August 2001

Bush Team Developing Kyoto Alternatives

The Bush Administration is in the process of developing domestic alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol to present to UN climate negotiators at their November meeting in Marrakech, according to the Wall Street Journal (August 20, 2001).

The article by Jeanne Cummings reports that President Bushs proposals will involve a number of domestic initiatives, including additional funding for research on the causes of global climate change, for technologies to sequester carbon dioxide, and to study the regional impact of global warming.

Bushs adoption of a domestic plan is viewed by many as a response to criticism he has received from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D, SD) and House Democratic leader Richard Gephart (D, MO). In a recent speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Daschle addressed Bushs refusal to negotiate at the UNs recent climate talks in Bonn: “Instead of asserting our leadership, we are abdicating it. Instead of shaping international agreements to serve our interests, we have removed ourselves from a position to shape them at all.”

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said recently on NBC’s Meet the Press: “I’m optimistic that we’ll have initiatives that we can go to Marrakesh and talk about with the world leaders that will show that we’re serious about solving the problem [and] that the Kyoto solution is really not a solution at all.”

President Bush has a cabinet-level task force working on the global warming issue. The task force, which met the week before Congress went on recess and included Sen. Chuck Hagel (R, Neb.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R, La.), gave the President positive feedback on his domestic alternatives, Card said.

Japan and U. S. will Talk

The governments of Japan and the United States have agreed to hold ministerial talks on the Kyoto Protocol in late September. According to Yomiuri Shimbun (August 6, 2001), the Japanese delegation will try to persuade the U. S. either to rejoin the protocol or to present an alternative international agreement at COP-7 in Marrakesh beginning on October 28.

CNN reported on August 9 that Japanese officials are now leaning toward ratifying Kyoto with or without U. S. participation. The Japanese government has wavered over what to do ever since the Bush administration walked away from Kyoto in March.

According to CNN, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said that, “It isnt the United States we are concerned about. [The problem] is the details of the treaty, which have not been decided.” Another official added, “We have to know what we will be ratifying, and we were unable to draw out such details at Bonn.”

Science Magazines Summer Silliness

This summers silly season has not generated anything approaching last summers top-of-the-front-page claim by the New York Times that “The North Pole is melting” because of global warming. The Timess story by John Noble Wilford was based on only one sourcea press release from a global warming nut, albeit one with an academic post at Harvard. As reported in the August 23 and September 6, 2000 issues of Cooler Heads, the story was obviously ludicrous and the Times was quickly forced to retract it.

Although nothing so delightful has been concocted for this Augusts hottest days, Science Magazine is trying to entertain. In its August 17 issue, Science published an article on “Hidden Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation.” The article claims that more people die from air pollution than from traffic accidents in New York City, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Santiago, Chile. Reducing fossil fuel use to cut greenhouse gas emissions would therefore have the additional immediate benefit of saving lives and improving health.

There are several problems with the “study.” First, improving air quality has already been accomplished in cities like New York, where fossil fuels are still consumed in huge quantities, but few people now die because of air pollution. Second, the study doesnt mention that cutting fossil fuel use will either be enormously expensive or force people to use much less energy, both of which have serious health consequences. Moreover, reducing fossil fuel use is by far the most expensive way to reduce air pollution.

Third, it is highly doubtful that more people die from air pollution than from traffic accidents in all but a few big cities in developing countries. And in most of those cities, the worst air pollution comes from things like using charcoal or cow dung for cooking. Using more fossil fuels in those cities could cut air pollution.

Fourth, the study implies that all greenhouse gases are pollutants. This last point was picked up by Paul Recers story for the Associated Press (August 16, 2001). Recer, whose title is given in the byline as AP Science Writer, lists carbon dioxide as one of the pollutants causing people to die prematurely.

