Saturday, February 02, 2008

Europe climate threat is hot air

Comment from Australia

JOSE Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Council and former prime minister of Portugal, dropped a policy bomb last week. He threatened climate trade war. Europe plans to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a further 20 per cent by 2020. It would restrict imports from countries that did not do the same thing, specifically the US and China. He called the trade problem the nuclear bomb of the climate change debate.

Australia, no longer a Kyoto recalcitrant and the contributor of a mere 1.5per cent of global emissions, was not mentioned. Furthermore, the Rudd Government has looked approvingly on, but has not yet adopted, the EU target. That is under review. Expect trouble. There are two lessons for Australia from Barroso's bomb blast and bombast.

The first is that the 20 per cent target spells trouble, and the Europeans know it. Participants at an international conference in Sydney last November, hosted by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, heard why.

A German business leader teamed with a researcher from a leading economic institute to explain that the reductions in emissions (about 5 per cent) under the Kyoto Protocol had already led to increases in costs of between 2 per cent and 8 per cent in Germany's cement, steel and aluminium industries. They also reported that German business did not see how it could meet its Government's target to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 (Germany's contribution to the EU target) and be competitive in global markets.

The EU is anxious. At the UN summit in Bali, it tried to win support not only for the target of 20 per cent cuts in emissions by 2020 but also for the bigger ambition of 60 per cent cuts by 2050. The EU was opposed in all quarters and was not even allowed a passing reference to these targets in the mandate for the new convention to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Sure, the negotiations have yet to start and the formal position is that everything is on the table. The reality is that the EU is on its own. And with only 25 per cent of the world's emissions (the US, China, India and Japan generate more than half of the world's emissions between them), the EU cannot act as an Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-style climate change bully.

So, what is Barroso up to? He has brandished trade bans to signal to European industry that it would be protected under cuts in emissions of 20 per cent. It is a fig leaf. World Trade Organisation rules are already antagonistic to environmental trade barriers. The US, China and India would cream the EU in the WTO if it imposed such carbon trade barriers. The European Commission's external trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, understands this and ruled out carbon tariffs in December.

Others in Europe want them. This includes the environment directorate in the European Commission and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who threatened China with carbon tariffs after a visit late last year.

Does Europe have a plan B? Yes, according to the British Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, as reported by The Independent: "The issue of carbon requirement on importers only arises if we were not successful in securing a new (post-Kyoto) agreement." This means it hopes the new agreement will either establish a global system of caps and a trade in carbon permits, like Kyoto, or authorise members to override WTO rules and impose carbon tariffs.

Nobody is quite sure how a system of caps and trade in permits will operate alongside the WTO rules for an open trading system. There is probably a basic philosophical difference. A global cap on emissions is a centrally planned target. Such targets require regulatory controls to secure compliance. WTO rules are specifically designed to prevent the use of such regulation when it controls goods crossing national boundaries.

That's a fundamental point. There is a simpler practicality. Bali demonstrated there is no taste for a global agreement to set global caps. China and India know the caps are a poison pill to their strategies to use growth to eliminate poverty. And you can be certain they would block measures authorising overrides of WTO rules.

The Europeans hope a Hillary Clinton or John McCain administration will see it their way. That is unlikely. Congress will choke on proposals that reduce the competitiveness of US industry. Even if it did not, China, India and other developing countries will not accept global caps in the foreseeable future.

Herein lies the second lesson for Australia. Don't miscalculate along the EU lines. It designed a system to reduce emissions on the assumption the rest of the world would follow suit. Bali showed it won't.


University President rebuffs Greenies

LSU President John Lombardi has blocked plans by the outgoing chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus to join the college "Presidents Climate Commitment" - an agreement to take various steps to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Chancellor Sean O'Keefe, whose last day is Friday, had planned Wednesday to commit the campus to efforts to become a more eco-friendly campus before stepping down. He said he was disappointed Lombardi chose to block the efforts of the LSU Environmental Conservation Organization that put a lot of hard work into the effort.

Lombardi said he wanted to take a look at how the commitment affects the flagship campus and if it could involve LSU's other academic campuses. "The document commits the institution to take actions that, while desirable, have significant costs associated with them," Lombardi said in an e-mail response. "Until we can assess these costs and include them within the budget, it would not be appropriate to sign such a pledge. "Also, our commitment to energy efficiency is systemwide, and thus we want to approach these critical issues in a coordinated way," he said.

The climate commitment calls on schools to form task forces to find ways to become more eco-friendly, such as more energy-efficient appliances, less university air travel and greenhouse gas emissions, more public transportation, more recycling and less overall energy consumption. O'Keefe said he does not believe signing on now would have cost LSU any more because the university already is working on ways to be more energy efficient.

O'Keefe resigned recently, not giving specific reasons, but suggesting in his resignation letter that he no longer had the support of Lombardi or the university governing board. O'Keefe said Wednesday that the change in plans is another sign of the philosophical differences with Lombardi that led to his resignation on Jan. 16. He said he had worked with the ECO student members and the university's facilities planning office to see how the climate commitment could seamlessly fit into LSU's master plan.

Hundreds of schools have signed on including Southeastern Conference members such as the University of Tennessee, University of Florida, University of Arkansas and the University of South Carolina. Lombardi's last school, the University of Massachusetts, and former LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert's current school, the University of Washington have also signed on.



Discussing: Loehle, C. 2007. "A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies". Energy and Environment 18: 1049-1058.

What was done

Using data from eighteen 2000-year-long proxy temperature series from all around the world that were not developed from tree-ring data (which provide significant interpretive challenges), the author (1) smoothed the data in each series with a 30-year running mean, (2) converted the results thereby obtained to anomalies by subtracting the mean of each series from each member of that series, and then (3) derived the final mean temperature anomaly history defined by the eighteen data sets by a simple averaging of the individual anomaly series, a procedure that he rightfully emphasizes is "transparent and simple."

What was learned

The results obtained by this procedure are depicted in the figure below, where it can be seen, in the words of its creator, that "the mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3øC warmer than 20th century values."

What it means

Loehle notes that "the 1995-year reconstruction shown here does not match the famous hockey stick shape," which clearly suggests that one of them is a poorer, and the other a better, representation of the truth. Because of its simplicity and transparency, as well as a host of other reasons described in detail by Loehle -- plus what we have learned since initiating our Medieval Warm Period Record-of-the Week feature -- it is our belief that Loehle's curve is by far the superior of the two in terms of the degree to which it likely approximates the truth.

Note: Minutes after posting this Climate Review, we received an email from Craig Loehle with an attached paper entitled:

Loehle, C. and McCulloch, J.H. 2008. Correction to: A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-tree ring proxies. Energy & Environment 19: 93-100.

The new paper describes corrections "for various errors and data issues" associated with the Loehle (2007) paper, which leads to the adjusted results depicted in the figure below.

In reference to the new results, Loehle and McCulloch report that the peak value of the MWP (which represents a 29-year-mean) is 0.526øC above the mean of the entire period, which places it 0.412øC above the last reported 29-year-mean value of 0.114øC at 1935 (which includes data through 1949). They then state that "while instrumental data are not strictly comparable, the rise in 29-year-smoothed global data from NASA GISS from 1935-1992 (with data from 1978 to 2006) is 0.34øC," and that "adding this rise to the 1935 reconstructed value, the MWP peak remains 0.07øC above the end of the 20th-century values, though the difference is not significant."


Greenie attack dogs discredit science

Anyone interested in the intersection of science and politics has to be watching with some amusement and more than a little dismay at the spectacle of professional immolation that the climate science community has engaged in following the release of Senator James Inhofe's list of 400+ climate skeptics. The amusement comes from the fact that everyone involved in this tempest in a teapot seems to be working as hard as possible in ways contrary to their political interests.

From the perspective of Senator Inhofe, by producing such a list he has raised the stakes associated with any scientist going public with any concerns about the scientific consensus on climate change. Not only would announcement of such concerns lead one to risk being associated with one of the most despised politicians in the climate science community, but several climate scientists have taken on as their personal responsibility the chore of personally attacking people who happen to find themselves on the Senator's list. What young scholar would want to face the climate science attack dogs? Of course, those sharing the Senator's political views may not mind being on such a list, but this does nothing more than further politicize climate science.

