歧義

2008/07/12

The layman’s guide to the Kyoto Protocol (from an American perspective)

Filed under: Climate Change — pinksealife @ 17:10
What The Soda Pop Effect Ostrich vs Cassandra
Why The End Of Oil What You Can Do
Ice Core Measurements Denial Personal Travel
Measuring CO2 The Business Opportunity Lobby For Kyoto
Measuring Temperature Economics Of Clean Videos
Culprits Kyoto Is Just A Start DVDs
Opposition Practicality Books
Doubt Ratifiers Links
Goldilocks The Greed Argument Parting Quotes
Greenhouse gases Eat Locally  

What Is The Kyoto Accord?

The Kyoto Accord is an international treaty whereby countries agree to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit if their neighbours do likewise. It is a very complex agreement that allows trading pollution credits. If it is cheaper to reduce emissions in country A, then country B can buy the pollution credits, and have them count toward its own quota of reductions. Happily, the global atmosphere does not care where the greenhouse gas reductions come from.

The current Kyoto round calls for a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 6% in Canada and 5% in the USA.

Why Ratify The Kyoto Accord?

After millions of years of remaining constant, greenhouse gas levels, particularly CO2, started to climb sharply at the beginning of the industrial revolution. They are now almost certainly higher than they have been in 20 million years. This is not a natural fluctuation. It is a side effect of us humans diligently burning the oil, coal and forests. These greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, much like a giant greenhouse. The heating is called global warming.

Long Term Ice Core Measurements of CO 2

CO2

 

Recent Scripps Institute Measurements of CO 2 At Mauna Loa, Hawaii

CO2 concentrations

Measured in ppmv (parts per million by volume)

Global warming has already reduced the depth of the winter polar ice cap since the 1970s by 40% . Polar bears will become extinct if the ice retreat continues. 90% of all glaciers on the planet have retreated significantly in the last 50 years. As the white reflective snow melts, it leaves behind the darker earth which is even more efficient at absorbing solar energy. This causes an acceleration of the heating effect.

So what? Who likes snow and ice? Consider:

  • The computer models show up to a metre sea level rise over the next 100 years, but they don’t account for the large icecaps that are above ground melting. Large parts of Florida, and much of the eastern US seaboard will be at risk if the Greenland icecap and the west Antarctic icecap melt.
  • More heat means more energy in the atmosphere. This mean more turbulent weather. Super hurricanes will cause millions in property damage. We are already seeing more damage from tropical storms than ever before.
  • More heat means a redistribution of rain patterns. We are now seeing freakish storms all over the world that dump many feet of water in a single day where previously even an inch would have been considered a major downpour. This also means droughts in places that previously had abundant rainfall. For the first time in history, Canada had to import grain because of droughts. For the first time in history, rainy Vancouver’s drinking water reservoirs were almost empty. The Monsoon rains, upon which Asian agriculture depends, no longer arrive with clock-like regularity. In 2004, we saw three hurricane right after each other in Florida: Charlie, Frances and Ivan.
  • There have been two mass extinctions in earth history, the Permian, 230 million years ago, was the worst. 70% of all species were lost. It was caused by natural global warming when volcanoes released greenhouse gases. (The other more familiar to most people was the more recent KT Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction event, 65 million years ago. It was caused when an asteroid plunged into the earth at Chicxulub Mexico wiping out the dinosaurs and half of earth’s species.) We are re-experiencing the same global warming conditions that triggered the more devastating Permian extinction, only this time it is man made. When it gets too hot, plants die. When it gets too hot and dry, massive fires ravage huge areas. When plants die, insects and herbivores die. When insects die, even heat-resistant plant’s don’t get pollinated and die. Birds die without insects to eat. Carnivores die without herbivores to eat, all triggered by what seems so innocuous — heat. Similarly, in the oceans, when they get just a few degrees too warm, corals expel their symbiotic algae and die soon thereafter. When coral reefs die, the fish that live on them die, triggering extinction chains. Satellites can chart the loss of vegetation over the planet. A one degree rise in the Americian southwest has already completly wiped out the ponderosa forests. The problem is not just heat. A one degree rise in average temperature increases evaporation so that you need 10% more water just to break even. We are losing 4 species per hour, a rate on the same scale as the Permian and KT events. Man has no ability to live without the support of other species. We are committing suicide and killing the family of life on earth along with us.

