|The Week That Was
March 13, 2004
2. UK CHIEF SCIENTIST 'GAGGED' AFTER WARNING OF GLOBAL WARMING THREAT
3. CLIMATE SCIENCE IGNORED BY UK CHIEF SCIENTIST
4. GLOBAL WARMING WORSE THAN WMD?
5. WIND ENERGY PROBLEMS IN GERMANY
6. NUCLEAR ADVANCES IN SOME COUNTRIES:
7. INDUSTRY CRITICS "IRATE" OVER WHITE HOUSE SWITCH ON CO2 POLICY.
8. LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING
In January, Sir David wrote a scathing article in the American journal Science attacking Washington for failing to take climate change seriously. "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism," he wrote.
Support for Sir David's view came yesterday from Hans Blix, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector, who said the environment was at least as important a threat as global terrorism. He told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost: "I think we still overestimate the danger of terror. There are other things that are of equal, if not greater, magnitude, like the environmental global risks."
Since Sir David's article in Science was published, No 10 has tried to limit the damage to Anglo-American relations by reining in the Prime Minister's chief scientist. In a leaked memo, Mr Rogers ordered Sir David - a Cambridge University chemist who offers independent advice to ministers - to decline any interview requests from British and American newspapers and BBC Radio 4's Today.
"To accept such bids runs the risk of turning the debate into a sterile argument about whether or not climate change is a greater risk," Mr Rogers said in the memo, which was sent to Sir David's office in February. "This sort of discussion does not help us achieve our wider policy aims ahead of our G8 presidency [next year]." The move will be seized on by critics of Mr Blair's stance over the Iraq war as further evidence that he is too subservient to the Bush administration. It will also be seen as an attempt to bolster the Prime Minister's case for pre-emptive strikes to combat the threat of international terrorism, which he outlined in a speech on Friday.
Sir David, who is highly regarded by Mr Blair, has been primed with a list of 136 mock questions that the media could ask if they were able to get access to him, and the suggested answers he should be prepared to give. One question asks: "How do the number of deaths caused by climate change and terrorism compare?" The stated answer that Sir David is expected to give says: "The value of any comparison would be highly questionable - we are talking about threats that are intrinsically different."
If Sir David were to find himself pushed to decide whether terrorism or climate change was the greater threat, he was supposed to answer: "Both are serious and immediate problems for the world today." But this was not what Sir David said on the Today programme on 9 January when the Science article was published. Asked to explain how he had come to the conclusion that global warming was more serious than terrorism, Sir David replied that his equation was "based on the number of fatalities that have already occurred" - implying that global warming has already killed more people than terrorism.
The leaked memo came to light after a computer disk was discovered by an American freelance journalist, Mike Martin, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, where Sir David gave a lecture. "The disk was lying on the top of a computer in the press room and I popped it into the machine to see what was on it," said Mr Martin, whose own article is published on the ScienceNow website, an online service operated by Science.
Mr Rogers' memo, written a few days before the Seattle conference, was aimed at limiting his exposure to questions from US and British media. While in Seattle, Sir David sat on a panel of scientists at one carefully stage-managed press conference, but his press office said he was too busy to give interviews afterwards to journalists.
Lucy Brunt-Jenner, Sir David's press officer, said she could not comment on internal government documents but said it would be wrong to suggest that Sir David was in any way muzzled. "Sir David had a press conference and he was available to the media at three times," Ms Brunt-Jenner said.
But Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, said: "It's a clear attempt by the Prime Minister to keep Sir David quiet. The Government's chief scientist is the nation's chief scientist and I'd expect him to say what he thinks."
SEPP Comment: This establishes Hans Blix as a certified idiot.
Good thing he is no longer in charge of looking for WMD in Iraq.
