April 2001

Much bluster is coming from the European Union about going ahead with the Kyoto Protocol without the United States. There may be one little problem, however. According to the American Council for Capital Formation, none of the Annex I countries is in a position to meet its Kyoto targets, which must be met in the 2008-2012 period.

Analyses by the European Commission, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, the U.S. Department of Energys Energy Information Administration, and the private consulting firm, WEFA, “conclude that since EU members do not have in place legislation to sharply curb energy use, achieving compliance with the protocol is unlikely.”

“Neither the United States nor the EU can afford the costly and politically destabilizing sacrifices in economic growth required to meet the Kyoto targets,” said ACCFs Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, Margo Thorning (Washington Post, April 6, 2001).

Global Warmings Budget Blues

President George W. Bushs proposed federal budget for FY2002 begins to reverse some of the spending on climate change programs favored by the Clinton-Gore Administration. The Department of Energys budget, for instance, cuts renewable energy technology programs by $135.7 million, a 36.4 percent decrease for 2002. Biomass technology programs would be cut by 6.7 percent.

Funding for hydropower technology is cut in half and hydrogen research by 48 percent. Solar research is cut by 37 percent. These cuts make a lot of sense given the billions of dollars wasted on renewable energy programs over the last 25 years, which have yielded few demonstrable economic or environmental benefits, according to several government studies and reviews.

Unfortunately, some other energy research subsidies see an increase in proposed funding. Bushs energy budget requests $150 million in grants to states for the clean coal research and development program. It would also increase carbon sequestration studies by ten percent, from $18.7 million to $20.7 million.

To offset reductions in renewable energy research, the budget will add $1.4 billion for the Weatherization Assistance grant program over the next 10 years and increase biomass research by $30 million.

Bushs budget also makes a modest cut in the U.S. Global Change Research Programs budget of $200,000, as well as a cut of $528,000 in the Environmental Protection Agencys climate programs (Greenwire, April 11, 2001).

Pronk Threatens U. S. with Trade Sanctions

Mr. Jan Pronk, Hollands environment minister and president of the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, attacked the Bush Administrations decision to walk away from the Kyoto Protocol in a February 17 speech in Washington, D. C. He went on to threaten trade sanctions against the U. S. if it did not return to the “Kyoto family.”

Describing himself as “guardian of a multilateral process,” Pronk told an international conference that policy reviews were to be expected when countries changed governments, but this review must be within the international framework. No one country has the right to make a unilateral decision to abandon Kyoto.

Pronk also said that he was willing to make large concessions to the U. S. position on contentious issues in order to keep “the family” together. In his personal view, everything is on the table except for the Protocol itselfthat is, the targets and timetables. To start all over at this stage would waste the immense work already done. But he cautioned that it would be up to all the parties to decide what could be negotiated. Pronk has published his own compromise proposals on the conventions web site (www.unfcc.de). These proposals actually allow greater reliance on carbon sinks and emissions trading than those the Clinton Administration made at last Novembers COP-6 meeting in the Hague. Thus it appears that Pronk is willing to do almost anything to save the Kyoto negotiations.

Pronks speech was given at the “Equity and Global Climate Change” conference sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He made similar remarks at a press conference at the National Press Club the next day, May 18.

Other speakers included: Senator Sam Brownback (RKansas); Klaus Topfer, head of the U. N. Environment Programme; Raul Estrada-Oyeula, Argentinas special representative for the environment who chaired the Kyoto negotiations in 1997; Australian environment minister Robert Hill; and Kazuo Asakai, Japans ambassador for international environmental and economic affairs. The Pew Center is one of the principal industry-front groups supporting the Kyoto Protocol. It is funded primarily by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which were created out of the Sun Oil fortune.

Japan Not Likely to Sign Kyoto

The European Union has vowed to push for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol without the United States. For the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force, it is necessary for Annex I countries (those which have emission reduction targets) representing 55 percent of Annex I greenhouse gas emissions ratify the treaty.

