Kyoto Negotiations

Richard Morrison, William Yeatman and Ryan Young join forces to bring you Episode 74 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We talk about the COP-15 post-game and China’s changing reputation with the climate change crowd starting around (7:00).

Your hosts Richard Morrison and Jeremy Lott team up with special guest co-host Tim Carney to bring you Episode 73 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We start with happenings at COP-15 in Copenhagen and the suppression of Phelim McAleer’s Climategate questions (segment runs 0:45-7:00). We end with an interview with Tim Carney, author of the new book Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses (available online and at fine booksellers everywhere).

Your host Richard Morrison teams up with collaborators Jeremy Lott and William Yeatman to bring you Episode 72 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We begin with UN climate hypocrisy in Copenhagen, presidential arm-twisting on health care and a cloudy look at government transparency. We conclude with the end of the tobacco road in Virginia and scandal of banking and nepotism in Venezuela.

Regular viewers of BBC News or  readers of their web site know that the BBC has been the leading promoter of global warming alarmism among the major media.  It therefore comes as real news that the BBC has recognized that the lack of any global warming for the past decade presents a problem for the alarmists to explain.  BBC weatherman and climate correspondent Paul Hudson published an article last Friday titled, “What Happened to Global Warming?”

There is nothing remotely new in anything Hudson reports, but the article is astonishing for what it reveals about the changing grounds of the debate.  Hudson concludes:  “One thing is for sure.  It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over.  Indeed some would say it is hotting up.”

Naturally, the alarmists are not amused.  Nor will they be amused by Debra Saunders’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle or the fact that the Drudge Report featured the BBC story

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was present at the Kyoto negotiations back in 1997, and predicted their failure because of the inability to get the developing nations like China to commit to emissions reductions.  He has recently returned from the Poznan Conference of the Parties aimed at drawing up Kyoto II, and is of the opinion that nothing has been learned from history.  He has set out his concerns in a letter to President-elect Obama (copy below).

Of course, in many ways the developing nations are right to object to the imposition of emissions restrictions.  Emissions represent the fastest way out of poverty for their peoples.  That's why, as I argue here, we need to think again and move away from the emissions reduction paradigm as the only solution to the global warming risk. Nevertheless, Rep. Sensenbrenner is to be congratulated for calling attention to at least one reason why the current approach is doomed to failure.

Letter follows.


The Honorable Barack Obama

President-Elect of the United States

451 6th St., N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20002



Dear Mr. President-Elect:


On November 18, speaking by videotape to the Bi-Partisan Governors’ Global Climate Summit, you invited Members of Congress who would be attending the 14th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznań, Poland to report back to you on what they learned there.   I have just returned from serving as the only Member of the U.S. House of Representatives to observe the negotiations and the only Member of Congress to observe the entire final week.  I am happy to accept your invitation. 


By way of background, I currently serve as the Ranking Republican Member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 110th Congress to study policies, strategies and technologies to substantially and permanently reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.   I have attended three prior UNFCCC Conferences of Parties and led the U.S. House delegation to Japan, which observed the 1997 negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol.  


I am deeply concerned that the current negotiations, which are intended to lead to a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol next year in Copenhagen, are recreating Kyoto’s fatal flaws.  Specifically, any treaty that does not include legally binding and verifiable greenhouse gas emissions reductions from developing countries will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate because it will not accomplish the fundamental goal of reducing global emissions.


You are aware of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which the U.S. Senate adopted by a 95-to-0 vote on July 25, 1997, expressing the sense of the Senate that the U.S. should not be a signatory to an agreement that does not include specific scheduled commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions for developing countries or will result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.  Because the Kyoto Protocol failed to satisfy these requirements, neither President Clinton nor President Bush submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.  At a meeting in Poznań, Senator John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore agreed that an international treaty must include mandatory emissions reductions from developing countries. 


The current negotiations seem to be leading toward a similarly flawed outcome.  At another meeting in Poznań, I met with negotiators from foreign countries, including China and India.  These countries, the first and third largest CO2 emitters in the world, clearly stated that they would not accept legally binding emissions reductions. 


The impasse that international negotiators have reached indicates that a new strategy is necessary.  I am eager to assist you in emphasizing that, without legally-binding,  verifiable commitments from all nations, global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are neither scientifically nor politically achievable.


I look forward to scheduling a more detailed briefing. 


My best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.





