|The Week That Was
June 25, 2005
New on the Web: "Greens Are the Real Energy Problem" says Steve Milloy - and backs it with facts.
It's been a tough week for enviro-activists. We start with an amusing but insightful blog item from our economist friend Alister McFarquhar (Downing College, Cambridge), commenting on the forthcoming G-8 meeting July 6-8 in Scotland. The real problems are not Global Warming and Africa (Item #1).
All over Europe, ministers for industry are waking up to the fact that Kyoto will damage their already shaky economies. Have they been listening to George Bush? In any case. Kyoto targets are becoming increasingly unattainable (Item #2,3) in UK and New Zealand.
This hasn't slowed down activists in the US, however. They can claim "victories" from US mayors (Item #4) and the governor of California (Item #5). These are all meaningless political gestures - although statements from certain leaders of industry are worrisome. (Item #6).
On the other hand, the US Senate turned down firmly attempts to put caps on CO2 emissions (by McCain, Lieberman, Bingaman). McLieberman garnered only 38 votes (versus 42 on their previous attempt). The Hagel amendment for voluntary limits passed easily.
The Senate showed some skepticism towards the proliferation of wind energy (Item #7). There was also an advance in dealing with genuine pollution problems from coal-fired powerplants (Item #8); a court ruled in favor of a sensible interpretation of the Clean Air Act --and against several state attorneys-general. Unfortunately, federal oil leasing is still bedeviled by policies that go against resource conservation (Item #9).
Finally, are seal pups better in predicting climate change than the
Royal Society? (Item #10)
We are sad to report the passing of Charles "Dave" Keeling.
Keeling, of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, is the originator/discoverer
of the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958. Keeling's
observations were fundamental in the discussion of global warming and
helped bring the science--and concern--to where it is today. He is fortunate
in having a son, Ralph, who is ably advancing his work. Dave recently
published an imaginative paper on ocean mixing through tides in trying
to explain the observed 1500-yr climate cycle. RIP, my friend.
Former UK prime minister Harold Macmillan described what precipitates
political change. "Events, dear boy, events." The two current
G8 diversions chosen are Kyoto and poverty in Africa. Both are seductive.
The public does not know that the degree of global warming expected is
still in doubt, or that it may confer net benefits. Some scientists point
out that solar activity far exceeds carbon emission as a possible cause
Easterly of New York University shows that even in countries with good policies, aid made no impact. Meanwhile back in Paris, the French NON demands that Chirac find a diversion from his failure to make the French accept a new EU constitution. What better than demand revision of the British EU rebate, without which UK would pay 15 times more than France to Brussels? Blair offers flexibility in return for a restructure of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), which still accounts for 40 percent of the EU Budget, with only 5 percent of EU employment in Agriculture and 1.6 percent of output.
France and Germany recently stitched the CAP up until 2013. The French cannot consider revision since the raison d`etre of the Common Market was that Germany pays and French farmers benefit. And a French election is coming up.
This is the politics of diversion. The EU is at a crossroads and its
leaders don't know which way to turn. The Euro might easily implode. US
stability is at risk because of its budget and trade deficits. The world
has to accommodate the economic rise of China and India. Far-reaching
changes are reverberating, yet the focus of the EU is on the British rebate,
and that of the G8 will be on Kyoto and Africa. Diversions, dear boy,
The figures, compiled by the European Environment Agency, show that the
15 core European Union nations pumped out an extra 53 million tonnes of
greenhouse gases in 2003 - a 1.3% hike over 2002.
BBC report June 22
Emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rose in the European Union by 1.5% in 2003 after falling in 2002, the European Environment Agency reports.
Italy, Finland and the UK were named as the worst offenders while cold weather was blamed for a rise in the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and offices. Some commentators now doubt the EU can meet its promise to cut emissions by 8% of 1990 levels by 2012.
A spokesman for Friends of the Earth called the new figures "shocking".
Kyoto Targets Unlikely To Be Met
Europe is failing to tackle climate change, putting further pressure on Tony Blair to come up with a fresh initiative at the G8 summit and embarrassing the European commission, which is floundering over budget cuts and the constitution treaty.
Figures from the European Environment Agency show that only France, Germany, Sweden and the UK have any hope of cutting their energy use in time to meet their targets and that most countries are now falling well behind.
Britain is expected to only just fulfill its Kyoto obligations but not the government's more ambitious target of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010.
Catherine Pearce, global climate change spokeswoman for Friends of the
Earth, said: "If Britain and the rest of Europe cannot get it right,
then how can anyone expect the US or developing countries to?"....
(CNSNews.com) - New Zealand's government is being challenged to justify the country's continued participation in the Kyoto Protocol after it admitted that complying with the climate change treaty will cost taxpayers about one billion NZ dollars (U.S. $714 million).
The news has rattled New Zealanders, who previously were led to believe that participating in Kyoto would earn the country millions of dollars in carbon "credits."
The admission is a blow for a left-leaning, green-friendly government, which last month announced that one of the world's first carbon tax regimes -- entailing higher prices for gas, electricity and coal -- would come into effect in 2007.
The opposition center-right National Party has called for an immediate
formal review of the country's participation in Kyoto, accusing the Labor
government of a major policy blunder.
A Nickels' worth of free advice ... Meet the pied piper of one of the most exciting green grassroots uprisings to hit the U.S. in years: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (Dem.).
He's managed to get roughly 300 mayors nationwide -- from the Northwest to the deep South and everywhere in between -- to agree that it's a good idea for U.S. cities to meet or beat Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, despite the Bush administration's rejection of the treaty. Municipal leaders attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Chicago on Monday unanimously endorsed Nickels' initiative calling on cities to do their part to stave off climate change. Before the conference vote, 165 mayors from 37 states had individually signed on to the initiative; now Nickels hopes many more will follow suit.
Granted, the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement is non-binding,
so cities could climb aboard the bandwagon but not follow through on meeting
the targets. But the fact that there's a bandwagon at all is noteworthy,
and the timing is fortuitous. As the Senate deliberates a number of bipartisan
climate amendments that have been proposed for the energy bill, mayors
from New York City to Salt Lake City are sending a powerful message to
D.C. lawmakers that America wants action on global warming.
According to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, "the debate [over human-induced global warming] is over. We know the science, we see the threat and we know the time for action is now." Schwarzenegger issued his call for action on climate change last week at the United Nations World Environment Day conference in San Francisco, where he unveiled an executive order establishing stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for California.
In the absence of national action on GHG emissions, the Governator is just one of many state and local politicians seeking to impose GHG reduction requirements on their constituents. Climate alarmists promote GHG reductions on the basis of ostensible improvements in human welfare. Unfortunately, it is climate change activism and the public credibility of its misguided intellectual foundation, rather than climate change itself, that poses a threat to the safety and prosperity of humankind.
When compared with projected "business-as-usual" GHG emissions, the Governor's order would require California to reduce GHGs 11 percent by 2010, 25 percent by 2020, and 87 percent by 2050. His plan calls for the virtual elimination of GHG emissions in California over the next few decades. This alone should give people pause, as the only way to achieve such large GHG reductions is to drastically curtail the use of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas.
With the Governor calling for such a radical reorganization of Californians' lives, we need to ask what problem Schwarzenegger and his environmentalist allies are trying to solve. The Governor's executive order claims human-caused climate change threatens to increase California's air pollution, reduce its water supplies, increase heat-related mortality, infectious diseases and asthma, harm the state's agricultural industry, and flood the state's 1,100 miles of coastline.
This isn't the place for a treatise on climate change science and health impacts. But even a cursory survey of the research literature should make everyone queasy about using the claim of human-induced climate change as the pretext for forcing a drastic reorganization of human economies.
First, rising temperatures will at worst have no effect on heat-related mortality. Urban temperatures have been rising for decades, probably due to an expanding urban heat island effect. Nevertheless, between the 1960s and the 1990s, the rate of heat-related mortality declined more than 75 percent in U.S. cities. No matter. Environmentalists and politicians continue to claim that climate change will increase heat deaths.
But perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on environmentalists and politicians. They get help from scientists who lend credibility to their false claims. For example, despite large observed declines in heat-related mortality, a group of scientists recently published a study in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) claiming that rising temperatures will increase future heat-related deaths in California. Several authors of the PNAS study are also the authors of Union of Concerned Scientists climate change reports.
Likewise, regardless of whether temperatures rise in the future, this will not increase air pollution. For particulate matter, higher temperatures are associated with lower pollution levels. For ozone, most ozone-forming pollutants will be eliminated over the next 20 years, making future climate virtually irrelevant for ozone levels. Observations of the recent past should also put to rest any concerns about future air pollution levels in a changing climate. Despite rising urban temperatures over the last few decades, air pollution of all kinds has drastically declined.
Schwarzenegger's asthma-air-pollution link is also spurious. Asthma prevalence has more than doubled in the U.S. since the early 1980s, but during the same period, air pollution of all kinds declined.
The Golden State already has some expensive GHG reduction requirements. For example, the California Air Resources Board predicts its carbon dioxide limits for new automobiles will add $1,000 to the cost of a car. Californians must get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2017, raising the costs of power production. If approved, the Governor's "million solar roofs" program will stick the state's electricity ratepayers with a surcharge to subsidize solar electricity systems.
These programs are just a subset of the state's GHG reductions efforts, and GHG reduction is just one among many of the state's expensive social engineering schemes. Each takes money out of the pockets of average Californians in order to fund the pet causes of special interest busybodies. Because most of the costs are hidden in the form of higher prices for goods and services, the people who pay them don't realize they've had their pockets picked.
 The press release and the executive order can be downloaded here.
 Robert E. Davis, et al. 2003. "Changing heat-related mortality in the United States," Environmental Health Perspectives, 111: 1712-18, http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2003/6336/6336.pdf.
 Among many examples, see Union of Concerned Scientists. 2004 Climate Change: Choosing Our Future, http://www.climatechoices.org/data/.
 Katherine Hayhoe, et al. 2004. "Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California," 101: 12422-427, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/101/34/12422.
 For a detailed discussion of air pollution and climate change, see Joel Schwartz and George Taylor. 2005. Air Quality False Alarm, http://www.joelschwartz.com/pdfs/AIR_QUALITY_FALSE_ALARM.pdf.
For a more succinct discussion, see my TCS column here: http://www.techcentralstation.com/040805B.html.
 I present asthma and air pollution trends for California in slide
10 of the following presentation: http://www.joelschwartz.com/pdfs/AWMA_Bakersfield_4_05.pdf.
Businesses are poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the battle over global warming.
Though Americans have already dodged the global-warming bullet twice - the Kyoto treaty was rejected by the Senate in 1997 and by President Bush in 2001 - three business-supported bills on greenhouse gas emissions are vying to be attached to the energy legislation moving through Congress. It's a dream come true for the usual suspects, radical environmental activists.
The bill with the most support, introduced by Senator Bingaman, a Democrat of New Mexico, favors nuclear power, caps on greenhouse gas emissions, and would make non-nuclear energy producers and consumers pay for emissions in excess of permitted levels.
The champion of the Bingaman bill is Exelon, the largest domestic operator of nuclear power plants. While Exelon's support for nuclear power is understandable, its effort to hamper non-nuclear competitors and force consumers to pay for higher energy costs is not.
Under the Bingaman bill, power plants and industrial facilities whose emissions of carbon dioxide exceed allowances (to be determined by bureaucrats) would have to purchase "extra" allowances from the government at a cost of $7 per ton of carbon dioxide released.
For a coal-burning utility like American Electric Power that emits more than 220 million tons of CO2 a year the cost of extra allowances could be substantial and would be passed on to consumers.
Exelon looks to the Bingaman bill to make nuclear power more competitive with coal-generated electricity. This might make sense if there were some tangible and worthwhile benefits to be derived from favoring nuclear power over coal, but in terms of global warming, there don't seem to be any.
A Competitive Enterprise Institute report estimates the Bingaman bill would cost $331 billion in lost productivity between 2010 and 2025 while perhaps averting an insignificant 0.008 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2050.
Competing with the Bingaman bill is legislation introduced by Senator Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska. Supported by oil giant British Petroleum, it offers tax breaks to energy companies that voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The third global warming bill was introduced last year by Senators McCain and Lieberman. Like the Kyoto Protocol, McLieberman would establish a tight national cap on industrial emissions of greenhouse gases.
But there is another Senate bill that would address global warming hysteria as the junk science phenomenon it is.
