May 2004

The “Copenhagen Consensus” of some of the world’s leading economists has decided that climate change ranks at the bottom of ten great global challenges facing mankind and that the costs of several proposals to limit greenhouse emissions would outweigh the benefits.  The Copenhagen Consensus was organized by Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical  Environmentalist.    

The project was described on its web site as follows: “The goal of the Copenhagen Consensus project was to set priorities among a series of proposals for confronting ten great global challenges. These challenges, selected from a wider set of issues identified by the United Nations, are: civil conflicts; climate change; communicable diseases; education; financial stability; governance; hunger and malnutrition; migration; trade reform; and water and sanitation.

“A panel of economic experts, comprising eight of the world’s most distinguished economists, was invited to consider these issues. The members were Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University, Robert Fogel of the University of Chicago (Nobel laureate), Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich, Justin Yifu Lin of Peking University, Douglass North of Washington University in St Louis (Nobel laureate), Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland, Vernon Smith of George Mason University (Nobel laureate), and Nancy Stokey of the University of Chicago.”

On climate change, the panel considered a paper by William R. Cline of the Center for Global Development and of the Institute for International Economics, which suggested that the benefits of action now on climate change would outweigh the costs by $166 trillion to $94 trillion. However, the only way the paper was able to achieve such a benefit to cost ratio was by using an unusually low discount rate for the benefits of 1.5 percent.  The panel rejected this economically nonsensical assumption.

In fact, the panel ranked all three suggestions for action-an “optimal carbon tax,” a “value-at-risk carbon tax”, and the Kyoto Protocol-as bad investments.  The final report summarized:

“The panel looked at three proposals, including the Kyoto Protocol, for dealing with climate change by reducing emissions of carbon. The expert panel regarded all three proposals as having costs that were likely to exceed the benefits. The panel recognized that global warming must be addressed, but agreed that approaches based on too abrupt a shift toward lower emissions of carbon are needlessly expensive. “

The Consensus ranked four projects as representing good value for money. They were: new programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS; reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia by means of food supplements; reducing multilateral and unilateral tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, together with the elimination of agricultural subsidies; and the control and treatment of malaria.

Roger Pielke, Jr., of the University of Colorado posted the following generic news story about global warming on his Prometheus weblog on May 17:

“Instructions to editor: Please repeat the below every 3-4 weeks ad infinitum.

“This week the journal [Science/Nature] published a study by a team of scientists led by a [university/government lab/international group] [challenging/confirming] that the earth is warming. The new study looks at [temperature/sea level/the arctic] and finds evidence of trends that [support/challenge] the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientist [A, B, C], a [participant in, reviewer of] the study observed that the study, [“should bring to a close debate over global warming,” “provides irrefutable evidence that global warming is [real/overstated] today,” “demonstrates the value of climate science”]. Scientist [D, E, F], who has long been [critical/supportive] of the theory of global warming rebutted that the study, [“underscores that changes in [temperature/sea level/the arctic] will likely be [modest/significant],” “ignores considerable literature inconvenient to their central hypothesis,” “commits a basic mistake”]. Scientist [A, B, C or D, E, F] has been criticized by [advocacy groups, reporters, scientific colleagues] for receiving funding from [industry groups, conservative think tanks]. It is unclear what the study means for U.S. participation the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush Administration has refused to participate in. All agreed that more research is necessary.”

We are glad to report editors are following his advice.  Pielke’s web site may be found at:

On May 14, shortly before President Putin’s announcement (see Politics section above), the Russian Academy of Sciences issued a report that disputed the scientific basis of the Kyoto Protocol and argued that it would be economically harmful to Russia.  The summary of scientific opinion noted the “absence of scientific substantiation of the Kyoto Protocol and its low effectiveness for reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as is envisaged by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” and stated, “The requirements of the Kyoto Protocol are of a discriminatory character, and its mechanisms involve economic risks for Russia.”

Yuri Izrael, the distinguished climatologist who authored the summary, which was presented at a general meeting of the Academy, said, “The protocol is ineffective for attaining the goal set by it-the stabilization of the ecological situation and the world economy.”  At the same time, Interfax news agency reported that the Academy is still  formulating its stance on the protocol, with the Academy President Yuri Osipov saying, “Scientists have studied every aspect of this problem and will formulate their stance in the future, taking into account all the negative and positive consequences the protocol’s possible ratification may have for Russia.”

