Global Warming 2: Politics, Scandals, Mass Committees
February 6, 2007
Global Warming is a major threat to mankind. Hardly a day goes by without alarming news. Many a days go by without anyone decisively dealing with Global Warming. The issue boils down to: are we really going for mass suicide or will we reduce greenhouse gas emissions? The answer is not as simple as you or any sane person might think.
This post was updated 2/13 2007.
These essays pull the fundamentals out of the mass of material on this looming catastrophe. Much of the published materials consist of flavored, uninformed, biased, egotistical, foolish and dangerous opinions. I simply consolidate the actual, real evidence of what is happening to Earth. Truth is important. BS is not. Perhaps you will realize the sheer volume of double talk after reading this essay.
The latest UN IPCC report of February 2007 offers dire forecasts of the impact of Global Warming. That is a major subject of this post. Some leaked fragments of the next IPCC report “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, due in April of 2007, says that between 200 and 700 million more people could face food shortages by 2080, that 1.1 to 3.2 billion more people could suffer water shortages and that coastal flooding might eliminate another 7 million homes. The draft also mentions the Great Barrier Reef could become functionally extinct in less than 20 years. That’s just for starters. The IPCC reports so far underestimate the dangers of Global Warming. Take note.
Below are some introductions and a Table of Content. If you already know this material you can use the button below to skip to the main content. Use the TOC button or the Back button in your browser to return here. If you are new to the material, just keep going.
About the Essay and The Seven Parts
I split the essay into seven posts numbered 1 through 7 because of its size. Click here for more details.
- The first post examines the basic reasons why we ended up in this dreadful mess.
- The second post covers the political and UN scene.
- The third post deals with rising temperatures.
- The fourth post discloses secrets about the forecasting business.
- The fifth post explains the contribution of rising populations to our problem.
- The sixth post looks at ill effects caused, right now, by Global Warming.
- The seventh post provides a view of possible solutions.
There is an elaborate link and TOC (Table of Content) system to help you get around this mass of material. Use it to find what is of your most immediate interest. Just below, there is a TOC (Table of Content) button that lets you enter the navigation system. Enjoy.
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- GlobalWarming:1 – Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains
- This Post: GlobalWarming:2 – Politics, Scandals, Mass Committees
- The World of Reports and Mass Committees
- The Hustle of Politics and Economics
- GlobalWarming:3 – Few Like It Hot
- GlobalWarming:4 – Forecasting Disaster
- GlobalWarming:5 – Just Too Many Of Us
- GlobalWarming:6 – Terrifying Evidence
- GlobalWarming:7 – Cataclysmic Apocalypse?
Odes, Ballads, Songs and Arias
This essay contains real life mini stories about usually small effects of Global Warming. The aim is to make you consider reality, survival, pain and the future. I cite simple stories about how some of us (humans, animals, plants, oceans and everything else) are already in, or cause, deep trouble. Here are links to the various little puzzle pieces:
- Allegro to “There Ain’t No Global Warming”
- Adagio to the Krill
- Mountain Top Chorale
- Tiger in Your Tank Two Step
- Ballad of the Lemmings
- Ode to an Ancient Past
- Tale of the River
- Northeast Song
- Chant for the Confused
- Hymn to the North
- Parchment Míddjarn
- Anthem to the Oceans
- Aria for the Polar Bear
Images in this essay
The photos in this essay are a tribute to Robert Doisneau, French photographer of mostly Paris. Given the IPCC Report was finalized in Paris, I wanted a French theme. Who more than Robert Doisneau can do that? Well, maybe Henri Cartier-Bresson and a few others do it quite well too. But Doisneau has a great style, combining street photography with humor, symbolism and terrific juxtapositions. Not all photos are by Doisneau – the weather related and Arctic pictures are by others.
This blog, its design, text content (except quotes from others) and my own images and graphs are copyright © Leading Design, Inc 2006-2007. All Rights Reserved. I make absolutely no claims on images or quotes from other sources.
The UN and its Climate Reports make the Global Warming World go around. They published the fourth IPCC issue in February 2007. These reports lay the grounds for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission caps and carbon trading rules under the Kyoto Protocol. I’ll cover all of these elements in this Section. In addition, I’ll discuss the Stern Report from the UK. It is another important contribution to the knowledge about the looming killer of Global Warming.
But first a side track or so it might seem. Much of the Global Warming discussion deals with weird scientific data, hocus pocus forecasts and incomprehensible opinions. It’s easy to forget that the overheating climate impacts real people, right now. People suffer today, some more than others. So do entire ecosystems, the basis for life or no life at all. There is urgency about limiting these impacts now, not in 1, 3 or 10 years. That’s what the little odes, ballads and arias are all about.
Let’s start with yet another little story about the not earth shattering effects of Global Warming. That is, not earth shattering to those not affected but very real to those who are present. This is the Mountain Top Chorale about Bolivia’s one and only ski resort Chacaltaya (Source: here):
Bolivia’s die-hard skiers still boast about Chacaltaya, asking where else one can ski above the clouds at a dizzying 17,388 feet with a view of Lake Titicaca on the horizon. Where else, they ask, would the après-ski tradition include coca tea and soup made from the grain of the quinoa plant?
Their pride in the ski resort here, the only one in Bolivia, soon gives way to a grim acceptance that the glacier that once surrounded the lodge with copious amounts of snow and ice is melting fast.
Scientists say Bolivia’s skiing tradition could be extinguished when Chacaltaya’s modest ski run disappears forever in a few years. They say that glaciers are increasingly receding throughout the Andes, but that Chacaltaya’s melting has been especially quick. More than 80 percent of the glacier has been lost in 20 years.
“This is a tragedy I can hardly bear to witness,” said Franz Gutiérrez, 65, who has been a member of the Bolivian Andean Club and Chacaltaya since he was a teenager.
Chacaltaya, of course, never had the glamour of a Vail or a Zermatt. Founded in the late 1930s by a dreamer named Raúl Posnansky Lipmann, it can be reached only by a dirt road winding through the chaotic markets of El Alto, a sprawling city of slums above La Paz, and with nail-biting-inducing switchbacks that lack guardrails.
Its lift, which stopped working recently, was powered by an old automobile engine. Some skiers continue trekking 30 minutes to the only remaining ski slope to get a few runs in before Chacaltaya surrenders its claim to being the world’s highest ski area.
“There’s no place I’d rather be,” Mr. Martínez, 22, said, squinting as the sun beat down on the lonely slope. “At least Chacaltaya is ours.”
Is Global Warming real? To some it certainly is very real. Not in 5, 10 or 20 years and perhaps, maybe or possibly – it’s real right now. Probably no more than a few dozen people are impacted by the demise of Chacaltaya and you are likely not one of them. But rest assured something similar may happen to you much sooner than you think.
Culminating in late January and early February, 2,500 scientists from 133 countries contributed years of research to an updated UN IPCC report on Global Warming. Published in Paris, this particular report is the first in a series of four to be published over a year. It supposedly, but not quite, covers the latest data on, and evidence of, the threat of Global Warming.
The UN environment requires compromises from a mass of member states, opinions and interests. Global Warming is a controversial subject that may significantly impact individuals, interest groups, politicians, industries, countries and global partnerships. No wonder the attempt to get a global agreement is difficult and perhaps counter productive.
As I write this, the 21 page summary report was just released. There was doubt whether the report could be released on schedule. It was, following intense negotiations of the wording of 21 pages of conclusions. The net result is a report watered down to an average view rather than a real view. Many researchers agree the report is already out of date and Global Warming is even more a threat then pictured in this “smoking gun” report.
The summary IPCC report states that we face a real, severe, man made danger that may last the next thousand years. The hope is that the report will force the political end to take action reducing the disastrous effects of climate change. The actual full report will not be released till May 2007 since the watered down language has to be made consistent through the final report.
Within four hours of the UN report’s release, the Bush White House issued statements saying “the report, while being thoughtful, valuable and fully supported by the US, will not impact the US policy of voluntary, as opposed to mandatory, emissions cuts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) “. The UN IPCC Report will, in the US, be relegated by the Bush administration to a waste bin located out of sight to Congress and the American people. With luck, that strategy won’t work.
“Alarming reports” are not welcome in the White House. Here are two examples: November of 2006 saw the publishing of the UK Stern Report. This report urged immediate action to deal with Global Warming. It is based on solid research. The Stern report was immediately dumped in the Bush waste bin. December of 2006 saw another important report on a different issue: the Baker-Hamilton Report on the US “War on Terror”, or rather the “War on Iraq”. That report contained important conclusions but was dropped by George W. Bush into the same eternal waste bin.
Past UN Global Warming Reports and associated actions are equally ignored. The rule of mass committees by the thousands is admittedly a major impediment. UN ideas are not always sane, fair or productive. But some are at least somewhat useful, especially compared to ignoring the issues. They are the only game in town reaching across borders. But George W. Bush tip the scale way down to the extreme right.
Following is a review of the UN role and the national political and industrial reality of Global Warming. I’ll start with the Kyoto Protocol, the disastrous Nairobi conference and the Stern Report. I’ll comment on the February 2, 2007 IPCC Paris Report.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was born in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. This treaty did not set any mandatory limits on emissions of GHGs. Instead, it opened the door to subsequent Protocols to deal with limits.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 is such an agreement. It went into force in 2005 and requires signatories to reduce GHGs. Here is the original press release:
The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of GHGs by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (but note that, compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Protocol, this target represents a 29% cut).
The goal is to lower overall emissions of six GHGs – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs – calculated as an average over the five-year period of 2008-12. National targets range from 8% reductions for the European Union and some others to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.” (Wikipedia)
About 160+ countries have signed the Protocol. The Protocol splits the requirement of nations to reduce GHG emissions into two categories: “Annex 1″ countries, mostly industrialized, are required to reduce emissions by large amounts and “Non-Annex 1″ countries, mostly less developed, are subject to no reduction targets at all.
The two Annex 1 countries of the US and Australia signed but did not ratify the protocol. They do not recognize the Kyoto requirements. India and China as Non-Annex 1 countries are not required to control GHGs at all, in spite of being major polluters. China is the largest polluter after the United States. India’s emissions are sky-rocketing.
Together, the US, Australia, China and India produce 45% of the world’s CO2 emissions. None of this output is regulated by the Protocol.
The Annex 1 countries of EU 25 (25 countries making up the European Union as of 2004) contribute about 15%. Russia make up about 6%; Japan some 5% and Canada 2% of world emissions. These countries are obliged to comply with target GHG emission levels. Many of them already are very low level carbon polluters, making it close to impossible to meet the Kyoto reduction goals. All together, these countries cause some 28% of the emissions.
The remaining eight Annex 1 countries are New Zealand, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Croatia. All together, they make up 3.5% of emissions. Of that 3.5%; Turkey, Belarus, Romania and Ukraine stand for over 80%.
Of the 38 Annex 1 countries, 14 individually contribute less than .2% of world GHG emissions. Only 6 contribute more than 2%, individually, with the US, Russia and Japan in the top. Then there are 18 contributing between .2 and 2%. The combination of China and India – Non-Annex 1 countries – stand for 18.8% of the world total. 32 of 38 Annex 1 countries each emit less than 10% of the combination of China and India. 14 Annex 1 countries emit less than 1% of China/India.
The point: The majority of the Annex 1 countries are small with low emissions relative to the major Non-Annex 1 countries. Yet these small countries are mandated to assume the costs of reducing emissions, either as capital investment or by purchasing CERs (carbon credits) from, you guessed it; Non Annex 1 countries such as China or India.
The 120 remaining Non-Annex 1 countries account for 27% of the GHG pollution. They may emit as much GHGs as they please. The bottom line is that polluters get away with it – The US and Australia on legalities, China and India on, perhaps, superb negotiating skills. The rest of the Non-Annex 1 countries stand to make money using the carbon credit system. That includes Indonesia and Brazil, in spite of being major polluters due mainly to deforestation practices.
Trading CERs – carbon credits – is by now a major, very volatile industry emerging from the Kyoto Protocol. A CER is a note allowing the buyer to emit a specific amount of GHGs, usually expressed as tons of CO2 equivalent. It is typically priced at, depending on market conditions, around $20 per ton. CER prices fluctuate wildly – as low as $4 per ton – partly because of the market’s immaturity.
In EU, CER trading is handled by its Emissions Trading Scheme, operating like a specialized commodity market where the trading partners are companies, groups and nations involved in emissions. Its volume may top $100 billion within a few years. This market is a prototype of what might be installed world wide across the Kyoto Protocol countries. Whether or not the biggest and most necessary player – the US – will participate depends on a) the next President – Democrat or Republican – or b) whether a better solution than CERs is on the table. George W. Bush rejected both the Kyoto Protocol and the CER system.
The 38 “Annex 1″ countries with its groups and individual companies may purchase carbon credits (CERs) if they are unable or unwilling to reduce gases as dictated. Non-Annex 1 countries are generally in a position to sell CERs providing a potential source of huge revenues.
The distribution of capital in the form of CERs from a few industrial countries to the less developed world was deemed necessary to reduce GHGs. This is a highly inequitable system that may kill the whole process. You cannot split responsibility and accountability based on an arbitrary income level. There are better ways to finance the reduction in emissions – much more to come.
Here are sample statements on CERs from the Nairobi conference showing the open greed:
“…. A British merchant bank that has established the $1 billion Climate Change Capital fund that invests in carbon markets. She thinks there’s plenty of money to be made if the politicians and bureaucrats set stringent limits on how much carbon companies can emit.
“…. Every unit of carbon dioxide that goes out the window is a unit that could be sold.”
“…. Poor nations…. also are very eager to get their hands on funds that they believe will be generated when rich countries impose limits on CO2 emissions on themselves and begin trading emissions permits.
Less developed countries stand to benefit from selling their carbon credits. This may, for instance, involve manipulating deforestation practices. The result is the transfer of perhaps hundreds of billion dollars from mostly Western Europe, Canada and Japan to countries that actually emit large amount of GHGs. The money flow captures the attention of bankers, consultants and investment houses eager to become clearing houses, advisors and trading partners for a modest fee.
A Non-Annex 1 country that voluntarily reduces its emissions receives a carbon credit it can sell to any country, group or company that is not meeting its quota. Monitoring actual emission improvements in the less developed world is difficult. It almost impossible to verify whether a country has legitimate rights to CERs. The oil rich, polluting OPEC countries also look for a piece of the pie. So do high polluting countries from the former Soviet block, such as Belarus.
China is the second biggest emitter of GHGs, soon to be number one. Its uncontrolled emissions grow leaps and bounds as industrialization explodes and living standards follow. This country is the biggest benefactor of the CER trade. Should the (soon) biggest polluter gain the most from carbon reduction benefits?
There are many signs of very shady/corrupt deals involving local costs up to 100 times the market value for pollution control equipment. The huge CER and equipment profits are 1) shared by a few, now very rich, government officials, consultants, bankers and selected factory bosses and 2) not invested back into GHG control at all. Does that make sense?
The stories about India, OPEC and the former East Bloc are similar. This is not nickels and dimes, it concerns hundreds of $billion. Apparently Canada is by now sufficiently fed up to scrap its participation in CER trading. The US and Australia were never a part in it.
The CER concept is rotten to the core. The basic problem is that the Kyoto Protocol divides the World into a few target economies and many others wanting an easy pick. Greed and corruption are the drivers, not combating Global Warming.
There is no wonder many view the Kyoto Protocol as dead. Apart from the opposition of the US, Canada and Australia, many economists question the basic effectiveness of the Protocol. It is critiqued as inefficient, naively over-optimistic, inequitable and unlikely to significantly reduce Global Warming. That’s not mentioning corruption.
Cost benefit analysis generally shows it is more cost effective to stay out of the Kyoto Protocol than to comply. I’m not sure how such a cost benefit analysis deals with the possible extinction of mankind.
The Kyoto Protocol and its predecessor UNFCCC have done little to reduce carbon gases or temperatures. It resembles a herd of elephants mixed up with hyenas stumbling along in a glass shop. How will this thing make a difference?
What is the alternative? George W. Bush’s hands-off “voluntary industry policy”? I don’t think so. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate which the US does support? The countries involved do account for 50% of the GHG output. But the Partnership imposes no mandatory limits or incentives. It is up to each country to set its own policy. This, of course, brings on the wrath from the rest of the world for very good reasons. Global Warming is not a local or national problem; its scope is and must be world wide.
Hundreds of other organizations and agencies involve themselves in Global Warming. No one but the UN, to my knowledge, has sufficient clout to deal with a world wide issue. In the final analysis, the UN is the only organization that can act on this scale. The UN has made its choice and that is the Kyoto Protocol. Let’s hope Kyoto develops into a more effective instrument – very soon.
