Thursday, August 23, 2007


With all the supposed truths out there about global warming, here's one that doesn't get reported very often. Europe isn't the climate-change champion that its leaders, and their American apologists, would have you believe. It's true that emissions -- both in absolute terms and on a per capita basis -- remain higher in America than in the EU-15 (the countries that belonged to the European Union before its 2004 expansion, and which are widely used as a comparison for the U.S. when the subject is global warming). And when it comes to decrying the planet's impending doom and making grand gestures about preventing this, Europe is second to none.

Let's assume, though, for argument's sake, that most Americans believe global warming is a real danger, that carbon dioxide is public enemy No. 1, and that the only question is what to do about it. Before following Europe's lead in adopting a cap-and-trade system or mandatory renewable energy targets, wouldn't you want to know that those actions will lead to something better than the status quo? So would I. And the numbers show that if America is the Great Carbon Satan, Europe is certainly no angel.

Since 2000, emissions of CO2 have been growing more rapidly in Europe, with all its capping and yapping, than in the U.S., where there has been minimal government intervention so far. As of 2005, we're talking about a 3.8% rise in the EU-15 versus a 2.5% increase in the U.S., according to statistics from the United Nations. What's more, preliminary data indicate that America's CO2 output fell by 1.3% from 2005 to 2006.

If these numbers hold up, it would mean U.S. emissions growth is nearly flat so far this decade. Europe hasn't yet released figures for last year, but it did report in June that emissions from the participants in its carbon-trading scheme, which account for almost half of Europe's CO2 production, rose slightly in 2006. The news gets worse for Europe when you consider that during this decade, the U.S. population has grown at roughly double the rate of the EU-15 while the American economy has been expanding about 40% faster. It seems Europe is becoming less efficient in its carbon production while U.S. efficiency is improving.

Now, few people -- this writer included -- would look at these statistics and conclude that Europe should necessarily adopt America's more passive approach. When you talk about CO2 emissions during this decade, or even go back to the globally accepted "base year" of 1990, you're working with a small sample size. And there really isn't much difference between a change of 3.8% and one of 2.5%. So why would the U.S. instead want to adopt Europe's policies?

As a measure of the gap between Europe's rhetoric and its reality, nothing beats its emissions trading scheme. The idea is that CO2-intensive companies -- chiefly those that produce power or use a great deal of it -- receive a certain number of permits to emit the gas. If they reduce their emissions and end up with a surplus, they can sell the extra permits to firms needing more allowances. In this way, market mechanisms are supposed to punish or reward companies for their carbon output, encouraging them to reduce it in the long run.

In Europe, however, the "market" consists of demand that government has created artificially and -- more important -- supply that the state distributes arbitrarily. Not surprisingly, companies lobbied hard to ensure favorable allocations when trading began in 2005. The number of permits exceeded actual emissions and prices plummeted. Today, allowances for 1,000 tons of CO2 are priced at about 11 euro cents, hardly high enough to prod a company to cut its carbon instead of just buying more permits.

If you think the U.S. Congress -- whether led by Democrats or Republicans -- would be more likely to shun special interests in the name of environmentalism, then I've got some tariff-free Brazilian ethanol to sell you. Brussels claims it's correcting the system for the next trading period, which runs from 2008 to 2012, but a number of holes will remain. For instance, it's expected that companies will be able to buy permits outside the EU from other countries and then import them to cover their needs. A large influx of permits could depress prices in the same way that the EU's own overallocation did the first time around.

That's particularly true if third countries are lax in their issuance of permits. "These [non-EU] credits have already been exposed as highly flawed, and often fraudulent," Max Andersson, a Green member of the Swedish Parliament, wrote this month in a study for the think tank Open Europe. "They don't always reflect absolute reductions in emissions, whilst many of these credits are generated from projects in developing countries that would have happened anyway." The result, he concludes, is that emissions might not fall but rise.

Another potential problem: An energy-industry source says that, in many EU member states, the allocation will likely be done in a way that gives sufficient permits to most of the firms that use a lot of energy, leaving a shortage for electricity producers. There might be some logic in that -- instead of relying on manufacturers to reduce their energy consumption, power companies would have more of an incentive to produce electricity in a way that doesn't create as much carbon in the first place.

It would only work, though, as long as the power companies didn't buy additional permits and pass the cost along to customers instead of investing in real carbon-cutting measures. It would require competition to keep them from that temptation, though, and there's the rub: The main players in large markets like France and Germany are still effectively insulated from rivals and can set prices as they wish. Brussels has been trying for years to create a pan-European energy market, but it may be the better part of a decade before it's finished.

European policy makers have plenty of motivation to goad Washington into going along with their approach before too many people realize it isn't working. At a summit in March, EU national leaders dramatically raised the stakes by pledging a 20% cut in CO2 emissions by 2020. That's a real laugher considering their scant chances of meeting their Kyoto commitment of 8% by 2012. Their move is best seen as a bluff intended to pressure the U.S. into the game. Here in Europe, the grand gesture is always the most appealing play.



Just how accurate are our weather-prediction models?

PREDICTING climate change is a tricky business, so thank heavens for computer programmes that can take a melting ice sheet here and an El Nino effect there and turn it into a recipe for disaster. But not so fast, says Lenny Smith, a statistician at the London School of Economics who is concerned by the "na‹ve realism" of climate modelling. "Our models are being over-interpreted and misinterpreted," he told a conference organised by the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. "They are getting better; I don't want to trash them per se. But as we change our predictions, how do we maintain the credibility of the science? We need to drop the pretence that they are nearly perfect."

Smith singles out the British Government's UK Climate Impacts Programme and the Met Office for making detailed climate projections for regions of the UK when the global models vary widely. Policymakers "think we know more than we actually know. We need to be more open about our uncertainties", Smith says. But that's not to say that there's any good news on climate change



Is this a straw in the wind?

The Big Question: Are there more hurricanes, and are they the result of global warming? Why are we asking this now? Because hurricanes like the one which has careered across the Caribbean and was last night striking Mexico are only formed when the surface temperature of the ocean exceeds a specific point, which is 26C. As the oceans warm globally with climate change, much larger areas of water will exceed the threshold, and more energy will be available to power a given storm.

On the face of it, therefore, the connection might seem a reasonable, even a natural one. So is it happening already? Some scientists have put forward fairly dramatic evidence that it may be, and this has been seized on by the environmental community as another piece of the global warming jigsaw, to impress on governments the need to act to cut back on the carbon emissions causing the climate to heat up.

But other scientists resolutely dispute the proposition, and say it cannot be proved.... For the environmental community the two papers were yet another devastating indictment of the lack of action on climate change, especially by the US government of George W Bush. So is the connection proved? Not at all. It is hotly disputed. The difficulty lies in how we use and interpret the database of records of previous storms.


Warming has stopped

Brant Boucher, in his letter "Scientific consensus" (The Hill Times, Aug. 6, 2007), seems to naively believe that the climate change science espoused in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC documents represents "scientific consensus." Nothing could be further than the truth! As one of the invited expert reviewers for the 2007 IPCC documents, I have pointed out the flawed review process used by the IPCC scientists in one of my letters (The Hill Times, May 28, 2007).

I have also pointed out in my letter that an increasing number of scientists are now questioning the hypothesis of GHG-induced warming of the earth's surface and suggesting a stronger impact of solar variability and large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns on the observed temperature increase than previously believed. I would further politely ask Mr. Boucher to do a simple reality check regarding the earth's temperature change. Since mid-1998, the earth's mean temperature as a whole has not increased at all, despite billions of tonnes of human-added CO2 in the earth's atmosphere.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the land-area mean temperature has slowly but surely declined in the last few years. The city of Buenos Aires in Argentina received several centimetres of snowfall in early July, and the last time it snowed in Buenos Aires was in 1918! Most of Australia experienced one of its coldest months of June this year. Several other locations in the Southern Hemisphere have experienced lower temperatures in the last few years. Further, the SSTs (sea surface temperatures) over world oceans are slowly declining since mid-1998, according to a recent world-wide analysis of ocean surface temperatures.

It is important to first develop an improved understanding of the earth's temperature trends and changes before committing millions (billions!) of dollars to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Unfortunately, the IPCC climate change documents do not provide an objective assessment of the earth's temperature trends and associated climate change


The Warmists' failings are cowardice and ignorance, not inaction

Virtually overnight, Portland (Maine) High School student Kristen Byrnes has become a climate change sensation and a role model for freethinking young people everywhere. As an extra credit project for an earth science course, she created "Ponder the Maunder", an attractive website designed to demonstrate "that the Earth's warming climate is a result of natural variance and that man-made changes in the warming climate in the last 40 years are negligible at best." After being highlighted in a number of articles in two local newspapers and on several prominent Web sites, "Ponder the Maunder" attracted over 500,000 hits in May.

Ms. Byrnes also demonstrates how simple it has become to effectively challenge today's climate change hysteria. To do so you need merely some elementary science knowledge and a modicum of courage. Amongst hundreds of western political leaders, only about five have had the strength of character to say in public what many must understand very well, namely that the global warming debate has been completely hijacked by anti-science propaganda. These brave souls are Czech President Vaclav Klaus, U.S. Senator James Inhofe, former U.K. Chancellor Sir Nigel Lawson, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder [I think the author meant Helmut Schmidt there] and former French Science Minister Claude Allegre.

Hats off to them! Not so long ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would have made the list too but a single-minded quest for a majority government has frightened him into green rhetoric as silly as David Suzuki's.

