May 2002

U. S. Out of Kyoto For a Decade At Least

There is no chance that the United States will get back into the Kyoto Protocol before 2012, according to Dr. Harlan Watson, the U. S. State Departments senior climate negotiator. The Times of London (May 14, 2002) reported comments made by Watson while in London for talks with British officials.

“We have set 2012 as the date to take stock and if theres going to be a review of policy that is the time to do it,” he said. “We are not going to be part of the Kyoto Protocol for the foreseeable future and the 2005 review is not something we intend on being actively engaged in.”

When asked if that means that U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has been ruled out for the next decade, Watson responded, “That is correct that there is no chance before 2012. In order for any treaty to be ratified, it needs 67 votes in the Senate, and Kyoto is thus an unratifiable treaty. Theres no way that the U.S. could participate, even if the President sent it up again.” This remains true in Watsons judgment even if a Democrat were elected president in 2004 or 2008.

On a related note, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky responded on May 15 to an April 8 letter from Christopher Horner, the Cooler Heads Coalitions counsel. Horners letter laid out the case for the U. S. government to remove its signature from the Kyoto Protocol. Dobriansky responded that, “President Bush and this administration have made clear on numerous occasions that the Kyoto Protocol is fatally flawed and that the United States will not participate in it.” She did not address the inconsistency between un-signing the Rome treaty creating the International Criminal Court and keeping the U. S. signature on Kyoto.

California Assembly Delays CO2 Vote

The California Assembly has postponed a vote on a bill that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The bill, AB 1058, would require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to formulate rules to achieve the “maximum feasible and cost-effective” emissions reductions. If passed into law, the bill would go into effect in 2006 and apply to the 2009 model year.

The Assembly originally passed AB 1058 earlier this year, but must now approve minor Senate changes before it can be sent to Governor Davis. The reported reason the vote has been postponed is that bill supporters arent certain that they have the votes (Greenwire, May 15, 2002). In the last few weeks, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has mounted a large-scale campaign against the measure, including radio and newspaper advertising. The United Auto Workers union has now also come out strongly against it.

According to the San Jose Mercury News (May 14, 2002), Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D) originally voted for the bill out of courtesy to its sponsor, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D), but is now having second thoughts. He fears that the bill would give CARB too much power. “There is a certain amount of disagreement as to the science and what we can do,” Canciamilla said. “I am wondering now if [the bill] is something that makes sense.”

Canada Finding Reasons Not to Ratify

The Canadian government has just released “A Discussion Paper on Canadas Contribution to Addressing Climate Change.” The paper first sets out the problem: “Business-as-usual projections would see Canadas GHG emissions rise to approximately 809 MT [megatons] by 2010. Canadas Kyoto target is 571 MT by 2010, creating a “gap” of about 240 MT that must be addressed.”

The cost of meeting that target, according to the discussion paper, would be between zero and two percent of GDP by 2010. Instead of growing 31 percent by 2010, GDP would only grow by 29 percent at worst. “The AMG [Analysis and Modelling Group] estimates indicate that, unless policies are well designed, the impact could be uneven across provinces and territories. This is particularly true for the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.”

The paper offers several options for meeting Canadas Kyoto target, such as a domestic emissions trading program, more specific measures targeted at consumers or particular sectors of the economy, or government purchases of international permits.

Campaign ExxonMobil Warns of “Tobacco Suits”

A new report released by Campaign ExxonMobil, the group responsible for bringing shareholder resolutions to harass the company for its position on global warming, says that the company is risking shareholder value by opposing global warming regulation. ExxonMobil called the analysis “ridiculous.”

The most interesting part of the report is a side bar which threatens that ExxonMobil and other corporations that do not get behind efforts to ration energy will find themselves being hauled into court. “It is highly likely that serious damage will occur as a result of climate change,” says the report. “The aggrieved parties are likely to seek compensation from those who (sic) they regard as responsible.”

The report continues, “While ExxonMobil is no stranger to billion dollar lawsuits, climate change actions could swamp even those seen in the tobacco industry. The potential value at risk here could easily exceed $100 billion, especially as annual losses from climate change could significantly exceed that figure.

“Even if ExxonMobil escapes liability, it could be dragged into interminable lawsuits, at considerable expense and loss of management time. One estimate is that Philip Morris spent as much as $700 million on lawyers in the 1990s.” The report, by Mark Mansley, head of Claros Consulting, can be downloaded at

Greenpeace released another attack on ExxonMobil just in time for the international week of protest against the oil giant, which culminates on May 18 with boycotts and demonstrations at Esso stations throughout Britain. Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobils Efforts to Corrupt the Debate on Global Warming may be downloaded at

The Greenpeace “report” contains some astonishing claims, of which we quote only one: “It was recently reported that Exxon and Mobil spent approximately $1 billion financing the GCC [Global Climate Coalition], though accurate figures may never be known.” A footnote cites an article in the April 5 Guardian newspaper by environment correspondent Paul Brown. Browns article offers no source or evidence for the figure and refers to the GCC as the Climate Change Convention.