Australias Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, has said that his country will not ratify the treaty ahead of the United States (Associated Press, April 15, 2001). More importantly, according to the Washington Times (April 11, 2001), Japan will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol either. “At this moment, Japan is not thinking of ratifying the protocol without the United States,” said Hakariko Ono, spokesman for a delegation of Japanese environmental ministers that met with Bush officials last week. Without Japan and the United States, it is no longer possible to reach the 55 percent threshold required to activate Kyoto.

The EUs rhetoric suggests a bit of deviousness on their part, however. “We had quite a positive statement and quite a positive message from Iran which represents a group of 77 developing nations, and also from Russia and China, about going on even without the United States,” said Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson. “I think we have very strong support for the treaty from all countries but the United States.”

It seems that the EU is attempting a sleight-of-hand reinterpretation of the Kyoto provision on ratification by saying that countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions is needed for Kyoto to come into force, which could be easily achieved without the U.S. In reality a total of 55 countries must ratify Kyoto with a sufficient number of Annex I countries representing 55 percent of Annex I emissions. Ratification by the group of 77 or by China or India does not count toward the 55 percent emissions threshold.

Climate Models: “Unchanging with Time”

Recent media accounts of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change give the distinct impression that climate models, the primary source of global warming concerns, are getting more accurate all the time. A news article in Science (April 13, 2001), however, sets the record straight.

According to the author, Richard A. Kerr, “But while new knowledge gathered since the IPCCs last report in 1995 has increased many researchers confidence in the models, in some vital areas, uncertainties have actually grown.” Gerald North of Texas A&M University in College Station said that, “Its extremely hard to tell whether the models have improved” since the last IPCC report. “The uncertainties are large.”

Peter Stone, an MIT climate modeler, said, “The major [climate prediction] uncertainties have not been reduced at all.” And cloud physicist Robert Charlson, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle, said, “To make it sound like we understand climate is not right.”

The three main areas of uncertainty are detection of global warming, attribution of warming to greenhouse gases, and projecting future warming, Kerr writes. Detection is probably the closest to being resolved of the three. The IPCC puts warming at 0.6 degrees 0.2 degrees centigrade with a 95 percent confidence level.

Attribution of global warming to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases is much more difficult, however. The IPCC claims, “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely [66 percent to 90 percent chance] to have been due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Some modelers, such as Jerry Mahlman with NOAA and John Mitchell at the UKs Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, think the models are getting better. The models are “getting quite a remarkable agreement,” with reality, said Mitchell.

“Thats stretching it a bit,” said John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Stone argues that human attribution “may be right,” but, “I just know of no objective scientific basis for that.” Tim Barnett of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Jeffrey Kiehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research concur.

One of the primary means by which modelers have tweaked the models for better results is the inclusion of aerosols. But according to Kiehl, “The more we learn [about aerosols], the less we know.” Indeed, according to the IPCC report, “The uncertainties are so large that a best estimate with error bars of the indirect cloud effect of aerosols is still impossible.” Possible aerosol cloud effects now range from no effect to a near total masking of the alleged manmade greenhouse effect.

North argues that the “huge range of climate uncertainty among the models” is a serious problem. “There are so many adjustables in the models and there is a limited amount of observational data, so we can always bring the models into agreement with the data.”

According to Science, North explained that, “Models with sensitivities to CO2 inputs at either extreme of the range can still simulate the warming of the 20th century.”

Many of these scientists still think something should be done to slow down the emission of greenhouse gases. This, however, seems to be a reaction to change as much as a concern over whether there will be any ensuing harm. “The evidence for chemical change of the atmosphere is so overwhelming, we should do something about it,” said Charlson.

Quantifying the Uncertainties

Although most scientists are willing to admit that there are still large uncertainties in the predictions about rising global temperatures, there has been little effort to quantify those uncertainties. Uncertainties are important, however.

According to a new study by researchers at the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at MIT, “Communicating uncertainty in climate projections provides essential information to decision makers, allowing them to evaluate how policies might reduce the risk of climate impacts.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not provide these numbers, however. “The Third Assessment Report of the [IPCC] reports a range for global mean surface temperature rise by 2100 of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees centigrade but does not provide likelihood estimates for this key finding although it does for others,” says the study.

The researchers perform this calculation and conclude, “that there is far less than a 1 in 100 chance of a global mean surface temperature increase by 2100 as large as 5.8 degrees centigrade.” They also conclude, “there is a 17 percent chance that the temperature change of 2100 would be less than the IPCC lower estimate” (web.mit.edu/globalchange/www/).

Even though it is much more likely that the amount of warming over the next 100 years will be less than 1.4 degrees centigrade than 5.8 degrees centigrade or more, it is the higher number that is emphasized in news coverage of the issue. This is highly misleading if the MIT calculations are correct.

Ecosystem Effects of Global Warming

The anticipated effects of global warming are supposed to be horrific, according to environmental activists and the science politicos who populated the Clinton Administration. A short news item appearing in Nature (April 5, 2001) begins in the usual way, as a prelude to a horror story. “The first survey for a decade of animals and plants on Australias Heard Island, 4,000 kilometres southwest of Perth, has unearthed dramatic evidence of global warmings ecological impact,” said Nature.

What are these impacts? The usual stuff, such as glaciers that “have retreated by 12 percent since the first measurements were taken in 1947,” and “a rise in sea surface temperature of up to 1 degree C” The story then takes an odd turn. Global warming has also led to “rapid increases in flora and fauna” on the island.

Previously low vegetation areas are now “lush with large expanses of plant,” said Dana Bergstrom, an ecologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. “The number of king penguins has exploded from only three breeding pairs in 1947 to 25,000, while Heard Island cormorant, listed previously as vulnerable, has increased to 1,200 pairs. From near extinction, fur seals now number 28,000 adults and 1,000 pups,” noted Nature.

The changes on Heard Island, especially the retreating glaciers, are not likely due to global warming, according to John Daly, who maintains the Australian-based website, Still Waiting for Greenhouse (www.john-daly.com). The island, says Daly, has two volcanoes and the larger of the two has been very active in the past 120 years, including numerous eruptions and lava flows.

A Time/CNN poll appearing the in April 9 issue of Time Magazine shows little support for Kyoto-style policies to combat global warming.

When asked whether global warming is a serious problem, 75 percent said it was either very serious or fairly serious, while 21 percent said it was not very serious or not at all serious.

To the question, “Should President Bush develop a plan to reduce the emission of gases that may contribute to global warming,” 67 percent said yes, while 26 percent said no.

When asked to put their money where their mouth was, however, Americans changed their tune. The poll asked if participants if they would be willing to pay an extra 25 cents per gallon of gasoline to combat global warming. Forty-nine percent said no and 48 percent said yes.

Finally, participants were asked if they “would personally be willing to support tough government actions to help reduce global warming even if each of the following happened as a result?”

Forty nine percent said no if utility bills went up, with only 47 percent saying yes, and a whopping 55 percent said no if unemployment increased with 38 percent saying yes. Americans, however, are more willing to accept mild inflation to fight global warming, with 54 percent saying yes and 39 percent saying no.

Time noted with regard to the poll, “If Bush gauged the heat hed take from the rest of the world wrong, he read the American people more or less right.”

Further Fallout from Kyoto Decision

Criticism continues to fly at the United States from the European Union over President Bushs decision to withdraw U.S. support for the Kyoto Protocol.

The United Kingdoms Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, accused the U.S. of “free-riding” in “glorious isolation,” isolationist being an ugly epithet amongst internationalists. The U.S. “must know that it cannot pollute the world while free-riding on action by everyone else,” said Prescott.

Other leaders have not been so diplomatic. Several statements have contained outright threats. John Gummer, Tory MP and former environment secretary, called Bushs decision “an assault on European sovereignty,” wrote Mark Steyn in Londons Sunday Telegraph (April 1, 2001). “Globally warming to his theme,” wrote Steyn, Gummer “decided he wasnt going to have Yankee imperialism shoved down his throat. We are not going to allow our climate to be changed by somebody else, he roared, threatening an international trade war against the United States. You go, girl! Why not refuse to sell the Yanks your delightful British beef?” A blustering Margot Wallstrom, the EU environment commissioner, stated, “I dont think that we should let the United States simply pull out of the Kyoto Protocol” (Financial Times, March 29, 2001).

