CCNet TERRA 1/2002 - 23 August 2002
"You can see with this dataset that what is happening in the
Antarctic is not what would be expected from a straightforward global
warming scenario, but a much more complicated set of events."
--Claire Parkinson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 22
"It is also interesting to note that the [Solheimajokull] glacier
has been growing in length since about 1970 and that, in the words of
the authors, "the recent advance (1970- 1995) resulted from a combination of
cooling and enhancement of precipitation." These observations from
high northern latitudes, where global warming is supposed to be most
evident, provide no evidence for that dramatic phenomenon, which is supposed
to be wreaking havoc on the planet. Indeed, they suggest nothing whatsoever
out of the ordinary."
--CO2 Science Magazine, 21 August 2002
(1) SATELLITES SHOW OVERALL INCREASES IN SEA ICE COVER
Mark Hess <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(2) SHOCK, HORROR: "GLOBAL WARMING MAY STOP DEADLY CYCLE OF ICE AGES FOR GOOD"
Nature Science Update, 23 August 2002
(3) OBSERVATIONAL HISTORY OF AN OUTLET GLACIER IN SOUTHERN ICELAND
CO2 Science Magazine, 21 August 2002
(4) GLOBAL WARMING, GLOBAL SCEPTICISM
Tech Central Station, 21 August 2002
(5) EXPERTS SCALE BACK ESTIMATES OF WORLD POPULATION GROWTH
The New York Times, 20 August 2002
(1) SATELLITES SHOW OVERALL INCREASES IN SEA ICE COVER
>From Mark Hess <email@example.com>
Krishna Ramanujan August 22, 2002
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Release No: 02-128
SATELLITES SHOW OVERALL INCREASES IN ANTARCTIC SEA ICE COVER
While recent studies have shown that on the whole Arctic sea ice has
decreased since the late 1970s, satellite records of sea ice around
Antarctica reveal an overall increase in the southern hemisphere ice over
the same period. Continued decreases or increases could have substantial
impacts on polar climates, because sea ice spreads over a vast area,
reflects solar radiation away from the Earth's surface, and insulates the
oceans from the atmosphere.
In a study just published in the Annals of Glaciology, Claire Parkinson of
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed the length of the sea ice season
throughout the Southern Ocean to obtain trends in sea ice coverage.
Parkinson examined 21 years (1979-1999) of Antarctic sea ice satellite
records and discovered that, on average, the area where southern sea ice
seasons have lengthened by at least one day per year is roughly twice as
large as the area where sea ice seasons have shortened by at least one day
per year. One day per year equals three weeks over the 21-year period.
"You can see with this dataset that what is happening in the Antarctic is
not what would be expected from a straightforward global warming scenario,
but a much more complicated set of events," Parkinson said.
The length of the sea ice season in any particular region or area refers to
the number of days per year when at least 15 percent of that area is covered
by sea ice. Some areas close to the Antarctic continent have sea ice all
year long, but a much larger region of the Southern Ocean has sea ice for a
smaller portion of the year, and in those regions the length of the sea ice
season can vary significantly from one year to another.
To calculate the lengths of the sea ice seasons, Parkinson used satellite
data gridded to 25 by 25 kilometer grid cells for the Southern Ocean region.
For each grid cell, the satellite data were used to determine the
concentration, or percent area, of the sea ice cover. Whenever the
percentage was at least 15 percent, the grid cell was considered to have
ice. Using this method, Parkinson went through the entire data set and for
each grid cell had a computer count how many days of each year had ice, then
calculated trends over the 21-year record.
Overall, the area of the Antarctic with trends indicating a lengthening of
the sea ice season by at least one day per year was 5.6 million square
kilometers (2.16 million square miles), about 60 percent the size of the
United States. At the same time, the area with sea ice seasons shortening by
at least one day per year was 3 million square kilometers (1.16 million
Regionally, the Ross Sea, on average, had its sea ice seasons getting
longer, while most of the Amundsen Sea and almost the entire Bellingshausen
Sea had their sea ice seasons getting shorter.
"The Antarctic sea ice changes match up well with regional temperature
changes," Parkinson said. "The one region in the Antarctic where the
temperature records have shown prominent warming over this period is the
Antarctic Peninsula, and indeed it's immediately to the west and east of the
Antarctic Peninsula, in the Bellingshausen/Amundsen and western Weddell
seas, respectively, that the sea ice seasons have been shortening rather
The Arctic also shows a mixed pattern of sea ice trends over the 1979-1999
period, but in contrast to the Antarctic, the area with shortening seasons
in the Arctic is far greater than the area with lengthening seasons. The
Arctic patterns suggest some connections with major oscillations in
large-scale atmospheric pressures, called the Arctic Oscillation and the
North Atlantic Oscillation, and it is possible the ice covers of both
hemispheres could be influenced by oscillations that are still not fully
identified, Parkinson said.
The study used data from NASA's Nimbus 7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave
Radiometer (SMMR) and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)
Special Sensor Microwave Imagers (SSMIs) and in the future will be extended
with data from the National Space Development Agency of Japan's Advanced
Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System (AMSR-E)
recently launched on board NASA's Aqua satellite.
For more information, please see:
(2) SHOCK, HORROR: "GLOBAL WARMING MAY STOP DEADLY CYCLE OF ICE AGES FOR GOOD"
>From Nature Science Update, 23 August 2002
Next ice age on ice? Another big freeze might never happen.
23 August 2002
Mankind could lock the world into an irreversible greenhouse effect,
banishing future ice ages, warn (sic!) two Belgian scientists. Global
warming caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases could tip the
Earth into a completely new climate state in which cycles of freezing and
thawing are switched off, they suggest1.
The notion that we're due another ice age is still occasionally peddled as a
reason not to worry about global warming. But just about all the predictions
made today are very different to those when this idea was hatched 30 years
ago, point out André Berger and Marie-France Loutre of the Catholic
University of Louvain.
Back then, climatologists agreed that, because the previous two warm spells
between ice ages had lasted about 10,000 years, the present one, the
Holocene, should be over soon. It started more than 10,000 years ago.
But we now know that today's conditions are not like those of the last warm
period, the Eemian, which was around 125,000 years ago. The ice-age cycle is
caused by slow, periodic changes in the shape and position of the Earth's
orbit around the Sun. This time around, those changes are less pronounced
than they were during the Eemian.
On such grounds alone, scientists have predicted since the 1980s that the
present interglacial period might last up to 70,000 years.
On top of that, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is
already almost one-third more than during any recent interglacial. Over the
next two centuries, it could rise to double the present-day value.
Some climate models that take this into account predict that peak ice-age
conditions might return in around 100,000 years' time. But the outcome could
be even more dramatic than that, say Berger and Loutre. If the Greenland and
West Antarctic ice sheets were to melt completely, an ice age might not get
underway at all.
Although ice ages are ultimately caused by orbital changes, they seem to
rely on feedbacks within the Earth's climate system. The ice sheets provide
such a feedback - the bigger they get, the more sunlight and heat they
reflect, and so the more the Earth cools.
It is hard to know what the ice sheets will do, says climatologist Thomas
Crowley of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He thinks that the ice
in Antarctica is very unlikely to disappear. Long after we've burnt up all
the fossil fuels, "there should still be a pretty big chunk of ice down
there", he says. The Greenland ice sheet might be more susceptible, but
possibly not enough to rule out an eventual return to ice-age conditions.
Perhaps, says Crowley, the ice-cycle will merely "skip a beat" this time
Berger, A. & Loutre, M. F. An exceptionally long interglacial ahead?.
Science, 297, (2002).
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002
(3) OBSERVATIONAL HISTORY OF AN OUTLET GLACIER IN SOUTHERN ICELAND
>From CO2 Science Magazine, 21 August 2002
Mackintosh, A.N., Dugmore, A.J. and Hubbard, A.L. 2002. Holocene climatic
changes in Iceland: evidence from modeling glacier length fluctuations at
Solheimajokull. Quaternary International 91: 39-52.
What was done
Among other things, the authors report what is known about the history of
the Solheimajokull outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull ice cap located on
the southern coast of Iceland.
What was learned
In 1705, the glacier had a length of approximately 14.8 km; and by 1740, its
length had grown to 15.2 km. Thereafter, however, the glacier began to
shrink, exhibiting a length of only 13.2 km in 1783. Rebounding rapidly, the
glacier returned to its 1705 position by 1794; and by 1820 it equaled its
1740 length. This maximum length was maintained for about the next
half-century, after which the glacier began a slow retreat that continued to
about 1932, when its length was approximately 14.75 km. The glacier then
wasted away more rapidly, reaching a second minimum-length value of
approximately 13.8 km at about 1970, whereupon it began to rapidly expand
once again, growing to about 14.3 km in length by 1995.
What it means
The current position of the outlet glacier terminus is by no means unusual.
In fact, it is about midway between its maximum and minimum positions of the
past three centuries. It is also interesting to note that the glacier has
been growing in length since about 1970 and that, in the words of the
authors, "the recent advance (1970-1995) resulted from a combination of
cooling and enhancement of precipitation."
These observations from high northern latitudes, where global warming is
supposed to be most evident, provide no evidence for that dramatic
phenomenon, which is supposed to be wreaking havoc on the planet. Indeed,
they suggest nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary.
Copyright © 2002. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
(4) GLOBAL WARMING, GLOBAL SCEPTICISM
>From Tech Central Station, 21 August 2002
by Hans H.J. Labohm and Dick Thoenes
In the 1970s and 1980s climate experts started to worry about the measured
increase in the carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere. On the basis
of the known principle of the greenhouse effect, it could be expected that
the temperature on the earth would rise. It seemed likely that the change
was the result of the sharp increase in the use of fossil fuels (coal,
mineral oil and natural gas). In 1988, under the auspices of the United
Nations (UN), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set
up with the object of interpreting and reporting on developments in climate
research around the world. These reports were intended to serve as advice
for the participating governments. The main task was to examine whether
there was indeed any question of climate change and in particular of global
warming. If that were to be the case, international agreements might be
needed to limit the use of fossil fuels.
The principle of the greenhouse effect is as follows. The earth is heated by
solar radiation. This penetrates the earth's atmosphere and warms the
earth's surface. The surface of the earth reaches a certain temperature, and
incoming radiation is compensated by outgoing radiation. The atmosphere
plays an important role in this interchange, because it retains a portion of
the outgoing heat radiation. As a result, the average surface temperature of
the earth has a pleasant value of around 15°C. Incidentally, this is not
caused by the air itself, but mainly by the water vapour it contains and
also by traces of a number of other gases, of which CO2 is the most
important (alongside methane, nitrogen oxides and others). These allow the
sun's rays to pass through but retain a portion of the outgoing heat
radiation. Because of the similarity with a greenhouse, this effect of the
atmosphere is known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse gases, such as
water vapour and CO2, act like the glass panes in a greenhouse. If the CO2
content increases (through human agency), it can be expected that the
surface temperature of the earth will also rise. This is known as the extra
What we need to do is establish whether climate change is currently under
way, whether there is already any global warming, and what can be expected
for the future. It should be borne in mind that the climate cannot be
predicted owing to its capricious behaviour, but that we can at most give
projections for the future. And these are always based on a range of
assumptions that will always be open to discussion. However, even if
uncertainties remain about the possible consequences of an extra greenhouse
effect, many people find it necessary to limit the use of fossil fuels on
the basis of the precautionary principle. Another argument advanced for this
is the inevitable future scarcity of fossil fuels.
Alarmist Standpoint of the IPCC
IPCC's reports contain three sections (drawn up by Working Groups):
projected climate change; consequences of projected climate change; and
possible measures to limit climate change.
Projected climate change has been examined by climate experts in several
ways: first of all on the basis of worldwide measurements and additionally
on the basis of models.
The CO2 content of the atmosphere is measured continuously. This fluctuates
with the seasons, but the average value increased from 285 ppm in 1900 to
365 ppm in 2000, a relative increase of almost 25% (ppm = parts per million
by volume). Temperature measurements have been used to see whether the
average temperature on earth has in fact increased. To that end, the
measurements collected at all weather stations around the world are averaged
in a particular way (day and night, every day of the year, across the
earth's entire surface). The IPCC reports a significant increase of 0.6°C
during the twentieth century. This comprises an increase of 0.45°C in the
period 1900-1930, a fall of 0.2°C in the period 1930-1975, and an increase
of 0.35°C in the period 1975-2000. This last increase, which corresponds to
0.15°C every ten years, coincides with an observed increase in the CO2
Apart from surface measurements, temperature measurements have also been
taken since 1959 using weather balloons and since 1979 using satellites. The
latter measure temperatures across the earth's entire surface, something
which is not possible with ground measurements. According to the IPCC, these
show an average temperature increase of 0.05°C over ten years, which does
not differ significantly from zero and falls within the inaccuracy range.
It has been observed that the length of most of the world's glaciers has
shrunk significantly over the last fifty years, but this is related to a
long term natural climate change (see below). Also a large number of local
climate changes have been reported, but it is not certain that these are
linked to climate change on a global scale.
In addition, there has been very extensive work in the area of modeling,
i.e. mathematical descriptions of the processes that occur in the earth's
atmosphere. These encompass the phenomena which determine the local climate
in each part of the world, combined with models for air circulation,
interaction between atmosphere and oceans, and sea flows. Great progress has
been made in this area over the last two decades in the sense that an ever
larger number of effects have been incorporated in the models. The result of
these developments is that there is increasing confidence in the predictive
value of these models, despite the fact that they have become much more
sophisticated. It should be noted that the IPCC very correctly does not
speak about predictions but about projections. These projections are based
partly on a number of assumptions regarding factors about which there is
The IPCC has so far issued three major reports, the first in 1990, the
second in 1996 and the third in 2001. With the successive reports, the
warnings about possible temperature increases have become more serious. The
IPCC assigns a probability to its projections for the future. For instance,
the third report assigns a probability of 66-90% to the projection that the
average temperature of the earth will increase by between 0.1 and 0.2°C
every ten years over the coming decades. However, for the entire 21st
century, a larger temperature increase is projected, of between 1.4 and
5.8°C for the hundred-year period. This difference arises from certain
assumptions about future CO2 content (see below). Thus, there would appear
to be a prospect of considerable global warming. On the basis of these
projections, a significant rise in sea level is predicted, with the danger
that low-lying countries would be submerged.
The way that the IPCC works has important consequences for the final
reports. First of all, results of scientific research are collected, but
these are then interpreted by the Working Groups. This means that a personal
viewpoint is unavoidable. It is striking that the IPCC reports' Summaries
for Policymakers make constant reference to the uncertainties surrounding
the projections, whereas they also give explicit warnings about the
unfavourable consequences of the climate changes that are depicted as being
probable. In fact, the IPCC takes a clear stand in this respect, which can
be summed up as follows: future catastrophes are inevitable unless there is
drastic action by man.
Sceptical Standpoint of a Number of Scientists
The fairly uncompromising stand of the IPCC prompted criticism from
scientists outside IPCC circles as long ago as 1990. After the second report
in 1996, the criticism increased considerably. Nevertheless, the
pronouncements of the IPCC were still quite cautious at that time: "The
balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global
climate". Yet statements were issued that could be interpreted as dramatic
predictions. After the third report in 2001 the criticism increased further.
Precisely because the media and politicians generally announced the
predictions of calamity as certainties, many scientists were prompted to
voice their criticism loud and clear. In America this took the form of a
public debate, initiated to a large extent by S.F. Singer and R.S. Lindzen.
In Europe the criticism was until recently mostly ignored by the media.
Apparently, in political circles it is regarded as "politically incorrect"
to doubt the doom scenarios (see below).
The most important points of the scientific criticism of the IPCC's
assertions are as follows. Determination of an increase in the average
temperature of the earth from surface measurements is insufficiently
reliable. Satellite measurements, which point to an unchanged temperature,
seem more reliable. In addition, it is still not possible to distinguish
clearly between possible short-term climate changes and long-term climate
changes such as the warming after the last ice age. Moreover, the
predictions of future developments in the CO2 content of the atmosphere are
based on assumptions that may turn out to be wrong. The greatest
uncertainties concern the rate of CO2 absorption by plants and oceans.
Finally, the climate models that are used to make projections about the
future are insufficiently reliable since they fail to take adequate account
of certain effects, in particular the influence of variations in solar
activity, changing cloud cover and aerosols (very fine dust particles).
These points of criticism are examined in more detail below. Temperature
measurements taken at weather stations around the world are carefully
averaged, taking account of the uneven distribution of such stations across
the earth's surface. However, here there might be a question of various
distorting effects which all point in the same direction. In the first
place, temperatures are measured primarily on land, whereas more than 70% of
the earth's surface consists of water. This can create significant
distortions. Furthermore, the majority of the weather stations are in
inhabited areas, with only a few in the thinly populated regions that form a
large portion of the world's surface. Although temperatures can be measured
everywhere with an accuracy of 0.1°C, there are such large holes in the
measurement network that it is not easily possible to determine with the
same accuracy the average temperature of a large country such as Australia,
which has only a few small and densely populated regions alongside very
large, almost unpopulated areas. This applies to an even greater degree for
the world as a whole. It has also emerged that the temperature is
significantly higher in urban areas than in the countryside, with an even
more marked difference in large agglomerations (up to 2°C). In the course of
the last twenty years urban areas have expanded almost everywhere and some
of the more remotely located weather stations have been closed. This in
itself ought to lead to a measured temperature increase. For determination
of the average temperature of the earth's entire surface, enormous local
differences of as much as 100°C have to be taken into consideration (e.g.
between Verchoyansk and Jeddah). The further apart the extremes of
temperature, the less accurate the average. Something similar applies for
differences between day and night, and between the seasons. When these
aspects are taken into consideration, it must be concluded that satellite
measurements offer the only possibility for determining a real average world
With regard to the distinction between short- and long-term changes,
geophysicists in particular warn us for premature conclusions. Over the last
millennium the temperature has moved up and down, and we are now on the
upward curve that started about 300 years ago at the end of the so-called
Little Ice Age. There are reasons to expect that the temperature will start
to fall again in future centuries.
The behaviour of carbon dioxide is the key to assessing what extra
greenhouse effect can be expected. The CO2 content of the atmosphere is the
result on the one hand of emissions, largely from micro-organisms and
animals, and on the other hand absorption, primarily by plants on the land
and in the sea. Man adds about 4% to natural emissions. It has been observed
that natural absorption increased by about 2% in the 20th century, mainly in
the second half, which means that almost half of human emissions is now
absorbed. The non-absorbed portion caused an increase in the CO2 content of
the atmosphere of about 25% as compared with the level in 1900. It is
expected that human emissions will increase further. For this, several
scenarios can be envisaged. It is also expected that absorption will
increase, because it is roughly proportional to the concentration in the
atmosphere. The IPCC is very pessimistic about the extent to which this will
happen. The IPCC assumes that absorption into the oceans will fall in
relative terms, whereas not much is expected from the effect of plant growth
(these two assumptions form the most important basis for the projected
warming). However, this is expressly contradicted by a wide range of
experts. If there is more plant growth, absorption by plants must increase
even progressively (i.e. more than proportionally to the increase of the CO2
content of the atmosphere). If absorption were indeed to increase by a few
percentage points, human emissions in the future would be completely
absorbed. However, there are still insufficient scientific data in this
But the most serious criticism concerns the models. We now have
supercomputers that can handle highly complicated models, but the climate is
so complex that we will always have to employ models that are a
simplification of reality. As a result, the accuracy of the predictions is
necessarily limited. An important complication is that the climate behaves
chaotically, reducing the accuracy of predictions as the length of the
period covered increases. Some people argue that predictions can never be
made for a period of more than a few years, even with the best models and
the largest computers. Another important point of criticism relates to
insufficient knowledge of various processes which play an essential role in
the climate. This relates in particular to the influence of changing solar
activity, variations in cloud cover and the effect of aerosols deriving from
human activities. Cloud behaviour is perhaps the most important factor. It
is clear that higher temperatures generally lead to more evaporation,
generating more clouds which keep solar heat at bay. Of course, this effect
is widely known, but due to great local variations it is not yet possible to
model it adequately. Similar effects seems to play a particularly important
role over the Pacific Ocean, but a great deal more research needs to be done
The problem is that, when such phenomena are inadequately incorporated in
the climate models, the modelling results may be completely wrong. This
means that probabilities attached to the IPCC's pronouncements lose their
significance. These only make sense if we are certain that the best possible
account has been taken of all relevant effects.
Another important point is the question why the clear increase in CO2
content has not led to markedly higher temperatures. It should be remembered
that surface temperatures went up and down in the course of the 20th
century, whereas the temperatures measured by satellites since 1979 have
been virtually constant (see above). According to the greenhouse theory,
temperatures should have risen continuously since 1930. No satisfactory
explanation has been found for this discrepancy, which in itself implies a
criticism of climate models.
The almost blind trust that scientists have in advanced computer models,
even when they are based on inadequate experimental data, is a phenomenon
that has spread rapidly to almost all branches of science. When using
complicated models it is of the greatest importance to indicate explicitly
the assumptions and simplifications on which those models are based. The
IPCC has neglected to do this in its Summaries.
Lastly, it should be pointed out that, even if there were no general
temperature increase (global warming), there may still be climate change. In
the first place, climate change has been continuous in the geological
history of the earth. But, in principle, it is conceivable that the
increasing CO2 content of the atmosphere may still lead to unforeseen
effects. After all, if the projected extra greenhouse effect of CO2 were to
be fully offset, for instance through more cloud formation or increasing
emissions of aerosols, these may in turn have other unforeseen effects. Not
enough is yet known about this.
As indicated above, the sceptical standpoint is regarded as "politically
incorrect", certainly in the Netherlands. Many people believe that the
western economy is excessively based on squandering raw materials and
energy, which means that we are heading for a future shortage, while we
spoil nature irrevocably with the resulting waste products. In addition,
many have the idea that we live in a world that can be completely controlled
by man, a world in which human behaviour can in principle be steered,
preferably by democratic means. People with this basic position are
antipathetic to the sceptical scientific standpoint regarding climate change
summarised above. But, in our view, these points of view are open to
separate discussions. Another important effect is a widely expressed doubt
about the integrity of sceptical scientists demonstrated by the media and
politicians. When certain scientists announce a standpoint, it is all too
readily assumed that this standpoint was dictated by industry that pays
their research. It is silently assumed that a scientist who expresses the
sceptical view is paid by the oil industry. He is also automatically a
proponent of wasteful behaviour and thus partly responsible for exhaustion
of raw materials and degradation of the environment. Needless to say, this
is lacking in logic.
The assumption of a controllable world is also an important point for
debate. Hitherto there are no indications that the world is in a position to
steer population growth and the associated economic growth effectively.
From Kyoto to Bonn
Nevertheless, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
should be regarded as an attempt to manage one element, namely emissions of
greenhouse gases. Agreements have been reached in this framework, enshrined
in the so-called Kyoto protocol dating from 1997. In this protocol the
developed countries committed themselves to reduce their combined emissions
of greenhouse gases by at least 5% in the period 2008-2012 as compared with
the level in 1990. It was the original intention that the sixth conference
of the parties to the climate convention, held in The Hague in November
2000, would see years of negotiations on reducing emissions of greenhouse
gases crowned with specific commitments on the measures to be taken by
countries in order to realise the objectives of the convention. But this
conference turned into a fiasco. The same was true of the subsequent
attempts made in April 2001 by Minister Pronk, in his capacity as chairman
of the conference, with the particular aim of convincing the Americans to
join the convention The new Bush administration had initially restricted
itself to rejection of certain technical implementing measures in the
convention. But the American position had in the meantime hardened into what
many saw as a rejection of the principles of the convention, a point that
was later denied by the American administration.
The American refusal to take part also led countries such as Japan, Canada
and Australia to change their position, as became clear at the climate
conference in Bonn and the G-8 summit in Genoa (both in July 2001). The fact
that the climate conference in Bonn ended at the last minute with an
agreement that these countries could endorse must be regarded as a minor
miracle. There can be no doubt that this should be ascribed to the
determination of the chairman of the conference, Minister Pronk. For this,
he has rightly won respect and admiration. Nevertheless, it was a Pyrrhic
victory. After all, the outcome of Bonn implies a considerable dilution of
the commitments initially proposed: the agreed (but not yet ratified)
reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases is now equivalent to roughly one
third of the original objectives. As a result, the formal framework of Kyoto
remains in place but the content, in terms of substantial emission
reductions, has been substantially diluted.
What does a cost-benefit analysis of Bonn show? Without contributions from
countries that are responsible for a considerable portion of CO2 emissions
such as the US, the beneficial effect is zero. Incidentally, that would
already have been the case if the US were to participate. In a letter to the
editor of the New York Times 27 March 2001, Klaus Heiss wrote on this
subject: "... there is little chance of reducing energy consumption in the
United States by 30 to 40 percent within a decade. But beyond this, Kyoto is
also ineffective. Even if the mandatory targets for emission reduction were
enforced and one were to accept the computer simulations underlying the IPCC
speculations as to the next 100 years, global temperature in 2050 would be
reduced by only 0.05 degrees Celsius, an amount too small to measure with
standard thermometers". According to some authors, the diluted compromise of
Bonn would further reduce the benefit to 0.02°C. The supporters of Kyoto
counter that the agreed measures still represent a political breakthrough:
it is a first step which should be followed by further steps, the idea being
to reduce use of fossil-based energy by 60-80% in 50 to 100 years.
There is also great uncertainty about the costs of Kyoto. The IPCC gives a
range of (model) outcomes averaging from 0.2 to 2% of GDP (gross domestic
product) in 2010 without CO2 emissions trading and from 0.1 to 1.1% of GDP
in 2010 with emissions trading. In the literature we find higher estimates
of around 4% of GDP in 2010 for the US, but these studies are based on
extreme and unrealistic assumptions about emission reductions.
How should we weigh these costs and benefits against each other? Richard
Lindzen, a meteorologist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a
(critical) member of the IPCC, once said: "If we view Kyoto as an insurance
policy, it is a policy where the premium appears to exceed the potential
damages, and where the coverage extends to only a small fraction of the
Tradable CO2 Emission Rights
If we suppose that the IPCC is right, the question remains as to whether an
effective global policy to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, in
particular CO2 , is at all possible. Many economists hold the view that, if
something is to be done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, this can be
achieved better in a market-based way via trade in emission rights than
exclusively via regulation.
There is support for such an approach even among greens. Large portions of
the business community object, but there are also companies, in particular a
small number of large energy producers, who see advantage in clear rules for
emissions of greenhouse gases, so that they know where they stand. They
advocate ceilings, linked to a regime of tradable emission rights in line
with the Kyoto convention. Although the American administration has rejected
this convention, it is still considering introduction, at national level, of
a system of voluntary measures to reduce CO2 emissions, including tradable
emission rights. However, the Americans Robert Crandall and Fred Smith have
expressed doubts over this approach. If the American administration believes
that the scientific basis for the Kyoto convention is too meagre to justify
far-reaching measures, why should it now be thinking about introduction of
such a system? Conversely, if the Bush administration believes that the
current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is already too high, why should
it make it easier for companies to emit more greenhouse gases than would
otherwise have been allowed, by buying emission rights? The logic is flawed
In a system of emission rights governments create an artificial shortage of
energy and subsequently allocate rights to use this energy to individual
companies. These companies then have a sort of monopoly. As a result, they
have an interest in preventing any reversal of the artificial shortage, for
instance as a result of technological breakthroughs or new climatological
insights which show that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have hardly
any influence on the climate. After all, in that case, their emission
rights, which they may have bought for a great deal of money, would have no
How should emission rights be shared out? Some companies have already
invested heavily in clean technology. How can we avoid these companies being
put at a disadvantage vis-à-vis competitors that emit more CO2? In addition,
an international system of tradable emission rights requires monitoring of
implementation and, if necessary, enforcement of contracts. For instance,
who decides how much new forest should be planted somewhere in the world in
order to offset a given quantity of emissions? The amounts involved will
probably be considerable and the temptation to cheat will be great. All this
will require a large international bureaucracy.
Furthermore, such a system runs the risk of conflicts, in the form of
sanctions to compel enforcement. That could lead to trade wars or, at the
very least, increasing international tension and accusations of
eco-imperialism. It is also conceivable that purchase of emission rights by
western companies in the Third World will place a brake on local
industrialisation in those countries because the CO2 emissions quota have
already been sold.
There are also dangers outside the material sphere. Granting power to
politicians to determine who in society may use energy forms a major threat
to the individual freedom of the citizen. In countries that practice "crony
capitalism", this could strengthen the position of those currently in power
and their followers, resulting in discrimination against companies that do
not enjoy close relations with the local strongmen. It is also conceivable
that minority groupings will be the losers under politicised distribution
Accordingly, CO2 emission rights should be traded via the market. What
supporter of free markets could object to that? But appearances are
deceptive. After all, elements of central planning would be incorporated in
our market economies under the banner of market conformity, which would
represent a clear change in the development trend of our economic order
towards more market and less government over the last twenty years.
All in all, it can be said that there is still great uncertainty about the
question whether the earth is warming and, if it is, whether this can be
ascribed to man-made emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. It is also
uncertain whether any global warming has harmful effects or even positive
effects (e.g. stimulation of plant growth as a result of higher temperatures
and CO2 concentrations). With regard to the cost-benefit analysis of
measures to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Bonn
agreement, it can be pointed out that the beneficial effect is zero, whereas
the costs will probably run to trillions of dollars worldwide over a period
of ten years. Those who attach great value to the precautionary principle
regard this insurance premium as justified. But critics point out that
mankind is also confronted with a range of other risks. Rich and affluent
societies are better able to adjust to changes of all kinds, and can protect
themselves against various types of risk. For that reason, they regard the
loss of well-being that flows on from large-scale measures to prevent
(supposed) global warming as a waste of money. Finally, there are major
political, economic and technical objections to the proposed mechanisms to
reduce man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular tradable CO2
emission rights. A solution is not in sight.
Drs H.H.J. Labohm is a senior visiting fellow at the Nederlands Instituut
voor Internationale Betrekkingen Clingendael. Professor Dr Ir D. Thoenes is
a former professor of chemical processes studies at the Technische
Universiteit in Eindhoven.
S.F. Singer, Hot Talk, Cold Science. Global Warming Unfinished Debate, The
Independent Institute, Oakland CA, 1997
S.F. Singer, The National Academy of Sciences Issues a Distorted Report.
R.S. Lindzen, Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged
R.S. Lindzen, Testimony before the US Senate Commerce Committee, 1 May 2001.
R.S. Lindzen, Scientists Report Doesn't Support Kyoto, The scientific report
you've heard about does not say what you have heard, says one of its
authors, Wall Street Journal, 12 June 2001.
A version of this article was first published in the Internationale
© 2002 Tech Central Station
(5) EXPERTS SCALE BACK ESTIMATES OF WORLD POPULATION GROWTH
>From The New York Times, 20 August 2002
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
Demography has never been an exact science. Ever since social thinkers began
trying to predict the pace of population growth a century or two ago, the
people being counted have been surprising the experts and confounding
projections. Today, it is happening again as stunned demographers watch
birthrates plunge in ways they never expected.
Only a few years ago, some experts argued that economic development and
education for women were necessary precursors for declines in population
growth. Today, village women and slum families in some of the poorest
countries are beginning to prove them wrong, as fertility rates drop faster
than predicted toward the replacement level - 2.1 children for the average
mother, one baby to replace each parent, plus a fraction to compensate for
unexpected deaths in the overall population.
A few decades ago in certain countries like Brazil, Egypt, India and Mexico
fertility rates were as high as five or six.
As a result, United Nations demographers who once predicted the earth's
population would peak at 12 billion over the next century or two are scaling
back their estimates. Instead, they cautiously predict, the world's
population will peak at 10 billion before 2200, when it may begin declining.
FULL STORY at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/20/science/earth/20POPU.html
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