February 2002

A new British government-commissioned report by the Performance and Innovation Unit says that the country should increase the amount of energy supplied by renewable sources by 2020. It also suggested that the government keep its nuclear power options open (Reuters, February 17, 2002).

British industries are not convinced, however. According to them, increased use of renewable energy sources would be harmful to Englands economic prospects. “If the cost base to industry increases as a result of a shift towards green power that will damage Britains global competitiveness,” said Ruth Lea, head of the policy unit at the Institute of Directors (Reuters, February 18, 2002).

The beneficiaries of a renewable energy mandate are already saying that its not enough. Nick Goodall of the British Wind Energy Association said, “This (20 percent by 2020) target is far too modest,” claiming that, “companies are already gearing up to generate this much from wind power alone.” If thats the case, then why the need for government mandates?

According to a U.S.-owned utility, TXU Europe, Great Britains current renewable energy mandate of providing 10 percent of the nations energy through renewable sources, would cost about 20 million pounds or $28.5 million in the first year alone (Reuters, February 18, 2002).

Bush Offers Lukewarm Plan

President George W. Bush outlined his Global Climate Change and Clear Skies Initiatives in a speech on February 14 at the NOAA Science Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. The bulk of the climate plan is warmed-over policies from the Clinton Administration, but with a few significant new twists and considerably more federal funding, while the Clear Skies plan would require cuts in three major air pollutants of approximately 70% by 2018.

Bush set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012. This translates into producing one million dollars of economic output per 151 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (or equivalent) compared to 183 metric tons today.

This voluntary goal appears to be achievable on current trends. Reducing carbon intensity by 18% over the next decade would be one-fifth more than the 15% reduction in the 1990s.

Bush called for a major review of progress in 2012, that is, several years after he leaves office, and said that at that time mandatory emissions reductions may be appropriate. The promise, or implied threat, of future mandatory limits makes workable a major feature of the presidents planawarding tradeable credits for emissions reductions made voluntarily now.

According to the White Houses Fact Sheet, “The President will direct the Secretary of Energy to recommend reforms to: (1) ensure that businesses that register voluntary reductions will not be penalized under a future climate policy; and (2) give credit to companies that can show real emissions reductions.”

It appears that the motive for creating and buying these “early action credits” is the prospect that they will have value once the scheme is made mandatory. As part of this effort, the president also directed Secretary Abraham to improve the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Sequestration Registry in unspecified ways. The Global Climate Change Initiative calls for higher federal funding for the whole range of climate programs, domestic and international. Most notable, perhaps, is $4.6 billion over five years for tax incentives for renewable energy, cogeneration, and purchasing hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. Possible higher CAFE standards are also mentioned.

Much of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions may come from the Clear Skies Initiative. The large cuts proposed for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury may force utilities to close some of their coal-fired power plants. A cap-and-trade program is proposed for the three pollutants.

Reaction is Two Thumbs Down

Initial reaction to President Bushs new global warming package was almost uniformly negative from environmental groups, conservative groups, major newspapers and networks, and world leaders. Several industry trade associations and the Australian and Japanese governments reacted at least mildly favorably.

From abroad, German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin called the plan “disappointing,” according to Reuters (February 18, 2002). “The goal has to remain to re-integrate the worlds biggest polluter into this system. The door should not be closed to an eventual U.S. return to the Kyoto framework,” Trittin said. British Environment Minister Michael Meacher judged that the European Union would not be “satisfied” by Bushs plan (Reuters, February 18).

At a United Nations environmental conference in Cartagena, Colombia, officials from many nations demanded more action from the U.S. Among these was Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson (Reuters, February 18), who noted the serious effects that global warming was already having on Canadas northern regions.

In Japan, the official reaction from the new Environment Minister, Hiroshi Oki, was initially critical, but that changed as soon as President Bush landed in Tokyo. At a joint press conference with Bush, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that, “The United States has come up with a very positive proposal (Reuters, February 19).

