|The Week That Was
February 9, 2002
1. A voice of reason from Australia: Bob Foster, a founder of the Lavoisier Group, explains why Australia should not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
2. Meanwhile, Canada's government is trying to con its public with promises of new technology - while CO2 emissions are rising everywhere.
3. From the Climate Skeptics debate: Humans could banish return of ice age.
4. Dr. Roger Bate, Director of the International Policy Network in London, explains that radiophobia was the real fall-out from Chernobyl.
5. PCB study uses shoddy statistics. Why do journals publish such stuff and why does Reuters report it? And why don't we hear about naturally produced organochlorine compounds?
6. Asthma Blamed on Smog: Another shoddy study?
7. Global Climate Coalition Disbands in US while Kyoto Protocol lumbers on in Europe
8. News from Romania, the first industrial country to ratify Kyoto
2. CANADA'S KYOTO CON JOB
by David Wojick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Canada¹s official greenhouse plan makes no sense. If Canada ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, compliance with its emission reduction target is supposed to be based on several documents. Chief among these is the "Government of Canada Action Plan 2000."
Given the big numbers involved in Kyoto compliance - millions of tons of emissions cuts at a cost of billions of dollars per year - one would expect the plan to be frank about where the cuts will fall, how they will be achieved, and what they will cost. They are none of the above. Instead, they offer vague pronouncements, mostly about speculative new technologies that cannot possibly be deployed in the time allowed.
In 1997, when Canada began negotiating greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto protocol, the federal government initiated something called the National Climate Change Process. The NCCP is a massive effort, involving hundreds of experts from federal and provincial agencies, industry, environmental groups, and academia. Here is their basic finding: "At the national level, attainment of the target results in sustained, long-term, negative economic impacts."
Nothing could be clearer than this. The Canadian government ignores it.
Another NCCP group looked at the sector where the most economically damaging changes will have to occur -- manufacturing. Their principal conclusion: "The challenge of meeting Canada¹s Kyoto target is formidable and not likely to be achievable without major policy interventions and substantial impairment of the Canadian economy." Again, this is perfectly clear"substantial impairment." The government refuses to admit it.
The action plan carefully avoids the big numbers involved. In fact, baseline 1990 transportation emissions are about 150 million tons. Emissions for 2010 are estimated at about 200 million tons, compared to a target of 141 million tons. So, to meet the Kyoto target, we have to knock off 59 million tons per year of emissions, a whopping 30 percent. How can Canadians possibly use 30 percent less fuel in such a rapidly growing sector of the economy? The options are limited, and the action plan basically offers just four. Taken together, these measures cannot realistically be expected to achieve the target.
The first measure is increased fuel efficiency. The plan says Canada must "launch negotiations with the automobile industry and the United States to achieve new vehicle fuel efficiency targets by 2010." But the U.S. has not raised its fuel efficiency standards for a decade, has no interest in raising them now, and has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol. This option is a dead end for now.
The second measure is the plan¹s sex symbol -- fuel cells. Canada is a leader, not the only leader, in fuel cell development. The government has poured money into this technology. The plan proposes to "develop refueling infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles that emit low or no emissions. When hydrogen is the fuel, the only exhaust is water -- but a convenient and commercial means of refueling is required to enable fuel-cell vehicles to become a viable alternative." This statement is correct as far as it goes. There are no hydrogen stations dotting the highways like gas stations. Nor could there be in just six or eight years, so it is hard to see how this is a proposal for Kyoto compliance. Worse, the automakers estimate that the first commercial fuel-cell vehicle is at least a decade away. Canada cannot possibly replace a third of its gas and diesel powered vehicles with them by 2010.
The so-called "plans" for the other sectors - electric power, industry, and oil and gas production - are no different. The government Action Plan is no plan at all. It is a wish list of technologies that can¹t possibly pay off by 2008, when the first compliance period begins.
3. NEWS FLASH: HUMANS END ICE AGE DISASTERS
4. "CHERNOBYL'S REAL VICTIMS,"
The UN Development Programme and UNICEF have finally admitted in a new report what many scientists and policy wonks have known for years. Chernobyl killed thousands -- not from radiation, but from policy based on radiophobic hysteria. (Editor's note: he two organizations have yet to make the report available on their websites.)
The exhibitions of photographs of deformed victims, which raised millions of dollars for pressure groups and charities, have been exposed as fraudulent. However, it is unlikely that anti-nuclear activists will acknowledge their culpability in the deaths they have caused since it would undermine their entire thesis that low-level radiation is harmful. It is, in fact, entirely harmless.
