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A Reexamination of Climate Change Issues

Issues With the Kyoto Protocol (Book Excerpts: ”Unstoppable Global Warming — Every 1,500 Years”)


These excerpts from the book ”Unstoppable Global Warming— Every 1,500 Years” explain specific aspects of the Kyoto Protocol, which is an international treaty intended to reduce the CO2 emissions of first world countries by the year 2012. If implemented, the treaty would at least double energy costs and more likely triple the costs through it being used as an excuse for placing an exorbitant tax on energy. It would create jobs, but only by replacing already existing technologies that are currently very adequate— similar to breaking windows in order to create the labor of replacing them. Also, even supporters of the treaty admit that it would most likely only reduce temperatures by relatively insignificant 0.05 degrees C by 2050.

Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1,500 Years by Fred Singer and Dennis Avery.



According to the greenhouse theory, the way to stop future catastrophic warming is to reduce human CO2 emissions. The Kyoto Protocol is the international treaty intended to be the ”first step” toward making the required reductions. But even the Kyoto Protocol--which would require the world’s developed countries (but not developing countries) to reduce their emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012, would be enormously expensive.

The Kyoto Protocol would probably double First World energy costs before 2012, and might quadruple them after that year. Kyoto would thus impair or even cancel out the enormous beneficial effects of technology in people’s lives.

The myths of ”free” wind and solar power continue to fascinate journalists and activists. Kyoto proponents assert that ”renewable” energy sources will not only be adequate for the needs of modern society, but the shift from fossil fuels to solar and wind would create jobs. This is like claiming that we can become richer by breaking all of our windows and hiring people to repair them. Repairing the windows ”creates jobs,” but it only gets our standards of living back to where they were before we broke the windows. The labor needed to repair them would be a waste. A shift to renewable fuels would certainly create jobs, but it would also require time and talents that could have been used to produce additional well-being.

According to Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, ”The Kyoto Protocol will likely cost at least $150 billion a year, and possibly much more, UNICEF estimates that just $70-$80 billion a year could give all Third World inhabitants access to the basics like health, education, water and sanitation.” (462) John Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, also observes:

”Early in my career, I served as a missionary in Africa. I lived upcountry with people who did not have access to useful energy. ... I watched as women walked in the early morning to the forest edge, often several miles away, to chop wet green wood for fuel. ... They became beasts of burden as they carried the wood on their backs to the return trip home. ... Burning wood and dung inside the homes for cooking and heat created a dangerously polluted indoor atmosphere for the family. I always thought that if each home could be fitted with an electric light bulb and a microwave oven electrified by a coal-fired power plant, several good things would happen. The woman would be freed to work on other, more productive pursuits. The indoor air would be much cleaner so health would improve. Food could be prepared more safely. There would be light for reading and advancement. Information through television or radio would be received. And the forest with its beautiful ecosystem could be saved.” (463)




ORIGIN OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL

The Kyoto Protocol was produced by a global warming alliance between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the appointed functionaries of the United Nations. Neither group was elected to anything nor did either group control any people or territory. They nevertheless used the generally favorable public attitudes toward environmental conservation to demand what they called an ”insurance policy for the planet” against man-made overheating from CO2.

The power of NGOs in the global warming debate is often overlooked in the U.S., though not in Europe. The Climate Action Network Europe is a network of more than 365 NGOs funded by the European Commission and the Dutch and Belgian Governments .(464) The U.S. Climate Action Network consists of more than 40 NGOs with ”highly professional staffs with well-developed climate and energy programs, setting the stage for their heavy involvement in climate and energy policies ... within the U.N.” (465)

The NGOs used their new computers and nacent Internet to organize one of the most impressive volunteer efforts in modern times. Nearly 20,000 environmental activists went to Brazil to 1992 for the UN-assisted ”Earth Summit.” When that depth of interest became evident, governments rushed to announce their official delagates. More than 170 governments were represented, a startling 108 by their heads of state.

Most of the hordes of activists actually attended a parallel ”cheerleaders” conference called the Nongovernmental Organization Forum, which was held nearby. However, 2,400 activists were official delegates to the summit itself. They were highly organized and constantly referred to the huge numbers of their colleagues meeting across town and waiting for ”action on behalf of the planet.”

Politicians naturally saw the world’s hundreds of thousands of earnest and energetic environmental activists as a movement to be co-opted. European politicians were especially eager, since the Green parties there were often key parts of their fragile governing coalitions, or soon likely to be. They wanted something to give the Green that wouldn’t cost money before the next election.

What the Greens wanted was to end or severely restrict the use of fossil fuels. This was the era in which biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote scathingly that global problem was ”too many rich people.” (466) The activists movement saw rich people as the ones using too many resources. They saw saw cheap energy as the root cause of the technological abundance underlying the ”throw-away society.” In its turn, cheap energy produced too many rich people and enticed poor people with the idea that they could get rich, too.

The Greens wanted solar and wind energy to be appreciated, never mind that as energy sources they were expensive and erratic. They believed high-yield farming was causing overpopulation by feeding too many people--and high yield farming depended on industrial nitrogen fertilizer, which is produced with the use of fossil fuels. They ardently demanded only organic farming, with half the yield per acre and radically less capacity to support population growth.

There was no real evidence that fossil fuels were overheating the world, then or now. Theory says that more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will trap more heat, but no one knows whether the amounts of heat trapped by CO2 increases are significant. Nothing in Earth’s climate history confirms CO2 is a strong driver of climate warming.

It was certainly true, however, that nothing would disarm modern technologies quite so completely as depriving the First World of energy. Heating for the winter, cooling for the summer; private automobiles, mass transportation by air and rail, manufacturing in First World countries would all have to be cut by 80 percent . Without fuel to run the factories, there would be no industrial plant food; without fertilizer, millions of humans might starve, even as more forests were cleared for the low-yeild crops produced by ”organic” means.

The United Nations, for its part, saw the greenhouse theory as a way to expand its influence and power. The greenhouse theory demanded that energy be scarce, and the agency that rationed energy would be powerful indeed.



WHAT THE KOYOTO PROTOCOL WOULD DO

The Kyoto Protocal is an international agreement ostensibly intended to limit the use of fossil-based energy by requiring developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The protocol amends the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), a treaty concluded at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Article 2 of the FCC states that its ultimate objective is to ”achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Nowhere, in either the FCC or in the Kyoto Protocol, is there any statement of what greenhouse gas levels might be ”dangerous” to either humans or the environment. Or how.

The Kyoto protocol was negotiated by the Clinton administration in 1997, much of it personally by Vice President Al Gore in preparation for his unsuccessful run for the U.S. presidency in 2000. However, the Clinton-Gore administration never dared to bring the treaty to a Senate vote.

The U.S. Senate had already passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution on 21 July 1997 during the run up to the UN’s Kyoto meeting--voting 95 0 against any such treaty. The resolution said that any climate treaty that did not include developing countries was ”inconsistent with the need for global action on climate change and is environmentally flawed.” The Senate resolution also pointed out that if such a treaty left out Third World countries, then ”The level of required reductions would result in serious harm to the U.S. economy, including significant job loss, trade disadvantages, increased energy and consumer costs, or any combination thereof.”

The completed Kyoto Protocol confirmed the fears of the U.S. Senate. It did not include the big developing countries and it did propose to put the full burden of emission reductions on the United States and other First World countries. The reason was simple. The Third World was much more afraid of being left in poverty than it was of largely benign climate trend revealed by the First World’s thermometers. If Kyoto had required the signatures of China and India, it would never have been concluded. The UN’s ”evidence” for human-induced warming was essentially limited to repeating the mantra the ”the Earth has warmed 0.6 degrees C in the last century,” reciting the greenhouse theory, and offering printouts from complex but unverified computer models.


SUPPORT FOR THE KYOTO PROTOCOL

The Kyoto Protocol was particularly attractive to European governments that have taxed energy heavily for decades. A barrel of oil that nets the Saudi oil industry $35 may yield the British government $150 in taxes--with the taxes sanctified to ”save the planet.” For competitive reasons, Europe wanted to see the United States and its job-creating economy saddled with the same high energy costs that European employers and drivers already paid.

The first stage of the Kyoto Protocol called for its members to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. This would have only an undetectable impact on any global warming caused by human-generated CO2. Even supporters of Kyoto admit that it would reduce calculated temperatures by a non-detectable 0.05 degrees C by 2050. (467)

The reason environmental groups were excited about the Kyoto Protocol was the second, severe phase of the treaty which was supposed to take effect in 2012 and impose much tighter constraints on greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the IPCC’s First Assessment Report in 1990 stated that global fossil fuel use would have to be reduced by 60 80 percent to stabilize CO2 levels. (468) However, the second phase of greenhouse gas reductions was never negotiated.

The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol would have required the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent (not 5.2 percent) from 1990 levels. Dr. Harlan Watson, the senior U.S. negotiator at the 2004 Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Buenos Aires, reported that the United States is likely to emit about 16 percent more greenhouse gasses in 2010 than it did in 1990. In order to meet the Kyoto targets, the U.S. would thus have to cut its projected emissions by 23 percent. Since fossil fuels still provide about 85 percent of American energy, the United States would have to cut its energy use by nearly one-fourth unless it could somehow rapidly and radically increase supplies of nuclear, wind, and solar power.

The second phase of Kyoto, if all protocol member nations were required to cut fossil fuels by 60 percent from 1990 levels, America would probably be required to eliminate virtually all fossil fuel use while poor countries expanded their use.


THE HIGH COST OF REDUCING EMISSIONS

We still do not know how difficult it will be to cut back fossil fuel use in the real world. Few Kyoto member nations have actually attempted to cut their real-world greenhouse gas emissions. The choice of 1990 as the base year gave major advantages to Britain, Germany, and Russia. Britain had shut down its antique coal mines and shifted heavily to cleaner North Sea natural gas. Germany got Kyoto credit for shutting down the dirty industries built by East Germany’s communist government. Russia got most of its credits for eliminating the former Soviet Union’s heavily polluting factories.

Yale University economist William Nordhaus has estimated that first-phase Kyoto emissions reductions would cost $716 billion, and that the U.S. would bear two-thirds of the global costs. (474) This may be as good a guess as anyone’s. No one has even tried to estimate the cost of fully stabilizing human-generated CO2 emissions without some major technical breakthrough.

Advocates of the Kyoto Protocol have come up with estimates of some enormous costs that will supposedly be inflicted on the planet if we do not stop global warming. However, these cost estimates share some serious flaws:

First, the estimates have all been based on radical warming. Little has been said about the economic impact of a 2 degree C per-century warming because it is not likely to inflict major costs and should even produce net benefits.

Second, the estimates of global warming costs have been inflated in many of these estimates by assumptions of ”global warming impacts” that we have shown to be extremely unlikely or impossible: radical increases in sea levels even though the world has little ice left that can melt rapidly in a moderate warming; higher rates of malaria and other tropical diseases which could be prevented by pesticides, window screens, and other readily-available technologies; assumed crop losses in the tropics that might not occur, and which, in any case, would be outweighed by very large crop yield gains in the big northern cropping regions of Russia and Canada.

Third, the warming alarmists ignore some of the known economic benefits of warming, such as increased crop and forest yields proven to be stimulated by higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and lower death rates and reduced need for medical care in a warmer climate.

The huge estimates of global warming costs, in fact, ignore history. Records left by the Romans, Chinese, and medieval Europeans all tell us that the last two warming phases of the 1,500-year cycle were prosperous times for humanity. The Roman Empire and the Chinese empire both thrived during the Roman Warming 2,000 years ago. The prosperity of the Medieval Warming is apparent to us today when we view the beautiful castles and cathedrals of Europe, which date mainly from that period. How could these have been built if the warmings were accomplished by the flooding, epidemics of malaria, massive famines, and constant storms assumed by gloomy advocates of the greenhouse theory?

Nor do the Kyoto supporters want to look very closely at the costs of giving up fossil fuels. A London economic consulting firm, Lombard Street Research, recently noted that the shift from fossil fuels to whatever low-emission energy systems we adopt would likely cost at least $18 trillion, and perhaps much more. (475) Lombard Street assumed that the shift would take only five years and cost the world half a percentage point of economic growth. It seems obvious that the shift to a totally different energy system is likely to take considerably longer and cost quite a lot more then their admittedly conservative estimate.

Even so, says Charles Dumas, the Lombard Street lead author, the cost of the warming-prevention strategy is much greater than any conceivable benefit. ”This is orders of magnitude greater than the cost of dealing with higher sea levels and freak weather insurance.” (476) If, indeed, a moderate warming will produce significantly higher sea levels and freak weather--assumptions that are subject to serious doubt.

One of the more balanced studies of global warming costs and benefits is The Impact of Climate Change on the U.S. Economy, written by Robert Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry and James Neumann of Industrialized Economics, Inc. Mendelsohn and Neumann assumed that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would produce a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees C and a 7 percent increase in precipitation. They found this would generate large gains in agriculture and smaller gains in timber and recreation. The other economic sectors would suffer small negative impacts. Overall, Mendelsohn and Neumann concluded that the U.S. economy would gain slightly from such a warming--by 0.2 percent of GDP. (477)

This is a sharp contrast to the IPCC’s 1995 report, ”Economic and Social Dimensions of Climate Change,” which assembled five earlier economic studies. Those studies all estimated sizeable global damages from global warming, but the wide range in estimates by sector indicates there was great uncertainty among the IPCC report’s authors. For example, the estimated cost to agriculture ranged from $1.1 billion to $17.5 billion. Estimates of timber losses ranged from $700 million to more than $43 billion--a 60-fold difference.

Mendelsohn and Neumann estimated that agriculture would gain more than $40 billion from longer growing seasons, fewer frosts, more rainfall and increased CO2 fertilization. Agriculture sector studies have indeed shown large gains to farming from global warming. Timber would gain from the same factors. Recreation generally benefits from warmer temperatures. Thus the Mendelsohn-Neumann argument is supported by logic. It also benefits from the authors’ inclusion of adaptation strategies and of actual observations on energy expenditures and leisure activities in towns that have experienced temperature changes.








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Citations


(462) Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, (London: Cambridge University Press, 200), p. 322.

(463) John Christy, Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources, May 13, 2003.

(464) About Climate Action Network Europe ( accessed 8/5/07 )

(465) About USCAN (accessed 8/5/07)

(466) Quoted by the Associated Press, 6 April 1990.

(467) M. Parry et al., ”Adapting to the Inevitable” Nature 395 (1998):741.

(474) W.D. Nordhaus and J.G. Boyer, Requiem for Kyoto: An Economic Analysis of the Kyoto Protocol, 8 February 1999.

(475) Brendan Keenan, ”Cost of Ending Global Warming ‘Too High,’” Irish Independent, 18 August, 2005.

(476) Ibid.

(477) Robert Mendelsohn and James Neumann, The Impact of Climate Change on the U.S. Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).




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