“Slouching Towards Kyoto” from Down Under
The two most influential lawmakers in Congress on climate change issues traveled half way around the world to the capital of Australia to assail the climate treaty being readied for Kyoto.
“Let me make it very clear,” stated Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), “I believe we are headed down the wrong path in the negotiations for any global climate treaty to be signed in Kyoto, Japan, this December.” Hagel is chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on International Economic Policy, which has jurisdiction over international environmental treaties that come to the chamber for ratification. “In its current form, the global climate treaty would face a resounding defeat in the United States Senate” he told his audience, a conference entitled “Countdown to Kyoto,” sponsored by the Australian APEC Study Center and the Arlington, Virginia-based Frontiers of Freedom Institute.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), ranking member of the House Commerce Committee, assured the conference that Republicans are not alone in their misgivings: “We may be slouching towards Kyoto with only the barest appreciation of what we are doing and how it will affect us.”
The Canberra conference was attended by prominent Australian officials, who are watching closely both the White House negotiating stance and the Senate’s reaction to it. Australia, a major coal exporter, also depends on fossil fuels for 94 percent of its energy supplies. The Australian government has already expressed staunch opposition to the European Union’s proposal for binding emissions targets. In his address to the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer stated that “we are going to need some growth in our emissions above 1990 levels.”
Greenpeace led a protest against the conference in which 20 demonstrators were arrested. The activists are hoping to salvage a treaty which, in Sen. Hagel’s judgment, “has the potential of bringing under direct international control virtually every aspect of a nation’s economy.”
Australia Courts Japan, Attacks Germany; Germany and Japan Get Together
Australia’s federal government has asked Japan to join them in opposing binding greenhouse gas emission limits. Australia is supporting a policy of differentiation where each country would agree to voluntary limits based on its marginal cost of abatement. Australia’s Primary Industries Minister, John Anderson, argues that “Our economic analysis shows that it is in both Australia and Japan’s interests to stand firm against global pressure and oppose binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in Kyoto.”
Anderson argues that Australia is well positioned to meet Japan’s future massive increases in energy demand: “Over the next decade, Australia should emerge as easily the biggest supplier of primary energy to Japan. . . . We must be able to convince Japan that we can, and will, remain a reliable, competitive and secure supplier” (AAP Newsfeed, August 27, 1997).
Meanwhile, Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer accused Germany of pushing an international campaign to isolate Australia: “It’s unfair for people from Germany to ask Australia to sacrifice more jobs and more living standards than they themselves are prepared to sacrifice,” Downer said. “The European Union is asking us to make a grossly unfair contribution. . .we completely reject that.”
Downer argues that setting binding greenhouse gas limits on industrial countries will cause energy intensive industries to move to the developing world. “What people in Germany don’t seem to have grasped is that if you close down energy industries in environmentally sensitive Australia they will move abroad to countries less sensitive” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 29, 1997).
Germany and Japan, however, have signed an agreement on environmental cooperation. The two countries agreed to exchange personnel and information and hold seminars to discuss greenhouse gas abatement strategies, prevention of ozone destruction and conserving endangered species. They will also set up a joint committee which will meet once a year (AP Worldstream, August 26, 1997).
Scientists Feel Political Pressure
An article in the Financial Times (London, August 28, 1997) begins, “Leading scientists are expected to respond today to pressure from politicians to clarify the threat of climate change to specific parts of the world.” Roger Newsom, head of climate modelling for the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), stated, “There’s a lot of pressure,” on the scientists to “clarify and specify what action must be taken so we can . . . give better answers on man’s effect on climate.”
The U.S. Senate has opposed a treaty that would cause economic harm to the U.S. especially when the scientific evidence for climate change is so sparse. Michael Grubb, a member of the IPCC, urged politicians to “grow up and understand that we are dealing with uncertainty. . . Nobody in their right mind thinks uncertainty means do nothing.”