The 12th Conference on Global Warming finished its business in Nairobi, Kenya in late 2006. A follow up to the Kyoto Protocol, 189 countries participated in a 2 week session. The US attended as an observer and made it clear that any decisions by the Conference would be utterly ignored by the US. The conference ended, as expected, with no decisions and a no-urgency attitude, deep divisions and much disagreement. These conferences, sponsored by the UN, have little to do with seeking solutions. They are political showcases where some 6,000 attendees argue a lot, eat terrifically expensive meals, sneak off to a safari or two and contribute amazing amounts of rhetoric platitudes. Here is a sample:
The idea [using sulphur dioxide to fight GHGs] circulated at the UN climate change conference at Nairobi, where the reaction ranged from caution to concern about side effects. “Yes, by all means, you do all the research,” Indian climatologist Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN network on climate change, shrugged off the idea.
How is that for encouraging new ideas? The concerns are valid: SO2 does kill. However, the US and other countries pursue this and other bio engineering ideas. They are remote but possible solutions. Condescending platitudes as per above are not the way to solve a serious problem.
The apparent Conference goal was to determine/renegotiate who can pollute how much beyond 2012 and how to sell carbon credits at the maximum dollar price. None of the goals were achieved. Interestingly, 2012 and beyond goals are scheduled for establishment although none of the goals from Kyoto 2005 are even close to be realized. This is the $200 million conference involving around 800,000 man hours that results in nothing every year. It is the 12th annual conference since the 1992 Rio meeting. Assume the same cost each time: that means $2.4 billion and 9.6 million man hours have been spent on these non events so far. Is that wasteful?
U.N. talks on fighting climate change were grid locked on their final day on Friday as organizers faced criticism of scant progress in aiding Africa and slowing global warming.
Rich and poor countries are split at the 189-nation talks about how to extend the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol, the main U.N. plan for fighting global warming, beyond 2012 to help avert climate change that could batter the world economy.
…. Are deadlocked on two issues — a review of how effectively Kyoto is working and a proposal by Russia to allow new nations to sign up.
“The two big issues are still open,” said Yvo de Boer, the head of the U.N. Climate Secretariat.
…. The 6,000 bureaucrats at the talks had achieved too little to help the poor amid U.N. projections of more droughts, heat waves, famines and rising seas.
…. Many of the delegates were treating the meeting more as a holiday safari than a forum to confront what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called an “all-encompassing threat” in a speech to delegates on Wednesday.
…. But poorer states say the rich must continue to take the lead and President George W. Bush says he has no plans to rejoin Kyoto — a scheme he views as an economic straitjacket.
Some backers of Kyoto fear that Moscow is mainly seeking to help former communist states to win big credits under Kyoto since their emissions have fallen sharply from 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
New York Times:
…. The delegates could not agree on a number of issues, especially how to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol, which requires cuts in emissions by most industrialized countries but expires in 2012.
Two persistent problems were American reluctance to agree to any mandatory emissions limits and increased stubbornness by China and India, two of the world’s fastest-growing polluters, which face no penalties under the Kyoto agreement for all the heat-trapping gases they pump into the atmosphere.
Delegates from outside the United States expressed growing frustration with the Bush administration’s environmental policy, saying that without clear signals from the world’s largest source of air pollution, other countries would hesitate to move ahead.
Many African communities are already feeling the effects of a shifting climate, from increased droughts to more desertification to spreading malaria, one of the continent’s biggest killers.
Though delegates began to discuss the ins and outs of an adaptation fund to aid developing nations, key decisions for the fund were postponed until next year. World Bank economists estimate that it will cost billions of dollars to help the developing world deal with climate change, but right now the adaptation fund stands at only $3 million.
In a sign of how incremental the progress was, conference organizers said one of the biggest achievements this year was agreeing to review the Kyoto Protocol next year.
Does this make you mad? Do you think effective international cooperation is possible? Does it look like some turn the Kyoto Protocol into a game of maximizing CER revenue? What about all the delays “till next year”? How and why will 6,000 people from almost 200 nations agree on anything? Is any of the above likely to reduce GHG concentrations as is desperately needed NOW to save this sorry planet?
The Good Part: The report is out with sufficient support from the participants and contributors. That is a miracle. The immediate world reaction pronounces it a powerful argument for action. It is viewed as grim and answers what people believe to be a central question: the problem is caused by man. The report states Global Warming will impact the planet for a very long period of time. It claims we already are in a feedback loop that is unstoppable. The report contains many excellent points.
The Ugly Part: This first report is the easy part. It only deals with the problem, not with the solution. Dealing with solutions is truly urgent and, as you will see, there is little agreement on this part. The report clearly understates the seriousness of what is happening although it raises more red flags than the preceding three go a rounds did. It may raise the red flags, but the herd is still wallowing around without aim. Other reports later this year will hopefully address the solutions and other issues.
Surprises: To me, none. To the world, it is perhaps bolder than expected. It emphasizes rising ocean levels more than I expected. That is a valid point but not the primary one in my mind. Specifics about eco systems, in particular those of mankind, are of more immediate concern.
Where is the Data? It would be nice if the UN published the data on which the report is based sooner rather than later. Many people want to see the data to establish their own opinions. That includes me. Much data and research are already published. It’s appropriate to get a consolidated view. For instance, what happened to the infamous hockey stick temperature chart?
What is EPA Up To? The US involvement is just strange. In Nairobi, the US observers preached the Bush agenda to the frustration of the rest of the world. In this case, at least some in the US delegation supported the document, made constructive contributions and, rumored, suggested even stronger language than the compromises. Then, the Bush Administration immediately contradicts its own representatives while being accused in Congress hearings of consistently misleading the American people. You tell me.
What about the opposition? The generic, small time non believers are still alive and kicking. The report actually addresses some of their more valid concerns in a slightly defensive manner. But the real opposition is not the blog writers or some Idaho newspaper columnist. It turns out that while almost all agree the report is terrifically fantastic, no one seems to agree on what to do except push the same old private agendas:
- Take Jacques Chirac, President of France, who hosted the meeting in Paris. He, on the last day, promoted his own idea to create a new agency handling Global Warming in a manner more to his liking – partly a forum to insult the US, it seems. 45 nations, such as Algeria, Ecuador, Cambodia, Vanuatu, Seychelles, Gabon and Burundi apparently responded favorably to his proposal although its mission remains completely unclear. The UN responded that organizational changes are less important than actual actions.
- The Italian PM wants urgent global carbon taxes and promotes his own ideas of a new UN organization for Global Warming (see point above).
- Then, we have the Bush, President of the US, rejection of everything the meeting accomplished. Of course, the US boycotted the Chirac new agency idea as fast as it dumped the report.
- The new Conservative PM of Sweden declared that Swedish emissions are already so tiny that no further action was required but offered to send its compliance money to China.
- German Chancellor Merkel’s government, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has threatened to block an EU attempt to impose a general emission reduction on the auto sector, insisting the size of cars must be taken into consideration.
- EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called on Germany — Europe’s largest economy — to put more efforts behind its promises to combat climate change, saying the nation had failed so far to take a leading role in fighting global warming.
- The Australian Ecology Minister stated that the Report’s science is important but does not add anything new [to convince Australia to comply with mandatory emission ceilings].
- China responded to the IPCC report by defending their emissions: “China has low per capita emissions and that developed countries must take responsibility for the damage they create.”; “As a developing country with a rapidly growing economy and a big population, to use clean energy would need a lot of money.”; China declined to say whether Beijing would be willing to place caps on its own emissions.
- The Indian government is not worried as of February 3, 2007. “It is too premature to talk of policy implications based on this report,” said Prodipto Ghosh, secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests. He said the report has to go through several steps of scientific peer review before being translated into policy.
- “To avert the catastrophic effects of continued global warming, such as desertification of the Amazon rain forest, all countries both rich and poor must do a part”, Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva said. But then: “It is not pertinent to place environmental concerns in opposition to economic development and vice-versa.”.
- Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, allegedly sent a letter offering $10,000 to scientists and economists to “undermine” the panel’s report. Mr. Green complains he never used the word “undermine”. Is this a WarmingGate deal? Mysteries and scandals abound.
- Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the U.N. report was written and edited by government officials: “This is a political document, not a scientific report, and it is a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain.”
