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Vol. VI, No. 1

Cooler Heads Digest


Vol. VI, No. 1



Japan Gets Cold Feet


Japan, the host of the 1997 negotiations that culminated in the Kyoto Protocol, may now be abandoning the treaty.  According to the BBC (January 3, 2001), the Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported:  “The Central Environment Council, a government advisory body, has said in a report that, for now, industries will not be given any regulations to follow and, instead, will be allowed to combat gas emissions on a voluntary basis.


“Industry, which is responsible for 40 percent of all emissions,” it said, “will be asked to devise its own methods of control to publicize the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the first phase of reductions, from 2002 to 2004.”


Putting off mandatory emission cuts may signal that Japan is having second thoughts about ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Or it may mean that the Japanese government is taking account of the fact that the text of the protocol to be ratified includes no legally binding enforcement provisions.  Thus there will be no penalties if Japan misses its 2008-12 reduction target.


“Prospects are that it will be very difficult for Japan to reduce gas emissions by 6 percent from the 1990 level as dictated by the protocol,” noted Yomiuri Shimbun.  That would weaken the likelihood of Kyoto ever coming into force.


New Bush Policies this Month?


The Bush Administration has remained characteristically close-mouthed about its plans to announce new global warming policies, but rumors are swirling at an increasing rate.  Informed sources on Capitol Hill told Cooler Heads that they expect the administration to announce a package of new policies before the Congress re-convenes on January 23.


On the other hand, there has been some press speculation, in Inside EPA and elsewhere, that President Bush will talk about global warming in his State of the Union address, scheduled for January 29.


The content of any possible announcement is an even greater mystery.  Administration sources have talked vaguely in private about creating a mandatory registry for greenhouse gas emissions plus some sort of voluntary trading program for emission credits.  It is not clear what would give value to owning, and hence purchasing, such credits unless the program were mandatory or offered some possibility of profit through future mandatory controls or federal payments or tax credits.


Administration decisions may be affected by the current media flap over contacts between the Bush White House and Enron Corporation, whose December 2 bankruptcy is one of the most spectacular in history.  Enron was a founding member of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s Business Leadership Council.


It is known that one of Enron’s chief lobbying objectives during the waning years of the Clinton-Gore Administration was ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and adoption of mandatory carbon dioxide regulations in the U. S.  Enron Chairman and CEO Ken Lay was reported to be the source of language in the 2000 Bush campaign’s energy plan that advocated regulating CO2 emissions by electric utilities.


Enron would profit from mandatory cuts in CO2 emissions as a natural gas producer, pipeline operator, and trader in both energy and emission quota markets.  Other major corporations have also been privately lobbying the Bush Administration to create a market for emission quotas (that is, to assign value to not producing or using fossil fuel energy).  It is not known whether any of these corporations are doing this in order to forestall collapse.               




Europeans Pay More and More


The British government keeps raising taxes on energy, and businesses are feeling the pinch.  Industrial gas prices rose 20 percent last year, due in large part to Britain’s climate change levy.  As noted by Reuters (January 7, 2002), higher taxes exacerbate an already turbulent energy market in Britain.  “UK prices have doubled over the last two years, partly because the opening of the UK/Belgium interconnector pipeline linked British prices to European gas prices which are indexed to oil prices.”


“Gas demand in Britain,” said Reuters, “has doubled over the last 10 years.  Industrial, commercial and domestic use has risen 16 percent but usage in power generation has grown from virtually nil in 1990 to around 30 percent last year.”


Several German utilities have announced hikes in household power prices effective January 1, reflecting higher taxes and fees, reports Reuters (January 3, 2002).   Customers served by the utilities will see their monthly power bill increase by about 5 percent, although some will see their rates go up by as much as 10 percent.  Two thirds of the rate hikes are due to higher taxes, according to one industry spokesman.




Uncertainty Still Reigns


A new paper in Science (January 4, 2001) attempts to quantify uncertainties in the climate system.  Due to its vast complexity, it is difficult for scientists to extract the anthropogenic signal from background noise to determine the most likely future scenarios.


The researchers attempted this by running an “intermediate-complexity model” so that they could make hundreds of runs of the climate for the period 1860 to 1995.  They then compared their results to actual temperature changes at the surface, upper atmosphere and deep ocean.


They limited themselves to three variables that they could adjust to determine which range of values would lead to the closest match with actual data: climate sensitivity to a change in greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat transfer, and the effects of aerosols that offset warming.  According to a news article accompanying the study, the researchers adjusted the variables “over a range of values, ran the model under a large number of setting combinations, and then compared the simulated climate trends with the three observed temperature records.”


“By their own concession,” the researchers had “varied success pinning down the key parameters of the climate system.”  They especially had difficulty with ocean heat transfer.  What they concluded, however, was that there is a 90 percent chance that the temperature would increase from between 1.4 degrees Celsius and 7.7 degrees C with a doubling of CO2 concentrations.  The upper end of the range is much higher than the IPCC’s range of 4.5 degrees C.


The really surprising finding, however, is that the net effect of aerosols was to reflect a mere 0.30 to 0.95 watts per square meter of solar power back into space as opposed to the IPCC’s scenario of zero to 4 watts per square meter.


What this means, but seems to have escaped the study’s researchers, is that there are still serious problems with the existing climate models.  In the early 1990s, the climate models predicted far more warming than actually occurred. 


To solve the problem, climate modelers hypothesized that anthropogenic emissions of sulfate aerosols, primarily from burning coal, were masking the warming that the models said should be occurring due to rising greenhouse gases.  By adding aerosols to the equation, modelers were able to get results closer to reality.  But if the cooling effect of aerosols is not as large as thought, as found in the study, then the models are still deficient.



2001 Slightly Warmer Than Average


The year 2001 was only slightly warmer than “average,” according to global climate data gathered by NOAA satellites.  The composite global temperature for 2001 was 0.06 degrees Celsius (about 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20-year (1979-to-1998) average, said Dr. John Christy, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Compared to other years, 2001 was the ninth warmest (and the 15th coolest) since satellite instruments started gathering global climate data in 1979.


As part of an ongoing joint project between UAH, NOAA and NASA, Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer, also with UAH, use data gathered by NOAA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for most regions of the Earth, including remote areas for which reliable climate data are not otherwise available.


The satellite instruments look at microwaves emitted by oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. These microwave emissions vary according to temperature, giving precise indications of temperatures over broad regions of the atmosphere (





·      One of the areas of the planet that is supposed to warm most due to greenhouse gas emissions is the coldest regions of Russia.  Moreover, most of the warming is supposed to occur in the winter.  Well, this winter Russians are having serious doubts about the validity of the global warming hypothesis as temperatures plummet.  Central Europe is also experiencing difficulties due to severe winter weather.


Reuters (January 3, 2002) reports the following:

“Plunging temperatures killed 10 people in Moscow overnight into Thursday in a cold spell that even saw snow fall on palm trees along Russia's sub-tropical Black Sea coast


“Central Europe meanwhile dug its way out of snowdrifts from the worst blizzards in 15 years and road and rail travel remained hazardous. Avalanche warnings were posted in mountain resorts….


“The international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontiers said 250 people had died in the [Russian] capital this winter….  News reports said power cuts had left whole districts in the world's largest country without light or heat, including the coal mining town of Dzhebariki-Khaya in far northern Yakutia, where temperatures were a seasonal minus 40 degrees Celsius.”


For a list of news stories about record winter weather, see




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