Saturday, October 11, 2008

EU climate policy gradually fading away -- bit by bit

The European Union's French presidency sought on Thursday to defuse mounting opposition to EU climate goals by offering opt-outs for some industries and countries that fear economic damage, angering environmentalists. Some eastern European states have assembled a blocking minority to carbon dioxide curbs they fear will stunt economic growth, while Germany is fighting hard to protect its industry from added costs. But France recommended opt-outs for industries facing competition from unregulated overseas rivals and for some countries' power sectors, prompting environmentalists to accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy of back-sliding.

The European Union has ambitious plans to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a fifth by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, partly by making power generators and heavy industry pay for permits to pollute in its emissions trading scheme (ETS). But some eastern European states have threatened to derail the proposal, saying it puts a costly burden on their highly polluting communist-era coal-fired power stations.

Heavy industries, such as steel, aluminium and chemicals have also raised opposition, saying they will lose out to rivals in neighbouring regions that have less environmental regulation and therefore lower costs.

BusinessEurope, which represents 20 million European businesses, called in a letter to French ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo on Wednesday for the most efficient factories to get all their permits to emit CO2 for free until a global deal has been reached.

France sought on Thursday to defuse industry's opposition, preparing a draft paper -- which is still under discussion -- to present to EU leaders at a summit in Brussels next week. "Sectors or sub sectors exposed to the highest risk, must be able to receive 100 percent of emission quotas for free," said the document seen by Reuters. That would give sectors like steel an easier deal than proposed by EU lawmakers on Tuesday, when they said factories should start paying for 15 percent of the permits in 2013, increasing to 100 percent by 2020.

France has failed to match the ambitions of lawmakers, said Tomas Wyns of Climate Action Network Europe, a coalition of environmental groups such as Greenpeace. "At the start of his presidency, Sarkozy presented himself as a climate leader -- now he is prepared to dump effective climate policy for the sake of protecting some polluting industries," he added.

France also sought to ease the concerns of eastern European states that fear their economies will suffer from soaring electricity prices when power generators are forced to pay for all their CO2 permits from 2013. "Derogations limited in scale and time may be granted when specific situations linked notably to an insufficient integration into the European electricity market justify it," said the document.

France is keen to sign-off the climate legislation by the end of this year, but Poland has assembled a group of East European states backed by Greece that threatens to delay it into next year if their fears about power prices are not dealt with. "We are working really hard to work this climate package into something that would not be a dramatic problem for the whole of our economy," Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told TVN 24 television.

The EU is hoping other nations will follow its lead by agreeing on an international deal, mindful of U.N. warnings that climate change will lead to more droughts, flooding and rising sea levels.

A Polish diplomatic source told Reuters the French concessions did not go far enough. "This is just the beginning, we are not satisfied with the French Presidency's draft conclusions of the summit," said the source. (Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Matthew Lewis)


EU must alter CO2 policy due to global financial crisis: Poland

EU measures to cut CO2 emissions must be changed given the global financial crisis as nations cannot now afford higher energy, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday during a visit to Spain. "The international financial crisis makes it necessary to revise the energy and climate package to take into account the new circumstances," he told a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero in Cordoba. "The nations of the EU cannot adopt decisions today that will contribute to an increase in the price of energy," he added.

Tusk said he would also raise the issue of carbon dioxide emissions on Thursday in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the current EU president; and later that day in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Poland, which generates almost all its electricity from highly polluting coal, has long opposed an agreement by European Union leaders to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent -- compared to 1990 emission levels -- by 2020. As part of the plan, CO2 emissions quotas have been set for each of the 27 European Union member states and a full auctioning of emission permits will be introduced for the power sector from 2013. Heavy industry currently gets some permits for free and has to buy others only if it exceeds the allowances.

Warsaw is trying to assemble a blocking minority among EU member states which would force the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, to revise the CO2 emissions proposals. Last week Poland reached an accord with Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania that called for a more gradual approach to the reforms.

Poland is calling for the European Commission increase its carbon dioxide emissions cap for energy utilities and a more gradual introduction of the auctioned quotas in order to ease the cost burden. It has asked the commission for a 2008-2012 carbon dioxide quota of 284.6 million tonnes per year. Brussels reduced it by 26.7 percent to 208.5 million tonnes. Poland has also proposed a 20-percent carbon dioxide quota auction be introduced in 2013, rising by degrees each year to reach the full 100 percent by 2020.