And this leads to the repugnant behavior of the attack dog climate scientists who otherwise would like to be taken seriously. By engaging in the character assassination of people who happen to find themselves on Senator Inhofe's list they reinforce the absurd notion that scientific claims can be adjudicated solely by head counts and a narrow view of professional qualifications. They can't. (See this enlightening and amusing discussion by Dan Sarewitz of leading experts arguing over who is qualified to comment on climate issues.) But by suggesting that knowledge claims can be judged by credentials the attack dog scientists reinforce an anti-democratic authoritarian streak found in the activist wing of the climate science community. Of course, from the perspective of the activist scientists such attacks may be effective if they dissuade other challenges to orthodoxy, but surely climate scientists deserving of the designation should be encouraging challenges to knowledge claims, rather than excoriating anyone who dares to challenge their beliefs.

I recently chatted with Steve Rayner and Gwyn Prins, authors of the brilliant and provocative essay The Wrong Trousers (PDF), who found themselves , somewhat bizarrely, on Senator Inhofe's list. Neither has expressed anything resembling views challenging claims of human-caused climate change, however they are (rightly) critical of the political approach to climate change embodied by Kyoto. I asked them what they thought about being on the Senator's list. Steve Rayner asked if there was some way to sue the Senator for defamation, tongue only partly in cheek. Gwyn Prins offered the following gem:
I think that pointing out that the mere fact of this funny headcounting is worthy of note: In the Anglo-Saxon witanagemot justice was achieved by oath-swearing so the number and the status of your oath-swearers mattered more than the facts of the matter; and this issue is being adjudicated on both sides - denialists and climate puritans - in just such a manner.

He is right of course, and this brings us to the dismay. The climate science community - or at least its most publicly visible activist wing - seems to be working as hard as possible to undercut the legitimacy and the precarious trust than society provides in support of activities of the broader scientific community. Senator Inhofe is a politician, and plays politics. If activist climate scientists wish to play the Senator's game, then don't be surprised to see common wisdom viewing these activists more as political players than trustworthy experts. If this is correct then maybe the Senator is a bit more astute than given credit for. Ultimately, the mainstream climate science community might share with their activist colleagues the same sort of advice Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) offered to former President Bill Clinton - "chill."


Bill Gray, MIA at the "Teach-In"

Prof. Gray above. The usual Greenie bigotry reported below

On January 31, a two-day barrage of panels dealing with global warming issues concludes at Colorado State University. The sessions are part of an "unprecedented teach-in" taking place around the country coordinated by the Green House Network under the rubric Focus the Nation. But of the fifty CSU profs involved in the discussion, one is conspicuous by his absence.

No, it's not philosophy professor Holmes Rolston, who's hosting a thumbsucker on "The Ethics of Climate Change." No, not Tom Dean, who teaches in something called the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise Program, and weighs in today on "Economics and Climate Change," nor chem prof Anthony Rappe, who addresses alternative energies, nor writer Laura Pritchett, who tackles the subject of dumpster diving. They're all joining in, but as usual, professor emeritus Bill Gray finds himself, by choice or design, unincluded.

Gray, a forty-year veteran of CSU's atmospheric sciences department and a leading hurricane researcher, is an outspoken skeptic of the manmade global-warming claims advanced by leading climatologists around the world - some of whom happen to be his former students. Gray acknowledges that the climate is changing but suggests that natural processes, including shifts in ocean circulation, are responsible. To review how much heat he's taken over that position, see our 2006 feature "The Skeptic."

The teach-in presentations take manmade climate change, and particularly the insidious role of carbon dioxide in amplifying the greenhouse effect, as established science. Gray demurs, which is probably why you won't find him on the premises. It's too bad; he would have been an ideal panelist for a little give-and-take discussion scheduled for this afternoon, entitled "Doubting Thomases, Friends, Parents: Talking with the Unconvinced."



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