Kyoto Negotiations

Senate Defeats Lieberman-McCain Bill to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Senate defeated a scaled-down version of Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCains (R-Az.) Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139, on October 30 by a vote of 55 to 43. Forty-five Republicans and ten Democrats voted against the measure. Thirty-seven Democrats were joined by six Republicans in favor.

The Democrats voting against were: Baucus, Breaux, Byrd, Conrad, Dorgan, Landrieu, Levin, Lincoln, Miller, and Pryor. Republicans voting for were: Chafee, Collins, Gregg, Lugar, McCain, and Snowe. Democrats Edwards and Ben Nelson missed the vote.

Lieberman and McCain gained some additional support for their cap-and-trade bill by making special deals for some sectors of the energy economy and by offering only the phase one target of cutting emissions to 2000 levels by 2010. The obvious hypocrisy of this ploy became apparent during the floor debate. The initial emissions cap will do nothing to address the alleged potential problem of global warming, so further, much more expensive reductions would be necessary. S. 139 would create the structure and incentives necessary to make those further reductions. This goal is made explicit in the section on “Ensuring Target Adequacy,” which would require the Under Secretary of Commerce to review the emissions reduction targets in relation to the aim of stabilizing greenhouse gas levels at a safe level.

Senator McCain warned repeatedly that they would be bringing the bill back to the floor again and again. However, immediately after the vote, Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.), who led the opposition to the bill, moved that S. 139 be referred back to the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he chairs. S. 139 was discharged from the committee to the floor as part of the unanimous consent agreement to pass the energy bill in July. It lacks the votes to be voted out of committee

Attorneys General Appeal EPA Decision on CO2

An article in Environmental Science and Technology (Oct. 13), the journal of the American Chemical Society, suggests that a global treaty focusing on intercontinental air pollution could be a better approach to controlling climate change than the Kyoto Protocol. The researchers claim that, by cooperating to reduce pollutants like ozone and aerosols, countries could address their own regional health concerns, keep their downwind neighbors happy and reduce the threat of global warming in the process.

The study, from researchers at Columbia, Harvard and Princeton universities, acknowledges a need to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but proposes that a treaty dealing with air pollutants, like ozone and aerosols, could be a better first step because it unites the interests of all countries concerned. As aerosols and ozone contribute to large-scale climate problems, the researchers argue, the implications of controlling them go beyond air pollution into the realm of climate change.

The researchers suggest a treaty based loosely on the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), which initially addressed acid rain deposition in Europe through voluntary participation. The convention has since been amended to cover a broad range of pollutants, and participants include countries from Western and Eastern Europe as well as the United States and Canada.

Expanding such a treaty to include Asia would give the United States even more incentive to participate, the researchers claim, since westerly winds spread pollution from that part of the world to North America. (Eurekalert, Oct. 15)

Reaction to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putins decision to put off ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has led to a variety of confused reactions from the climate change industry and their backers.

IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri was only able to assert, “I don’t think a negative decision on Kyoto would be in Russia’s interest overall.” He went on to say: “Russia is a large country with a rich history and has ambitions to emerge once again as a global power. It cannot, therefore, gain in standing politically if it does not join hands with other countries in doing what is required to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases.” (Reuters, Oct. 17).

EU ministers responded by merely restating their position as held before the Moscow conference. The environment ministers of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement concluding, “Climate change is a real problem. Over the last few years, we have begun to experience more extreme climatic phenomena. This summer, parts of Europe faced an exceptional heat wave and drought that caused deaths and illness among older age groups, heat stress to livestock, forest fires, and damage to crops.”

They went on, “The scientific community has gathered convincing evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Extreme events, such as heat waves or heavy precipitation, will be more frequent, more intense. What we experienced this summer is effectively an illustration of what we are likely to see more frequently in the not too distant future. The international community needs to act with determination to deal with this problem. . . There is no credible alternative to [Kyoto] on the table. We call upon Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.” (BBC News Online, Oct. 23).

The David Suzuki Foundation in Canada alleged that Putin was being “leaned on” by President Bush and could not have come up with his decision independently (http://www.davidsuzu

The World Wildlife Federations representative in Moscow, meanwhile, concluded that the current position was irrelevant: “But the Kyoto accord is a win-win proposition for Russia. One can expect the government and legislature to move ahead with ratification next summer, when the elections are over and they can return to considering Russia’s long-term interests.” (International Herald Tribune, Oct 28).

EU Backs Away from Kyoto

According to the Wall Street Journal Europe (Oct. 29), European Union diplomats are suggesting that some member governments are backing away from a promise under the Kyoto protocol to give aid to poorer countries. The EU had promised in 2001 to contribute 450 million ($523 million) from 2005 on to developing countries in order to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The dispute centers on how the cost will be shared, with Spain, Greece and Portugal wanting to contribute less than had been agreed. The southern EU member countries argue that they are poorer than northern countries and so should pay 20 million less each, but EU law requires that countries pay in proportion to their emissions rather than to their wealth.

Meanwhile, the Journal also reported that the European Parliament is delaying the first reading of a bill designed to regulate emissions trading, putting at risk a deadline of 2005 for implementing the legislation. The EU estimates that trading would reduce the 3.4 billion cost of implementing Kyoto by about 680 million.

The EU is currently on target to cut by emissions by 4.7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The Kyoto protocol requires an 8 percent reduction.

Replacement for Kyoto Urged

An article in Environmental Science and Technology (Oct. 13), the journal of the American Chemical Society, suggests that a global treaty focusing on intercontinental air pollution could be a better approach to controlling climate change than the Kyoto Protocol. The researchers claim that, by cooperating to reduce pollutants like ozone and aerosols, countries could address their own regional health concerns, keep their downwind neighbors happy and reduce the threat of global warming in the process.

The study, from researchers at Columbia, Harvard and Princeton universities, acknowledges a need to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but proposes that a treaty dealing with air pollutants, like ozone and aerosols, could be a better first step because it unites the interests of all countries concerned. As aerosols and ozone contribute to large-scale climate problems, the researchers argue, the implications of controlling them go beyond air pollution into the realm of climate change.

The researchers suggest a treaty based loosely on the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), which initially addressed acid rain deposition in Europe through voluntary participation. The convention has since been amended to cover a broad range of pollutants, and participants include countries from Western and Eastern Europe as well as the United States and Canada.

Expanding such a treaty to include Asia would give the United States even more incentive to participate, the researchers claim, since westerly winds spread pollution from that part of the world to North America. (Eurekalert, Oct. 15)

Environmentalists Target BP and Shell

Despite BPs image (“Beyond Petroleum”) as the most environmentally-friendly oil giant, it is coming under increased attack from environmental groups in the UK. Rising Tide — described by Londons Guardian on Oct. 23 as a “loose-knit group of green activists” — organized a rowdy demonstration at a talk given by BP chairman Lord Browne in London that day. The activities included a protestor interrupting Lord Browne during his speech with a series of accusations against the company.

Friends of the Earth also confirmed that it was “re-evaluating relations” with BP and Royal Dutch Shell because of their “apparent failure to turn rhetoric into action.”

A climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Roger Higman, told the Guardian, “ExxonMobil is still the bad guy, but we are getting increasingly frustrated with BP and Shell, which talk about climate change but put their money into [oil and gas] developments in places such as Russia and the Middle East rather than renewable schemes. We are not going to be cosy with them because they are doing bad things.”

Rising Tide claims BP invests less than 1 percent of its annual budget on solar and other renewable energy sources, which it points out is much less than they spend on advertising and public relations. It said, “Don’t be fooled by oil company public relations that the only people opposing their destructive agenda are privileged western environmentalists. In fact resistance to big oil’s constant need to find new oil-rich frontiers is most determined amongst some of the world’s poorest people.”

Kyoto Ratification Latest

Since March of this year, eleven more countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol: Botswana, Ghana, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Namibia, Moldova, St. Lucia, Solomon Islands, and Switzerland. Of these, Switzerland is the only Annex I country subject to emissions controls under the pact, responsible for 0.3 percent of the emissions concerned.

Switzerland’s ratification brings the total percentage of Annex I emissions belonging to countries that have ratified the protocol to 44.2 percent. The USA (36.1), Australia (2.1) and Russia (17.4) together make up 55.6 percent, meaning that as long as either Russia or the U. S. fails to ratify the protocol, it cannot go into effect.

Prebon Reads Writing on the Wall

Prebon Energy, a leading global energy broker, has got out of the emissions trading business. The following is the statement from the company’s president explaining the decision:

“To our Emissions Customers,

After careful consideration, Prebon Energy has decided to exit the air quality trading markets effective immediately. Given current market conditions, we have decided to focus our energies in other areas where we believe we can offer value to our customers; including, but not limited to, the natural gas and electricity markets. Staff will be available to handle any queries regarding emissions trades that have either been consummated or are pending.

Sincerely, Edward Novak, President, Prebon Energy.”

Emissions trading prices in Europe have failed to hit the levels predicted, while the voluntary exchange in the US has suffered from a dearth of buyers.

Wind Farms in UK Raise Environmental Objections

A long article in London’s Observer on October 5 pointed out the many and varied objections locals and environmentalists are raising against the wind farms springing up around the country in an effort to meet the United Kingdom government’s target of generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

Self-professed ‘left-wing environmentalist,’ Martin Wright, told the paper: “Since the Second World War, there’s been a consensus that landscape matters…. That’s broken down here. If people in London knew the place, they would be appalled. And yet we’re portrayed as nuclear-loving nimbies in the press…. Wind turbines are a good idea in the right place…. But sticking hundreds of them on wild land is not a good idea. For a small, heavily populated country we have some stunning landscapes, but they’re under threat of industrialization.”

The article also points out the threat to local avian wildlife: “Research shows, however, that wind farms are killing far more birds than the public realizes. A five-year study in California revealed that the Altamont Pass wind farm kills an average of 40 to 60 golden eagles a year, along with ‘several hundred’ hawks, falcons and other birds of prey. In Spain, a report commissioned by the regional government of Navarra concluded that 368 turbines at 10 sites had killed nearly 7,000 wild birds in a single year, including 409 vultures, 24 eagles and 650 bats.

“In Germany, studies show turbines have killed dozens of rare red kites…. Red kites are a conservation success story, brought back from the brink of extinction in this area [of the UK], but two were killed at this small site alone last summer. Other rare British birds are also under threat as the turbines proliferate…. A farm of 27 turbines, each 325ft high, at Edinbane on Skye has planning consent, despite RSPB objections that the site was too close to sea eagles and several breeding pairs of golden eagles, as well as merlin and hen harriers. All four species have the highest possible legal protection.”

Finally, energy consultant and TV personality Professor Ian Fells pointed out that, “To meet the 2010 target, Britain will have to build 400 to 500 turbines each year. Each will be a 3MW machine, bigger than anything yet seen. ‘I think they’ll be doing well to get there by 2020,’ Fell says. ‘There’s some wishful thinking in the latest White Paper. And wind power is not completely clean. You have to build huge concrete foundations and service roads and so on.'”

Moscow Conference Casts Doubt over Kyoto’s Future

The United Nations’ World Climate Change Conference, which concluded in Moscow on October 3, ended without reaching a consensus on the issue. A senior economic adviser to President Putin stated that he found the answers from the scientific organizers to his detailed questions over climate change science (which for the most part simply quoted from the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report issued two years ago) were unconvincing. When the debate was opened up to the floor on the final day, conference chairman Bert Bolin was forced to admit that nine out of 10 questions from the floor questioned the “consensus” on anthropogenic climate change.

After the conference, Russian advisers were at pains to stress that their skepticism towards Kyoto was based on genuine misgivings over the treaty’s scientific basis and the effects of climate change on Russia rather than simply a negotiating tactic to extract more concessions from the west. An unnamed source told Reuters Oct. 14, “I do not know how clearly what [the senior adviser] said was translated, but judging by the commentaries that appeared the words were interpreted as brinkmanship…. This is not a game, it is a very serious question…about the theory that (the protocol) is based on, and a number of other questions such as the economic issue.”

At time of writing, there has been little official reaction to the conference’s outcome from Kyoto-supporting governments or environmental lobby groups. Annie Petsonk of Environmental Defense, who attended the conference, alleged to Greenwire (Oct. 15) that, “Scientists and economists who spoke in favor of Kyoto often found their microphones cut off and were not allowed to speak until the last day of the conference.”

However, sources suggest that high-level officials preparing for the UNFCC’s ninth Conference of the Parties in Milan in December are bowing to the inevitable. BNA’s Daily Environment Report reported (Oct. 10) that, “For the first time since its drafting, official discussions will include the possibility of combating climate change without the Kyoto Protocol, although talks will focus more on other issues that include the use and transfer of new technologies, capacity building in developing countries, and sustainable development.”

Schwarzenegger’s Campaign Cheers Environmentalists

According to Greenwire (Oct. 15), California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “policy agenda reads like an environmentalist’s wish list.” He has set a target of reducing “air pollution by up to 50 percent, through incentives for clean fuel usage, and build hydrogen car fueling stations along California highways. The governor-elect also supports the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which would require that 20 percent of the state’s power come from solar and wind power by 2017.”

In addition, he has promised to defend the state’s greenhouse gas legislation against legal challenges, saying, “California’s landmark legislation to cut greenhouse gases is now law, and I will work to implement it and to win the expected challenges in court along the way.”