Down with the filthy rich misanthropes

Recent events confirm that anti-human super-wealthy capitalists are in the vanguard of climate change hysteria

Many green activists and commentators think that anyone who dares to criticise the apparent consensus on the science and politics of climate change must be in the pay of big business. In truth, as a meeting in London on Monday night powerfully illustrated, the megabucks are really on the side of those who think humanity is screwing up the planet.

The event was the launch of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Like a few people, I assumed that the `Grantham' bit referred to the birthplace of an earlier promoter of climate change fears, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In fact, it refers to the wealthy chairman of GMO, a large investment management company: Jeremy Grantham. Grantham has donated 12million pounds to the London School of Economics (LSE) to fund the institute. He has also forked out another 12million to Imperial College London for the similarly named Grantham Institute for Climate Change (1)

No wonder, then, that the chair of LSE, Howard Davies - once the head of the Financial Services Authority and a former deputy governor of the Bank of England - was more than a little fawning over the `extremely generous' Grantham. The new LSE institute will be headed by Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the UK government-commissioned report, The Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006. The Stern Review argued that the costs of reducing CO2 emissions to avoid climate change would be far lower than the costs of failing to take action, using assumptions that attracted considerable scorn from other economists (2). With Lord Nick at the helm, we can be sure that the institute will not be a hotbed of climate scepticism but rather will be intellectual armoury for those who want to clamp down on economic development.

Stern was the main attraction at the launch on Monday, but Grantham's introductory remarks were the most illuminating: they provided a startling insight into the pessimism of today's super-rich. Grantham declared: `Climate change is far and away the most important issue in finance, in government, in life in general. I believe firmly that Malthius [sic] was right. he just got his timing wrong. We're engaged in the third great die-off since the beginning of the earth. The first was definitely caused by a meteorite, the second one probably was, and the third one has been caused by the effect of humans hitting the earth about as powerfully as a meteorite. We've been around for about 500,000 years and for 99 per cent of that time, we were a pretty harmless species. We ended up with about 15million people, 5,000 years ago. Then, in the final one per cent of our lives, we went from 15million to six-and-a-half billion. Needless to say, we can't repeat that multiplying effect.'

Grantham went on to say that most of this `action' had in fact occurred over the past 300 years, with the boom in population coming about as a result of what he described as `the unfortunate hydrocarbon revolution'. Presumably, he was referring to the benefits of coal, gas and oil which have allowed billions of people to live in relative comfort to a ripe old age for the first time in human existence, at least in the developed world. However, such trifles are of little concern to a man whose company handles $150billion of assets. At a time when greens ask why their critics take money from big business, it is just as relevant to ask why famous universities like LSE and Imperial are tugging their institutional forelocks to a moneybag misanthrope like Grantham. (Though with the humanity-hating John Gray also on the LSE staff, Grantham must seem like a little ray of sunshine.)

For Grantham, the idea of setting up the LSE institute came after `the penny had dropped that the hard science was slowly and finally winning an uphill struggle against what we in the US call "the deniers", who have been a powerful and effective lobby. Now the war, the frontline, is really in the economics and the cost of all this. There, the opposition is much more formidable. There are serious, respectable, well-respected economists who disagree with the good guys. They are completely misguided, but they are respectable.' Note the implication that those who have criticised the science of climate change are anything but respectable.

There is no doubt what direction this institute will take. The Stern Review was a hugely important piece of advocacy research, precisely designed to counter all those foolish types who believe that spending a fortune dragging society towards some kind of low-carbon future might be irrational in the absence of viable technology. Now the war on the `misguided' will have the backing of the LSE's reputation, too.

The notion that it is climate change sceptics who have been buying influence looks pretty shabby when viewed in the context of Grantham's remarks. The world of climate change hysteria has numerous big political backers, like Thatcher, former US vice-president Al Gore, and current British prime minister Gordon Brown, who commissioned the Stern Review when he was chancellor of the exchequer. High-level figures in the upper echelons of many big firms - including fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP that have faced so much criticism from greens - have declared that climate change is the number one issue facing humanity. Multibillionaire Richard Branson, airline boss and wannabe spaceline boss through Virgin Galactic, declared last month: `To my mind there is no greater or more immediate challenge than that posed by climate change.'

Then there are those whose wealth is inherited, like Zac Goldsmith - worth roughly œ300million - who publishes the Ecologist magazine, and David de Rothschild, a member of the super-rich banking family and author of the personal austerity guide, The Global Warming Survival Handbook (4). For a long time, the money and the influence have been on the side of the greens. Not the smelly, unwashed treehuggers, of course - posh though many of them are - but the ones walking the corridors of power in politics and business.

One greenie with influence who has been in the news rather a lot lately is the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. The man in charge of saving the US banking system has apparently spent $100million of his personal wealth on environmental causes - with the whole lot, some $700million, promised to conservation when his body decides to `bail out' from this mortal coil (5). And Paulson is not only generous with his own cash: as boss of Goldman Sachs, he persuaded the board to hand over 680,000 acres of forest in Tierra del Fuego owned by the bank to the Wildlife Conservation Society, whose board of trustees includes Paulson's son, Merritt

It may not come as a shock to find that those involved heavily in the unproductive, if still important, sphere of finance should believe that there is little point to the human race. When you are a member of a strand of society that is widely regarded as parasitic on the rest, the notion that the whole of humanity is parasitical on the planet is not a huge intellectual leap. But once you have ruled out suicide as an option, you need some reason to keep going. `Saving the planet' has become a mission statement both for the pointlessly rich and the political class. As former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson noted in a talk at the LSE bookshop in July, people `want to believe there is more to life than everyday getting and spending' - and that includes the fabulously wealthy and the politically ambitious.

It's not just a matter of finding a worldview to provide a sense of purpose. In the midst of a financial crisis, some might argue that environmental concerns should be the last thing on our minds. But along with his blunt demand that Europeans must cut their per capita CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 (for Americans, he argued for a 90 per cent cut), Lord Stern also suggested on Monday night that perhaps the way out of the financial crisis was to embrace the environmental outlook. Renewable energy and energy conservation, green manufacturing and a low-carbon infrastructure could be just the ticket, he suggested, to boost the economy. Far from being anti-growth, he said, going green could be good for our wallets as well as our conscience.

It is certainly true that there are plenty of eco-entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on our fear of the future, doing everything from building windmills to trading carbon emission licences. But it seems unlikely that an emphasis on reducing the human impact on the planet, rather than expanding our capacity to generate wealth and provide for the billions of people living on next-to-nothing, could be in the interests of anyone but the new green elites. No wonder they're splashing the cash.


Russian Fascism is being empowered by German Greenies

It is said that Vladimir Lenin once called Soviet sympathizers in Western countries "useful idiots" for unwittingly advancing the cause of revolutionary Russia. Were the Bolshevik leader alive today, he might apply the same label to German environmentalists, whose influence over their country's energy policy has been an inadvertent, but essential factor in Moscow's post-Cold War rise.

Two decades of stringent environmental regulations have made Germany, Europe's largest economy, increasingly dependent on natural gas from Russia, the world's largest exporter. Of course, economic leverage translates seamlessly into political power, and Russia's sway over German foreign policy has been conspicuous as the recent imbroglio in Georgia has continued to play out.

In fact, Germany has the means to power its economy without Russian natural gas, so energy dependence is unnecessary. For starters, it is home to the largest reserves of coal in Europe. But thanks to the European Union's marquee climate-change mitigation policy-the continent-wide Emission Trading Scheme-the economics of power production have shifted decidedly against coal because its combustion releases the most greenhouse gases of any conventional fuel source.

Given that coal is currently taboo, Germany could meet its energy needs by expanding the use of nuclear energy, which emits no carbon dioxide when used to generate electricity. Yet the environmental movement in Germany opposes nuclear energy because its waste is difficult and dangerous to store. In 2000, environmentalists won passage of the Nuclear Exit Law, which commits German utilities to phasing out nuclear power by 2020.

Rather than coal or nuclear, the environmental movement prefers sustainable sources of power such as wind and solar, and it has convinced the German government to grant generous subsidies to the renewable energy industry. But despite these investments, renewables are still too costly to displace conventional energy sources, which is why wind and solar power account for less than 2 percent of Germany's primary energy production, according to government figures.

That leaves natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and less expensive than alternative energy. Germany is fortunate to have large deposits of gas-more than 9 trillion cubic feet-most of which is thought to lie beneath the northwestern state of Niedersachsen. Environmental regulations, however, have limited exploration and development in the region.

To meet its demand for energy, Germany turned to Gazprom, a state-owned company that has a legal monopoly on natural gas exports from Russia. Natural gas currently accounts for almost a quarter of all the energy consumed in Germany, including all electricity in homes, gasoline in cars, and coal for industrial boilers. That's up 40 percent since 1991. And Gazprom now supplies 40 percent of all natural gas consumption in Germany, an increase of 55 percent over the same period.

Currently, almost 40 percent of Germany's domestic gas consumption comes from Russia. That share is likely to increase with the construction of the Northern Pipeline, a project to be completed in 2010 that would link Russian gas directly to Central European markets.

It's little wonder, then, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first major world leader to pay a visit to new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Or that at last spring's NATO summit in Romania, German diplomats orchestrated the opposition to U.S. President George W. Bush's plan for expanding the trans-Atlantic military alliance to include Georgia and Ukraine. Before the summit, Russian officials had warned that NATO expansion would cause a "deep crisis," and provoke a "response" from Russia.

Then, last week in St. Petersburg, Merkel became the first Western leader to restore close bilateral ties with Russia after the August conflict in Georgia. Not coincidentally, Merkel's trip to Russia came at the same time that a major gas deal was signed between Gazprom and E.On, the German gas giant.

Merkel has been outspoken as the Kremlin has demonstrated a seeming willingness to use Russia's energy resources as a cudgel in interstate disputes. As winter approached a year ago, Gazprom threatened to cut gas supplies to Ukraine after the pro-Russia candidate lost a major election. The timing of the warning was widely interpreted as a thinly veiled threat. So was the decision by Transneft, a state-owned pipeline company that has a monopoly on oil exports from Russia, to precipitously cut supplies to the Czech Republic last July after that country signed a deal with the United States to host radar technology as part of a global missile shield-a policy strenuously opposed by Moscow.

But actions speak louder than words, and Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, are no doubt paying more attention to what Germany's leader does than what she says.

Domestic opposition to the Northern Pipeline has grown recently, and a debate has started on the future of coal in Germany. For the foreseeable future, however, Germany's foreign policy will be beholden to its energy dependence on Russia. And for that, we have the environmental movement to thank.


Huge sigh of relief as sunspot appears

A sunspot has just appeared on the sun and many people are breathing a sigh of relief. Why? Well firstly, what is a sunspot? A sunspot is actually a huge magnetic storm on the sun, which, when one looks at the sun, appears as a darker spot on the bright surface. The sun has a well-known 11-year cycle, during which it moves from Solar Max to Solar Min; this means from a state of many sunspots, or solar storms, to few. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749, and 100 or more `spots' can occur during a single month of the maximum portion of the cycle.

We have just been through Solar Min, and the return of sunspots is late. During the last few months, there have been virtually no spots, and a month with no spots at all is very rare. It has been found that there is a direct correlation between the number of sunspots and global warming, and, consequently, the state of the climate.

The last time the sun was as quiet as it is now was 400 years ago, and that signalled the onset of a period of global cooling, the coldest point of which is known as the Maunder Minimum. At that time, New York harbour froze to such a degree that people could walk from Manhattan island over to the island on which the Statue of Liberty stands today. In London, the Thames froze, and ice fairs were held on the river.

There has been no global warming since 1998; in fact, there has been a slight cooling. In 2005, Russian astronomer Khabilullo Abdusamatov predicted that the state of the sun could trigger a rapid cooling if it stayed this way. So it is with relief that the current sunspot has made its appearance - maybe more will follow.

Dr Timothy Patterson, director of the Geosciences Centre at Carleton University, has found "excellent correlations" between solar fluctuations and global temperature, whereas he says there are no such correlations with the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. Patterson says there is no surprise in this, since "the sun is the ultimate source of energy on this planet".