Australian Prime Minister John Howard clearly views Bushs program as offering a way out of Kyoto for Australia. He said, “Our positionis much closer to that of the United States than the attitude of the European countries. I do think that what the president indicates in his speech will lead to an alternative to simply saying no to the Kyoto Protocol, and I welcome that” (Reuters, February 18).

At home, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said, “Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is using Valentines Day to give a sweetheart deal to the corporate polluters that funded his campaign.” Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Funds Climate Change Campaign, accused the President of delivering “a Valentines day present for the coal and oil industry.”

Conservative groups were a little more original in their comments, but no less critical. For example, Consumer Alert wrote that, “The President’s plan would undermine the very economic growth which, as he has pointed out, facilitates the advances that lead to cleaner air and more efficient technologies. Starving the US economy of energy, whether it’s called Kyoto or something else, will only harm consumers.”

Among many editorials criticizing the plan, the Washington Post wrote that, “There was more air than substance in the global warming policy President Bush outlined last week, a disappointing program that aims too low, asks too little and waits too long to assess the need for tougher action.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, James Glassman in the Wall Street Journal (February 14, 2002), wrote that Bushs “new position on global warming is clearly a disingenuous attempt to appear concerned about the environment for the sake of empty plaudits from domestic and foreign audiences. It hurts his credibility, and, frankly it wont work because the opposition wont buy it.”

On February 14, ABC News provided plenty of air time to environmental critics of the plan, quoting extensively an e-mail from former Vice President Al Gore.

The Houston Chronicle (February 15, 2002) pulled out the heavy guns, quoting several scientists who claim that Bushs plan falls well short of what is needed to stop global warming. “I think this thing (global warming) is very serious and government must get serious about doing something about it,” said Gerald North, head of the department of meteorology at Texas A&M. “We need to be more serious than a voluntary program.”

Canada Still Hesitant to Ratify Kyoto

The Canadian government insists that it still wishes to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but must consult with the provinces first (Reuters, February 20, 2002).

“Thats what we have to do before we make a decision to ratify,” said Environment Minister David Anderson. Nine of the ten provincial premiers signed a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, expressing reservations about the wisdom of ratifying the treaty.

“We are concerned that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and Canadas response to climate change could impact competitiveness and, in turn, employment, economic growth and investment opportunities across Canada,” said the letter.

Although the provinces do not have veto power over whether to ratify Kyoto, it would present a dilemma if they were opposed to it. “Thats a decision well have to come to,” said Natural Resources Minister, Herb Dhaliwal.

Anderson made it clear, however, that Canada would not consider complying with the treaty without ratifying it.

A new study appearing in Physica A (302: 2001), tests the accuracy of climate models and finds them lacking. The problem, say the authors, is that the models do not adequately take into account persistence in the climate system.

“The persistence of short term weather states is a well-known phenomenon: there is a strong tendency for subsequent days to remain similar, a warm day is more likely to be followed by a warm day than a cold day and vice versa,” say the authors. They also note that persistence can occur at time scales of several weeks due to stable high pressure systems that remain stable for long periods of time.

The authors also note that, “There have been also indications that weather persistence exists over many months or seasons, between successive years, and even over several decades. Such persistence is usually associated with slowly varying external (boundary) forcing such as sea surface temperatures and anomaly patterns.”

This issue of persistence is another reason why “separating the anthropogenic forcing from the natural variability of the atmosphere may prove to be a major challenge since the anthropogenic signal may project onto and therefore be hidden in the modes of natural climate variability.”

The authors tested several models. “We are interested,” they write, “in the way the models can reproduce the actual data regarding (a) trends and (b) long-range correlations. Of course, we cannot expect the models to reproduce local trends like urban warming or short-term correlation structures. But long-range correlations show characteristic universal features that are actually independent of the local environment around a station. So we can expect that successful models with good prognostic features will be able to reproduce them.”

“It turns out,” according to the study, “that the models considered display wide performance differences and actually fail to reproduce the universal power law behavior of persistence. It seems that the models tend to underestimate persistence while overestimating trends, and this fact may imply that the models exaggerate the expected global warming of the atmosphere.”


Al Kamen in his “In the Loop” column in the February 15 Washington Post: “The Bush White House excels at keeping secrets from the press, opponents, and, sometimes, even friends, judging from a somewhat testy exchange Wednesday evening when White House Council on Environmental Quality aides and others briefed a dozen or so senior GOP congressional staff members on the administrations new environmental package.

“The Hill folks protested that they had not been consulted about the package beforehand. When the White House disagreed, one Hill aide apparently asked for a show of hands from those whod been consulted. None went up, were told. Then talking points were distributed. Bushs goal of reducing our greenhouse gas intensity by _____ will reduce overall U.S. emission by _____ million metric tons by 2012, one point said, calling it an extremely ambitious, yet realistic goal.

“Numbers would help, the Hill team said. After some reluctance, the numbers were supplied. Its like the Wheel of Fortune: you can buy a vowel, you can buy a number.”

Bush Administration Tip-Toeing Toward New Policies

The New York Times and Washington Post reported this week (February 6, 2002) that the Bush Administration is getting close to deciding on a new set of global warming policies, which President Bush may announce before he visits Asian leaders next week. The only public indication of what those policies may be is contained in the Economic Report of the President, released by the Council of Economic Advisers on February 5.

The Report states that, “The current uncertainty surrounding climate change implies that a realistic policy should involve a gradual, measured response, not a risky, precipitous one.” Andrew Revkin in the Times notes that the Report contains a generally favorable review of the pros and cons of emissions trading schemes.

The Post story reports that, “One idea winning favor would replace the notion of setting fixed targets for power plant emissions of carbon dioxide with emission intensity targets measures that would expand or contract with economic growth.”

“Another proposal,” says the Post, “dealing with pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, calls for an emissions trading program that would allow big polluters that exceed mandatory emission targets to buy credits from cleaner companies whose emissions come in lower than the targets.”

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman “argued persuasively in favor of a trading approach with mandatory targets during Mondays meeting,” according to the Post, a plan that the Department of Energy opposes.

A February 1 article by David Wojick in Electricity Daily details more specific possible proposals. “According to one administration source,” Wojick writes, “a 20 percent reduction in emission by 2012, below a 2000 baseline, is being discussed,” a target similar to the U.S. reduction required under Kyoto.

His story goes on to explain that, “The CO2 restriction is part of a complex package that includes New Source Review regulatory reform and a three-pollutant nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury control proposal.”

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told Electricity Daily that the administrations climate plans will go far beyond a No Regrets strategy. “No regrets implies that you are doing nothing,” he said, “and our policy will be very proactive, and we will commit major resources toward it.”

This quote implies that Chairman Connaughton doesnt know what No Regrets means, which could prove a serious problem in trying to devise sensible policies.

Looking For New Things to Regulate, States Focus on CO2

A bill approved last week in the California Assembly instructs the California Air Resources Board to formulate regulations that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

According to the Environmental News Service (February 1, 2002), “If the measure becomes law, state regulators will draft rules aimed at achieving the maximum feasible reduction of carbon dioxide emitted by California’s passenger vehicles and light duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles. The regulations would need to be in place by January 2004, but auto manufacturers would be given flexibility in deciding how to achieve the new standards.”

Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D) stated, “This bill will give us the opportunity to protect Californias economy, public health and the environment from the potentially devastating effects of global warming. The bill will also allow California to greatly affect the outcome of the worlds global warming crisis.”

Other states may well follow Californias lead. Plans are in the works for some type of global warming regulation in New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Washington, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Sandy Liddy Bourne, Director of the American Legislative Exchange Councils Energy Task Force, has been monitoring state carbon dioxide regulation proposals, which ALEC opposes. “Now is not the time to voluntarily impose CO2 emission standards as a knee jerk response to environmental hysteria,” she said. “At a time of recession, the best way to fuel our economy is to use the best energy technology the free market has to offer.”

NSR Settlement Includes CO2 Cuts

A New Jersey utility has settled a Clean Air Act enforcement action by signing a consent agreement that “for the first time will require the company to participate in a voluntary scheme to reduce carbon dioxide emission,” according to a story in Inside EPA (February 1, 2002). The settlement between PSEG Fossil, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of New Jersey, which was announced by the Department of Justice on January 23, concludes one of many New Source Review actions begun by former EPA Administrator Carol Browner in the Clinton Administration.

The Bush Administration has been reviewing the Clinton-era interpretation of New Source Review regulations since last summer and is expected to announce reforms soon. In the meantime, the Justice Department has decided that the NSR enforcement efforts that they inherited from the Clinton Administration are reasonable and will be continued.

The latest settlement requires large cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions at PSEG Fossils two coal-fired power plants in addition to a 15% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels to be achieved by 2005.

In 2000, David McIntosh then Indiana Representative and Chairman of the House National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs subcommittee, wrote a letter to EPA regarding their NSR enforcement, accusing it of using “intimidation” to secure “voluntary” agreements from electric utilities to cap CO2 emissions. “In short,” said McIntosh, “if I were attempting to implement, or prepare to implement, the Kyoto Protocol and build a pro-Kyoto business clientele, I would proceed exactly as EPA has done and apparently plans to do.”

PSEG Fossil is the first to agree to a settlement with the EPA that includes a voluntary CO2 emissions cap. Inside EPA, argues that “The appearance of at least tacit approval for carbon controls could provide the administration which has historically resisted the idea with political headaches when the issue is taken up by the Senate later this year.”

Studies Find More Model Weaknesses

Two studies appearing in the February 1 issue of Science give further evidence that climate models are still wholly inadequate to predict future climate change. Using satellite data from the last two decades, a team of researchers led by Bruce A. Wielicki with NASAs Langley Research Center found that, “The top-of-atmosphere (TOA) tropical radiative energy budget is much more dynamic and variable than previously thought.”

The study explains that, “Earths climate system is driven by a radiative energy balance between the solar or shortwave radiation absorbed by Earth and the thermal infrared or longwave radiation emitted back to space.” For the Earths climate to remain unchanged, this energy budget must equal zero. “The TOA radiation budget,” says the study, “is crucial in determining climate variability and feedbacks.” It also provides a rigorous test of the ability of climate models to represent the atmospheres physical processes.

The data show that there was a drop in longwave radiation of about 2 W/m2 (watts per square meter) from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s followed by a rise of about 4 W/m2 from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s. “Because radiative forcings of 1 W/m2 or less are important for climate change prediction, natural variability of 4 W/m2 in the longwave part of the tropical radiation budget is considered a major change.”

The researchers argue that this is not likely due to global warming since, “The flux changes are far too large to be explained by the small surface and atmosphere warming over this time period, which will tend to be offset by increased CO2 and water vapor greenhouse gas trapping.”

More importantly, however, “These changes are sufficiently large that, in principle, they should be seen in climate model predictions.” The researchers tested five different models, including the well known Hadley Centre and National Center for Atmospheric Research models. They found that “There is remarkably little variation in the tropical mean fluxes from the models when compared to the data.”

The other study attempts to answer the question of whether the changes observed in the satellite data in the Earths radiative balance over the last two decades are the result of natural variability or manmade global warming. The researchers, Junye Chen, Barbara E. Carlson, and Anthony D. Del Genio, with NASAs Goddard Institute for Space Studies, found that the “Earth has been radiating more heat and reflecting less sunlight in the region from 30 degrees S to 30 degrees N over the past decade, the net result being more energy leaving the tropics.”

This change is due to a strengthening of two different tropical circulations known as the Hadley cell and the Walker cell. “Equatorial convective regions,” say the researchers, “have intensified the upward motion and moistened, while both the equatorial and subtropical subsidence regions have become drier and less cloudy.”

So whats the upshot? “The possibility that lapse rates were decreasing instead [of increasing] before 1980 suggests that the observed intensification of the Hadley-Walker cell may be due to natural variability on decadal or longer time scales rather than to a forced climate change.”