Perhaps the most strident statement came from Malcolm Bruce, president of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He accused Bush of wanting to kill “thousands and millions” of people by pollution. “George Bush prides himself on having authorized the execution of more people than many dictators, but he is now tearing up the Kyoto Treaty on behalf of the polluting oil, gas and mining interests that back him and his family,” said Bruce. “Not content is he with killing Texan prisoners by lethal injection, he now wants to kill thousands and millions around the world by lethal pollution” (www.ananova.com, April 1, 2001).

These criticisms may be seen as slightly hypocritical, since none of the EU countries has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. More hypocritical are criticisms by Russia and China. Russia cut a deal under Kyoto where it would essentially have no commitments and be able to profit by selling empty emission credits to the United States (Russia Today, April 1, 2001).

China, which wont even consider taking on commitments, voluntary or otherwise, said that, “The U.S. announcement that it will not meet its emission reduction duties, citing the lack of obligations on developing countries, violates the principled rules of the Kyoto Protocol and is irresponsible” (Inside China, March 30, 2001).

Not all of the comments from abroad have been negative, however. Canadas environment minister, David Anderson, blamed Europe for Bushs decision. “The problem was the rigid position of the Europeans who thought they could force the Americans to do something they knew the Americans couldnt do.” The Times of India (April 1, 2001) reported that Anderson believes that Europes “rigid stance” left Bush “little option” but to withdraw from the treaty.

Australia to Follow U.S.

Australia, which has been less than enthusiastic about Kyoto from the beginning, may follow the U.S. According to The Age (April 2, 2001), “Federal cabinet is today poised to back the United States in an effective withdrawal from the Kyoto global warming reduction process, hastening the collapse of the international protocol.” The story notes that, “Key cabinet ministers backed by Prime Minister John Howard will argue that a new deal needs to be established, including controls on greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries such as China.”

This is important because the Kyoto Protocol does not enter into force unless Annex I countries those which are required to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol accounting for at least 55 percent of 1990 emissions ratify it. If the U.S. and Australia fail to ratify the protocol, it may be nearly impossible for it to come into force.

Europes Secular Religion

We shouldnt be surprised by the European reaction to the United States withdrawal form the Kyoto Protocol, writes Philip Stott, a professor of biogeography at the University of London. In a Wall Street Journal (April 2, 2001) op-ed Stott says, “The reason is simple. In Europe, global warming has become a necessary myth, a new fundamentalist religion, with the Kyoto Protocol as it articles of faith. The adherents of this new faith want Mr. Bush on trial because he has blasphemed.”

“Global warming,” wrote Stott, “has absorbed more of the emotional energy of European green pressure groups than virtually any other topic.” Moreover, “the science of complex climate change has little to do with the myth. In the U.S., the science is rightly scrutinized; in Europe, not so.”

“Interestingly,” said Stott, “the tension between science and myth characterizes the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to which Europe always turns for legitimation. The whole feel of the report differs between its political summary (written by a group powerfully driven by the myth) and the scientific sections. It comes as a shock to read the following in the conclusions to the science (italics added): In sum, a strategy must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate is not possible.

“Inevitably,” said Stott, “the media in Europe did not mention this vital scientific caveat, choosing to focus instead on the political summary, which Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has described scathingly as very much a childrens exercise of what might possibly happen, prepared by a peculiar group with no technical competence. This is a damning statement from a scientist with impeccable credentials.”

“The science of global warming is thus deeply flawed,” said Stott. “The idea that we can control a chaotic climate governed by a billion factors through fiddling about with a couple of politically selected gases is carbon claptrap.”

No Change in Arctic Sea Ice

One of the mainstays of the global warming apocalyptics has been that the polar ice caps are melting and the seas are rising. It has even been claimed that the Arctic regions serve as an early warning system that global warming is on its way due to its supposed greater sensitivity to temperature change. In 1999, a paper published in the Geophysical Research Letters by Rothrock et al. suggested that Arctic ice was thinner in the 1990s than it was from 1958 to 1979.

A new study in the March 15 issue of GRL takes a closer look at the evidence. The 1999 study used data collected from submarine cruises from 1993, 96, and 97 and compared it to similar data from 1958 to 1979. The new study by Peter Winsor, with the Department of Oceanography, Earth Science Centre, at Gteborg University in Sweden, “carefully analyzed” the Rothrock results “using the most comprehensive data set presently available to the research community.”

The study concludes, “Draft data from the North Pole, and the Beaufort Sea, and transects between the two areas over a 7-year period from 1991 to 1997 show no evidence of a thinning ice cover.” Winsor goes on to show that by “Combining the mean drafts derived [from another study] from 1986 to 1990 with those from the present study, I conclude that the thickness of sea ice cover has remained on a near-constant level at the North Pole during the 12-year period from 1986 to 1997.”

If the Arctic is an early warning system of global warming as environmentalists claim, then judging by these results greenhouse gas emissions are not having any effect.

No Change in Climate

A new study in the March 29 issue of Nature has cast doubts on claims by environmentalists that the current climate is unprecedented. Indeed, if the results of the study are true, todays climate is typical of past interglacial warm periods.

The study analyzed tree ring data from partially fossilized remains of the conifer Fitzroya cupressoides or Alerce, the worlds second longest living tree. The trees, which can live to be as old as 3,600 years, died about 50,000 years ago. This gives scientists an opportunity to study a long period of the ancient climate system.

“The fine scale of the record reveals climate fluctuations that closely resemble those we are experiencing now, including the 25-year spell of El Nio oscillations,” noted a news story accompanying the study. According to the researchers, “Our study suggests that comparable cycles in tree growth occurred between interstadials of the last glaciation and today, and hence that similar factors have affected the radial growth of Fitzroya since the Late Pleistocene,” and that, “The forcing mechanisms of climate during the interstadials have not changed dramatically.”

Tropical Disease Cannot be Linked to Global Warming

The National Research Council announced a new study on April 2 looking at the impacts of climate change on human health. They found that, “It is not yet possible to determine whether global warming will actually cause diseases to spread,” according to a press release announcing the study. The diseases looked at include mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, malaria and yellow fever, influenza, intestinal disorders, and so on.

“Basic public health protections such as adequate housing and sanitation, as well as the availability of vaccines and drugs, can limit the geographic distribution of diseases regardless of climate,” said the release. “One example of this is along the border between the United States and Mexico, where dengue fever outbreaks are common just south of the Rio Grande in Mexico, but are rarely seen in neighboring regions just north of the river in the United States, mainly because of differences in socio-economic conditions.”

The printed study, Under the Weather: Climate, Ecosystems, and Infectious Disease, wont be released until this summer, but can be read online at http://nationalacademies.org/topnews.

Enhanced Greenhouse Effect Needed

A new study in Astrophysics and Space Science (275: 2001) by internationally renowned scientists Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe presents a new theory of climatic change. According to them, the earths natural state is the extreme coldness of the ice ages, and the earth would remain in such a state forever if not for the periodic collision with large comets.

One-kilometer size comets have a probability of hitting the earth about once every 100,000 years, which coincides with the average periodicity of ice ages. When one of these comets hits the earths oceans, it ejects enough water vapor into the atmosphere to “jerk the earth almost discontinuously out of a long drawn-out ice-age into the beginning of an interglacial.” Afterwards, the earth gradually returns to its normal frozen state.

What are the implications for global warming? According to Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, “We must look to a sustained greenhouse effect to maintain the present advantageous world climate.” They warn, “The renewal of ice-age conditions would render a large fraction of the worlds major food-growing areas inoperable, and so would inevitably lead to the extinction of most of the present human population.” Indeed, “Without some artificial means of giving positive feedback to the climate, …an eventual drift into ice-age conditions appears inevitable,” they said.

They have harsh words for those who support greenhouse gas regulations. “Manifestly, we need all the greenhouse we can get,” they said. “Those who have engaged in uncritical scaremongering over an enhanced greenhouse effect raising the Earths temperature by a degree or two should be seen as both misguided and dangerous.” The current danger “is of a drift back into an ice-age, not away from an ice-age.” For a longer review of the study see www.co2science.org.