Climate Scientists Meet in Halifax

More than eighty atmospheric scientists are attending the first “International Conference on Global Warming and the Next Ice Age” at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada this week. Sponsored by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the American Meteorological Society, the conference is one of the few to bring together large numbers of scientific supporters and skeptics of global warming alarmism for debate and discussion.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported (August 22, 2001) that Dr. Petr Chylek, professor of atmospheric science at Dalhousie, “organized the conference so that theories on climate change other than conventional thoughts about global warming could be discussed.” Dr. Chylek decided to hold the event after reading a newspaper story that cited scientific research claiming that the Greenland glaciers were melting because of global warming, whereas his own research showed that earlier temperature increases had not led to melting.

Dr. Chylek further explained that many of his peers believe that natural factors such as solar radiation and variation in climate patterns are contributing to global warming. He asserted, “Scientists who want to attract attention to themselves, who want to attract great funding to themselves, have to find a way to scare the publicand this you can achieve only by making things bigger and more dangerous than they really are.”

Dr. Greg Holloway, professor of oceanography at the Institute of Ocean Studies in British Columbia, pointed out that many past periods of dramatic climate change such as the ice ages occurred without significant human influence. “Everybodys ready for more evidence of global warming and not as ready for the scientific balance which is what you are receiving here.”


  • The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjorn Lomborg was published in Britain on August 15 by Cambridge University Press. CUPs American edition is due on September 15. Lomborg, who is a professor of statistics at Aarhus University in Denmark, re-examines many of the controversial environmental claims originally made by Julian Simon and concludes that Simon got most things rights. Lomborg backs up his own conclusions with a huge amount of documentation.

Considering the amount of environmental heresy the book contains, it is astonishing how favorable the press reaction has been. The Economist (August 4, 2001) and the New York Times (August 7, 2001) ran long, flattering pieces on Lomborg and his book, which expands and updates the 1998 Danish version. The ever-so-politically-correct Guardian in London ran a three-part series by Lomborg.

The books longest chapter is devoted to global warming. Although Lomborg accepts the IPCCs assessment reports, his conclusions are more in line with the Cooler Heads Coalition.

Here is just one sample: “Is it not curious, then, that the typical reporting on global warming tells us all the bad things that could happen from CO2 emissions, but few or none of the bad things that could come from overly zealous regulation of such emissions? And this is not just a question of the medias penchant for bad news, as discussed in chapter 2, because both could make excellent bad news.”

Claims of Chinese Emissions Cuts are Disputed

A new pair of studies challenges the Chinese governments claim of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In an August 15 story in the Washington Post, John Pomfret reports that a study funded by the World Bank questions the Chinese governments statistics asserting that Chinese coal consumption fell during 1999.

In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing stated according to the Post that the Chinese government lied about the number of coal mines it shut down and about the speed with which it replaced coal with gas-based and hydroelectric power over the last five years.

This news casts doubts on a pair of reports claiming China has made progress in cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory stated in April that since 1996, Chinas energy output fell 17 percent and its carbon dioxide emissions fell 14 percent. The European Unions office in Beijing reported that China increased its energy efficiency and reduced its coal consumption by 30 percent over the same period.

These conclusions, promoted in a press release/report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, were cited by Erik Eckholm in a front-page New York Times story on June 15. We love to say it: We told you so. In the June 27 edition of Cooler Heads, David Wojick of Electricity Daily pointed out that, “The only way this cut could be real is if people in China stopped cooking and heating their homes, since industrial and electric power coal consumption did not drop. Such an explanation is highly unlikely.” The U.S. Embassys report supports Wojicks conclusion stating that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions have dropped “little, if at all.”

The Chinese government confirmed that its estimates regarding coal reductions may have been too high. Zhou Dadi, director of the Energy Research Institute and the governments State Development Planning Commission, said that the United States Embassy is right to question their numbers, but that “we are clearly decreasing our coal consumption.”

United Kingdom Adopts Internal Cap-and-Trade Scheme

On August 14, the United Kingdoms Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs ( announced the adoption of a “voluntary” greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme to take effect in April of 2002. The programs goal is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by two million tons per year by 2010. Although participation in the program is described as voluntary, companies that join but fail to achieved their promised reductions will face economic sanctions.

Firms that join must either pledge to make cuts or purchase emissions allowances from other companies. The actual emissions trading scheme is scheduled to take effect in 2005.

The UK government has pledged to provide up to 215 million in subsidies over the next five years to companies that participate. Companies that fail to meet their reduction targets will be forced to forfeit their subsidies and face more stringent targets in subsequent years.

United Kingdoms Environmental Minister Michael Meacher stated, “The UK climate change program could cut greenhouse gas emissions to 23 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. I expect our scheme to make a significant contribution and at the same time benefit both business and the environment by stimulating and financially rewarding innovation and investment.”

In a related move, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs adopted a new set of energy efficiency standards for British electricity and gas suppliers on August 17. Its new program, entitled the Energy Efficiency Commitment, will require energy suppliers to reduce energy consumption by a target amount of 64 terrawatt hours. The program is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 0.4 million tons per year.

The department has also mandated that energy suppliers ensure that at least one half of energy savings are achieved by reducing fuel consumption among poor households. It expects the program will save the average consumer 10 per year on gas and electricity.

On Monday, July 23, negotiators in Bonn struck an agreement claiming that they had succeeded in rescuing the Kyoto Protocol despite the U.S.s refusal to endorse it. Pundits across the globe celebrated the breakthrough proclaiming the world safe from greenhouse gases.

“This first small step is a giant leap for humanity and for the future of our planet,” according to World Wildlife Funds Jennifer Morgan. “We have delivered probably the most comprehensive and difficult agreement in human history,” said New Zealand delegate Peter Hodgson (Investors Business Daily, July 24, 2001). And European Union environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, declared, “We have finalized the rescue operation. We have rescued the Kyoto protocol. It is a major achievement because we will live with this for many years to come” (The Glasgow Herald, July 24, 2001).

But is all this hyperbole justified? As noted in the July 25 issue of the Los Angeles Times, “After a good nights sleep and some sober contemplation, environmental activists Tuesday conceded the Kyoto Protocol adopted a day earlier falls far short of the lofty goals for fighting global warming contained in the original proposal.”

Indeed, the prognosis is even worse than portrayed in the Los Angeles Times. Nothing

specific was agreed to. For example, the delegates agreed to establish an adaptation fund for developing countries that would be funded by developed countries, but no agreement as to how much each country would contribute was reached. They also agreed that funding for the Global Environment Facility should increase, but again no specifics were contemplated.

As noted by Cooler Heads Counsel, Chris Horner, who attended the Bonn conference, “Negotiators addressed specifics of some among the scores of Kyoto provisions, and some of those resulted in agreement. Notwithstanding the absence of any comprehensive detailing of specifics, however, the bulk of those agreements actually consist of vague palliatives with a promise to continue talking about the issue. That is, for the most part there were merely agreements to agree at a later date.”

In what could be seen as a major defeat for the EU, it finally conceded the use of carbon sinks and emission trading on the insistence of Japan. Last November at the Hague, the EU allowed negotiations to collapse rather than make similar concessions to the U.S. With the U.S. out of the picture, however, Japan has become the key to bringing Kyoto into force because if it, along with the U.S., fails to ratify Kyoto it cannot become international law.

WWFs Jennifer Morgan characterized the reaching of the agreement without the U.S. as a “geopolitical earthquake,” implying a shift in power, but Bushs refusal to accept Kyoto forced the EU to make concessions that it had previously said were unacceptable if the treaty were to retain its “environmental integrity.” Moreover, WWF estimates that the concessions will lower carbon emission reductions from 5.2 percent below 1990 levels to 1.8 percent below 1990 levels.

“The biggest problem,” according to the Electricity Daily (July 26, 2001), “is that, technically speaking, the FCCC Conference of the Parties meeting in Bonn is not adopting rules at all, it is adopting recommendations. Moreover, these recommendations are addressed to a body that does not yet exist, and may not come into being for a long time.”

Rules that are binding on the parties to the protocol cannot be made until the protocol is ratified and becomes international law and the “Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties,” or COP/MOP, is created. “Every binding rule adopted in the Bonn agreement is carefully phrased as a recommendation to the COP/MOP, because the COP cannot make Protocol rules at this time,” says Electricity Daily.

That, all along, has been the major barrier to ratification for most of the countries with targets and timetables. Without knowing what the specific rules will be with regards to monitoring and enforcement, for instance, they are loath to ratify. Yet rules cannot be made until Kyoto is ratified.

Finally, although Japan has tentatively agreed to the recommendations made in Bonn, there is still no guarantee that it will ratify Kyoto. Indeed, a EU delegation source stated, “Ratification is by no means a foregone conclusion” (Agence France Presse, July 24, 2001). Japan has continued to insist on U.S. participation.

Australia has taken a similar stance. Australias environment minister, Robert Hill said that, “At the end of the day there are some very good parts to this agreement for Australia but there are still some areas which we have concerns with.” He also said, “you cant have an effective global response without the U.S.” Russia has also shown skepticism with the process and has yet to signal its willingness to ratify the treaty.

Global Warming Quantified?

One of the major shortcomings of the report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that it treats all of its scenarios, 35 in all, as equally likely. Many scientists have commented that the high end of the IPCCs estimate of future global warming, the range from 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C (2.5 to 10.4 degrees F), is highly unlikely.

A research group from MIT calculated that there is far less than one percent chance that temperatures will rise 5.8 degrees in the next 100 years. They also calculated that there is a 17 percent chance that the temperature increase will fall short of 1.4 degrees.

In a new paper published in the July 20 issue of Science, Thomas Wigley, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and Sarah Raper, with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, attempt to quantify the likelihood that temperature rise will fall within the range predicted by the IPCC.

What they found was that there is a 90 percent probability that temperatures will rise between 1.7 to 4.9 degrees C (3 to 8.8 degrees F) by 2100. This range, note the authors, “is very large compared with the observed warming over the last century.” They also conclude that the probability that temperatures will reach 5.8 degrees to be very low.

They come to this conclusion by attaching probability distributions, using IPCC values, to what they deem the most important uncertainties, such as climate sensitivity and the role of sulfate aerosols, in the climate models. They then run a simplified climate model that is calibrated to the more complex global circulation models, to generate a probability distribution for thousands of combinations.

Although this paper is important due to the fact that it focuses on the uncertainties in climate modeling, it is important to understand what the paper actually says. Its not so much a prediction of how temperatures will change in the future, but a prediction of how the models behave. In other words, if you run the model 100 times, it will give you a temperature rise that falls within 1.7 and 4.9 degrees 90 percent of the time. “Our results are only as realistic as the assumptions upon which they are based,” say the authors. Many of the IPCCs assumptions are demonstrably false.

Monster Hurricanes: Global Warming or Global Alarming?

A July 19th CNN story on the increasing severity of hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean highlights the uncertainty inherent in long-term predictions of the effects of global climate change. CNN Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella recently interviewed Christopher Landsea of the National Oceanic and Meteorological Laboratory/Hurricane Research Division about his recent article on hurricane activity in the journal Science.

In the interview, Landsea pointed out that a major upward shift in climate has been responsible for the increase in hurricane activity over the last six years. He anticipates this shift will continue for the next ten to 40 years. However, he acknowledges that the increase in injuries and property damage caused by hurricanes is due to population growth and economic development. Specifically, he states: “I think at this point the U.S. is so developed and theres so many people along the coast that just about anywhere is a major disaster ready to happen.”

In his journal article entitled “The Recent Increase in Atlantic Hurricane Activity: Causes and Implications,” (Science, 20 July 2001), Landsea explains that the increased activity is caused by a simultaneous increase in sea surface temperatures and decreases in vertical wind shear. He points out that local conditions in the tropical Atlantic have a direct effect on the development of hurricanes. In addition, he states that the oceans provide the best indicators of long run variability for hurricane activity.

For historical perspective, he explains that from 1944-1970, the average number of major hurricanes in the North Atlantic Basin was 2.7. However, from 1971-1994, this number fell to 1.5. The recent upsurge has taken place from 1995-2000, during which the number rose to 3.8. He explains that 1997 was a year of below average activity because of the strong El Nio event that occurred.

As for whether the recent upward trend is due to global climate change, he states: “The historical multidecadal-scale variability in Atlantic hurricane activity is much greater than what would be expected from gradual temperature increase attributed to global warming. There have been various studies investigating the potential effect of long-term global warming on the number and strength of Atlantic-basin hurricanes. The results are inconclusive. Some studies document an increase in activity while others suggest a decrease.” He concludes by offering a stern warning to policymakers that our nations emergency management infrastructure must be bolstered to counteract the threat of more severe hurricanes over the next decade.

Therefore, the threat of increased injuries and property damage due to more severe hurricane seasons is of serious concern. However, it is premature to blame the effects of this problem on global climate change. Policymakers would be wise to take Landseas recommendations into account when examining the perceived costs of global warming.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released a new study entitled “Strategies for Reducing Multiple Emissions from Electric Power Plants.” This study measures the costs of imposing simultaneous caps on power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury (Hg), and carbon dioxide (CO2).

This new report by EIA follows up its December 2000 study on the projected costs of a three pollutant approach. It also sheds light on the prospective costs of recent legislative proposals, including H.R. 1335 (the Clean Power Act of 2001) and S. 1131 (the Clean Power Plant and Modernization Act of 2001) which advocate a four pollutant approach.

In the report, EIA points out that over the next 20 years NOx emissions are expected to rise slowly, SO2 emissions are expected to remain at year 2000 levels, and CO2 emissions are expected to increase steadily. The agency explains that, due to expanding electricity demand, a growing dependency on natural gas and the construction of a small number of new coal-fired power plants will cause CO2 emissions to rise.

The agency states that the effects of capping CO2 emissions at 1990 levels or at 7% below 1990 levels will force people to pay higher prices for electricity. Specifically, the report says “Electricity prices are projected to be much higher when CO2 emissions are capped than when NOx, SO2, or Hg emissions are capped43 percent higher in 2010 and 38 percent higher in 2020 than projected in the reference case. Consumers are expected to reduce their electricity consumption by 8 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2020 when faced with higher electricity prices.”

In addition, the agency explains that electricity prices could be substantially higher if natural gas prices turn out to be higher than projected. If CO2 caps are imposed, both domestic production and imports of natural gas must grow to meet electricity demands. Specifically, production of 0.8 trillion cubic feet from domestic sources and 2.3 trillion cubic feet from imports must be added over the next 20 years to meet the increased demand. This would require domestic natural gas producers to achieve record levels of output from 2005-2010 and would represent a serious challenge for the industry.

Therefore, the adoption of a four-pollutant approach would introduce serious uncertainty into Americas energy infrastructure. As unexpected fluctuations in natural gas prices contributed to the California electricity crisis, uncertainty in markets for coal, natural gas, and renewables could cause unanticipated problems for consumers. As the report states: “History does not offer clear guidance as to how the various markets might respond to changes as large as those required by the proposed emissions targets.”

In conclusion, a four pollutant approach to reducing power plant emissions would introduce tremendous uncertainty into the viability of American electricity markets. Dropping CO2 from the program would do a great deal to strip away some of this uncertainty and ensure that consumers can obtain the electricity they demand during the 21st century.