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The Week That Was(Apr. 2, 2005)
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LATE NEWS: TONY BLAIR WOBBLING ON KYOTO. BUT GEORGE BUSH CAVING (See Items #7 & 8 below)
New on the Web: Holman Jenkins' essay on Carbon-phobia is absolutely the best piece I have read about CO2 -- both accurate and witty. There is still no real observational evidence for significant human-caused global warming. All these GW fears are based on unverified theoretical models. I wish science journalist Gregg Easterbrook would take notice; I recently saw a horrible piece of his in the Washington Monthly. And I don't even want to mention the scare stories in Business Week, National Geographic and TIME.
I hope the US will stop wasting billions on crazy schemes to combat CO2 -- as if it were a pollutant. This would include the absolutely insane idea of carbon sequestration. The present scheme of gradually reducing the CO2-GNP ratio is probably OK -- essentially continuing the historic trend towards greater energy efficiency. It will become much easier once we start building nuclear powerplants again.
We post another review of Crichton's State of Fear, from Terry Francl, Senior Economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
We continue with a review by George Taylor of Mihkel Mathiesen's 'Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate: How Truth Became Controversial' (Item #1).
Now an update on the Flat-Earth Award: There has been a tremendous upheaval since we last reported. First, the blurb from the Middlebury College students:
The Flat Earth Award was created as a humorous effort to highlight the denial of global warming by prominent public figures The nominees for the award -- Michael Crichton, Rush Limbaugh and Fred Singer -- are using their influence to sway the public about the growing scientific consensus that global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels. They are trying to convince the public and our government that a massive peer-reviewed international research project conducted by thousands of scientific researchers is bogus! Vote for the nominee you think has done the best job of confusing the American people at www.flatearthaward.org
Friends of SEPP: I can't tell you how pleased I am to be nominated along with such two distinguished public figures. On March 19, when I first learned about the Award, the score was 36%... 45%... 19% -- with 3261 votes cast. Well, thanks to your support, the score is now (April 2, 2005) 26% --- 33% --- 40% with 4729 votes counted.
So I have prepared an acceptance speech partly serious, partly humorous. Since I am not optimistic of being invited to deliver it in person, here it is for you to read (Item #2). And you can still vote if you haven't done so. You might also enjoy reading the Comments contributed by those who voted at: http://www.flatearthaward.org/?q=allcomments
We digress briefly to look at the prospect and problems associated with a significant resource: Methane extracted from coal beds. It's an old idea but it is getting a big boost from the high price of natural gas. (Item #3)
Shocking news from Hawaii: CO2 levels have increased. No surprise since we add to it every year. Bur if you read the story carefully (Item #4), you will discover the real news: The increase is not exponential (as all models assume); it isn't even linear: less was added last year than during the preceding year.
And now to Europe: The German EPA is subsidizing GW propaganda. So what else is new? (Item #5)
The Kyoto chickens coming home to roost in Britain: The UK will fall short of its Kyoto target and certainly will not meet its self-imposed more ambitious goal. (Item #6). While MPs are attacking Tony Blair, he seems to be wobbling on Kyoto moving closer to the position of George Bush (Item #7).
LATE NEWS: Bush caving in; will ratify the Kyoto Protocol (Item #8). Shock, joy, Consternation, and disbelief depending who you talk to
You Don't Need a Reason to Hate CO2
By Holman W. Jenkins Jr.
3 November 2004
The Wall Street Journal
That guy who was elected yesterday will have to face the Queen -- and she's hopping mad. It appears that the British monarch has noticed some undisclosed evidences of global warming on her hereditary estates and instructed Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise her concerns with the executive branch of the United States starting with a global climate conference in Berlin that begins tomorrow.
California has its own unelected royalty: The dukes and earls of the Air Resources Board want automakers to reduce vehicular carbon dioxide 30% by 2015. Meanwhile, the head of Exelon Corp., an operator of U.S. nuclear power plants, has endorsed carbon limits on his competitors, operators of coal plants. Coal specialists in turn are racing to invest in techniques to capture carbon and dispose of it, which they hope will be a lucrative new sideline.
The U.S. government now budgets $6 billion a year for climate research, supporting a growing industry of scientists and university labs that specialize in the subject. The feds are also spending $1 billion on a coal gasification project aimed at capturing carbon before it goes out the stack, plus another $1.2 billion to develop a hydrogen car.
What's going on? It all adds up to a significant institutionalization of the impulse to treat carbon as a problem, perhaps the biggest problem facing the world, as everybody from Hans Blix to John McCain keeps telling us.
For all that has happened over the past four years, Al Gore might have been president. Carbon is rapidly becoming the first "anti-resource" in the global economy -- billions will be spent trying to get rid of it and no controversy over the reality of climate change seems likely to impede this development.
Public majorities now affirm for pollsters that global warming is a real problem. That guarantees (farm subsidies are your model here) that a majority will be content to cheer on politicians as they divert truly large chunks of the national income to battle carbon -- just as long as those chunks aren't too directly noticeable on any individual taxpayer's bottom line.
Still, it's remarkable that the sole reliable observation on which all this "progress" is based is a measurable rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from man-made sources. From 0.028% before industrial society, the atmospheric concentration of CO2, today is 0.036% and deemed likely to hit 0.06% or more by century's end.
Now CO2 is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere, though by far the most important greenhouse gas is water vapor, which explains why simple models of the atmosphere -- more CO2 equals more heat -- still produce fierce scientific debate.
We've become a lot more careful, for instance, about measuring temperature since global-warming fears emerged. So, the result has been to undermine any certainty that the globe is warming at all, even to the minor extent that advocates of the global warming scenario insist upon, about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century.
With the institutionalization of warming fears, we're also looking more carefully at climate patterns, though increasingly these patterns seem more strongly correlated to solar variation than to changes in atmospheric CO2. Never mind. Global warming is a theory constantly in search of facts, yet that has proved no brake on a self-interested steamroller.
Carbon dioxide comes out of the tailpipes of cars and factories, reason enough for green believers to accept that carbon dioxide should be curbed, regardless of whether it can be confidently linked to unpleasant phenomena. Plus there's the fact that CO2 is easily measured, presenting an attractively one-dimensional problem for technologists and entrepreneurs to try to solve. Too much CO2? Get rid of some of it. Simple.
Indeed, farm subsidies may be the best guide to how this will play out. Politics favors the permissive over the restrictive. That's why Tom Harkin's perennial plan to prop up farm incomes with production quotas never got much traction. Greenies are already grumbling at how quickly carbonphobia is being captured by the proponents of technological fixes rather than the root-canal approach of giving up the comforts of industrial civilization.
Folks at Los Alamos National Lab are beavering away at artificial trees, designed to scrub CO2 from the air. Likewise, a U.S.-Canadian group is well along in testing the feasibility of injecting CO2 into underground wells. If that doesn't pan out, the Department of Energy has an entire facility devoted to exploring the possibility of sending great blobs of liquefied CO2 to the bottom of the ocean.
Investors, get your billions ready. These approaches sell themselves because success can be measured in terms of carbon dioxide kept out of the air, allowing proponents to claim triumph whatever the science of global warming turns out to be.
By contrast, we'd advise steering clear of the many ingenious schemes aimed at influencing global temperature directly, such as by throwing shiny material into the skies to increase the reflectivity of the atmosphere. The drawback here is obvious: The temperature record being one of the flimsier reeds of global warming theory, failure of warming to occur could easily undermine the market for such solutions.
Carbonphobia, on the other hand, can be an end in itself. Like farm programs that serve no real purpose other than to make farmers happy, it doesn't matter why we're getting rid of CO2, as long as politicians, the media and vested scientific interests agree that we should get rid of it.
(See related letter: "Letters to the Editor: CO2 Control Is a Solution In Search of a Problem" -- WSJ Nov 10, 2004)
State Of Fear (By Michael Crichton)
(HarperCollins, 603 pages, $27.95),
By Terry Francl, Senior Economist American Farm Bureau Federation
March 31, 2005
State of Fear is a combination science and techno-political thriller that utilizes global warming and the Kyoto Protocol as a back drop to the story. Crichton is well known for some of his previous best sellers such as, The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. He is also a movie director - Westworld, Coma and The First Great Train Robbery - and was the creator and executive producer of the television series "ER." He actually created "ER" shortly after graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1969. From 1969-70, Crichton served as a post doctorate fellow at the Jonas Salk Institute for biological science before becoming a full-time writer.
Crichton has utilized his considerable knowledge as a doctor, scientist and writer to create what may become a watershed book in American literature and scientific history. By blending copious scientific facts and data into his story, Crichton will lead readers of this book to realize that the theory of anthropogenic (human induced) global warming was one of the greatest hoaxes of the twentieth century. State of Fear is an interesting book to read with various heroes and villains who weave through entrapments, diabolical schemes, murder and mayhem. It utilizes pseudonyms for environmental groups such as the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF) that seems extremely close to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The heroes are constantly pursued by the evil-minded environmentalist throughout the book. They are led into an ice crevace in Antarctica while trying to prevent the evildoers from shearing off a large glacier that would make the world's biggest iceberg that would, presumably, melt and raise the sea level. They are subsequently electrocuted by manmade lightening designed to create a flash flood that will drown hundreds of innocent children. Others are poisoned and near the end they are pursued by the indigenous cannibals in New Guinea as they attempt to prevent the evil-environmentalist from causing an earthquake/tsunami that would flood the California coast. All of these artificially created calamities were timed to coincide with a World Climate Conference being held in California to extract maximum media attention and promote world-wide political action to stop global warming.
Crichton comes up with a new acronym, the PLM for the Political-Legal-Media Complex. He notes that, "Western nations are fabulously safe. Yet people do not feel they are, because of PLM
. Politicians need fears to control the population [hence the title of the book]. Lawyers need dangers to litigate and make money. The Media needs scare stories to capture an audience. Together, these three estates are so compelling that they can go about their business even if the scare is totally groundless."
There are some extremely satisfying parts of the book for those who have been battling the constant diatribe of misinformation and lies regarding global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. One character in the book is an aging, egotistical actor named Ted Bradley. Bradley is a pathetically uninformed, yet boisterous character that appears completely isolated from any vestiges of the real world. He characterizes New Guinea as an environmental paradise. However, paradise turns out to be less than friendly as he meets his demise in a most unpleasant fashion.
Some of the best information available on climate history and global warming can be found towards the end of the book in the author's message, 25 succinct points about global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. On pages 562-563, there is a clear and concise rendition of the earth's geological history, only 400 words. Then in Appendix I, Crichton discusses "Why Politicizing Science is Dangerous." Starting on page 576 he notes, "the theory of eugenics postulates a crisis of the gene pool leading to the deterioration of the human race." While almost everybody will recognize this as a basis for the rise, and subsequent fall of Hitler and the Nazi empire, what most do not realize is that this was a widely respected scientific theory in the early 1900s -- not only in Europe, but also in the United States and other parts of the world.
Crichton goes on to point out a number of eugenics-supporting quotes by various scientists and world leaders including Francis Galton, a respected British psychologist; Margaret Sanger; H.G. Wells; Theodore Roosevelt; Luther Burbank; and George Bernard Shaw who said that "only eugenics can save mankind." Eugenics research was funded by the Carnegie Foundation and later by the Rockefeller Foundation. Finally, he notes that "after World War II, nobody was a eugenicist, and nobody had ever been a eugenicist. Eugenics ceases to be a college subject in classrooms, although some argue its ideas continue to have currency in disguised form."
This leads to another interesting Crichton point, not in the State of Fear, but in a lecture he gave in January 2003. Those who advocate global warming and support the Kyoto Protocol suggest there is a "scientific consensus that global warming is real. (Actually, to the extent there have been any surveys on this point, scientists practicing in related fields are skeptical about, as opposed to endorsing, the concept of anthropogenic global warming by a large factor.)
In his lecture Crichton noted:
"I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus."
Crichton also goes on to say:
"Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible
. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends."
SUMMARY: State of Fear is a rare combination of entertainment, fact and knowledge that anyone who has ever had as much as a thought about global warming should read. It should be required reading for each and every student. It is an interesting science-thriller that brings home a real-world point: Despite the existence of the Kyoto Protocol, the concept or idea of anthropogenic global warming is not supported by science, data or fact. It is simply an artifact of PLM.
- Book Review by George Taylor of Mihkel Mathiesen's
Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate:
How Truth Became Controversial
Universe Star, Universe.com, Inc., Lincoln, NE., 2004.
Considering that M. Mihkel Mathiesen's book has the term global warming in its title, one might expect it to begin with an assessment of that politically-charged and controversial subject. Much to my surprise, however, when I looked at the Table of Contents, I found the first global warming chapter beginning on page 69. A full five chapters preceded "Chapter VI - On the Global Warming Scare."
Why the delay? To set the stage for what some have called "The Mother of All Environmental Scares," Mathiesen gives us a brief history of earlier debates that galvanized environmentalists and led, in many cases, to significant changes in law and policy. First there was DDT, which was banned in the U.S. in 1972 following a remarkably unscientific sequence of events; and that ban has led to an estimated 15 million deaths worldwide from mosquito-borne diseases - without any conclusive proof that environmental benefits have accrued.
Descriptions of three other environmental issues follow: asbestos, ozone depletion and acid rain. I know enough about the last two issues to know that Mathiesen has his facts straight. So let me ask you: Have you ever wondered why we don't hear much about acid rain any more? Have you ever heard of the U.S. National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program? NAPAP is an example of a "good news" report that showed the U.S. does not have a significant acid-rain problem. It was discredited, however, by the Environmental Protection Agency and various environmental groups, after which those agencies and the media simply stopped talking about it ... but not before Midwest utilities were forced to fund equipment changes that cost taxpayers $140 billion.
Asbestos and ozone depletion discussions follow, and you will notice some similarities among these issues, especially the typical sequence of events:
1. A dramatic press release from an environmental group, a government agency, or a politician regarding a looming environmental catastrophe.
2. Political activity and intense media reporting, much of it stricken of conditional statements that may have appeared in the original announcement. The political action results in the commissioning of expensive studies and/or proposed legislation.
3. Enactment of legislation before the original study results are available. When the study is completed, its results are largely ignored.
Again and again, these events have occurred, and they're happening once more in the global warming issue, to which Mathiesen devotes the next 70 pages of his book. There's a lot of good science in there, and I learned quite a bit from the author. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of the way CO2 is absorbed by, and released from, the ocean, along with the fallacy of sampling air bubbles in 400,000-year-old ice and assuming that the air has remained inert and stable for that time span.
According to Mathiesen, the environmental issues he discuses have had four things in common:
1. They were described as having been caused primarily by mankind.
2. They all led to an unhealthy confusion of politics and science.
3. Those most vociferously involved in the creation of the scares - advocacy groups, politicians, scientists, media, bureaucrats, lawyers and even industry - had a direct self-interest in promoting the myths.
4. Each calamity scenario contained a few grains of truth for plausibility, but woven around them was a web of emotional, misleading and scientifically incorrect fables, which ultimately became uncritically accepted elements of "common knowledge."
You see, in the final analysis this is not a science book: it's a political science book, or perhaps a sociology book. It says more about society and human behavior, plus the volatile mix of science and politics, than it does about science. "Political correctness," in Mathiesen's words, "thrives when objective truth is allowed to disintegrate into a number of objective truths, all except one of which are mere opinions. Once the demand for objective truth is surrendered, society has lost the capacity for outrage and its sense of common direction."
As one who has positioned himself on the wrong side of political correctness when it comes to global warming, I found myself agreeing with just about everything Mathiesen says. I get very tired of hearing about "scientific consensus" on this issue (the typical statement is "the vast majority of credible scientists disagrees with you, so therefore you must be wrong"). I get very tired of being accused of being in the employ of Big Oil or Big Coal (I'm not!).
I guess I represent one type of person who should read this book: a scientist engaged in environmental issues who is going against the grain of political correctness and needs a big dose of encouragement! Mathiesen's book has inspired me to think in some new ways, and has given me a host of new references, many of them journal articles, to read and analyze. In addition, it has given me hope.
The second group of people who should read this book consists of those who are convinced that "global warming is a serious problem, it is caused by humans, and if we don't do something soon we'll be in big trouble!" Unfortunately, they likely won't read it.
I have high hopes for the third group, however: people who haven't yet made up their minds about global warming and who are willing to read and learn, as well as those who may have formed an opinion about the subject but who have open minds and are willing to consider new evidence. I wish every person in this category would read this book!
As I see it, many people have been led to believe that global warming and what to do about it is a "done deal." Often when I give talks and describe "the other side of the story," people say "that's the first time I've heard that point of view." My reaction has been to recommend one of the fine "skeptic" books about the topic: Pat Michaels' or Bob Balling's or Essex-McKitrick's.
Now I have a new volume to add to my "recommended" list. So I say to all who are reading this review: get this book, and give copies of it to your friends. They may not all agree with you, or with Mathiesen, but it will give you lots to talk about. And who knows? It may even change some minds.
Reviewed by George Taylor
Oregon State Climatologist and Certified Consulting Meteorologist
2. Flat Earth Award Acceptance Speech
S. Fred Singer
Dear Students of Middlebury College:
I thank you for nominating me for the Flat Earth Award, along with Michael Crichton and Rush Limbaugh. I am truly honored to be in the company of these two gentlemen who are able to communicate the truth about global warming to millions of people. My own influence is much more limited; yet readers of my web site have honored me by casting their vote in my favor about 1900 by now. I thank them.
You created the Flat Earth Award as a humorous effort to highlight the denial of global warming by prominent public figures. You claim that despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that human-induced carbon-dioxide emissions are altering the global climate, some deniers remain. They are trying to convince the public and our government that a massive peer-reviewed international research project conducted by thousands of scientific researchers is bogus!
Well now. As you undoubtedly realize, there is NO consensus within the scientific community about GW. And even if there were such a consensus, this is not how science progresses. Remember: There was once a consensus that the Sun revolves about the Earth. What matters are facts based on actual observations. And as long as weather satellites show that the atmosphere is not warming, I cannot put much faith into theoretical computer models that claim to represent the atmosphere but contradict what the atmosphere tells us.
I hope that this does not come as too much of a shock for you. As for the claimed consensus as published by Naomi Oreskes in the Dec3, 2004 issue of Science: A colleague of mine has completed an audit of the same material used by Prof Oreskes but does not duplicate her result. I expect that her paper will be withdrawn. You may want to drop the link to her article on your website.
And while we are at it, here are other corrections for your website. I continue to publish in peer-reviewed journals; there were two papers in the 9 July 2004 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. Also; The Science and Environmental Policy Project is certainly not industry-funded (not that this would make any difference). But as a matter of policy, we rely on private donations and do not solicit support from either industry or government. And finally, get rid of that awful picture in my bio.
So what's the real scoop on global warming? As I told the Rutland (VT) Herald, I do not deny the principle of GW. "I believe that the climate is currently warming as a result of the increase of greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect is real. However, the effect is minute, insignificant and very difficult to detect. There is a discrepancy between what we expect from theory and the facts, and we need to explain that. That's what we're all working on." And beyond this, competent economists conclude that a modest GW is good for you -- and agriculturists know that more CO2 is good for crops and forest growth..
*CO2 is increasing largely as a result of fossil-fuel burning.
*CO2 is a greenhouse gas, ergo: There must be SOME global ATMOSPHERIC warming -- ALL OTHER
THINGS BEING EQUAL. *But the most reliable data do not show any appreciable atmospheric warming.
*Climate models do. *Whom should we believe? The atmosphere, or the models? *Many scientists believe in models and think there must be something wrong with the observations. Other scientists believe the atmospheric data and think models have left out some important negative feedbacks. * I believe in the atmosphere.
And now, an announcement, inspired by your efforts: The Science and Environmental Policy Project will sponsor the prestigious Chicken-Little Award. The award will include some tangible benefits, consisting of a sculpture or painting of a chicken, a certificate, and a voucher for dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I invite you and everyone else to send your nomination to Comments@sepp.org and our Selection Board will announce the winning nominees.
So: Again, thank you --and May the next Ice Age be long in coming.
3. Developers Find Opportunity in Coal-Bed Methane
By Ken Silverstein Director, Energy Industry Analysis
Rising natural gas prices are spurring innovations to bring about new energy ideas. Take Harken Energy, which is participating in joint partnership in Indiana to find coal-bed methane, which is natural gas that is trapped under coal seams. The Dallas-based company says that the endeavor holds potential, noting that the use of coal-bed methane has occurred for about 20 years. It's extracted before the coal is mined. That provides both environmental and safety benefits.
As its name implies, coal-bed methane is a natural gas-like fuel associated with coal fields. The coalification process, whereby plant material is converted to coal of increasingly harder rank, generates large quantities of methane-rich gas that is stored within the coal seam. While the presence of this gas has led to underground mining accidents, such as explosions, it is also now considered an energy source to be harnessed.
is an opportunistic transaction that adds to and diversifies our existing oil and gas holdings located along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, says Jim Denny, president of Gulf Energy Management, a subsidiary of Harken. Although we are just in the early stages of our
coal-bed methane development program, we are excited about the potential and believe it provides an attractive opportunity for growth.
Indeed, many of the almost 6,100 permits to drill for oil and gas on federal lands in 2004 are coal-bed methane projects. That's up by 60 percent from 2003 figuresa result directly tied to high natural gas prices that stand around $7 per million BTUs. But, production of coal-bed methane is accompanied by significant environmental challenges, including prevention of unintended loss of methane to the atmosphere during underground mining, and disposal of large quantities of water, sometimes saline, which are unavoidably produced with the gas. The proposed sites are primarily located in the West and particularly in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Coal-bed methane accounts for about 7.5 percent of U.S. natural gas production, the U.S. Geological Survey says. Recent U.S. estimates indicate more than 700 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of coal-bed methane gas in place. But, only 100 tcf is now economically recoverable, which represents a 5-year supply at present rates of consumption. Further, coal stores six to seven times more gas than the equivalent rock volume of a conventional gas reservoir, the geological agency says. Gas content generally increases with coal rank, with depth of burial of the coal-bed, and with reservoir pressure.
Roughly 13 percent of the land in the Lower 48 States has coal in the ground. Practically all of that has methane in it. The goal is to make greater use of that resource, but that could mean more emissions. One of the directives of the Bush administration's Climate Change Action Plan is the reduction of atmospheric methane to 1990 levels.
Oil and gas exploration firm Winslow of Calgary, Canada, is pursuing coal-bed methane in Alberta. The properties are located in areas of active surface coal mining and were acquired in 2004. Surveys show that the land, long home to coal mining, could hold a lot of potential to mine gas contents. Activity will begin in the second quarter of 2005.
Similarly, China wants to make greater use of its vast coal reserves by extracting more coal-bed methane. The nation, which is estimated to have 1.36 trillion cubic meters of coal-bed methane reserves, has entered into multiple contracts with foreign companies to mine the resource. But, despite its vast resources, technological impediments are preventing such discoveries. In fact, China has a small coal-bed methane extraction rate at 10 percent.
Despite the promise, environmental groups and ranchers are putting up a fight to stop some production projects. They are protesting a plan by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to allow for the drilling of 9,000 oil, gas and coal-bed methane wells in Wyoming's Red Desert. The same arrangement also would permit 2,500 miles of new roads, not to mention the accompanying infrastructure such as power lines and pipelines.
And, in some cases such as one in Utah, there are fights over who should pay to purify coal-bed methane when it is piped to consumers. In that case, Questar Gas and consumer advocates have disagreed how the $25 million clean up costs will be paid. Meanwhile, the state of Montana and Canada's British Columbia are at odds over Canada's quest to extract coal-bed methane on 12,000 acres near the Montana border. The state fears that its water resources would be polluted during the mining process.
Coal-bed methane production necessitates the withdrawal of ground water to reduce the pressure within the coal seams, all so that the methane can flow out. But, this process affects the quantity and quality of water resources. In Montana, there is strict oversight as it relates to monitoring and the compensation of landowners and water right holders for any damage caused during the development of coal-bed methane.
Regulators are sensitive to all concerns. Nationally, the parties agree that if more sites are permitted then better monitoring is essential. The BLM, for example, says that it can require developers to modify their designs by regulating the rate of drilling in certain areas. At the same time, it can reduce the need for new roads by necessitating the use of modern technology that keeps tabs on how well the drilling equipment is working. And, finally, all land under the jurisdiction of the BLM must be reclaimed. Such steps can go a long way to preserve wildlife and the environment, it says.
Rising natural gas prices are giving developers new incentives to find alternative energy sources. Coal-bed methane is one of those alternatives. Already, consumers are seeing the benefits of this fuel source. But, if it is to be fully developed, then more attention must be paid to remedying the drilling footprint, controlling the unintended release of methane and the maintenance of clean water supplies.
Shocking news from Hawaii
4. Carbon dioxide continues its rise
By David Shukman
BBC science correspondent, in Hawaii
The atmospheric concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide has reached a new high, say US researchers.
The figures - 378 parts per million (ppm) - were gathered by a Hawaiian lab regarded by experts as one of the most reliable in climate research. The rise in the past year is smaller than it was in the previous two years.
The laboratory's director, Dr Pieter Tans, told the BBC: "The most striking thing about the data is that we've seen an increase in carbon dioxide levels every single year since 1958."
5. German EPA Buys Media Propaganda
To counter rising criticism of wind farms, environment minister Trittin initiates massive media campaign for renewable energy, together with its industry associations. German EPA kicks in 3 million Euro and Klaus Toepfer, UNEP chief and Trittin's predecessor, becomes honorary chairman.
6. UK could 'miss Kyoto gas target'
By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent
The UK's emissions of greenhouse gases rose between 2003 and 2004, according to provisional government data.
The emissions last year were 1.5% above those in 2003, and are now higher than at any time since the Labour government came to power in 1997.
For the first time, the data also suggests Britain could miss its target set down under the Kyoto Protocol. Opposition politicians and green groups have accused the government of losing control of greenhouse gases.
7. Is Tony Blair Wobbling on GW Science -- and on Kyoto?
So it would be true to say the evidence [on anthropogenic global warming] is still disputed. It would be wrong to say that the evidence of danger is not clearly and persuasively advocated by a very large number of entirely independent and compelling voices. They are the majority. The majority is not always right; but they deserve to be listened to. However, behind the dispute over science is another concern. Political leaders worry they are being asked to take unacceptable falls in economic growth and living standards to tackle climate change. My view is that if we put forward, as a solution to climate change, something which involves drastic cuts in growth or standards of living, it matters not how justified it is, it simply won't be agreed to. But fortunately that need not be the case. Science and technology cannot alone provide the answer. (Emphases added)
Tony Blair, Davos Speech, 26 January 2005
Tony Blair is "wantonly squandering" Britain's leadership in the fight against global warming in order to pander to President Bush, a powerful cross-party committee of MPs reports today. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says it is "profoundly concerned" by the PM's approach to what he called "the single most important long-term issue we face". --The Independent, 27 March 2005
Call for action on climate change
The government is not doing enough to tackle climate change, according to a report by a parliamentary committee. The Environmental Audit Committee attacked ministers for believing that new technology and market mechanisms will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The committee says Britain and the developed world need to reduce emissions by 60-80% by 2050.
Committee chairman MP Peter Ainsworth called on the government to draw up a clear plan of action. In its report the parliamentary committee attacked the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which is central in helping the EU to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
The time for talking about this problem is drawing to an end Peter Ainsworth, MP Peter Ainsworth, speaking on Radio Five Live, called for a plan of action. "The government chief scientists and Tony Blair have both said that climate change is one of the most serious problems facing mankind, and Tony Blair has rightly put it at the head of his international agenda," he said. "The trouble is that the rhetoric isn't translating into action." He said Britain needs to provide clear policies to direct the international community. "What Britain needs to do is to set out a list of achievable goals for the world community, that involves getting America engaged with this as far as is possible, but it also crucially involves getting the developing world involved.
"The time for talking about this problem is drawing to an end, what we really do need now is a programme for action, and that's what we're trying to impress on the government through this report."
8. Is Bush Caving on Kyoto?
US Switches Stand & Will Ratify Kyoto Protocol
SFS News Service WASHINGTON, DC. April 1, 2005 - In a surprise move, the White House announced today that it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol after all, with certain caveats and understandings with the European Union regarding the obvious difficulties the US will have in reaching the 7% emission reduction target. Analysts were divided over whether the primary motivating factor was continuing diplomatic isolation or environmental concerns.
Concern for international relations and the global environment may not have been the only factors motivating the Bush decision to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol. The scientific research supporting the attribution of all climate change to human interference has grown stronger by the day, recently reinforced by new principles that have solidified the consensus among scientists and others regarding the human causes of all the world's problems.
Deal With EU Allows US to Join the Kyoto Club
Apparently president George Bush secretly wanted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol all along, but knew the cost was too high in light of projected US emissions. Besides, Dick Cheney was solidly against such a move. But the EU came up with a strategy that would allow him to join the Protocol but avoid the big price tag.
The EU argued that many countries will miss their Kyoto targets, not only the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and others, but also a majority of the EU-15 Member States. This means all of them will be in non-compliance at the end of 2012, and will face the consequences together of the Kyoto compliance regime.
The escape hatch lies in the fact that the Kyoto compliance regime depends entirely on there being a second commitment period. Any country that misses its first commitment period target must pay back at a penalty rate from its assigned amount for the second commitment period (already negotiated before 2010).
But what if a country does not sign up for the second commitment period targets (which would be binding only on countries that ratified an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol) or what if there were no second commitment period for any countries? Many now believe this is a likely scenario. Thus, the Kyoto compliance regime is basically toothless.
Even so, Bush was nervous that if the US joined, the EU and others might still "gum" them with the toothless compliance regime. But the EU privately assured him that they would not point fingers, and others who would also miss their targets would be unlikely to do so.
The only problem might be Russia, who would easily meet its target and might try to seize the "moral high ground." However, the EU assured Bush it had Russia in its pocket and Putin wouldn't raise any problems unless the EU Commission told him it was OK to jump on the US.
With these assurances in hand, Bush phoned his friends in the Senate, led by Republican John McCain and Democrat Joe Lieberman, and told them to start lining up votes for a rapid ratification process. They were both delighted and began preparing for a bipartisan celebration. Some even thought the spirit of cooperation might be so high that social security reform might ride in on the coattails of the Kyoto ratification.
US To Be Welcomed Back Into Global Family
Many believe the real reason for Bush wanting to ratify the Protocol is the terrible international diplomatic isolation the US has suffered since walking out on the Protocol in 2001. He has admitted to some close friends that the reactions to the Iraq war were nothing compared to the cold shoulders he has received since rejecting the Kyoto treaty.
With Iraq, there was no alternative grouping to the allies who joined the US in ousting Saddam Hussein. But with Kyoto, most of the rest of the world had embraced the Protocol and were all happy and celebrating inside the cozy club. Even OPEC had joined the group, and the US felt itself quite left out, in the company of countries like North Korea.
Now, however, the US will be welcomed back into the international family that defines itself partly by its shared values as enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol and other treaties. Bush called UN secretary general Kofi Annan to say he had reformed his attitude toward the Protocol and wanting to know if Annan could now say some approving things about him in public.
Bush Finally Sees Light on Threat to Earth
Although international isolation was clearly a factor in the Bush decision to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol, some believe the real reason was a deep concern for the global environment. Bush has always had a close relationship with nature, as evidenced by his preference to spend more time at his ranch in Texas than in the artificial urban atmosphere of Washington.
He wanted to show this side of his personality already during the 2000 presidential campaign, but Al Gore had previously laid claim to the environment as his personal issue. Bush wanted to portray himself as not just an "Al-Gore clone" and thus he had to distance himself somewhat from his true feelings. Besides, he felt Gore was too smug and self-righteous about the environment and he didn't wish to associate with that kind of "environmentalism."
But as time has passed, he has been looking for some way to protect the earth and leave a legacy for future generations. The Kyoto Protocol, as the most important environmental treaty ever negotiated, was the obvious choice, once he had found a way to finesse the economic problem as noted above.
He was further moved by the appeals of some fundamentalist ministers to take a more active role in protecting God's creation. Feeling increasingly guilty about his position on climate change and some other environmental issues, he decided to get on the right side of the issue.
New Scientific Principle Confirms Human-Caused Warming
Concern for international relations and the global environment may not have been the only factors motivating the Bush decision to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol. The scientific research supporting the attribution of all climate change to human interference has grown stronger by the day, recently reinforced by new principles that have solidified the consensus among scientists and others regarding the human causes of all the world's problems.
Chief among these was the report of the Hockeystick Restoration Working Group (HRWG), set up by UK Chief Scientist Sir David King and issued last January by the Royal Society. The HRWG used hitherto unpublished data to show that the 20th century was the warmest in the past one million years.
But the tide was turned by recent explanations from Greenpeace and others of how global warning had caused the tsunami that devastated the eastern Indian Ocean, and also contributed to earthquakes in general, volcanoes, meteors, traffic congestion and AIDS. All this has added to the mountain of evidence of the evils of fossil fuels.
Although a few skeptics continue to hold out against the global consensus, their numbers are dwindling. As one of the supporters of the Kyoto Protocol commented, "We know who they are, and we will continue to hunt them down and wear them down until they admit the errors of their thinking."
Latest Principle Dispels All Doubts
Supporters of the consensus have been buoyed in their efforts by recent recognition that science needs to be guided by principles rather than being simply knocked one way or the other by the latest data that may be reported.
"The problem with facts," one of them observed, "is that they can't be lined up in support of clear and undeniable theories. One fact leads one way and then another bounces you in the other direction. What we need are principles so that we can make sense of all these seemingly random facts."
The Precautionary Principle has been very useful thus far in resolving apparent contradictions among observations of temperature and other variables that might prove human-caused climate change. But not all participants in the international debate have accepted the Precautionary Principle.
Now a new principle has been enunciated that supporters of the global consensus on human-caused climate change say will help greatly to clear away all remaining doubts. The new principle is known as the "doubting skeptics punishment" (DSP) principle.
Instead of making skeptics feel vaguely guilty at most for failing to be willing to "go the extra mile" to protect the environment, as the Precautionary Principle would mandate, the DSP makes doubters feel like total morons for not going along with the consensus. The answer to any issues raised by skeptics about the consensus is simply, "You don't understand."
The principle is not actually new but has been around for many years. In earlier times it was not yet a principle but a factor applied to diminish conflicting views of others, sometimes called the dumb s**it factor (DSF, or occasionally the BSF). It has long been known that scoffing at others' views is far more effective in dismissing them than struggling to organize data and analysis that might logically refute such views.
Now that the DSF has been elevated to the level of a principle, it has much more power to dispose of contrary evidence and arguments that supporters of the global consensus would rather not hear or respond to. In fact, some have referred to it as the "mother of all principles" because its invocation prevents any further discussion of costs, political realities, or of any other reason that might be raised in opposition to a given proposal.
The SFS News Service wishes readers a Happy First of April or April Fools.
It is hoped readers have enjoyed this annual tradition of trying not to take things too seriously.
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