January 2008

The results obtained by this procedure are depicted in the figure below, where it can be seen, in the words of its creator, that "the mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3°C warmer than 20th century values."

Acknowledging that temperatures in the past decade have neither reached nor surpassed their sixty-year high of 1998, “Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said he would look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century.” Reuters, January 11, 2008

Emissions trading

by Julie Walsh on January 30, 2008

in Blog

European power is a great business. Like producers everywhere, Europe's utilities are shielded from international competition by the need to produce electricity near their customers. Many get extra protection from authorities' foot-dragging on structural reform. And, since 2005, most have enjoyed an additional fillip. Under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, customers have paid for the permits the utilities require to produce carbon, despite the fact that, so far, the companies have received them for free.

The head of Britain's business lobby said yesterday that there was no chance of Britain or Europe meeting the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by the deadline set by Brussels last week.

Western intermediaries and speculators have already ploughed millions into the Russian market — five times more than Russian investors, say economy ministry officials — in anticipation of a potential 3 billion euros ($4.4 billion) market.

The Council on Foreign Relations has released a paper, “G-8’s gradual move to post-Kyoto climate change policy.”  It reads very much like a document produced by the European Commission, but was written by a CFR author who has recently addressed this topic and written equally often about AIDS, opium trading and the LaStatetino vote.

Intentionally or otherwise, the author paints a picture rather at odds with Kyoto’s reality. For example, she states that “Some Kyoto participants have found it difficult to meet their assigned targets—ranging from 5 percent to 8 percent below 1990 levels (except EU countries, which have special targets).  Of course, -5% to -8% is not the range of Kyoto promises.  Australia, for example, promised not to increase its emissions by more than +8% above 1990 levels.  But the implication is that such difficulties are the exception, not the rule.  In fact, the portion of Kyoto parties who actually did promise an emission reduction (from 1990 levels) are on track to have to purchase their entire “reduction”.

Note the “except EU countries…”  Kyotophiles are aware that the European countries – using even the more limited definition of EU Member States – account for 25 of the 35 countries covered under Kyoto.  The EU-15, as she does admit, rearranged their touted, promised reductions so that 10 of the 15 lowered their promised reductions, with 5 of the 15 promising emission increases.  At least she said “assigned targets” and not “reduction promises”.

Further, only two EU countries (and arguably none of them) aren’t among those “some”: the UK for reasons described below, and Sweden, which made a promise to increase its emissions, but not beyond a certain point.  Both project being at or very near to their promises.  At least reading the UK press they, too, have found this difficult to achieve, so it is fair to say that all of them have found it difficult.  Indeed, not one country has actually reduced emissions since Kyoto was agreed in 1997; those countries on track to meet their promises are former Soviet bloc nations who reduced emissions the old fashioned way, through economic collapse.

Stating things more plainly, most of the 10 non-EU countries have had trouble meeting their promise, as have nearly all of the 25 EU countries not given a free ride due to having collapsed economically.  The word choice is either uninformed or misleading cheerleading.

The enthusiasm for Europe’s leadership runs throughout.  As noted the author acknowledges EU’s Article 4 “burden sharing” (shifting) agreement, writing “The protocol allowed the European Union to assign individual countries their own targets, which go as high as 28 percent below 1990 levels.” [link to “Evolution Markets” homepage provided in original, the relevance of which is unclear]

The 28% is from tiny Luxembourg, this promise a consequence of it having shuttered the largest emitting facility after 1990; similarly, Germany and the UK made (numerically) bold promises of -21% and -12.5%, conditioned upon their having mothballed East German industry and “dashed to gas,” respectively, both one-offs that occurred after the 1990 baseline.  This all explains why Europe’s one must-have in Kyoto was a 1990 baseline. 

The author fails to mention that Europe’s promises also range to as low as +27 [Portugal] above 1990, that only 8 of the EU-15 actually promised reductions from 1990, 5 of them greater than the EU-wide promise of -8% and 3 of them more forgiving, that 2 countries promised no reduction at all and 5 of them promised increases but not beyond a certain amount.

Further protective of Europe, the author writes “During the 2007 Bali conference, the United States, along with countries such as Canada and Japan, blocked an EU proposal for mandatory emissions cuts of 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—jeopardizing negotiations.  She fails to mention that at the 2005 COP in Montreal, Europe and Canada rejected the effort to make Kyoto binding and enforceable, which she implies throughout Kyoto is (it isn’t, as the effort to make it so, and Article 18, make clear).  Of course, this served to keep negotiations alive, as no one apparently wants to be bound by their global warming rhetoric and will only move forward on the condition they won’t.

Statements like “The Bush administration and Republican lawmakers opposed to emissions caps have been touting the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate” are gratuitously partisan given that most lawmakers oppose emissions caps; the Democratic Congress says it wants Bush to act on CO2 just as they claimed to want the Republican Congress to adopt CO2 controls, but haven’t been keen on adopting such a thing themselves.

There’s plenty more and, as they say, read the whole thing, but be forewarned it is advocacy, not analysis.


The Climate Hot Potato

by William Yeatman on January 29, 2008

As with the global warming advocate who attributes each weather event – hot or cold, wet or dry – to his creed, there’s nothing like starting one’s day off having your beliefs or assumptions affirmed.  So it was when I picked up today’s Washington Post, turning to its editorials confident that the lead piece would feature some angst over the lack of promises made about global warming to-dos in last night’s SOTU speech.

Lo and behold, despite the many weighty issues of our time and addressed last night, in true self-parody fashion the Post laments in its ultimate paragraph:

“But the greatest disappointment of the night was his failure to commit to working with Congress on legislation to create a mandatory carbon emissions reduction system in the United States — without which no international accord will be possible.”

Wow.  That's disappointment, but its expression is notable not so much for intimating that the U.S. enhances its bargaining position by adopting in advance some version of what we are asking others to adopt in return for our acquiescence; thank goodness WaPo editorial writers aren’t doing our negotiating for us (again/yet).

No, most instructive is the mindset betrayed by this appeal, which is also apparent in the halls of Congress: Bush must take ownership of this issue before he leaves office.

Remember, the next administration could just as easily push this agenda, like asking Congress to approve the Post's desired cap-and-trade legislation, or make the relevant findings.  Regarding the latter, this would actually allow more careful deliberation given the regulatory challenges/demands are recent: making a Clean Air Act “endangerment” finding, and listing the thriving polar bear as “threatened”.  But, maybe more careful deliberation isn't a good thing.  Further, the global warming establishment sounds confident that the next president will be “one of theirs” (Clinton, McCain, Obama).

Similarly, Congress has the ability to enact that which they insist that Bush either first ask them to enact, or adopt through unfortunate abuse of existing statutory language.  Yet you have noticed that, after seven years of shrill demands that hearings are an irresponsible delay tactic and waste of time and Congress must act now, the new majority seized the gavel and…opted for dozens of hearings not one of which, until recently, was on an identifiable piece of legislation (which bills, of course, carry identifiable price tags).

This is because the agenda is very expensive, intrusive, would lead to job loss and increased energy costs – just as it already has in Europe.  So the better scenario for them is for Bush to take the blame for, er, helm of the policy cruise they claim they are eager to board.  They offer the occasional excuse that, well, that mean Bush would veto it so there’s no point trying.  That’s of limited persuasion given that the past twelve months are replete with rhetorical and actual examples that such threats are no deterrent whatsoever.

As my colleague Marlo Lewis, DC attorney Peter Glaser and others have pointed out, for Bush to relieve Congress of responsibility for that which their lips say they really really want, but which their reluctance to take responsibility for says no no, would necessarily trigger statutory implications unprecedented in their insertion of a regulatory agency into the U.S. economy.  The consequences would include the unfortunate and unintended, in addition to the intended and expensive, requiring a “legislative fix.”

That is, for Bush to do what the Post and others insist with increasing desperation would not merely rescue Congress from having to follow through on their (post-2006 election) promises, but also position them to clean up Bush’s mess.  Better still, this would leave the regulated community grateful for the “fix” that would, of course, include imposition of the cap-and-trade regime that they presently oppose (but-for the rent-seekers who, also in classic fashion, can’t agree on whose scheme should make who windfall-wealthy).

If you embrace this agenda, the choice is simple.  The Post gets it.


State of the Union

by William Yeatman on January 29, 2008

President Bush made it clear in his State of the Union speech that he has not changed his mind that the best policies to address global warming are based on developing new technologies rather than enacting mandatory targets and timetables to reduce emissions. He also said that any new international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol must include commitments from the major developing nations. Since China, India, and other major developing countries have adamantly opposed agreeing to mandatory emissions cuts for themselves, this means that no new treaty will be agreed that includes Kyoto-style mandatory targets and timetables–that is, as long as the next administration continues President Bush's policies.


President Bush is correct to prefer new technologies to mandatory emissions cuts and the governments of China, India, and other developing countries are right to oppose any new international agreement that would consign their people to perpetual energy poverty because the blessings of abundant energy far outweigh any potential negative impacts of potential global warming.


It is also noteworthy that President Bush did not comment on cap-and-trade bills in Congress, on whether the EPA would make an endangerment finding for CO2, or on whether the polar bear would be listed. Hopefully, these are signals that the president does not support cap-and-trade and is having second thoughts about endangerment and the polar bear listing. Even if one thinks, as I do not, that a Kyoto second round is desirable, it would be utterly foolish to enter into mandatory domestic programs to reduce emissions before an international treaty is agreed.