Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Eager to take the lead on climate change, the European Union aims to pile pressure on the United States and big emerging countries to sign up to an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gases. Last month European leaders approved an ambitious climate change action plan which the 27-nation bloc hopes will become a model for international negotiations in Copenhagen in December. "We will do everything to make (Copehagen) a success," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters on Friday. "The problem is to know whether the others are ready to do what we have been doing."

The European Commission is to unveil on Wednesday a strategy for gradually ramping up investments aimed at tackling climate change to a target of 175 billion euros per year by 2020, including 30 billion euros to help poor countries. Developed countries would be expected to contribute 95 billion euros to the plan. Among the sources of finance, the commission recommends making polluters pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide that they emit. With a price starting at one euro per tonne rising gradually to three euros, the plan would generate about 13 billion euros in 2013 if used in the main developed countries, rising to 28 billion euros by 2020.

In the same strategy paper, obtained by AFP, the commission lays out 200 actions that are not expected to bear a prohibitive cost for reducing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. The measures, which target the energy, agriculture and forestry sectors, would save 39 billion tonnes of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere by 2020 at a cost of between four to 10 euros per tonne.

EU leaders committed last month to a climate-energy package that would decrease the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, make 20 percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use. With four billion tonnes of CO2 a year, the EU generates 14 percent of the 27 billion tonnes that escape into the atmosphere each year. The United States is the biggest polluter with 5.8 billion tonnes, followed by China with 5.1 billion tonnes. The EU hopes that it can rally other major polluters behind its approach. "I think the most important issue for Copenhagen in terms of preparation is to have the Americans on board and afterwards the biggest emerging economies China, India, and Brazil," Barroso said.


The climate change safari park

Do we care more about one dead elephant than we do for a hundred black children?

By Bjorn Lomborg

Barack Obama in his inaugural speech promised to "roll back the spectre of a warming planet." In this context, it is worth contemplating a passage from his book Dreams from My Father. It reveals a lot about the way we view the world's problems.

Obama is in Kenya and wants to go on a safari. His Kenyan sister Auma chides him for behaving like a neo-colonialist. "Why should all that land be set aside for tourists when it could be used for farming? These wazungu care more about one dead elephant than they do for a hundred black children."

Although he ends up going on safari, Obama has no answer to her question. That anecdote has parallels with the current preoccupation with global warming. Many people - including America's new President - believe that global warming is the pre-eminent issue of our time, and that cutting CO2 emissions is one of the most virtuous things we can do. To stretch the metaphor a little, this seems like building ever-larger safari parks instead of creating more farms to feed the hungry.

Make no mistake: global warming is real, and it is caused by manmade CO2 emissions. The problem is that even global, draconian, and hugely costly CO2 reductions will have virtually no impact on the temperature by mid-century.

Instead of ineffective and costly cuts, we should focus much more of our good climate intentions on dramatic increases in R&D for zero-carbon energy, which would fix the climate towards mid-century at low cost. But, more importantly for most of the planet's citizens, global warming simply exacerbates existing problems.

Consider malaria. Models shows global warming will increase the incidence of malaria by about 3% by the end of the century, because mosquitoes are more likely to survive when the world gets hotter. But malaria is much more strongly related to health infrastructure and general wealth than it is to temperature. Rich people rarely contract malaria or die from it; poor people do. Strong carbon cuts could avert about 0.2% of the malaria incidence in a hundred years. The other option is simply to prioritise eradication of malaria today. It would be relatively cheap and simple, involving expanded distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, more preventive treatment for pregnant women, increased use of the maligned pesticide DDT, and support for poor nations that cannot afford the best new therapies.

Tackling nearly 100% of today's malaria problem would cost just one-sixtieth of the price of the Kyoto Protocol. Put another way, for each person saved from malaria by cutting CO2 emissions, direct malaria policies could have saved 36,000. Of course, carbon cuts are not designed only to tackle malaria. But, for every problem that global warming will exacerbate - hurricanes, hunger, flooding - we could achieve tremendously more through cheaper, direct policies today.

For example, adequately maintained levees and better evacuation services, not lower carbon emissions, would have minimised the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.

During the 2004 hurricane season, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, both occupying the same island, provided a powerful lesson. In the Dominican Republic, which has invested in hurricane shelters and emergency evacuation networks, the death toll was fewer than ten. In Haiti, which lacks such policies, 2,000 died. Haitians were a hundred times more likely to die in an equivalent storm than Dominicans.

Obama's election has raised hopes for a massive commitment to carbon cuts and vast spending on renewable energy to save the world - especially developing nations. As Obama's Kenyan sister might attest, this could be an expensive indulgence. Some believe Obama should follow the lead of the European Union, which has committed itself to the goal of cutting carbon emissions by 20% below 1990 levels within 12 years by using renewable energy. This alone will probably cost more than 1% of GDP. Even if the entire world followed suit, the net effect would be to reduce global temperatures by one-twentieth of one degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century. The cost could be a staggering $10 trillion.

Most economic models show that the total damage imposed by global warming by the end of the century will be about 3% of GDP. This is not trivial, but nor is it the end of the world. By the end of the century, the United Nations expects the average person to be 1,400% richer than today. An African safari trip once confronted America's new president with a question he could not answer: why the rich world prized elephants over African children. Today's version of that question is: why will richer nations spend obscene amounts of money on climate change, achieving next to nothing in 100 years, when we could do so much good for mankind today for much less money? The world will be watching to hear Obama's answer.



On Thursday, German economy minister Michael Glos was expressing "serious misgivings" about the EU's emissions trading scheme, complaining that it could cost jobs if it went ahead in its current form. His own scientific advisory board is urging the repeal of strict limits for CO2 emissions, and an easing of the system in order to stabilise the price of permits.

This may or may not be connected with an announcement yesterday that the German energy giant RWE has decided to build no more new power plants in western Europe, as the EU's emissions trading scheme has rendered new projects "unprofitable". "We will go ahead with power-plants which we are already planning or which are already under construction," said Johannes Lambertz, chief executive of RWE's power unit. "Further projects are on hold until they become economical."

Lambertz adds that, "The current framework leads to a situation where it can be more economical to continue operating old power plants than to build new ones and then having to bear the costs for the construction and the emission certificates."

Connection or not, it looks like the Germans are set for a confrontation with the EU over "climate change", a dust-up which is potentially even more attractive than the one pictured. I tell you, its obsession with "climate change" is going to be the undoing of the EU. The electricity riots of 2015 are going to make this look like a Sunday school outing.



The state of California and the automobile industry are pressing the Obama administration to decide whether states may impose their own limits on autos' greenhouse-gas emissions, an issue that pits President Barack Obama's allies in the labor and environmental movements against one another. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama's first full day in office, California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger formally asked the president to let California enforce a 2002 state law that its officials estimate would require that vehicles achieve the equivalent of 35 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2017 -- three years earlier than a 2007 federal law would require.

The California standard doesn't set a mileage target, but rather a target for auto makers to cut new vehicles' greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% from 2002 levels. Gearing up to fight California's request is the National Automobile Dealers Association, which is holding its annual convention this weekend in New Orleans, an event expected to draw 25,000 attendees and feature appearances by former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The group has prepared a report warning that the California law would impose "a costly and unnecessary burden on an industry already reeling" from the worst year of U.S. vehicle sales in more than a decade.

Mr. Obama expressed support during his campaign for California's bid to regulate auto greenhouse-gas emissions, so called because they trap the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming. But he has avoided saying publicly how quickly his administration intends to act on the state's request. In addition to the question of whether to let states regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, Mr. Obama's administration is bound by a 2007 Supreme Court decision to determine whether greenhouse-gas emissions "endanger" public health or welfare, the legal trigger for regulating them under the federal Clean Air Act.

Technically, both decisions will fall to the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson. Ms. Jackson supported an effort to adopt an emissions law modeled on California's when she headed New Jersey's environmental agency from 2006 until 2008. In confirmation hearings for the EPA post, Ms. Jackson avoided making a commitment to grant California's latest request. At a Senate hearing last week, however, she promised to immediately revisit a decision made in December 2007 by the agency's previous chief, Stephen Johnson, that blocked California from implementing its law. She said she would base her final decision on "science and the rule of law" and advice from EPA staffers, many of whom privately counseled Mr. Johnson to grant the request. "We think they [EPA officials] ought to be able to get it done in four months," Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Thursday when asked how quickly she expected a decision on California's request.

A decision in favor of the request would clear the way for more than a dozen other states to enforce laws they modeled on California's. But it also would risk antagonizing the United Auto Workers, which has complained that the law unfairly discriminates against companies whose product mix is skewed toward pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans -- which guzzle a lot of gas. A spokesman for the union, which helped Mr. Obama clinch Ohio and Michigan in last fall's presidential contest, didn't respond to requests for comment on California's request.

"Even if there's a will to reverse course quickly, the reality is that taking the time to [get] the process right will be critical to whether any reversal is defensible in court," said Roger Martella, who was the EPA's general counsel during the Bush administration. Ms. Nichols, the California regulator, said her agency supports allowing public comment on the issue. "We feel strongly that under its new leadership, EPA will recognize that the decision made by the former administrator ... was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways," she said.



by Fred Singer

THE recent report in the journal Nature of an unexpected Antarctic warming trend has created a certain amount of skepticism - even among supporters of AGW. [1] But in an AP news story, two of its authors (one is 'hockey-stick' inventor Michael Mann from the Real Climate blog) argue that this refutes the skeptics and is "consistent with" greenhouse warming. Of course, as Roger Pielke, Jr, points out, not long ago we learned from Real Climate that a cooling Antarctica was 'consistent with' greenhouse warming and thus the skeptics were wrong: " So a warming Antarctica and a cooling Antarctica are both 'consistent with' model projections of global warming.

Our foray into the tortured logic of 'consistent with' in climate science raises the perennial question, what observations of the climate system would be inconsistent with the model predictions?" The results are based on very few isolated data from weather stations, plus data from research satellites. And here is the rub: these are not data from microwave sounding units (MSU), such as are regularly published by Christy and Spencer, but data from infrared sensors that are supposed to measure the temperature of the surface (rather than of the overlaying atmosphere, as weather stations do).

But the IR emission depends not only on temperature of the surface, but also on surface emissivity - and is further modified by absorption of clouds and haze. These are all difficult points. Emissivity of snow depends on its porosity and size of snow crystals. Blowing snow likely has a different emissivity than snow that has been tamped down; so surface winds could have a strong influence. The emissivity of ice is again different and will depend on whether there is a thin melt layer of water on top of the ice, temporarily produced by solar radiation.

Finally, we have temperature inversions that can trap haze which is essentially undetectable by optical methods from satellites. The proof of the pudding, of course, is the MSU data, which show a continuous cooling trend, are little affected by surface conditions and are unaffected by haze and clouds. They are therefore more reliable.

Bottom line: As it looks to me right now, the Antarctic Continent is cooling not warming.



In this week's Science magazine, science writer Richard Kerr reports on some of the goings-on at this past December's annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. While he didn't cover our presentation at the meeting in which we described our efforts at creating a reconstruction of ice melt across Greenland dating back into the late 1700s (we found that the greatest period of ice melt occurred in the decades around the 1930s), Kerr did cover some other recent findings concerning the workings of Greenland's cryosphere in his article titled "Galloping Glaciers of Greenland Have Reined Themselves In". Here is how Kerr starts things off:

"Things were looking bad around southeast Greenland a few years ago. There, the streams of ice flowing from the great ice sheet into the sea had begun speeding up in the late 1990s. Then, two of the biggest Greenland outlet glaciers really took off, and losses from the ice to the sea eventually doubled. Some climatologists speculated that global warming might have pushed Greenland past a tipping point into a scary new regime of wildly heightened ice loss and an ever-faster rise in sea level."

And some non-climatologists speculated disaster from rapidly rising seas as well. During his An Inconvenient Truth tour, Gore was fond of spinning the following tale:

"[E]arlier this year [2006], yet another team of scientists reported that the previous twelve months saw 32 glacial earthquakes on Greenland between 4.6 and 5.1 on the Richter scale - a disturbing sign that a massive destabilization may now be underway deep within the second largest accumulation of ice on the planet, enough ice to raise sea level 20 feet worldwide if it broke up and slipped into the sea. Each passing day brings yet more evidence that we are now facing a planetary emergency - a climate crisis that demands immediate action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in order to turn down the earth's thermostat and avert catastrophe."

Oh how things have changed in the past 2 years. For one, the "team of scientists" that reported on the Greenland earthquakes now think that the earthquakes were the result of processes involved with glacial calving, rather than something "underway deep within the second largest accumulation of ice on the planet" (Nettles et al., 2008). For another, Gore's "massive destabilization" mechanism for which the earthquakes were a supposed bellwether (meltwater lubrication of the flow channel) has been shown to be ineffective at producing long-term changes in glacier flow rate (e.g. (Joughin et al., 2008; van de Wal et al., 2008). And for still another, the recent speed-up of Greenland's glaciers has even more recently slowed down. Here is how Kerr describes the situation:

"So much for Greenland ice's Armageddon. "It has come to an end," glaciologist Tavi Murray of Swansea University in the United Kingdom said during a session at the meeting. "There seems to have been a synchronous switch-off" of the speed-up, she said. Nearly everywhere around southeast Greenland, outlet glacier flows have returned to the levels of 2000. An increasingly warmer climate will no doubt eat away at the Greenland ice sheet for centuries, glaciologists say, but no one should be extrapolating the ice's recent wild behavior into the future."

The last point is driven home by new results published last week (and described in our last WCR and in our piece over at MasterResource) by researchers Faezeh Nick and colleagues. They modeled the flow of one of Greenland's largest glaciers and determined that while glaciers were quite sensitive to changing conditions at their calving terminus, that they responded rather quickly to them and the increase in flow rate was rather short lived. Nick et al. included these words of warning: "Our results imply that the recent rates of mass loss in Greenland's outlet glaciers are transient and should not be extrapolated into the future."

All told, it is looking more like the IPCC's estimates of a few inches of sea level rise from Greenland during the 21st century aren't going to be that far off-despite loud protestations to the contrary from high profile alarm pullers. Maybe Gore will go back and remove the 12 pages worth of picture and maps from his book showing what high profile places of the world will look like with a 20-foot sea level rise ("The site of the World Trade Center Memorial would be underwater"). But then again, probably not-after all the point is not to be truthful in the sense of reflecting a likely possibility, but to scare you into a particular course of action.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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