No Global Warming in Alaska

In 2001, the U.S. National Assessment on climate change concluded that Alaska would warm between 5 and 18 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It further claimed that Alaska has already experienced an average “4 degrees F warming since the 1950s.”

This claim is highly misleading, according to Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In an article appearing on Tech Central Station (www.techcentralstation.com, January 22, 2002), the two scientists explain that the apparent warming in Alaska is due to an entirely natural phenomenon.

The National Assessment stated, “Much of the recent warming occurred suddenly around 1977, coincident with the most recent of the large-scale Arctic atmosphere and ocean regime shifts.” What the report failed to mention, however, is that the global circulation models it used to make its predictions show a gradual warming due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, not sudden jumps.

The cause of the 1977 climate jump was a phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. As explained by Baliunas and Soon, “The Pacific Ocean temperature changes naturally on multiple time scales. The major pattern in the northern Pacific Ocean is for it to hold at a low average temperature for roughly 20 to 30 years, and then to suddenly shift upward, where it remains for some decades. Then it shifts back down again.”

This is a pattern that has been directly measured for the last 100 years. The pattern has also been observed in temperature data derived from tree rings, and reaches back at least 1,000 years. Moreover, a look at the temperature data in Alaska after 1977 shows that 22 of the 30 locations from which Alaskas temperature is measured have experienced “either no warming or a significant cooling trend.”

Emissions Rise in England, Germany and Japan

Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise in the worlds leading economies. The latest report from the United Kingdom estimates that emissions went up three percent in 2001. In Germany, the figure is 1.5 percent. And Japan has announced a 1.1 percent rise in the year to March 2001.

Germanys carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.5 percent in 2001, according to Germanwatch, an environmental lobby group based in Bonn. The group claims that the opening of brown coal power plants in former East German states and colder winter temperatures that increased heating oil consumption caused the increase.

The good news, according to Germanwatch, is that higher fuel taxes caused a five percent decrease in traffic, with gasoline consumption falling by 2.8 percent and diesel consumption falling by one percent (Reuters, February 4, 2002).

A report from economic forecaster Cambridge Econometrics says that Britain is unlikely to meet its self-imposed carbon dioxide reduction target of 23 percent below 1990 levels, because power generators are switching from burning natural gas to cheaper coal. “The achievement of the governments own 20 percent reduction target looks increasingly unattainable,” said the report (Reuters, February 4, 2002).

As a result, Britains emissions rose three percent in 2001, following a 2 percent increase in 2000. According to an Environmental News Service article (February 4, 2002), Cambridge Econometrics reports that, “The UK data reflected inherent contradictions in government policies aimed simultaneously at providing cheaper energy and achieving energy and emission savings.”

Japans carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.1 percent from March 2000 to March 2001, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), making it the second consecutive year that emissions have increased.

The growth in emissions was due to economic growth. Said a METI spokesman, “The economy was not doing so badly at the timeso [energy] consumption in the industrial sector rose as well” (Reuters, February 4, 2002).

Winds Dying Down in Denmark

The Wall Street Journal Europe (January 24, 2002), Reuters (January 25, 2002), and The Week That Was (February 2, 2002, www.sepp.org) have picked up reports from Danish newspapers that the new Danish government intends to cancel plans for three new offshore wind power facilities. According to Reuters, financial daily Borsen quoted Economy Minister Bendt Bendtsen, “We are very concerned about the costs for society and for Denmarks competitiveness if we continue to expand the use of green energy.”

The Danish government provides subsidies for wind power, and 6300 windmills have been erected as a result. But there is speculation that the new government may discontinue the subsidy. According to The Week That Was, an editorial in Jyllandposten, Denmarks largest newspaper, states that without the subsidy no more wind farms will be built.

Share prices in Danish wind turbine manufacturers Vestas Wind Systems and NEG Micron, the worlds largest and third-largest respectively, have dropped as a result of the weakening U.S. market for their products, according to the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. subsidy of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour lapsed at the end of December. Renewal of the subsidy is contained in the House-passed energy bill, but that bill has been blocked from consideration by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (DSouth Dakota).