In the nearly 15 years since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands of births affected by its fallout. But the deaths are due to radiophobia, which caused extensive political fallout, and not from radiation-induced illness. According to UN scientists looking at the medical effects of Chernobyl, the real disaster has been psychosomatic disorders that were exacerbated by the mass media hysteria at the time. This hysteria encouraged inappropriate government actions in the former Soviet Union such as forced evacuations from locations that might have been contaminated with radiation.
The nuclear core meltdown that occurred at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in April 1986 was a tragedy for the hundreds of people actually working at the plant. Of these about one third (134 people) were diagnosed with acute radiation sickness, and 28 of these died within the first four months of the accident. Since then, 17 more of the patients who survived the acute phase have died. These later deaths were caused by lung gangrene, thigh sarcoma, and non-radiation diseases or accidents. For them and their families, Chernobyl was a disaster. But for many others it didn't have to be.
Partly because the international media were denied access to the site -- but also because of acute radiophobia that has gripped western thought since the World War II atomic bombing of Japan -- western media assumed the worst. The British Daily Mail on April 29th 1986 filled half its front page with the words "2000 DEAD." They further claimed that the dead were not buried in cemeteries but at "Pirogovo in the radioactive wastes depository."
The next day, The New York Post claimed that 15,000 bodies had been bulldozed into nuclear waste pits. Later, the Natural Resources Defense Council claimed there would be 110,000 post-Chernobyl cancers in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Several years later, on October 13, 1995, Reuters announced "800,000 children were hit by Chernobyl, as in a nuclear attack." Over the following months, the BBC, Greenpeace and the numerous European dailies joined the bandwagon to claim that tens of thousands were dead or dying because of radiation.
According to Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski, a medical adviser to the UN on the effects of radiation "perhaps the most important factor in creating the Chernobyl mythology was the assumption that any radiation dose, even one close to zero, has some detrimental effect." Jaworowski has been arguing this point for nearly a decade, and finally the UN is beginning to listen. This assumption, on which the world's regulations are based, is called the "linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis." This means that there is no threshold below, which the effects of radiation, which are observed at high doses, cease to appear.
This hypothesis contradicts all experimental and epidemiological evidence. That evidence demonstrates no harm -- and even some benefit -- at low radiation doses. Our bodies can obviously deal with a low level of exposure to radiation, and it may even stimulate our systems' defences and make us healthier. The LNT hypothesis is similar to assuming that one should fear a temperature of 75 Fahrenheit because at 750 Fahrenheit one would receive fatal burns. There are numerous places on the planet (Norway, Iran and even Cornwall in Britain) where natural radiation is far higher than occurred within a few miles from Chernobyl after the meltdown, with no known human harm.
Following the accident there was a small increase in radiation levels in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus. Massive radiation screening programmes were established in these regions and in other countries such as Poland. Incidents of thyroid cancers (the form of cancer most likely following acute exposure to radiation) had not increased until 1996. Indeed the Brestoblast region of Belarus, the area with the second lowest radiation level, had the highest incidents of thyroid cancer. There has been an excess of 1,800 cases of childhood thyroid cancer in the whole of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, according to the recent report, but even this may be partly due to previous under-reporting.
According to a Swedish radiobiologist, Professor Gunnar Walinder, the LNT hypothesis, and not radiation, is the real health hazard. The belief that any exposure may be harmful leads to disproportionate policies to remove people from this hypothetical danger.
Jaworowski estimates that nearly 5 million people in the former Soviet Union have been affected by severe psychological stress, leading to psychosomatic diseases. The main stress was inflicted on those living in areas where the media and Government informed them that it was fatal to live. Forced evacuations of the 850,000 newly categorized "Chernobyl victims" was planned. In the end, 400,000 people were forced to move.
Many of these people suffered from gastro-intestinal, endocrinological and other non-radiation induced problems. Relocation occurred for over 5 years, causing the destruction of family and community social networks, and according to Jaworowski "exposed the relocated persons to resentment and ostracism in the new localities, where old inhabitants treated them as privileged intruders." Relocation started with those exposed to most radiation (levels about the sixth the background level in Iran), but soon people exposed to doses of radiation lower than in Cornwall were being moved.
Among those moved, morbidity and mortality rates were far higher than those who stayed behind. And the cost of the process ran into billions of dollars. One estimate endorsed by Jaworowski puts the cost to Belarus at $86 billion. Perhaps saddest of all is that as many as 200,000 abortions were conducted of wanted pregnancies in order to avoid non-existent radiation damage to the fetus.
The end result of government action, activist pressure and media campaigns has been the spawning of a victim culture, where half of the Ukraine says their health has been adversely affected by Chernobyl.
Apportioning blame between the media and the Supreme Soviet is a difficult task. But unfounded western fears based on the linear no-threshold hypothesis undoubtedly encouraged the mass evacuation program undertaken by the Soviet authorities.
Chernobyl was the worst possible meltdown of a poorly designed, constructed and managed nuclear reactor, with the release of significant quantities of radionuclides into the atmosphere. Yet, according to the UN Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the death toll from the accident itself and directly related effects is 41.
There were no early death cases among the public. Apart from increase in thyroid cancer registry (probably due to increased screening rather than a real increase in incidence) there is no evidence of a major public health impact related to the ionizing radiation 15 years after the accident. No increase of overall cancer incidence or mortality that could be associated with radiation exposure has been observed. Many more deaths were induced by poor policies based on outdated scientific understanding. And yet today the LNT hypothesis still forms the basis of radiation thinking.
This is a bizarre indictment of the anti-nuclear world we inhabit. Let us hope that the recent UN report will begin to change this perception. But don't hold your breath.
Natural Chlorination in Soils: Princeton geochemist Dr. Satish Myneni has found that naturally produced organo-chlorine compounds are common in soils and decomposing leaves from varied environments including Puerto Rico, the New Jersey pine barrens and the California redwood forests. According to a January 17 article in Science Express, a new on-line feature of the journal Science, the inorganic chloride ion dominates in fresh leaves while chlorinated hydrocarbons and aromatics dominate in decomposed soil material. Natural chlorination of organic compounds in decomposing plant matter is thought to be rapid, facilitated by enzymes produced by microorganisms, fungi and plants, and may account for organo-chlorine concentrations in unpolluted environments. =========================================
Comments from Superfund expert Malcolm Watts:
I am very much inclined to believe GE's assertions that the PCBs are degrading at the bottom of the Hudson, and that dredging will stir them up and cause worse problems than if they are left alone. I believe the EPA decision is a political one to punish GE rather than one based on science or on a realistic risk analyses. One curiosity that many people mostly are unaware of is that many of the problems that the EPA are now persecuting industry with, arose from perfectly legal activities at the time. This is called retrospective legislation and is normally associated with dictatorships. We have all hoped that someone would take a case to the Supreme Court to challenge Superfund's constitutionality; thus far the combination of courage and economics has been inadequate. We hope that the Hudson decision will break this cycle.
We do know that the study was paid for mainly by the California Air Resources Board, which coincidentally also regulates air quality. [This is the same CARB that got the California Assembly to pass legislation limiting the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by cars, with the CARB empowered to develop the necessary regulations --- of course.]
We know something else: The incidence of asthma in children has been increasing in the U.S. in recent decades while at the same time air quality has greatly improved.
Now that tells us something: Regulators should never be allowed to fund
SEPP Comment: We have just learned why Enron supported the Pew
Center and not the GCC (TWTW Jan 26, 2002). And
who needs the GCC when the White House opposes Kyoto?
PRESS RELEASE Strasbourg, 6 February 2002
"I am delighted by today's outcome, which shows the determination of the European Union to kick start real international action to fight global warming. We now hope that other countries such as Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia will follow suit, and to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol enters into force at the Johannesburg Earth Summit at the end of August.
"The Parliament's clear statement that there are no justified reasons to alter the 1998 burden sharing agreement on a common reduction of 8% cut in greenhouse gas emissions sends a strong signal to countries like Denmark, where new governments have tried to renegotiate their specific CO2 reduction target.
"This democratic forum has today committed itself to the fight against climate change. We must now look further to the future. The parliament must be fully involved in negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol after 2008. European Environment Ministers must not try to marginalise us."
Both the EU and its Member States are required to ratify the Kyoto protocol, as both are responsible for its implementation. After approval by the Environmental Council (4th of March 2002), Member States will start their national ratification process (with France, Denmark, Luxembourg and Portugal having already received the assent of their respective national parliaments). With Japan, Russia and Canada onboard, it is probable that the 55 countries needed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and that 55% of the greenhouse gas emissions commitment will be reached before the end of August, so that it can finally enter into force at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
SEPP Comment: This was expected; after all, the European Parliament is not directly elected and has no responsibility for the economic welfare of the nations. But now it must be ratified by each EU nation -- and by the parliaments of Australia, Canada and Japan. The newly elected government of Denmark is already trying to re-negotiate the agreement made by the previous Green government. Remember: "It ain't over until the fat lady sings"
CO2 emissions up 1.5 % in Germany, 1.1 % in Japan, and the UK can't meet its targets since coal is coming back because of high gas prices.]
8. GREENPEACE MULLS ACTION AGAINST ROMANIAN IMPOSTER (REUTERS) -- Environmental group Greenpeace said yesterday it was considering legal action to stop a man posing as its Romanian representative endorsing plans for a controversial Dracula theme park as ecologically sound.