The Week That Was
June 1, 2002

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9. AND NOW THE REFRESHING NEWS: THE KYOTO PROTOCOL IS NOT BACKED BY SCIENCE: New SEPP booklet (30 pp.) produced for the workshop /briefings of May 2002 is now available.


2. Plans to build Europe's largest wind farm have divided environmentalists

Mick Hume in THE TIMES of May 18, 2002

WE WERE winding our way up a country lane lined with lambs and daffodils in a spring scene straight from a "Welcome to Wales" postcard. Then the car crested a hill and there they were: dozens of wind turbines more than 50m high; dirty-white steel towers topped with three giant blades, advancing along the ridge. Welcome to Britain's biggest wind farm, at Carno, Powys.

The turbines were not turning, just standing about, as if unplugged. Then the breeze picked up a bit and they gave us a wave. Standing among the towers as the great blades chopped the air overhead, shadows swooping across the grass, I felt an irrational urge to duck.

Half an hour to the south-west of Carno, on the uplands of Cefn Croes in the Cambrian mountains, there are plans to create Europe's biggest wind farm: 39 wind turbines, each more than 100m tall - the equivalent of another column standing on Nelson's shoulders - and almost twice as high as the ones we stood beneath at Carno. The area where they are to be built is beautiful enough to have been nominated as a national park. Yet Brian Wilson, the Energy Minister, has indicated that he will endorse the proposal with no public inquiry.

Lurking just behind the Cefn Croes scheme is a still bigger proposal to build 165 wind turbines, up to 120m high, across hilltops surrounding the Camddwr Valley.

In the Welsh-speaking heartlands of Owain Glyndwr country, still ringed by the castles of English kings, protesters talk of wind turbines "raping the Welsh countryside" and of Welsh people being "cannon fodder".

In a House of Lords debate on Cefn Croes, the Bishop of Hereford compared erecting such "monstrous" wind turbines to the Taleban's destruction of the 2,000-year-old statues of Buddha in Bamiyan. "There are lots of wind turbines in Germany," he said later, "but most are in lowland areas that are already industrialised, where they can be more beautiful than chimneys or pylons. But I am passionately opposed to putting them in places of real beauty. It's an environmental benefit, bought at an entirely unacceptable environmental cost." Martin Wright heads the campaign against Cefn Croes; he already lives under eight small wind turbines. "I don't particularly mind them. But at that size they are no use to anybody. The next generation of turbines is three or four times bigger."

Wright and his fellow campaigners insist they are in favour of renewable energy. "But these stupid toys are about profit, not sensible planning," he says. They are scathing about the involvement in the scheme of the disgraced American power giant Enron, and they accuse the Forestry Commission, on whose land the wind farm is being built, of being "more interested in making money from turbines than growing trees". Ceridigion county councillors who voted in favour of Cefn Croes ignored their own planning officer's recommendation to reject the scheme.

Yet other locals support wind farms, including farmers who have allowed turbines on their land for a few thousand pounds in rent. "These things split the community," says Brynmor Morgan, a hill farmer, "and set farmer against farmer." Wind farms have also divided the green movement with both supporters and opponents claiming to be the true defenders of the environment.

Geoff Sinclair, of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, is the antiturbine lobby's expert. "When wind turbines came on the scene, we, too, started thinking they must be a good idea because they're green and we're green," he says. "Then we realised how bloody big they were going to be, and in what huge numbers."

The new wind farms battlefield is an area that some call the green desert of Wales - an undulating plateau deeply eroded by fine valleys, some with wooded hillsides or topped by waterfalls. Overlooking it is the mountain Plynlimon ("five peaks"). "If you walk up Plynlimon," Sinclair says, "you'll see wind farms in every direction, except for where they want to build at Cefn Croes."

As we stood looking across the Camddwr Valley, he pointed out ridge after ridge, stretching miles to the horizon, where 165 turbines would stand, each 120m tall. "It's not really a wind farm, more a regional turbine ranch."

On all sides of the debate, the slender white giants have become powerful symbols. For protesters, they represent the sacrifice of the countryside. For New Labour, they are evidence of its credentials as a Government that cares about sustainable development (even if, in practice, we have to get our electricity from elsewhere, including, whisper it, from nuclear power).

As a townie at heart, I tend to favour development over conservation. In our urbanised society, where you can drive for hours through empty countryside, we could surely use redundant farmland to build badly needed houses and still have more than enough left on which to holiday, hunt foxes and grow all the GM food we need. But erecting giant wind turbines across far-flung Welsh hills surely has little to do with energy production or economic development in the 21st century.

Economic development has always been about raising efficiency through concentrating industry in more productive farms and factories. Yet we now seem bent on the opposite: re-industrialising the landscape with machines whose inefficiency is as striking as their appearance. This looks like post-modern primitivism coupled with eco-fashion statement.

Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales
Cefn Croes Campaign


Towers of power or a load of hot air?

As part of its commitment to tackle climate change by reducing emissions, the Government wants renewable energy to provide 10 per cent of our electricity by 2010 and 20 per cent by 2020. Wind power is targeted to provide around 5 per cent by 2010; it currently provides 0.4 per cent. The Government has heavily subsidised the development of onshore and offshore wind. There is also a hidden subsidy that will oblige electricity companies to buy 10 per cent of their power from renewable sources at a guaranteed premium.

Wind power, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), is a natural and renewable energy source that produces no harmful emissions or waste products. By displacing energy that would otherwise be generated from fossil fuels, it claims, UK wind turbines "currently prevent the emission of more than a million tonnes of CO2 each year". Others strongly dispute the extent to which energy production contributes to harmful climate change.

Wind turbines produce no electricity when the wind does not blow, or when it blows too hard (both common in winter). When the right kind of wind does blow, electricity companies are obliged to buy the power, whether they need it or not. There is no way to store this electricity.

To meet the Government's targets for wind power, the BWEA estimates that we will have to install a 100m-high turbine every day until 2010. Geoff Sinclair, of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, believes it will require a 120m turbine every quarter of a mile from Land's End to John O'Groats - plus a 150m-high offshore turbine every 2.5 miles of open seacoast.

The actual output of wind farms averages about 30 per cent of their capacity. Thus the 39 1.5-megawatt turbines planned for Cefn Croes - which will be Europe's biggest wind farm - could have an effective though unpredictable capacity of about 17.5MW. By comparison, a typical large fossil fuel power station might have a capacity of about 2,000MW, and operate at up to 90 per cent of that. The UK's largest, the coal-burning Drax power station in Yorkshire, has a capacity of 3,870MW.

Denmark is held up as the pioneer of wind power, which accounts for about 18 per cent of its electricity. Yet, following a change of government, the Danes are now reining in their commitment to the wind industry, partly because of the cost of subsidies and partly on grounds of unreliability.


Wilson Gives Approval To Uk's Largest On-Shore Windfarm:
A Black Day for Democracy and the Planning System in the UK.

Energy minister Brian Wilson visited the Isle Lewis to promote what is intended to be the "biggest wind farm in the world". Following this he said he was "minded" to grant consent for a huge wind power station in the heart of the magnificent Cambrian Mountains in Wales. He did not even visit the site!

Referring to his decision to veto a Public Inquiry into the Cefn Croes wind 'farm' ( ) in Wales, which will be the biggest one in Europe, he announced on BBC2:

"If we are serious about renewables, and wind power in particular, then we have to get some of these projects going and having Public Inquiries about every one of them serves simply to delay development of renewables". (BBC 2, Dragon's Eye, 24 January 2002)

This disgraceful and undemocratic decision is all the more incredible as the public voted two to one against the application and the planning officer recommended refusal.

The project was backed by Enron and it was shortly after that giant collapsed that the minister made the surprise announcement. Patricia Hewitt, now Trade Secretary, was head of research for Andersen Consulting from 1994-97, (Enron-linked) and has made the final decision announced today.

