|The Week That Was
Oct. 23, 2004
2. ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE (EDF) TO BUILD NUCLEAR PROTOTYPE
3. GLOBAL WARMING ROW GOES NUCLEAR AS BISHOP QUITS FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
4. CLIMATE SCIENCE ADVANCES
5. RUSSIAN DUMA RATIFIES KYOTO CLIMATE TREATY
6. NAIVE SCIENCE ABOUT KYOTO
7. And yet another scare: AID AGENCIES' WARNING ON CLIMATE
8. POLITICISATION OF SCIENCE AND GLOBAL WARMING
9. And finally, A REPLY FROM NO.10 DOWNING STREET
David Gow in Brussels
Europe's nuclear power industry yesterday won an important boost when Electricité de France, the state-owned French electricity group, announced it would build a prototype €3bn next-generation plant on the Normandy coast.
France, which depends on nuclear power for 80% of its energy, is to build a new atomic reactor, which EDF says is safer, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than those in use.
The French decision to go ahead with the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) comes as Britain, spurred by Tony Blair, is rethinking the nuclear option in the face of soaring oil prices, dwindling North Sea oil and gas reserves, and slow progress in developing renewables.
In a move that horrified anti-nuclear campaigners, Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of EDF, said the group would seek swift planning permission for the first EPR it plans to build at Flamanville, southwest of Cherbourg. It will be built on the same site as an existing nuclear plant.
The 58 existing French nuclear reactors are to be replaced starting in
2020. This lead-unit EPR reactor is meant to validate the new EPR concept
and design, before building a series of EPR's to replace the 58 existing
reactors. The EPR is not a revolutionary reactor, but an optimized version
of the pressurized water reactors in operation today, who already work
very well and are quite clean and very safe.
The EPR is a EUROPEAN project, putting together the best European technologies. Born from the very start of a Franco-German cooperation (between Framatome and Siemens, now united in Areva), the first EPR was bought in 2003 by Finland, a country with a high reputation of ecological consciousness, and is planned to be operating in 2010. The new EPR in Flamanville will be owned and operated by a European consortium comprising, in addition to EDF, several other partners. Belgium, Spain and Italy, among others, seem to be interested and are considering a participation in the consortium.
The French EPR is not subsidized by the French authorities or other hidden
subsidies (contrary to renewable energies, which should also be developed,
but produce only minute quantities of energy, in an inconstant manner,
and cannot be developed without strong and continued financial backing).
He's the nearest thing Britain has to an eco-bishop, having campaigned on environmental issues for more than 30 years. Yet now the Right Rev Hugh Montefiore, the former Bishop of Birmingham, has been kicked off the board of Friends of the Earth (FoE), the leading environmental group, for saying publicly that the fight against global warming should involve using nuclear power.
The outspoken prelate, one of the most colourful figures in the Church of England, has been a FoE trustee for two decades, and chaired the group from 1992 to 1998. But in an extraordinary and acrimonious row, he has been forced to sever his links with the organisation because of an article on climate change that he has written for tomorrow's edition of The Tablet, the Catholic weekly. In it, Bishop Montefiore says that the dangers of global warming are greater than any others facing the planet, and that the solution is to make more use of nuclear energy.
In doing so he becomes the second major green figure this year to advocate a radical step that is deeply unpalatable to most of the environmental movement, which opposes nuclear power as almost an article of faith. It was first put forward in May by James Lovelock, the independent scientist and green guru behind the celebrated Gaia hypothesis (the idea that the whole earth behaves like a single living organism).
Writing in The Independent, Professor Lovelock set off an international argument when he said that climate change was now proceeding so fast that there was simply not enough time for renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar power - the green movement's favoured solution - to take the place of conventional power stations burning fossil fuels. Only a huge expansion of nuclear energy could check a possible runaway warming which would be disastrous for the world, he said.
Bishop Montefiore's article for The Tablet comes to the same conclusion in a similar way. He writes: "The real reason why the Government has not taken up the nuclear option is because it lacks public acceptance, due to scare stories in the media and the stonewalling opposition of powerful environmental organisations. Most, if not all, of the objections do not stand up to objective assessment."
"I have been a trustee of FoE for 20 years and when I told my fellow trustees that I wished to write for The Tablet on nuclear energy, I was told that this is not compatible with being a trustee," he writes. "I have therefore resigned because no alternative was open to me." He adds stingingly: "The future of the planet is more important than membership of Friends of the Earth."
First of all, a paper by David Douglass and Fred Singer in the July 9
issue of Geophysical Research Letters argues that the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims to have carefully corrected the
temperature records for the well-known problem of local ("urban,"
as opposed to global) warming. But this has always troubled serious scientists.
The surface temperature record shows a warming rate of about 0.17°C
(0.31°F) per decade since 1979. However, there are two other records,
one from satellites, and one from weather balloons that tell a different
story. Neither annual satellite nor balloon trends differ significantly
from zero since the start of the satellite record in 1979.
No to Kyoto!
In July 1997 the US Senate voted 95:0 for the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, opposing any international treaty that would damage the US economy by restricting the use of energy -- raising the cost of fuels for transportation, heating and electricity. This unanimous vote included Senator John Kerry -- and also John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who are currently advocating just such restrictions. But Robert Byrd and Chuck Hagel are right: A treaty obligating developed nations but not China, India, Brazil and Mexico would produce huge US job losses as industries moved overseas.
However, because of the initiative of then-Vice President Al Gore, the US signed just such a treaty, the protocol negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in December1997. But President Bill Clinton never submitted it for Senate ratification. And George Bush has consistently declared Kyoto "fatally flawed." Neither Bush nor the Senate has pointed out, however, that Kyoto is not only costly and unfair to the US, but also completely ineffective in averting a feared Global Warming. Scientists all agree that at best it would reduce the calculated temperature rise in 2050 by an insignificant one-tenth of a degree.
Russia has been more outspoken. The Russian Academy of Sciences, in its May 2004 report, questioned the reality of a substantial future warming - concluding that Kyoto lacks any scientific base. President Vladimir Putin declared Kyoto "scientifically flawed" and intimated that Russia would not ratify.
Yet, ironically, the Duma will likely ratify before the end of the year, making Kyoto binding on all ratifiers. Why? The reason may be short-term economic gain, as the Protocol permits selling Russia's unused emission rights to Europeans nations anxious to ease the economic penalties of Kyoto's energy restrictions.. Russia's economic collapse after 1990 nearly halved its emissions -- and the base year chosen for Kyoto is 1990. This arbitrary choice also favors Germany, which took over a faltering East German economy, and Britain, which switched its electric generation from coal to natural gas -- at about that time.
The US would lose out -- and maybe that's why our economic competitors
are so anxious to get us to ratify Kyoto.
Kyoto Challenge Has Just Begun
A move by Russia to support the Kyoto Protocol should usher in an era of international collaboration in mitigating climate change. Validating emissions trading and bringing developing economies into the fold are the next priorities.
Russia's climate politics are something of a mystery to outsiders, but the Russian government has reportedly decided to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and approval by the parliament should be a formality. Thus the last obstacle to the protocol's coming into force is set to be removed.
The decision is emerging in a way that lacks conviction from Russia's political and scientific elite (see Nature 431, 12-13; 2004 </cgi-taf/DynaCitation.taf?id=N1&jtl=NATURE&cd_year=2004&vid=431&ppf=12&ppl=13> ), and the country's Kyoto sceptics can still delay matters. What is important, however, is that the first multilaterally binding climate-protection regime now seems certain to see the light of day.
Even more important is the need to tackle the treaty's limitations. The legal force behind some of its key rules - including penalties for countries emitting more greenhouse gases than they should - is questionable. And excess emitters have little to fear: compensation for emissions at a later date could be endlessly postponed.
Another penalty is suspension from emissions trading. But whether the creation of an international emissions market - essential to reduce the costs of implementing the protocol - will provide an efficient tool for reducing 'hot air' is yet to be seen. It will soon be tested in the European Union (EU), where emissions trading is set to begin in January. The EU's political leaders, who have pressed ahead despite reservations from large European industries, would be delighted if the Kyoto Protocol were to come into effect then.
Many details of the treaty still await clarification. But its true significance is its potential to establish confidence in the practicability of a complex international climate-protection agreement. In particular, Russia's participation will greatly increase the scope for buying and selling emissions rights, and for gaining credits for exporting 'clean development' technologies - key issues for European, Canadian and Japanese industries concerned about the fairness and liquidity of the international emissions market. Whether emissions can be checked against permitted levels remains a key technical challenge.
Russia's ratification should provide a push towards future climate negotiations, and may even prompt the next US administration to take a constructive role. And the authority and credibility of the International Panel on Climate Change can only benefit as well.
The problem of global warming is here to stay, however. Fossil fuels
still account for some 90% of the world's energy consumption and are still
in abundant supply. Hundreds of millions of people in poorer countries
have more spending power, and their consumption is surging, pushing up
their energy demand. Any emissions control strategy is therefore ultimately
doomed to fail without the inclusion of tomorrow's mega-economies, which
are exempted from the need to cut emissions from 1990 levels. Russia's
wobbly goodwill provides a glimmer of hope, but our planet's future climate
will be determined, above all, in China and India.
Re: Kyoto deal will take too long, 'do little good', Oct. 11.
Unlike malaria, malnutrition, AIDS, political corruption and the other
issues addressed by the consensus, the most up-to-date science indicates
that global climate is not significantly affected by human activity. It
is a natural phenomenon that has occurred ever since Earth has had an
Yet, in his Ottawa presentation, Mr. Lomborg said, "(W)e know eminently
well what we should do about climate change. Climate change is in many
ways just as simple as HIV-AIDS. HIV-AIDS is handing out condoms; climate
change is about cutting carbon emissions. In that way, it's not really
rocket science ... It is actually possible to say, if we cut one tonne
(of carbon emissions), it will do this much good; if we cut two tonnes,
it will do this much good."
This simplistic assessment of climate is scientifically naive. Climate
is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon that even the world's best computer
models are far from simulating reliably. Further, current research reveals
that climate change is closely associated with variations in the output
of the sun, not human-produced greenhouse gases.
Our new minister of the environment, Stephane Dion, must acknowledge
that expensive plans to "stop climate change" are misguided.
Science no longer supports Kyoto and the billions being wasted on this
futile endeavour should be diverted to society's other pressing concerns.
The greenhouse effect could wreck attempts to lift the world's poorest people out of poverty and reverse human progress, campaigners say. A report by a coalition of environment and aid agencies calls for urgent action to avert the threat. The Working Group on Climate Change and Development says industrialised countries must cut carbon emissions massively by mid-century. They must also help developing nations adapt to climate change, it argues.
A report by the coalition, Up In Smoke, says global warming threatens to make the Millennium Development Goals unattainable. They are the internationally agreed targets for halving world poverty by 2015. The report says the warming could "even reverse human development achievements".
The coalition's 17 members include ActionAid, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WWF. Two other members, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the New Economics Foundation (Nef), organised the report's production, with the involvement of all the rest.
The foreword to the report is by Dr RK Pachauri, director-general of
The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), India, who also chairs the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He writes: "Most
notable as a major issue of concern is the nexus between climate change
and the widespread prevalence of poverty in the world. "
I draw your attention to the increasing politicisation and misuse of science, with the British government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, warning that the devastating effects of climate change, including floods and storms, could become far more familiar - even though he has no clear evidence of an increasing TREND in severe weather events, and certainly no way to PREDICT such events. No doubt Sir David's warning was timed to coincide with the Greenpeace conference that is being attended by prominent Global Warmist, Tony Blair.
Also, US scientist David Keeling, who has been collecting data on atmospheric CO2 levels at the summit of Mauna Loa mountain in Hawaii, has reported a rise of 2 parts per million in each of the past two years (TWO years being enough to establish an alarming trend!!). Rises of this magnitude have previously occurred in El Nino years (El Nino is a natural phenomenon), so in the absence of El Nino, and the absence of data to explain the increase, and also the absence of any theory on climate, Mr Keeling said ONE explanation for the rise "COULD BE a weakening of the earth's carbon 'sinks' (oceans and forests), associated with the world warming, as part of a climate change feedback mechanism.
Of course, there COULD BE an infinite number of other explanations too,
given that climate is a chaotic system that we don't really understand
at all, and our best climate models are hopelessly inadequate. Mr Keeling
was careful to say "ONE explanation", but of course this will
be interpreted as "THE explanation".
Thank you - your comments have now been delivered to the Prime MinisterAs
Prime Minister, Mr Blair receives so many letters and e-mails from members
of the public that it is impossible for him to reply personally. He received
over 1 million letters during 2003. But he does receive regular reports
detailing the matters that interest those who contact him. This ensures
that he is constantly aware of issues that are important to you.Over time
we will be looking to further expand and improve this system, including
making it available via other formats such as digital television.