F. James Sensenbrenner         

October 4th was Bjørn Lomborg's turn at Nature Podcasts' Podium. I listened to this podcast only last week, because I have been a bit backlogged with my science podcast listening.

"Prioritization is an integral part of life. We budget, money, and time because they are limited. In the hospital's emergency room, doctors use prioritization or triage to save lives, but we do not use prioritization when we grapple with the world's biggest problems. We know that carbon emissions cause climate change. So, activists urge us to make drastic cuts in the CO2 we pump out, yet climate change is not the only problem facing the planet, malaria, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS claiming millions of lives right now. In an ideal world, we would have the money and the time to solve all these problems at a stroke. In real life, we do not. Pretending that we can do everything often just means that our money and attention goes to the problems with the loudest cheerleaders or the most media attention. We need to consider how far we should push a particular solution, making drastic cuts to carbon emissions, similar to making drastic cuts to the speed limits on our roads. Slowing traffic to a crawl would save millions of lives. We could wipe out almost all road deaths overnight, yet we reject such a drastic step as nonsensical because we accept that it would make modern life impossible. That does not mean we let cars go as fast as they want. As societies, we have decided on an appropriate speed limit for our highways after weighing up the benefits we get from the efficient transport of people and goods and then considering the number of accidents. Now, we need to have a discussion about carbon emission reductions. Likewise, we should be talking about what we are willing to sacrifice and what we hope to gain. I believe this discussion should not be left just to climate scientists. We all need to look at the wider picture and remember that global warming is not the only problem facing the planet. We should be asking what policies will best help the world overall. The answers might sometimes be surprising, as an example, we often hear that rising temperatures will mean more malaria. This is true. But are CO2 cuts the best way to help people? For every person saved from malaria through the curative protocol the same resource is spent on mosquito nets and medication could save 36,000 people. Just as there are many problems facing the planet there are many possible solutions to those challenges. My belief is that immediate carbon emission cuts are not the best way to respond to climate change, instead I believe we should invest heavily in the research and development of non-carbon emitting energy technologies which will give our kids and grandkids and China and India inexpensive tools to fix climate change by mid century while allowing for the continued development of human welfare."























The Enviros are Depressed || December 7, 2005











Correction: First, let me correct a mistake in my first report from Montreal yesterday. I wrote that Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, in reply to a question said that yes, she thought it was correct that India and China had joined the U. S. in objecting to a new round of formal negotiations on what is to follow Kyoto after 2012. What she really said was that she agreed that yes it was wrong to think that was the case. Thanks to Katie Mandes of the Pew Center for correcting my misunderstanding, and my apologies to Eileen Claussen and the Pew Center.











There are many thousands (ten?) of people at this year's COP/MOP (the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change–that is, the Rio Treaty–and the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in February) in Montreal. The Palais des Congres where it is being held is a huge and impressive building, and the whole show has been organized with admirable smoothness. Yet the total impression is underwhelming.











Nothing substantive is expected to be agreed to by the official delegates. The main energy at COPs is provided by the environmental NGOS and the endless series of side events that are held. But this year the viros are depressed. They have good reason to be depressed, of course. It has become apparent that the EU, Japan, and Canada are not going to meet their Kyoto targets. It's hard to see how another round of emissions cuts beyond 2012 can be agreed to by the current parties. Convincing major developing countries to join the energy rationing club seems hopeless. So there is good reason why the life has gone out of the Kyoto party.











Another reason for the lack of joie de vivre here in Montreal is that the COPs are being increasingly dominated by the new Kyoto technocratic establishment. There are now many thousands of people employed in implementing the mind-numbing details of the Kyoto Protocol. A substantial portion of them are in Montreal to give presentations at side events and to look for grants and contracts to fund their programs and projects.











I think this generally gloomy mood helps explain the curiously enthusiastic reception Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico and ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received. Senator Bingaman appeared at an event late yesterday afternoon held in a large meeting room in the EU Pavilion sponsored by Resources for the Future and other groups. The room was packed and overflowing.











Senator Bingaman brought a message of hope from the U. S. Senate. The tide has shifted towards mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to Senator Bingaman. As evidence, he detailed his efforts to add climate provisions to the omnibus energy bill passed and signed into law this summer. Senator Bingaman developed an amendment based on recommendations from the self-anointed and so-called National Commission on Energy Policy. His amendment would set a very easy cap on emissions and set up an emissions credits trading system which would have the government sell additional credits whenever the price reaches a few dollars a ton.











However, this modest amendment wasn't offered on the Senate floor, because as Senator Bingaman admitted yesterday, they realized that it didn't have enough support to pass. So instead Senator Bingaman offered a sense of the Senate resolution that says the Senate should pass mandatory limits on emissions before the end of the year. This non-binding resolution was added to the energy bill with 53 votes.











–Myron Ebell, Cooler Heads Coalition


























































The Team Arrives || December 6, 2005
CEI's team (Marlo Lewis, Richard Morrison, Isaac Post, and I) arrived in Montreal at 8:35 this morning and, after checking in to our hotel, reached the Palais des Congres just after 10. After registering, we immediately went to an NGO side event held by the Pew Center of Global Climate Change to discuss their report on the results of their "Climate Dialogue at Pocantico."












































































The dialogue was held on four occasions over thirteen days in 2004 and 2005 between 25 or so business, government, and "civil society" leaders. It was held at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's Pocantico conference center in Tarrytown, New York. Participants included representatives from seven big corporations, from the governments of Australia, Canada, Mexico, Britain, Argentina, Japan, China, Germany, Tuvalu, Brazil, and Malta, and top staffers from the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The dialogue was chaired by Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center, and Ged Davis, managing director of the World Economic Forum.












































































The purpose of the dialogue was to agree on recommendations for "International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012.". As far as I could tell, the most significant recommendation of the dialogue is that there needs to be a further high level political dialogue of fifteen to thirty key countries that would run parallel to new official negotiations within the Kyoto process.












































































Eileen Claussen said that the U. S. delegation's refusal to join a new round of Kyoto negotiations did not represent the American mainstream view. She expressed confidence that the next presidential administration (whether Democratic or Republican) would have a far more constructive position. Curiously, she also said that in the end countries will do what is in their national interests (which helps to explain why the Clinton and Bush policies have been remarkably similar despite their rhetorical differences). In reply to a question from Ron Bailey of Reason magazine, she admitted that India and China also appear to be blocking a new round of official talks.












































































Jim Greene of Senator Joe Biden's minority staff on the Foreign Relations Committee echoed Clausseen's views. He said that there was now a clear bi-partisan consensus in the Senate that President Bush' position is unacceptable. The official position of the U. S. does not represent the position of the Congress or state and local governments.












































































In reply to a question from my colleague Marlo Lewis, Elliot Diringer, director of the dialogue for the Pew Center, said that some of the dialogue's participants helped frame the Clean Development Partnership created by the U. S., Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. Claussen said that the dialogue was interested by the partnership but was waiting to see how robust it would be. I think that means whether it will agree to mandatory emissions cuts.












































































A questioner gave four potential factors that contributed the America's rejection of Kyoto and asked the panelists to rank them. The factors offered were: the political power of the petroleum industry, the typical American attitude not to like what to be told to do, refusal to accept the science, and that Kyoto would be a job killer. Greene replied that there were very few "flat Earthers" left in the Senate, but many Senators were concerned about saving jobs in existing industries and were not focused on all the new jobs that would be created.
























































































































































Claussen ignored the influence of big oil (perhaps because several big oil companies belong to her Pew Center), but she said that the American people recognize that the science is no longer in doubt. On the other hand, a lot of people believe that cutting emissions would be a job killer, even though reasonable people (even some in the Bush administration) know this isn't the case if it's done carefully and slowly. She also said that many Americans really didn't like government or the UN telling them what to do. To which my own reply is, thank God for the sturdy character and good sense of the American people and their abiding resistance to authoritarian government.
–Myron Ebell, Cooler Heads Coalition















































“Scientists’ Recent Comments on Global Warming and Hurricanes” examines recent claims that hurricanes are becoming dramatically worse, and that global warming is influencing the numbers, frequency and intensity of recent hurricanes in the busy 2004-2005 seasons. One focus is recent controversy over papers by Webster and Curry (Science, 2005) and by Kerry Emanuel (Nature, 2005), claiming a positive connection.

“This paper is a bit different,” says Ferguson, “because it presents the discussion directly from the participating scientists via popular press commentaries and unedited internet blogs. It makes for some highly interesting reading.” The paper demonstrates how disputes over the science of the hot topics of global warming and hurricanes are spilling over into the public arena.


Download the complete PDF.