Computer models show we can expect a five degree centigrade (nine degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average temperature within 100 years. This is far from the worst case scenario. (The worst case is a runaway greenhouse effect.) Five degrees does not sound like much, however, consider that the earth is a mere five degrees warmer on average than it was during the last ice age. Another way of looking at it is that a five degree warming represents a change equivalent to moving from San Francisco (average temp 12.5c/54.5f) to Los Angeles (average temp 17.5c/63.5f), or from Los Angeles to San Antonio Texas (average temperature 22c/72f).

Well so what? Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a warmer climate? There are at least three drawbacks:

  1. You may find you have to run your air conditioner year round. Where are we going to get all the extra electricity to run the air conditioners? By the law of supply and demand, electricity prices will go through the roof, and you may find yourself unable to afford to run your air conditioner.
  2. With higher temperatures, water evaporates more quickly. Global warming disrupts rainfall patterns bringing extra rain to some places and drought to others. For those in drought, tap water will have to be brought in from further and further away. This means higher water bills. It also means skyrocketing food costs since the farmers need huge amounts of water for irrigation. Every degree rise requires 10% more water just to break even.
  3. If you live in Alberta or Saskatchewan or in the Ganges river valley, your tap water comes from glacier meltwater. Those regions will experience summer water shortages.
  4. The trees can’t pack up and move to a cooler climate. We lost many of our grand fir trees in the summer of 2002 due to heat and drought. You would pretty well have to cut them down and replant with new heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant species. It will take a generation for the newly planted forests to mature.

Measuring Temperature

Most people don’t seem to understand how drastic the recent changes in temperature are. They think of them as just part of the background warming that ended the ice ages. This graph should explain it:

Average earth temperature over the last 1000 years

Earth’s average temperature from 1000 CE to 2100 CE.

The red line shows the average temperature of the earth over the last 1000 years. The grey vertical line represents the year 2000. You notice the red line is pretty flat then suddenly starts to take off matching the curve of greenhouse gas production that came along with global industrialisation. The last part is an extrapolation based on computer models. There are several lines, outcomes dependent on how lackadaisical we are about global warming.

You might wonder how scientists can possibly know the average temperature going back 1000 years. There are many sources of information that can be used to cross check each other including ice cores, chemical analysis of carbon isotopes, tree rings of 1000 year old trees, plant remains in silt layered deposits and of course civil records.

Who Are the Global Warming Culprits?

American lobbyists who oppose Kyoto would have you believe India and China are the major culprits. Who are they really?

CO2

The United States pumps out more CO2 than the entire rest of the world combined. We as a species pump as much CO 2 into the air each year as you would get from burning down every tree in Canada each year.

Each person on earth breathes out about 0.85 kg (1.87 pounds) of CO 2 each day.

Transportation accounts for 40% of the problem. The number of cars is growing world wide ten times faster than the population. Every US gallon of gasoline burned produces 9 kg (20 pounds) of CO2. It would take a large tree about a year to absorb this much CO 2. One reader was skeptical the CO2 produced could weigh more than the gasoline. Recall your high school chemistry. When gasoline (an octane/hexane mix) burns each carbon atom (atomic weight 12) joins with an oxygen molecule containing two oxygen atoms (atomic weight 16) from the air. The oxygen forms 73% of the weight of the resulting CO 2.

“We’re about a degree Fahrenheit in the planet warmer than we were a century ago, but the vast majority of those who know something about it believe that at least half of that in the last 30-40 years is due to our using the atmosphere as an un-priced sewer to dump our tailpipe and our smokestack wastes. And every time we try to talk about getting a tax on those emissions, they tell us it’s an interference in the free market, as if, somehow, we should get our garbage collected for free.”
~ Dr. Stephen Schneider, professor of biological science at Stanford University, editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather

Opposition to Kyoto

The opposition to the Kyoto treaty in Canada comes mainly from Ralph Klein, the premier of Alberta. Alberta is Canada’s oil-rich province. Klein said in one of his anti-Kyoto commercials that perhaps dinosaur farts helped end the last ice age. I don’t know who Klein’s scientific advisers on Kyoto are, but they appear to be unaware the dinosaurs died out millions of years ago and the last ice age ended a mere 10,000 years ago. I think we can safely presume that Klein has not been receiving expert scientific advice to justify his gut feelings about global warming.

Klein imagines that the Kyoto treaty will be costly to the oil interests in his province. He reasons, if we reduce emissions, we necessarily will necessarily consume less oil, therefore Alberta will sell less oil, therefore Alberta will make less money. Therefore, Kyoto must but stopped, the planet be damned.

I think Klein has it backwards. The way to reduce emissions is by using more efficient cars and machines that use less oil. This means the oil reserves will last longer. This means the oil producers can continue to collect money for a longer time. The oil monopolies will be able to raise oil prices, knowing that their customers now have more money in their pockets from using more efficient vehicles. Yet it won’t cost any more to produce the oil than now. Overall then, the oil producer would get more money for the same amount of oil in his reserves.

Though the vast majority of the world’s scientists are on board for cleaning up the atmosphere, a few can be bribed to lie or mislead the public. TV, in an attempt at balance, tries to some one anti-Kyoto expert for every one pro, even though scientists are about 1000 to 1 in favour of Kyoto.

Industry similarly screamed at the acid rain restrictions. Yet it turned out the acid captured in the smokestacks more than paid for the equipment to collect it. This same pattern has repeated itself over and over. Capturing and reusing a pollutant, or avoiding creating it in the first place always turns out to be “unexpectedly” profitable.

We don’t let children play with life support systems in hospitals, yet we allow alcoholic dufuses to meddle with the life support systems of spaceship earth. The politicians don’t understand the science needed to deal with global warming.

Others pooh-poohing global warming, quote president Bush, the man famous for lying about Iraq, 9/11, his military career and just about everything else.

Others quote Bjørn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, who does not even have a BSc. See what scientists in the field have to say about this quack.

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
~ Mark Twain

The oil industry has gone so far as to found it own support group to attempt to refute such charges, and extraordinarily well-funded lobby called the GCC Global Climate Coalition, which initially included all the biggest oil, coal and auto companies. They spent $60 million on disinformation to oppose attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They of course were all strong Bush supporters. Bush lied to the people during his campaign that he was going to reduce CO 2 emissions, then pushed through bills to increase them, such as the SUV tax subsidy. Many of their members have since seen the light and have abandoned the coalition. These include BP, Shell, Ford, DaimlerCrysler, Texaco, Southern Company and General Motors. There’s no point in fighting reality. You will make more money working with it. Even Bush and FOX’s Bill O’Reilly now admit the threat of global warming is real.

“Global warming is here. All these idiots that run around and say it isn’t here. That’s ridiculous.”
~ Bill O’Reilly

“I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem.”
~ George W. Bush, 2006-06-26

“California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming. International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming.”
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

“The environmental and economic consequences of climate change and our dependency on fossil fuels compel both California and the United Kingdom to commit to urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote low-carbon technologies.”
~ Tony Blair

“Many people have the impression that there is significant scientific disagreement about global climate change. It’s time to lay that misapprehension to rest. There is a scientific consensus on the fact that Earth’s climate is heating up and human activities are part of the reason. We need to stop repeating nonsense about the uncertainty of global warming and start talking seriously about the right approach to address it.”
~ Naomi Oreskes, 2004-12-26

“If you compressed the atmosphere to a liquid, it would be about 1/500 the size of the oceans. It is not nearly as big as people assume.”
~ Tim Flannery, 2006-09-09

According to an article in Mother Jones, 2005-05/06 by Chris Mooney, from 2000 to 2003, Exxon funneled more than $8 million into a network of think tanks, quasi-journalistic media outlets, and civic and religious groups, to great effect. Peer-reviewed scientific journals contain virtually nothing that challenges the consensus on anthropogenic global warming.

Those who have a financial investment is playing ostrich, carefully avoid reading any of the thousands of books written by reputable scientists.

Doubt

Ever since Al Gore won the prestigious Nobel peace prize, global warming deniers have scurried away like rats before the daylight, however the amateurs are still attempting to derail efforts to protect the earth.

As you might guess, I think those claiming doubt about climate change are a bunch of paid shills without conscience. But let us give them the benefit of the doubt. If there is doubt about climate change, what is the prudent thing to do?

Buckminster Fuller explained that our planet can be considered a spaceship, with a life support system — the atmosphere. If you shank the earth to the size of a basketball, the atmosphere would be about as thick as a layer of saran wrap. In other words, it is fragile.

One does not jerk around doing experiments to a spaceship’s life support system. That is precisely what business wants us to do — insert massive quantities of novel chemicals into the atmosphere. We are sure the effects won’t be beneficial. The only doubt is whether they will be mildly or violently harmful.

Look for yourself at these data about tornado frequency: 1955-2000 and 20032006. Global warming predicts more violent weather, simply because there in more energy in the atmosphere. You can see the clear trend to increasing tornado frequency for yourself.

Exxon has been funding the deniers, liars and fudsters. The fools an Exxon don’t even recognise their own self interest. The longer oil lasts, the more money they will make.

Goldilocks

Oil company shills like to confuse the lay public by pointing out that CO 2 is a natural biological gas. We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in. It is the gas that creates the sensation of being suffocated. You would think the activities of plants and animals would naturally keep it in balance. Normally they do.

The catch is we have overwhelmed the natural systems. Every 300 horsepower car acts like 300 straining horses converting oxygen to CO2. Every household appliance is like some Tazmanian Devil on cocaine. Every light bulb is like several marathon runners gasping. A furnace is the equivalent of 14 elephants rutting away in the basement. Every time you take a shower, it is the equivalent of 10 horses thrashing away to warm the water up with friction. It takes a large tree about a year to absorb the CO2 from burning even one gallon of gasoline.

CO2 forms only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere — about 375 parts per million. How could this insignificant gas make any difference to climate? The importance of CO2 in planetary heat regulation was discovered back in the 1800s. Even at tiny concentrations, CO2 is remarkably efficient at absorbing and hence trapping energy. Each CO2 molecule is a bit like tiny solar-powered transformer, absorbing light and converting it to heat and emitting it, repeating the cycle over and over many times a second. It is that same ability that makes CO2 useful in constructing infrared lasers.

With no CO2 at all, the earth’s average temperature would be -20°C (-4°F). With 375 parts per million, the current concentation, it is 14°C (57°F). The level is rising about 2.54 parts per million per year and is accelerating, mainly due to the unchecked emissions in the USA. Scientists are concerned even a 3°C (5°F) rise would cause mass extinctions. Some projections calculate a 6°C (11°F) rise if we don’t quickly mend our ways. If CO2 ever reached 1% of the atmosphere, the average temperature would be above boiling. Higher concentrations that than would sent it up to -500°C (-868°F), like the surface of Venus.

To summarise, CO2 acts as the planetary thermostat. Too little and we freeze, too much as we boil. We need to keep it just right. To add to the complication, CO2 is just one of many even more potent greenhouse gases, though it is the most important one.

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse Gases
Name Molecule Formula Composition Potency
relative to
CO2
Notes
carbon dioxide carbon dioxide molecule CO2 One carbon atom flanked by two oxygen atoms 1 The gas that gives pop its fizz. plants use it during photosynthesis, emitting oxygen. people, animals (and machines) breathe it out during metabolism. if the concentration reaches 5%, it will kill you. though it forms only 387 parts per million of the atmosphere, it acts like a effective planetary greenhouse. CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases. When high energy rays hit a molecule of CO2, it converts them to heat which cannot escape, warming up the earth. The same molecule of CO2 can keep on converting rays ad infinitum. Because we humans have been burning fossil fuels at an astounding rate, we have hugely increased the amount of CO2in the air, and this powerful warming effect is getting out of hand.As you have probably noticed if you warm pop or shake it, the CO 2 fizzes out into the air. The same thing happens to CO 2 dissolved in the ocean as global warming heats the water. This creates a vicious circle where the CO2 released warms the water causing still more CO2 to bubble out. You have a run-away effect.
methane methane molecule CH4 One carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogen atoms in a tetrahedron. 50 Methane is fart gas. Globally livestock account for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions. In impure form, used as a fuel, it is called natural gas, a cute euphemism. It can be harvested from decomposing manure or vegetation piles, and burned as fuel to form CO2, a much less problematic greenhouse case.
nitrous oxide nitrous oxide molecule N2O Nitrogen atom flanked by another nitrogen atom on one side and an oxygen atom on the other. 296 It is used as a propellent in canned whipped cream. The world’s agrifuel corporations plan to triple the amount of nitrogen entering the world‘s soil, a process which releases N2O. Even as it is, almost half of green house gases come from agricultural monoculture, and its attendant long distance transportation and fertiliser production.

The Soda Pop Effect

Global warming has nasty “soda pop effect” that has several vicious circle components that cause the process to become unstable and run-away. This is sometimes called the runaway greenhouse effect.

