Saturday, February 14, 2009

'CO2 reduction treaties useless'

A new [British] report says treaties aimed at reducing CO2 emissions are useless. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers report says we have to accept the world could change dramatically. It also says we should start planning our major infrastructure now to accommodate more extreme weather events and sea level rises. While not against attempts to reduce emissions, the report's authors say we should be realistic about what can be achieved with this approach.

International diplomats and environment campaigners have, for years, been pursuing an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. In its present incarnation it is called the Kyoto Protocol. This treaty runs out in 2012, and negotiations are carrying on at the moment to replace it - negotiations which will culminate in a meeting in Copenhagen later this year.

The authors of the report are not optimistic about the outcome: "The new agreement's most basic premise will be to try and limit the negative man-made effects on our climate system for future generations. "In other words, the agreement will aim to reduce global CO2 emissions by mitigation. "However, the existing Kyoto Protocol has, to date, been a near total failure, with emissions levels continuing to rise substantially."

While the report's authors point out that the Institution, like many scientific bodies, has a strong belief that we need "to reduce CO2 to secure long-term human survival", they also say that we should be realistic about what we can achieve. And "even with vigorous mitigation effort, we will continue to use fossil fuel reserves until they are exhausted."

If climate change scientists' predictions are correct, the world will look very different if we are unable or unwilling to stop using fossil fuels to the extent we are doing today. Sea level rises could be seven metres in the UK by 2250, which, unchecked, could inundate much of London, East Anglia and other coastal areas. We may have to accept, they say, that we will need to abandon some parts of the country, and spend significant amounts of money defending others.

2250 may seem like an unimaginably long time away, but the report's authors point out that parts of the London Underground system that are still in use were built in the 1860s, and today's engineers are facing projects the lifetime of which will extend into 2100. The majority of existing infrastructure, they say, will continue to be operational for at least another 100-200 years.

The "climate proofing" the institution recommends extends into almost every construction. For example, towns and cities, they say, should be planned to adjust street layouts to correspond with the prevailing winds, maximising ventilation and cooling. The location of many power stations may have to be reconsidered, as they are often in coastal areas. And railways were often placed in river valleys to make the most of low gradients.

The report's authors say that while they support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are "realistic enough to recognise that global CO2 emissions are not reducing and our climate is changing so unless we adapt, we are likely to face a difficult future."



The world's major carbon emitters were in "full negotiation mode" on Thursday as they met in Tokyo with the clock ticking to draft a new UN treaty on fighting global warming. Representatives from 22 countries, including major CO2 emitters China, India and the United States, as well as the European bloc are taking part in the informal two-day session. It marks one of the first negotiating opportunities on climate change since the inauguration of US President Barack Obama, who has pledged to step up efforts by the world's largest economy to help slow down the planet's warming. "We are now changing gears and entering a full negotiating mode," said co-chairman Sergio Barbosa Serra of Brazil, which organised the event with Japan.

The other co-chair, Akihiko Furuya of Japan, voiced hope for "ideas for a breakthrough" during the closed-door session, the beginning of which was open to the press. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer is also participating in the session, which comes ahead of a December meeting in Copenhagen meant to approve a new treaty on global warming. The Copenhagen treaty will cover the period after the Kyoto Protocol's obligations to curb carbon emissions expire in 2012.

"This year 2009 is of course of critical importance," Furuya said. "We have now only less than 11 months before Copenhagen." "So it is important for all of us to work hard, even harder than before," he added.

Japan, host of the Kyoto Protocol, is badly behind in meeting its own targets as the government hesitates at restricting industry amid an uncertain economy. During this week's meeting, WWF International said, Japan would outline six options for its mid-term emission reduction target, which would "range from a 5 percent increase of emissions to a reduction of 25 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels."

Kim Carstensen, director of the environmental group's Global Climate Initiative, said these options were too weak. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso "will be seen as a laggard in the UN climate talks who also fails to set his country on track for a green economy boom," Carstensen said. Japan, which has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent by 2050, will announce its mid-term target by June, Aso said last month.


Beware climate alarmists, pseudo-scientists

By Gary M. Hoover (Gary M. Hoover, of Bartlesville, is a physicist and a consultant with research and operational experience in atmospheric energy absorption, nuclear reactor operations and exploration geophysics)

A mixture of pseudo-science, emotion and politics is very dangerous. Climate alarmists declare that man's energy use is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate warming (one degree Fahrenheit over the last century). They further project that Earth's temperature will increase dramatically in the near future and lead to world catastrophe. Worldwide warming of this magnitude would be a radical and unlikely deviation from the previous century and has little scientific merit. Temperature proxy measurements going back hundreds of thousands of years through many ice ages and warm periods indicate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to be a result of temperature change and not a cause.

Alarmist climate predictions receive enthusiastic coverage from the media and Hollywood since the sensationalism catches the eye of viewers. Thousands of researchers depend upon the government's belief in warming to continue nearly $6 billion a year in climate change science and technology programs. Politicians are counting on unneeded carbon taxes to support deficit spending. Companies such as General Electric, which owns NBC, an active participant in climate alarmism, promote and sell certain energy technologies.

Many don't believe the alarmists, but are hesitant to speak out because they either feel the alarmism might help reduce our dangerous dependence upon foreign oil or that a reduction in carbon will lead to an overall improvement in the quality of life. Some have no scientific opinion but have a blind, unquestioning support and label the rest of us as stupid.

President Obama in both his campaign and inaugural address implied that we could become energy independent using renewable energy from the sun, wind and biofuels. He also implies that our conversion to these alternate energies could save our climate and provide a large spending boost that could pull us out of our economic malaise, much like the dot-com boom during the 1990s.

While we need to develop a diverse energy base, a rapid shift to renewable energy is unlikely due to issues that must be worked through such as cost (even with government subsidy), reliability, sustainability and environmental risk. It is imperative that our government make rational energy policies not based upon climate alarmism.

There is some hope since Energy Secretary Chu apparently advocates a boost in the use of available coal and nuclear energy for electricity generation. This would allow more natural gas for transportation use while energy alternatives are researched. Let's hope realistic energy policy decisions are made - we cannot afford many more misguided government programs such as corn ethanol.

In the name of scientific integrity and the effective use of our resources we should demand examination of the scientific bases and motives of climate change alarms and make sure that our support for energy programs is in the best interests of ourselves, our descendents and the world in general. A mixture of pseudoscience, emotion and politics is very dangerous.


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