Professor Oleg Sorokhtin from the RAS’s Institute of Oceanography was quoted by TASS as saying that, “The Kyoto Protocol is not needed at all, as even considerable emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have almost no effect on the Earth’s temperature but contribute to agricultural productivity and to the restoration of forest resources.”

Nature magazine (May 27) dismissed this breach in the so-called scientific consensus on global warming by saying that “science in Russia.has been hijacked by the politics and economics of energy investment and emission reductions,” but stopped short of calling for Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, to discipline Izrael, a vice-chairman of the IPCC.  (TASS, May 18, Interfax, May 19).

The Lancet’s June issue contains a letter from eight leading authorities that criticizes two articles published in The Lancet last December that claim there is a strong link between the spread of malaria and increasing temperatures.  The lead author of the letter is Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.  Dr. Reiter gave a Cooler Heads Coalition briefing on the issue on May 3 on Capitol Hill.

The letter, titled “Global Warming and Malaria: A Call for Accuracy”, takes issue with a model created by Frank C. Tanser that links the spread of malaria to global warming and an accompanying commentary by Simon Hales and Alistair Woodward.  These two articles received much publicity at the ninth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC at Milan in December.

In addition to several specific criticisms, the letter argues that these errors could have been avoided if the Tanser, Hales, and Woodward had been familiar with the voluminous literature on the subject.  The letter concludes, “We urge those involved to pay closer attention to the complexities of this challenging subject.

The other scientists who authored the critique are: Christopher J. Thomas of the University of Durham; Peter M. Atkinson of the University of Southampton; Simon I. Hay, a Wellcome Trust research fellow; Sarah E. Randolph of Oxford University; David J. Rogers of Oxford University; G. Dennis Shanks of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine; Robert W. Snow of Oxford University; and Andrew Spielman of the Harvard University School of Public Health.

In a new article published in Climate Research, Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph and Patrick J. Michaels of the University of Virginia have found, through statistical analysis, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s temperature data contains a net warming bias due to socioeconomic effects that were not removed properly from the IPCC’s records. 

In the article, entitled “A test of correlations for extraneous signals in gridded surface temperature data,” McKitrick and Michaels obtained monthly surface temperature records from 1979 to 2000 from 218 individual stations in 93 countries.  They regressed this temperature data with regards to local climate, as well as indicators of local economic activity (such as income, GDP growth rates, and coal use) and data quality.  The authors found that the spatial pattern of trends is shown to be significantly correlated with non-climatic factors such as economic activity and various sociopolitical effects.  The process was repeated on the corresponding IPCC gridded data.  Despite the IPCC’s attempt to remove these non-climatic variables, McKitrick and Michaels found that similar correlations do exist and that the IPCC’s data was biased in favor of global warming.

The article explained that, “[The apparent climate biases] reflect the influence of many things, including a complex blend of local economic and social factors.  Some of these exert an indirect influence on local temperatures but have nothing to do with the global climate, while others have nothing to do with temperature at all but instead affect data quality control.”  Controlling for the non-climatic variables would result in a “noticeably lower” temperature change, McKitrick and Michaels observed.

Moreover, “Attempts to identify the magnitude of a global ‘greenhouse’ climate signal on surface data without properly removing the extraneous biases risks exaggerating the perceived influence of atmospheric CO2 levels.”

The article concluded, “The results of this study support the hypothesis that published temperature data are contaminated with non-climatic influences that add up to a net warming bias, and that efforts should be made to properly quantify these effects.”

Yomiuri Shimbun reported on May 17 that, “According to an estimate by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced as a result of Japan’s consumption of energy in fiscal 2010 will increase by 5 percent over fiscal 1990 levels, despite anticipated progress in the nation’s campaign against global warming.”

The figures came from a report submitted to the Advisory Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, an advisory body to the economy, trade and industry minister.

The newspaper continued: “The latest report on energy supply-and-demand projections through fiscal 2030 was made taking into account the nation’s recent demographic, economic, and social changes, as well as potential technological advancements.  It revised projections made in a previous report, which said the country would see no growth in CO2 emissions in fiscal 2010.

“According to the latest report, Japan’s energy demand will reach its peak in fiscal 2021, after which it will decline. CO2 emissions are predicted to begin decreasing in the late 2010s. The report attributes all this to a projected reduction in the nation’s population and technological and other advancements in industry.

“But in fiscal 2010, the CO2 figure is projected to still be rising, meaning that it will exceed the 6 percent reduction promised by Japan under the Kyoto Protocol.  The projections state that the amount of CO2 emissions from the civilian and transportation sectors will increase 20 percent from fiscal 1990 levels, canceling out the predicted 7 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the industrial sector.

“Recent changes in nuclear power plant construction plans are also bound to adversely affect the campaign against global warming. Initially, the government said it expected electric power companies to build 10 to 13 new plants by the end of fiscal 2010. However, it later lowered that number to four.”

Former Vice President Al Gore and the George Soros-funded Move On campaign have joined forces once again to claim that the fantasy disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” makes a significant contribution to the public debate on global warming.  In a speech at a Move On-organized event in New York City on May 25, Gore contrasted the “honest fiction” of the movie to the “Bush White House story about global warming.”  Apparently, for Gore fictions are honest when they scare people into doing what he considers to be the right thing.

The movie opened worldwide on May 28.  It might have been better for Mr. Gore if had waited to read the reviews, which ranged from poor to abysmal.

Richard Roeper, of Ebert and Roeper, had the most pointed words for the movement: “Memo to all the environmental activists who are relying on ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ to serve as a wake-up call about global warming: You might want to see the movie first.  It’s really quite silly.  Citing ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ as a cautionary tale about global warming makes about as much sense as pointing to ‘Independence Day’ as proof we need to build an interplanetary defense system, because you never know when slimy, super-smart aliens will attack.

“Scientists and climatologists should relax as well.  This film isn’t going to send the public into a panic attack any more than ‘Finding Nemo’ convinced us that talking clown fish swim the seas.”

A. O. Scott in the New York Times (May 27) called it “a two-hour $125 million disaster” and went on to write that, “.if the film is meant to prod anxieties about ecological catastrophe and to encourage political action in response, it seems unlikely to succeed. Not because the events it depicts seem implausible, but because they seem like no big deal.”

The Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris (May 28) also panned the movie: “There’s hail in Japan, snow in New Delhi, and, hey, a twister just ate the Hollywood sign!  Now that’s entertainment-for about 20 minutes.  The other hour and 40 feel like the most expensive PowerPoint presentation ever made.”

After calling it “so very bad,” David Edelstein in Slate considered the potential political impact: “Is it possible that ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is a plot to make environmental activists look as wacko as anti-environmentalists always claim they are?  Al Gore stepped right into this one, didn’t he?”

Speaking at the conclusion of the European Union-Russia summit in Moscow on May 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would “speed up ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.”  The news came as a surprise given the increasingly strong condemnations of the protocol’s effects on Russia by Putin’s chief economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, and the report of the Russian Academy of Sciences that found the protocol lacked “scientific substantiation” (see story in Science section below).  Putin made clear that there was an element of quid pro quo in his announcement, saying, “The EU has met us half way in talks over the WTO and that cannot but affect positively our position on the Kyoto Protocol.”

However, Russia’s president left himself some wiggle room.  He said that Russia continues to have difficulties with the obligations it would have to take on-a clear reference to Illarionov’s disquiet at Russia having to pledge to reduce its emissions while no such restrictions would be imposed on countries like India and China, which Russia views as its rivals.
Putin also pointed out that ratification was the formal responsibility of the Duma (parliament).  In April, three Duma committees- for ecology, the economy and international affairs-issued a joint statement that, “Ratification [of the protocol] is inexpedient given the U.S. pullout and the non-participation of many countries with high levels of man-made impact on climatic processes.”
Moreover, the involvement of the Duma raises another interesting issue related to Russia’s internal politics and the perception of Putin’s rule as authoritarian.  Vladimir Milov, head of the Institute of Energy Policy, told newspaper Vremya Nostoy (May 25), “I am not convinced that the books on this matter have been closed.   The president gave quite a transparent hint, saying that this should be decided by parliament. This is generally a good argument for showing that there is in Russia democracy and a parliament, which might not agree with the opinion of the president.  Considering the overall negative background in respect to the Kyoto Protocol, there could, in my view, be a serious continuation of the parliament ‘story’.”

It is probably because of these caveats and recent history on the issue that reaction from environmental groups to the announcement was muted. Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund said, “I think Putin’s announcement is a major step forward. But we need and urge Putin to specify a timetable.  He should encourage the Duma to do something as soon as possible,” recognizing that he said nothing to indicate what he meant by ‘speeding up’ ratification.  (Reuters, various reports, May 21-22)

The watered-down version of the Climate Stewardship Act that Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Az.) offered on the Senate floor last fall would still have significant economic costs, according to a new analysis by the Energy Information Administration.  The estimated price tag of $776 billion (or $290 billion in discounted dollars) is timely, since Sen. McCain recently announced that he would try to get another vote this summer on his bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

EIA’s estimate of the total costs of S. 139 as originally introduced was a principal factor in Lieberman and McCain’s decision to drop the second phase of emissions reductions when they offered their bill on the Senate floor.  Their Senate Amendment 2028 was defeated last October 30 by a 43 to 55 vote.

 The new analysis by EIA, which is the independent analytical arm of the Department of Energy, was done at the request of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.).  Landrieu recently said that she was thinking about changing her vote from no to yes if the measure comes to another floor vote.  

 The EIA analysis concluded that the price to emit a metric ton of carbon equivalent would rise from $55 in 2010 to $167 in 2025, compared with a growth from $79 to $221 over the same period under S.139 as originally introduced.

 The bill would have little effect on the natural gas sector, but would significantly affect the gasoline, electric power and coal sectors. Gasoline prices would rise 9 percent by 2010 and 19 percent by 2025. The price of electricity (cents per Kwh) would rise from the reference case of 6.42 to 6.82 in 2010 and 9.09 in 2025 (compared to 6.98 and 9.82
respectively under S.139).

 The coal industry would be badly hit under S. 139, reducing production by 14 percent in 2010 and 78 percent in 2025 compared to the baseline scenario.  The impact under SA 2028 is still severe, with production dropping by 8 percent by 2010 and 59 percent by 2025.  The price of a short ton of coal is expected to increase from $24.41 to $107.96 in
2025, an increase of 366 percent.

 These price increases would continue to have a negative effect on the economy.  The cumulative GDP loss from 2004-2025 would be $776 billion, with a peak annual loss of $76 billion in 2025.   When discounted to present value at 7 percent, the cost of the program to the economy to 2025 amounts to $290 billion.  Congress appropriated $135 billion to pay for the costs of the war in Iraq.

Interview: Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Fred Smith, Natural Resource Defense Council’s Jon Coifman discuss “The Day After Tomorrow” film

GLORIA BORGER, co-anchor: And welcome back. “The Day After Tomorrow” hits theaters this Memorial Day weekend, sending a tidal wave of political debate on global warming to the forefront.

Unidentified Reporter: (From “The Day After Tomorrow”) Car accidents, at least 200 and Lower Manhattan, I am told, is virtually inaccessible.

BORGER: So is this just election-year Hollywood hype? Or an environmental wake-up call? joining me now to debate this is Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Jon Coifman, spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council.
Thanks to both of you for being with me this evening.
Let me start with you, Fred Smith. Doesn’t a movie like this just sort of scare people? I mean tornadoes in LA, the Eiffel Tower under ice, New York City gets hit with a tidal wave and then freezes over. What’s the purpose of this?

Mr. FRED SMITH (Competitive Enterprise Institute): I guess they don’t want to have the Republican Convention in New York City. That’s the only thing I can figure out. It’s obviously designed to be a scare movie, to make money, disaster film scare. It’s interesting though, as a science of global warming, as man-caused catastrophic warming weakens, we turn not to more science but to movies. Not a very smart policy for America.

BORGER: So, Jon Coifman, is any good that comes out of this or just scary movie for a long weekend?

Mr. JON COIFMAN (Natural Resources Defense Council): Well, first of all, nobody should mistake the “Day After Tomorrow” for a scientific textbook. This is a summertime adventure movie. It’s all about special effects and the fun in the studios. Now, what we’re seeing over the past few days here is this actually sparked quite an interesting and we think lively and intelligent debate about what global warming really is about, what we know about the issue and what we ought to be doing about it. And that’s good news.