Senator Inhole, R-Okla., always amazes me. Remember Baghdad Bob? He also amazed and amused me in a tragic manner. Then we have Le Président Glorieux Chirac who forgets that his own country is not complying with the emission requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. The French excuse is its heavy investment in nuclear energy which does not emit GHGs.
To the French diversion, add the documented self interest, doubts, opinions and excuses of Sweden, Germany, Italy, the US, China, India, Australia, Brazil and, when it comes right down to it, probably most others. All of these sentiments are from post the IPCC report release of February 2, 2007. Where is the back bone?
The objections to taking action really say “We are not emitting very much compared to So-and-so and therefore do not need to, or cannot, reduce our miniscule emissions”. That is a completely flawed argument. Emission caps address specific carbon intensive practices and industries. They do not punish other parts of the economies, whether based on nuclear energy in France or the modest lives of billions of Chinese or Indian farmers. If the targets do affect complying areas of the national economies, then they should be corrected. If there are no targets for non-compliant sectors, then there should be.
There is no difference between dirty coal burning power plants in China, excessive use of air conditioners in the US, disastrous energy developments in Russia or the Arctic, gas guzzling Autobahn car races in Germany or forestry practices in Indonesia. These practices all emit GHGs which can be reduced below set targets. All should be subject to similar, equitable rules. Many practices are, or are intended to be, capped in Annex 1 countries, none are in Non Annex 1 countries.
Here are, word for unchanged word, the summary statements from the IPCC 2007 Summary Report, Part 1. I excluded references, graphs and the many supporting points. The summary boils down to a page:
Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land-use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture.
The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the Third Assessment Report (TAR), leading to very high confidence7 that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W m-2.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.
Some aspects of climate have not been observed to change.
Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years. The last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period (about 125,000 years ago), reductions in polar ice volume led to 4 to 6 metres of sea level rise.
Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
Analysis of climate models together with constraints from observations enables an assessed likely range to be given for climate sensitivity for the first time and provides increased confidence in the understanding of the climate system response to radiative forcing.
For the next two decades a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected.
Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.
There is now higher confidence in projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including changes in wind patterns, precipitation, and some aspects of extremes and of ice.
Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized.
I see no reason to argue with any of these points. My own approach is a bit more down to Earth – I avoid the complex model analysis and concentrate on proven, actual and current events. But I’m sure the above, together with the Stern Report below, represents the best analysis currently available.
George W. Bush claims he has spent $29 billion on “climate change” research, support and technology. Of that, apparently $8 billion went to “climate change” research. George, would you please share that research. I am not able to find the $8 billion material on which you base your mysterious decisions.
In November of 2006, Sir Nicholas Stern, famed economist and previous chief economist at the World Bank, published a 700 page Report on Global Warming. Here is UK PM Tony Blair on the report: “The world cannot wait before tackling climate change”; “Scientific evidence of Global Warming is overwhelming and its consequences disastrous”. The likely next UK PM, Gordon Brown, claimed: “the UK would lead the international response to tackle climate change”. Let’s hope so – the US sure will not do it unless the now-in-some-power Democrats surprise us.
Here are the Summary and Conclusions of the report. I’ve exercised considerable freedom by shortening down the text and rearranging it for clarity. I highlighted what I consider key points. The full 700 page report is available here,
……The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response.….. the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year…… the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more…… costs of action can be limited to around 1% of global GDP.
…..The costs of extreme weather, including floods, droughts and storms, are already rising ….. It is no longer possible to prevent the climate change that will take place over the next two to three decades. ….. Stabilization requires that annual emissions be brought down to more than 80% below current levels……
Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms…… could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.
….. In the longer term, there would be more than a 50% chance that the temperature rise would exceed 5°C. This rise would be very dangerous indeed; it is equivalent to the change in average temperatures from the last ice age to today. Such a radical change in the physical geography of the world must lead to major changes in the human geography – where people live and how they live their lives.
….. Emissions can be cut through increased energy efficiency, changes in demand, and through adoption of clean power, heat and transport technologies. The power sector around the world would need to be at least 60% decarbonised by 2050.…. With strong, deliberate policy choices, it is possible to reduce emissions in both developed and developing economies on the scale necessary for stabilization in the required range while continuing to grow.
….. Action on climate change will also create significant business opportunities, as new markets are created in low-carbon energy technologies and other low-carbon goods and services. These markets could grow to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and employment in these sectors will expand accordingly.
The report states that an investment of an annual 1% of GDP will fix the problem. That is close to what the Western world promised as aid to the less developed countries starting about 40 years ago. No industrial country has ever lived up to that standard on a sustained basis. The US contributes less than any other Western country: 0.14%. Overall aid is short hundreds of trillions of dollars. Further, it is collapsing in frustration. Few, if any, nation will devote 1% of GDP to a single issue such as Global Warming which carries no short term feel-good reward.
On the other hand, the cost of not investing the 1% may be as high as 5% of annual GDP as the cost of Global Warming escalates. If true, this would make the 1% investment very attractive. Unfortunately, that argument probably is hard to accept for countries with no obligation to invest at all and who actually make money on CERs under the present agreement. Here again is the imbalance and inequity of dividing the world in two camps – a huge block with no obligations and a much smaller one carrying the whole burden.
I wonder how Sir Nicholas managed to stomach politeness such as this: “China is among those with the most ambitious policies that will reduce GHG emissions.” China will be the world’s largest polluter in less than 3 years. Their international pollution policy statement is “To hell with you”.
Somewhat transparently, the report announces there is money for every one in Global Warming. Bring on new technology and make billions. That is most likely true. Lots of people will make big bucks on the notion of saving, successfully or not, mankind. Why not?
The report discusses the human cost of Global Warming if the economic prevention fails. The report details many very nasty, future disasters. These scenarios are often even more severe and attention grabbing than those of other studies.
The report’s solutions are, in parts, down to earth, impressive, realistic, vague, political, polite, insufficient and neither practical, nor equitable. Here they are in summary form, ad verbatim:
Key elements of future international frameworks should include:
Emissions trading: Expanding and linking the growing number of emissions trading schemes around the world is a powerful way to promote cost-effective reductions in emissions and to bring forward action in developing countries: strong targets in rich countries could drive flows amounting to tens of billions of dollars each year to support the transition to low-carbon development paths.
Technology cooperation: Informal co-ordination as well as formal agreements can boost the effectiveness of investments in innovation around the world. Globally, support for energy R&D should at least double, and support for the deployment of new low-carbon technologies should increase up to five-fold. International cooperation on product standards is a powerful way to boost energy efficiency.
Action to reduce deforestation: The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce emissions; large scale international pilot programs to explore the best ways to do this could get underway very quickly.
Adaptation: The poorest countries are most vulnerable to climate change. It is essential that climate change be fully integrated into development policy, and that rich countries honor their pledges to increase support through overseas development assistance. International funding should also support improved regional information on climate change impacts, and research into new crop varieties that will be more resilient to drought and flood.
The report singles out CER trading as a powerful way to promote reductions in emissions. It seems to me it is the other way around. A few, relatively small countries – albeit fairly rich – are forced to essentially carry the cost of the world’s obligation to reduce emissions. The EU, Canada and Japan may foot the bill for the rest of the world, including new, cynical claims from the former East Bloc countries and OPEC. Is that practical, equitable or sustainable?
The CER market is crippled as there is no reason for the US, Australia, India or China to buy CERs. Perhaps India will join China selling CERs as they have a right to do, but the outcry about such cynicism may be prohibitive at some point. The CERs seem to substitute for the failed Foreign Aid. With the US out of the flow – the largest financial market in the world – CERs are dealt a real knock-out punch.
Ending deforestation is one major suggestion. Unfortunately, most deforestation takes place in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia with no obligation to do anything at all. Deforestation provides these countries with short term profits that they likely won’t give up. If they do curb deforestation to some degree, then they receive CERs that can be sold at a high profit to countries that do not deforest.
Stern also makes the case for old fashioned Foreign Aid. I’ve covered that subject already – such aid has never lived up to its agreed goals and is in sharp decline. That will not change, especially considering the CERs, aimed at the same goals. This is a plainly naive recommendation that will go nowhere.
The only thing left of the recommendations is “informal technical exchange”. I don’t know how many governments will earmark meaningful funds to such an effort. I believe the scientific community will do its damndest to make this exchange happen. They are hopefully the ones who 1) will come up with real solutions and 2) understand the urgency and 3) are not bogged down in the prevailing political mess.
In spite of my reservations, The Stern Report is an important landmark document. It carries authority in some countries and may, by its clout, force some political action. The US unfortunately rejected the report out of hand.
- The report is a curious mix combining apocalyptic, attention grabbing forecasts and opinions with optimistic, attention getting solutions. It contains a mass of real and unreal analysis but still leaves stones unturned.
- It is a political report making no one accountable: both China and the US really should be exposed but aren’t. It ignores sensitive issues such as: how can some countries receive CERs for resale based on unsubstantiated claims of pollution progress? Who are the cops?
- The recommendations are hardly earth shattering. The burden of solving the problem of the world still rests with a few scientists and even fewer countries. God help Canada, Japan and the EU – there are some wolves out there.
As the political games progress and issues are studied over and over, we are running out of time. We may be out of time already.
- The Kyoto Protocol, CERs and the Nairobi Conference: The Kyoto Protocol is valuable because it is the only international treaty in effect. It is unworkable because of its distinction between those that face mandatory restrictions and those that do not. Perhaps this is partly explained by the passing of time – in 1992 and, less so, 1997, several of the world’s fastest growing economies were still “less developed”. Today, some of those countries are major economic powers. That means the CER system is inefficient and inequitable. The rejection of the US spells another death sentence to the Protocol in its current form. The chaos of the Nairobi Conference confirms just how unworkable the current format is.
- The 2007 IPCC Report and the 2006 Stern Report: Both reports provide valuable insights. Neither, at the present time, solves the Global Warming problem. The IPCC at this time does not even try – it is simply a restatement of the problem. The Stern Report falls short because, mostly, George W. Bush dumped it. The reactions by politicians to these reports are sadly telling. Too many sabotage the insights in subtle or not so subtle ways. Many major countries are already on record with private agendas contradicting the need for immediate positive actions. The reports did not galvanize efforts to save this sorry planet from an unspeakable future.
What are the politics of Global Warming? Does Global Warming impact growth? Does it affect the stock market, punishing certain industries? Was the cost of Hurricane Katrina exaggerated because the hurricane got stronger due to the warmer water? Is the climate noticeably warmer and if so, are our heating bills lower or are the air conditioners on more often? Are companies going out of business because they cannot meet the cost of tougher emission standards? What is the economic impact of carbon taxes and/or carbon credits?
These questions are mostly unanswerable. The real effects of Global Warming lie in the future. There is no history to study. The Kyoto Protocol went on stream only about two years ago and its effectiveness is either not measurable or nonexistent.
To get some better ideas, let’s look at the approach of a few specific industries, then the policies of major governments around the world.
A recent BBC report discusses the fears of the insurance industry:
“Europe’s leading insurance companies are now so worried by Global Warming, they are likely to use their financial muscle to get governments and the world’s oil companies to do more to cut GHG emissions.
A GHG conference organized by the re insurer, Swiss Re, has been discussing a report backed by nearly 300 financial institutions, which argued that Global Warming now poses a “serious threat” to the world economy.”
Another recent view from the US says:
Insurance companies are becoming leading business protagonists in the assault on global warming. It’s the second-largest industry in the world in assets, and has a direct link to most homeowners and businesses.
It insures coal-fired power plants as well as wind farms, so it can influence the power industry’s cost structure. With their financial muscle, insurers could help advance the use of new financial instruments designed to allow companies to trade greenhouse-gas emissions in the same way that commodities are bought and sold.
Insurers are scared and take some actions to protect themselves. That’s good news if they can muscle enough clout to force action by others as well. But the trend is that more and more industries realize Global Warming is real and actions are required to protect their stakeholders. One specific example is the Swedish Vattenfall AB that has presented a well received proposal on how to reduce emissions globally in an equitable manner.
The same BBC report as quoted above continues to look at the oil industry:
Gordon Sawyer, head of Exxon’s public affairs in Britain, told World Business Review there continued to be “well documented gaps in the climate science”, but nonetheless Exxon took “the risk of climate change seriously”.
Mr. Sawyer denies that the Green Peace boycott is working and says his investors would “look through” attempts to attack Exxon’s image, and recognize that Exxon Mobil was “a forward-looking, technology-based company committed to meeting the growing energy requirements of the global economy in a responsible way.”
Here is the BP view on the Kyoto Protocol:
Global Warming is real and needs to be addressed now. Rather than bash or mourn the defunct Kyoto Protocol, we should start taking the small steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions today that can make a big difference down the road.
The private sector already understands this, and its efforts will be crucial in improving fossil fuel efficiency and developing alternative sources of energy. To harness business potential, however, governments in the developed world must create incentives, improve scientific research, and forge international partnerships.
Apparently the solution is to leave the private sector alone but provide subsidies so it can be comfortably left alone. Is this twisted hypocrisy, anyone? Does it suggest arrogance?
The Corporate world is less than enthusiastic about having to spend money to reduce their emissions or, for that matter, spend money on CERs if they do not or can not reduce emissions on schedule. Power plants, transportation (cars, trucks, ships, railroads and air planes) plus deforestation and agriculture are the major polluting industries.
Did you notice this message from the Sakhalin II Partnership, a joint $22-28 billion energy development on Russia’s East coast involving Gazprom (50%), Shell (27.5% and the horrifying technical leadership), Mitsui (12.5%) and Mitsubishi (10%). In their words:
Sakhalin II is one of the biggest new energy developments in the world. It is a strategic long-term investment for Russia and the shareholders. The size of the project, the remote location and harsh conditions make it hugely challenging.
The partnership is proud of how it listens to the stakeholders and learns, working with experts and the community, how to reduce environmental impacts and create benefits for the local community.
The Sakhalin Island’s development and a rapid influx of workers during construction must be considered. The indigenous people’s way of life needs to be protected. The summer feeding grounds of 100 endangered whales are nearby, so we must work to avoid harm to them. Construction of the onshore pipeline, which crosses salmon spawning rivers, must be carefully managed.
Many of Sakhalin Island’s 3,300 indigenous people lead a traditional way of life based on fishing, hunting and reindeer herding. Settlement of the Island and development over many generations has influenced their lifestyle. Large-scale energy production poses new challenges.
Sakhalin Energy’s onshore pipelines will cross more than 1,000 rivers or streams. These include approximately 180 rivers that are potentially environmentally sensitive.
But as you might expect, there is another side to this massive complex in a sensitive area, as told straight from Wikipedia:
The project has been dogged by environmental and social criticism and opposition from numerous environmental groups including Sakhalin Environment Watch, World Wide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth, Bankwatch, Pacific Environment, IUCN, as well as from residents of Sakhalin and independent scientists.
One key concern is that the project, the NGO’s [Non Governmental Organizations] argue referring to an International Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) report on Sakhalin II project impacts to the critically endangered Western Gray Whale, will push the world’s last 100 or so western pacific grey whales into extinction.
Other concerns are that the project will destroy the marine environment, threaten the livelihood of tens of thousands of fishermen, destroy the key salmon fishing area off the island by dumping one million tons of dredging spoil waste into the sea, and finally imply a permanent threat of a large oil spill in the Okhotsk and Japanese seas.
The key NGOs demands in this regard are:
- Pipeline crossings across all spawning rivers and streams on Sakhalin Island must be made with a bridge over the river, on specially designed suspension systems, to avoid damage to the streambed and water channels.
- The new proposed platform for the Piltun-Astokhskoye field for Sakhalin-2 Phase 2 must be moved at least 12 nautical miles> from shore in order to ensure that the platform does not harm the habitat of the critically endangered western grey whale.
- Discharge of any wastes into Aniva Bay is categorically impermissible.
- Shell, Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Gazprom, must take full financial liability for any oil spill within Russia (including Aniva Bay and the La Peruse strait) from tankers and compensate all expenses for liquidating and cleaning polluted areas, and pay compensation to injured people. The international financial institutions should financially guarantee that the clean up funding and compensation is available after the accident.
Criticism has also come from other sides. In 2003, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a potential financier of the project deemed Sakhalin-II ‘unfit for purpose’ due to environmental concerns. The project, many argued, was in direct violation of the Equator Principles, a set of voluntarily guidelines adopted by the world’s leading banks, and a number of Equator Principles banks have already indicated that they will not fund Sakhalin II.
In September 2006, Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources, called for construction work to be halted and threatened to revoke environmental authorization for Sakhalin II pipeline installation. The grounds given for the possible revocation included alleged negligent installation work, safety breaches and violation of the pipeline route plan. Mitvol alleged that damage already caused to the environment would cost $50 billion to repair. The move was supported by President Putin, said to be furious that the estimated project cost had doubled to $20 billion.
So what does tree hugging, sick salmon, politics, huge financing, greed and, believe it or not, concerns about local HIV/AIDS and prostitution have to do with our subject? Here: Sakhalin II will produce 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime. To that, add major methane leakage and the environmental damage. Then the final use of the Sakhalin oil and gas results in additional, major emissions. Perhaps the total bill from this single development is around 3 billion tons of GHGs. Bad things often lead to more bad things. Consider that although Sakhalin II is a very large development, it is by no means the only one. These developments aim at the opposite of what must happen – reductions in GHGs.
Moving on, here are some points from a January 2007 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists on how ExxonMobil is actively sabotaging the efforts to control Global Warming using disinformation similar to that used by the tobacco industry. The report is available from the UCS web site. Here is a brief extract from the summary:
In an effort to deceive the public about the reality of global warming, ExxonMobil has underwritten the most sophisticated and most successful disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry misled the public about the scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. As this report documents, the two disinformation campaigns are strikingly similar. ExxonMobil has drawn upon the tactics and even some of the organizations and actors involved in the callous disinformation campaign the tobacco industry waged for 40 years. Like the tobacco industry, ExxonMobil has:
- Manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence.
- Adopted a strategy of information laundering by using seemingly independent front organizations to publicly further its desired message and thereby confuse the public.
- Promoted scientific spokespeople who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings or cherry-pick facts in their attempts to persuade the media and the public that there is still serious debate among scientists that burning fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and that human-caused warming will have serious consequences.
- Attempted to shift the focus away from meaningful action on global warming with misleading charges about the need for “sound science.”
- Used its extraordinary access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming.
ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded corporation, doesn’t want you to know the facts about global warming. The company vehemently opposes any governmental regulation that would require significantly expanded investments in clean energy technologies or reductions in global warming emissions.
So here you are: 1) Yield enormous power, 2) Invent false information, 3) Lobby a friendly Government – White House and Congress, 4) Misinform the public, 5) Make tons of money, 6) Emit GHGs and 7) Kill us all. Exxon is the 6th largest emitter of CO2, falling in right between India and Germany. That’s how you become the most profitable company ever.
The ExxonMobil net income in the 3rd quarter of 2006 was $10.5 billion (in three months). That exceeds the annual Gross Domestic Product of several small countries. Its revenues were $100 billion in three months, more than the annual GDP of all but 38 countries in this world.
ExxonMobil profits for the full year of 2006 were $39.5 billion, topping 2005 profits of $36.1 billion by 9%. 2006 full year revenues were $378 billion. As a comparison: tiny Microsoft only realized revenues of $50 billion and profits around $15 billion.
ExxonMobil is not alone in obscene profits. Shell reported a late 2006 net income of $7 billion, BP $6.2 billion, ConocoPhillips $3.9 billion and ChevronTexaco $5 billion. Those add up to $32.6 billion in 3 months. Let’s extrapolate the amount to a full year of $130 billion.
That $130 billion could pay my rent for the next 10 million years. It would pay my gas bill for a little field trip of 1 trillion miles taking me around the world 250 million times. Hopefully I got my math right: large numbers like that are very hard to work with which must be why Rex Tillerson (Exxon CEO) made about $6.6 million in 2005 – actually quite modest in those circles. Even so, that would pay my rent for the next 500 years…. you get the idea.
Here is a little fairy tale about incredible profits and accountability.
Let’s consider $130 billion – one year of major oil company profits. First of all, extrapolating the GHG emissions would put the four companies just below China making them the 3rd largest GHG emitter in the world. I suppose they could make mega $$ on cleaning up their act, then trading CERs.
Second, those profits would pay 1/3 of the costs of solving the Global Warming problem, using assumptions from the Stern Report. That would be helpful.
Thirdly, the $130 billion a year would pay for 6.5 million hybrid cars a year to replace gas-only private cars. Consider a more than three times as good gas mileage and a US car stock of 140 million units. Run through some rough and somewhat biased calculations. In 10 years we might save around 50% on US gas consumption. Assume the same kind of savings in the rest of the transportation sector. That would cut almost a billion tons of CO2 emissions a year in the US alone. Extrapolate that worldwide, over the ten years and across sectors: you look at a reduction in CO2 emissions of 3.5 trillion tons of CO2. Oh boy.
Saving 50% on the gas bill in 10 years beats the heck out of Bush’s State of The Union Address meekly presented tale of saving 20% in 10 years.
Of course, this is a fairy tale and the numbers are not really true. Both mine and Bush’s numbers are wrong by ignoring the emission cost of increasing the gas mileage, whether it is electricity to recharge batteries (me) or energy, including fertilizers, needed to produce ethanol (Bush).
It does show that existing technology, even in its infancy, can make a difference. Even Bush agrees with that, in fact it is his main point. It also shows what those measly oil company profits could do for the better of all of us.
But isn’t it fun to fantasize a bit? Yet, even the power industry is wakening up, realizing they are in danger. Duke Energy in the US and Vattenfall AB in Sweden are leading the way. The US Climate Action Partnership consists of ten very large US companies (Duke is one) urging George W. Bush to take action (on their terms) on Global Warming. They suggest, among other initiatives, setting GHG emission targets and establishing a national carbon market.
George W. Bush’s do-nothing attitude about global warming is offset by furious world leaders, disappointed and fed-up domestic voters, a Democratic Congress, the maddening Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s politically expedient pro-green stand and the emerging trend of states bypassing Bush to make their own international climate deals. Add hostile Democratic politicians joined by panicky Republicans and – believe it or not – Evangelists, a few thousand angry bloggers and a host of very grateful journalists, smelling good fortunes, to complete the pressure on an isolated, glum White House. Even Bush Sr. is disgusted.
The hope for change in the US is that 70% of ordinary Americans consider there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming. 41% claim it is a “serious problem”. Democrats are more than twice as concerned about the climate as Republicans. Add the dismal, but deserved, poll ratings of Bush’s performance – in the 20s – and you got a real political power keg smoking away.
Perhaps the US shift in power to the Democrats will result in some long overdue attention to global warming, international leadership, respect and cooperation. The US has vast resources sorely needed for the survival of mankind. Those resources should not be wasted on insane wars and stubborn, politically expedient, short term self interest. Do Democrats have the political will and strength to do the right things? We certainly will find out and make our judgments.
The bad news is that only 19% of Americans are truly concerned about global warming from a personal stand point. That compares to 66% in Japan, 65% in India, 51% in Spain, 46% in France, 45% in Nigeria and 41% in Turkey. 47% of Americans feel Global Warming is of no or little concern to them personally, the worst record in the major countries. This is the classic syndrome – Yeah, it’s a problem, but it ain’t my problem. No doubt Bush finds relief in such views.
The policy of the US, or George W. Bush personally, is clear. Refuse the notion that the US is responsible for Global Warming in any significant manner. Ignore international treaties (UN programs) and domestic laws (the Clean Air Act). Do not burden the economy (the energy and transportation industry) with mandatory caps. Do not allow cap and trade programs for GHGs – opposite of the way other pollutants are treated. Encourage (but do not pay for) a few technology options such as ethanol content in gas. Drill for more domestic oil and mine for more coal to reduce the dependence on evil terrorist states.
No modestly insightful person can agree with this pointless policy. With the partial exception of Australia, no other industrial country pursues similar ideas. All have some accountability program in place. Why disagree when there is no point or reason?
The US, as the biggest polluter and with the mightiest power and purse, is vital to any Global Warming solution. Without the US taking action, the actions of others are secondary. Here is one opinion of George W. Bush’s US policy, or rather, the lack of a credible policy:
The Bush administration has grudgingly conceded that Global Warming poses a significant and costly threat to the United States, as scientists have acknowledged for some time. Yet this White House continues to reject action to reduce Global Warming pollution.
It has refused to require cuts in heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution, significantly raise fuel economy requirements, or hold companies accountable for improving their energy efficiency and using wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. As these analyses show, the Bush administration’s tired calls for still more study and voluntary pollution cuts won’t get the job done.
The federal government has for years tried to curb Global Warming pollution by asking corporate polluters to voluntarily cut emissions. The evidence is in — voluntary emissions cuts are not sufficient. Too few companies take part in these initiatives; even power companies — the leading participants — mostly consent only to business-as-usual actions that make no real impact on rising emissions trends.
Only binding limits on Global Warming pollution will create the market structure needed to push competitive businesses beyond the cosmetic and into taking meaningful steps to reduce Global Warming pollution.
The bottom line is that George W. Bush opposes any real action on Global Warming. He pays lip service to the issue but will veto any legislation and refuse any policy to mandate reductions in US emissions of GHGs. The January 2007 State of the Union Address contained a few meek proposals to pacify the Democrats and others around the world. He did not succeed and faces enormous pressure to accept the truth and, gasp, the responsibility that the world expects from the biggest polluter on Earth. But he is not known for accepting reality, truth or to listen to rational views.
Even the EPA scientists are in revolt against Bush. The EPA representatives to the Paris negotiations on the UN Climate Report are, as opposed to earlier, viewed as “constructive” participants. That means these individuals approve strong wording in the report. The Bush administration has made it clear they do not approve. The hands-off policy remains in full effect.
Here is a piece of news that came in from Bloomberg late November 2006:
Nobel Laureates Pushing Bush to Act on Global Warming
[Nov 20 2006] Environmentalists concerned about global warming want the U.S. Supreme Court to turn up the heat on President George W. Bush.
The justices, taking their first plunge into the debate over emissions that scientists blame for increasing the Earth’s temperature, hear arguments Nov. 29 in a case brought by conservation groups and 12 states. Their goal is to force Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency to regulate so-called greenhouse- gas emissions from new cars and trucks.
Bush argues that the government needs more scientific evidence before it acts against such emissions. A victory for environmentalists in the case, which may scramble the court’s usual ideological lineup, would “light a fire” under the administration, says Carol Browner, who headed the EPA under President Bill Clinton.
Below is an extract from a letter to George W. Bush from Senators Boxer, Binganam and Lieberman:
[Nov 15, 2006] As incoming Chairs of three important Senate Committees on global warming, we seek your commitment to work with the new Congress to pass meaningful climate change legislation in 2007. The U.S. must move quickly to adopt economy-wide constraints on domestic GHG emissions and then work with the international community to forge an effective and equitable global agreement.
Scientists are now warning that we may be reaching a “tipping point” beyond which it will be extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
The recent elections have signaled a need to change direction in many areas, including global warming. If we are to leave our children a world that resembles the earth we inherited, we must act now to address GHG emissions.
The issue is that the US EPA refuses to act on its responsibility to impose mandatory limits on CO2 emissions as regulated in the Clean Air Act. A case is brought before the US Supreme Court by 11 states and a few cities. The case goes back to 1999 and was heard before the Supreme Court in late November 2006. Transcripts from the hearing reveal total confusion, misunderstandings and an apparent unwillingness by the court to take on such a “complex issue”.
Under previous administrations [Clinton] the EPA did enforce these very same regulations [on CO2]. Now [under George W. Bush] they are saying they aren’t required to use this authority.
“The Supreme Court’s first public discussion of global warming was, in large part, an inquiry into the opportunity — or lack of it — to bring a lawsuit to try to force the government to promptly address the problem (the ’standing’ issue)”.
Chief Justice John Roberts—whose distaste for the baby penguins, the polar ice caps, and anything else ….characterizes the scientific reports in this case as “spinning out conjecture on conjecture”.
Scalia shoots back that he’s not a scientist, laughing, “That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”….Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “When is the predicted cataclysm?”
The EPA’s argument, presented by Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, quickly sounds very familiar. 1) I can’t clean it up; 2) Even if I could, I don’t want to clean it up; 3) You can’t make me clean it up; and 4) China is making an even bigger mess.”
Roberts chimes in that even if the United States reduces its own emissions, it would be irrelevant if China doesn’t regulate its own greenhouse gasses. Scalia wants reassurance that a “reduction by two and a half percent in carbon dioxide … would save two and a half percent of the coastline.”
Garre insists that there is a “likely connection” between greenhouse gases and global warming but that “it cannot unequivocally be established.”…. argues that carbon dioxide is not a “pollutant” within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.
“A decision dismissing the case on standing grounds is a real possibility.”
The US Supreme Court sounds like a hapless sub committee to the UN chaotic and inefficient Nairobi Conference. What is Scalia laughing about?
Now, in 2007, the Democrats control Congress. They understand the political might of Global Warming to undermine the power of the Bush administration. Some Republicans are sufficiently concerned about reelection and the miserable ratings of Bush to express support to some Global Warming issues. Here are samples:
The new House Speaker: Nancy Pelosi created the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to hold hearings and recommend approaches to mitigate the effects of global warming. “The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal.”
The hearings: “White House officials micro manage the government’s climate programs and control what scientists are allowed to tell the public”; “It appears there may have been an orchestrated campaign to mislead the public about climate change,” ; “The Bush administration routinely imposed their own views on the reports of climate change scientists.”; “Press releases about the findings of climate change studies had been delayed, altered and watered down.” ; “In one instance the potential consequences of climate change was entirely deleted from a report to Congress.”
Candidate Politics – 1: “This is a problem whose time has come,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., proclaimed. “This is an issue over the years whose time has come,” echoed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said “for decades far too many have ignored the warning” about climate change. “Will we look back at today and say this was the moment we took a stand?”
Candidate Politics – 2: “John McCain, the current front-runner for the GOP’s 2008 presidential nomination, is co-sponsoring legislation that would cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050. Two of his co-sponsors are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Running for cover: Republicans are racing to voice their support for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Even corporate leaders are calling for mandatory caps, recognizing the problem’s gravity and fearing that state action will create a patchwork of confusing regulations hurting the bottom line.
Will US policy shift? Dream on. Bush is still Commander in Chief. He knows how to ignore pressure. He is the Decider.
Here is the Australian view – this laissez-fair policy may change because of its persistent drought caused at least partially by Global Warming. Effective political and public pressure is at work, too:
The Australian Prime Minister has refused to ratify the Agreement and has argued that the protocol would cost Australians jobs, due to countries with booming economies and massive populations such as China and India not having any reduction obligations
By way of example, if Australia were to shut down all of its coal fired power stations, within 12 months China would have produced so much extra pollution because of its industrial growth that it would have negated the shutting down of those Australian power stations.
Further, the Government takes the view that Australia is already doing enough to cut emissions; the Australian government is keen to reduce GHG emissions and has pledged $300 million over the next three years.
China is very concise about its opinion, as follows:
China argues that its one child policy will reduce growth in its energy consumption. They consider this a sufficient contribution to the world environment.
India’s equally concise statement is:
India argues that its per capita emission rates are low compared to industrial countries. The developed countries have polluted for a long time, have caused the problem and should bear the brunt of paying for and executing the solution.
Politically, Global Warming is a game of buck passing. Only a few industrial “Annex 1″ countries can or are willing to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. The obvious inequities are not workable and need reform. The US and Australia both say any reduction in their emissions will be more than offset by China’s skyrocketing, unchecked GHG output. China responds “get lost”. India blames everything on developed countries and takes no responsibility for being the fifth largest GHG polluter.
China is the second worst polluter. It will become the top dog by 2009. It accounts for 12-15% of the world’s energy consumption but its rate of increase is 4-5 times the global average. High pollution coal sources 65% of the country’s energy needs. That is not likely to change any time soon – they bring on coal powered energy plants at an astonishing rate. Guess what that does to carbon emissions. Guess what it will do fifty years from now.
Here are some other views: The EU generally agrees with the Kyoto Protocol and works to get member states on board with varying success. Germany wants its coal and auto industry exempt. The UK is unique in strong support of the Protocol and the Stern Report but is also very active in international high carbon investments. France views the Kyoto goals as unachievable in the foreseeable future since it already eliminated many carbon fuels in favor of nuclear energy. Russia claims to be supportive of the Protocol but it is not clear precisely what that means.
Some higher echelons of society currently concern themselves with the notion of carbon taxes. This tax, not implemented internationally, would be levied on those that cannot or will not meet emission reduction targets. This concept is similar to the CERs already in effect. The first goal is to make polluters pay, thus providing the incentive for them to better their ways. The second goal is to use the money to reward those exceeding the targets, thereby encouraging successful programs. The second point is valid for the CER system. It may or may not be the way a carbon tax would work.
Some countries already have carbon taxes. Sweden implemented its version in 1991. Finland, the Netherlands and Norway followed. The idea is discussed in the EU and a few other countries, including the US (at some level, certainly not that of George W. Bush) and Canada.
As an example, the Norwegian tax amounts to about 1.7% of total tax revenues and may have reduced carbon emissions by about 2.3% from where they might have been (Source: the Stern Report). As a result, emissions increased less than economic growth. This program has been in effect for more than 10 years. The results are modest compared to the goals of the Kyoto Protocol that looks for emission reductions of some 60-70%.
The revenues from the Norwegian tax go to the government’s regular tax income stream, not to low polluters as the CERs do. Further, the tax is not coordinated with that of any other country, including the rest of the Nordic countries, all of which have carbon taxes. Thus, the cost of pollution differs from country to country, which is both inequitable and unwise from a competitive stand point.
Therein lays the problem: although a carbon tax may be quite effective, it takes real political guts to make it ruthless enough to ensure emission goals. It’s equally difficult to coordinate national taxes with the rest of the world in an equitable manner.
To maximize the payoff of a political solution to Global Warming, it really is not critical to include every country in an initial stage. Getting the EU, the US and Canada, Japan and Russia to enact a coordinated tax system is easier than the Kyoto attempts to make 200 nations agree. Once these industrial countries have effective programs in place, strong pressure could be placed on China and India to join. At that point, over 70% of GHG emissions would be controlled by an equitable system. The rest of the world could join the club only if they prove willing to take action, not subsidies, to reduce their emissions.
The CER system, on the other hand, is coordinated internationally and nationally. A CER is a CER, wherever you live. The CER price is based on a supply and demand. Many view the CERs as an equitable and fair system. I disagree, given its current form, being effectively a subsidy or entitlement from a few to a mass of countries with no obligations.
The US passed the Clean Air Act in 1963. It was amended in 1966, extended in 1970 and amended again in 1977 and 1990. I’ll deal with the 1970 version here. Canada, the UK and others also have enacted Clean Air legislation.
The 1970 law empowers EPA to establish and enforce emission standards for certain airborne pollutants. These standards are quite demanding and in some cases overly ambitious. The auto industry, for instance, required extensions due to technical and economic issues. The law has four main parts: 1) a national air quality standard, 2) a performance standard specifying limits for different industries and regions, 3) limits specific to cars (90% reduction of certain emissions), 4) rules for engaging states in the enforcement of the law.
At the time, acid rain was quite an issue, destroying forests, fresh water supplies and soils. Acid rain is largely caused by industrial emissions of SO2. Power plants and the pulp and paper industries are examples of SO2 polluters. These industries faced major capital expenses to reduce emissions to the set standards. Typical remedies are elaborate scrubbers attached to smoke stacks. These are expensive, both as capital investment and as operating costs.
Emission trading is a related scheme: a facility is issued a license to emit a certain level of pollutants. Usually, after installing clean up equipment, the facility can sell the surplus part of the license. This is similar to CERs but with the important difference that the emission trading is not a subsidy from one nation to some non-regulated country. It is a US company to a US company trade.
The 1970 Act resulted in major reductions in many polluting emissions. SO2, for instance, turned almost immediately from a rapid increase in the ’sixties to an equally rapid decline, starting very soon after the Act was passed. SO2 emissions today are only 30% of what they would have been without the Act. The Act was expensive to industry but very friendly to the environment.
Some say the Act does not sufficiently reduce SO2 even at the current 70% reduction. Also distressing is the lack of targets for CO2 – an obvious issue today.
The landmark 1970 Act was amended and extended several times up till 1990. Ronald Reagan did his best to ignore the Act. The candidate Bush promised mandatory reduction targets for SO2, CO2, mercury and nitrogen oxide. The President Bush forgot that promise immediately after taking office. VP Dick Cheney is doing all he can to ROLL BACK the Clean Air Act as a favor to his buddies.
Bush and Cheney are trying to pass a Clear Skies Act watering down the CAA. EPA estimates this Clear Sky Act would kill 4,000 Americans a year due to its lax standards, not to mention it does not cover GHGs.
Of all people on Earth, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney contribute the most to Global Warming. America and the world deserve better than this.
- Industries: Some industries are taking steps to deal with Global Warming. These efforts, while better than nothing, are largely self serving. The vast majority of companies makes no efforts whatever but continues carbon intensive use and investment. The oil, gas and power industries are typically not only causing immediate emissions on an unprecedented scale but lead the way to further emissions down the line as well as major ecological disasters. The Sakhalin II development in Russia is an excellent example.
- Governments: The rhetoric suggests no proactive or decisive actions any time soon. There is much lip service, but the slightest examination of actual policies reveals both the lack of action and the lack of agreement. That is a true scandal with the fate of mankind at issue. There is no complexity about what needs to happen. Reducing GHG emissions is the only real factor we control. The next two points suggest simple ways to do that.
- Carbon taxes: The EU, the US and Canada, Japan and Russia should enact a coordinated, hard core tax system aimed at severe emission cuts. Once these major countries have effective and agreed on programs in place, place strong pressure on China and India to join. At that point, over 70% of GHG emissions would be controlled by an equitable system. The rest of the world could join the club only if they prove willing to accept the responsibility, not subsidies, to reduce their emissions.
- Imposing limits: Extending the Clean Air Act to cover GHG emissions is an obvious, simple common sense initiative. That would curb the disastrous US carbon gas emissions. CAA has a proven, successful track record. Extending the CAA concept internationally could reduce many ill effects of Global Warming. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney see it differently. They do their best to go the opposite way, providing a great excuse for others not to take action either. They force us all to face disaster.
GlobalWarming:1 discussed why Global Warming happened, who and what causes it, ended up with a list of villains. It did not go into the consequences of Global Warming. It didn’t discuss what is happening to the oceans, the Arctic, Greenland, El Nino, eco systems, weather impacts, tundra, ice packs, the Kyoto Protocol or the Stern reports or many other Global Warming topics. That is yet to come.
The current GlobalWarming:2 covers two main subjects. The UN provides a real mixed bag of positive and negative influences on the fight against Global Warming. The positive is that they try. The negative is that they fail. The Kyoto Protocol is not reducing emissions, nor is its associated reports. The CER system is causing more trouble than good. Industrial and national politics do not ensure a safe future. Although simple solutions exist, they are not acted on.
Global Warming:3 examines the basic root cause of our problem: rising temperatures. Is the increase real and does it matter? Is it natural or caused by man? Are the temperatures unusual compared to history? Do GHGs actually cause the increase? What can past temperature variations tell us about what we face today. Can you even trust the basic data and analysis of temperatures? Those and other questions are answered in detail.
GlobalWarming:4 shows Global Warming is not the first disaster forecast ever done, published and hyped. There have been many in the past and as a rule they failed. The disaster in question did not happen. So the question is – why would this particular doom and gloom outlook be right? What is different this time? As you will see, plenty is different.
GlobalWarming:5 reviews the role and issues of population growth. This is a vital issue for future emissions as shown in GlobalWarming:1. Historically over the past 250 years, the explosive growth in populations explains two thirds of the increase in GHG emissions. The rise in personal carbon use must be reversed as must other issues related to unbalanced growth in populations.
GlobalWarminng:6 is the meat of this series. It gets into the details of what is happening right now in the some 25 different real life areas, impacted by Global Warming. These are not forecasts, assumptions or opinions but verifiable hard facts. The picture seen in full is quite frightening and very indicative of your future. The every day signs get worse by the day.
GlobalWarming:7 paints three scenarios (not forecasts) of what might happen in the future. There is a pessimistic, an optimistic and a middle of the road picture. The three scenarios are based on simple, common sense assumptions, very different from the elaborate, multi million $ systems enjoyed by the UN, the Stern Report, EPA and others. These big systems rely on a myriad of assumptions as input, many of which aren’t really known and/or subject to lots of complexity.
I’m by no means competing with the “big” studies or the smart people putting them together. I used to be a forecasting guru working for the UN, the World Bank, FAO, OECD, the EU and many Fortune 500 companies. I guess I have a right to an opinion. No one is required to consider my views.
I am completely nonaffiliated. I have no axe to grind. I receive no monetary compensation, grants or sponsorship. I have no obligations to fulfill. There are no office politics around here. I need not to promote any agendas except mine – the survival of us all.
GlobalWarming:3-7 will follow together with other commentaries and follow ups. Hang in there. The links below help you navigate this monster essay. It’s all quite important to your health.
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