The Week That Was
February 22, 2003

1. New on the Web: THE CONGRESS-ACTION EDITORIAL EXPLAINS WHY THE COLD WINTER IS NOT CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING. [For more scientific backup, consult TWTW of Jan 25 and Feb 15, 2003]




5. TWO BOOKS ON THE HISTORY OF ATOMIC ENERGY BY TED ROCKWELL, nuclear expert and former chief engineer for Adm. Hyman Rickover





2. President Bush Asks For $1.2 Billion For Automotive Fuel Cell Research

Issue: In his State of the Union speech, President Bush asked for $1.2 billion for research on hydrogen fuel-cell automobiles. No money was asked for, however, for more viable automotive solutions that could be made available in the relatively near term.

Comment 1: Even if a practical fuel-cell auto were developed, there is no feasible way to distribute and store the required hydrogen.

Comment 2: Hydrogen must be manufactured and liquefied for transport. To supply hydrogen requires enormous amounts of electricity. Thus, hydrogen is, indirectly, a heavy polluter.

Comment 3: It takes nearly 20 truckloads of hydrogen to equal the energy of just one truckload of gasoline.

Comment 4: Numerous mileage enhancement technologies are under development by virtually every major auto manufacturer. These hold far greater promise of resolving pollution and energy use issues than do fuel cells.

Comment 5: Toyota is already selling its diesel-powered Yaris in Europe, which gets 56 mpg (by European standards), compared to the company¹s similar hybrid-electric Prius that gets 52 mpg (by U.S. standards). We should be investing in workable technology instead of over-regulating and investing in fuel-cell pipe dreams.

Comment 6: The Environmental Protection Agency has already spent $1.5 billion in a botched attempt to develop a super-high-mileage auto, according to the Chicago Tribune. There¹s almost no likelihood of them being successful in surmounting the huge technological barriers to development of practical fuel cells.

Comment 7: The federal government has already spent $3 billion on fuel-cell research without moving closer to surmounting these barriers.

Comment 8: Fuel cells are not new technology. They have been used for nearly 50 years in the space program ‹ it was a fuel cell that exploded on Apollo 13. Yet, after all that development, they are still prohibitively costly.


Comments by Tom Randall of Winningreen LLC


3. Attorneys general threaten lawsuit to cap CO2: Based on a discredited report

Attorneys-general from three States-Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine-have notified the Bush administration of their plan to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unless it classifies carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, which would allow the agency to begin regulating emissions of the gas.

In a letter to EPA administrator Christie Whitman, the attorneys-general, all Democrats, warned the EPA that if the agency does not act within 60 days they will bring the suit. "We have not seen any appreciable progress on the development of a national program to address carbon dioxide emissions," says the letter. "In seeking to protect the health and welfare of our citizens from the impacts of climate change, we are left to fall back on our available remedies available under existing law."

The attorneys-general claim that the EPA is violating federal law by not regulating CO2. "The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to take certain actions when it determines that a pollutant may 'cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare'."

The attorneys-general base their argument on the administration's Climate Action Report 2002 (CAR) which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in May 2002. They claim that the admission that climate changes "are likely due mostly to human activities," obligates the EPA to regulate CO2. But the CAR should have never been released because it was based on the thoroughly discredited National Assessment, a report prepared by a federal advisory committee appointed by the Clinton Administration.

Source Cooler Heads Coalitions newsletter


4. Putting an End to Radiophobia

English version of introductory page to article by Dr. Jerry Cuttler (Canadian radio-biologist) in the French magazine Fusion No. 91 - May-June 2002, page 40

We are publishing Dr. Cuttler's article on the effects of low doses of radioactivity at a time when our country [France] is again submerged in a wave of disinformation on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The situation is "ubuesque": the world scientific community as a whole came together to draw up the Chernobyl balance sheet, and the result was the very complete document published last year by UNSCEAR.

This document outlines certainties, hypotheses that are conceivable, and those that are not. In the last category (not conceivable) is the idea of birth defects, since in fact no increase in birth defects in the Chernobyl region has been seen. Nor has there been any increase in thyroid cancers outside the former Soviet Union (and again, not among adults), including relatively nearby countries such as Poland and Romania.

And yet, today, a baseless attempt is being made to recreate a contaminated blood story. People suffering from thyroid cancer - an illness whose prevalence has been mounting steadily in every Western country since 1970 - have lodged a complaint against the government of France, claiming that the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl caused their cancer. Their complaint is supported by all French media, which have rarely been so unanimous in their negation of the truth.

We had demonstrated (see Fusion No. 64) the extent to which the so-called "Chernobyl lie" was first and foremost a media lie. But that didn't do any good. Despite the protests of the medical community, the disinformation continues. Marc Teissier, the President of France Télévision, has already been convicted twice of defamation against Professor Pellerin. Both times, he asserted his wholehearted solidarity with Noël Mamère, who was also convicted in this matter.

Both of the networks he heads, France 2 and France 3, continue to broadcast sensationalist documentaries on Chernobyl, almost never allowing competent scientists to speak, but essentially basing their information on interviews with self-proclaimed "independent experts." When the scientific community objects, when seven learned societies write to him in protest,* he treats them with the contempt of a Goebbels, whose motto he appears to have adopted: a lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth. He is behaving like a1950s Minister of Information, arrogantly putting off journalists who have come to interview him about torture in Algeria.

It must be stressed here that we have reached an additional disinformation phase. Previously, this disinformation involved an arranged confrontation between a scientist and a militant, whose only guarantee of competence was supposed "sincerity," with the implication that each spokesperson was expressing an equally valid viewpoint. Now, the representatives of science are stifled, and only antinuclear militants are allowed to speak. Because of this imbalance, we have chosen to publish the Académie de médecine's entire release about low doses and the consequences of Chernobyl. It is the Académie that employs the term disinformation, a very unusual occurrence in its generally more refined use of language. It should also be noted that this release was adopted unanimously in a plenary session.
* Particularly the Société française de physique, the Société française de biophysique, the Société française de médecine nucléaire, the Société française de Radiologie, and the Centre Antoine Béclère pour les relations internationales en radiobiologie.


5. Two books on the history and value of atomic energy by Ted Rockwell, nuclear expert and former chief engineer for Admiral Hyman Rickover (developer of the nuclear submarine)

."Creating the New World from the dawn of the atomic age" and "The Rickover Effect" -- both highly recommended

Contact Ted Rockwell at

6. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had better check its calculations

From The Economist print edition, February 13, 2003

AT THE beginning of 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released, as the main result of its massive Third Assessment Review, a set of figures that have become the most-cited numbers in the field of environmental policy, and quite possibly the most-cited numbers in any field of public policy. The panel, whose task was to assess the extent to which emissions of greenhouse gases may warm the planet over the coming century, reported that "globally averaged mean surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8°C over the period 1990 to 2100." This alarming conclusion has become the starting-point for popular and official discussion of global warming and the policies that might mitigate it. Bear in mind how expensive some approaches to the problem, such as the Kyoto Protocol, might be if governments actually succeeded in implementing them. Vast sums are at stake.

As a rule, the IPCC is careful to attach warnings to its projections. Journalists are impatient with that: they prefer "prediction" to "projection" (less vague) and like to talk of temperature rising by "as much as 5.8°" rather than quoting the full range. This is all very misleading-but the panel cannot be blamed for the way its work is reported. What it can be blamed for is the seriously flawed methods it has followed in making its estimates.

In recent months, two distinguished commentators-Ian Castles of the National Centre for Development Studies at Australian National University, formerly the head of Australia's national office of statistics; and David Henderson of the Westminster Business School, formerly the chief economist of the OECD-have put together a critique of the panel's Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). The report claims to "provide the basis for future assessment of climate change", but Mr Castles and Mr Henderson point to serious flaws in its analysis and results. Last year they began writing to the chairman of the panel. Following an invitation to a technical meeting convened by the IPCC last month, they have offered further comments. The critique that thus evolved is to be published next month*.

One key problem with the IPCC's report, sufficient by itself for Mr Castles and Mr Henderson to declare the document "technically unsound", is the way the scenario-builders have based their projections of future output on national GDP estimates that have been converted to a common measure using market exchange rates. This procedure leads them to overstate the initial gaps in average incomes between rich and poor countries-because prices tend to be much lower in poor countries. Those gaps are in turn crucial for the IPCC's projections, because the method used in the scenarios assumes not only that the rich countries will continue to get richer but also, in most of the 40 scenarios considered, that the greater part of the (overstated) initial gaps between rich and poor will be closed by the end of the century.

The combination of overstated gaps and of built-in assumptions about the extent of convergence in the average incomes of rich and poor countries yields projections of GDP for developing regions that are improbably high. Even the scenarios which give the lowest figures for projected cumulative emissions in the course of the century assume that average incomes in the developing countries as a whole will increase at a much faster rate than has ever been achieved in the past.

Miracles and anomalies

The unreality of the assumptions about economic growth in developing countries is highlighted by disaggregated projections which were recently released on the SRES website. These projections imply that, even for the lowest emission scenarios, the average income of South Africans will have overtaken that of Americans by a very wide margin by the end of the century. In fact America's per capita income will then have been surpassed not only by South Africa's, but also by that of other emerging economic powerhouses, including Algeria, Argentina, Libya, Turkey and North Korea.

The SRES summary for policymakers tells anxious governments that the 40 scenarios "together encompass the current range of uncertainties of future emissions". Plainly, this is incorrect. The panel's low-emissions scenarios make exceptionally optimistic assumptions about economic growth in the developing world. But it is impossible to say, without running the whole exercise afresh, what the properly calculated range of projections for temperature changes would be.

Mr Castles and Mr Henderson offer a variety of other criticisms of the SRES, and of the panel's treatment of economic issues more generally. They complain, for instance, that history is too much neglected in the consideration of future trends. They also point out that developments in the first ten years of the scenario period, 1990-2000, were pretty clear by the time the SRES was published in 2000, and that in some respects they diverged substantially from the scenarios' projections; yet the report pays them little or no heed. Mr Castles and Mr Henderson argue that the circle of those involved in the climate-change exercise has been too restricted. For the future, the panel should draw on a wider range of economic and statistical interests and expertise. In particular, where its member governments are concerned, there needs to be a greater involvement of economic ministries and statistical agencies, alongside environment ministries.

The full panel meets next week in Paris to review the preparation of its Fourth Assessment Review. It should take the opportunity to consider the Castles-Henderson critique and resolve to do something about it.

* Their letters and memos will be published in Energy and Environment, Volume 14, No. 2, forthcoming.


7. El Nino and Global Warming

Could warming lead to a permanent El Nino, eliminating the variability that causes the 3-5 year oscillation (termed the "Bjerknes feedback") - as some climate modelers have suggested? The answer may be that a warmer climate will not affect El Nino (ENSO).

M. Huber and R. Caballero (Science 299, 877-881, 7 Feb. 2003) have simulated the warm Eocene (of 55 to 35 my ago) with a coupled climate model and compared the results with variability records in lake sediments that permit annual resolution. The simulation gives the warmer (by 10 C) higher latitude temperatures but little change in the tropical oceans or in ENSO.

Similarly, the sediment records of Eocene lakes (from Wyoming and from Germany) show peaks in the frequency-power spectrum corresponding to 2.3 and to ~5 years, demonstrating the existence of ENSO at that time.

The study may eliminate speculation that GW could change the ocean regime sufficiently and thus provide an amplification of high-latitude warming above and beyond that calculated from conventional climate models.


8. Saddam Hussein looks into the future (Parody)
From ScrappleFace, 14 February 2003

A dejected Saddam Hussein quietly packed his bags and left the main Presidential palace today after he lost a 'no confidence' vote in the Iraqi Parliament.

Asked what he would do next, Mr. Hussein said wistfully, "I'm going to Euro-Disney with Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder. Then I'm going to talk with my old friend Yassir Arafat about that prime minister position he's advertising."



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