BORGER: But don’t you think this can just confuse the issue rather than spark a debate? I mean, if people see, you know, a tidal wave in New York, that can confuse the issue or turn it into a cartoon even.

Mr. COIFMAN: We should be…

Mr. SMITH: It already has turned into a cartoon. And one of the real interesting things about that as it becomes more and more of a cartoon, serious debate, maybe, but I didn’t think Al Gore came across that seriously. What I think we’re really seeing is, is an attempt to create a political agenda, piggyback on fears that people have, then try to put a prediction so terrible out there that, if this is the truth, the best thing you can do is to say a novena and go away.

BORGER: So does this help you? You, for example, want more environmental regulation. Does a movie like this help your group at all, Jon Coifman, get its point across?

Mr. COIFMAN: Well, nobody should be concerned that New York City is going to have a glacier problem any time soon or that we have got a tornado problem in Los Angeles. If people are interested in global warming because they’re afraid of tidal waves, it’s probably the wrong way to be looking at the problem. But what we found is that the film has actually created an opportunity like this to have these discussions, much livelier debate than we have seen in the past couple years on this. Now, what we do know about the issue and, you know, where there is no dispute, is that burning fossil fuels are pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide, which is a heat-trapping pollutant, into the atmosphere, and that the earth is getting warmer as a result. The scientists say that the earth is warming at a rate that is much faster than any natural factors could possibly explain today.

Mr. SMITH: Well, wait, wait, wait. Wait, Jon. We’re not in movie land now. We’re…

BORGER: Let him finish.

Mr. COIFMAN: And that if the trend continues as they are today, that we will be seeing serious issues over the course of the next century that are going to be real challenges to our health, to our economy, Fred, and to our environment.


Mr. SMITH: Jon should actually have been in the movie. He would have had a lot more reason to be there. Seriously, what’s happening is, as we realize that climate is much more complicating than we thought it was, that non-man causal factors are dramatically bigger, and we see that the trends up and down on weather…

BORGER: You say non-man causal. Speak English.

Mr. SMITH: Well, for example, it’s essentially not driving our SUVs around.


Mr. SMITH: It’s effectively the sun’s radiation, it’s wind currents, incredible complex issues which aren’t in the movie, of course, because they don’t fit into ascience fiction is not science. A science debate on this would be very important. We have been trying to mount that. We aren’t getting much discussion from Jons of the world.

Mr. COIFMAN: Yeah.

BORGER: Do you agree it is non-man causal, as Fred says, that we have to worry about?

Mr. COIFMAN: I’m not sure I would put it that way. But theand Fred probably wouldn’t have put it that way either. But, you know, again, what we have seen from the National Academy of Sciences, the intergovernmental panel on global climate change, most mainstream climate researchers say that the…

Mr. SMITH: Jon.

Mr. COIFMAN: …rate of climate change…

Mr. SMITH: Jon, the scientists…

Mr. COIFMAN: …that we have experienced in the century has exceeded what the natural factors now…

Mr. SMITH: Jon, no. Jon, we’ve got towe know that carbon dioxide levels are rising. We know, all things equal, but the trouble is all things aren’t equal. What we’re finding out today is that essentially two things are happening. It doesn’t look like the earth is going catastrophically warming, and it looks like if we’re concerned about that, the solution is not more regulation, it’s freeing up the economy to produce the wealth to produce the knowledge that we can address that.

BORGER: OK, Jon, last word.

Mr. COIFMAN: We can agree that we’re not going to see a catastrophic climate change, but we do think we need to start moving the solutions, start cleaning up emissions. The good, sensible, bipartisan, market-based solution…

Mr. SMITH: Market-based.

Mr. COIFMAN: …like the McCain-Lieberman…

Mr. SMITH: Higher energy tax.

Mr. COIFMAN: …bipartisan global warming bill.

Mr. SMITH: Higher energy tax. This is not a solution to world’s problem.

BORGER: OK, guys. Guys, we’re going to have to end it there.

Mr. COIFMAN: All right.

BORGER: Thanks so much, Fred Smith and Jon Coifman. Thanks so much.

Mr. SMITH: All right, thank you.

Mr. COIFMAN: Good to be here.