CIVIL DEFENSE PERSPECTIVES
July 1997 (vol. 13, #5) 1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1997 Physicians for Civil Defense
In December, 1997, negotiators will gather in Kyoto, Japan, to hammer out a final deal on a protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. U.S. negotiators include Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, who has already declared support for the protocol, and Eileen Claussen, who played an important role in eliminating freon.
The top priority for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) appears to be garnering public support, which is necessary to enable the protocol to clear one major hurdle: ratification by the U.S. Senate. After that, enforcement of the legally binding obligations will be handled by bureaucrats. A vital role will be played by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), which are accountable to no electorate.
The fossil fuel industry and the OPEC nations are portrayed as the major Bad Guys opposing the treaty. But make no mistake: in the view of treaty advocates, all Americans are Bad Guys and will be punished by the treaty. According to the May 23 update by the ``Sound Science Initiative'' of the UCS: ``whenever anyone drives a car powered by gasoline or turns on an electric light powered by burning coal they [sic.] ... are contributing to an uncontrolled experiment with global climate.''
If you don't believe that, you need to know that ``getting over skepticism is the necessary first step toward accepting the forthcoming call to action.''
On the assumption that ``consensus'' has been achieved on the scientific issues-note that ``consensus'' is not the same thing as agreement (see p. 2)-the focus is shifting into the policy arena. Here, the Good Guy coalition (environmental NGOs, ``progressive'' business groups, religious leaders, municipal officials, and others) confronts some powerful opponents, notably the United Mineworkers, the AFL-CIO, and the American Farm Bureau, now categorized by the UCS as the ``fossil fuel lobby and their allies.''
Having placed their faith in computer models to predict the global climate of the future (and engaging in exaggerations of even the worst-case scenarios), the UCS now calls the skeptics ``economic doomsayers'' who purportedly rely on flawed and biased mathematical models which are based on the assumptions and simplifications of the ``can't do'' stance.
The war of the economic computer models in brief:
The International Impact Assessment Model, developed by Charles River Associates, predicts significant to severe impacts on Annex 1 nations, as well as those developing nations excluded from the protocol requirements. The impact is uneven, depending on the nation's overall economic situation. The heaviest burden would fall on New Zealand, costing between 5 and 7% of GDP. South Africa would lose less than 1% of GDP, while emitting 86 MT of carbon per year, whereas Saudi Arabia would be forced to endure a 3% decline while emitting only 60 MT of carbon per year. The loss to the U.S. would be about 3% of GDP, according to the CRA report.
The CRA assumed that the main policy instrument used to reduce emissions would be a $200 tax per ton of carbon. Using the same assumption, Dr. Lawrence Horwitz of DRI/McGraw Hill estimated a still higher cost of more than 4% of the U.S. GDP, or $350 billion per year. Moreover, he projected a loss of 1.1 million jobs annually. The Competitive Enterprise Institute cites an even higher cost of as much as $1,600 per person per year, or about $400 billion.
The net effect on world-wide emission of ``greenhouse gases'': possibly an increase, if energy-intensive industry moves to exempted nations and oil prices decrease due to diminished demand in the Annex 1 nations.
All of these calculations grossly underestimate the costs of the treaty as they concern emissions, not atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (see DDP Newsletter, July 1997).
The Clinton Administration was supposed to unveil the initial results of its interagency economic modeling analysis of various emissions scenarios by early July. Its computer models predicted an effect about half as severe as the CRA analysis, while its staff summary said the policies might nevertheless shave a mere fraction of a percent from the nation's economic growth (NY Times, 7/16/97). After peer review, the Administration decided to discontinue its internal analytic efforts, leaving a vacuum that groups such as the UCS intend to fill.
The UCS asserts that emissions could be cut 10% from 1990 levels by 2010, while annual energy costs are reduced by $530 per household and nearly 800,000 jobs are created. The UCS claims the support of 2500 economists (fewer than 10% of U.S. economists).
Criticizing the assumptions of the CRA model, especially the magnitude of the carbon tax and the omission of ``no regrets options,'' the UCS model makes some assumptions of its own, such as: (1) Tax ``recycling'' (shifting revenue from taxes on economic ``bads'' so as to lower taxes on economic ``goods'') will result in economic ``double dividends.'' Corollary: Central planning works, and 2x is a big positive number irrespective of the value of x. (2) Innovation happens on demand, especially if there is public investment in research. (3) Unemployment among coal miners doesn't matter if there are more jobs elsewhere, as in compliance bureaucracies. (4) Industries that are not energy-intensive are unaffected by impacts on industries that are (which employ ``only'' 2% of American workers).
During the five-month countdown to Kyoto, the UCS is urging vigorous action to influence U.S. negotiators and Senators. Efforts will probably be redoubled now that the Senate voted 95 to 0 in favor of the ``egregious'' resolution introduced by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) urging the government not to sign the treaty. (The UCS advocated opposition to the Byrd Resolution and support of the resolution by Senator John Chafee (R-RI), which ``recognized'' the seriousness of global climate change and gave the Administration flexibility in negotiating an ``effective'' climate treaty.)
Suggestions made by the UCS include: (1) Supporting the ``Energy Innovations'' report (see p. 2). You can download the report or sign up to receive UCS e-mail at the UCS web site (http:www.ucsusa.org). (2) Contacting your senator before August 2 or through his home office during the August recess. (3) Contacting editors and science reporters to dispel skepticism about climate change or fear of an economic debacle.
There may possibly be a countdown to Armageddon. But global warming is not a horseman of the Apocalypse.
Consensus v. Agreement
The policy-making processes of government increasingly employ ``Consensus Building,'' which is described in a 54-page booklet by Robert Graff and relies heavily on a paper by Alan Kay and Hazel Henderson, entitled ``Introducing Competition to the Global Currency Markets,'' published in the May, 1996, issue of Futures.
The procedure is summarized by Henry Lamb in the March/April 1997 issue of eco× logic and will be familiar to anyone who has attended a ``visioning'' meeting or ``stakeholder'' council or similar conference.
Consensus building does not involve convincing anyone to change his views. Rather, it avoids and disposes of conflicting views. It begins (and ends up) with a predetermined position, which may or may not be made known to the group.
Consensus building is carried out by trained ``facilitators'' who ask questions designed to elicit silence or to force individuals who might be opposed to a policy to identify themselves. Facilitators ``don't ask if everyone agrees (which encourages everyone to start talking)'' but ask ``if there's anyone who does not agree (which encourages everyone to keep still).'' Questions are phrased so that they seem to express an idea that is universally thought to be good, or generally felt to be bad. For example: ``Does anyone think we should not be concerned about the future well-being of our species?''
It is nearly impossible to prove that a consensus does not exist. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that a consensus by 2,000 scientists had determined that global warming was caused by human activity. The consensus stands in the public perception despite the vocal disagreement of thousands of scientists. When asked why the consensus had not been validated even by a straw vote, Michael Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the Conference of Parties said: ``Consensus is not unanimity; it is very much up to the president.''
Traditional decision-making ends with a vote. If a proposal fails to garner a majority, it fails. In the consensus process, the proposal remains ``under development'' until a consensus is reached. If the facilitator is unable to quiet objections, the process can be delayed until troublemakers are replaced by more cooperative individuals. Because a single individual can scuttle the whole process, participants are very carefully chosen.
No one is accountable for consensus decisions. Since no votes are taken, no individual needs to publicly state a position; every participant can deny that he supported the final statement.
Head-to-head debate is increasingly being characterized as ``childish'' and as leading to ``gridlock.'' It is frequently being replaced with the consensus process, which predetermines outcome and removes accountability to the people affected by it.
[For a similar view, see On That Day Began Lies by Leonard Read, available on request from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, 800-635-1196.]
Energy ``Innovations'' and Conflicts
The ``Innovation Path,'' advocated by the UCS, the Alliance to Save Energy, the National Resources Defense Council, and others, is most remarkable in reducing to zero, without comment, the contribution of the most important method of generating electricity that does not release carbon dioxide (and is incidentally the safest): nuclear.
At the same time, it envisions a 19% decrease in total world energy consumption, compared with the 60% increase projected if we follow the present path. (Is doing without a new idea?)
On the ``innovative'' path, the contribution of ``renewables'' (defined to be geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, and biomass) is projected to be 32% by 2030, rather than 7.6% as it is now. Energy production from biomass is expected to triple.
The report is rather vague about where the biomass will come from: agricultural and forest products and ``high-yield energy crops'' (eventually). New biological and enzymatic processes may greatly boost the efficiency of ethanol production. In the meantime, established technology often uses methanol (wood alcohol), and the total energy cycle causes more deaths per megawatt-year than any other method of generating electricity (Herbert Inhaber, Energy Risk Assessment, Gordon and Breach, 1982). Moreover, the cost of this method of electricity generation is still too high by as much as a factor of two.
The promotion of biomass use also appears to conflict with current anti-logging policy. Huge amounts of biomass are available. Millions of acres of national timberlands are covered with pines that are diseased or dead. Lawsuits filed by environmental groups and skewed interpretations of federal law have prevented timber harvests and allowed fuel build-up to reach an all-time high. Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, advocates the ``reintroduction of fire into the ecosystem.'' But without his help, the biomass may be recycled into the carbon dioxide from which it came (and soot), and without producing any electricity, in massive, naturally caused forest fires.
At the present time, resurgent forests are serving as a ``greenhouse sponge,'' sequestering part of the ``missing'' carbon dioxide in vegetation and soil. (The path of up to 20% of world carbon dioxide emissions hasn't been determined.) It is estimated that New Zealand could totally offset its fossil fuel emissions by intensive forest planting (Science 277:315-6).
Has the UCS spoken out against the wasteful release of carbon dioxide that is now trapped?
Perhaps both the Administration and the UCS should work on obtaining consensus with themselves.
Carbon dioxide emissions in North America increased by 3% between 1995 and 1996 and 8.7% between 1990 and 1996. However, emissions in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, increased 5.5% and 37% in these same time periods. In the European Union, emissions increased 2.3% between 1995 and 1996 despite their pledge to reduce emissions 15% by 2010 (Nature 388:213).
Better Wheat Yields in Australia
Since 1952, the yield of wheat, Australia's major crop, has increased by about 0.5 tonnes/hectare. Reasons include crop fertilization by increased carbon dioxide levels and a decrease in the frequency of severe frosts (Nature 387:484-5). This is probably not due to global warming.
Meanwhile, more than 200 people died last winter from Spain to Russia due to exposure to the coldest weather of the century, and crops in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. will be hard hit by floods due to melting of record snowfalls, also not due to global warming (Environment News June, 1997).