The Week That Was
October 28, 2000



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In this interview in The New Scientist, Dr. Paul Reiter pretty well demolishes the malaria and dengue fever connections with climate; and he is a real expert. If you want to know what's wrong, look at the last question of the interviewer. To paraphrase: "It's OK to lie a little if it will advance the cause."

The Week That Was October 28, 2000 brought to you by SEPP


Frank Loy, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, still hopes to button up the Kyoto Protocol at the forthcoming COP-6 (sixth Conference of the Parties to the Climate Treaty) at The Hague. But the troops are rebelling and the natives are becoming restless.

The troops are agreed that Kyoto is entirely unrealistic but are suggesting various face-saving options. For example, Eileen Claussen (Pew Center) wants to keep the process going (apparently indefinitely) but proposes renegotiating both targets and timetables. Henry Jacoby (MIT) wants to keep Kyoto as a façade but let each country do what's best.

Michael Grubb (Imperial College, London) proposes Kyoto without US participation if necessary. [The US emits 36% of all CO2; Kyoto becomes legally binding if at least 55% of emitters -emitting at least 55% of GH gases -- ratify.] His plan (which is hopelessly impractical) would sidestep the major dispute between the EU and US proposal: the generous use of carbon sinks and of emission trading demanded by the US and denounced by all others as a painless way of meeting Kyoto targets (without actually reducing global emissions). The Green natives would withdraw support from Kyoto, and European governments fear the Greens.

We have a better idea: Forget about Kyoto and withdraw from the Climate Treaty. Staying with it will only create mischief. Our suggestion makes sense because warming forecasts based on climate science are coming closer to zero all the time; and the economic impact of a hypothetical warming would in any case be beneficial.


Fuel use has been rising rapidly since 1995. Freight increasingly moves over highways: railroads carried 32 % in 1970 and only 12 % now. Raising motor fuel taxes, as we saw in Sept 2000, is highly unpopular; hence, European governments prefer to make life difficult for electricity generators.

In Britain, trade and industry minister Stephen Byers pushed through a law requiring power plants to use more renewable energy resources, but not included is large hydro and certainly not nuclear. The targets are 5% of all generation in 2003 and 10% in 2010. [Britain now has 3% from renewable, mostly hydro.] To make matters worse, another 10% of electric power must come from CHP plants (co-generation in Combined Heating and Power); but there are doubts that such capacity can be built. The forecast: Power shortages in UK, while huge subsidies go to renewables industries.

In Canada, similar policies prevail, courtesy of Environment Minister David Anderson. Except here, the subsidies go to the ethanol industries. As one corporate executive (from Iogen) expressed it gleefully, it will "create a multi-billion industry."

In Asia, Taiwan is stopping construction of its fifth nuclear reactor, which will make them ever more dependent on fuel imports and subject to mainland China blackmail. Meanwhile, Finland is expanding nuclear energy - wisely, we think. They figure on a 60-year lifetime and are betting that the price of oil and gas will not decrease over the long haul. It also makes them less dependent on fuel imports from Russia. What a contrast to Sweden and much of the rest of Europe!


Fuel cells are great ---or will be some day. In the meantime, Ford Motor chairman Wm Clay Ford is pandering to the Greens by promoting visions of fuel cells replacing the internal combustion engine. Sure, but it's not a new idea. He conveniently ignores the manufacture of the necessary hydrogen fuel, which will surely release tons (or megatons) of CO2. Sure, we can use nuclear energy to make hydrogen, but that's a No-No. [Recently, 138 NGOs released a statement opposing the US position that would garner CO2 credits for building nuclear plants for developing nations.] Yet, to Bill Ford and others like him "climate change is the most challenging issue facing the world."


(AP, Oct 14, 2000)

While Europeans were shivering through the Little Ice Age, natives of the Caribbean were also facing a cooler climate, researchers report.

Made famous by the winter-scene paintings of Pieter Brueghel, the Little Ice Age stretched from the 14th century to the 19th, cooling the northern hemisphere and bringing heavier than usual snow and ice. The impact of this cooling on tropical areas, however, has been less clear.

Now a team of scientists led by Amos Winter of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez has found evidence that Caribbean temperatures were two to three degrees F cooler during the Little Ice Age than they are currently. Their findings are reported in the Oct. 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers analyzed the various isotopes of oxygen found in coral in Puerto Rico. Their ratio varies by temperature, allowing scientists to estimate the temperature at the time the coral was made.

It's important to understand the role of the tropics during the Little Ice Age, the researchers said, "because this region provides the primary source of heat and water vapor to the atmosphere."

Comment: The result is important also because it counters the assertion by Mann, Bradley and Hughes that the LIA was local rather than hemispheric or global. Their claim has been used to argue also that the 20th century was the warmest in 1000 years.


The notorious GW-hyper and self-promoter Ross Gelbspan thinks that Gore is compromising his principles in the campaign. Like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve instead of letting people experience higher prices. Or recommending planting of trees instead of insisting on emission cuts - all done to preempt any attack by Bush on Gore's radical policy prescriptions in "Earth in the Balance." To Gelbspan, tree planting is like "prescribing a manicure to a cancer patient."

Gelbspan's own policy prescriptions: Fuel cells again, with no thought about the fuel source (hydrogen from Jupiter?). Job retraining of West Virginia coal miners (into growing professions like environmental lawyers?). And, last but not least, a tax on all international financial transactions: $300 billion a year, to be spent on solar and wind energy in the Third World.



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