|The Week That Was
December 20, 2003
1. New on the Web: BY RELATING ALIENS TO GLOBAL WARMING, MICHAEL CRICHTON PRESENTS A BRILLIANT EXPOSITION OF HOW JUNK SCIENCE CAME TO DISTORT PUBLIC POLICY - and ultimately threaten the health of science itself. It is a rather long lecture, delivered at Caltech, but well worth reading. On a personal note, I would add that I have been involved in most of the topics he cites, but also on the Club of Rome study "Limits to Growth" and the controversy on the SST (Supersonic Transport), around 1971 - 1972. Though not mentioned by Crichton, I published a detailed scientific refutation of Nuclear Winter, listing the errors, special assumptions, and omissions of crucial facts. In 1991, I debated Carl Sagan on these issues on Nightline (referred to by Crichton). I have also fought the non-scientific basis of the 1987 Montreal Protocol ("to save the ozone layer"), which formed the blueprint for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ("to save the climate" and similar nonsense). On our web, you will find these matters discussed more fully, including also such issues as second-hand smoke, the Radon scare, nuclear waste, dirty bombs, the attacks on Lomborg, and much more.
And to add to your reading pleasure during the Christmas season , we have posted another profound lecture by Michael Crichton, discussing scientific truth versus hype. Also on New on the Web you will find a penetrating analysis by Peter VanDoren and Jerry Taylor of a controversial environmental issue currently in the news: New Source Review for coal-fired powerplants.
Finally, a treat for those who read Italian. Our associate Francesco Ramella, who arranged the effective SEPP Briefing for media and others in Milan on Dec. 9 during COP-9, has written an essay Effetto Serra: Siamo Prudenti, Stiamo a Guardare (Greenhouse Effect: Be Prudent -- Look before you leap). An English translation will be on our Web soon.
2. REPORT FROM COP-9 IN MILAN, 10TH DECEMBER 2003
3. REPORT FROM COP-9 IN MILAN, 11TH DECEMBER 2003
4. REPORT FROM COP-9 IN MILAN, 12TH DECEMBER 2003
5. More from COP: THE WHO'S CLAIM THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS KILLING 150,000 PEOPLE EACH YEAR
6. GEOLOGIC DATA SHOW THAT GH WARMING WILL BE INCONSEQUENTIAL
7. ADAPTATION, NOT KYOTO, IS THE SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING
8. SUPPORT SEPP
2. Report from COP-9 in Milan, 10th December 2003
This year's COP is a subdued affair, with little on the official agenda besides endless technical discussions about exactly how best to make the world a darker and poorer place. There is also considerable gloom and frustration among the delegates and NGOs caused by the dysfunctional negotiating process, by the real possibility that Russia won't ratify the Kyoto Protocol, thereby preventing it from coming into force, and by the presentation last week by Margot Wallstrom, the EU's commissioner for the environment. According to Wallstrom, only two of the EU's fifteen member provinces (the United Kingdom and Sweden) are on a path to meet their Kyoto targets. This may cause only a few mild expressions of regret in Berlin and Paris, because after all the protocol no longer contains any enforcement provisions, but risking the wrath of Wallstrom will cause some sleepless nights in at least the lesser capital cities of Europe.
Today, however, there was at least one political spark to liven up the dreary routine. Within a couple hours after arriving with the U. S. congressional delegation on an overnight military flight from Washington, Senator James Inhofe was giving the kind of speech that just isn't given at polite diplomatic functions. For forty-five minutes, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee laid out the case against global warming alarmism and the Kyoto Protocol to a packed briefing room. It was a shorter version of the memorable speech he gave on the Senate floor last July. He even brought along thirty or so of the charts and quotations blown up on large styrofoam poster boards that he had used on the Senate floor. Or, rather, I should say that a loyal staff member, Aloysius Hogan, lugged them on the trip and had just about enough energy left to hold them up while Senator Inhofe was speaking.