In a statement at the end of the meeting the WCRP called for more political support to further its future work on global warming. G.O. Obasi, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said, “I believe the time has come for all nations to heed the advice of the scientific community and to allocate more resources to global monitoring, research, and the important activities being provided by the national meteorological and hydrological services. It is a small investment to make to ensure the future safety and well-being of our planet” (BNA Daily Environment Report, September 2, 1997). Is it any surprise that when politicians ask scientists what must be done about global warming, their answer is give us more money?
Senators to Track Developments in Kyoto
Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has appointed twelve senators to monitor the upcoming talks in Kyoto, Japan in December. Named to the Global Climate Change Observer Group are Sens. Spence Abraham (R-Mich), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Robert Byrd (D-WVa), John Chafee (R-RI), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), John Kerry (D-Mass), Carl Levin (D-Mich), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan). The senators will report periodically to Sen. Lott on the negotiations (BNA Daily Environment Report, August 29, 1997).
The Costs of Renewable Energy
For years environmentalists have touted renewable energy as a way to wean mankind from fossil fuels, clean the air, and avert global climate change. The federal government has spent billions of dollars subsidizing renewable energy, and the Clinton administration has suggested further development of renewable energy technology as a way to meet emission targets that may be negotiated at the Kyoto conference. It’s a nice theory, but a new study by Robert L. Bradley, Jr., president of the Institute for Energy Research, shows that renewable energy is very costly and environmentally suspect.
The study, “Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’,” published by the Cato Institute, shows that on average electricity produced at renewable energy plants is twice as expensive as electricity produced by the most economical fossil-fuel alternative and triple the cost of surplus electricity. Moreover, renewable energy has many hidden environmental costs. Wind and solar farms take 100 times more space than fossil-fuel plants to produce the same amount of energy. Wind farms are also noisy and kill birds. It has been estimated that wind farms in California are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of golden eagles and other raptors. Also, Bradly notes that the material-intensive manufacture of wind and solar facilities increase air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in the short run.
The report is available at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-280es.html or by calling Dave Quast at 202-789-5266.
Homes or Cars?
Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has projected that in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 Japan must reduce energy consumption by 50 million kiloliters of crude oil. This is roughly equivalent to the energy consumption of all Japanese households in 1995 or fuel consumption by Japanese motor vehicles that year (Asia Pulse, August 28, 1997).
CO2 Effects on Ocean Currents
Researchers Thomas F. Stocker and Andreas Schmitter, using a simplified, three-basin zonally averaged circulation model, coupled to a simple energy-balance model of the atmosphere, have shown that CO2 levels as well as the rate of increase may have an effect on the “thermohaline” circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean. Known as the “ocean conveyer belt,” this current is a “gigantic overturning motion” which pushes warm surface waters to the north giving off heat then sinking and returning to the south as cold water at a depth of 2 km.
The computer model showed that an increase of CO2 to 750 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in the next 100 years would permanently shut down the circulation. The model also showed that if the CO2 concentration of 750 ppmv were reached more slowly it would slow but not shut down the circulation. The current, caused by temperature and salinity, may respond adversely to large injections of freshwater that may occur from greater rainfall in the northern latitudes, as has been predicted by General Circulation Models. Deep ocean sediments suggest that when the thermohaline circulation has broken down in the past it caused cold spells in Europe which lasted for hundreds of years (“Influence of CO2 emission rates on the stability of the thermohaline circulation,” Nature, August 28, 1997).
The model used, however, has some problems. In an editorial comment on the research Stefan Rahmstorf pointed out that “. . . a simple model like this cannot be expected to make accurate quantitative predictions. The key result of their study lies not in exact numbers, it is in the principle that the rate at which greenhouse-gas concentrations increase is crucial for the stability of the ocean circulation.” Rahmstorf later concludes, “Climate models are still too coarse to accurately predict how vulnerable the ocean circulation is, but they suggest that crossing a critical limit is within the range of possibilities for the next century” (“Risk of sea-change in the Atlantic,” Nature, August 28, 1997).
China May Benefit From Climate Change
Environmentalists have long decried the possible detrimental effects of climate change on the developing countries. Some Chinese scientists, however, believe that climate change could hold many benefits for their country.
