|The Week That Was
February 23, 2002
should pull out of Kyoto says economist Ross McKitrick, like Australia
(and perhaps Japan) may do. A levelheaded analysis of what the Bush Clear-Sky
Initiative means for Canada in New on the Web. Meanwhile, the Canadian
government, under pressure from energy producers worried about the costs
of Kyoto, gave its clearest sign yet that it might not ratify the treaty
designed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal said that while Ottawa still
supports the aims of the protocol, it would not sign on to Kyoto until
it was sure.
2. Canadian provinces challenge Ottawa over Kyoto, with Alberta in the lead
3. In TWTW of Feb. 16, we concluded that the Bush CLEAR SKIES INITIATIVE (CSI) would not satisfy Enviros and political opponents, would not advance the major phases of the Bush/Cheney energy policy, nor necessarily abate the drive to push the US into accepting the Kyoto Protocol. While the White House plan linking emissions to GDP is sensible, awarding emission credits may provide a stimulus for turning voluntary into mandatory targets. We continue here our analysis of the CSI.
4 Wm. O'Keefe, president of the George C. Marshall Institute, provides a balanced critique of the CSI, citing plusses and minuses
5. A small amount of sunshine (and UV radiation) can help reduce the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers, according to a recent study. Maybe a little ozone depletion is good for you. But caution: These results need confirmation.
6. The Brits are beginning to recognize the folly of wind power and - we hope - of Kyoto
7. And finally: Let's Hold Global Warming Forecasters Accountable... Brazilian-Style. Reported by Tom Randall, director of Environmental & Regulatory Affairs of the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research
Canada¹s support for the Kyoto Protocol has erupted in controversy, with several Canadian provinces challenging the federal government¹s plan to bring the greenhouse gas reduction agreement into force. Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson hopes that his government will ratify the Kyoto agreement by June 1, just before Canada hosts the G8 meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta.
Yet on Feb. 15, during a Canadian trade mission to Moscow, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein released a letter supported by several of Canada¹s 10 provincial premiers urging that Canada not ratify the treaty, arguing that to do so would harm the economy. "The premiers are concerned about the economic impact of the protocol if it is signed by the federal government," said Klein, whose province is Canada¹s major oil and gas producing area. At the time of the release of the letter, Klein said that Quebec was the only province not to support the letter. Yet in the next week, the premiers of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and at least one Atlantic province were also reportedly not in agreement with the letter.
The letter said, "We are concerned that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and Canada¹s response to climate change could impact competitiveness and, in turn, employment, economic growth and investment opportunities across Canada." The hard line provinces clearly supporting this view are Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario.
While the Canadian government maintains it would cost as little as $310 million per year to meet the Kyoto goal, the provinces supporting the letter, and the oil and gas industry, argue that the actual cost would be far higher, as much as $2.8 billion per year. The Canadian oil and gas industry and even the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, have lobbied against Canada¹s ratification of the Kyoto treaty, seeking instead a more gradual, U.S.-style approach.
Anderson argues that the effects of global warming are already being felt across Canada, and particularly in Canada¹s northern regions. "While I agree that there will be an impact on the economy, the costs are manageable. The costs of doing nothing seem to be forgotten," he said. Anderson is actively negotiating with the provinces in order to obtain a consensus on Canada¹s position. He is now offering the provinces greenhouse gas emissions caps on an industry-by-industry basis, rather than a less palatable province-by-province basis. Anderson is also seeking emissions credits for natural gas exports to the U.S. under the Kyoto treaty. Progress on achieving a provincial-federal consensus may come next week, during a meeting of Canada¹s energy and environment ministers.
Greenpeace Canada has called for an emergency debate in the Parliament on the issue. "It¹s time for Jean Chretien to put down the palace coup against Canadian environmental policy," said Greenpeace¹s Jo Dufay.
The Kyoto treaty calls for Canada to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 6 percent below its 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But the Canadian "Action Plan," which is still under development, contains measures that fall short of achieving the Kyoto goal. Canada currently emits about 700 million tonnes of GHGs per year, while in 1990 it emitted some 600 million tonnes.
Canadian Business Group Opposes Kyoto Ratification
Canada should not ratify the Kyoto Protocol until the costs of implementation are clearly known, Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), has warned. CME¹s board has unanimously approved a resolution cautioning the government against ratifying Kyoto until the cost question is answered:
Canada¹s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent
below 1990 levels within the next 10 years will require Canadians to reduce
home heating and electricity use by as much as 30 percent by 2010, Jayson
Myers, CME¹s chief economist predicted. CME, the most important business
group in Canada, includes members from firms engaged in manufacturing
and in the export of goods and services. Members represent 75 percent
of the country¹s manufacturing output and 90 percent of exports.
CO2 Targets and Kyoto
I suppose that Business As Usual can meet the CO2 target for 2012 of an 18% reduction in energy intensity, to 151 tons of carbon equiv. per million 2001 dollars of GDP. That's why Eileen Claussen (Pew Center) calls it a "sham" and David Hawkins (Natural Resources Defense Council) complains that this is a "repudiation" of the Rio Treaty signed by the senior George Bush in 1992. But the increasing share of services (that are less energy-intensive) included in GDP should do the trick, coupled with more nuclear energy (per Bush energy policy), hybrid-electric cars, and substitution of natural gas for coal.
It is disturbing, however, to see the emphasis on trading of CO2 emission credits. Such credits acquire value only if there is scarcity -- in other words, a "cap" on CO2 emissions. Industries holding credits will become lobbyists for mandatory targets that artificially constrain energy use. One way or another, this is equivalent to rationing and, of course, higher energy prices. Will an electric utility shut down a coal plant to sell the credits gained? Will it encourage nuclear energy? Hard to tell.
Further confusing the situation, to keep energy prices from going through the roof, Resources for the Future has suggested that hard caps become soft if the price of credits reaches a certain value. What a political mess! Who will set this value? And if credits become worthless as a result of soft caps , can industries sue government for "taking?"
One thing for sure: It will raise the cost of electricity to consumers. Poor elderly that cannot afford to turn on air conditioners will die in heat waves (as happened in Chicago).
Of course, nothing will happen till at least 2003 when Congress may address these issues. We wish though that Bush would immediately withdraw the signature of the Clinton Administration from the Kyoto Protocol. If the US withdraws, we are told, Europe with more than 55% of the signatories and more than 55% of GHG emissions could bring the Protocol into force -- all by itself. That would be worth watching.
And of course, the Green critics of the Bush plan in the Congress can always introduce a gasoline tax -- the only surefire way to reduce oil consumption and oil imports quickly, something that CAFE could not do. Let's see them rise to the occasion.
The three pollutants: SOx, NOx, and Mercury (Hg):
The Bush initiative, which some critics have dubbed "Jeffords-lite," calls for a roughly 70% reduction by 2018 of emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (already labeled as pollutants under existing Clean-Air legislation), and adds also Hg. It permits emission trading and provides lavish tax and R&D incentives.
One set of questions sure to be asked when Congress considers the package concerns costs and benefits. Will EPA tell us where their numbers come from? Do marginal costs exceed marginal benefits? How clean is clean? The 1990 Act considered 10 million tons/year of SO2 emissions more than adequate; what has changed?
What is the background level of the pollutant? A 30 ton /yr reduction in Hg emissions, to 15 tons/yr, doesn't cut much ice when total US emissions are 150 tons and the world total somewhere near 4000 tons. With pollution traveling across oceans, are China and India going to reduce coal use and emission intensity?
Then there are the political questions: The tighter sulfur standards require scrubbers on all coal-fired plants, including those burning low-sulfur coal. How will this play in Wyoming and with the railroads? It makes lignite uneconomic; how will North Dakota and Texas react? The end of cheap electricity based on coal generally will hurt the Midwest. I look forward to some interesting discussions in Congress next year.
Ironically, the increased costs of reducing pollution translate directly
into more use of energy and inevitably more emission of CO2.
Overall it could be graded as a C+ or perhaps a B-. what was released was general and in many respects consistent with the recent Marshall report on science and policy and recommendations from the business community over the past 5 or 6 years. on the other hand, it also is consistent with the efforts of Al Gore and Katie mcginty to get industries to make voluntary commitments to avoid mandatory ones. since the devil is in the details how the president's policy is implemented will be telling.
The positive aspects are:
5. SUNSHINE 'PREVENTS CANCER': AN EXAMPLE OF HORMESIS?
Sunlight is a key source of vitamin D. Scientists told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston the vitamin plays a crucial role in regulating the production of cells, a mechanism that is absent in cancer.
The suggestion that we should get out in the sun may at first seem at odds with the advice on guarding against the risk of skin cancer, but Professor Michael Holick, an endocrinologist from the Boston University School of Medicine, stressed that he was advocating moderation, and not denying the harmful effects of sunburn.
To get the vitamin D from the sun, but protect against skin cancer, he suggests Caucasians spend five to 10 minutes in the sun, unprotected, two to three times a week. Sun creams should then be used if people spend any further time in the sun.
[People with darker skins need to spend longer in the sun to get the necessary amount of vitamin D; the pigmentation in their skins blocks UV absorption.]
The sun gives out ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The benefits come from the UV B type.
Professor Holick believes his research could explain why people living in colder, northern climates who get less vitamin D from the sun have a higher risk of dying from colon, breast and prostate cancers. He said more people than might be expected were vitamin D deficient. In Boston, he estimated 40 to 50% of adults over 50 were vitamin D deficient.
Professor Holick's team has isolated a key enzyme which is involved in the processing of vitamin D. He said if the body did not take in enough vitamin D then the enzyme would not be activated and the body would not be able to turn the vitamin into a form it could use.
The active form of vitamin D prevents colon cells from proliferating and prompts them to change into more mature cells which are less capable of becoming cancerous. The Boston researchers have found the same process occurs in breast, skin, and prostate cells.
Professor Holick said: "The most beneficial effect of exposure to sunlight is vitamin D protection. Moderation is really the answer. We were born and evolved in sunlight and so sunlight is probably important for good health."
Dr William Grant, an independent researcher from Virginia, has examined the difference in cancer rates dependent on where people live. Using data from the Atlas of Cancer Mortality, he found death rates for breast, colon and ovarian cancers in Boston and New England were almost twice as high as they were in the southwest from 1950 to 1994. He found the same link, with varying increased risk, for 13 cancers including bladder, kidney, stomach, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He estimates there have been 23,000 deaths from cancer per year - taking the difference in UV radiation between northern and southern states - which could have been prevented if people had had enough vitamin D. He suggests this year, the figure could be 30,000.
He told BBC News Online: "I believe my research should be considered
a clarion call for more investigation by the health establishment on the
benefits of solar radiation and UVB."
Last week's Government energy review, proposing a massive expansion in wind power to produce electricity, perpetuated one of the most bizarre confidence tricks of the modern world.
So ludicrously expensive and inefficient is this form of power generation that Denmark, the world leader, which produces 13 per cent of its electricity from wind power, has just called a halt to the programme which has given it the most expensive electricity in Europe, and yielded no reduction in the emission of "greenhouse gases".
Yet at this very moment, Mr. Blair's advisers in his Policy and Innovation Unit call for an expansion in wind generation which, in order for Britain to equal Denmark's current level of 13 per cent, would require at least 20,000 new turbines, in addition to the 900 we have already.
Because they cannot operate when winds are either too weak or too strong, they produce only a quarter of their capacity, requiring permanent backup from conventional power stations.
The intermittent output of the 900 turbines which already dominate vast tracts of upland in northern and western Britain amounts to only 150 megawatts, while a single industrial plant, the Angelesey aluminium factory, requires 220 megawatts of continuous supply.
The Blair Government is eager to expand our wind programme, in order to meet targets for renewable energy set by the European Union; but to achieve even half of Denmark's figure of 13 per cent of total electricity output would mean windfarms covering more than 3,000 square miles of countryside.
In the face of mounting opposition to these ugly, noisy installations, the Government is now pushing many of them through by diktat, without need for planning permission or public enquiries. They will be sited wherever our energy minister, Brian Wilson, decides to allow them to be sited.
What is extraordinary is how successful propagandists for wind power have been in creating the illusion that it is in any way environmentally friendly. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds cites a poll showing that only 3 per cent of the population oppose wind farms, although one such large farm in California alone kills up to 300 redtail hawks and 60 golden eagles a year with its revolving blades. So sickening is the monotonous "whump" of those blades that house prices in areas near wind farms drop by up to a half, and studies show a marked decline in the popularity of such areas with tourists.
Even the supposed benefit of reducing greenhouse gases is more than negated by the emissions generated in the construction of the huge steel or concrete pylons, and for them to be backed up by other forms of generation. But what makes wind power indefensible is its need for massive subsidies, through the "non-fossil fuel obligation" by which the turbines have to be financed through a levy on electricity produced by conventional means.
This has persuaded the Danish government to halt the wind programme which has hoisted electricity prices to 13p a unit, compared with 7-8p in Britain. As a result, Denmark's turbine makers, with 50 per cent of the world market, are desperate for new customers. And who could seem more gullible than Mr. Blair, falling for the great wind fantasy just when the Danes have recognised it as one of the silliest delusions of our age?
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Luiz Carlos Austin, a television meteorologist in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is facing criminal charges and a possible six-month jail sentence. His crime: a bad weather forecast.
Austin had predicted severe weather in Rio for the New Year's Eve holiday. The bad weather never occurred, but only two million people came to the city to celebrate - less than in previous years. Rio's mayor blamed the low turnout on the inaccurate weather forecast, so he brought a criminal charge against Austin.
Finally. A weather-guesser gets his just desserts. Now, what about climate-guessers?
Climate-guessers are those gloom-and-doomers that make up the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change - the folks who persistently try to scare the public with fears of "global warming."
Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice are pretty busy these days dealing with terrorism. And, obviously, dealing with terrorism must be this country's most noble and urgent calling. But, Mr. Ashcroft, when you do get some time, you might look toward an appropriate resolution of the global warming issue - Brazilian style.