|The Week That Was
February 24, 2001
Comment: Although unrelated, the Kyoto Protocol and Oslo process for Middle East Peace show interesting parallels.
IPCC Working Group 2 (Climate Impacts) just released its government-approved Summary-and it's a lulu.
Nothing but calamities: Both floods and droughts, severe storms, cyclones, hurricanes, and, of course, sea level rise. Plus death of corals, epidemics of tropical diseases, disappearance of species (So why didn't Bengal tiger and mountain gorillas disappear during the Medieval Climate Optimum or during the even warmer periods of 6000 years ago?).
Of course, there is no scientific foundation for any of this whatsoever, but who cares.
And the bringer of bad news. None other than our old friend Harvard Prof James McCarthy, the very one who first alerted the NY Times and the world to the puddle of open water at the North Pole something that hadn't happened for 30 million years (acc to the NYT)!! [The NY Times retracted the story after the WSJ carried an op-ed by Fred Singer]. Oh well.
For the winter moth (Operophtera brumata), timing is everything. If it hatches too early, there are no oak leaves to eat. Too late, and the leaves are tough and indigestible. Now this delicate rhythm has become a casualty of climate change, a new study claims. Acc to Marcel Visser, of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, co-author of the study: "If people look for these effects, I think they'll find them everywhere."
Over the past 25 years, springs have become warmer, but the number of cold days in winter has not changed, he claims (erroneously). Moths' suffering will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the woodland ecosystem. A drop in the moth population means less food for insect-eating birds such as tits, and so less food for the sparrow hawks and weasels that eat them.
[And, we suppose, for weasel-eating humans. Too bad!]
No word about the suffering of the little critters when temperatures changed rapidly in the past.
BBC CRITICAL OF IPCC?
This is how BBC Online broke the news that the IPCC does not, in fact, endorse recent statements about the science of climate change (enhanced greenhouse) being "settled." Nor is it supporting an "action at any cost" response:
"A draft report by United Nations advisers says deciding how to
tackle climate change is shrouded in uncertainty. It urges "a prudent
risk management strategy" and "careful consideration of the
consequences, both environmental and economic." The item continues:
"It says policymakers should be ready for "possible revision
of the scientific insights into the risks of climate change. [Cites IPCC's
recent hysteria] But the draft report on mitigation, by contrast, emphasizes
the uncertainties involved and the need not to decide policy without more
information." Naturally, climate Chicken Littles are reported to
TIME TO LOOK IN ON OUR EUROPEAN FRIENDS
The French Constitutional Court turned down an industrial energy tax proposal by the government. The Court called it unfair since it would disproportionately punish small users and illogical since it would apply to nuclear energy that emits no CO2. It turns out the Green ministress of Environment, the fragile Dominique Voynet, wanted the tax to raise revenue to support a proposed 35-hour workweek. She may have quit by now and gone to a zero-hour workweek.
The Swedes are chairing the EU for 6 months and determined to see Kyoto approved. Good Luck, fellows!
Has Britain gone mad? Western World's Greed Threatens Planet's Survival:
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian (Dec 27) has sea level rising by 7 meters by 2100. Did she get this from the Met Office?
And no one complains? However, in the colonies the natives are restless:
Are Green Activists The New Imperialists?
Prof Deepak Lal's inaugural Julian Simon Lecture at the Liberty Institute in Delhi last month was a scintillating attack on the new cultural imperialism of international Greens and their local compadres. He says the Green movement is a secular religion filling the void created in the West by the retreat of faith in God. Its aim is to assume a new White Man's Burden and impose its values on the world. The old Christian crusade for supposedly saving souls has given way to the new Green crusade for supposedly saving the earth.
This new imperialism needs to be resisted as sternly as the old colonial
one. Its professed aim is to save the environment, but its practical effect
in many instances may be ruinous for poor countries.
BUT - A VOICE OF REASON
(CBS) Joe Barton, the chairman of a House subcommittee on energy, is calling on the White House to send the Kyoto climate change treaty to the Senate for a vote - where it would likely be rejected and clear the way for bilateral and regional global warming efforts. Barton says the current process of holding international negotiations to work out the details of the treaty is fruitless. "It (Kyoto) is never going to be satisfactory to the economic interest of this country," said Barton, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Commerce Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. He recommends that President Bush send the treaty to the Senate, where all treaties must be ratified, and see what happens.
Methinks, he knows
Meanwhile science marches on, making much politics irrelevant
ORDINARY SOOT A MAJOR CAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING-
In their frantic search for a solution to the global warming crisis, climatologists and policy makers have managed to overlook one of the leading causes of rising world temperatures - soot, the familiar black residue that coats fireplaces and darkens truck exhaust. According to a new study in the journal Nature (Feb 8), soot may be the second biggest contributor to global warming - just behind carbon dioxide. ``Soot - or black carbon - may be responsible for 15 to 30 percent of global warming, yet it's not even considered in any of the discussions about controlling climate change,`` says Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, author of the study.