Ren Zhenqiu, research fellow of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Science, for example, argues that a warmer climate would cause the prevailing westerly summer wind to move further inland bringing more rainfall, improving agriculture yields in previously drought plagued areas.
Zhang Piyuan, professor of the Institute of Geography under the Academy of Sciences, using archives from the Palace Museum, found that agriculture output was higher during the warm period between 1750 – 1790 than during the cold period between 1841 – 1890.
Ren noted that the world’s four major civilizations appeared one after the other during earth’s warm state 6,000 to 4,000 years ago. North China was warm and damp and covered with forests and the desert existed primarily in the remote west. Furthermore, natural disasters were less frequent during the warm periods. Ren concludes, “Warm periods are the economically and culturally prosperous periods of mankind. . . . Desertification is caused by global cold, a severe environment, along with man-created sabotage. The natural factor is essential.” According to a book by Cambridge University, the decline of China’s Ming Dynasty corresponds to the arrival of colder weather and frequent natural disasters.
Ren believes that “The influence from both artificial and natural factors should be equally stressed. . . . It has not been determined as to which is the main reason leading to the climate change – natural influence or greenhouse effect.” He concludes, “I only hope that scholars do not merely stress the disadvantage of warming climate like the convention.” The article, “The Benefits of Climate Change? China’s Take on Global Warming,” can be found at www.weathervane.rff.org/.
Gore’s Hard Sell
A focus group study of homeowning, college graduates in Bethesda, Md. conducted by The Alliance to Save Energy, showed that the global warming scare may be a hard sell to the American public. The following is reported in the Wall Street Journal (August 26, 1997). “During a discussion the skeptics tended to convince others that climatic change wasn’t happening while an incredulous moderator looked on. Cynicism about government played a larger role.
Participant 1: “But of course it [global warming] gives them [scientists] more grant money to keep up their jobs, to keep doing that type of research.”
Moderator: “So it is a political agenda?
Participant 2: “Yes, it is.”
Participant 1: “I think some of it is.”
Participant 3: “If I’m watching TV, and I hear about [global warming], I laugh at it. Or I don’t worry about it.”
IPCC’s Political Summary
In a letter to Nature (January 11, 1996) Michael Grubb, Lead Author, Working Group III of the IPCC, wrote, “The ‘Policymakers’ Summary’ is not a technical summary. Although usually drafted by the experts to put all key findings ‘on the table’, the final text represents a painstakingly negotiated statement of what governments officially accept as a balanced account of the state of knowledge and reasoned judgement, based on the chapters. Governments cannot alter the chapters, and the authors cannot alter the Policmakers’ Summary.”
Sept. 10, EPA Regional Conference on Global Warming, Clarion-Executive House Hotel, downtown Chicago (71 East Wacker Drive).
The Heartland Institute will be hosting a reception at the Clarion-Executive House Hotel on September 9 for participants of the EPA conference. The reception will feature expert discussions on the junk science and flawed economics of the global warming debate. For additional information call Eric Caron or Mike Dixon at (847) 202-3060. (Note that the our last issue listed these dates incorrectly.)
Sept. 17, National Consumer Coalition Press Conference in Houston to release a study on the impact of greenhouse gas emission restrictions on Texas.
Sept. 30, The Union of Concerned Scientists will hold a Science Summit on Climate Change at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC.
The White House will hold a conference on climate change, October 6, 1997.
The following are town hall meetings being organized by Vice President Gore’s office and the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy to “examine the vulnerability of various regions of the US to climate variability and climate change and to aggregate information across regions to support a national scientific assessment.”
Sept. (no date provided), Tuson, AZ. DOI and NOAA co-hosting with the University of Arizona
- Sept. 9-11, State College, PA. EPA co-hosting with Pennsylvania State University.
- Nov. 10-12, Washington, DC. National Workshop on Climate Change Impacts to release regional and national scale impacts of climate change.
The IPCC will hold its thirteenth session in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sept. 9-11.