Sunspot climate research dates back to 1991, when the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) released a study showing that world temperatures over the last several centuries correlated very closely with solar cycles. Further research, led by the DMI's Dr Henrik Svensmark, has revealed what appears to be happening. The temperature of the planet is related to how much cloud cover there is. Fewer clouds mean a warmer planet, since sunlight strikes the earth and warms it up. More clouds mean that the tops of the clouds reflect the sun's heat back into outer space.

The amount of cloud cover is related to the quantity of cosmic rays coming into the atmosphere. Cosmic rays are energetic nuclear particles that originate in the stars and constantly hurtle through space. While you read this article, a few cosmic rays will pass through your body. As the cosmic rays race through the atmosphere, they strike atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, and this gives rise to nucleation points, which induce clouds to form, from the water vapour in the air.

This is the same mechanism that drives the formation of the long trails of cloud that appear behind the engines of high-flying jet aircraft. The specs of soot and ions in the jet exhaust provide the nucleation sites for droplets of water to form, which are then seen as the familiar `contrails'. But the earth has protection. This protection is provided by the magnetic field around the planet. This field extends out a great distance, and its effects are seen half way to the moon.

The earth's magnetic field acts as a shield, preventing many cosmic rays from getting through to our atmosphere. Then there is another phenomenon, which is known as the Solar Wind. The sun blasts out a huge stream of nuclear particles, including charged particles, which race away from the sun and impact the earth. The charged particles interact with the earth's magnetic field, giving rise to, besides other effects, the awe-inspiring northern and southern lights, which look like gossamer curtains of coloured lights in the polar skies.

As the magnetic storms on the sun's surface vary in number, which we see as the sunspot count, so the intensity of the Solar Wind alters. As the wind alters, so it alters the magnetic protection around the earth. When there are many sunspots, a stronger magnetic field develops around the earth, and this shields the planet from the cloud-forming cosmic rays. The result is less cloud cover and so a warmer planet. A quiet sun, like we have now, results in more clouds covering the earth, and so a cooling climate results.

During the Little Ice Age of 400 years ago, the Solar Minimum stayed for years, and one could walk across New York harbour. Dr Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher at Canada's National Research Council, has said that if we do not get some sunspots soon, we could be heading for an extended chilly period.

More here

Another problem with twisty light bulbs

They are being foisted on us as a way of saving energy. But it seems some eco-friendly light bulbs may not be as good for us as we thought. According to Government scientists, many of the bulbs emit more than the guideline rate of harmful ultraviolet radiation. The researchers say some energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, which will be compulsory in British homes by 2011, can cause reddening of the skin if used for long periods of time close to the body.

The Health Protection Agency said the UV threat could affect those who use reading lamps on their bedside tables. Thousands of workers such as jewellery makers who work with their hands and use lamps at close quarters could also be affected. There is, however, no risk of skin cancer from the bulbs, the agency added.

Chief executive Justin McCracken said: 'At the exposure levels we are talking about, the worst effect that we believe there is as result of our investigation is that people could have some short-time reddening of their skin. 'We do not believe that these lights pose any significant risk in terms of skin cancer. 'This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy-saving light bulbs from their homes. 'In situations where people are not likely to be very close to the bulbs for any length of time, all types of compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe to use.'

The type of bulbs affected are 'open' light bulbs, which are not surrounded by a glass case. HPA tests showed that 20 per cent of these emitted higher than guideline levels of UV radiation. 'Encapsulated' fluorescent light bulbs, which are surrounded by a glass cover and look like traditional bulbs, do not emit high levels of UV. The HPA said people should not use open bulbs closer than one foot to the body for more than one hour a day, or should switch to encapsulated bulbs.

The study, due to be published in an academic journal, found that people would have to spend four hours a day at almost eight inches from the bulb before they went over existing guidelines on exposure. Exposure at one inch gave a UV level equivalent to being outside in the UK on a sunny summer's day. But at distances of more than 12 inches, the UV level was found to be safe.

More than 20million 'eco bulbs' are sold every year, about 13 per cent of the total, and they last around 10,000 hours - up to 12 times longer than traditional bulbs. They cost 3 to 4 pounds each, compared to 50p for a normal bulb, but supporters say they save 100 pounds on an electricity bill over their lifetime. But they contain mercury, which can be dangerous if the bulb breaks, and critics say the way they flicker causes problems for migraine sufferers and other problems for those with epilepsy.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: