The Week That Was
November 18, 2000


This essay by David Wojick should be required reading by anyone who still believes that the IPCC Summary for Policymakers is a scientific document or expresses a consensus of the scientists who worked on the IPCC report itself. And, as we have pointed out many times, Article 2 of FCCC (expressing the ultimate goal of the Treaty) has never been defined. Nobody can tell whether a higher or lower level of atmospheric GH gases is more (or less) likely to produce "dangerous interference with the climate system."

The Week That Was November 18, 2000 brought to you by SEPP

And here is the news we've been waiting for:


CHARLOTTE, NC, Oct. 26, 2000 (ENS) - DukeSolutions and Harmony Products have agreed to develop at least four animal-to- waste, or biomass, processing plants. The companies are already building a waste-to-energy plant for the Virginia poultry industry, and hope to expand into the Southeast and Midwest. In August, the companies began constructing a $7 million Harrisonburg, Virginia, plant that will be America's first large scale application of a poultry waste to energy to organic fertilizer operation. The plants will burn waste from large poultry farms to produce steam that can power electric generators. The leftover residue can be sold as fertilizer.

"We've seen estimates for up to 200 plants worldwide, about half of which could be in the United States," said Keith Butler, DukeSolutions chief operating officer. DukeSolutions and Harmony Products will share ownership with Renewable Energy Corporation Limited of Sydney, Australia. DukeSolutions will focus on the waste to energy technology and operations, and Harmony Products will operate the plants and market the fertilizer output. "Some people think a choice must be made between poultry jobs and a clean environment. We don't think so," said Butler. "Biomass to energy to fertilizer is a strategic alternative. Some see a ton of poultry litter and see negative environmental consequences and costs. We see a business plan and a tremendous opportunity to give something back to the world we live in. Each ton of litter processed equals about $100 in revenue in terms of fertilizer and energy. Each of these new plants could process up to 100,000 tons annually or enough energy to heat 15,000 homes."

SEPP comment: Well, every litter bit helps…

An eyewitness account from David Wojick, in the Financial Post (Canada) Oct. 19, 2000


Climate change guru Jim Hansen's recently announced plan of action -- an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol -- took a major step forward this week with the first meeting of climate researchers and U.S. government officials to openly discuss Mr. Hansen's strategy. Held in Washington, D.C., at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the meeting included a number of prominent planners from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as Mr. Hansen himself.

Hansen, one of the world's leading climate modelers, is widely regarded as a founding father of the present-day climate concern. With his proposed plan, he now offers what he modestly calls a "mid-course correction," based on the theory that pollution may contribute almost as much to global warming as does carbon dioxide.

With the Kyoto Protocol negotiations coming to something of a head in November in The Hague, Mr. Hansen's alternative scenario proposal has been contentious, to say the least. In fact, the environmental community has gone ballistic over it. In his opening remarks, Mr. Hansen said he had been so misquoted and maligned that he would soon publish an open letter to his many critics, something a scientist does not often do.

However, analysts like myself who regard the Kyoto scheme as unworkable and unwise, and who predict the Kyoto negotiations will bog down, have welcomed the Hansen Climate Plan as the ultimate "no regrets" strategy. If you feel you have to spend billions of dollars to save the planet (I don't), you might as well clean up the filthy cities of the world in the process.

Basically, the Hansen Climate Plan is a 50-year program calling for three things. First, shift the focus of climate control away from drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions in prosperous developed countries, such as Canada and the United States -- which many regard as impossible -- to an attack on global smog pollution, especially unburnt carbon from inefficient combustion in developing countries. Second, restrain growth of carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries to the extent possible through energy-efficiency measures. Third, develop alternatives to fossil- fuel combustion, allowing carbon dioxide emissions to be phased out globally beginning in 2050.

Assuming one wants to throw a lot of money at this issue, which the governments of Canada and the United States seem determined to do, the Hansen Plan makes good sense. Renewable energy experts say 40 years is a reasonable time frame for actually making solar and wind power work cheaply, and we might discover something else in the meantime. Of course, we've already found the solution -- nuclear power -- but that's too dangerous to be trusted to humans. Or is it? Prime Minister Jean Chrétien wants to include building nukes in the Kyoto package; it fits the Hansen plan even better.

Plus, there's no question that the developing countries can use the money, or that their cities are smoggy. Mind you, this should be new money, because there is no point in cleaning up the cities if the residents starve in the process.

The most objectionable feature of the Hansen Plan, as far as hard-line Greens are concerned, is that it may not require those wrenching lifestyle changes they long for us to endure. Which is precisely what makes the plan feasible.

Monday's meeting consisted of two panels -- one of scientists to discuss the soundness of Mr. Hansen's assumptions, and the other of U.S. Government policy experts who very tentatively addressed the implications of a revised Hansen-like policy. Mr. Hansen was an active participant as well. Though all had good credentials, the logic of it all sometimes seemed foggy.

Pollution, especially urban smog, is a major source of climate change, the scientists generally agreed. In fact, said Peter Stone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, smog can change the climate in urban areas, where most people live, even if it does not contribute to global change. Then there's Tony Hansen -- he calls himself the "smog Hansen" as opposed to Jim "climate change" Hansen -- who emphasized that domestic heating and cooking in developing countries produces a tremendous amount of soot, which circulates globally. Billions of the world's people still heat and cook with raw coal, wood and dung. Efficient combustion, and central electric power stations, would eliminate most of this soot, he said. As a matter of fact, about one-third of the world's people do not have electricity, except maybe the batteries in the town radio. The West spent untold billions on uneconomic rural electrification programs; why shouldn't we provide the cash needed to electrify the Third World as well?

To give them credit, all the scientists, including Mr. Hansen, stressed that the sources, amounts and fate of unburnt carbon around the world are poorly understood. They called on governments to take immediate action to begin monitoring these emissions, and for much research to unravel their effects. In fact, they generally concluded we do not understand the role of atmospheric aerosols, even though they are as important as carbon dioxide.

It could be argued, of course, that we cannot base a climate control policy on atmospheric processes we do not understand. However, if that argument worked, we would not have the Kyoto negotiations in the first place.

At the policy level, the U.S. officials were understandably cautious, especially on the eve of national elections where environmental issues are at the fore. The caution could come at a cost: namely, the promotion of expensive government programs.

EPA's John Bachmann, Deputy Director of the office that sets national air quality standards, noted his agency had already proposed tough new rules for ozone and fine particulates, including unburnt carbon. However, because elemental carbon makes up only about 4% of the ambient concentration of fine particles in the U.S., it is not regarded as a separate health hazard, as it may be in developing countries. Mr. Bachmann did say the EPA was aggressively pursuing international agreements on pollution control, such as the Long Range Transport of Pollution treaty, and that Mr. Hansen's climate proposal would certainly be added to that discussion. Marilyn Brown, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's energy efficiency guru, reported that Mr. Hansen's proposal would be incorporated into the U.S. Department of Energy's new plan -- Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future. This plan calls for a doubling of the US$1-billion-per-year U.S. energy efficiency R&D budget.

In other words, the Hansen Plan may simply be added to the pot, engendering more federal power and more government spending without being treated as the policy alternative to Kyoto it truly is.

SEPP comment: Well said, David. David E. Wojick is a journalist and policy analyst who resides in Virginia and Ontario. He is also the Under-Editor of the Washington Pest


"It's a sure sign of a coming apocalypse that something as large as a Presidential Election would ultimately be decided by a bunch of blue-haired early-bird-special-eating Mah-Jongg players from Boca Raton."



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