Schwarzenegger’s campaign was not wholly attractive to the environmental lobby, which reacted badly to his suggestion that he might want to close down the state’s environmental protection agency as part of his campaign against government bureaucracy. However, Terry Tamminen, an unpaid adviser to Schwarzenegger on environmental issues, and executive director of Environment Now, told Greenwire that he hoped the new Governor would be able to work more closely with the White House than Gov. Davis did on issues like global warming and air pollution, saying, “As a Republican governor, Arnold is much more likely to be able to work with the Bush administration to resolve differences…. California could persuade the federal government to take another look at those policies.”

Deal on Energy Bill “Close”

Progress on the energy bill conference stalled over recent weeks, but Republican conference leaders are now confident they are ‘close’ to a deal on the outstanding disagreements over electricity, tax, and MTBE issues. Those disagreements are over whether merchant power generators should have to pay for transmission upgrades and issues surrounding liability protection for and a federal ban on the fuel additive MTBE. Sources suggest that one of the issues (it is not known which one) has been sent to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) to try to reach some resolution. The package of tax incentives has not been finished, either. The conferees have agree to drop the Senate’ bill’s three climate titles and the 10% renewable porfolio standard for electric utilities. There is confusion over whether the provisions for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for an inventory of oil and gas resources in the outer continental shelf have been dropped. Sen. Joseph Liebermen (D.-Conn.) had issued a press release congratulating Republican conference leaders for removing the provisions, but retracted his statement when no announcement was forthcoming.

Collusion Charges “Absurd”

Following an allegation by the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Maine that the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, had colluded with administration officials to sue the Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Data Quality Act over its dissemination of the junk-science based Climate Action Report 2002, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) has written to the White House asking officials to release to him any documents relating to the alleged collusion.

CEI rejected the charge as preposterous. “This started as a suit against a Clinton administration global warming report,” CEI President Fred L. Smith, Jr. said in a press release. “The accusations of collusion are absurd and just an attempt to divert attention from the real issue-that junk science is being used as the basis for climate change reports, which could lead to policies that cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars with little, if any, benefit.”

CEI’s legal action began against the Climate Action Report’s predecessor, the National Assessment on Climate Change, in October 2000.

European politicians are fond of berating the United States for its failure to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but newly published figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA see show that all but four of the European Unions fifteen nations are increasing their emission of greenhouse gases.

In both 2000 and 2001, the latest years for which figures are available, the amount of six greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere increased in Europe as a whole. The EEA blames the 2001 increase on a colder winter that led most households to burn more fuel, but admits that higher use of transportation and greater use of fossil fuels in producing electricity and heat were also responsible.

Carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to 82 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, increased 1.6 percent in 2001, leaving them, coincidentally, 1.6 percent higher than in the baseline year of 1990. The EU pledged at Kyoto to reduce its total emissions by 8 percent of the 1990 level by the period 2008-2012.

Some countries are noticeably less efficient at achieving their Kyoto pledges than others. While the United Kingdom has already reduced its emissions by 12 percent against its target of a 12.5 percent reduction, Spain, which was required to limit growth in emissions to 15 percent, has in fact seen them increase by 32 percent to date. Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, which are all required to reduce emissions, have actually increased their production of greenhouse gases. Finland increased its emissions by over 7 percent in 2001 alone.

Only Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom seem to be on track to meet their public promises. France is very slightly off target. These nations include the three biggest economies in the EU. However, as the EU made a collective commitment to reduce its emissions, the overall trend taking the smaller economies into account is such that Europe is overshooting its target for emissions reduction.

Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at London University, told BBC News Online, “One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity. While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn’t have a snowflake in hell’s chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets.” (BBC News Online, May 6, 2003).

Japans industrial sector is beginning to grouse about its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, which the government ratified last year. According to Taishi Sugiyama, a senior researcher at Japans independent Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry, industry is putting considerable pressure on the government to rethink the Kyoto Protocol. Apparently, the government is listening.

Japan was one of the last countries to ratify Kyoto, partly due to strong opposition by industry groups and the Japanese Conservative Party, which favored voluntary reductions. But the government also felt obligated to ratify a treaty named for its ancient capitol. Now, nearly a year later, industry has become increasingly resentful of the Kyoto Protocol, said Sugiyama, who spoke to the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. last week.

Now the government is looking ahead to the 2005 negotiations when Kyoto signatories will discuss actions to be taken beyond 2013. Experts, such as Sugiyama, expect that the government will push for voluntary emissions reductions targets. Others disagree, however, saying that it would be very difficult for Japan to back away from the treaty.

Part of the resentment of the treaty comes from the assumptions the government used to determine its ability to meet the targets. For

example, it assumed that cuts in industrial emissions would be accomplished in large part through carbon leakage. In other words, heavy industry would close plants in Japan and open new plants on the Asian mainland, which the affected industries may have been surprised to learn. There was also widespread doubt that Japan would be able to meet its Kyoto targets, a sentiment the government apparently ignored.

Industry leaders also feel that the treaty is unfair. They argue that Japan is the only country that has enacted truly aggressive implementation policies, while the Kyoto Protocol allows European Union countries to buy emissions credits from less industrialized Eastern European countries, thereby avoiding the need for significant emissions reductions. Moreover, the EU has replaced much of its coal-fired capacity with natural gas since 1990, which serves as the baseline year for Kyoto reductions, thereby making the EUs target much less onerous.

Finally, industry argues that Japan made significant emissions reductions prior to 1990, when the government embarked on a tremendously costly twenty-year program to cope with the Arab oil embargo, making the 1990 baseline unfair to Japan. “We have already done much,” said Sugiyama. “Still, Kyoto requires [Japan] to reduce emissions 6 percent. Given that situation, its going to be extremely difficult to reduce emissions further.”

Last October the government organized a committee to revisit the Kyoto agreement. The committee, made up of 30 stakeholders, half of which are industry representatives, will present its findings to the government this month. It is likely, said Sugiyama, that it will call for a new protocol or an amended agreement with a combination of voluntary and mandatory targets (Greenwire, March 6, 2003).

Please note that this glossary was compiled with defininitions from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Absorption of Radiation. The uptake of radiation by a solid body, liquid or gas. The absorbed energy may be transferred or re-emitted.

Acid Rain. Also known as “acid deposition.” Acidic aerosols in the atmosphere are removed from the atmosphere by wet deposition (rain, snow, fog) or dry deposition (particles sticking to vegetation). Acidic aerosols are present in the atmosphere primarily due to discharges of gaseous sulfur oxides (sulfur dioxide) and nitrogen oxides from both anthropogenic and natural sources. In the atmosphere these gases combine with water to form acids.

Aerosols. Particles of matter, solid or liquid, larger than a molecule but small enough to remain suspended in the atmosphere. Natural sources include salt particles from sea spray and clay particles as a result of weathering of rocks, both of which are carried upward by the wind. Aerosols can also originate as a result of human activities and in this case are often considered pollutants. See also Sulfate Aerosols.

Albedo. The ratio of reflected to incident light; albedo can be expressed as either a percentage or a fraction of 1. Snow covered areas have a high albedo (up to about 0.9 or 90%) due to their white color, while vegetation has a low albedo (generally about 0.1 or 10%) due to the dark color and light absorbed for photosynthesis. Clouds have an intermediate albedo and are the most important contributor to the Earth’s albedo. The Earth’s aggregate albedo is approximately 0.3.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The group of Pacific and Caribbean nations who call for relatively fast action by developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The AOSIS countries fear the effects of rising sea levels and increased storm activity predicted to accompany global warming. Its plan is to hold Annex I Parties to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2005.

Annex I Parties. Industrialized countries that, as parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000 to 1990 levels. Annex I Parties consist of countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and countries designated as Economies-in-Transition.

Anthropogenic. Derived from human activities.

Atmosphere. The mixture of gases surrounding the Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere consists of about 79.1% nitrogen (by volume), 20.9% oxygen, 0.036% carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other gases. The atmosphere can be divided into a number of layers according to its mixing or chemical characteristics, generally determined by its thermal properties (temperature). The layer nearest the Earth is the troposphere, which reaches up to an altitude of about 8 km (about 5 miles) in the polar regions and up to 17 km (nearly 11 miles) above the equator. The stratosphere, which reaches to an altitude of about 50 km (31 miles) lies atop the troposphere. The mesosphere which extends up to 80-90 km is atop the stratosphere, and finally, the thermosphere, or ionosphere, gradually diminishes and forms a fuzzy border with outer space. There is relatively little mixing of gases between layers.

Baseline Emissions. The emissions that would occur without policy intervention (in a business-as-usual scenario). Baseline estimates are needed to determine the effectiveness of emissions reduction programs (often called mitigation strategies).

Berlin Mandate. A ruling negotiated at the first Conference of the Parties (CoP 1), which took place in March, 1995, concluding that the present commitments under the Framework Convention on Climate Change are not adequate. Under the Framework Convention, developed countries pledged to take measures aimed at returning their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Berlin Mandate establishes a process that would enable the Parties to take appropriate action for the period beyond 2000, including a strengthening of developed country commitments, through the adoption of a protocol or other legal instruments.

Biogeochemical Cycle. The chemical interactions that take place among the atmosphere, biosphere , hydrosphere, and geosphere.

Biomass. Organic nonfossil material of biological origin. For example, trees and plants are biomass.

Biomass Energy. Energy produced by combusting renewable biomass materials such as wood. The carbon dioxide emitted from burning biomass will not increase total atmospheric carbon dioxide if this consumption is done on a sustainable basis (i.e., if in a given period of time, regrowth of biomass takes up as much carbon dioxide as is released from biomass combustion). Biomass energy is often suggested as a replacement for fossil fuel combustion which has large greenhouse gas emissions.

Biosphere. The region on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere inhabited by living organisms.

Borehole. Any exploratory hole drilled into the Earth or ice to gather geophysical data. Climate researchers often take ice core samples, a type of borehole, to predict atmospheric composition in earlier years.

Carbon Cycle. The global scale exchange of carbon among its reservoirs, namely the atmosphere, oceans, vegetation, soils, and geologic deposits and minerals. This involves components in food chains, in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, in the hydrosphere and in the geosphere.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The greenhouse gas whose concentration is being most affected directly by human activities. CO2 also serves as the reference to compare all other greenhouse gases (see carbon dioxide equivalents). The major source of CO2 emissions is fossil fuel combustion. CO2 emissions are also a product of forest clearing, biomass burning, and non-energy production processes such as cement production. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have been increasing at a rate of about 0.5% per year and are now about 30% above preindustrial levels.

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CDE). A metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential (GWP). Carbon dioxide equivalents are commonly expressed as “million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMTCDE)” or “million short tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MSTCDE)” The carbon dioxide equivalent for a gas is derived by multiplying the tons of the gas by the associated GWP.

MMTCDE= (million metric tons of a gas) * (GWP of the gas)

For example, the GWP for methane is 24.5. This means that emissions of one million metric tons of methane is equivalent to emissions of 24.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon may also be used as the reference and other greenhouse gases may be converted to carbon equivalents. To convert carbon to carbon dioxide, multiply the carbon by 44/12 (the ratio of the molecular weight of carbon dioxide to carbon).

Carbon Equivalent (CE). A metric measure used to compare the emissions of the different greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential (GWP). Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are most commonly expressed as “million metric tons of carbon equivalents” (MMTCE). Global warming potentials are used to convert greenhouse gases to carbon dioxide equivalents. Carbon dioxide equivalents can then be converted to carbon equivalents by multiplying the carbon dioxide equivalents by 12/44 (the ratio of the molecular weight of carbon to carbon dioxide). Thus, the formula to derive carbon equivalents is:

MMTCE = (million metric tons of a gas) * (GWP of the gas) * (12/44)

Carbon Sequestration. The uptake and storage of carbon. Trees and plants, for example, absorb carbon dioxide, release the oxygen and store the carbon. Fossil fuels were at one time biomass and continue to store the carbon until burned.

Carbon Sinks. Carbon reservoirs and conditions that take in and store more carbon (carbon sequestration) than they release. Carbon sinks can serve to partially offset greenhouse gas emissions. Forests and oceans are common carbon sinks.

Chlorofluorocarbons and Related Compounds. This family of anthropogenic compounds includes chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), bromofluorcarbons (halons), methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, and hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs). These compounds have been shown to deplete stratospheric ozone, and therefore are typically referred to as ozone depleting substances. The most ozone-depleting of these compounds are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

Climate. The average weather (usually taken over a 30-year time period) for a particular region and time period. Climate is not the same as weather, but rather, it is the average pattern of weather for a particular region. Weather describes the short-term state of the atmosphere. Climatic elements include precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, phenomena such as fog, frost, and hail storms, and other measures of the weather.

Climate Change (also referred to as ‘global climate change’). The term ‘climate change’ is sometimes used to refer to all forms of climatic inconsistency, but because the Earth’s climate is never static, the term is more properly used to imply a significant change from one climatic condition to another. In some cases, ‘climate change’ has been used synonymously with the term, ‘global warming’; scientists however, tend to use the term in the wider sense to also include natural changes in climate. See also Enhanced Greenhouse Effect.

Climate Change Action Plan (). Unveiled in October, 1993 by President Clinton, the CCAP is the U.S. plan for meeting its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the terms of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The goal of the CCAP is to reduce U.S. emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The CCAP, which consists of some 50 voluntary federal programs that span all sectors of the economy, uses a win-win approach by helping program partners save energy, save money, and gain access to clean technology while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Feedback. An atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial, or other process that is activated by the direct climate change induced by changes in radiative forcing. Climate feedbacks may increase (positive feedback) or diminish (negative feedback) the magnitude of the direct climate change.