The U. S. congressional delegation also included senators Larry Craig, Jeff Sessions, and Craig Thomas and Representatives Fred Upton and Chris Cannon. Representatives Jim Greenwood and Chris Shays came on the same plane, but for some reason didn't participate in the briefing. Afterwards, Senator Larry Craig confided that he really wanted to win one of the coveted Fossil of the Day awards, but that he didn't know what he could say to top Inhofe. The U. S. delegation has won a lion's share of this year's Fossil of the Days.
The National Environmental Trust (a group which has little do to with the environment and nothing at all to do with trust) responded with a multi-page press release with photos of the leading climate criminals-Inhofe, Craig, and Thomas-on the front. Large posters with a color photo of Inhofe and a quote from his Senate floor speech (Global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people") appeared up and down the halls. Clearly, the alarmists know who their principal opponent is. Most of these posters were quickly torn down by someone who didn't want to give Inhofe any free publicity, but I managed to save one and plan to bring it back to Washington.
That was the big excitement for today and possibly for the whole week
at COP-9. It's a sad sign of the low level of activity that the big event
for WWF and Greenpeace was the launch of--get this--the International
Climate Symbol. It's a blue and green Earth with a candle burning on top
and white wax dripping down the side. I got one of the pathetic little
pins and also a pamphlet about how NGOs, businesses, and individuals can
sign up to use it on their stationery and products. You can sign the climate
loyalty oath online at www.saveourclimate.org and thereby qualify to use
3. Report from COP-9 in Milan, 11th December 2003
R. K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, addressed the key question in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, namely what level of greenhouse gas concentrations constitutes "dangerous interference with the climate system." That's what the Rio Treaty and its Kyoto Protocol are supposed to prevent, so it's an important question to answer. I don't have Pachauri's text in front of me, but his answer seems to be that whatever feels dangerous to us is dangerous for us. To put it less flippantly, because it is a legitimate point, each region and country will be affected in different ways by global warming; therefore what level is considered to reach dangerous interference will vary according to these effects. Of course, Pachauri didn't mention that large parts of the world will find many of the effects beneficial.
While each of us may think that it us up to us to make a personal decision about what is dangerous interference with the climate system for us, it turns out that the environmentalists have already decided for us. I've heard this at several side events from several NGOs and government research institutes. "Dangerous interference" is whatever level of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will lead to a two degrees Celsius warming. So now you know. Since two degrees Celsius is near the low end of the predictions for 2100 in the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, this means that the alarmists can now define whatever predictions the next IPCC report comes up with as all being beyond the level of "dangerous interference." It's a pretty neat trick, especially since most of the ecologists and economists who've studied it, such as are found in the two volumes of essays edited by Robert Mendelsohn, predict that a two-degree warming will be beneficial on the whole.
The International Policy Network held a press conference this afternoon to launch their new book, edited by Kendra Okonski of IPN, and formerly my colleague at CEI. "Adapt or Die: the science, politics, and economics of climate change" is a rather unfortunately-titled collection of essays on themes subversive of the Kyoto orthodoxy. Kendra, Julian Morris of IPN, Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institut, Martin Agerup from a Danish futurist think tank, and Andrew Kenny from South Africa's University of Cape Town all said sensible things in a low-key way. Paul Reiter mentioned that on the subject of vector-borne diseases, the IPCC had managed to conjure up a case for global warming leading to more malaria, dengue fever, etc. by relying on people who didn't know anything about the causes of the spread of vector-borne diseases. He said that six "experts" on the Third Assessment Report had published nine scholarly articles on the subject between them, while his group of three experts who were not consulted had published 635 scholarly articles (forgive me, Paul, if I haven't gotten the numbers exactly right). The response was long counter-speeches from the floor by the usual assortment of professional bores who populate these meetings.
The official ministerial meeting has produced one agreement--on how to
count carbon sinks toward meeting Kyoto targets. It's complicated and
I don't know all the details, but I do know that the environmentalists
have been defeated or partially defeated on one key issue. The environmentalists
insisted that one environmental catastrophe, namely global warming, not
be used to precipitate another environmental catastrophe. Thus they opposed
allowing genetically-modified organisms to be used as carbon sinks. In
the end, the conference of the parties agreed that each nation could follow
its own laws on GMOs. So get ready for a big fundraising campaign against
4. Report from COP-9 in Milan, 12th December 2003
The last day is devoted mostly to "Plenary Roundtables," which slight previous experience has taught me are tedious beyond bearing, but I had to miss them anyway to catch my plane out of Milan. Luckily, I've saved up bits and pieces on the big topic of COP-9. Whither Kyoto? What do we do now? Or what do we do next? A number of side events, and the best ones in my view, were on these most interesting questions. The wheels may have come off the Kyoto bandwagon, but there has been quick agreement behind the scenes on one conclusion: whether the Kyoto Protocol goes into force or not, let all proclaim to every people in every land that it has already succeeded. The world has been set by Kyoto on an inevitable course of energy deprivation. Beyond that, there's not much agreement. Oh, there's one more thing that everyone from so-called developing countries agrees on. Developing countries are eager to join the second round of commitments after 2012. By that they mean that they are eager to receive money from rich countries. Not economic growth, but cash transfers to governments. The Kyoto round has been disappointing in terms of wealth redistribution, but hopes remain for the future among officials from poor countries.
I don't have the attention span necessary to recount and analyze all the proposals and suggestions I've heard over the last few days, but they fall into three broad categories. First, there are those who think that targets and timetables have a future in a second round of commitments and beyond. With the U. S. out, Australia out, Russia probably out, Japan with no way to meet its target, the EU failing to meet its targets, and no enforcement mechanism in the Protocol, this is not a very robust camp at the moment. But it is still the official line, at least until such time as a new official line is agreed upon.
Second, there are those who are advocating an a la carte approach after 2012. Put a number of approaches on a menu, including targets and timetables, technology-forcing projects, voluntary commitments, and technology and financial transfers to poor countries. Then let each nation choose some of these and call whatever results compliance. This approach to Kyoto round #2 gets around the problem that no one is doing much to meet their commitments, besides creating a lot of offices and programs and institutes. It sounds rather a poor thing right now, but no doubt the clever people at places like the Pew Center on Climate Change (which I must remind everyone is an industry-front group funded by the Pew family's fortune derived from owning the Sun Oil Company) can work it up into something most impressive. It's too bad that Enron is no longer the leading business member of the Pew Center because conjuring grand appearances out of thin (or perhaps I should say hot) air was Enron's specialty.
The third approach is to decide that every person on the Earth has a right to emit the same amount of greenhouse gases. So the way to do it is to assign everyone an equal emissions quota. If people in America or France want to use more energy, then they will have to buy quotas from people who wish to live a more authentic way of life-that is, from poor people in poor countries. The kicker to this truly zany idea is that the emissions quota to which each person has a right will keep going down until it's at the level of a poor person in a poor country. Then those who wish to use more energy will be out of luck. No more quotas to buy! Everyone will then be blessed with an authentic lifestyle and get to go to sleep when the sun goes down. This so-called "contraction and convergence" approach appeals to both unreconstructed communists and to human-rights absolutists. It has a certain moral force for those lost souls who have completely lost their bearings in the world. So it ought to be the winner in these darkening times. Alas, contraction and convergence has some practical problems that will confine its popularity to the chattering classes. The individual emissions quotas would be too small to make it worthwhile for each person to buy and sell--the problem of high transaction costs. Thus the quotas will have to be bundled up and sold by larger entities, such as nations. France may want to buy emissions quotas from, say, the tyrant Mugabe, but I just don't see Lori Wallach at Public Citizen allowing such unethical trade. There is a more fundamental practical problem. People in poor countries won't tolerate it. They want to become wealthier and therefore to use more energy. They won't agree to living forever in an artificially energy-poor world.