IPCC to Study Regional Impacts

The new Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, who is currently working to set the agenda for the panels fourth assessment report (FAR), said that the IPCC will “place more emphasis on regional assessments of climate change, and on its socio-economic impact,” according to the May 9 issue of Nature.

As an example of the kind of work the IPCC needs to do, Pachauri pointed out the melting ice on the Himalayas. “Five hundred million people depend on these glaciers for their water supply,” he said. “What kind of response do we have? To take an extreme example, we could move highly water-intensive industry out of that region. If you have 20 or 30 years to do that you are not going to cause major disruption.”

Pachauri is aiming at having the FAR finished in time to influence negotiations scheduled to begin in 2005 to set new greenhouse gas emission targets for 2013 and beyond. The report may have an assessment of the state of greenhouse reduction technology and carbon sequestration.

According to Nature, Pachauri is also “launching a $500,000 feasibility study on an advisory mechanism to inform governments and international bodies on the scientific issues facing global agriculture, including the implications of genetically modified crops.”

The focus on regional impacts is likely to be highly controversial. Due to lack of computing power, computer models have difficulty dealing with regional scale climate variables. The IPCCs own Third Assessment Report included an entire chapter in its science report assessing the regional climate information from climate models. It concludes that a “coherent picture of regional climate change via available regionalization techniques cannot yet be drawn (Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis pg. 623).”

Urban Heat Island Effects in Australia

A study appearing in the Australian Meteorological Magazine (50: 2001) found that even very small towns can exhibit detectable urban heat islands. The studys authors studied the urban heat island effects of several Australian cities with populations from 1,000 to 3,000,000 people.

The authors noted that the heat islands of Australian cities tended to be smaller and to increase at a slower rate with population than similarly sized cities in Europe and North America. As noted by CO2 Science Magazine (, “The regression lines of all three continents essentially converged in the vicinity of a population of 1,000 people, however, where the mean urban-rural temperature difference was approximately 2.2 0.2 degrees C.”

In other words small towns are likely to have urban heat islands that raise temperature about the same amount as the amount of global warming since the Little Ice Age. According to CO2 Science, “With such small aggregations of people having such a dramatic impact on air temperature, it is ludicrous to believe that on top of the natural warming experienced by the earth in recovering from the Little Ice Age we can confidently discern an even more subtle increase in background temperature caused by concomitant increases in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Rethinking Kyoto

by William Yeatman on May 14, 2002

in Blog

Rethinking Kyoto

An article in Foreign Affairs (May/June 2002) by Thomas C. Schelling, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, argues that it is time to rethink the Kyoto Protocol.

When President Bush rejected Kyoto, he did so for three reasons, according to Schelling. First, the developing countries have made it clear that they have no intention of participating in Kyoto. Second, there are still large uncertainties in the science and extent of the impacts. Third, he has expressed a preference for voluntary measures over mandatory regulation.

Schelling argues that the developing countries have the most to lose from global warming due to their higher dependence on agriculture. “Constrained by poverty and technological backwardness, their ability to adapt to climate change is limited,” writes Schelling. “The best way for developing countries to mitigate global warming, therefore, is through economic growth.” Calling on developing countries to participate is a waste of time.

Regarding the scientific uncertainties, Schelling writes that “what is least uncertain is that climate change is real and likely to be serious.” Here, Schelling merely takes the IPCCs Summary for Policymakers at face value. More importantly, “A huge uncertainty that will make any lasting regime impossible for many decades to come, however, is how much carbon dioxide can safely be emitted over the coming century.”

Schelling concludes that the weakness of Kyoto is its focus on the short term. “But any reasonable trajectory of emissions in the future ought to show a rise for some decades and a rapid decline later in the century.” There are several reasons for this according to Schelling. For one, the technology needed to reduce fossil-fuel consumption significantly is not yet developed. And prematurely scrapping equipment already in use is expensive and wasteful.

Emissions trading is unworkable in practice, according to Schelling. “The problem with the trading regimes is that initial quotas are negotiated to reflect what each nation can reasonably be expected to reduce. Any country that is tempted to sell part of an emissions quota will realize that the regime is continually subject to renegotiation, so selling any excess is tantamount to admitting it got a generous allotment the last time around. It then sets itself up for stiffer negotiation next time.”

Schelling further ridicules the Kyoto plan to let Russia sell its hot air as nothing more than a bribe masquerading as an emissions-trading scheme. “The purpose is to bribe the recipient into ratifying a treaty and providing governments a cheap way to buy out of emissions commitments, with the pretense that it serves to reduce emissions in accordance with the principle of competitive advantage.”

Instead of Kyoto, Schelling recommends a system similar to NATO where countries share burdens and contribute resources voluntarily. He also recommends that the way to deal with developing countries is through financial contributions to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.