Some power companies are taking steps to address their carbon dioxide
emissions, the costs of which will be passed on to consumers. But the
Ratepayers Protection Act, introduced by Senator Inhofe would ensure that
the costs associated with voluntary actions taken by utilities under the
guise of global warming are not passed on to consumers.
WASHINGTON, June 24 - A federal appeals court sided with the Bush administration on Friday, upholding its revisions of the Clean Air Act to allow plant operators to modernize without installing expensive new pollution control equipment. The ruling turned back challenges to the revisions by New York, California and a dozen other states.
In upholding central provisions of the regulations known as New Source Review, the court concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency had acted within its rights in issuing rules in 2002 that allowed operators of power plants, refineries, and factories greater flexibility in controlling emissions of air pollutants than they had previously.
Representatives of the electric power industry, which had strongly supported the new regulations, hailed the ruling as a victory. The new rules require owners of older plants to upgrade emission-control equipment to standards for new plants only if they make substantial improvements. Plant owners and the E.P.A. have consistently disagreed over how to differentiate between routine maintenance and large-scale upgrades.
Jeffrey Holmstead, the agency's assistant administrator for air and radiation, said the court "recognized the value of common sense reforms" included in the new rules. Mr. Holmstead noted that the panel "simply did not buy" the argument made by the states and other critics that allowing the rules' provisions to remain intact would cause "environmental devastation."
The ruling was issued in a unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel of
the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But the court also said that the E.P.A., in issuing the rules, had exceeded
its authority in several areas, and representatives of the states and
environmental groups also said they found enough to their liking in the
73-page opinion to claim successes.
A comment on the dubitable claim that tens of thousands are dying each
S H Moolgavkar
Your editorial ("Drilling for Dollars, May 25, 2005) describes well the games Congress plays with royalty income on federal offshore oil leases. Under the House energy bill, a portion of the funds collected is set aside for "Coastal Energy States," increasing drastically beyond 2016. A separate issue is "royalty relief," whereby the government can waive part or all of its royalty - a contested issue subject to political influence.
There is a simple solution to all these problems. The government should reduce the royalty to zero and revert to pure bonus bidding - a simple auction, where a larger sum is collected in advance of drilling and oil production. In essence, the bidders will raise their up-front payment, knowing that there will be no royalties. The scheme has several advantages -- besides reducing political meddling.
**Efficiency: The feds have not been very good about collecting royalties and much litigation revolves around the computation of royalties, especially when oil prices fluctuate. Further, the organization charged with collection could be abolished.
**Market control: The successful bidder would be free to decide how to exploit the resource. If he thinks that oil prices will rise, he could delay production. Or he could sell the lease -- without any interference from the government.
**Conservation: Overriding royalties are calculated as a percentage of
gross value of production. But as a well nears depletion and lifting costs
rise, a fixed royalty would force a premature shutdown and waste the resource
by leaving more oil in the ground than without a royalty. This is the
real argument for granting royalty relief; so why not do it from the beginning?
A new study of the weaning weights of California's elephant seal pups predicts that a 25-year trend of Pacific Ocean warming has ended. That means that the second half of a 50-year cycle has begun to cool the northern Pacific. In addition, historical fish catch data indicates the ocean cooling trend is likely to last until about 2025.
Burney Le Boeuf and David Crocker (University of California, Santa Cruz) monitored the weaning weights of central California seal pups for 29 years, from 1975 to 2004. The ocean's temperatures generally increased, and the pups' weaning weights declined 21 percent over 24 years from the study's beginning until 2000.
o The seal pups' weight decline coincided with an increase in their mothers' foraging time of 36 percent.
o A decline in the mother's own weights confirmed that fish were relatively scarce.
o After 1999, however, ocean temperatures began to decline, fish became more abundant and the pups' weaning weights abruptly began to rise.
o By 2004 the pups weaning weights had recovered to 90 percent of their 1975 weaning size.
The previous shift toward warmer temperatures, which disadvantaged the California seal pups occurred in the mid-1970s. Researchers have begun to call the 50-year ocean cycle the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).
During the PDO, ocean temperatures rise and fall, fish species wax and wane, and fish are caught in different places, but total ocean productivity remains stable.
What does it all mean? Seal pups are instructing us that even temperature
trends as long as 25 years can mislead us about cause and effect in the
Earth's climate -- which has been cycling constantly for at least the
last million years, say observers.