September 2000

Europes Anti-Fuel Tax Protests

Truck and taxi drivers across Europe and Great Britain have staged demonstrations to protest high prices on gasoline. The French government gave in to demands and promise a cut in gas taxes to ease the burden.  Britain suffered an almost total shutdown of business as protestors blockaded fuel refineries preventing fuel trucks from reaching their destinations.

 Britains protesters were particularly determined, perhaps due to the fact that its citizens pay more for gasoline and diesel fuel than any other European country.  Diesel is 55 percent more expensive in Britain than in France, for example.  And even though the fuel blockade caused hardships throughout Britain, Early opinion pollssuggested that most people endorsed the aims of the protestors, reported The Economist (September 16, 2000).

 Perhaps adding to the anger was the governments planned Climate Change Levy, an additional tax on fuel.  British citizens may balk at future climate change policies after witnessing first hand the costs of lower fuel availability.  As The Economist noted, schools were forced to close down, hospitals canceled all non-emergency operations, and morgues filled up.  There were the first signs of panic-buying of food in supermarkets across Britain, as it dawned on people that shops rely on deliveries by road.

Some people were ecstatic, however.  Charles Secrett, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth wrote in The Mirror (September 14, 2000) that the slow down suited him just fine.  I cycled to work today.  The streets were almost empty.  Air quality was better.  Pedestrians were breathing easier.  Children were safer.  Birds were singing.  I thought: Crisis, what crisis?. Fuel prices should be more expensive not less.

Little Progress in Lyon

A meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ended with little progress being made on the major issues plaguing the global warming negotiations.  Indeed, no major breakthroughs had been reached by nations seeking to implement the emission reduction treaty, reported BNA Daily Environment Report (September 20, 2000). 

Despite the lack of success, Roger Ballentine, U.S. deputy assistant to the president, tried to put a positive spin on the negotiations.  The atmospherics were good, said Ballentine, and there was a general sense of accomplishment among U.S. negotiators.

Others were not so sanguine.  Another story in BNA (September 14, 2000) reports that Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, thinks that the amount of work remaining before COP-6 in the Hague is daunting.  There are several issues that must be worked out that are totally beyond the scope of the Lyon and Hague agendas.  She was confident, said BNA, that significant progress will be made going into the Hague talks, but the more complicated, politically charged discussions have not happened yet in any country.

European Hypocrisy

The ongoing controversy between the United States and the European Union over emissions trading reveals the hypocrisy of the global warming negotiations so far.  Slowing economic growth in the U.S. rather than global warming seems to be the primary goal of the EU negotiators. 

The U.S. wants maximum flexibility to meet its Kyoto targets.  The EU, on the other hand, wants to restrict the reductions achieved through international emission credit trading to 50 percent.  The remaining cuts would have to be achieved domestically.

David Wojick, writing for Electricity Daily (September 11, 2000), notes that electricity use in Britain, for instance, did not increase from 1990 to 1997 and in Germany it actually fell to 7 percent below 1990 levels during the same time.  In the U.S., on the other hand, electricity use increased 20 percent due to robust economic growth.

None of the EU countries have grown appreciably since 1990, as far as electric power usage is concerned, while all of the non EU umbrella group countries continue to develop rapidly, says Wojick.  The low growth EU is the big backer of Kyoto.  And the very slowest EU growers Germany and Britain are the loudest to demand that we (the U.S.) stop growing too.

Models Fail to Predict ENSO

The prediction of the 1997-98 El Nio was hailed as a great success for computer climate models and seemed to validate their usefulness in forecasting future climate change. One article in Science (1998) proclaimed, “Models win big in forecasting El Nio.” A study published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (September 2000) tests this claim.

The study found that, “the current answer to the question posed in this articles title [How much skill was there in forecasting the very strong 1997-98 El Nio?] is that there was essentially no skill in forecasting the very strong 1997-98 El Nio at lead times ranging from 0 to 8 months.” Indeed, no models were “able to anticipate even one-half of the actual amplitude of the El Nios peak at medium range (6-11 months) lead.” And, “since no models were able to provide useful predictions at the medium and long ranges, there were no models that provided both useful and skillful forecasts for the entirety of the 1997-98 El Nio” [emphasis in original].

