|The Week That Was
April 3, 2004
1. New on the Web: DAVID LEGATES ATTACKS THE HOCKEYSTICK, ONE OF THE PILLARS OF THE 2001 IPCC REPORT, WHICH USES IT AS EVIDENCE FOR ANTHROPOGENIC WARMING. Independent evidence against the Hockeystick is also presented in a more recent paper by Esper, Frank and Wilson in Eos, v. 85, pp.113, 120, 23 March 2004.
2. CLIMATE MODELS FLAWED: NEW SATELLITE EVIDENCE
3. SOLAR ACTIVITY AND ARCTIC CLIMATE
4. EUROPE'S COLD SWEAT OVER KYOTO
5. ENRON AND KYOTO
6. OZONE AGREEMENT FACES CHALLENGE
Research by Ken Minschwaner, an atmospheric physicist at the New Mexico
Institute of Mining and Technology, and Andrew Dessler of the University
of Maryland suggests that global warming may be less severe than models
3. Solar Activity And Arctic Climate
Letter in THE HILL TIMES, MARCH 22, 2004
However, I am compelled to disagree that there is a consensus of scientists who agree that this is the consequence of human activities. While the melting of permafrost, retreat of glaciers and waning of the permanent ice pack may be alarming, it is only alarming to those unfamiliar with past changes in climate in the North. Paleoclimatologists recognize such events as part of natural changes wholly unrelated to CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. In fact, the waxing and waning of ice shelves, along with glaciers, ice caps and pack ice are largely related to changes in solar inputs.
Arctic paleoclimatologists are very familiar with the Holocene "hypsithermal" event - a warm period some five to 10 thousand years ago that caused widespread retreat of permafrost and changes in vegetation patterns. Indeed, we have shown that Arctic summer temperatures at that time were five to eight degrees warmer than today. Polar bears and those lower on the Arctic food chain survived, as they will with the current warming.
As for 20th century warming, climatologists and paleoclimatologists alike agree that we are observing a solar-driven climb out of the Little Ice Age. In fact, most of the modern warming trend began prior to any substantial increase in CO2. Recent glacier retreats, breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the north coast of Ellesmere Island, and permafrost degradation have been in the making since the end of this Little Ice Age. We know that the Little Ice Age was an artifact of solar variability, with key intervals of maximum cooling corresponding to historically documented minimums in solar activity when no sunspot activity was recorded. The cosmogenic isotopes, 10Be in ice cores and 14C in tree rings, are measures of solar activity, and they faithfully correlate with sunspots and with climate.
The return to warmer conditions began in the late 1800s (when ships managed to sail the Northwest Passage for the first time), and we find solar activity has greatly increased since this time, with sunspot numbers now at all-time highs. However, the scientific basis for climate change is poorly presented in the media. That The New York Times published rubbish about ice leads on the northern ice cap appearing for the first time in 50 million years is totally irresponsible (the Times was finally shamed into publishing a retraction). That portion of the scientific community that attributes climate warming to CO2 relies on the hypothesis that increasing CO2, which is in fact a minor greenhouse gas, triggers a much larger water vapour response to warm the atmosphere. This mechanism has never been tested scientifically beyond the mathematical models that predict extensive warming, and are confounded by the complexity of cloud formation - which has a cooling effect.
On the contrary, the role of solar activity on climate warming has been observed in real data sets collected at many different time scales. All are consistent in showing a relationship between changes in solar activity and temperature. Before spending futile billions on Kyoto implementation measures, perhaps we should pay more attention to the role that the sun plays. We know that it was responsible for climate change in the past, and so is clearly going to play the lead role in present and future climate change. And interestingly... solar activity has recently begun a downward cycle.
Dr. Ian Clark
4. Europe's Cold Sweat Over Kyoto
Germany raises doubts over EU's Kyoto policy
BRUSSELS, March 26 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Friday Europe should not rush into enforcing targets to curb greenhouse emissions if Russia fails to sign the Kyoto treaty on climate change, warning it could harm industry.
The European Union has set a 2005 start date for measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming. But critics say the Kyoto Protocol's strict requirements may hamper Europe's effort to boost its economic competitiveness.
EU leaders renewed their commitment to economic reforms to boost competitiveness as well as to the early entry into force of the Kyoto treaty in a joint statement at a Brussels summit. Russia, whose support is vital to reach a quorum for the treaty to enter into force, has angered the EU by suggesting it may not sign before the 2005 deadline.
"We hope that Kyoto will be ratified, for example by Russia," Schroeder told a news conference. "But if that doesn't happen, it will distort competition at the expense of European and especially German economy." Without giving a direct answer, he asked: "What happens with the emissions trading system if Kyoto is not ratified?"
EU diplomats say German concerns are shared by Italy, Spain and Denmark. These countries fear that without Russia, the cost of the EU's emissions-cutting scheme will shoot up. Under Kyoto, the EU must cut its greenhouse gas output -- an inevitable result of burning fossil fuels like oil and gas -- by eight percent of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
To help reach these targets, the EU has designed an international emissions
trading scheme, due to start in 2005. Plants in each member state will
be granted tradeable carbon dioxide certificates, which allow them to
generate a set amount of the polluting gas. If a company exceeds its limit,
it can avoid a stiff fine by buying permits from someone with a surplus,
thus creating a secondary market. Experts say if Russia joins, the cost
of traded emissions will drop as Moscow, whose industrial output fell
dramatically in the 1990s, will flood the market with emission credits.
If it does not join, countries that have banned "clean" nuclear
power, such as Italy, or are phasing it out, as in case of Germany, will
face higher costs.
Because despite the change in weather patterns and Europe's green rhetoric, the EU faces a reality check on March 31, the day each member nation must submit a plan for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
The projected costs, as well as the likely loss of economic competitiveness with the United States, has the EU wondering if it can virtually go it alone in implementing the Kyoto Protocols on climate change. The Protocol has yet to take effect as a binding treaty since the US and Russia won't sign on, and China and India were given a pass for now.
In Germany, the EU's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the government has been in a crisis over details of its plan. Last week at an EU summit, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asked the body to slow down implementation but was rebuffed by France. All he won was a request for a cost-benefit study on "environmental and competitiveness considerations" in meeting Kyoto's strict targets.
No EU government had submitted a plan by last week, although seven of the 15 have drafts. Many governments are as troubled as Germany's, with the result that the European Commission sent out a warning that failure to submit a plan on time could result in legal action and fines.
The required plans are only for setting up an official trading system that would allow companies to buy and sell permits to emit greenhouse gases, starting in 2005. Each government would be given emission allowances, which could be traded in a market system. A company could either meet a target or else purchase a "credit" from cleaner companies and keep on polluting. The scheme is designed to meet the EU's promise of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by 8 percent of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
But Europe's auto and electric industries recently warned of a slowdown in growth if they are forced to invest in clean energy technologies. The warnings come as the EU has acknowledged that it's falling further behind in its plan to match the US in productivity, employment, and growth.
Those kinds of warnings about slow growth are what compelled the US Senate, and President Bush, to reject Kyoto. If Europe now backpedals, the global effort to influence climate change will be driven mainly by the market, as car buyers and the auto industry choose to become less polluting. And Europe will lose its claim to global leadership in pushing Kyoto.
It could just be that government inducements, such as tax credits, may be preferable over tough regulation on greenhouse gases. But then, would that pace of change be fast enough to slow down climate change? The science is not clear yet on whether the temperature trend could be reversed even if the whole world went full bore to reaching Kyoto's targets.
At the least, this EU debate over Kyoto's trade-offs will set a useful
precedent for the rest of the world on whether it too can balance economic
sacrifice against a collective will to curb human changes to Earth's atmosphere.
Kyoto Stumbles in Europe
NGO says EU citizens will gain from Member States confronting the stark
realities of their commitments to an 'unsustainable' Kyoto Protocol.
You've probably heard the bad news about Enron going down in flames.
But maybe Enron's spectacular fall from grace will cause the carbon-dioxide
emissions reduction program, mandated by the Kyoto Protocol, to also take
a kamikaze dive, and that's good news.
A plea by developed countries to be allowed to go on using a gas that destroys ozone is being debated at an international meeting in Canada.
They want the meeting of signatories to the ozone protection treaty, the Montreal Protocol, to allow continued use of methyl bromide. The gas, a pesticide for fumigating crops, damages the ozone layer. It was due to be phased out by 2005, and critics say reprieving it could badly damage the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
The Earth's thin layer of ozone protects all living things against harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause cancer and blindness and damage the immune system.
Industrial gases, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons, had been eating away at the layer until the ozone "hole" was discovered above Antarctica in the 1980s.
The Montreal Protocol does allow continued use of ozone-destroying gases for purposes agreed to be "critical". The US is asking at the meeting, also in Montreal, for "critical use exemptions" which environmental groups say would in fact expand its use of methyl bromide.
Other countries pressing for similar exemptions include Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The use of the gas had been cut to 30% of the high 1991 levels.
Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme, said: "We need to see a commitment to a declining trajectory for methyl bromide. Otherwise we're left with a job unfinished.
"If this happens it may send the wrong signal, and so other aspirations and goals like delivering safe and sufficient drinking water in the Third World, reversing the loss of the world's wildlife, and fighting global warming can also be put on hold."
David Doniger, of a US lobby group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the American request: "It's the first time any country has proposed to reverse the phase-out and increase the production of a chemical that's supposed to be eliminated."
Some environmentalists believe the US administration is acting under pressure from the powerful farming lobby in key electoral states like California.
Sir, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom tries to make a case for eliminating the production and use of the uniquely important pesticide methyl bromide as a "last chance to protect the ozone layer" (FT, 25 March). However, her argument lacks any scientific base.
According to the latest UN-WMO assessment report, about two-thirds of all MeBr emitted into the atmosphere comes from natural sources, mainly from the oceans. If human-produced MeBr were really making a contribution to ozone destruction, we should be seeing a gradual increase of bromine in the stratosphere. We are not aware of any such evidence. Additionally, MeBr has such a short lifetime, measured in days rather than years, that its chance of reaching the stratosphere is minute. By the same token, if ever it is found to cause a problem for ozone, its production can be stopped without any lasting effects.
S Fred Singer
From Prof S Fred Singer
The same UN report informs us that ozone has not been declining for at least a decade, despite continuing emissions of MeBr. And we still have not observed an actual rising trend in ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface - anticipated from theory and much hyped. All this makes the widely touted "success" of the Montreal Protocol ring a bit hollow.