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Combining Montreal with Kyoto
Many issues were discussed at the climate change talks in Buenos Aires this month, but one of the most disturbing was the call "for greater scientific cooperation between the ozone depletion and climate change treaty organizations, recognizing the links between the two, human-induced atmospheric crises."
On November 23 in Cairo, Egypt, United Nations Environment Program Director Klaus Töpfer, referring to the two protocols, told the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that "we have to think of the many inter-linkages between the global environment issues and ensure that all our actions will serve the environment as a whole."
Two of the six greenhouse gases that have been targeted for reduction under the Kyoto Protocol are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), both of which were recommended as ozone safe replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs were banned under the Montreal Protocol. Parties to the Montreal Protocol are expected to adopt a resolution similar to the one adopted in Buenos Aires and could eventually lead to its involvement in global warming issues and an outright ban on HFCs. Since HFCs are "ozone friendly," such a move by the Parties to the
Montreal Protocol would be a massive expansion of the Protocol’s regulatory power.
If this occurs it would spell trouble for the developing countries that have been encouraged to use HFCs as CFC substitutes. Refrigeration is vital to the health and well being of people living in developing countries. In 1999 the developing countries will be required to begin phasing out the use of CFCs. Any investments in HFCs that may have already been made would be wasted if they are banned under the Montreal Protocol. This may also be another attempt at implementation without ratification (BNA Daily Environment Report, November 24, 1998).
Senator Hagel Proposes New Climate Treaty
In a speech before the Economic Strategy Institute, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said that the Kyoto Protocol "is not ratifiable or achievable." He also pledged that Congress "will continue to do everything we did this year to stop back-door implementation of Kyoto."
He then argued, however, that the Kyoto Protocol needed to be replaced with a better plan, a plan that incorporates "sound science" and involves all "interested parties." The "issues of protecting the environment and finding a viable solution for cutting greenhouse gas emissions have become secondary to the protocol itself," said Hagel. "We’ve got to start over," he declared (BNA Daily Environment Report, November 20, 1998).
Senator Hagel’s remarks were echoed by the executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, William O’Keefe, who called for a new framework for reducing greenhouse gases. "Politicians loathe to admit that they made a mistake in Kyoto," O’Keefe said. They "need to rethink how to proceed on a basis on which 170 countries are working toward a common objective" (BNA Daily Environment Report, November 12, 1998).
EIA Report Attacked and Defended
The Energy Information Administration has come under some heat lately for producing an economic analysis of the costs of complying with the Kyoto Protocol that contradicts the Clinton Administration’s own analysis. One such attack occurred on an internet forum (www.weathervane.rff.org ) for global warming issues. Dr. Joseph Romm, former Department of Energy chief of energy efficiency and renewable energy technology, viciously attacked the report as "so riddled with economic flaws, analytical errors and outrageous policy assumptions that it is rendered completely irrelevant."
Romm accuses the EIA of failing to model the actual treaty rules. But Mary J. Hutzler, Director of EIA’s Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting says EIA "did model the treaty." Kyoto cannot be more fully modeled because so many of its provisions are incomplete, such as emissions trading.
Romm also charges the EIA with neglecting market and policy responses to the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including electricity deregulation. Hutzler points out that all of these are accounted for in the EIA analysis. Market response is accounted for by "adding a carbon component to end-use energy prices as the signal for the market to respond." As for government policies, she says that EIA, "incorporated all proactive Government policies and regulations that have been sufficiently specified and adopted." She also points out that "some studies of the Kyoto Protocol assume future unspecified policies that produce miraculous results without having made specific evaluation of their benefits and costs."
Romm’s claim that the EIA assumes "frozen monopoly utility regulation" is wrong, according to Hutzler. "In fact," she says, "we assume a totally deregulated wholesale electricity market and competitive pricing in those regions that have legislation or other binding rules in place. We were the first organization to publish a study of fully competitive electricity prices."
Finally, contrary to Romm’s assertions, the EIA study "represented the specific provisions in the Clean Air Act that are precisely specified and that have gone through the clearance procedures to become final actions," and "all known advanced technologies whose estimated commercial availability date is within our forecast horizon."
New York Expected to be Hardest Hit by Kyoto Protocol
The cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be higher for New York than any other state in the U.S. This is because New York is the most energy efficient state in the country, according to Douglas Hill and Samuel Morris, researchers with the New York City-based Regional Plan Association. Costs in New York City will be even higher because it receives less of its energy from hydropower sources than upstate regions. As a result New York will have to rely more heavily on emissions trading to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Hill and Morris argue that New York and other state and local governments should claim the right to engage in emissions trading. They also argue that New York "should take advantage of its status as an international center for business and finance to develop a trading market" in greenhouse gas emissions.
Other recommendations to the state include "promot[ing] the development, production, and export of new energy efficient technology, and the creation of "a model of an energy efficient commercial and industrial economy" (BNA Daily Environment Report, November 23, 1998). Already we are seeing the many interest groups, both governmental and nongovernmental, trying to position themselves to avoid harm from the Kyoto Protocol and to capture whatever spoils may be available. The signing and ratification of the Kyoto Protocol are just the first steps. After that governments, businesses and other interest groups will fight to avoid being the big losers
Hansen Falls Back to Weaker Position
In 1988 James Hansen, a climate modeler with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, put global warming on the political map and in the press by exclaiming before Al Gore in a Senate hearing that he was 95 percent sure that manmade global warming was upon us. However in the most recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 1998) he makes a startling statement. In the first sentence of the abstract he states, "The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change."
The study discusses several climate forcings, both positive and negative, that effect the earth’s climate. The purpose of the study, says Hansen, et al, is to "provide a perspective on current understanding of global climate forcings, in effect an update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."
The reason it is so difficult to predict future climate change, says Hansen, is that "anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are well measured, cause a strong positive (warming) forcing. But other, poorly measured, anthropogenic forcings, especially changes of atmospheric aerosols, clouds, and land-use patterns, cause a negative forcing that tends to offset greenhouse warming. One consequence of this partial balance is that the natural forcing due to solar irradiance changes may play a larger role in long-term climate change than inferred from GHGs alone."
His discussion of solar irradiance is important because he challenges the notion that "climate forcing due to solar variability is negligible because it is much smaller than GHG forcing." According to Hansen, "a more relevant comparison is with the net forcing by all other known mechanisms." This net forcing, says Hansen, is probably only about 1 W/m2 (watt per square meter). "Thus," says Hansen, "a solar forcing of even 0.4 W/m2 could have played a substantial role in climate change during the Industrial era."
The Greening Earth
The Greening Earth Society has just released a video titled, The Greening of Planet Earth Continues, that reviews the global warming controversy. It begins by pointing out that we have records of the sun’s energy output, as measured by the sunspot cycle, for the last 400 years, since the time of Galileo. It turns out, says Sallie Baliunas, senior astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, that "the ups and downs of the sun’s magnetism match up very well with these changes in the climate of the earth. So we estimate that most of the changes of the last several hundred years . . . can be caused by these fluctuations in the sun’s energy output."
The video also argues that the human race has flourished during warmer periods and stagnated during cooler periods. Two previous periods, known as "The Climatic Optimum" and the "Little Climatic Optimum" were warmer than it is now. "A slightly warmer world and an enriched carbon dioxide world will mean plant growth is more vigorous," says Thomas Gale Moore, a Senior Fellow with the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. "The bottom of the food chain is plants. All animals eat plants or eat animals that eat plants, including us."
The video also discusses the shortcomings of General Circulation Models. The different components of the climate system are very complex, according to Roy Spencer, a senior scientist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. "They interact in non-linear ways which we really can’t predict. One thing changes, which changes something else, which changes something else. There’s this cascade of processes." The bottom line is that the model’s predictions have failed to conform to what has occurred.
The main point of the video is the central importance of carbon dioxide for life on earth. As pointed out by Sylvan Wittwer, professor emeritus of horticulture, Michigan State University, "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is a nutrient – a very important nutrient, perhaps the most important." Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be a boon to farmers and to plant life in general. Not only does it provide plants with the most important nutrient, it also increases water-use efficiency and nitrogen-use efficiency, both very important for plants.
One statement by Patrick Michaels, a climatologist with the University of Virginia, sums up the videos arguments: "The evidence that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is going to cause a disaster is somewhere between slim and none. However, the evidence that it’s doing a good thing by lengthening the growing season and making plants grow better is somewhere between large and overwhelming." The video can be acquired by contacting the Greening Earth Society at (703)907-6168 or email@example.com .
Gore goes on to say, "public understanding and support for reasonable climate change policies will be critical. But scientific literacy is necessary if we are to engage in an informed and rational debate. Unfortunately, scientific illiteracy means that too many Americans will be easy marks for anti-scientific public relation ploys." Someone should remind Gore that over 17,000 scientifically literate persons signed the Oregon Petition that rejected the global warming hypothesis.
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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