Climate Lag. The delay that occurs in climate change as a result of some factor that changes only very slowly. For example, the effects of releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere may not be known for some time because a large fraction is dissolved in the ocean and only released to the atmosphere many years later.

Climate Model. A quantitative way of representing the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice. Models can range from relatively simple to quite comprehensive. Also see General Circulation Model.

Climate Modeling. The simulation of the climate using computer-based models. Also see General Circulation Model.

Climate Sensitivity. The equilibrium response of the climate to a change in radiative forcing; for example, a doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration.

Climate System (or Earth System). The atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere, the cryosphere, and the geosphere, together make up the climate system.

Cogeneration. The process by which two different and useful forms of energy are produced at the same time. For example, while boiling water to generate electricity, the leftover steam can be sold for industrial processes or space heating.

Compost. Decayed organic matter that can be used as a fertilizer or soil additive.

Conference of the Parties (CoP). The CoP is the collection of nations which have ratified the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), currently over 150 strong, and about 50 Observer States. The primary role of the CoP is to keep the implementation of the Convention under review and to take the decisions necessary for the effective implementation of the Convention. The first CoP (CoP 1) took place in Berlin from March 28th to April 7th, 1995, and was attended by over 1000 observers and 2000 media representatives.

Cryosphere. The frozen part of the Earth’s surface. The cryosphere includes the polar ice caps, continental ice sheets, mountain glaciers, sea ice, snow cover, lake and river ice, and permafrost.

Deforestation. Those practices or processes that result in the change of forested lands to non-forest uses. This is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect for two reasons: 1) the burning or decomposition of the wood releases carbon dioxide; and 2) trees that once removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis are no longer present and contributing to carbon storage.

Desertification. The progressive destruction or degradation of existing vegetative cover to form desert. This can occur due to overgrazing, deforestation, drought, and the burning of extensive areas. Once formed, deserts can only support a sparse range of vegetation. Climatic effects associated with this phenomenon include increased albedo, reduced atmospheric humidity, and greater atmospheric dust (aerosol) loading.

El Nino. A climatic phenomenon occurring irregularly, but generally every 3 to 5 years. El Ninos often first become evident during the Christmas season (El Nino means Christ child) in the surface oceans of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon involves seasonal changes in the direction of the tropical winds over the Pacific and abnormally warm surface ocean temperatures. The changes in the tropics are most intense in the Pacific region, these changes can disrupt weather patterns throughout the tropics and can extend to higher latitudes, especially in Central and North America. The relationship between these events and global weather patterns are currently the subject of much research in order to enhance prediction of seasonal to interannual fluctuations in the climate.

Emissions. The release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

Enhanced Greenhouse Effect. The natural greenhouse effect has been enhanced by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, CFCs, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3, and other photochemically important gases caused by human activities such as fossil fuel consumption and adding waste to landfills, trap more infra-red radiation, thereby exerting a warming influence on the climate. See Climate Change and Global Warming.

Evapotranspiration. The sum of evaporation and plant transpiration. Potential evapotranspiration is the amount of water that could be evaporated or transpired at a given temperature and humidity, if there was plenty of water available. Actual evapotranspiration can not be any greater than precipitation, and will usually be less because some water will run off in rivers and flow to the oceans. If potential evapotranspiration is greater than actual precipitation, then soils are extremely dry during at least a major part of the year.

Feedback Mechanisms. A mechanism that connects one aspect of a system to another. The connection can be either amplifying (positive feedback) or moderating (negative feedback). See also Climate Feedback.

Carbon Dioxide Fertilization. An expression (sometimes reduced to ‘fertilization’) used to denote increased plant growth due to a higher carbon dioxide concentration.

Fertilization. A term used to denote efforts to enhance plant growth by increased application of nitrogen-based fertilizer or increased deposition of nitrates in precipitation.

Fluorocarbons. Carbon-fluorine compounds that often contain other elements such as hydrogen, chlorine, or bromine. Common fluorocarbons include chlorofluorocarbons and related compounds (also know as ozone depleting substances), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorcarbons (PFCs).

Forcing Mechanism. A process that alters the energy balance of the climate system, i.e. changes the relative balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation from Earth. Such mechanisms include changes in solar irradiance, volcanic eruptions, and enhancement of the natural greenhouse effect by emission of carbon dioxide. See also Radiative Forcing.

Fossil Fuel. A general term for combustible geologic deposits of carbon in reduced (organic) form and of biological origin, including coal, oil, natural gas, oil shales, and tar sands. A major concern is that they emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burnt, thus significantly contributing to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Fossil Fuel Combustion. Burning of coal, oil (including gasoline), or natural gas. This burning, usually to generate energy, releases carbon dioxide, as well as combustion by products that can include unburned hydrocarbons, methane, and carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, methane, and many of the unburned hydrocarbons slowly oxidize into carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Common sources of fossil fuel combustion include cars and electric utilities.

Framework Convention on Climate Change (). The landmark international treaty unveiled at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, also known as the “Rio Summit”), in June 1992. The FCCC commits signatory countries to stabilize anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) greenhouse gas emissions to ‘levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. The FCCC also requires that all signatory parties develop and update national inventories of anthropogenic emissions of all greenhouse gases not otherwise controlled by the Montreal Protocol. Out of 155 countries that have ratified this accord, the U.S. was the first industrialized nation to do so.

General Circulation Model (GCM). A global, three-dimensional computer model of the climate system which can be used to simulate human-induced climate change. GCMs are highly complex and they represent the effects of such factors as reflective and absorptive properties of atmospheric water vapor, greenhouse gas concentrations, clouds, annual and daily solar heating, ocean temperatures and ice boundaries. The most recent GCMs include global representations of the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface.

Geosphere. The soils, sediments, and rock layers of the Earth’s crust, both continental and beneath the ocean floors.

Global Warming. An increase in the near surface temperature of the Earth. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Scientists generally agree that the Earth’s surface has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past 140 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently concluded that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature and that increased concentrations of sulfate aerosols have led to relative cooling in some regions, generally over and downwind of heavily industrialized areas. Also see Climate Change and Enhanced Greenhouse Effect.

Global Warming Potential (GWP). The index used to translate the level of emissions of various gases into a common measure in order to compare the relative radiative forcing of different gases without directly calculating the changes in atmospheric concentrations. GWPs are calculated as the ratio of the radiative forcing that would result from the emissions of one kilogram of a greenhouse gas to that from emission of one kilogram of carbon dioxide over a period of time (usually 100 years). Gases involved in complex atmospheric chemical processes have not been assigned GWPs due to complications that arise. Greenhouse gases are expressed in terms of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has presented these GWPs and regularly updates them in new assessments. The chart below shows the original GWPs (assigned in 1990) and the most recent GWPs (assigned in 1996) for the most important greenhouse gases.

GAS GWP 1990 GWP 1996
Carbon Dioxide 1 1
Methane 22 21
Nitrous Oxide 270 310
HFC-134a 1,200 1,300
HFC-23 10,000 11,700
HFC-152a 150 140
HCF-125 NA* 2,800
PFCs** 5,400 7,850
SF6 NA* 23,900

* Not Applicable. GWP was not yet estimated for this gas.

**This figure is an average GWP for the two PFCs, CF4 and C2F6.

Greenhouse Effect. The effect produced as greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, but prevent most of the outgoing infra-red radiation from the surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the Earth’s temperature about 59 degrees F warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gas. Any gas that absorbs infra-red radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs) , ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Halocarbons. Chemicals consisting of carbon, sometimes hydrogen, and either chlorine, fluorine bromine or iodine.

Halons. These man-made substances (also known as bromofluorocarbons) are chlorofluorocarbons that contain bromine. See also Chlorofluorocarbons and Related Compounds.

Hydrocarbons. Substances containing only hydrogen and carbon. Fossil fuels are made up of hydrocarbons. Some hydrocarbon compounds are major air pollutants.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These chemicals (along with perfluorocarbons) were introduced as alternatives to ozone depleting substances in serving many industrial, commercial, and personal needs. HFCs are emitted as by-products of industrial processes and are also used in manufacturing. They do not significantly deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, but they are powerful greenhouse gases with global warming potentials ranging from 140 (HFC-152a) to 12,100 (HFC-23).

Hydrosphere. The part of the Earth composed of water including clouds, oceans, seas, ice caps, glaciers, lakes, rivers, underground water supplies, and atmospheric water vapor.

HyperText.On the web, text links move you easily from one location to another. For example, go to the site’s navigation page.

Ice Core. A cylindrical section of ice removed from a glacier or an ice sheet in order to study climate patterns of the past. By performing chemical analyses on the air trapped in the ice, scientists can estimate the percentage of carbon dioxide and other trace gases in the atmosphere at that time.

Infra-red Radiation. The heat energy that is emitted from all solids, liquids, and gases. In the context of the greenhouse issue, the term refers to the heat energy emitted by the Earth’s surface and its atmosphere. Greenhouse gases strongly absorb this radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere, and reradiate some back towards the surface, creating the greenhouse effect.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was established jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988. The purpose of the IPCC is to assess information in the scientific and technical literature related to all significant components of the issue of climate change. The IPCC draws upon hundreds of the world’s expert scientists as authors and thousands as expert reviewers. Leading experts on climate change and environmental, social, and economic sciences from some 60 nations have helped the IPCC to prepare periodic assessments of the scientific underpinnings for understanding global climate change and its consequences. With its capacity for reporting on climate change, its consequences, and the viability of adaptation and mitigation measures, the IPCC is also looked to as the official advisory body to the world’s governments on the state of the science of the climate change issue. For example, the IPCC organized the development of internationally accepted methods for conducting national greenhouse gas emission inventories.

Joint Implementation. Agreements made between two or more nations under the auspices of the Framework Convention on Climate Change to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lifetime (Atmospheric). The lifetime of a greenhouse gas refers to the approximate amount of time it would take for the anthropogenic increment to an atmospheric pollutant concentration to return to its natural level (assuming emissions cease) as a result of either being converted to another chemical compound or being taken out of the atmosphere via a sink. This time depends on the pollutant’s sources and sinks as well as its reactivity. The lifetime of a pollutant is often considered in conjunction with the mixing of pollutants in the atmosphere; a long lifetime will allow the pollutant to mix throughout the atmosphere. Average lifetimes can vary from about a week (sulfate aerosols) to more than a century (CFCs, carbon dioxide).

Mauna Loa. A volcano on the island of Hawaii where scientists have maintained the longest continuous collection of reliable daily atmospheric records.

Meteorology. The science of weather-related phenomena.

Methane (CH4). A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 24.5. Methane is produced through anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and oil, coal production , and incomplete fossil fuel combustion. The atmospheric concentration of methane has been shown to be increasing at a rate of about 0.6% per year and the concentration of about 1.7 parts per million by volume (ppmv) is more than twice its preindustrial value. However, the rate of increase of methane in the atmosphere may be stabilizing.

Metric Ton. Common international measurement for the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions. A metric ton is equal to 2205 lbs or 1.1 short tons.

Mount Pinatubo. A volcano in the Philippine Islands that erupted in 1991. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo ejected enough particulate and sulfate aerosol matter into the atmosphere to block some of the incoming solar radiation from reaching Earth’s atmosphere. This effectively cooled the planet from 1992 to 1994, masking the warming that had been occurring for most of the 1980s and 1990s.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Gases consisting of one molecule of nitrogen and varying numbers of oxygen molecules. Nitrogen oxides are produced in the emissions of vehicle exhausts and from power stations. In the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides can contribute to formation of photochemical ozone (smog), can impair visibility, and have health consequences; they are thus considered pollutants.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O). A powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 320. Major sources of nitrous oxide include soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.

Ozone (O3). Ozone consists of three atoms of oxygen bonded together in contrast to normal atmospheric oxygen which consists of two atoms of oxygen. Ozone is an important greenhouse gas found in both the stratosphere (about 90% of the total atmospheric loading) and the troposphere (about 10%). Ozone has other effects beyond acting as a greenhouse gas. In the stratosphere, ozone provides a protective layer shielding the Earth from ultraviolet radiation and subsequent harmful health effect on humans and the environment. In the troposphere, oxygen molecules in ozone combine with other chemicals and gases (oxidization) to cause smog.

Particulates. Tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter, such as soot, dust, fumes, or mist.

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs). A group of human-made chemicals composed of carbon and fluorine only: CF4 and C2F6. These chemicals, specifically CF4 and C2F6, (along with hydrofluorocarbons) were introduced as alternatives to the ozone depleting substances. In addition, they are emitted as by-products of industrial processes and are also used in manufacturing. PFCs do not harm the stratospheric ozone layer, but they are powerful greenhouse gases: CF4 has a global warming potential (GWP) of 6,300 and C2F6 has a GWP of 12,500.

Photosynthesis. The process by which green plants use light to synthesize organic compounds from carbon dioxide and water. In the process oxygen and water are released. Increased levels of carbon dioxide can increase net photosynthesis in some plants. Plants create a very important reservoir for carbon dioxide.

Pollutant. Strictly, too much of any substance in the wrong place or at the wrong time is a pollutant. More specifically, atmospheric pollution may be defined as the presence of substances in the atmosphere, resulting from man-made activities or from natural processes that cause adverse effects to human health, property, and the environment.

Precautionary Approach. The approach promoted under the Framework Convention of Climate Change to help achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.

Precession. The tendency of the Earth’s axis to wobble in space over a period of 23,000 years. The Earth’s precession is one of the factors that results in the planet receiving different amounts of solar energy over extended periods of time.

Radiation. Energy emitted in the form of electromagnetic waves. Radiation has differing characteristics depending upon the wavelength. Because the radiation from the Sun is relatively energetic, it has a short wavelength (ultra-violet, visible, and near infra-red) while energy re-radiated from the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere has a longer wavelength (infra-red radiation) because the Earth is cooler than the Sun.

Radiative Forcing. A change in the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infra-red radiation. Without any radiative forcing, solar radiation coming to the Earth would continue to be approximately equal to the infra-red radiation emitted from the Earth. The addition of greenhouse gases traps and increased fraction of the infra-red radiation, reradiating it back toward the surface and creating a warming influence (i.e., positive radiative forcing because incoming solar radiation will exceed outgoing infra-red radiation).

Residence Time. The average time spent in a reservoir by an individual atom or molecule. Also, the age of a molecule when it leaves the reservoir. With respect to greenhouse gases, residence time usually refers to how long a particular molecule remains in the atmosphere.

Respiration. The process by which animals use up stored foods (by combustion with oxygen) to produce energy.

Short Ton. Common measurement for a ton in the United States. A short ton is equal to 2,000 lbs or 0.907 metric tons.

Sink. A reservoir that uptakes a pollutant from another part of its cycle. Soil and trees tend to act as natural sinks for carbon.

Solar Radiation. Energy from the Sun. Also referred to as short-wave radiation. Of importance to the climate system, solar radiation includes ultra-violet radiation, visible radiation, and infra-red radiation.

Stratosphere. The part of the atmosphere directly above the troposphere. See Atmosphere.

Sulfate Aerosol. Particulate matter that consists of compounds of sulfur formed by the interaction of sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide with other compounds in the atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols are injected into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels and the eruption of volcanoes like Mt. Pinatubo. Recent theory suggests that sulfate aerosols may lower the earth’s temperature by reflecting away solar radiation (negative radiative forcing). Global Climate Models which incorporate the effects of sulfate aerosols more accurately predict global temperature variations.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2). A compound composed of one sulfur and two oxygen molecules. Sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere through natural and anthropogenic processes is changed in a complex series of chemical reactions in the atmosphere to sulfate aerosols. These aerosols result in negative radiative forcing (i.e., tending to cool the Earth’s surface).

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6). A very powerful greenhouse gas used primarily in electrical transmission and distribution systems. SF6 has a global warming potential of 24,900.

Trace Gas. Any one of the less common gases found in the Earth’s atmosphere. Nitrogen, oxygen, and argon make up more than 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. Other gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, oxides of nitrogen, ozone, and ammonia, are considered trace gases. Although relatively unimportant in terms of their absolute volume, they have significant effects on the Earth’s weather and climate.

Troposphere. The lowest layer of the atmosphere. The troposphere extends from the Earth’s surface up to about 10-15 km. See also Atmosphere.

Tropospheric Ozone (O3). Ozone that is located in the troposphere and plays a significant role in the greenhouse gas effect and urban smog. See Ozone for more details.

Tropospheric Ozone Precursor. Gases that influence the rate at which ozone is created and destroyed in the atmosphere. Such gases include: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and nonmethane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs).

Water Vapor. The most abundant greenhouse gas, it is the water present in the atmosphere in gaseous form. Water vapor is an important part of the natural greenhouse effect. While humans are not significantly increasing its concentration, it contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect because the warming influence of greenhouse gases leads to a positive water vapor feedback. In addition to its role as a natural greenhouse gas, water vapor plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the planet because clouds form when excess water vapor in the atmosphere condenses to form ice and water droplets and precipitation.

Weather. Weather is the specific condition of the atmosphere at a particular place and time. It is measured in terms of such things as wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness, and precipitation. In most places, weather can change from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate is the average of weather over time and space. A simple way of remembering the difference is that ‘climate’ is what you expect (e.g., cold winters) and ‘weather’ is what you get (e.g., a blizzard).

October 30, 2002

COP-8 Declaration under Fire

A draft “Delhi Declaration on Climate Change,” which is to be adopted at the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-8) currently underway, is being attacked by both the European Union and the G-77 and China. The declaration was rejected by the EU as “disappointing, unacceptable, and biased.”

“We find the declaration concentrated on adaptation and not on the mitigation of greenhouse gases,” said Thomas Becker, an EU spokesman. “There is no mention of the Kyoto Protocol in the declaration.” The EU also objects to the attempt to link global warming to sustainable development. “To link these issues completely will not be wise from a negotiation point of view,” said Becker. “We are not at all pleased with trying to start such a trend” (BNA Daily Environment Report, October 29, 2002).

The EUs objection to the linkage is probably due to the U.S.s ability to redefine sustainable development in terms of poverty eradication and economic development, which are not compatible with Kyotos objectives. Indeed, the draft recognizes, “that poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns, and protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development.”

 The draft also talks about technological advancement and transfers, capacity building, economic diversification, and strengthening of institutions, things that the U.S. insisted should be the focus of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It also states, “Policies and measures to protect the climate system against human-induced change should be appropriate for the specific conditions of each Party and should be integrated with national development programs, taking into account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.”

The G-77 and China also expressed disappointment in the document and demanded that it contain a call “to urge ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by all parties that have not done so.” The declaration should also name Africa as the region suffering the most from climate change (Outlook India, October 29, 2002).

November 13, 2002

COP-8 Boosts Adaptation and Poverty Eradication

The Eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded on Nov. 1 with the European Union in full retreat.

The major accomplishment of the conference was the approval of the Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, which represents a major shift of emphasis from energy suppression to economic development and adaptation. “The emphasis on adapting is a profound turnabout from the course set a decade ago after President George Bush and other world leaders signed the [UNFCCC],” according to the New York Times (November 3, 2002). Prior to Delhi, “the emphasis was always about curbing emissions to prevent dangerous changes in the climate system.”

The emphasis on adaptation suited the United States, which sees itself as an economically developing country, and the less developed countries, which hope to rise out of poverty. The declaration states, “that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties.”

The original draft of the declaration contained no mention of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU, as well as Russia and the G-77, demanded that the declaration, “strongly urge Parties that have not already done so to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a timely manner,” which language ended up in the final draft. Russia and the G-77 also successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a finding that, “Africa is the region suffering the most from the combined impacts of climate change and poverty,” a scientifically baseless statement.

For its efforts, the United States was awarded the “Super Fossil Award” by the Climate Action Network. The award, which is usually just the “Fossil of the Day,” was given to the U.S. delegation for having the audacity to claim that economic growth is good for the environment and for refusing the put the economy into the tank.

Prospects of Stabilizing Emissions Appear Bleak

In a major challenge to the conventional wisdom, a team of scientists has delivered a devastating blow to the Kyoto Protocol in a review of energy technologies published in the November 1 issue of Science.

The lead author is Martin Hoffert, a physicist at New York University. Also notable among the authors are the popular science fiction writer Gregory Benford, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine, Michael Schlesinger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, and Tom Wigley, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and long time promoter of climate alarmism.

