Thursday, November 30, 2006


Mr Davis is one of several people who write to me from email addresses that do not seem to accept replies. If I reply, the reply "bounces". I would like such people to know that the problem lies with their email account, not with any discourtesy on my part. The only emails I normally ignore are abusive ones.


But about Britain only

The days of empire may be gone but global warming will make Britain the centre of the civilised world once again, according to James Lovelock, the creator of the Gaia theory, which views the world as a self-sustaining organic system. In a bleak prophecy he says that global warming will become so intense within a century that much of the world will become uninhabitable. The British Isles, however, is perfectly placed to become the most desirable location in the world in which to live and one of the few areas able to feed itself. It will be able to survive the devastating consequences of global heating, as he now terms it.

Professor Lovelock was one of the first scientists to give warning of the dangers of global warming, which he believes is here for 200,000 years. It will wreak so much havoc that the Earth wil be able to support only 500 million people, just one in six of today's population. Adaptation, Professor Lovelock said yesterday, is the only choice left as the world warms up and there is a rapid northwards shift of its population. Equatorial regions will become so hot that they can no longer sustain agriculture and will turn into deserts. Much of Europe will dry out so extensively that millions of people will be forced to make a new life closer to the Arctic.

The British Isles, small and surrounded by water, will remain cool enough to sustain a modern, technologically advanced nation, despite being 8C (14F) hotter on average. "The British Isles may be a very desirable bit of real estate because we are surrounded by the sea," he said. "The summer of 2003 will be typical of conditions by 2100." Displaced millions will settle in Britain and Ireland and will have to be accommodated in skyscrapers that will make cities resemble the Hong Kong of today - which by 2100 will be uninhabitable, he said.

Speaking to the media before a speech to the Institution of Chemical Engineers yesterday, Professor Lovelock said that agricultural land would be at a premium and rationing would have to be reintroduced. Among the countries forecast by Professor Lovelock to face agricultural collapse is China. A warming world will open up Siberia as a potential grainbelt but he doubts that Russia will welcome a billion Chinese immigrants. Island nations such as New Zealand may remain habitable but large land masses, including most of the USA and Asia, will become too hot to grow sufficient food, with the possible exception of some coastal regions.

His Gaia theory suggests that rather than temperatures continuing to rise indefinitely until emissions are controlled, the increase will be limited to 8C. He likens it to a human suffering a fever - but one from which it will take the planet 200,000 years to recover from. Despite his bleak prophecy he remains optimistic for the species if not for individuals: "We are not all doomed," he said. "An awful lot of people will die, but I don't see the species dying out."



Negotiators in Nairobi, Kenya, are preparing to wrap up two weeks of discussions about the future of international cooperation on climate change. The conference -- officially the second meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol -- gathered to discuss what comes after Kyoto, which will not be in force after 2012. Central to the discussions have been questions about gaining U.S. participation in the treaty, winning emissions-reductions commitments from major developing countries (such as China and India), and determining the strength of the international community's commitment to drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The talks in Nairobi also have revealed the new role that a diverse group of companies will play in the future of the climate change debate. These companies come from many industries, but they share a common interest in finding ways to profit from global concerns about climate change -- particularly the provisions in the Kyoto treaty intended to better control greenhouse gas emissions. This industry bloc includes the major innovators in the cleantech sector, but it also includes older industries that are finding ways to make small adjustments in their business processes in ways that, due to Kyoto's market mechanisms, now yield significant revenues.

Because of the way the Kyoto enforcement mechanisms are established, the developing countries of Asia -- particularly China and India -- are the key areas of concern for cleantech companies and commercial opportunists. Both India and China have vast energy needs and are dedicated to transforming their power systems. Kyoto rewards companies that help developing countries to build energy infrastructure in more efficient, less polluting ways. As a result, the vast majority of the investment and profit-making in what could be called the "climate change industry" has come from these two countries.

The emergence of the climate change industry has significant implications -- not only for environmental and economic reasons, but for the future of the climate change debate itself. Many companies -- including a wide range of power generators, chemical companies, high-tech manufacturers and venture capitalists -- spent years battling against constraints on carbon emissions or viewing the climate change issue as a source of business risk. Now, having found ways to make money from the Kyoto system, some industry sectors have a vested interest in the uninterrupted perpetuation of the controls the treaty established. These business opportunists and energy innovators likely will emerge as powerful and increasingly vocal partners for environmental activists, as the clock winds down on Kyoto.

CDM and Emissions Trading

To understand exactly how these businesses profit, and the arguments they are likely to make as the termination for Kyoto approaches, it is necessary to review the terms of the treaty itself.

Though it was signed in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was not ratified by many countries until its signatories had put mechanisms into place that added flexibility to the treaty's demands. Key mechanisms in this regard include a fund that lends money to new, greenhouse-gas-reducing industrial projects in developing states, a system to reward states for preserving forests and other "carbon sinks," and an emissions trading system that rewards countries that reduce emissions more quickly than the protocol demands. The new "climate change industry" is finding ways to profit from each of these -- the funding mechanism and the emissions trading system in particular.

The emissions trading regime follows the model that the U.S. Clean Air Act established in 1990. In this system, the United States has an established ceiling of annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SOx). Every major emitter is allotted a certain level of permissible emissions of NOx and SOx, using a complex formula for determining the facility's base level of emissions. Those who emit less than their allotment can sell their extra "credits" on the open market to companies that exceed their allotment. Thus, better environmental performers can build a new revenue stream, while poorer performers have to spend money.

In Kyoto's emissions trading regime, countries can win credits either by making cuts in emissions domestically or by building facilities overseas that reduce the foreign country's total greenhouse gas emissions. It follows, then, that Western countries have an incentive to help developing countries build relatively cleaner, more efficient industrial bases. The idea is to encourage richer countries to help poorer ones bypass the stages of "dirty" development that they themselves experienced.

It would be tempting for industrialized countries to sponsor development projects in poorer countries, where there is significant demand for new technologies anyway, even without Kyoto incentives. But the creation of a Kyoto funding mechanism has added further to the appeal: Under this system, industrialized countries donate money to a fund, held by the World Bank, that loans to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This fund, called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), will lend more than $3 billion to projects this year, up from $2.5 billion in 2005.

Greening Development

While this may appear to be an ideal way of helping poorer countries develop in cleaner, more efficient ways than industrialized nations managed to, the image can be deceptive.

Because China and India are viewed as "developing" countries under Kyoto's definition, clean development loans have piggybacked on the predominant trend in foreign direct investment. China has received 73 percent and 60 percent of the CDM loans in 2005 and 2006, mostly for projects that would have been built anyway. India, another major recipient of corporate direct investments, received 15 percent.

This is a crucial point for the climate change industry. Three-quarters of the money being lent for climate change purposes is going to two of the world's hottest markets for foreign direct investment. Much of the FDI headed to those countries likely would have gone there even without subsidized loans, and to projects that would have incorporated energy efficiency regardless.

The gaming of the system is perhaps most clearly evident in a series of deals involving two Chinese chemical companies, Meilan Jiangsu Chemical and Changshu 3F Zhonghao New Chemicals Material Co. Both companies manufacture the refrigerant HCFC-22, and produce the chemical HFC-23 as a byproduct. HFC-23 is the most potent greenhouse gas regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, and -- all other things being equal -- the plants likely would be headed for the scrap heap as the phase-out deadlines agreed under the Montreal Protocol of 1987 approach. However, under Kyoto's CDM and emissions trading mechanism, a ton of HFC-23 eliminated in a developing country is worth 11,000 times more than a ton of CO2 (approximately $920,000 per ton). Thus, the chemical companies applied for -- and received -- a loan of nearly $1 billion from the CDM to retrofit their facilities, using technologies that capture and destroy the HFCs. The revenues they make from producing a pollutant that is strictly regulated by the Kyoto treaty itself is, ironically, what keeps these plants open and profitable.

According to the World Bank, 64 percent of the emissions traded under the Kyoto system this year are related to the refrigerant industry, and the majority of these come from facilities that are manufacturing products that will soon be phased out. Only 36 percent of the world's emissions credits are being granted because of innovations in power generation or manufacturing efficiency. In other words, the reductions being credited to the developing world frequently do not conform to the "cleaner, more efficient technologies" ideal. Importantly, however, the 64 percent figure actually does represent a reduction from 75 percent measured in developing countries two years ago -- and with the phaseout of HCFCs approaching, the period of hefty profits from trading emissions in refrigerants is coming to a close.

Case Studies: China and India

With most of the low-hanging profits having been claimed already, there is a new surge of investment going to industries that seek profits from emissions reductions and emissions trading. The most obvious candidate for investors is the cleantech industry. The industry is particularly active in India and China, as well as other emerging Asian economies. In both cases, cleantech products are being tailored to the specific political, economic and environmental needs of the country.

China's energy needs are multiplying too rapidly for the electricity-generating industry to keep pace. Beijing has set a goal of reducing the energy-intensiveness of China's economy, pledging in its most recent five-year plan to halve the amount of energy needed per unit of gross domestic product. In keeping with this goal, China's long-term plan relies heavily on nuclear power. Beijing is planning for the construction of 30 new pebble-bed power plants around the country by 2020, using new technologies that allow for safer, less expensive reactors.

For now, however, China's electricity needs are growing far faster than nuclear facilities can be built. Thus, coal-fired power plants will supplement, with more than 300 new ones to be built during the next five years. Many of these facilities are likely to represent the most advanced technologies (especially if -- as Canada, the European Union and others hope -- carbon capture and sequestration are included in the clean development mechanism), but the bulk of them will pollute more, rather than less.

Given all of these factors -- and particularly the goal of reducing energy intensiveness without hurting production -- the opportunities for cleantech companies in China leap into view.

In India, the dynamic is altogether different.

In many ways, India's energy infrastructure is even less suited for rapid industrial growth than China's. The system cannot be called a "grid" so much as a series of isolated power stations, scattered in seemingly haphazard fashion around the country. Due to limited central planning and poor investment and infrastructure, extremely long power lines are needed to distribute electricity through the subcontinent. These lines are often tapped by individuals or communities -- much like cable lines in the United States or gasoline pipelines in Nigeria -- rendering power distribution on the whole both highly inefficient and irregular.

When a technologically advanced manufacturer moves into India, it cannot rely on the local power system; consequently, many build their own systems to meet their needs. Major chemical and high-tech companies -- including Intel Corp. and DuPont -- have built stations to serve primarily as reliable sources of routine, reliable power to their facilities. These plants supply some power to the national "grid" but -- because of the underlying transmission difficulties -- the benefits to the country as a whole are quite limited.

Reflecting this pattern of development, India increasingly is turning to a decentralized power system -- often referred to as "distributed power" -- that relies on low-output generators to serve a small area and put any extra power into the larger "grid." These power systems run on natural gas, gasoline or diesel fuel, or they can be waste-to-energy facilities or solar-powered. Western companies that specialize in smaller power facilities, such as Cummins Inc. and Ingersoll Rand Co., are beginning to notice this trend and are appealing to the CDM to lend money for the creation of distributed power networks.

The Future of Kyoto

Given the market opportunities that emission trading and the CDM open, it is no wonder that major companies like General Electric Co., DuPont and Alcoa Inc. are champions of climate change policy and that investors like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are funding cleantech startups.

The debate in Nairobi will conclude Nov. 17, but it likely will not produce an agreement on commitments that will follow after 2012. This is a significant problem for the climate change industry. If Kyoto dissolves before another system is in place, the emissions market would fall apart -- endangering investments that were made with emissions credits as the critical determinant of profitability. Recent moves in California and the northeastern United States to establish greenhouse gas emissions trading systems likely will evolve to provide a small market for the foreign emissions credits, but these efforts probably will not be effective (either as a money-maker or as a greenhouse gas emissions-reduction scheme) unless projects in China and India are tied into the regime.

Ultimately, the role of activists and some business communities will merge in the next two years. Industries that are looking at China and India as engines of revenue growth will lobby strenuously to keep commitments to the emissions-reduction scheme from lapsing.



Three Democratic senators poised to head committees grappling with global warming pressed President George W. Bush for mandatory U.S. limits on greenhouse gases. In a letter to Bush on Wednesday, Sens. Barbara Boxer, Jeff Bingaman and Joe Lieberman said voters in the election last week demanded that the government reduce America's heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are contributing to the Earth's warming. "The recent elections have signaled a need to change direction in many areas, including global warming," the senators wrote. Boxer, Bingaman and Lieberman will, respectively, head the Senate's environment, energy and homeland security committees when Democrats take control in January.

The White House, however, sent signals that the new Democratic Congress should not expect Bush to budge from his opposition to regulating industrial carbon dioxide. That position he took in March 2001 was a reversal of his campaign stance. James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters Tuesday that the administration has not budged from its belief that regulating carbon emissions would undermine the U.S. economy. "We still have very strong reservations about an overarching, one-size-fits-all mandate about carbon," he said. Connaughton added that most bills in Congress aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide probably would raise energy prices. But he said the White House was willing to work with Congress toward raising mileage standards for passenger cars.

The Energy Department reported this week that the United States' greenhouse gases, already a quarter of the world's output, rose again in 2005 by 0.6 percent above 2004 levels. That was a slight improvement when compared with the average annual growth rate of 1 percent since 1990.

Boxer has said her committee's first hearing next year will focus on global warming. One task will be reconciling several competing approaches to global warming. "We pledge to work to pass an effective system of mandatory limits on greenhouse gases," the three senators wrote Bush. "We urge you to work with us to reach this result and to signal to the world that global warming legislation is on the way."

Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House environmental council, said Wednesday that Congress should approve Bush's plan for more federal research into alternative fuels for motor vehicles, nuclear, solar and wind energy and cleaner coal technologies. "The president already has in place an aggressive climate change strategy that is realizing results," Hellmer said.

The departing chairman of the Senate environment committee, Republican James Inhofe, promised to lead the opposition to climate bills that pose big economic costs in next year's Senate. Democrats will enjoy a 51-49 majority, but 60 votes are often needed to overcome minority opposition. "Many of you might be thinking that the Democrats' razor-thin majority means that global warming-inspired carbon cap legislation is somehow now going to sail through the next Congress," said Inhofe, who has called global warming an hysteria-driven hoax. "Well, I can assure you that will not happen."


And now a word from our critics

A conference report

Balance is an important conceit of American journalism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, previously partisan newspapers edged toward respectability and larger profits by telling "both sides of the story" and that convention carried over into broadcast journalism. It's a constraint that still chafes at working journalists with Something To Say.

"And Now a Word from Our Critics..." is the title of the final panel of the night at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Burlington. It's in the third Emerald Ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. I get in early on a hunch that the place is going to fill up. Just after 5:30 moderator Christy George, a producer for an Oregon Public Broadcasting Station, calls us to order. She announces the time constraints and ground rules: "No personal attacks. No outbursts. No speechifying when it is your turn to ask a question." I'm surprised that she doesn't add "no spitting, biting, or scratching."

George introduces the first speaker Marc Morano. He's director of communications for the Senate's Environment and Public Woks Committee and a former correspondent for Rush Limbaugh's television program "and other advocacy news outlets on the right." She says that Morano's boss, Chairman James Inhofe, "has famously called climate change 'a hoax.'" And, with that, "take it away Marc."

Morano begins by reminding the audience of what Senator Inhofe actually said. He called "fears of catastrophic manmade global warming 'a hoax' and the alarmism, referring to the media. He did not call climate change 'a hoax'... [T]he senator has also acknowledged global warming." So there. Then he works to frame the issue in a way that is certain to infuriate this audience. "I'm not here to try to convince anyone about the science... We're here to talk about the media and the way they've treated us, the media labeling, the media's objectivity, balance," he says.

He was invited to speak to the SEJ because in July Senator Inhofe alleged in a long floor speech that something has gone wrong with how journalists have covered the issue of global warming. Morano gives some highlights from the last year's worth of coverage:

* A correspondent for 60 Minutes called global warming skeptics the equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

* The environmental journal Grist called for Nuremburg style trials for climate skeptics.

* CNN's Miles O'Brien said all the skeptics are in the payroll of oil interests.

* Tom Brokaw hosted a global warming two-hour special on the Discovery Channel so one-sided that the Bloomberg television writer called it "akin to a North Korean political rally."

* On the Brokaw program, Michael Oppenheimer said that there are no skeptics that deserve to be listened to because, again, "they're all bought and paid for by oil and gas interests."

* Morano made much of the fact that Oppenheimer gets about $200,000 a year from the Environmental Defense Fund, "an environmental special interest."

* When fellow panelist ABC reporter Bill Blakemore did a story about NASA scientist James Hansen's allegations of Bush administration censorship, "he failed to tell ABC World News Tonight viewers that Hansen had endorsed John Kerry and received money from Kerry's wife's foundation."

Morano then flips the bias card over. He asked us to imagine that skeptical climatologist Pat Michaels was the NASA scientist who alleged censorship (wait for it) by the Clinton administration. If Michaels "claimed that Bill Clinton had censored him but he had endorsed Bob Dole and got money from Bob Dole's wife, do you think that [Blakemore] would have left out that 'inconvenient fact?'" Morano asks. He says that he isn't trying to impugn the integrity of decent scientists. Rather, "I'm saying if you want to label, label fairly."

DAN FAGIN -- I'M SORRY, "THE ESTEEMED DAN FAGIN" -- is introduced as a "former SEJ president, former Newsday reporter and currently a professor of journalism at NYU and associate director of the science health and reporting program." Fagin claims to speak for science. He insists the science on catastrophic global warming is firmly established and affects annoyance that anyone would question this. He insists, "These are facts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts."

The distance of academia, Fagin says, allows him to speak more freely than he could as a reporter. He charges that Senator Inhofe lied over a fairly technical point of climate history. And he says that if reporters allow the wrong voices in the climate debate to be heard, "that is telling a different kind of lie." And besides, the climate non-doomsdayers "represent an overwhelming minority." "Consensus [in science] is hard won. It's hard won. It means something when it occurs," Fagin insists. Journalists are obliged to bow down and worship that consensus.

As to the charges of bias, he says, "I agree that there is a bias but it is a fundamentally different bias than one that Senator Inhofe thinks exists." It is a bias in favor of "fairness" and "conflict" (i.e., balance). Both journalists and academics, in Fagin's view, advance their careers by "going against the grain" and basically making stuff up. So why aren't there ten times the number of climate skeptics and young journalists hyping their findings to the heavens, I wonder.

He has an answer for that too. The problem is that "we" journalists and academics "are reality constrained. We are constrained by the facts." And making a case against climate alarmism on its merits is just "not possible in this case." Fagin compares Senator Inhofe to Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and the leaders of the People's Republic of China. They all embrace the "Big Lie" strategy of public relations, you see, and they'll all fall down in the end. The audience hoots and claps.

ANDREW REVKIN IS AN ENVIRONMENT REPORTER for the New York Times and so his words are surprising for their utter lack of condescension. He tells his colleagues "frankly, we've handed a lot of red meat to Senator Inhofe." Revkin says that one of the problems is the basic disagreement over what people mean when they speak of "global warming." It can mean anything from the greenhouse effect to imminent climatological disaster. He tells the reporters that they should be very careful in their use of language, so that they don't accidentally make absurdly far reaching claims.

To explain, he draws a bell curve on a large notepad and uses that curve to represent scientific debate. Every idea starts out as a big, sloppy curve, with people arguing violently on both sides. The curve narrows, or "spikes," over time as more evidence comes in most people migrate in from the margins to the center. Revkin says that in the global warming debate, there isn't just one curve. Some things are far less contested than others, but there's still an awful lot of debate. Rightly so. There's much that we still don't know about how the climate works.

Likewise, many so-called global warming skeptics agree on those issues where scientific opinion has spiked. Revkin points out that MIT's Richard Lindzen agrees that manmade global warming is a real issue. And "even Pat Michaels" predicts that we'll have about three degrees of warming over the next hundred years, which Revkin reminds us, "is well within the IPCC estimates."

When new findings are offered, he says, the tendency of journalists has been to seize on "every one of those little punctuation marks and make it into God's truth." However, the plural of anecdote is not data. "[T]he mousetrap is all ready for us to screw up," Revkin warns the audience. It is "very important" for good environmental journalists to also be global warming skeptics of a sort. If they want readers to take them seriously, they should report on the clashes and conflicts that make science so entertaining



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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