|The Week That Was
Oct. 2, 2004
1. New on the Web: IF RUSSIA RATIFIES KYOTO. FRED SINGER's Editorial Discusses Probabilities and Consequences.
2. IN A RARE SHOW OF UNANIMITY THE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER AND THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION INSIST ON THE URGENCY OF TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE.
3. SCIENTISTS DEBUNK 'GLOBAL WARMING' EFFECT ON HURRICANES
4. LOW-INCOME GROUPS NEED ASSISTANCE TO FIGHT COLD
5. STATES TRY TO SET CO2 RULES UNILATERALLY.
6. IS SEQUESTRATION THE ANSWER TO CAPTURING CARBON DIOXIDE?
7. U.S. TO OFFER GUIDANCE FOR A DIRTY-BOMB AFTERMATH
8. GERMANY SETS UNREALISTIC RADON EXPOSURE STANDARDS
9. WHO EXACTLY ARE THE DOOMSTERS?
The Conservative leader Michael Howard will on 13 September spell out his way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The next day Tony Blair will offer a very different vision of how to fulfill the UK's international commitments. The speeches are likely to be their main interventions on the environment before the UK's next general election.
Mr Howard will be speaking to the Environment Forum, hosted by the Green Alliance and ERM, an environmental consultancy. He described climate change as "one of mankind's greatest challenges" and will call for international leadership to give effect to the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty on cutting greenhouse emissions. The protocol needs Russia to ratify it before it can enter into force, and Russian intentions remain unclear.
By Melanie Hunter
The recent onslaught of hurricanes has prompted some media outlets to
mention "global warming" as a possible cause, but a team of
climate researchers set the record straight.
A group of climatologists, scientists, professors and other experts in climate change pointed out two "misconceptions" reported in the press about hurricanes and their relation to climate change, in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chaired a Commerce Committee hearing examining recent scientific research concerning climate change impacts.
"First is the erroneous claim that hurricane intensity or frequency has risen significantly in recent decades in response to the warming trend seen in surface temperature. Second is the claim that a future surface-warming trend would lead to more frequent and stronger storms. We believe that both of these are demonstrably false," the scientists wrote.
They noted the National Hurricane Center reports in the last century the decade with the largest number of hurricanes to hit the U.S. was the 1940s, and the frequency of hurricanes has gone down since then.. According to the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization, "Reliable data ... since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased."
"Recent history tells us that hurricanes are not becoming more frequent," the climate researchers wrote in the letter to McCain.
The second claim in news stories about hurricanes and "global warming," they pointed out, involves the question "if surface warming trends continue, are more or fewer severe storms likely?"
"Computer simulations suggest that in a warmer world most of the warming would occur in the Polar Regions. Atmospheric circulation, which crucially affects storms, is driven primarily by the temperature difference, or gradient, between the tropics and the poles," "Warmer polar regions would reduce this gradient and thus lessen the overall intensity or frequency or both of storms - not just tropical storms but mid-latitude winter storms as well (such as blizzards and northeasters)," the climatologists added.
"Again, longer periods of history bear this out. In the past, warmer periods have seen a decline in the number and severity of storms. This is well documented in scientific journals for data extending back centuries or even millennia. If the surface temperature of the planet rises further in the future, it is likely that these declines will continue," they wrote.
The experts noted that the hurricane season has not yet ended and said the frequency of hurricanes varies. "We suggest that natural variability of storminess is the cause of Florida's recent hurricane disasters. In such times there is an emotional tendency to pin blame somewhere. But rather than blaming global warming - for which there is little supporting meteorological evidence - emphasis on emergency preparedness and further storm research would be a constructive response," they added.
The experts include Dr. James O'Brien, professor of meteorology &
oceanography at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at
Florida State University; Dr. Gary Sharp, scientific director at the Center
for Climate/Ocean Resources Study; Dr. Anthony Lupo, professor of atmospheric
science at the University of Missouri - Columbia; Dr. David Legates, associate
professor of climatology at the University of Delaware; and George Taylor,
Oregon State climatologist.
Government and energy experts all "predict that prices will be higher
for years to come, and we must do more to support weatherization and other
energy-efficiency measures," says Missouri Public Service Commission
Chairman Steve Gaw. He is asking federal lawmakers to increase the level
of support for the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
from its current $2 billion to $3.4 billion a year to "forward fund"
that effort until 2006.
In New Jersey, lame-duck governor defines CO2 as a pollutant. In
California, the California Air Resources Board tries to mandate reduced
CO2 emission from cars.
N.J. Redefines CO2 As Contaminant, Proposes Air Pollution Rule Changes
New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey on Sept. 16 redefined carbon dioxide
as an air contaminant. "As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially
vulnerable to the consequences of global warming," McGreevey said.
CARB Mandates Emission Reductions for Automobiles
California Backs Plan for Big Cut in Car Emissions
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24 - California regulators approved a plan on Friday aimed at drastically reducing over the next 11 years the vehicle emissions of gases that scientists have linked to global warming. It would be the first such regulation in the nation and one that, if it survives legal challenges, would force automakers to increase sharply the fuel efficiency of millions of vehicles.
Though the plan is being put into place by only one state, automakers see it as the most challenging demand from government since Congress first imposed standards to improve fuel economy in the 1970's. California is by far the nation's largest auto market, accounting for a fifth of national sales.
Industry officials said the plan would lead them to restrict sales of large sport utility vehicles and high- performance sports cars in the state. Regulators, including the state's staff of engineers, sharply disputed that and said the industry already had much of the technology to comply on the shelf or, in the case of gas-electric hybrid cars, on the road.
With seven other states in the East following California's lead on air quality regulations, the plan could potentially affect about 30 percent of the market. That would present automakers with tough choices about whether to build different vehicles for different markets or develop a unified nationwide strategy to meet the demands of California and the other states.
But the plan still faces an expected legal challenge on multiple fronts from automakers and could also be blocked by the Bush administration. For years, the industry has tied up previous state efforts to regulate air quality, but regulators say that they have learned from those battles and that they believe they will prevail in court.
Automakers, in sometimes-combative testimony, strongly opposed the measure, saying it would be far more expensive than the state projected and that regulators are straying far beyond their traditional role of curbing local air pollution. The industry also dismissed as unproved the board staff's presentation of a broad overview of scientific evidence on the health effects of global warming.
The regulation would require the industry to cut roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide and other emissions scientists have linked to climate change trends. The standards would phase in from the 2009 to the 2016 model years, with each automaker's annual new car and truck offerings required to meet increasingly stringent limits.
But the industry said critics sharply underestimated the costs of meeting the standard. The board's staff projected that the regulation would add about $1,000 to the initial cost of an average new vehicle but that gasoline savings over time would more than make up for that. The industry said it would cost an extra $3,000, much more than the potential fuel savings.
Even companies that have long been leaders in improving fuel efficiency raised questions about the plan. "We don't know how to do it right now,'' said John German, Honda's manager of environment and energy analysis. "It means using unknown, unproven technology."
Several legal hurdles remain before the plan could take effect. Lawsuits are expected from the industry, which could sue in state court claiming the proposal does not meet mandated feasibility requirements. The industry could also sue in federal court, claiming that the plan is pre-empted by Washington's authority to regulate fuel economy.
The board has emphasized that the plan is aimed at global warming, not fuel economy directly, and environmentalists have pointed out that emissions can also be modestly reduced by making changes to a car's air-conditioning system.
California has unique authority to regulate air pollution, because its
air quality regulations predated the federal Clean Air Act. Other states
have the option of following California's regulations over Washington's.
This year, New Jersey, Rhode Islands and Connecticut have said they intend
to start following California's car rules; New York, Massachusetts, Vermont
and Maine already do.
Cleaning the Air or Spewing Hot Air?
As California moves toward stricter emissions standards, Kenneth Green, chief scientist at Fraser Institute (Vancouver, Canada) and adjunct scholar at Reason, writes, "First, let's get the climate change excuse out of the way. California cars aren't causing climate change - taking all of the state's cars off the road completely wouldn't make a dent in emissions. According to government data, California motorists produce less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the world's emissions of the gases theoretically linked to global warming - a share that's declining every day as countries like China and India continue to grow. On top of that, the proposed regulation only addresses four of the six major greenhouse gases, and only passenger vehicles, not commercial vehicles. So whether you believe that we face a risk of catastrophic climate change due to man-made gas emissions or not, it is obvious that this new plan will provide little or no climate protection to current or future generations."
Green's op-ed is available at the Orange County Register's website:
Fossil fuels are responsible for emitting 6.5 billion tons of carbon into the air annually, which some scientists claim is responsible for climate change. However, researchers are examining two sequestration processes designed to mitigate the effects of carbon dioxide: pumping it underground and enriching the oceans with iron to absorb more CO2.
The process of pumping carbon dioxide into the ground has been used by oil companies since the 1990s to extract more oil from wells. According to researchers:
O Underground storage may hold hundreds of years worth of carbon dioxide.
O In 1999, a Calgary-based oil company launched a 30-year project with researchers to pump 20 million metric tons of CO2 into an old oil reservoir; since then, researchers note that the CO2 has not surfaced.
O Norway launched a sequestration project in 1996 that has successfully injected about 1 million tons of CO2 per year back into a layer of porous sandstone.
Additionally, researchers have experimented with iron enrichment, which involves adding iron to ocean water to enhance the growth of phytoplankton (algae), which absorb carbon dioxide. While such areas show measurable increases in the absorption of carbon dioxide, ocean waters with high-silicate concentrations (a salt from silica) fared better than those with low-silicate concentrations.
However, both procedures have drawbacks. Pumping carbon dioxide into the ground is costly, adding about 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to consumer electricity delivered, or the equivalent of about one-third of the average residential electric bill.
Furthermore, iron enrichment, while producing measurable results, may not be sufficient enough to reduce current carbon dioxide emissions.
Source: Robert F. Service, "The Carbon Conundrum," Science,
Vol. 305, Issue 5686, 962-963, August 13, 2004; Kenneth H. Coale et al.,
"Southern Ocean Iron Enrichment Experiment: Carbon Cycling in High-and
Low-Si Waters," Science, Vol.304, Issue 5669, 408-414 , April 16,
2004; and Ken O. Buesseler et al., "The Effects of Iron Fertilization
on Carbon Sequestration in the Southern Ocean," Science, Vol. 304,
Issue 5669, 414-417, April 16, 2004.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - The federal government is preparing to publish advice for state and local governments on how to react if terrorists set off a "dirty bomb," including how much radiation exposure from such an attack is acceptable for the public. The document is intended for officials who would oversee public health and safety after such an attack, to help them decide when activity could return to normal.
"There's a lot of consternation over what the cleanup levels should be," Brooke Buddemeier, a radiation specialist for the Department of Homeland Security, told a group of nuclear specialists during a presentation last week. "We had a pretty good idea what they should be for Superfund sites or a Nuclear Regulatory Commission power plant release." But an attack using conventional explosives to spread radioactive materials - a dirty bomb - would probably occur in a far more prominent location than a toxic-waste site or a power plant, and the need to resume using the site would be higher, said Mr. Buddemeier, in his presentation to a National Academy of Sciences group.
When balancing the risk of radiation exposure against the benefit of returning to normal activity, the government safety recommendations will weigh the importance of the contaminated location to economic or political life, said a radiation scientist who works for one of seven federal agencies drafting the document.
Thus a major train station, cargo port or building in Lower Manhattan might be reoccupied sooner than a suburban shopping mall, said the scientist, who asked not to be identified because the document had not yet been published.
The federal government already has guides for use by local officials in case of accidental release of radioactive material from a nuclear power plant or fuel fabrication plant. One reason for drafting advice on radiological bombs now, participants say, is to reinforce the idea that a dirty bomb is primarily a psychological weapon that distributes radiation in quantities too small to make any measurable difference to health.
The exposures contemplated for the public would be small relative to the average dose received from natural sources, perhaps 10 times as large, experts say. The biggest health risk of a dirty bomb would most likely be from the blast itself, and outside the blast area doses would be quite small.
But people involved in drafting the document say that public fear of radiation may make it hard to communicate that idea. The radiation scientist said, "Do you really want to shut down the port of Seattle because you don't want to get 5 or 10 million millirem of dose? Do you want to economically cripple an entire country because of that, an infinitesimally small risk, if it is any risk at all?"
The document is part of a much larger effort to prepare for all kinds of attacks and accidents. It is to be published as a draft, for public comment, and when completed would still be only advisory. Don Jacks, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the document was now in the hands of the director of the agency and would go from there to the secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, and then to the White House's Office of Management and Budget before publication. Mr. Jacks said he hoped it would be published by the end of this year.
Environment minister Trittin sets limit at 100 Becquerel per cubic meter. This corresponds to 2.7 picocuries per liter, compared to the EPA limit of 4.0 pCi/liter
Other countries use 5-20 pCi/L, depending on whether it is new construction or existing construction, and on whether the government or the homeowner pays for the remediation. Where the government pays, the limit is set higher.
All of these numbers are political decisions, not based on true health risks. If one were to accept LNT, as EPA does, 4 pCi/L corresponds to about a 1% lifetime mortality risk; in other regulations, EPA uses 1/100,000 or 1/1-million lifetime risk as the maximum acceptable.
[One Bq = 1 radioactive disintegration per second; 1 Curie = 3.7x10^10 Bq]
NEW AGERS - http://www.armageddononline.org/index.html