3. Climate Science Ignored by UK Chief Scientist
There has been much media attention paid to an essay "Climate Change Science: Adapt, Mitigate, or Ignore," featured in the 9 January issue of the widely read US journal Science. Its author, Sir David King, chooses to ignore climate science. Rather, his purpose seems to be to put pressure on the White House to cave in on the Kyoto Protocol. In this effort, he is joined by numerous New York Times editorials and, of course, by Al Gore's notable Columbia University speech of Jan 8, a record cold day in New York, in which he called George Bush a "moral coward"
It is surprising, even tragic, that King, chief scientific adviser to Her Majesty's Government, is so uninformed about the observational evidence against global warming. As a distinguished theoretical chemist, he surely must be familiar with complex models and calculations -- and with carefully checking them against actual data before accepting them as valid. Yet when it comes to climate science, all caution is thrown to the winds and we get such hyperbole as: "Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today -- more serious even than the threat of terrorism."
There is little point to recite here the omissions, inaccuracies, and plain misstatements of relevant facts that are liberally sprinkled throughout his essay. [His first paragraph contains at least half a dozen examples.] Suffice it to say that they can all be addressed - with the end result that there is at present no solid evidence for a significant human influence on global climate - none whatsoever. According to greenhouse theory and climate models, there should have been a sizeable warming of the atmosphere by now, due to the anthropogenic increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; but it seems to be too small even to be detectable. At least, that's the conclusion of the best global data we have - from weather satellites and, quite independently, from instruments on weather balloons as well. Evidently, the models greatly overestimate the effect - and we suspect we know the reasons.
The real danger is that the science advice given to the government will cause serious economic damage to Britain. It is utterly irresponsible to recommend a climate policy that calls for reducing fossil-fuel use by 60 percent (with respect to 1990) by 2050. It amounts to a system of fuel rationing that would raise energy prices to astronomical levels for consumers, cripple industry, increase joblessness and poverty, and ultimately threaten a breakdown of the social order.
It is tragic to watch the UK repeat the mistakes of Germany and Denmark in going overboard in the installation of wind turbines -- in the expectation that they can provide a reliable source of electric power. It even more tragic to watch them turn down the nuclear option, the only way to supplant fossil-fueled electricity. At least, Britain is not yet closing down working fission reactors, as is the case in Sweden and Germany - or refusing to turn them on, as in Austria. At the same time, Sir David recommends [nuclear] fusion as a future energy source - and with a straight face! Fusion has been a "future" source now for decades and may remain so.
He is forced to admit - albeit indirectly - that the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon emissions is ineffective; but then "the point of the Kyoto Protocol was to set up an international process whose scope could be ratcheted up." We always suspected that to be the case, but it's nice to have him confirm it. I am sure it will gladden the hearts of the many UN climate bureaucrats in Geneva, Bonn, and Nairobi, plus the several thousands from 190 national delegations that convene annually (and in between) for giant international gabfests. And that's not counting the considerable national bureaucracies and hundred of NGOs -- all of them intent to keep the Kyoto process going indefinitely even is the Protocol fails enactment. And let's not overlook the thousands of scientists, technologists and media types who derive their living from the fear of climate catastrophes. After all, the US alone spends some $4 billion annually on climate-related research.
Sir David concludes his essay by calling for "immediate action" to avoid the feared climate catastrophes. Of course, he places chief blame on the United States, still the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, until overtaken by China and India, for failing to adopt the Kyoto Protocol and other costly mitigation policies. In the meantime, the climate refuses to warm as advertised; but that will not slow down the devoted followers of warming and advocates of governmental controls. They will derive much encouragement from Sir David King's scientifically flawed position.
S Fred Singer is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the
University of Virginia and President of the non-profit Science & Environmental
Policy Project. A former director of the US Weather Satellite Service,
he has published widely on climate problems. He is the author of "Hot
Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate" (Independent
Institute, Oakland, CA)
4. Global Warming Worse than WMD?
Sir, Your leader "Leadership costs" [1 March 2004] advocates a Eurozone Plan B if Russia says nyet to Kyoto.
Why worry? Kyoto, with Russia aboard, is estimated to affect temperature by -0.02 degrees centigrade by 2050 and by -0.05 degrees even if the US were to join. [Nature magazine 395:741]
Apparently the PM fears climate warming is more of a threat than WMDs -- surely more than a Freudian slip? And Dr Hans Blix said last week "I for one am more worried about global warming than WMD" and in the same speech in Cambridge Union that he was certain of the absence of a real WMD threat since March 2003 -- at least that is consistent!
The real threat is observance of Kyoto, even partial, given its high cost in coming decades when economic growth may be more elusive.
5. Wind Energy Problems in Germany
German labor unions claim allergic health effects from epoxy resins used in turbine blade manufacture. Then there is the disposal problem for such blades - after a probable life of five years.
With new wind parks in forest regions, there is are fire problems -- with hundreds of gallons of oil at heights of several hundred feet not in reach by conventional fire services. So far, 19 fires officially reported .
Lightning destroys wind turbine in Wilhelminadorp in Zeeland//Netherlands. All three blades explode.
The danger of ice shedding from rotors to distances of up to 1000 yards
75 turbines in wind park at Gedser/Baltic Sea produce radar interference with shipping and navigation problems.
Details from www.windkraftgegner.de
6. Meanwhile , Nuclear Advances In Some Countries:
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development provides funds for Ukrainian
The Chernobyl-type reactor at St Petersburg , the first civilian graphite power reactor, has been modernized and will likely extend its operating life. (Tetra Energie Jan.2004)
German Govt Accounting Office issues critique against environment minister Trittin concerning disposal of spent nuclear fuel. A total of 6.8 billion Euro has been wasted and will be paid by electricity consumers. (Focus 1/26/04).
Previously unpublished scientific advisory report to Industry Minister Clement judges wind energy as ecologically useless and economically wasteful. Modernizing a coal-fired power plant can achieve same effect for 8% of cost (Spiegel 3/1/04).
The phase-out of nuclear energy threatens German industrial production, while both France and US are increasing operating lives and achieving lowered energy costs (FAZ 3/1/04)
7. Critics "Irate" Over Administration Switch On CO2 Policy.
The Bush administration and some big companies are at odds over the terms of a voluntary system for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions amid concerns that too aggressive an approach could open the door to mandatory emission rules down the road. At issue is whether companies should be rewarded for past cleanup efforts with credits that could be traded with other companies.
Opponents of mandatory emissions rules have warned that such a system would lead inexorably to limits under future administrations.
Two years ago, the Bush administration promised the system of credits
to reward companies for past and present efforts to curb their emissions
of carbon dioxide, the chief suspected global-warming gas. But now the
administration appears to be retreating from that position, saying it
no longer believes it has the legal authority to create the system of
credits. Companies that had been counting on receiving tradable credits
Letter to WSJ
The alleged policy switch on granting CO2 credits (WSJ 3/5) demonstrates the sad fact that the Bush Administration has been a bunch of wimps. Instead of trying to appease unscientific demands that aim for federal controls on energy use, the White House should forthrightly declare: (1) Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it does not harm human health. (2) The observed increase in atmospheric CO2 level has not shown the warming effects calculated by crude theories; evidently, the real atmosphere is a little more complicated. (3) And, in any case, CO2 is plant food; more CO2 means better growth of crops and forests.
So now companies, mainly electric utilities, that have made voluntary efforts to curb emissions want to be rewarded. Well, if they have become more fuel efficient, they and their customers have already benefited. But if they have been spending money to grow trees in Central America to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere, or on foolish schemes to sequester CO2 from stack gases, let them answer for this to their shareholders.
On second thought, I don't really blame the companies. The Administration
has never convincingly ruled out the possibility of eventual mandatory
emission curbs - with financial rewards going to those that took the lead.
The White House should do so now.
8. Let's hear it for The Royal Academy of Engineering
The Royal Academy of Engineering has just issued a report critical of the costings claimed by the wind-power industry. The report shows that on and off-shore wind is more expensive than various fossil-fuel-based forms of generation by factors of 2 to 3. Wind costs about the same as chicken manure.
The full report is available now on http://www.raeng.org.uk/