|The Week That Was
February 22-28, 1999
It's just a tiny country, but what a fuss! Last week the government of Iceland announced that it would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the first OECD country to make such an announcement. The government cited new economic forecasts indicating that its allotted 10 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions would not be enough to sustain its small economy, especially with several heavy industrial projects already in the works. Iceland officials want a 25 percent allotment before they will even consider putting pen to the paper. They say Kyoto spells economic decline.
John Daly, our contrarian colleague in Tasmania, speculates that sea ice being only 30 nautical miles from Iceland this year (compared to 60 NMs last year) may have influenced the decision. Iceland's Greens say the decision sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.
New research is adding fuel to the global warming controversy. Last week, according to a report in The Times of London (dated March 2), scientists with the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research claimed dramatic success in producing a bloom of CO2-absorbing phytoplankton over a 19-square-mile area in the ocean near the Antarctic. Just four years ago, the late American oceanographer John Martin theorized that adding iron filings to sea water--in effect, fertilizing it--would dramatically accelerate the growth of plant plankton, which in turn absorb large amounts of CO2 and emit gases important in cloud formation. Since then, a number of experiments, including this one, have produced promising small-scale results and a new process that creates tiny iron "beads" that float at the surface has been patented and is being tested. Some scientists believe that increasing the numbers of phytoplankton could reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by as much as 21 percent.
Of course, the Green argument against fertilizing the ocean on a large scale is that it could upset the oceans' ecosystem, could have unforeseen consequences, and isn't "natural." And, besides, it isn't nearly as much fun as One-World government, bringing economic development to a halt, and marching everyone into public transportation. THAT is "natural."
Both The Times and The Independent reported last week (Feb. 25) that despite Europe's brutal winter this year, researchers at the University of Munich, Germany, are claiming that autumn is now arriving 5 days later and spring 6 days earlier than it did 30 years ago (Note: during a period of climate cooling thought to herald another Ice Age) and that this lends "powerful support" to global warming theory. Annette Menzel of U. Munich's Dept. of Forest Science, said: "Ten days may not sound like much, but it represents a significant extension of a growing season [to] about 150 days." The researchers also conceded that a longer growing season could cause plants to absorb more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
On the flip side, up in Scotland, the Daily Record and the Sunday Mail Ltd (Feb. 25) say "scientists believe" there may be a link between the avalanches this winter and global warming. The only person quoted, however, Douglas Yule, cited as an "expert" with an organization called Impact Weather, says: "What we have got is La Niņa leading to bad winters in Europe, and there is probably a connection to global warming but it has not been established."
With such vague and conflicting reports, perhaps it is not surprising that people in the United Kingdom can't sleep at night. The same hearty people who, in 1415 under Henry V, beset by torrential rains and outnumbered 5-to-1, defeated the French at Agincourt in a battle still studied in War Colleges around the world, now say global warming and pollution are the most serious threats to their personal security. In fact, according to a survey released last week by MORI, a UK financial services company, nearly half of those in the UK say they are more afraid of global warming and pollution than they are of higher taxes, war, divorce, having enough money for retirement, going bald, losing their virility, or having the UK swallowed up by the European Union.
In the Northwestern United States, readers are getting a somewhat different perspective--one accompanied by less heavy breathing. In a region also experiencing heavy rain, snow, and avalanches, Mark Moore, director of the National Weather Service's Northwest Weather Avalanche Center, told the Associated Press (story dated March 1) that there are a number of theories as to why the Northwest has been socked this winter: La Niņa, i.e. a cooling of the Pacific; global warming; a return to the wetter and colder winters the region experienced in the 1950s through mid-1970s, or "It could be just a random event."
Out in Iowa, another global warming pow-wow. This time it's the 1999 National Forum for Agriculture at Iowa State University, with the Feds going after those who've been getting a little squeamish about Kyoto taking big chunks out of their farm income. According to Associated Press (March 1), John Ruether of the DOE's Federal Energy Technology Center, told conferees that "as world energy use took off in the 1940s, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to rise and temperatures climbed." Not quite so. Most of the 0.6 degree C rise in temperatures came BEFORE 1940. From 1940 to 1975, while CO2 was rising, temperatures dropped--a small glitch in the theory.
Michael MacCracken of the U.S. Global Change Research Program tried to sound reasonable: cut back on fossil fuels too fast and we risk our economic well-being and standard of living; cut back too slow and we risk our environmental well-being. "We're really faced with a dilemma," he said, overlooking the Administration's often-stated position that the Kyoto Protocol poses no dilemma, won't hurt a bit, and in fact will boost the economy, create jobs, and lead to a 21st Century utopia at one with Mother Nature.
Farm and commodity groups, including the Farm Bureau and National Grange, beg to differ. Their economic analyses indicate that the Kyoto Protocol would cut U.S. farm income by 50 percent while raising farm production costs by $16 billion. Government types respond that it's time for agriculture to get on the bandwagon. Iowa State University Provost Stanley Johnson, quoted in the Des Moines Register (March 1), said the two-day conference was designed "to help agriculture stop taking a defiant position and to look on the issue as an opportunity," a theme Vice President Gore stressed in a speech to farm magazine editors back in December. Agriculture, said Johnson, stands to gain assistance from the government and make money by selling "credits" to polluting industries. "The train is starting to leave the station on this issue," he said. "Agriculture should be on it."
Well, there it is.
One final note: congratulations to policy analysts Steve Milloy, junk science expert, and Michael Gough, of the Cato Institute, whose latest book, Silencing Science, has become a bestseller at Amazon.com. For a time last week, of the 4.7 million titles offered by Amazon, this book was Number 66 in sales. It's still going like hotcakes. We are "green" with envy, and we highly recommend it.
Until next week...
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall