The Week That Was
December 27, 2003

1. New on the Web: THE END OF THE LOMBORG AFFAIR, as the Danish Ministry of Research repudiates the findings of the "Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty." Read several comments and analyses from around the world, giving a black eye to Scientific American and other worthies.

2. NASA NEEDS A NEW VISION: Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight

3. Celebrating the imminent arrival of new spacecraft on Mars:









2. Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight
Washington, DC. Dec. 18, 2003, 18 December 2003
By Jason Bates

NASA needs a vision that includes a specific destination. That much a panel of space advocates who gathered in Washington today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight could agree on. There is less consensus about what that destination should be.

NASA needs to determine where it wants to send humans next and commit to that goal, the advocates agreed, though there was a difference of opinion on what the next target should be. According to the participants in the "Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight" sponsored Dec. 18 by Aviation Week and Space Technology, the two most likely destinations for a future manned space mission are Mars and a return to the Moon. One panelist even suggested the creation of a base on the Martian moon Deimos.

"The problem with NASA is there is no coherent vision or purpose," said Paul Spudis, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. "... For the first time in the agency's history there is no new human spaceflight mission in the pipeline. There is nothing beyond the International Space Station."

Spudis is a proponent of returning humans to the Moon and setting up a permanent outpost that will be used to study the universe and to learn more about surviving in space as humans look to move beyond the Moon. "The Moon has value," he said. "It is close and accessible."

While the cost of any major space undertaking seems daunting, a return to the Moon could be accomplished with existing expendable rockets and the space shuttle or shuttle-derived systems, Spudis said. We don't have the money to do a manned mission to Mars," he said. "I don't think that is in the cards, but the agency is looking for a challenge."

Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, disagreed and argued that Mars is the next logical goal for human spaceflight. "It has been staring us in the face since 1973," he said. "... It is a critical test to determine whether men can become planetary travelers."

Mars can be reached within the next 10 years, Zubrin said, but the United States will need to develop a heavy booster with capability similar to the Saturn-5 rockets that carried Apollo astronauts to the Moon, or a derivative of the space shuttle booster rockets that will be capable of carrying 40-ton to 50-ton payloads.

Fred Singer, a former director of the U.S. Satellite Weather Service, agreed that reaching Mars within the next 10 to 15 years should be the goal but that a base should be set up on its moon Deimos rather than on the surface of the planet. From that, astronauts would control robotic probes that would travel to the red planet and collect and return samples to Deimos for analysis, he said.

The Martian moon base could be accomplished for about $30 billion, money that could be found within the existing NASA budget once major space-station expenditures begin to tail off, Singer said. "The whole project builds on the [space station] experience," he said. "We can show that we have not thrown away $100 billion."

The effort will prepare humans for more ambitious missions in the future, Singer said. "We need an overarching goal," he said. "We need something with unique science content, not a publicity stunt."

Gary Martin, NASA's space architect, said the agency is redefining its approach to space exploration and is developing a method that mixes human and robotic missions to move science research forward. "We're looking for building blocks to lay out a long-term vision," he said.

NASA's new strategy would use Mars, for example, as the first step to future missions rather than as a destination in itself, Martin said. Robotic explorers will be trailblazers that can lay the groundwork for deeper space exploration.

"We have changed NASA," Martin said. "We put it on a new course with a stepping stone strategy for increasing exploration, both human and robotic."

Jim Garvin, NASA's lead scientist for Mars Exploration Science, said current robotic missions are doing science not even thought of during the Apollo era, but ultimately humans will need to be inserted in the process. "If the answer is to understand the cosmos, we need to be in the cosmos ourselves," he said.

SEPP Comment: To find out how to get to Mars via its moons, pls turn to


3. Recent Ice Ages On Mars

Nature 426, 797 - 802 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02114


1 Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA
2 Astronomical Institute, Kharkov National University, Kharkov, 61077, Ukraine
3 Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.W.H. (

A key pacemaker of ice ages on the Earth is climatic forcing due to variations in planetary orbital parameters. Recent Mars exploration has revealed dusty, water-ice-rich mantling deposits that are layered, metres thick and latitude dependent, occurring in both hemispheres from mid-latitudes to the poles. Here we show evidence that these deposits formed during a geologically recent ice age that occurred from about 2.1 to 0.4 Myr ago. The deposits were emplaced symmetrically down to latitudes of 30°-equivalent to Saudi Arabia and the southern United States on the Earth-in response to the changing stability of water ice and dust during variations in obliquity (the angle between Mars' pole of rotation and the ecliptic plane) reaching 30-35°. Mars is at present in an 'interglacial' period, and the ice-rich deposits are undergoing reworking, degradation and retreat in response to the current instability of near-surface ice. Unlike the Earth, martian ice ages are characterized by warmer polar climates and enhanced equatorward transport of atmospheric water and dust to produce widespread smooth deposits down to mid-latitudes.


Mars May Be Emerging From An Ice Age

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions
have provided evidence of a relatively recent ice age on
Mars. In contrast to Earth's ice ages, a Martian ice age
waxes when the poles warm, and water vapor is transported
toward lower latitudes. Martian ice ages wane when the poles
cool and lock water into polar icecaps.

The "pacemakers" of ice ages on Mars appear to be much more
extreme than the comparable drivers of climate change on
Earth. Variations in the planet's orbit and tilt produce
remarkable changes in the distribution of water ice from
Polar Regions down to latitudes equivalent to Houston or
Egypt. Researchers, using NASA spacecraft data and analogies
to Earth's Antarctic Dry Valleys, report their findings in
the journal Nature.

"Of all the solar system planets, Mars has the climate most
like that of Earth. Both are sensitive to small changes in
orbital parameters," said planetary scientist Dr. James Head
of Brown University, Providence, R.I., lead author of the
study. "Now we're seeing that Mars, like Earth, is in a
period between ice ages," he said.

Discoveries on Mars, since 1999, of relatively recent water-
carved gullies, glacier-like flows, regional buried ice and
possible snow packs created excitement among scientists who
study Earth and other planets. Information from the Mars
Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions provided more evidence
of an icy recent past.

Head and co-authors from Brown (Drs. John Mustard and Ralph
Milliken), Boston University (Dr. David Marchant) and Kharkov
National University, Ukraine (Dr. Mikhail Kreslavsky)
examined global patterns of landscape shapes and near-surface
water ice the orbiters mapped. They concluded a covering of
water ice mixed with dust mantled the surface of Mars to
latitudes as low as 30 degrees, and is degrading and
retreating. By observing the small number of impact craters
in those features and by backtracking the known patterns of
changes in Mars' orbit and tilt, they estimated the most
recent ice age occurred just 400 thousand to 2.1 million
years ago, very recent in geological terms. "These results
show Mars is not a dead planet, but it undergoes climate
changes that are even more pronounced than on Earth," Head

Marchant, a glacial geologist, who spent 17 field seasons in
the Mars-like Antarctic Dry Valleys, said, "These extreme
changes on Mars provide perspective for interpreting what we
see on Earth. Landforms on Mars that appear to be related to
climate changes help us calibrate and understand similar
landforms on Earth. Furthermore, the range of
microenvironments in the Antarctic Dry Valleys helps us read
the Mars record."

Mustard said, "The extreme climate changes on Mars are
providing us with predictions we can test with upcoming Mars
missions, such as Europe's Mars Express and NASA's Mars
Exploration Rovers. Among the climate changes that occurred
during these extremes is warming of the poles and partial
melting of water at high altitudes. This clearly broadens the
environments in which life might occur on Mars."

According to the researchers, during a Martian ice age, polar
warming drives water vapor from polar ice into the
atmosphere. The water comes back to ground at lower latitudes
as deposits of frost or snow mixed generously with dust. This
ice-rich mantle, a few meters thick, smoothes the contours of
the land. It locally develops a bumpy texture at human
scales, resembling the surface of a basketball, and also seen
in some Antarctic icy terrains. When ice at the top of the
mantling layer sublimes back into the atmosphere, it leaves
behind dust, which forms an insulating layer over remaining
ice. On Earth, by contrast, ice ages are periods of polar
cooling. The buildup of ice sheets draws water from liquid-
water oceans, which Mars lacks.

"This exciting new research really shows the mettle of NASA's
'follow-the-water' strategy for studying Mars," said Dr. Jim
Garvin, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration. "We hope
to continue pursuing this strategy in January, if the Mars
Exploration Rovers land successfully. Later, the 2005 Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter and 2007 Phoenix near-polar lander
will be able to directly follow up on these astounding
findings by Professor Head and his team."

Global Surveyor has been orbiting Mars since 1997, Odyssey
since 2001. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of
the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages
both missions for the NASA Office of Space Science,
Washington. Information about NASA's Mars missions is
available on the Internet at:


4. Canadian Geologists Speak Out Against Kyoto

4A. Political agendas overtake climate science
Dr. Paul Copper
Financial Post
, December 15, 2003

I congratulate Mr. Foster on his commentary, as he is absolutely correct that science seems to have gone off the rails regarding the climate debate. And political agendas seem to have largely taken over.

I have taught a university course on global change for more than a decade. In this course, I advise my students to keep firmly on the track of science, to keep an open mind and not to be swayed by the weather vane politics of the day. For three-quarters of the last half billion years, Earth has been in a greenhouse mode, and for very long intervals of tens of millions of years, a "super-greenhouse" with CO2 levels up to 24 times those of today. For the last 12,000 years, Earth has moved to a temporary warm interglacial episode, with the Milankovic switch set to turn toward the next ice age in much less than a few millennia. At that time, Toronto should be under a kilometre of ice or more.

Earth's climate has never been stable: instability is the rule, not exception. The major problems faced by humans are ones of endless population growth (overcrowding into megacities), urbanization-cum-industrialization, fouling of the environment, religious or territorial wars, and health epidemics (the last two a probable consequence of the previous).

Dr. Paul Copper, Professor of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Sudbury.
4B. Lots of hot air

Dr. John Martin
Calgary Herald
, 16 December 2003

Re: "Russia or not, forget Kyoto," Charles Frank, Opinion, Dec. 5.

While I am pleased to see Charles Frank continue to oppose the nonsensical Kyoto accord, I am disappointed that he focuses so little on the fact that the science is flawed and almost certainly useless.

The endless debates about provincial/federal jurisdiction, strategies for greenhouse gas reduction, what it will cost to implement and who pays for it are all very much beside the point since CO2 build-up is not a threat to the climate, or anything else for that matter. The fact that the Canadian Alliance and most others who oppose Kyoto don't highlight this as the major thrust of their arguments defies common sense. While any rational Canadian supports effective pollution control, Kyoto is not about reducing pollution, as CO2 is not a pollutant.

Instead, Kyoto focuses on the entirely unrealistic attempt to stop global warming, something that is clearly beyond the capacity of 21st-century man. Canada should concentrate on controlling the controllables; pollution is controllable and global climate is not. Let's dump useless climate control plans and get to work on the truly important environmental problems we face.

John Martin, PhD, Geology



5. Kyoto impartiality?

By: Lorne Gunter, National Post, 19 December 2003, p. A16

Doug Whelpdale, Director, Climate Research Branch, Environment Canada's Meteorological Service of Canada; Doug Bancroft, director of oceanography and climate, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Karen Brown, assistant deputy minister, Environment Canada; Irwin Itzkovitch, assistant deputy minister, Natural Resources Canada; Sue Milburn-Hopwood, Health Canada; Gordon McBean, former assistant deputy minister, Environment Canada and chair, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (funded by a one-time, $60-million grant from Ottawa); Margaret McQuaig-Johnson, Finance Canada; David Oulton, head of Ottawa's Climate Change Secretariat; Tom Pedersen, head of earth and ocean science, University of Victoria; Paul Sampson, Privy Council Office; Norine Smith, assistant deputy minister, Environment Canada; John Stone, associate director general, Environment Canada; Richard Anthes, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder. Colo.; Georges Beauchemin, chair, Consortium on Regional Climatology and Adaptation to Climate Change (OURANOS in French, a joint project of Ottawa's Meteorological Service of Canada, the Quebec government, and Quebec-owned Hydro-Quebec); Don Strange, manager, Ottawa's Climate Change Action Fund; Eric Taylor, Natural Resources Canada; Peter Victor, chair, Science Advisory Board, Environment Canada; Janet Walden, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada; Greg Graham, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (a fund established by Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada to invest in technologies that reduce greenhouse gasses, now also including many industry "stakeholders"); and Andre Isabel, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Last spring, Environment Canada hired a Toronto consulting firm to conduct an "external" review of the climate science research plan of its Meteorological Service of Canada. If I told you the above 20 persons were the only ones interviewed, would you conclude the review had been an "external" one? Thirteen are federal bureaucrats or advisers. Seven -- one-third -- are members of the committee which initiated the review. Three come from foundations largely funded by government, two from an arms-length funding body whose annual budget comes from the federal government, and two are academics who share Ottawa's view of environmental issues.

If I also told you the three people who drafted the contract -- all Environment Canada employees -- also instructed the consultants on whom they could interview, might you question the objectivity and impartiality of the review? Wouldn't you wonder what its value was? Why bother doing such a review?

It's as if Environment Canada's senior climate-change bureaucrats decided one morning, "We want to know if our research priorities are good ones. Hmm. Let's ask the people who draw up and administer our research plan, the people who used to be in charge of it, other government departments committed to the same environmental policies we are, foundations we are funding to do much of the research that backs up our position, foundations that stand to benefit if we stay the course on our position, and academics who largely agree with our position."

Ah, yes, that sounds like a good, comprehensive, unbiased assessment of whether one's plan and overall position on the environment and Kyoto is a good one.

Not one critic of Environment Canada's position. Few people not directly employed by the federal government, which has made no secret about its position on climate change and Kyoto. Fewer people, still, who are not beneficiaries, in one form or another, of Ottawa's billions in Kyoto-based research monies. And two academics for whom much of the question of what's behind climate change has been settled.

I'd be surprised if there was a skeptic of big-government, centrally planned environmental and economic policies in the bunch.

Yep. Get right on that. Sounds like the right mix of interviewees.

Tim Ball, a climate science professor at the University of Winnipeg for 32 years and a doubter of the man-made global warming theory, writing in the Calgary Herald on Thursday, asserts that this review is "convincing evidence that Canada's climate change science is driven by a preordained political agenda. Instead of basing policy decisions on the best available science ... the government is clearly directing its scientists to find the evidence the government needs to substantiate its policy -- completely the reverse of how science-based policy should be determined."

Using a copy of the review obtained through access to information requests, Ball revealed that on June 12, at a meeting of senior Environment Canada bureaucrats, the committee was reminded "that climate change science activities in the federal government are mission-driven."

"Shouldn't the federal government's environmental mission be science-driven, instead?" Ball wondered correctly.

Environment Minister David Anderson -- newly reappointed to that position by Friend-of-the-West Prime Minister Paul Martin -- insists the science of Kyoto and climate change is "settled," that there is no doubt human beings are causing the planet to warm dangerously and that human activities must be curtailed to prevent catastrophe, especially activities near and dear to western Canadians and their economy.

And Anderson and his officials seem to have devised a convenient way to convince themselves the issue is "settled."

Make an imaginary tent. Place in that tent only those ideas and people who reinforce your views. Close the flaps tight against any opposing ideas or zephyrs of doubt. Then claim the inside of the tent comprises the entire known universe. Pretend there is nothing outside and periodically fund studies to confirm that view.
Lorne Gunter, Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, National Post


6. The Idiot's Guide To Global Warming: Foreword to the book

After reading this book, an idiot no longer, you should be able to ask some searching questions: After all, IDIOT stands for Intelligent Doubter of Inaccuracies/Inanities Offered by Television (and other media).

So your first question might be: Is the climate really warming? And you learn that weather satellites measuring atmospheric temperatures day in day out from pole to pole report only a minute rise that extrapolates to about half a degree Centigrade by 2100. OK, but is this rise caused by human activities, like the burning of coal, oil, and gas? Hard to tell; climate varies naturally both up and down; so it could even be partly non-human. Next: So it's warming, but is it significant? That's a matter of judgment; but half a degree is barely detectable and not likely to have an impact.

The important question is: Let's assume that it would warm more strongly in the future, would such a warming be good or bad? (It is quite unlikely that the present climate is in any way optimal.) Meteorologists tell us that a warmer climate will on the whole produce more rain (and fresh water) but not more severe storms or hurricanes. The warming would be concentrated in high-latitude regions north and south and would mainly raise temperatures at night in winter. So Arctic winters might reach minus 38 instead of the present minus 40 degrees. There will be few complaints - even if polar bears and penguins could talk.

Economists tell us that a moderate warming would be better for the economy and lead to a higher GNP and higher living standards. That is especially true, biologists tell us, if we also achieve a higher level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Contrary to all you might have heard, CO2 is not a pollutant but an essential component of the earth's atmosphere. With the help of sunshine and trace nutrients, plants turn CO2 into food and fiber. More CO2 --- better growth of crops and forests.

Geologists tell us that levels of CO2 have been ten to twenty times the present level - and life in various forms did quite nicely. But CO2 has been declining more or less steadily in the past 200 million years, reaching dangerously low levels during ice ages. Some worry that in the next ice age, soon to arrive, it may fall below the level to sustain plant growth.

Now suppose that everything we know is wrong and that the precautionary principle should be applied. What can we do and what should we do? Actually, there is practically nothing we can do to change the course of climate - short of gigantic and risky planetary engineering, like putting megatonnes of dust into the stratosphere and similar fanciful schemes. Certainly, the much-touted Kyoto Protocol, which would force us to use less energy by boosting its price, is completely ineffective; it has been rejected by the United States and ignored by China and other giant energy consumers.

Adaptation is the only sensible answer to climate change, whether natural or human-caused. But successful adaptation to either heat or cold takes money. So we should save and not waste: Conservation of resources and especially of energy is the right policy. But don't under-conserve (waste) and don't over-conserve (by investing in uneconomic energy schemes). Only complete idiots would do that.

S.Fred Singer


7. Tax Breaks in the Proposed Energy Legislation
Letter to Washington Times

Doug Durante hasn't met a tax break yet he didn't like (WT Commentary 12/15/03). But tax breaks for a favored few impose higher taxes on the rest of us. They are particularly objectionable when granted for energy fuels like ethanol from corn or bio-diesel from soybeans, which require more energy to make than they deliver. It does nothing for energy security, and it also raises the cost of fuels and of food.

Tax breaks and subsidies, once set up, are hard to get rid of. They seem to live on forever. Just look at the Synfuels Credit enacted nearly a quarter century ago during a so-called energy crisis. It's a boondoggle, shamelessly exploited by some energy companies and even a hotel chain. According to a recent WSJ story, the synfuel "producer" buys coal for $25 a ton, crushes and sprays it with some chemical binder, sells it for around $15, and then collects a federal tax credit worth $26 a ton. Not bad. The IRS is still trying to stamp it out but is meeting political opposition. The new tax breaks in the current energy bill are likely to burden our children and grandchildren.
S Fred Singer is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. He is the author of Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate (The Independent Institute, Oakland, CA, 1999). His web site is


8. Report From Cop-9 In Milan

18 December 2003
Kyoto COP out
by Dominic Standish

December brought a build-up of high pressure to the Milan region. Between 1 and 12 December, over 4000 delegates have been at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ninth conference of the Convention of Parties (COP 9). The cloud hanging over the conference was the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 172 countries in 1997 to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.

During the conference, an imaginative range of problems has been blamed on global warming. BBC News ran a feature about how it has hit Italian winemakers (1). 'Lack of snow last winter, almost no rain in spring or summer and searing temperatures for prolonged periods have had a major impact on the grape harvest. There has been a 20 per cent reduction in output', reported the focus on a Barolo vineyard.

Following the release of a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on 2 December, fears grew about melting glaciers and less snowfall in low-lying Alpine ski resorts (2). 'Many resorts, particularly in the traditional, lower altitude resorts of Europe, will be either unable to operate as a result of lack of snow or will face additional costs, including artificial snowmaking, that may render them uneconomic', the report stated.

At the COP 9 conference, Damiano Di Simine, president of the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), outlined the specific impact of warming on the Alps. 'The Alps are in an area of the world in which climate change is more accentuated', he said. 'The general rise in the level of temperature is about 0.6-0.7 degrees, in the Alps the order of change is plus 1.5, with measurable affects on the retreat of glaciers.'

In a presentation on 11 December, the World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed that 150,000 deaths a year are linked to climate change. The WHO estimated that this could double by 2030, although there was significant uncertainty about future warming trends. 'We don't know what all the effects of climate change are likely to be', said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a WHO scientist. This did not prevent the scientist from making doomsday forecasts about the future impact of climate change with 'winners and losers.' Campbell-Lendrum predicted that underdeveloped countries would see the highest toll from warming.

A representative of the Inuit people of Canada and Alaska, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, declared that they are already the victims of global warming. She announced at COP 9 that a human rights case is being launched against the US government. Watt-Cloutier claimed the oceans are too warm due to climate change, causing roads, airports and harbours to collapse. In addition, there has been erosion of house foundations near the seashore, and people have moved to safer areas. The Inuit have the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to help them put pressure on George W Bush's administration (3).

No doubt the Inuit have experienced problems related to climate change. But in focusing their energies on trying to blame and shame the US government, political posturing may be replacing the rational debate that could help construct the protection that the Inuit need.

Blaming the USA was a strong theme of the conference. The current US administration is widely held responsible for the uncertainty surrounding the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which will only be approved when 55 signatories have ratified it. These countries must include industrialised countries that produced 55 per cent of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990. President Bush pulled out of the Kyoto agreement in 2001, as has Australia. Then in October 2003, Russia, whose ratification would allow the Protocol to be implemented, started to waver in its decision.

During COP 9, there were contradictory statements from the Russian government about whether it will ratify the Protocol, which caused heated debates in Milan. Activists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) held a demonstration in the main hallway of the COP 9 conference calling for urgent Russian ratification. Russia's deputy economy minister, Mukhamed Tsikhanov, has indicated that ratification could be put to the Duma (lower house of parliament) next year.

Why are these governments reluctant to support the Kyoto Protocol? This question was addressed at another conference held in Milan, 'From Greenhouse Effect to Climate Control', on 29 November (4). Supporters of the Protocol want to limit various human activities because they believe that this will reduce future warming, which is why countries that ratify the Kyoto Protocol would be required to curtail activities that generate GHGs, especially energy production, transport and agriculture.

Several economists described how this could have a negative impact on economic growth. Margo Thorning of the International Council for Capital Formation (Belgium) presented economic models showing that gross domestic product could be severely affected if the Kyoto Protocol is implemented. Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (USA) questioned the environmental benefits of reducing GHGs. The Protocol 'is an all pain, no gain diet', according to Smith.

While there is a consensus that we have experienced limited global temperature rises over the past 150 years, there are disagreements about the reasons for warming. S Fred Singer of the University of Virginia correctly pointed out on 29 November that the solar cycle has been ignored as a cause of warming by those promoting the Kyoto Protocol. However, opponents of the Protocol sometimes highlight such natural factors as determining the impact of climate change, in an attempt to reject the notion that human-created GHGs are to blame.

During my own presentation to the conference on 29 November, I emphasized that the key factor regarding the impact of climate change on society is development. As an example of a social response, I examined the mobile barriers being built to protect Venice from flooding and rising sea levels. Construction work on the barriers began in early 2003 and the estimated completion date is 2011. Regardless of whether climate change is due to GHGs or natural factors, such initiatives by societies will govern how we experience it.

Yet environmentalists at COP 9 used the example of Venice sinking to put pressure on the US undersecretary of state for global affairs, Paula Dobriansky, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. 'Venice's destiny is linked to that of the planet', Paolo Cacciari, a Venice municipal councillor, told a news conference after a letter signed by 73 coastal cities worldwide was submitted to the US delegation. 'If Kyoto is not ratified, we will be submerged', he added.

These assertions imply the only problem for coastal cities like Venice is rising sea levels due to climate change. But the best long-term measurements available suggest that rising sea levels have been less important than subsidence, or lowering of the land level. Between 1897 and 1983, the relative sea level (RSL) in Venice rose 23cm, according to measurements by the Italian National Research Council. Twelve centimetres of the 23cm RSL rise was due to subsidence, and 11cm was caused by rising sea levels.

Venice is now flooded roughly 43 times a year, compared with seven at the start of the twentieth century. Climate change could mean the RSL would rise more in the near future, although it could also mean that it falls. We are simply unable to predict long-term trends accurately. However, these campaigners linking Venice sinking to the Kyoto Protocol have ignored the measures to protect the city. The mobile barriers plus various internal defence construction works will not prevent all flooding indefinitely. But they provide the best solution for the foreseeable future. The campaigners' climate alarmism is a barrier to solving problems like Venice sinking, as I have explored in contributions to two new publications (5).

The USA has been cast as the villain of global warming as it pumps out GHGs and rejects the Kyoto Protocol. But most European Union countries are failing to meet their commitments under the pact. According to a EU report that coincided with COP 9, existing measures in the 15-country bloc would result in only a 0.5 per cent reduction in GHG emissions in 2010 from 1990 levels. The EU pledged to reduce these emissions by eight per cent under the Kyoto Protocol between 2008 and 2012. Britain and Sweden are the only two EU nations on track to meet their targets.
Considering these trends, and with ratification of the Kyoto Protocol uncertain, many opponents of the agreement were jubilant at COP 9. But if the Protocol fails for these reasons, it will be a hollow victory. The argument that needs to be won is that societies determine the impact of climate change, and economies can grow simultaneously without imposing limits on development. Instead, opponents of the Protocol have constantly relied on passive factors to challenge it - that the sun causes warming (not human-generated GHGs), on poor EU progress with cutting GHGs or on key countries not ratifying.

This means that the underlying assumption of the Kyoto Protocol, that we should restrict development to reduce warming, has not been tackled. Indeed, EU countries closed COP 9 by stating that they would implement the Protocol even if it is not ratified. 'The Kyoto Protocol is the only game in town', said the German environment minister, Juergin Trittin, on the last day of the conference. And while the US baulks at taking action at a federal level, individual states, such as California, have already imposed their own regime of limits on transport emissions.

'The Kyoto Protocol was never expected to solve the problem of climate change in the first commitment period, the five years between 2008-2012', stated the Climate Change Secretariat of the UNFCCC. 'It is just the first step. Negotiations as to what should be done next will have to start soon.' So it was the opponents of the Kyoto Protocol who copped out in Milan, because the demand to restrict development in the name of climate change goes unchallenged.

Dominic Standish is writing a PhD on Venice and environmental risks. He also writes for many media organisations, including the leading Italian news wires agency, Ansa. He has contributed to the new book Adapt or Die. The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change, edited by Kendra Okonski, Profile Books, published in December 2003 (

Read on:

spiked-issue: Global warming

(1) Global warming hits winemakers, Kate Poland, BBC News Online, 5 December 2003

(2) 'Climate change could affect Italian ski resorts', Dominic Standish, Ansa, 4 December 2003

(3) Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit, Paul Brown, Guardian, 11 December 2003

(4) Kyoto and our adaptive capacity, Dominic Standish, Tech Central Station, 4 December 2003

(5) See Adapt or Die. The science, politics and economics of climate change edited by Kendra Okonski, Profile Books, December 2003; and Dall'effetto serra alla pianificazione economica (From the Greenhouse Effect to Economic Planning) edited by Kendra Okonski and Carlo Stagnaro, Rubbettino/Leonardo Facco, December 2003


9. The Dead Protocol Sketch:
British libertarian comedian David Carr on Kyoto

Look, matey, I know a dead protocol when I see one, and I'm looking at
one right now <> :

Russia says it will not ratify in its present form the Kyoto
Protocol designed to mitigate global warming. The landmark environmental pact cannot now enter into legal force, especially since the US has also repudiated it.

It's not pinin'! It's passed on! This protocol is no more! It has ceased
to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of
life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch, it'd be
pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now 'istory! It's
off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal
coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!

courtesy of Iain Murray



We need your financial support to carry on our work - at COP-9 and similar venues, through technical and popular publications, and through our web site.

TWTW has been running since 1997 and now serves nearly 2000 subscribers.

SEPP has no employees and pays no salaries. Our scientists, officers, and board members contribute their efforts on a pro-bono basis. To demonstrate its independence, SEPP does not solicit support from either government or industry. With minimal overhead expenses, funding goes into effective programs.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation of any magnitude, by check or credit card. If you send us $100 or more, we will mail you an autographed copy of one of our books. So be sure to include your mailing address (and e-mail and phone information).

SEPP, 1600 S. Eads St, Suite 712-S, Arlington, VA 22202-2907

Or to send your contribution using your credit card through PayPal, click on the icon





Go to the Week That Was Index