Amongst other things that you can discover from Kristen's and similar sites, but not from most governments, is that the late 20th century warming that ended in 1998 fell well within earlier natural climate change variations. Despite the worldwide expenditure of more than US$50 billion on research since 1990 and the efforts of tens of thousands of scientists worldwide, no human climate signal has yet been detected that is distinct from natural variation.

Whence cometh, then, public frenzy about global warming? Is it really possible that the United Nations, many scientists, scientific academies, government agencies, politicians, church leaders, entertainers and other public celebrities are all wrong? That they are all part of one giant conspiracy?

The short answer to both these questions is "yes", although the conspiracy involved is mostly unconscious and organized within the subgroups rather than across the whole (not surprisingly, one of the aims of Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection is to co-ordinate climate alarmism better across the many interest groups throughout the World). Nonetheless, the result has certainly affirmed the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For our western world has come to believe - REALLY believe - that dangerous global warming is occurring and that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the cause.

This is largely the result of a brilliant, if unethical, PR campaign in which environmental lobbyists have turned global warming into a moral rather than a science issue. And as a moral issue it resonates deeply with western Christian roots. Most of us have parents who, in the interests of controlling family rambunctiousness, nurtured from an early age their children's instinctive guilt feelings. Thus do parents unwittingly make the soil fertile for the opinions of their maturing children to be infested with vigorous weeds by the brilliant eco-salvationist marketing campaigns of organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.

Weed killer would, of course, quickly deal with the situation, but it too is prohibited by environmentalists. For the weed killer for unfounded science is a good understanding of real science methodology, an attribute that environmental organizations invariably fail to display. Equally damaging is the sheer ignorance of science and scientific method that is exhibited by the prominent personalities and politicians who now endlessly browbeat the public about global warming. Educated schoolchildren like Kristen may get it, but a profound lack of science understanding radiates from the West's political and business leaders. One of the many prices that Canada may soon pay for this failure is the widespread imposition of unnecessary, inefficient and ineffectual carbon taxes.

In the face of strong scientific evidence to the contrary, Mr. Gore and other environmental lobbyists have convinced western opinion that global warming is an urgent danger, and that doing something about it is a moral imperative. But the real morality of climate change is not concerned with trying to prevent it - which is unnecessary, futile and expensive - but rather with dealing with the all too human failings that alarmist hysteria has flushed into the open.

These moral failings are numerous. They include the role of individual scientists who deliberately put an alarmist spin on their results in order to maximize the chances of future funding; or the parallel behaviour by the managers of research centres whose funding depends upon there being a global warming problem. They include the spectacle of high-sounding environmental NGOs - in pursuit of membership subscriptions and political power - ignoring and distorting science results that do not suit their marketing agenda.

They include the behaviour of prestigious science academies that have, unbelievably, tried to suppress rather than foster scientific debate on climate change. They include the bureaucrats in government greenhouse gas agencies who are more interested in career advancement than in making known the fact that greenhouse theory has been tested, and failed. Particularly guilty are the many companies who shamelessly tout their solar, wind, ethanol and other alternative energy sources as a moral good, whereas in fact many of these are environmentally damaging and so expensive as to be entirely unable to compete in an open market without government subsidy and regulation.

Moral failings also include the vicious and libelous personal attacks made on independent scientists who try to present a balanced view on the climate change issue. The remorseless and shameless promulgation of environmental alarm stories by media in pursuit of greater daily sales and advertising revenues is another moral failing. And, finally, and most damaging are the actions of politicians who seek advantage from cynical exploitation of the public's fear of global warming - Harper's labeling "the fight against climate change [as] perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today" is a depressing example.

To step - as many climate alarmists and collaborators thus do - onto the slippery slope of "the ends justify the means" is to embark upon the moral decline that is now widely present in the global warming debate. A series of giant rock concerts, headlined by Madonna and under impresario Al Gore, was perhaps a not altogether inappropriate way of marking such a state of affairs.



The Lockwood paper was designed to rebut Durkin's "Great Global Warming Swindle" film. It is a rather confused paper -- acknowleging yet failing to account fully for the damping effect of the oceans, for instance -- but it is nonetheless valuable to climate atheists. The concession from a Greenie source that fluctuations in the output of the sun have driven climate change for all but the last 20 years (See the first sentence of the paper) really is invaluable. And the basic fact presented in the paper -- that solar output has in general been on the downturn in recent years -- is also amusing to see. Surely even a crazed Greenie mind must see that the sun's influence has not stopped and that reduced solar output will soon start COOLING the earth! Unprecedented July 2007 cold weather throughout the Southern hemisphere might even be the first sign that the cooling is happening. And the fact that warming plateaued in 1998 is also a good sign that we are moving into a cooling phase. As is so often the case, the Greenies have got the danger exactly backwards. See my post of 7.14.07 and a very detailed critique here for more on the Lockwood paper

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