She received 250 individual letters (local residents, other members of the public, organisations (note: each organisation representing hundreds of members, only counts as a single objection!) etc. together with petitions containing nearly 600 signatures objecting to the Application made under the Application Regulations. The Secretary of State also received over 500 letters of objection, which were made after the period allowed for pursuant to the Application Regulations, which makes a total of 1350 letters.

If Cefn Croes does go ahead it will set a precedent and the Govt will push through even bigger schemes, which are already in the pipeline.

Source: Our correspondent Angela Kelly


3 Beginning of the end for Kyoto?

by David E. Wojick, in National Post (of Canada)
May 22, 2002

Canada's drawn-out deliberation over whether or not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is threatening to upset a carefully crafted, global green agenda. The federal government's decision to conduct Kyoto consultations through the rest of this year makes it extremely unlikely that the protocol will go into effect as an international legal instrument during the Rio+10 summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in late August. This failure will be a resounding setback for the global green movement, which is used to getting its way.

The Rio+10 summit -- the World Summit on Sustainable Development -- is supposed to set the work plan for the next decade of international environmental activism. Kyoto is by far the biggest action item on the agenda, since it puts control of energy use into the hands of the greens.

Here's the problem for the greens. As with everything in the climate change game, the Kyoto details are tricky and complex. In order to go into binding legal effect, the protocol requires that most, but not all, of the richest countries ratify it. The protocol includes a list of the 34 most industrially developed countries, including Canada, of course, and their estimated 1990 emissions of greenhouse gases. Countries accounting for 55% of the listed total amount must ratify before the protocol becomes binding. This has become the critical numbers game.

The United States is by far the biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country on the list, with 36.1% of the total. But the United States has dropped out on economic grounds, which means that almost every country left on the list must ratify before the protocol goes into force. The swing margin is just 8.9%. Australia, with 2.1%, has said it will not ratify without the United States, bringing the margin to 6.8%. Canada has 3.3%, the loss of which would take the margin to 3.5%. If another large country, or a handful of small ones, do not ratify, the protocol cannot come into force.

Time is rapidly running out as far as Johannesburg is concerned. Canada's decision to be thoughtful is likely to give some other countries pause. Without Kyoto going into force there is very little of substance for the WSSD to consider.

Canada's action is particularly galling to federal environment minister David Anderson, the chairman of the governing council of the United Nations Environment Program, which owns the Kyoto Protocol. He is also a leading advocate of "global environmental governance," a movement to create a green alternative to the World Trade Organization. The Kyoto Protocol is the flagship of the global environmental governance scheme, but Mr. Anderson has failed to deliver his own country.

Even worse, Canada is demanding new concessions, especially credit for clean natural gas exported to the United States. Canada supplies almost 20% of the gas used by the United States, and that number is projected to rise rapidly. The United States is building a huge fleet of gas-fired electric power plants, many of which will depend on Canadian gas, so this is not a trivial issue. Canada stands to make, or not, many billions of dollars.

To his great credit, Mr. Anderson has defended Canada's actions to the global green community. When he presented the gas export credit concept to the European Union in Banff he stood firm, despite their disbelief. Prime Minister Jean Chretien is backing him up.

This concession message is not likely to be lost on other countries when Kyoto negotiations reopen in October, and every country counts. So it remains to be seen whether the Canadian position is a temporary setback for the Kyoto Protocol coming into force, or the beginning of the end.

Unlike Canada, none of the other industrialized countries is openly discussing the issue. The United States, which, like Canada, is still growing economically, has recognized the absurdity of the Kyoto energy reduction targets and walked away. The European Union is so stagnant economically that Kyoto is not a problem. The former Soviet Union countries, thanks to their economic collapse, are hoping to sell billions of dollars worth of Kyoto credits to Canada and Japan. Japan knows it can't meet the targets, but feels honour-bound to the treaty because of its prestige, so it is quietly hoping it collapses.

The deep message is that Canada is in no position to meet the Kyoto no-growth targets, for which there is no scientific basis anyway, and should reject the protocol. Canada's open consultation process may actually bring this truth out. But in the meantime, Johannesburg is probably a bust. Global environmental governance will just have to wait.

David E. Wojick, a journalist and policy analyst who resides in Virginia and Ontario, helped found the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. E-mail:


A voice from Canada:

The federal discussion paper's Appendix <at> lists the direct measures being proposed. They include road tolls on all major highways, orders to retrofit 20% of the commercial buildings and 20% of all vehicles, big subsidies for ethanol, etc. What is striking is how much each one costs and how little each one accomplishes in terms of CO2. There are NO "no-regrets" options on this list, and dreams of cost-saving efficiencies are just that, dreams. These guys should just imagine the kind of bureaucracy that would be created if even a quarter of the listed initiatives were implemented, and yet nothing in terms of emission cuts would be achieved.


4. TVA Board Votes to Restart a Nuclear Reactor That Has Been Idle Since 1985


ATLANTA, May 16 - The board of the Tennessee Valley Authority voted today to spend $1.7 billion to restart a troubled nuclear reactor at its Browns Ferry plant in northern Alabama, a decision that could produce the first substantial increase in the nation's nuclear-generating capacity in more than a decade.

The three reactors at Browns Ferry, on the Tennessee River near Athens, Ala., were shut down in 1985 after engineers discovered that they did not precisely match their blueprints. Even before then, the plant had a history of operating problems caused by a fire in 1975. After corrections were made, the authority restarted the second and third reactor units in 1991 and 1996. The first reactor was left idle because its capacity was not needed, but board members said today that with electricity demand growing, they needed a generator that would not add to the region's air quality problems.

"We must balance the responsibility to provide power to meet future needs with our objectives of protecting the environment and continuing the trend of debt reduction," said Skila Harris, one of the authority's three board members, who was an assistant to former Vice President Al Gore. "Restarting Unit 1 will provide needed generating capacity without increasing air emissions."

Note: TVA announced that it will ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew the operating licenses of all three reactors for 20 years.


5. Global Launch of 22 Industry Reports Prepared for 2002 World Summit on
Sustainable Development

PARIS/NAIROBI, 15 May 2002 - There is a growing gap between the efforts of business and industry to reduce their impact on the environment and the worsening state of the planet, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reveals today.

This gap, says UNEP, is due to the fact that in most industry sectors, only a small number of companies are actively striving for sustainability, i.e. actively integrating social and environmental factors into business decisions. And, secondly, because improvements are being overtaken by economic growth and increasing demand for goods and services: a phenomenon known as the "rebound effect".

The new findings appear in the UNEP overview report "10 years after Rio: the UNEP assessment". This overview report assesses progress to date by industry on sustainability issues. It draws on 22 global sustainability reports written by different industry sectors ranging from accounting and advertising to waste and water management. This collection of reports is known as the Industry as a Partner for Sustainable Development series.

"Today, we are still confronted with worsening global trends related to environmental problems like global warming, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, air and water pollution", said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "Some companies have risen to the challenge. Such efforts need to be acknowledged and applauded."

"However", Mr. Toepfer continued, "the new reports clearly show that progress since Rio has been uneven within and amongst industry sectors and countries. Despite many good examples of how industries are reducing waste and emissions, becoming more energy efficient, and helping poor communities to meet their basic needs, we have found that the majority of companies are still doing business as usual."

Congratulating those that have worked with UNEP to produce the industry sector reports, Mr. Toepfer said: "The industry associations, and others that embarked on this reporting process with UNEP, are to be congratulated for their first attempt at compiling a global sustainability progress report for their sector."

Each report, written by industry representatives in an unprecedented cooperation with the UN, labour and non-governmental organizations, looks at achievements, unfinished business and future challenges with respect to implementing Agenda 21 - the global action plan to save the planet that was agreed to at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.


6. Planet Is Running Out Of Time, Says Meacher (UK Minister for the Environment ): US Rejection Of Kyoto Climate Plan 'Risks Uninhabitable Earth'

The Guardian 16 May 2002

Britain will today launch its strongest attack on George Bush's rejection of the Kyoto climate protocol, as the government warns that Washington's actions threaten to make the planet "uninhabitable". Angered by the US government's decision to rule out signing up to Kyoto for the next 10 years, the environment minister, Michael Meacher, writes in today's Guardian that the world is running out of time. "We do not have much time and we do not have any serious option. If we do not act quickly to minimize runaway feedback effects [from global warming] we run the risk of making this planet, our home, uninhabitable."

The minister's intervention came after Washington's chief climate negotiator, Harlan Watson, said in London earlier this week that an independent US initiative to cut emissions of greenhouse gases would not be assessed until 2012. "We are not going to be part of the Kyoto protocol for the foreseeable future," he announced. Mr. Watson's remarks prompted an outspoken attack on the US by Mr. Meacher. "I am so disappointed that this week the US refused to reconsider coming back into the climate talks for 10 years. The need for action is urgent," he writes. Tony Blair also admitted last night that Britain and the US were at odds over the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement drawn up to help slow, and mitigate the effects of, climate change. In an interview on BBC2's Newsnight, the prime minister said: "On Kyoto, there is a difference of opinion. We have made that clear." Mr. Meacher takes a swipe at the US's apparent complacency when he warns that there are strong reasons for "doubting the comforting US picture that there's plenty of time to deal with the problem". The minister adds: "One [reason] is that climate change may be not steady but abrupt; the other is that the pressures we inflict on the climate may trigger wholly unexpected developments from feedback effects." Latest scientific evidence suggests the impact of climate change on Britain could be "faster and sharper" than expected, says Mr. Meacher. Almost two million homes in England and Wales are at risk from floods, and Britain will experience a 65% increase in river flooding if defenses do not account for climate change. "The UN intergovernmental panel on climate change ... has forecast that global average temperatures will rise by between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. "That may not sound much. But it is worth remembering that the last ice age, when much of the northern hemisphere was buried under an ice pack thousands of feet thick, was triggered by a fall in temperature of only some five degrees Celsius." A rise in temperature of just 5.8C could melt glaciers and Greenland's ice sheet, causing a rise in seawater that could submerge island nations.

Mr. Meacher's intervention comes after the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said he would not attend an environmental summit at a Bali resort next month. Mr. Prescott was criticised for considering attending the summit, a preparatory meeting for the Earth Summit in Johannesburg this September. Amid reports that the trip would cost taxpayers £250,000, he said Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, would be the only cabinet minister attending. Speaking to the parliamentary Labour party, the deputy prime minister said: "I'm not going to Bali. But I live in hope."

SEPP comment: We'll miss you in Bali, John -- but not much.


7. Planet's Future At Stake, U.N. Report Says

Published on May 23, 2002 in the Toronto Star
by Olivia Ward

LONDON - In 30 years, the Earth could look like a desert-strewn wasteland of urban slums, lose almost a quarter of its mammal species and leave people inhabiting large regions perishing from thirst and water-borne disease. Or, it could be stabilizing global warming, repairing damage to water resources and mitigating the worst effects of environmentally induced poverty.

According to a massive United Nations environmental study released yesterday, the planet is poised on a precipice, and time is running out for making tough political and economic choices that can pull it back from disaster.

"The choices made today are critical for the forests, oceans, rivers, mountains, and other life-support systems upon which current and future generations depend," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Released in advance of the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development - to be held Aug. 26-Sept. 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa - the 450-page report is based on contributions from more than 1,000 scientists collaborating with UNEP.

"This is an eye-opener," said Toepfer, a former environment minister in the German government. "The figures are not a nightmare prognosis for the future ... decisive action can achieve positive results." At Johannesburg, he added, "we need a concrete action plan ... concrete projects ... and above all a clear declaration."

Some environmental progress has been made since the landmark 1972 Stockholm environmental conference when UNEP was established, the report said. The quality of air and river waters has improved in Europe and North America, and checks on chemical emissions have made it possible for recovery of ozone layer damage, which has been growing to alarming proportions. Forest management schemes, such as those of Canada, Finland, Norway and the United States, are ensuring that the impact of over-harvesting of timber will be reduced in those countries.

The number of hungry people in the world is also predicted to fall, in spite of the disappearance of farmland and pollution from agricultural chemicals. But much of the progress is in wealthy industrialized countries, and the report found evidence of a widening gap between rich and poor.

"The poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, both within societies and in different countries and regions, are particularly vulnerable," it said. "Everyone is vulnerable to some extent to environmental threat, but there is evidence that the gap between those able and unable to cope with rising levels of environmental change is widening."

In some of its more dramatic findings, the report revealed that the number of people affected by disasters has climbed from an average of 147 million a year in the 1980s, to more than 211 million a year in the 1990s. At the turn of the century, financial losses from natural disasters were estimated at more than $100 billion (U.S.)

Environmentally based health disasters are also startling, including those from contaminated water supplies, the report said. "There are about 4 billion cases of diarrhea and 2.2 million deaths a year, equivalent to 20 jumbo jets crashing every day."

At Johannesburg, the U.N. will make a last-ditch attempt to change course from disaster, by persuading often-resistant leaders to act in the best interest of the planet. So far, much smaller changes have met strong opposition.

SEPP Comment: Why do we give money to UNEP? How can anyone take such drivel seriously? Are they telling us that global warming produces more poverty? It's Kyoto that will destroy wealth and make people poorer. Forget about Jo-burg and use the money to clean up drinking water supplies.


8. Disappearing frogs and other disasters: Global warming worse than an asteroid impact

In The Globe and Mail of May 4, a leading Canadian newspaper, Alanna Mitchell reports in purple terms on a research paper from the journal Nature of March 28 . A string of authors find "a coherent pattern of ecological change" that they had not predicted. (Imagine that!) And must be caused by Global Warming - what else? Like British frogs disappearing because newts breeding earlier means that "frog spawn becomes newt lunch." The writer asks: Does it matter? Maybe British newt ponds can go on for decades with fewer and fewer frogs-and then one day the pond's ecosystem collapses. And she adds ominously: We just don't know.

Well, Alanna, you just haven't been reading the frog stories in TWTW. Just click and then Search for "FROGS." And when you interviewed author Eric Post of Penn State University, it never occurred to you to ask the obvious: What about the much greater climate fluctuations in the recent past? How did frogs survive them? Instead, you report, Post came up with the frightening thought that "ecology is non-linear." Global ecologies will crash, he fears , just like the Larsen-B ice sheet in Antarctica. (Or maybe like the sudden eruption of a volcano? Or perhaps an earthquake?)

But never fear. There are always the modelers, eager to create new disasters on their computers. Like ecologist Jay Malcolm of the University of Toronto. He extrapolates the Nature results - linearly-from 0.6C to 5.8 degrees (according to a claimed IPCC consensus!). His conclusions, published by the World Wildlife Fund (who else?): More than 80% of land ecosystems suffer extinctions, including Canada's boreal forests and tundras. He likens this total collapse to the extinctions produced by an asteroid impact of 65 million years ago. "We've now elevated ourselves to the role of asteroids," Malcolm declares dramatically. What will survive: "Cockroaches, crabgrass, and maybe humans," he says. "As for the rest, it's a big question mark."

All of this in a respected newspaper. It's giving science a bad name -especially ecological modeling. Should we just laugh it off or should we cry?


9. The Kyoto Protocol is not backed by Science

This essay discusses cogent reasons why the Kyoto Protocol should not be implemented. The first argument is a legal one, based on Article 2 of the FCCC (Rio Climate Treaty). A more substantive argument is based on climate science, which does not support the actions envisioned in the Protocol. A third argument is perhaps the most convincing to the general public: Enacting the Kyoto Protocol would be economically harmful, raise fuel prices, destroy jobs, create poverty, and lower the standard of living. A fourth argument is that the Kyoto Protocol is quite ineffective; it would not produce the desired results; in addition, it is unworkable, too complicated and contentious. Its real basis appears to be ideological, rather than a concern with climate.

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