I've said that the wheels have come off the Kyoto bandwagon. Don't conclude therefore that Kyoto is dead and the sun is shining again. Kyoto is dying and will almost certainly die. But the Rio Treaty-the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-lives on and is really the problem. Rio is a noose around our necks, and Rio created the process that is beginning to tighten that noose. The global warming establishment has become overwhelming in its size and resources and ambitions. There are hundreds of NGOs, hundreds of institutes and university programs, and hundreds of government agencies that are spending billions of dollars to figure out how to make tomorrow poorer and darker than today. Rio is the noose, and we must figure out how to cut the rope.
The WHO's claim that global warming is killing 150,000 people each year (Report, December 12) has been seized upon by activists as further proof that urgent action is needed to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. But the key word in the WHO's report is "needlessly". Deaths from malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition are "needless" because, with responsible and pragmatic use of resources, these afflictions are preventable.
Malaria was rife across Europe until the mid-20th century. Increased prosperity, agricultural development and pesticides eliminated the disease - and could do so across the world. Prosperity brings public health, meaning safe drinking water and less diarrhea. Agricultural development and reductions in trade barriers would reduce the causes of malnutrition.
But rather than tackle these health issues directly, the climate-change lobby wants to squander billions on vain attempts to change the weather. The Kyoto protocol would cost the world economy billions, making it harder to adapt to the negative effects of global warming, much of which is a natural phenomenon, in the future.
As for the dehydration-related kidney problems of British children whose parents didn't know you had to drink more in hot weather, what sounds more sensible, telling people to drink more, or trying to alter the climate so that they don't have to?
6. Terrestrial Evidence for Two Greenhouse Events in the Late Cretaceous
Lee Nordt, Stacy Atchley, and Steve Dworkin, Department of Geology,
SEPP Comment: This important paper backs up the analysis
of geologic data by Nir Shaviv and, indirectly, our own extrapolations
from the present satellite record. It derives a "climate sensitivity"
of ~ 0.6 deg C, less than half of the lowest limit given by the IPCC.
This means that there are strong negative feedbacks in the atmosphere,
which the climate models are not taken into account. It also means that
future GH warming will be inconsequential.
7. IPN launches new book: Adapt or Die
Environmental News Network, 28 November 2003
From International Policy Network
But a new book, Adapt or Die: The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change**, challenges the view that climate change will be catastrophic, and that "climate control" is necessary.
13 expert contributors argue that policymakers should focus on strategies to enhance society's ability to adapt to climate change. As world leaders gather for the COP-9 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Milan, Italy (1-12 December, 2003), Adapt or Die proposes constructive alternatives to climate control which would enable humanity to cope with negative impacts of climate change without excessive costs.
"Attempts to control the climate through restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would have little effect on the earth's climate, but would harm our ability to adapt to climate change by slowing economic growth and diverting resources into inappropriate uses," says the book's editor, Kendra Okonski, Director of the Sustainable Development Project at International Policy Network, a London-based NGO.
"To deal with climate change, we should adopt policies that promote
human wellbeing both today and in the future," explains Okonski.
"We could do this today by eliminating disease and poverty, developing
new technologies, and reducing humanity's vulnerability to climate change.
In contrast, the Kyoto Protocol requires huge expenditures today for negligible
benefits in the far future."
**Adapt or Die: The science, politics and economics of climate change
8. SUPPORT SEPP
From a TWTW reader
Just to say, The idea of the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of distant wind turbines endlessly disturbing Senator Ted Kennedy's sleep conjures an interesting image in my mind, somewhat reminiscent of Scrooge being visited by the ghost of Christmas Past! ... and ... YES! my $100 donation check, to help your GOOD WORK continue, will be in the envelope tonight for mailing tomorrow.
I continue to value the great contribution you and your SCIENTIFIC associates and colleagues are making to the critical debates on environmental policy, and TWTW is a great weekly read for me and my student environmental biologist daughter, Alison.
Please continue your struggle. And let me wish you a wonderful holiday
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SEASON'S GREETINGS to all from