"Jacobson's findings come on the heels of a Jan. 21 report by the
United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (sic), an organization
made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world. In its most dire
forecast to date, the IPCC predicted that, by the end of the century,
the average surface temperature of the Earth could increase by 10.4 degrees
Fahrenheit, with catastrophic results: melted glaciers, flooded shorelines
and long periods of drought that persist for hundreds of years (sic).The
IPCC report pins most of the blame for global warming on human-produced
"Jacobson disagrees. ``Only a handful of studies have considered the impact of soot on global warming, `` he says, ``and most of those were based on the premise that soot never mixes with other particles in the atmosphere.`` But scientists have known for many years that floating soot particles actually do combine with dust and chemicals in the air, notes Jacobson. This is a crucial point, he says, because mixtures containing black carbon absorb more sunlight and radiate twice as much heat as do particles of pure black carbon. Therefore, soot in its mixed state has the potential to make a significant contribution to global warming. The results of his computer simulation show that, just five days after entering the atmosphere, particles of pure soot are very likely to end up in mixtures containing dust, sea spray, sulfate and other chemicals. These findings are consistent with several atmospheric field studies, including a 1999 survey that found that more than 93 percent of all soot above the North Atlantic Ocean contained particles of sulfate. Jacobson then programmed his computer to simulate how millions of tons of mixed soot would affect the Earth's climate. The results were dramatic.
``These black carbon mixtures turn out to be one of the most important
components of global warming,`` says Jacobson, ``perhaps second only to
CO2.`` Equally surprising was the discovery that soot may be responsible
for more atmospheric heating than methane
"U.N. negotiators are currently struggling to ratify the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change, which - if approved - would require many countries to decrease their annual emissions of carbon dioxide. Similar cutbacks in soot emissions could prove to be a very effective way to counter global warming, argues Jacobson. Technologies exist or can be developed to remove excess soot produced in fireplaces, truck engines and other sources of black carbon. ``We can also make efforts to control biomass burning and reduce our reliance on soot-producing fuels, such as coal and diesel,`` he notes. According to Jacobson, well-meaning policies have been put into place based on the misguided assumption that diesel fuel is better for the environment than gasoline - simply because diesel cars get better mileage than those that run on gas.
"For example, many European countries actually give tax credits
to drivers who purchase diesel vehicles. The irony is that, unlike diesel,
modern gasoline engines emit virtually no soot - although both produce
large amounts of carbon dioxide. Currently, about one-fourth of all European
cars run on diesel, as do most European and American trucks, buses and
tractors. ``Besides its impact on global warming, soot is bad for your
health,`` adds Jacobson, noting that soot exposure has been linked to
respiratory illnesses and cancer. ``The World Health Organization reports
that about 2.7 million people die each year from air pollution - 900,000
in cities and 1.8 million in rural areas,`` he observes. ``The largest
source of mortality from air pollution is indoor burning of biomass and
coal,`` he notes. ``Reduction of such burning, therefore, will not only
mitigate global warming but also will save lives and improve people's
VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT
Former Clinton/Gore climate change advisors Todd Stern and Bill Antholis suggest in the February 13 edition of The Washington Post an alternative scenario concerning conventional wisdom that the Bush/Cheney election victory is a disaster for those "who worry about global warming." Their idea is that the Bush Administration go beyond their predecessors in promoting the negative aspects of fossil fuels' role concerning climate and garner enough GOP support in the Senate to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Kyoto, which requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate for passage, compels a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions of 7% below what they were in 1990, beginning in 2008. To appreciate the immensity of the challenge this would pose, the U.S. (of which energy-starved California is a part) right now is 13% above 1990 levels.
We would propose an alternative, alternative scenario. Perhaps the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) might for once tell the truth about climate change rather than make up scary and unrealistic "storylines" about earth's future climate rather than scenarios containing selective use of science and limited understanding of the world's cultures.
Nearly every story about global warming contains variations on the phrase Stern and Antholis use: "Average worldwide temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years." Reporters seldom (if ever) append a note after that quote that points out that such a result is produced by only one out of 245 possible scenarios that the IPCC fed into its computer. The other 244 produce less warming. That's because the scary one incorporates the extreme assumptions imaginable concerning future emissions and the climate's sensitivity to them.
Every time the IPCC leadership crafts one of their executive summaries for policymakers, some phrase jumps out. Last time (1995) it was, "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate" - a phrase added after final peer-review was complete. It became a rallying cry even though a lead editor admitted that he and his colleagues knew that it would have precisely that (desired, yet erroneous) effect. The fact is a new study just published in Nature magazine virtually renders all 245 IPCC storylines meaningless.
In the article, Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson reports findings that the warming effects of black carbon aerosols (soot) from fossil fuel burning are of about the same magnitude as the cooling effect of sulfate aerosols emitted by the same process. The implications of this are huge.
Without exception, each of the IPCC's storylines assume that over the course of the next century emissions of sulfates will be greatly curtailed due to policies enacted to clean the air. IPCC models predict that removing sulfates' cooling effect alongside unfettered rises in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions means global temperatures will rapidly rise. But what the IPCC fails to realize (or admit to realizing) is that the very same policies that take out sulfates also will curtail black carbon emissions. The net effect on the earth's temperature will be near zero!
If that's the more likely case, then the earth will warm as it currently is - resulting in temperatures 2.5°F higher than today, a hundred years from now. The IPCC's scary scenario also assumes the next century's energy infrastructure will be what it is today. Today's isn't what it was a hundred years ago, so what kind of assumption is that? Oh, yeah, that's right. We're dealing with storylines (Once upon a time and they all lived happily ever after), not science or reality (Having taken a close look, we now know there aren't so many genes in the human genome as we once believed).
AND NOW BACK TO THE CAL POWER CRISIS
The LA Times revealed last week that a municipal utility, the LA Department of Water and Power, was profiting mightily from the crisis, selling power for $1400 per megawatt-hour, a markup of about $1300. Of course, the LADWP explained that it reflected the cost of natural gas on the spot market. [It should be noted that the LADWP was exempted from the strictures imposed by the Cal legislature on private utilities, like entering into long-term supply contracts.]
Doug Hoyt sends us another nugget: