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Canadian Government Split on Kyoto
Dissension over whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol has surfaced in the Canadian government. On November 20, Industry Minister Brian Tobin told a meeting of mining executives, “There is a very strong consensus around the Cabinet table and in the [governing Liberal Party] caucus that Canada must do nothing in competitive terms that would handcuff our capacity to compete around the world and with the United States” (Financial Post, November 21, 2001).
While neglecting to mention that many government policies had already handcuffed Canada's capacity to compete in international markets, Tobin went on to say in an interview with the newspaper, “I think Canadians are prepared to pay a price...in the interests of a cleaner environment and a global solution to sustainable development, but we’re not prepared to shut down sectors of Canada’s economy without thinking very carefully what it is we’re signing on to.” Ratification of the treaty was therefore “still very much in play.”
Canada’s Environment Minister, David Anderson, immediately denied that Tobin’s remarks were “in any way a rejection of Kyoto” (Financial Post, November 22, 2001). Instead, Anderson explained that his cabinet colleague had merely meant that industry would be consulted before ratification.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien, speaking to the House of Commons, denied that there was disagreement within his cabinet, but instead seemed to suggest that he did not think that Kyoto was yet ready for ratification. “We want and we hope that we will be able to sign the Kyoto agreement.... The negotiations are not terminated yet. At the meeting in Bonn, we made progress on some elements of it. We made more progress at the meeting in Marrakesh last week.”
At the same time that the government was trying to paper over their differences, industry leaders have become much more outspoken in their opposition. Michael Murphy, senior vice president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told the Ottawa Citizen (November 25, 2001) that to meet the Kyoto target Canada would have to “shut down pieces of the economy.”
The president of the Canadian Chemical Producers Association, Richard Paton, told the paper (November 27, 2001) that the government was not being forthcoming with the public about what steps would be necessary to meet Canada’s Kyoto target. “Can you meet [the target] without regulations? No, you can’t. And to go down that road without the United States doesn’t make any sense at all.”
A new government report backs up Murphy and Paton’s claims. Again according to the Ottawa Citizen (November 24, 2001), the report by government economists concludes that energy rationing may be the only way for Canada to reach its Kyoto commitment. One of the authors said that it would resemble gasoline rationing during the Second World War, when coupon books were issued to consumers. Non-hydrocarbon based energy would be exempt.
Economist Fails Bonn Deal
William D. Nordhaus, an economist at Yale University, has analyzed the potential economic impacts of the Kyoto Protocol as revised by the agreements in Bonn in July in a study published in the November 9 issue of Science. According to Nordhaus, the Kyoto-Bonn accord will have almost no effect on emissions. Indeed, global emissions of greenhouse gases will decrease a mere 1.5 percent by 2010 under complete compliance, not taking into account the forestry offsets allowed under the agreement. With these offsets, emissions will only fall 0.8 percent by 2010.
By withdrawing from the process, the U.S. has made it easier for other countries to meet their targets through buying permits, thereby avoiding real cuts in emissions. Prices without the U.S. competing for permits will fall from $55 to a mere $15 per ton. Moreover, global abatement costs will fall by 85 percent. “Most of the decline is due to the nonparticipation of the United States, whose discounted abatement costs over the coming decades fall from $2.5 trillion to essentially zero,” notes Nordhaus.
Other countries’ costs (or in the case of Russia and Easter Europe, benefits) fall significantly as well,” writes Nordhaus. “The reason for the decline in costs, of course, is that the revised Kyoto-Bonn Accord achieves very little in emissions reductions.”
Nordhaus’s assessment of the usefulness of the accord is damning. “The Kyoto-Bonn Accord will make little progress in slowing global warming while incurring a substantial cost,” he writes. “But make no mistake: if the Kyoto-Bonn Accord is implemented as designed, there is trouble ahead. The accord is particularly optimistic in assuming that countries will willingly transfer tens of billions of dollars to Russia and other Eastern European countries to buy phantom emissions. It is likely to engender trade disputes because it widens the already large disparities in energy prices between Europe and the United States. Above all, it will lead to unrelenting pressure on the Bush administration to produce a serious policy to what it admits is a serious global issue.”
The only benefit Nordhaus can conceive of is that, “In this circumstance, the major merit of the new accord is that it is the first experiment with market instruments in a truly global environmental agreement.” He prefers, however, that, “Given the accord’s high costs and small benefits, it might be preferable to redesign the accord along the lines of a globally harmonized carbon tax.”
U. S. Energy Demand Going Up
The Energy Information Administration (EIA, www.eia.doe.gov ) of the U.S. Department of Energy recently released its Annual Energy Outlook report for 2002. The study, which contains comprehensive supply and demand forecasts, predicts that total domestic demand for energy will increase from 99 quadrillion BTUs in 2000 to 131 quadrillion BTUs in 2020 (Reuters, November 16, 2001).
In addition, speakers at a Department of Energy conference held last week predicted that many U.S. power plants would shift from burning natural gas to coal. EIA officials estimated that domestic consumption of coal - which increased by 53% between 1980 and 2000 - will increase another 22% by 2020. Many plant operators wish to switch from natural gas to coal because of wild fluctuations in natural gas prices, most recently seen during the California shortages (Reuters, November 21, 2001).
Finally, the Bush Administration’s energy plan, which concludes that the U. S. will need 1300 new mid-sized power plants over the next twenty years to meet demand, will cause carbon dioxide emissions to rise. According to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a Canadian environmentalist group, the Bush plan would cause carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. electricity sector to rise by between 14% and 38% by the year 2007 (Associated Press, November 26, 2001).
Global Warming: Natural or Manmade?
In a recent article in Natural History (October 2001), Wallace Broecker, the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, discusses the glacial evidence of Earth’s past climate. He notes that temperature changes during the last 11,000 years, known as the Holocene Epoch, have only been on the scale of 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, “too small to ascertain with the natural climate indicators we have been using until now (such as tree rings and fossil pollen), whose accuracy is no better than 2 degrees F.”
“This is why climatologists have turned to mountain glaciers,” writes Broecker. “The record created by these glaciers is an excellent proxy for climate, standing in for hundreds of years of thermometer readings. Not only does this proxy tell us about past temperatures, its margin of error is less than 0.4 degrees F.”
In contrast to claims in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, Broecker argues that the glacial evidence shows that, “the Little Ice Age cooled not just Europe but the world.” Alpine glaciers also show that the “Little Ice Age had three cold peaks, in about 1350, 1650, and 1850.” This leads to the conclusion that, “roughly half the overall warming since 1860 occurred before carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activities had reached significant levels.”
Broecker states, “We need to know how much earth's temperatures would have fluctuated in the absence of the Industrial Revolution and whether we are now exacerbating or counteracting these fluctuations.” A look at the glacial evidence leads him to conclude that, “We can state with some confidence that natural Holocene temperature fluctuations have been on the same scale as the human-caused effects estimated to result from greenhouse gases. Hence, we cannot assume that in the absence of human intervention, Earth’s temperatures would have remained stable.”
Unfortunately, even though there is no evidence that the climate is experiencing changes any greater than would be expected in the absence of manmade greenhouse gas emissions, Broecker still favors policies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. “Unless all the work done on climate simulations and fossil-fuel-use projections is seriously flawed,” claims Broecker, “one thing is certain: our planet will indeed experience a major human-induced warming during this century.” That is the question. We think that it has become abundantly clear over the last five years that the computer simulations are indeed seriously flawed.
Climatic Cycles Caused By Sun
Broecker’s Natural History article also mentions work by his colleague at Lamont-Doherty, Gerard Bond. Bond has found that the Earth’s climate experiences regular 1,500-year cycles. “Even more amazing,” says Broecker, “he found that the cycles ran virtually unchanged, in both amplitude and duration, through both ice-age and non-ice-age periods during the last 100,000 years.” Broecker believes that a likely explanation for these cycles is solar variability.
Bond and several co-authors have concluded a study, soon to be published in Science (www.sciencexpress.org , November 15, 2001), that confirms Broecker’s belief. Using deep-sea sediment cores to look at ice rafted debris that “are particularly sensitive to changes in the amounts and trajectories of glacial ice and/or sea ice circulating in the surface waters,” the researchers were able to discern regularly alternating warm and cold periods that have an average duration of 1340 years. These cycles “are broadly correlative with the so called ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Medieval Warm Period.’” (LIA and MWP)
The researchers were also able to construct a record of solar irradiance by looking at the “production rates of cosmogenic nuclides” that “are related to the solar winds and solar activity. Higher production rates are associated with weaker winds and reduced irradiance.” In other words, when solar activity is high it blocks incoming cosmic rays leading to low productivity of cosmogenic nuclides and vice versa.
Putting these two records together reveals that “over the last 12,000 years virtually every centennial time-scale increase in drift ice documented in our North Atlantic records was tied to a solar minimum.” Thus the researchers find that, the LIA and MWP were real, global and solar-induced. This finding contradicts the IPCC’s claim that the 20th Century is the warmest in the last 10,000 years, and that the LIA and MWP were only local phenomena. And if the MWP was real then current global temperatures are not outside the realm of natural variation.
• On October 29 London’s Guardian reported that the inhabitants of Tuvalu, an island nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, have petitioned the New Zealand government to be allowed to migrate to that country as environmental refugees. They claim that their island is slowly disappearing under the sea due to manmade global warming.
A quick look at the data, according to University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels, shows that rather than rising, sea levels in the region surrounding Tuvalu have been falling for the last 50 years. “Tuvalu is near the epicenter of a region where the sea level has been declining for nearly 50 years,” said Michaels. “In fact, the decline is so steep that even using the U.N.'s lurid (and wrong) median estimates of global warming for the next century will not get the Tuvalus back to their 1950 sea level until 2050” (Washington Times, November 13, 2001).
So why the mass exodus from Tuvalu? According to Michaels, “There are no rivers or sources of potable water. Beachheads are eroding because the sand has been removed for building material. The environmentally sensitive natives have burned most of the vegetation for fuel. The soil is poor. There are no mineral deposits and few exports. A large percentage of the GDP comes from licensing its area code for ‘900’ lines and revenue from the sale of its ‘.tv’ Internet domain. In short, Tuvalu is a Tuvalu-made ecological disaster that is now an economic disaster. The natives want out because they wrecked the place.”
• We note the collapse of Enron Corporation merely in order to warn readers of the deluge of stories that will no doubt soon follow in major newspapers about the loss of a founding member of the Pew Center on Climate Change’s Business Leadership Council. We wonder which corporation will be next to drop out of Pew.
The George C. Marshall Institute will hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. on December 4 at 10 AM to release a new study on the current state of global warming science. The report was prepared by a panel of experts and includes policy recommendations for the Bush Administration and analyses of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report and the U. S. Global Change Research Program’s National Assessment. For further information, please contact the Institute at (202) 296-9655 or consult its web site at www.marshall.org .
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
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee