Cooler Heads Newsletter
Bush: “Kyoto Debate is Over”
Following the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol on February 16, President George W. Bush once again ruled out any possibility of the United States rejoining the protocol. According to EUPolitix.com (Feb. 24), after a meeting with European Union heads of state, the president told journalists that he himself “brought up global warming.”
The president went on, “I said that the Kyoto debate is beyond us, as far as I’m concerned; now is the time to focus our abilities and research and capacity to develop technologies to make the air cleaner, so that our people can have the standard of living they expect.” President Bush also said that it was important “that we’re good stewards of the earth.”
New EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was conciliatory in tone, saying, “We’ll talk later about how we can work together…to fight climate change…. The US and Europe, I think I can say this, agree that climate change constitutes a major challenge. Now we need to develop new methods of working together to get results that are effective over the long term.” Senor Barroso finished by saying that the EU and US were willing to work together to improve technologies that would be beneficial for the climate.
US Signs Agreement with Germany
During his trip to Europe, President Bush signed an agreement on actions on global warming with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The agreement, obtained in advance by Reuters (Feb. 23), outlined “plans to improve energy efficiency and cut emissions of heat-trapping ‘greenhouse’ gases, without setting targets or giving details.”
The two countries also agreed “to improve environmental and energy-efficient technologies, to cooperate in expanding climate research and to find common measures to cut greenhouse gases at home and abroad.”
The German government, meanwhile, released the results of a study commissioned by its environment ministry that looked at options for further Kyoto-based actions post-2012. The study, by consultancy Ecofys, aimed at producing a strategy that would be based on “a four-stage process at different speeds determined by per capita greenhouse gas emissions. In parallel, new global agreements on adaptation to climate change and on technology development should help make the process palatable to developing countries and the USA respectively” (Pointcarbon.com, Mar. 2).
The four stages envisaged by the study are as follows: In stage one, countries would have no commitments.
In stage two, called “enhanced sustainable development,” countries would commit to taking steps to limit emissions. There would be no emissions targets as such, but countries would reduce emissions by a percentage below business-as-usual within ten years.
In stage three, countries would accept a “moderate absolute target.” This should be further below reference level than in stage two, though it could still involve an absolute increase in emissions. The target could be positively binding, with incentives for success but no sanctions for failure.
In stage four, countries would have to make a substantial absolute reduction in emissions until a low per capita level is achieved. Anticipating another key US concern, commitments to technological development might be rewarded with softer emission targets.
According to Pointcarbon, “The report shows when 24 key countries and regions would have to enter new stages. For many developing countries the timetable would be very different depending on whether the world aims to stabilise atmospheric CO2 at 400ppm, 450ppm and 550ppm. All countries currently subject to Kyoto targets, however, would already be in stage four by 2020, the earliest date considered.”
EU Emissions Trading Scheme Off to Rocky Start
Critics are already starting to question the value of the newly-launched EU emissions trading scheme. Following high-profile wrangles between the UK and European Commission over emissions levels and the failure of several countries to submit plans on time, it is being asked just how effective the scheme can be.
For example, IPS, a developing world wire service, said (Mar. 1), “EU governments have in effect sabotaged the market they have created by setting quotas for emissions by their industry that are so generous that it is nowhere near feeling the squeeze that would make trading possible.”
Current trading levels would seem to bear this analysis out. On Feb. 24, 800,000 allowances were traded at a price of about €9 ($12) per ton, the highest price of the year (caused by a cold snap). Prices have averaged just €6.70 for the year to date (Financial Times, Feb. 24). According to IPS, “Early speculative trading has placed the price of a carbon tonne of emission around ten dollars. Many environmentalists believe it would need to be at least double that before industry can wake up to emission costs and bring ‘life’ to the market.”
IPS also suggests that Britain’s failed attempt to revise its emissions quotas upwards came after it realized that other member countries were awarding their industries generous emissions targets.
Media Exaggerate Swiss Re Claims
According to media reports, re-insurance giant Swiss Re claimed that, “A deadly combination of global warming and a rapidly increasing world population made 2004 the most expensive year to date for insurers” (Reuters, Mar. 2), when it released a study on insurance payouts March 1.
A close reading of the study, however, does not bear out the media’s concentration on global warming. The study says, in question and answer format:
“Is there a connection between high windstorm losses and global warming?
What is the reason for this profusion of windstorm losses in 2004? Is it in some way connected with the global warming that has been so much in evidence in recent decades? It is difficult to say whether and how climate change is having an impact on loss experience, because individual events cannot be cited as proof for or against the effects of climate change.
Rising insured assets and population densities....More obvious than the influence of global warming is that of ongoing economic, demographic, and geographic changes: in the period 1970-2004, the value of insured assets, for example residential, industrial, and office buildings, rose rapidly in the industrialized nations. In the line with this rise, insured losses due to natural catastrophes have been following a distinct upward trend since 1970. More and more highly exposed areas, for example storm-prone coast-lines, are being opened up for property development or are becoming even more densely populated.”
German Government Study Questions Value of Wind Power
The German government’s energy agency has released a study that concludes that wind farms are an expensive and inefficient way of generating sustainable energy (Guardian, Feb. 28).
The study finds that the costs of avoiding emitting one ton of carbon dioxide by using wind energy amount to €41-€77 (c.$51-$96). It also suggests that joining Germany’s existing wind farm to the national supply grid in order to meet the government’s target of producing 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2015 would cost €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion). Around 800 miles of cables would need to be laid or modified. Power plants would have to be upgraded or replaced so that the system would be able to cope with the large fluctuations associated with wind-based energy.
The report therefore concludes that, “Instead of spending billions on building new wind turbines, the emphasis should be on making houses more energy efficient.” Opposition spokesmen like Klaus Lippold MP agree; he told the Guardian, “The problem with wind farms is that you have to build them in places where you don't need electricity. The electricity then has to be moved somewhere else. There is growing resistance in Germany to wind farms, not least because of the disastrous effect on our landscape.”
Environment Minister Juergen Trittin of the Green Party disagreed, telling the Guardian that, “The ‘central parts’ of the report vindicated his claim that an expansion of wind energy could be done quickly and cheaply. ‘There are no grounds for pessimism,’ he said.” Nevertheless, the head of the environment agency, Stephan Kohler, admitted that, “Wind energy is expensive. That’s true. You can’t dispute it. Conventional methods are cheaper. But you have to do both.”
One revealing comment on the German study came from Greenpeace UK chief executive Stephen Tindale, who said of the fact that in some parts of Germany wind power is already supplying 20 percent of electricity, “Everyone accepts that when you get to that level it is much more of a problem because of the fact that wind is intermittent.” The UK government aims to provide 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Detection and Attribution Study Suggests Warming May Be Natural
A study published in February’s issue of the journal Ecological Modeling, but curiously overlooked, finds that historical evidence suggests that the detection of global warming and its attribution to anthropogenic as opposed to natural causes may be premature.
The study, by Craig Loehle, senior research scientist at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (who has co-authored articles with alarmist Tom Wigley), is summarized as follows in the abstract:
“If historical climate data exhibit regularities such as cycles, then these cycles may be considered to be the ‘normal’ behavior of the system, in which case deviations from the ‘normal’ pattern would be evidence for anthropogenic effects on climate. This study uses this approach to examine the global warming question. Two 3000-year temperature series with minimal dating error were analyzed. A total of seven time-series models were fit to the two temperature series and to an average of the two series. None of these models used 20th Century data. In all cases, a good to excellent fit was obtained.
“Of the seven models, six show a warming trend over the 20th Century similar in timing and magnitude to the Northern Hemisphere instrumental series. One of the models passes right through the 20th Century data. These results suggest that 20th Century warming trends are plausibly a continuation of past climate patterns. Results are not precise enough to solve the attribution problem by partitioning warming into natural versus human-induced components. However, anywhere from a major portion to all of the warming of the 20th Century could plausibly result from natural causes according to these results. Six of the models project a cooling trend (in the absence of other forcings) over the next 200 years of 0.2-1.4°C.”
Antarctic Peninsula Warming Not Unprecedented
Alarmist worries over the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet often point to the rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula, ignoring the cooling trend over the rest of Antarctica. New research published in the February 24 issue of the journal Geology, however, suggests that this phenomenon is not new.
A study of the George VI Ice Shelf on the Peninsula by scientists from the Universities of Durham and Edinburgh and the British Antarctic Survey found that the ice sheet experienced an ‘extensive retreat” about 9500 years ago greater in extent than anything seen recently. The retreat coincided with a shift in ocean currents following a long period of warmth. This suggests the ocean may be more significant role in destroying ice shelves than previously thought.
Duncan Wingham, professor of climate physics at University College London told the Register (Feb. 24) that satellite data supported the finding. He said, “The Antarctic is to some extent insulated from global warming because to its north are zonal flows in the atmosphere and ocean, unimpeded by other landmasses. This insulates the continent from warmer events further north and leads one to suppose it is better protected from global warming.
“Taken as a whole, Antarctica is so cold that our present efforts to raise its temperature might be regarded as fairly puny. Change is undoubtedly occurring: in the collapse of the northerly Peninsula ice shelves, and elsewhere in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where the circumpolar current appears to have reached the ice edge and is eating away drastically at the ice shelves. One cannot be certain, because packets of heat in the atmosphere do not come conveniently labeled 'the contribution of anthropogenic warming'.
“But the warming of the Peninsula has been going on for a considerable time, and the pattern of regional change is variable, and neither of these is favorable to the notion we are seeing the results of global warming.”
Wingham went on, “I am not denying global warming. For instance, Greenland, in the northern hemisphere, does seem to be going. But Greenland's ice cap—Greenland is quite far south—is a last survivor from the ice age and only its height protects it. The more that cap melts, the more it will continue to melt as it gets lower and warmer. But Antarctica is different. Even in the Arctic, I am sceptical of some claims that 40 per cent of the sea ice has already vanished, and that what remains is drastically thinning.
“Sparse data from subs in some parts of the Arctic do seem to show a thinning trend, but our preliminary observations using satellite data point to large growth and decay from year to year and place to place, by as much a meter in just a few years. Here too natural variability is considerable. No one doubts that the ultimate fate of Arctic ice looks a grim one, but I believe we have too few data to be confident of how fast it will meet its fate.”
University of Virginia scientist and author of Meltdown Patrick J. Michaels has re-launched his long-running World Climate Report web publication in web log format. It can be reached at http://www.worldclimatereport.com
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
Americans for Tax Reform
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Policy Center
Association of Concerned Taxpayers
Center for Security Policy
Citizens for a Sound Economy
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Fraser Institute, Canada
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy
Lavoisier Group, Australia
Liberty Institute, India
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee