Vol. VI, No. 7


Alberta to Propose Kyoto Alternative


The province of Alberta, Canada will propose a greenhouse gas reduction plan as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, according to its Environment Minister, Lorne Taylor. The plan will resemble the one proposed by President George W. Bush, in that it will rely on financial incentives to develop technologies that would emit fewer greenhouse gases.


Taylor argues that the early numbers from a joint federal-provincial group analyzing the potential economic impact of Kyoto show the costs to be unacceptable. He told the National Post (March 28, 2002), “My understanding is that the numbers that will come out of that process will be higher than Ottawa has expected and so [Ottawa is] looking outside that process now at other studies to see what they can find.”


The study’s preliminary findings are similar to those from a study that Alberta’s provincial government conducted last year, said Taylor.  That study found that the cost of Kyoto to the Canadian economy would be about two to four percent of GDP, or about $20 to $40 billion per year.  The alternative plan is designed to help persuade the federal government not to ratify the Kyoto protocol and to give it another acceptable option.


According to Taylor, the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick  support  Alberta’s  stance  on  Kyoto, while Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are opposed.


The National Post also reported on March 29 that Prime Minister Jean Chretien “appeared to be softening his commitment to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.”


Americans Mostly Unconcerned About Global Warming


A new Gallup Poll to measure the public’s attitudes towards global warming has found that a plurality of the public, 40 percent, are either “only a little” or “not at all” worried about global warming. Twenty nine percent said they are worried a “fair amount” and another 29 percent said they are worried a “great deal.”


The number of Americans worried a great deal about global warming has fallen from 40 percent in 2000. As an issue, however, it has always ranked near the bottom of a list of the top ten environmental problems that Americans worry a great deal about, with only acid rain ranking lower.


Asked whether they understand the issue of global warming only 17 percent said they understand the issue “very well.” Another 52 percent said they understand if “fairly well” while the remainder of those polled said “not very well” or “not at all.”


The public is evenly split over its perceptions about media coverage of global warming. Thirty one percent believe that the media’s reporting of the problem is “generally exaggerated,” while 32 percent believe it is “generally correct” and 32 percent believe it is “generally underestimated.” The full analysis of the poll can be found at www.gallup.com.


Global Warming Bill Progresses in California Senate


On April 1, the California Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee approved a bill that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from car tailpipes on a 5 to 2 party-line vote, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans against.  The bill passed the California Assembly on January 31.


According to the Los Angeles Times (April 2, 2002), “The bill, AB 1058, by first-term Assemblywoman Fran Pavely (D-Agoura Hills), would require the state Air Resources Board to adopt regulations by 2005 that would reduce tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide from passenger cars and light trucks and other noncommercial motor vehicles. 


The actual implementation of the rules would not apply to cars and trucks made before the 2008 model year.”  Pavely argues that “We [California] need to do our fair share as the fifth-biggest economy in the world,” especially since President Bush has refused to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification.


According to the Fresno Bee (April 1, 2002), carmakers say the “technology doesn’t yet exist to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Unlike previous bills to regulate toxic emissions such as ozone and diesel soot, the bill requires carmakers to begin limiting natural byproducts of the internal combustion engine.”


Watson Out as IPCC Chairman?


The U.S. State Department has decided not to renominate Robert T. Watson for the chairmanship of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to a story in the New York Times (April 2, 2002).


The story says that Watson is “highly regarded as an atmospheric chemist by many climate scientists.” In reality Watson is a career bureaucrat who hasn’t been a working scientist for decades.  The story also characterizes Watson as an “outspoken advocate of the idea that human actions – mainly burning oil and coal – are contributing to global warming and must be changed to avert environmental upheavals.” 


Many critics have complained that the biggest problem with the IPCC Third Assessment Report, which was completed under Watson’s chairmanship, is advocacy and not science. 


As Dr. David Wojick noted in his analysis, The UN IPCC’s Artful Bias, “It is as one sided as a legal brief, which it resembles.”  In our last issue of Cooler Heads we quoted Swedish sea-level expert Nils-Axel Moerner, a professor at Stockholm University and president of the INQUA (International Union of Quaternary Research) Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, who said of the report, “It is absolutely remarkable how inferior and one-sided this report is.”  That is the product of advocacy, not science.


The U.S. has officially thrown its support behind the Indian nominee, Dr. Rahendra K. Pachauri, an engineer and economist.  The State Department received an e-mail from Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist who is currently serving as the chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, urging it to at least replace Watson with another atmospheric scientist.  But, since the position is entirely administrative, its not clear why it must be filled by an atmospheric scientist.


The New York Times noted that, “Some climate panel scientists said that other countries were planning to push for Dr. Watson to remain, and that it might be possible to craft a compromise in which the two scientists served as co-chairman.”




Russians Pressure Japan, EU to Buy Credits


Russia is demanding that it receive guarantees from the European Union and Japan that they will buy Russian carbon dioxide credits before it will agree to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, according to the Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun (March 28, 2002).  Kyoto supporters want the protocol to come into force before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in late August.


Vsevolod Gavrilov, head of the department of natural resources at the Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry, said, “We will try to ratify the pact within a year, but we cannot make it by the time the World Summit on Sustainable Development is held.” 


He added that, “We can’t accept selling the [carbon dioxide] credits cheaply to the EU.”  Aleksander Popov, head of the environment department at the Fuel and Energy Ministry, said, “It will depend on how Japan responds.  If we cannot secure buyers it will be meaningless.”


Yomiuri Shimbun noted that, “Observers said that Russia’s attempt to gain a promise from Japan to buy Russia’s emission credits before agreeing to sign the protocol is taking advantage of Japan’s situation.  Japan is not likely to meet its reduction targets by domestic means.  It is believed that Russia intends to try to sell the emission credits at high prices.  However, EU countries do not plan to buy emission credits from non-EU countries and it is likely that Japan will become the sole buyer of Russia’s emission credits.”


A member of Russia’s Duma, Vladimir Grachev, told the BBC (March 22, 2002) that, “The Kyoto Protocol for industrial gas emission cuts has turned into ‘a smoke screen’ for diktat in international trade and it no longer promotes improvement of the ecological situation in the world.” 


He also said that, “One might get the impression that countries of the European Union believe that Russia is simply obliged to ratify the protocol but this position is deeply erroneous.  Russia had already cut its greenhouse emissions by 41 percent.  I believe that the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is possible only after negotiations are held with the European Union to which certain terms should be set.  In particular, Russia objects to the fact that the European Union might easily adapt to clauses of the protocol in order to exercise pressure in the field of international trade.  If the European Union does not change its politics, Russia will not agree to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.”


Renewable Energy Seeks Charity


The renewable electric power division of Lincoln Electric System in Nebraska is facing mounting financial losses, according to Electricity Daily (March 26, 2002).


Under the current program, those who wish to buy power from wind turbines pay a $4.30 per month premium for three years.  Due to the lack of significant participation, the program is currently losing about $12,000 per month.


To keep the program going, the municipality has turned to asking for charity.  “Under the new charitable program,” reports Electricity Daily, “four levels of participation are offered: Friend of the Environment for $4.30 to $20 per month; Supporter of the Environment for $21 to $60; Conserver of the Environment for $61 to $125, and Protector of the Environment for a whopping $126 or more per month. LES declined to comment on whether these donations are tax deductible.”


Shareholder Resolutions On The Rise


A major weapon in the arsenal of environmental activists over the last eight years has been the shareholder resolution.  The Wall Street Journal (April 3, 2002) reports that the number of global warming resolutions originating from activists is increasing significantly in 2002.  Already 18 resolutions have been filed, more than twice the amount filed in any other year in the previous eight years.


“Most resolutions,” says the Journal, “ask corporations to disclose estimated greenhouse gas emissions from their operations, as well as the products they make, and ask for an assessment of the costs of reducing those levels.”  One resolution that targets Exxon Mobil Corporation, demands that it separate the positions of chief executive and chairman, saying that Exxon Mobil’s CEO and Chairman, Lee Raymond, is endangering shareholder value by his stance on global warming.


The groups behind most of the resolutions are the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an association of 275 religious institutional investors, and the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, a coalition of 70 groups that includes “environmental activists and investors, managers and analysts representing $300 billion in assets.”




Study Shows Large Natural Warming


A period of high global temperatures near the beginning of the last millennium closely matches the warming witnessed, about one degree Fahrenheit, during the 20th century, according to a new study in the March 22 issue of Science.


The study’s authors, Drs. Jan Esper and Fritz Schweingruber at the Swiss Federal Research Institute, and Edward Cook at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, state that “Much of the current debate on the Earth’s climate variability is driven by the observation of a modern, century-long temperature increase, culminating with the last decade of the 20th century as the warmest since 1856.”


Using tree ring data from 14 different sites on three different continents in the Northern Hemisphere, the researchers constructed a temperature record of the last 1000 years. What they found was that the “MWP [Medieval Warm Period] was likely to have been a large-scale phenomenon in the NH [Northern Hemisphere] extratropics that appears to have approached, during certain intervals, the magnitude of 20th-century warming, at least up to 1990.”


This finding contradicts an earlier study by Mann, et al. that appeared in Geophysical Research Letters in 1999. That study combined tree ring data and the instrumental temperature record and “shows an almost linear temperature decrease from the year 1000 to the late 19th century, followed by a dramatic and unprecedented temperature increase to the present time,” according to Esper, et al.  That study served as the basis for claims in the Third Assessment Report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the current warming is greater than at any other time in the last 1000 years.


A commentary that accompanies the study notes that, “The warming of the 20th century is seen more clearly as a continuation of a trend that began at the start of the 19th century, not the early 20th.”  It also notes that, “the curve of Esper et al. provides evidence for greater climate variability in the last 1000 years than has yet been generally accepted.”


“We don’t use this as a refutation of greenhouse warming,” Edward Cook told CBS News. “But it does show that there are processes within the Earth’s natural climate system that produce large changes that might be viewed as comparable to what we have seen in the 20th century.  Greenhouse gases were not a factor back in the Medieval Warm Period.”




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