-generated climate models, which, of course, isn’t evidence at all.
“There is a longer and more closely scrutinized temperature record and new model estimates of variability,” says the summary. “The warming over the past 100 years is very unlikely to be due to internal variability alone, as estimated by current models.” Why the internal variability estimated by computers is valid is not explained. A look at real climate variability over the long term clearly shows that the current warming is well within natural variability.
Finally, computer models are still incapable of replicating the present climate using known climate conditions. Moreover, the several models in existence give such widely divergent predictions it is difficult to know what to make of them. A model that cannot predict the present certainly shouldn’t be used to predict a hundred years into the future.
IPCC Chairman Robert Watson has a science degree, but he is not a practicing scientist. Indeed, he has been a political operative his whole life, and his pronouncements on the subject of global warming carry about as much weight as those by Greenpeace. The lead authors of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report are practicing scientists, however, and many of their comments seem to contradict Dr. Watson’s.
Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria who holds the Canada Research Chair in atmospheric science is a lead author of the UN report. He stated that, “Based on the science you simply can’t make the statement that it is going to warm faster.” People who argue otherwise don’t understand the IPCC report, said Weaver.
The Toronto Star (January 23, 2001) points out that what was released on the 20th was an 18-page summary that was “hammered out during four days of horse-trading among officials from 99 governments.” These officials are often erroneously referred to as scientists in the press.
Gordon McBean, a former head of the Meteorological Service in Canada who was heavily involved in the Second Assessment Report said, “It is misleading to say the situation is worse.” Both scientists, however, do believe that man is the cause of the warming that we’ve seen so far.
Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also a lead author of the report. He stated, “The public is led to think that hundreds, even thousands, of scientists formed a consensus about this report. The truth is that we’re not even asked.”
The Bush Administration has reportedly asked to postpone for two months negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol now scheduled to be held in Bonn, Germany in late May and early June. According to an Associated Press story, the State Department announced on January 24 that it needed the additional two months in order to take, in spokesman Rick Boucher's words, “a thorough look at the US policy on climate change.” This extra time would presumably be used to bring the US negotiating position into conformity with the Bush campaign’s explicit opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.
The continuation in Bonn of the sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed to after COP-6 collapsed in the Hague, Netherlands last November. COP-7 is scheduled for Marrakesh, Morocco in November.
The 1.5 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters has adopted a resolution opposing the Kyoto Protocol. It states, “The International Brotherhood of Teamsters will oppose the Kyoto Protocol and any like treaty, legislative or regulatory action that causes job loss and mandates internationally disproportionate greenhouse gas reductions.” It also called for a “short- and long-term comprehensive energy strategy that will assure that energy is adequate and affordable for American families and that prevents energy shortfalls that destabilize the economy” (Greenwire, January 23, 2001).
Working Group III of the IPCC report predicts that compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would reduce economic growth by as much as 2 percent per year in the industrialized countries, according to the January 9 issue of Japan Times. This closely matches predictions by several other economic studies. Economic growth rates in industrial countries hover around 2 percent per year. That would be consumed by the Kyoto Protocol.
Bruce Yandle, an economist at Clemson University, recently identified several “Baptist and Bootlegger” coalitions that are driving global warming policy in the January issue of Hoover Digest (www-hoover.stanford.edu).
The first group he identifies is the “alternative energy bootleggers.” Enron Corporation is a major provider of low-carbon natural gas. In 1997 it announced the creation of the Enron Renewable Energy Corporation “to take advantage of the growing interest in environmentally sound alternatives of power in the $250 billion US energy market.” Enron endorsed President Clinton’s $6.3 billion plan to fight global warming, $3.6 billion of which would go to subsidize renewable energy technologies.
The National Corn Growers Association and Archer-Daniels-Midland, a producer of corn based ethanol fuel, have touted ethanol as a global-warming-friendly fuel. They succeeded in getting a 5.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax incentive for ethanol producers.
Several economic studies have shown that the Kyoto Protocol would be devastating to the coal industry, but would greatly benefit the natural gas industry and to a lesser degree the oil industry, both of which would step in to fill the vacuum left by coal. This explains why so many oil companies left the Global Climate Coalition and became crusaders for global warming policy, according to Yandle.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claimed that the year 2000 was the fifth warmest since 1880. Other temperature records find less warming. The year 2000 was only the 14th warmest year since 1979 according to the satellite temperature record, and it was only the 9th warmest year since 1880, according to records that include only measurements from meteorological stations.
It looks as though the NOAA data, which is cited by government officials and the news media may be the least accurate according to a study, which recently appeared in Geophysical Research Letters (January 1, 2001). The NOAA datasets “are a mixture of near-surface air temperatures over land and sea water temperatures over oceans,” according to Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Since actual air temperature data over many large ocean areas are nonexistent, the NOAA uses sea surface temperatures as a “proxy”, assuming that sea surface temperatures and air temperatures move in lock step. This is not the case, according to the data compiled by Christy and his colleagues at the Hadley Centre of the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office, who worked on the study. The researchers used buoy data in the tropical Pacific Ocean to compare “long-term (8-20 year) trends for temperatures recorded one meter below the sea surface and three meters above it.”
What they found was a significant discrepancy. “For each buoy in the Eastern Pacific, the air temperatures measured at the three meter height showed less of a warming trend than did the same buoy’s water temperatures at one meter depth,” Christy said. The difference is a near-surface seawater warming trend of 0.37 degrees C per decade and an air temperature trend of only 0.25 degrees C per decade during the 20-year period tested. Replacing the sea surface temperatures with the air temperature data reduces the Earth’s global warming trend by a third, from 0.19 to 0.13 degree C per decade.
· Beyond Petroleum, formerly British Petroleum, told the British Parliament on January 18 that fuel taxes are being used by the government primarily to raise revenue and not to achieve environmental results. According to a January 19 Reuters story, BP’s written submission to Parliament’s Environmental Audit Select Committee states that, “We have observed that governments are apparently more driven by revenue than environmental objectives when setting the level of fuel duties.”
BP’s report argues that the level of gas taxes in the United Kingdom, which amounts to three-quarters of the price paid at the pump, is ineffective and therefore unjustified. Reuters quotes the report: “We have also questioned the environmental efficacy of motor fuel taxes, mainly because they have so little effect on consumer behavior. The lack of alternatives and the importance of the motor car in modern life has left consumers with little option but to pay whatever tax is levied by the government.”
Cooler Heads reported in the November 1, 2000 issue that much higher gas taxes in Britain have not succeeded in reducing demand, thereby making it much harder to reach the carbon dioxide emission limits set by the Kyoto Protocol. It is not clear how BP’s implied support for lower taxes would help to meet the Kyoto limits. BP is still selling motor fuels throughout the world, and in fact is Britain's largest fuel retailer.
· Freedom 21 is sponsoring a debate on “The Future of the Kyoto Protocol” at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2001. Featured speakers are the Rt. Hon. John Gummer, MP, and Dr. Alan Keyes. The event is designed to present fundamentally different views of the future of the Treaty, especially for the benefit of new Beltway residents, whether they be in Congress or the Bush Administration.
· The February 2001 issue of Discover magazine features an article about Dr. John Christy and his scientific views about global warming and his personal views about global warming policy.
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