November 2004 (vol. 21, #1)
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c 2004 Physicians for Civil Defense
Now that Russia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, probably as the price of admission to the World Trade Organization, the clock is ticking for the UN treaty to take effect in 90 days, on Feb. 15, 2005. The 30 signatories have until 2012 to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels.
“This is an historic step forward in the world's efforts to combat a truly global threat,” said Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General. Professor Brian Hoskins, chairman of the UK's Royal Society global environmental research committee, called it a “victory for the climate” (www.newscientist.com 11/18/04).
The news comes not a moment too soon for Arctic species such as polar bears, which could face extinction by the end of the century, while melting Arctic ice floods parts of Florida and Louisiana, warns columnist Tom Teepen among others. Arctic sea ice has already decreased 14% since the 1970s.
These predictions were based on a four-year study by 250 scientists from 8 nations, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA, www/acia.uaf.edu). A report was released on Nov. 8, though some Europeans wanted it to come out before the election. The New York Times received portions from some European participants in time for a page 1 story on Oct. 30. The full scientific report will be delayed for several months.
A single unreferenced graph was presented to support the claim that Arctic temperatures are rising rapidly, at twice the global rate. Dr. Fred Singer asked for the reference at the Nov. 8 press conference; the presenters had no answer.
All the published evidence, in fact, shows that the highest recorded temperatures in the Arctic since the beginning of instrumental observations occurred in the 1930s–despite the fact that climate models predict the polar regions should be the most sensitive to climate change. Since the mid-1970s, the annual temperatures show no clear trend. Sea ice, which responds slowly to temperature changes, has been declining since the 1950s because of the remarkable, naturally caused warming prior to the 1940s (www.sepp.org, www.co2science.org).
The Effect of Kyoto
Even if the Arctic were warming, and even if the cause were “heat-trapping gases from tail-pipes and smokestacks” (NY Times 10/30/04), Kyoto would have a negligible effect. Russia's emissions are already below 1990 levels because of its economic depression. Should it reach Putin's goal of doubling the GDP, it could always violate this treaty, as it has so many others.
Despite stagnant economies and falling populations, most European nations are already behind in meeting their targets. According to the European Union Environment Agency, current trends predict only a 4.2% reduction in emissions (from 1990) by 2012, instead of the 8% promised. Japan will not meet its targets either. “The absurdity of the treaty becomes obvious when we recognize that it does not impose emissions requirements on developing countries, including economic giants such as China, India, and Brazil” (Thomas Sieger Durr, First Things, November 2004, posted on www.sepp.org.)
Developing countries, which the UN consistently favors, stand to gain lots of money and free technology from the implementation of Kyoto, writes Durr–assuming that global energy rationing does not devastate the world economy.
The Next Step
Proponents know very well that, according to accepted IPCC climate model, the promised emissions cuts would have no significant impact on climate, even if achieved. IPCC head R.K. Pachauri apparently knows the conclusions of the 2007 report, comments Dr. Singer (TWTW 11/6/04): a 60 to 80% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels, by “industrialized” countries, is the expected demand.
The main effect of Kyoto is to weaken resistance and “expand the limits of what is politically possible,” writes Al Gore. “It may be essential to begin with a binding agreement among nations and then, after governments and industries shift directions, toughen the goals.” Former Vice President Gore pointed to the “formula used successfully in the Montreal Protocol in 1987” (NY Times Book Review, 8/15/04).
Some claim that the cost of reducing energy use would be relatively modest. One method is a tax on carbon emissions, beginning at $10 per ton and rising to $33 per ton in 2035.
“Uncertainty cannot be used as a justification for doing nothing,” write economists from Wesleyan Univ., Middletown, Conn. “[S]ocieties require insurance when potential losses are distributed across a population” (Science 2004;306:416-417).
U.S. economists have estimated that the cost of implementing Kyoto would be about twice the estimated (purely hypothetical) benefit from mitigating climate change. The response–an econometric model that greatly amplifies the cost of climate change–comes from Humboldt University in Berlin. Claudia Kemfert estimates the environmental and health costs of climate change through 2050 to amount to no less than $214 trillion. She is the chairman of the department of Umweltökonomie (environmental economics, or as Dr. Singer translates it, the “chair of economic decline,” TWTW 11/6/04).
The cost of new Kyoto-inspired rules in California, which has passed the first-ever U.S. rule limiting CO2 emissions from motor vehicles, is estimated to be a $3,000 increase in the cost of a new vehicle sold there, about three times what the regulators estimated (Wall St J 9/27/04). The effect on global emissions: a reduction by 0.000001% (J. Lehr, Environment and Climate News, October 2004). A “good first step.”
Why the Rush?
The Kyoto Protocol needs to be in effect before the next natural cycle of cooling sets in, so that the energy rationing advocates can take credit for it. Chris Fostel predicts headlines in ten years: “Kyoto Accord Slows Global Warming.” The sun will control the climate in the 21st century, just as it always has. There is evidence that solar activity is currently decreasing (TWTW 11/6/04, see www.sepp.org).
The ACIA is timely for Senators McCain and Lieberman, who introduced into the House their Climate Stewardship Act, which failed to pass the Senate in 2003 by a vote of 43 to 55. The Union of Concerned Scientists, which generated more than 45,000 letters in support of the bill, is gearing up for battle.
The CSA calls for a reduction in “heat-trapping gases” (not including the most important one, water vapor) to 2000 levels by 2010. According to a bill summary by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, entities in the “covered sectors” would have to submit “tradeable allowances” for each 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted directly or potentially from petroleum products sold. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce would be empowered to determine the allowances to be “grandfathered” or auctioned. An “important first step” would be mandatory GHG emissions reporting to the EPA.
The Bush Administration's GHG intensity target would increase emissions 14% above 2000 levels and 30% above 1990 levels by 2010. Thus, “far from `leading the way' on climate change at home and around the world, as Secretary Abraham suggested, the United States has fallen behind” (Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on GCC, Science 2004;306:816).
On Nov. 16, Sen. McCain held a hearing described by climatologist Patrick Michaels as “the most biased” he had ever seen: “much less balanced than anything I saw in the Clinton Administration” (NewsMax.com 11/19/04).
In a Nov. 16 open letter to Sen. McCain, 11 climate scientists explained some of the complexities of Arctic climate and its natural fluctuations, in particular the recently discovered Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The recent warmth in Alaska has the “characteristic step-upward shape of the PDO,” rather than the gradual but large warming trend predicted by the enhanced greenhouse effect. While Alaska has warmed, Greenland has cooled. A comprehensive study of Arctic temperature records from 1951 to 1990 has shown “no tangible manifestations of the greenhouse effect.”
Signatories to the letter, excerpts from which are posted at www.sepp.org, include Patrick Michaels, Roy Spencer, Willie Soon, and Sallie Baliunas.
Sen. McCain claims that his bill will cost only $20 per household per year, with a (negative) impact on GDP of a mere 0.01% (McCain, Wall St J 10/30/03), and that emissions limits will not apply to agricultural and residential sectors. Farmers could profit by selling emissions credits to “polluters.”
According to an Energy Information Administration (EIA) analysis, however, Phase I would increase gasoline prices by 9% in 2010 and 19% in 2025, and electricity prices by 35% in 2025. The GDP loss would be about $760 billion during 2004-2025 (CEI, Monthly Planet, July 2004). Farmers' profits would be devastated by increased fuel prices. Emissions trading has, at best, limited potential. In 2001, total GHG emissions from agricultural activities were 35 times greater than the amount of CO2 sequestered in agricultural soil that year, according to the EPA (Heartland Policy Study #102, August 2003).
“Phase I would lock America into an all-economic-pain-for-no-environmental-gain regulatory regime that can only end in failure,” writes Marlo Lewis (CEI, op. cit.)
But McCain believes that forced compliance with stringent rules is the needed spark to innovation (McCain, op. cit.).
“If the feds won't fight global warming, we will!” proclaimed eight state Attorneys General and the corporation counsel to the City of New York (Wall St J 8/18/04). They have demanded that the five electric utilities responsible for about 10% of the nation's CO2 “pollution” cut emissions significantly and with minimal increases in consumers' bills.
These companies operate 174 generating stations, in full compliance with federal and state laws. These “pseudo-tort intimidation suits,” write Michael Krauss and Fred Singer, are an attempt to regulate through litigation (Wall St J 8/8/04).
Fifteen states have passed laws mandating energy “diversification” (wind and solar), and eight have programs to remove CO2 from the air using agricultural methods.
On the other hand, six states (Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have passed laws against mandatory reductions in GHGs (NY Times 10/29/03).
Prior to Canadian ratification, economist Mark Jaccard estimated the cost of compliance at 3% of Canadian productivity between 2004 and 2010 and a permanent 4% reduction in incomes. Electricity costs were predicted to increase by 80% and gasoline prices by 50%. More recently, the federal government estimated a cost of $1 billion to meet only 8% of the Kyoto target. As Kenneth Green of the Fraser Institute observes, that means $1.35 billion, counting the cost of administration and collecting taxes. Since studies suggest that for every dollar the government spends on a regulatory scheme, the private sector spends $20 on compliance, the full societal price tag for full compliance will be at least $354 billion–more, if reductions after the first 8% are more expensive, as they probably will be (K Green, Fraser Institute, 1/15/04).
Where does the money go? Of the $300 million the Climate Change Action fund received since 1997, 92% went to meetings, reports, and public relations (Fraser Inst., 6/23/04).
Contrary to the predictions of the greenhouse model, the Antarctic continent is cooling strongly, and growing sea ice is interfering with the resupply of Antarctic weather stations. Between 1986 and 2002, the continent cooled by 0.7 C per decade, and there has been a statistically significant increase in sea ice area, as well as an increase in the length of the sea ice season since 1990. There have also been some areas of regional warming and the loss of seven ice shelves in the past 50 years (www.co2science.org). Only the latter is reported in the major media (Andrew Revkin, “Antarctic Glaciers Quicken Pace to Sea; Warming Is Cited,” NY Times 9/24/04).
For saying publicly that nuclear power was needed to save the planet from global warming, Anglican Bishop Hugh Montefiore was kicked off the board of Friends of the Earth (Independent 10/22/04). James Lovelock, author of the Gaia hypothesis, also calls for nuclear power. How much would be needed to stabilize climate, according to the computer model? It would require adding, every year, nuclear capacity equivalent to the total now existing globally (Fred Singer, Science 8/1/03).