The authors are disturbed “that others are using the supposed success in dynamical El Nio forecasting to support other agendas,” citing the American Geophysical Unions Position Statement on Climate Change as an example. “The bottom line is that the successes in ENSO forecasting have been overstated (sometimes drastically) and misapplied in other arenas,” according to the study. There should be even “less confidence in anthropogenic global warming studies because of the lack of skill in predicting El Nio.”

Malaria Wont Spread

One of the predicted consequences of global warming is the northward spread of infectious disease vectors. The ranges of the mosquitoes that carry malaria and yellow and dengue fever, it is claimed, will move northward as temperatures in the cooler northern regions warm up. These predictions are based on computer models that are driven by temperature changes only.

A new study in Science (September 8, 2000) tests these models against real world data for the global spread of malaria and has found them lacking in their ability to make accurate predictions. In other words, these approaches do not give accurate descriptions of the current distribution of global malaria.

According to the study, “The fit of these predictions to the current global malaria situation shows noticeable mismatches in certain places; false predictions of presence (e.g., over the eastern half of the United States) are accounted for by past control measures or by peculiar vector biogeography, whereas false predictions of absence are dismissed as model errors.”

The authors of the study take a multivariate approach to modeling the spread of malaria, taking into account various climatic variables including temperature, humidity and rainfall. The new approach, which gives a better representation of the current situation, “predicted remarkably few future changes, even under the most extreme scenarios of climate change,” according to the study.

Website for New Climate Oscillation

A new website tracks the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which “is a long-lived El Nio-like pattern of Pacific climate variability.” The difference between the two oscillations is that El Nio persists from 6 to 18 months, whereas the PDO persists for 20 to 30 years.

Moreover, the PDO coincides perfectly with global temperature changes. From 1947-1976 the PDO cool phase coincided with falling global temperatures. From 1977 to the present the warm phase coincided with rising temperatures. See,

Benefits of CO2 Cuts Questioned

Scientific uncertainties about the effects of global warming bring into question the benefits of reducing CO2, said Kenneth Medlock III, a Rice University economist, at the James A. Baker III Institute conference, “Global Warming: Science & Policy.”

“If we decide to abate,” said Medlock, “there are costs to doing so, and by and large these costs are unrecoverable with some irreversibility.” Were not even sure whether CO2 reductions would affect the climate, said Medlock. “If we abate CO2 to an optimum level, how much are we going to save ourselves,” he said. “We have some flexibility in timing in this investmentyou dont have to do it nowyou can do it tomorrow. We can weigh the benefits and costs against one another” (BNA Daily Environment Report, September 13, 2000).

Also speaking at the conference was Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). Hagel told the audience, “Implementing the Kyoto Protocol will give us an increase in the price of gasoline by over 70 cents a gallon to start with. These increases would be permanent and continue to grow and grow” (BNA Daily Environment Report, September 11, 2000).

Cold Deadlier than Heat

A study published in Technology (September 2000) tested whether extreme temperatures affect trends in U.S. death rates. The study found that there is no trend in death rates due to either extreme cold temperatures or extreme warm temperatures even in the 65 and older, 75 and older, and 85 and older populations.

The study also found that there are more deaths attributed to extreme cold than to extreme heat. This observation “suggests that adaptation and technological change may be just as important determinants of such trends as more obvious meteorological and demographic factors.” It also suggests that a rise in global temperatures could lead to fewer deaths in the long run.

Expectations Lowered for Lyon and the Hague

In preparation for the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP-6) to the Climate Change Convention to be held in the Hague, November 13-24, subsidiary bodies are meeting in Lyon, France to hammer out agreements to be finalized at COP-6.

According to the BNA Daily Environment Report (September 6, 2000), “Some of the outstanding issues include accounting methods for determining whether governments are meeting their reduction commitments, establishment of a compliance mechanism, procedures for emission trading, and rules that would allow governments to claim emission credits for creating and maintaining carbon-absorbing sinks such as forests.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is pessimistic. “The likelihood, and what I fear, is that the negotiators are so tied up in their tactical calculations that they might not want to let go before their meeting in the Hague,” Cutajar said.

U.S. official also expressed doubt that a deal would be reached at the Hague. At a briefing in London, Deputy Assistant to the President for Environmental Initiatives Roger Ballentine said that the Clinton-Gore Administration is committed to a global warming treaty and

pointed to its $4 billion budget proposal to fight global warming as evidence.

Ballentine said that the administration is optimistic that significant progress can be made at COP-6, “But if your question is will we finalize, wrap up, every issue at COP-6 then the answer to that has to be noThere is too much work left to be done to wrap it up in November,” he said (Reuters, September 5, 2000).

Tories Would Drop Climate Levy

The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom has proposed abandoning the Governments energy tax known as the climate change levy, which is designed to help the UK reach its Kyoto commitments. According to Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo, the tax plan was ill-conceived and would actually hurt the environment by driving British industries overseas where there are fewer environmental regulations. If elected, said Portillo, the Tories would scrap the plan (The Journal (Newcastle), September 1, 2000).

Also, the Engineering Employers Federation released a survey of 25 British companies located in Sheffield (a Labor stronghold) with energy bills larger than 100,000 pounds. The survey found that the climate change levy would increase these companies energy bills by an average of more than 400 pounds (approximately US $580) per employee. “The EEFs survey of engineering manufacturing companies in Sheffield shows that Labour are piling extra costs on to manufacturing business at a time when they can least afford it,” said shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo (The Independent (London), August 29, 2000).

NY Times Eats Its Words

The New York Times on August 29 retracted its ridiculous front-page story of August 19 that the North Pole was melting. The reporter, John Noble Wilford, had even asserted that open water appeared at the pole this summer for perhaps the first time in 50 million years, which was only off by 49,999,999 years.

Apparently, the pressure to backpedal was fueled by an AP story that again retailed the claims of Harvard Professor James J. McCarthy without consulting any Arctic experts. However, the Times tried to save face by running another article by Wilford on page 3 of its Science section that did its best to cloud the whole issue. Wilford asserted that regardless of his little mistake, the Arctic has warmed by 11 degrees in the last 30 years. And in a major story in the September 4 Time magazine, “The Big Meltdown”, junk science purveyor Eugene Linden claimed that there’s still plenty of evidence of the deleterious effects of global warming in the Arctic.

The temperature data tells a different story that the fact checkers at the Times and at Time (if they still employ any) may want to consult. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Second Assessment Report, the Arctic has warmed, not by 11, but by 2.7 degrees F in the last 30 years. Moreover, the article looked at the past 30 years because 1969 was conveniently the coldest year since about 1920. The Arctic was warmer in 1935 than it is now. Over the past 70 years, the temperature trend has been essentially zero (see Virtual Climate Alert #29 at

Its a Cool, Cool Summer

The global warming propaganda juggernaut has been lying low this summer due to unusually cool temperatures and a relative lack of natural disasters. Indeed, the tropics this summer are cooler than they have been since satellites began measuring global temperatures in 1979.

According to Dr. John Christy, of Earth System Science Laboratory at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, “Based on the satellite record, which started in 1979, the equatorial tropics experienced its coolest year in 1999, when the composite temperature was 0.34 degrees Celsius below the 20-year average for that region.”

Moreover, “That trend has continued through the first eight months of this year, with temperatures in the tropics 0.39 degrees C cooler than normal,” he said. These cooler temperatures can be attributed to La Nia, which is a cooling of the Pacific Ocean, just as the warmer than average temperatures in 1997 and 1998 can be attributed to the El Nio Pacific Ocean warming event.

The Northern Hemisphere, on the other hand, has been warmer than normal this year. “That has been the trend over the past 20 years,” Christy said. “During that time weve seen a 0.25 degree C per decade warming in the Northern Hemisphere, a very slight cooling in the tropics, and enough cooling in the Southern Hemisphere to almost offset the warming in the north.”

Global Warming Threatens One Third of Worlds Habitat

The World Wildlife Fund has released a strident report that claims, “Global warming could fundamentally alter one third of the plant and animal habitats by the end of this century, and cause the eventual extinction of certain plant and animal species.”

“In the northern latitudes of Russia, Canada and Scandanavia,” claims the report, “up to 70 percent of habitat could be lost” due to rapid warming.”

According to Adam Markham, Executive Director of Clean Air-Cool Planet, and one of the reports co-authors, “As global warming accelerates, plants and animals will come under increasing pressure to migrate to find suitable habitat. Some will just not be able to move fast enough.”

The report also claims that species that are isolated, such as those found on islands or in “fragmented habitats” are most at risk. But these species are most at risk due to their isolation not from global warming. Indeed, island species have always been at greater risk from extinction than non-island species.

The report claims, “Already, Costa Ricas golden toad has probably become extinct. Birds such as the great tit in Scotland and the Mexican jay in Arizona are beginning to breed earlier in the year; butterflies are shifting their ranges northwards throughout Europe; and mammals in many parts of the Arctic including polar bears, walrus and caribou are beginning to feel the impacts of reduced sea ice and warming tundra habitat.”

Some of these changes, although true, are actually beneficial to species. The change in butterfly ranges isnt a shift but an expansion. A study in Nature by Parmesan et al, which analyzed the distributional changes of European butterflies, found that “nearly all northward shifts [of butterfly ranges] involved extension at the northern boundary with the southern boundary remaining stable,” thus increasing butterfly habitat and enhancing survivability.

Another study in Nature by Thomas and Lennon found that British bird distributions from 1970 to 1990 experienced a similar habitat expansion. Northern habitat boundaries shifted 19 kilometers while the southern boundary remained stable.

A study that appeared in the Canadian Field-Naturalist by Norment et al studied bird surveys taken along the Thelon River and its tributaries in the Canadian Northwest Territories from the 1920s through much of the 1990s. They found that three bird species had expanded their range southward, nine bird species had expanded their range northward and sixteen bird species were new to the area. Moreover, mammals such as red squirrel, moose porcupine, river otter and beaver had also recently established themselves in the area.

Finally, a review of the scientific literature by Keith and Sherwood Idso, which appeared in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, found that atmospheric CO2 enrichment increases the temperature at which plants function optimally, negating the need for migration.

The WWF study can be found at Full citations and reviews of the scientific papers cited above can be found at


  • The New York Timess embarrassing retraction of its “The North Pole is Melting” story inspired a top ten list by David Letterman on the August 30 Late Show.

Top Ten Signs the New York Times is Slipping

10. Instead of “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” slogan is “Stuff We Heard From A Guy Who Says His Friend Heard About It.”

9. President does something on the TV show “West Wing,” next day it’s on front page.

8. It’s 108 pages, and there’s not one single vowel.

7. For every story, accompanying photo is Tony Danza.

6. Obituary has become list of people editors wish would die.

5. Dick Cheney consistently referred to as “the dude from those Wendy’s commercials.”

4. Notice on sports page: “All scores are approximate.”

3. Only ad in job classifieds: “Wanted — someone who knows how to put together a damn newspaper.”

2. For last two weeks, edited by a disoriented Anne Heche.

1. They’re endorsing George W. Bush.

A September 5 Associated Press story calls attention to the problems and costs of pollution credit trading. Under Southern Californias Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM), credits to emit one pound of nitrogen oxide sold for 13 cents last year. But since then, prices have gone as high as $37 per pound and are currently at $13.

According to Nick Drakos, vice president of Custom Alloy Light Metals, the prices increases “make it hard to make any informed business decision. If a company is growing, its very difficult to get reductions when youre burning more fuel, and they dont have a way to get more credits into the system.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power must pay $14 million in penalties and agreed to spend an additional $40 million to install emission control technologies to meet emission reduction requirements. Buying credits on the market would be even more expensive.

This is precisely what one would expect to happen. A fixed supply of emission credits with increasing demand due to economic growth leads to skyrocketing prices. The only option left to companies who must meet emission targets is to invest in costly technology. One would also expect a fixed supply emission credit market to experience extreme price fluctuations, making it difficult for businessmen to plan for the future.

Officials of Southern Californias RECLAIM program say the program is working as intended (Associated Press, September 5, 2000).