The review, which takes catastrophic global warming claims at face value, argues that our fossil fuel-dominated energy system “cannot be regulated away.” Indeed, the only real solution is “the development within the coming decades of primary energy sources that do not emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”

This challenge is presented in stark terms. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for a stabilization of greenhouse gases at levels that avoid “dangerous anthropogenic (man-made) interference with the climate system.” The authors argue that stabilization at levels as low as 450 parts per million (ppm) may be necessary to do this. “Targets of cutting to 450 ppm…could require Herculean effort,” says the report. “Even holding at 550 ppm is a major challenge.”

Currently, the worlds power consumption is about 12 trillion watts, 85 percent of which is supplied by fossil fuels. By 2050, energy consumption will be as much as three times the amount currently produced by fossil fuels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in its latest report that, “Known technological options could achieve a broad range of atmospheric CO2 stabilization levels, such as 550 ppm, 450 ppm or below over the next 100 years or more.” The authors disagree. “This statement does not recognize the CO2 emission-free power requirements implied by the IPCCs own reports…. Energy sources that can produce 100 to 300 percent of present world power consumption without greenhouse emissions do not exist operationally or as pilot plants.”

The authors assess various possible methods to achieve the requisite greenhouse gas reductions, such as efficiency improvements, decarbonization and sequestration, renewables, nuclear power, and geoengineering. Nuclear fusion appears to be the best option, according to the review. “Despite enormous hurdles,” it says, “the most promising long-term nuclear power source is still fusion.” The other potential solutions considered by the authors are far from promising.

Decarbonization is moving from high carbon fuels such as coal to low carbon fuels such as natural gas, and eventually to carbon neutral fuels such as hydrogen. But hydrogen does not exist in geological reservoirs and must be extracted from fossil fuel feedstocks or water. “Per unit of heat generated, more CO2 is produced by making H2 [hydrogen] from fossil fuel than by burning the fossil fuel directly,” says the review. Getting the hydrogen from water is even less viable.

Renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is not a viable solution either. “All renewables suffer from low areal power densities,” write the authors. Thus they require enormous amounts of land. Moreover, “Renewables are intermittent dispersed sources unsuited to baseload without transmission, storage, and power conditioning.”

The article concludes that the ability to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions without seriously damaging the economy is not possible at this time. “CO2 is a combustion product vital to how civilization is powered.” All of the approaches discussed in the paper to replace fossil fuels “have serious deficiencies that limit their ability to stabilize global climate.”

Global Warming and Heat-Related Mortality

One of the speculative impacts of global warming is the increase of heat-related mortality due to rising summertime temperatures. A study in Climate Research (September 6, 2002) finds that there is no evidence to support that claim.

The team of researchers, led by Robert Davis of the University of Virginia, looked at the impact of high temperatures on daily mortality rates over four decades in six major metropolitan areas along the U.S. east coast from north to south. What they found was that in the three southernmost cities, there were few significant mortality effects related to temperature extremes. But in the three northernmost cities, there was a significant decline in population-adjusted mortality rates.

What this means is that, “These statistically significant reductions in hot-weather mortality rates suggest that the populace in cities that were weather-sensitive in the 1960s and 1970s have become less impacted by extreme conditions over time because of improved medical care, increased access to air conditioning, and biophysical and infrastructure adaptations.” They note that, “This analysis counters the paradigm of increased heat-related mortality rates in the eastern U.S. predicted to result from future climate warming.”


Last Sunday, Al Gore guest-starred as the voice of his own disembodied head in the animated Fox series Futurama. The episode was written by Gores daughter Kristin, and according to the Washington Post (November 2, 2002), “Gores preserved cranium hosts an emergency summit to determine how to combat global warming caused by robot emissions.” Oddly enough, this wouldnt be the most outlandish thing the Gore has said about global warming.

Emissions Credits Need Government Mandate

Critics of emissions trading have long warned that such programs are thinly disguised wealth redistribution schemes with very few, if any, environmental benefits.  They also warn that offering tradable credits to companies that “voluntarily” reduce emissions of greenhouse gases would create a business lobby demanding a mandatory cap.  Without the cap, such credits would be virtually worthless.

These warnings have been borne out by a recent “demonstration trade” of greenhouse gases between the chemical company Dupont Co. and the electric utility Entergy Corp.  The 125,000 metric ton “supply” of greenhouse gas credits was “created” by Dupont, which voluntarily reduced emissions in 2001 at an acid plant located in Orange, Texas.

The transaction prompted bellyaching from Entergy spokesman Larry Daspit, who complained that, “Under present U.S. environmental regulations theres no market for this kind of trade.  There are clearing houses for these transactions, but there is no U.S. government mandate.  When you do your financials, you cant have a line item for this right now because there is no U.S. mechanism.”

Natsource, an international emissions brokerage firm, estimated that the trade would have been worth $315,000 under a cap.  An emissions broker for Natsource stated that “Companies are managing the liability of expected government requirements by trading now.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to do so” (Reuters, November 1, 2002).

Kyoto Will Be Costly For Canadians

The Canadian Taxpayers Union has released a study estimating that Kyoto-related costs would reduce Canadas annual household income by about $2,700 by 2010. The study notes that the government estimates that Canadas CO2 emissions will reach 809 megatons by 2010 and that Canadas Kyoto target is 571 MT, so it must reduce emissions by 240 MT or about 30 percent.

The studys author, Ross McKitrick, an associate professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, says that the government hasnt been honest about what it will take to meet the Kyoto targets. “The federal government is currently focusing its advertising campaign on proposals such as turning down the thermostat and doing laundry in cold water.”

Such efforts would be wholly inadequate, however. Even if “all Canadians implemented a suite of such household-level energy efficiency measures, it would only reduce emissions by 0.4 MT,” says McKitrick. The Kyoto target is 600 times larger, so such discussions are clearly irrelevant. “Kyoto ultimately means a fundamental restructuring of the economy.”

Moreover, says McKitrick, federal discussion papers on strategies for meeting Kyoto lack sufficient detail to be useful. An April 2000 discussion paper offered four options that were eventually dropped as being infeasible or inadequate. A new draft plan was released in October, but, says McKitrick, “This one contains even less detail. It is a blend of elements from previous plans, leaves 25 percent of the required emission reductions unaccounted for, and includes no economic cost estimates. On this basis they are now seeking approval from Parliament for rapid ratification.”

Due to the lack of specifics, McKitrick adapted previous economic studies that closely resemble the current plan to come up with cost estimates. Meeting the Kyoto target would mean a permanent loss of income to the average household of $2,700 or 5.5 percent. Job losses would be on the order of about 1.5 percent and real wages would fall by 5.8 percent. McKitrick conclude, “In light of the fact that Kyoto yields no economic or environmental benefits, this is obviously a bad deal for Canadian households and should be rejected.”

The study is available at