“What if we run into a tipping point where we have this kind of accelerated scenario of climate change? We’re gonna get our butts kicked.”
~ Paul Roberts, The End of Oil

  1. As the oceans warm, they can hold less CO2 (carbon dioxide). It bubbles into the atmosphere, like warmed soda pop. The carbon dioxide is a green house gas that heats the oceans further in a vicious circle.
  2. The arctic is where the global warming effects are most dramatic (2.6 times stronger). Permafrost is melting letting the frozen methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 50 times more potent as a greenhouse gas. That further melts the permafrost in a vicious circle. According to a Nova documentary, for every human on earth there are 3/4 of a ton of termites. There is a population explosion of termites caused by the rapid clearing of tropical rainforests and drought deaths of the tropical forests caused by global warming. Termites produce substantial quantities methane as a byproduct of their digestion of cellulose. Scientists say that the most obvious sign of life on earth from a distant observer would be the high concentrations of methane in our atmosphere, caused primarily by the flatulence of cows, a side effect the cattle feed lot industry. More termites means more methane which means more global warming.

    “We have a lot of carbon stored in the permafrost, and those permafrosts are starting to defrost and when they defrost that carbon is going to be oxidized to carbon dioxide or brought out as methane… and that will be a dramatic increase in greenhouse gases.”
    ~ Douglas Crawford-Brown, Director, Carolina Environmental Program, UNC-Chapel Hill

  3. Snow cover in the subarctic reflects heat back out to space. Global warming causes the snow to melt earlier, and it stays melted a longer period each year. The dark ground or water underneath absorbs heat. Snow reflects 80 to 90% of the light, but water only reflects 5 to 10%. Technically reflectivity is referred to as albedo. So again you get a vicious warming cycle.
  4. Greenland’s glaciers, due to global warming are melting rapidly. This dumps huge quantities of fresh water into the North Atlantic, diluting the salinity. According to some computer models this might be enough to interface with the Gulf Stream which what makes Europe habitable. So ironically general global warming can cause local cooling, just as a flame in a propane powered refrigerator can cool food.
  5. CO2 warms the air. This makes it hold more water vapour, which is itself a greenhouse gas. So you get a vicious circle magnifying effect.
  6. Methyl clathrates are frozen methane, lying buried on the continental shelves. As the oceans warm, these melt and burp methane, a greenhouse gas 50 times more potent into the air. In a vicious circle this causes more warming.
  7. As the oceans become more acidic, creatures with shells (e.g. corals, clams, oysters and diatoms) are unable to extract calcium carbonate from the ocean. Their shells dissolve like teeth in Cocoa-Cola. This means they are unable to fix carbon. The acidity also means the oceans have less ability to dissolve CO 2. More CO2 means more acidity. More acidity means more CO2. More CO2 means more global warming.
  8. As the oceans become warmer, plankton (tiny ocean plants) die off. About half the plankton has already died. Lowly plankton do the lion’s share of the work converting CO2 to oxygen. Fewer plankton means more CO2 which means more global warming. Since plankton are the base of the marine food pyramid, one additional symptom of the plankton die-off is reduced fish populations.
  9. Due to global warming, the Amazon has seen its first droughts ever. This leads to forest fires. The plants there have never seen fire, and are not adapted to it. Each fire leaves the forest even more vulnerable to the next fire. The soils are thin and quickly erode away. The burning emits massive amounts of CO 2, and the Amazon, the lungs of planet earth, no longer has the biomass to convert CO2 back to oxygen that sustains the planet’s animal life (including us). Similar problems are happening all over the globe. Fewer plants means more CO 2 which means more global warming.
  10. Global warming means:
    • extreme droughts
    • extreme flooding for a short periods
    • high winds

    When plants experience heat above what they are adapted to, they shut down. They stop converting CO2 to oxygen. Ditto for drought. Flooding rips up the soil and carries it off into the ocean, leaving poor gritty soils behind. Fewer plants means more CO2 which means more global warming.

You see the problem, that even if you don’t do anything to make global warming worse, the problem can run away on its own getting worse and worse ever faster. The earth has gone through rapid and drastic cycles on its own before triggered by atmospheric changed caused by volcanoes, bacteria, plants, asteroid impacts etc.

The End Of Oil

Oil exploration peaked back in the 1960s. In the USA, production peaked in the 1970s. In country after country is hitting its peek of production. After the peak, each barrel gets more expensive to extract, logical since you would expect oil companies to extract the easy oil first. Consider that it is easiest to get mayonaise out of a full jar. When it is almost empty, you have to scrape and scrape. The world as a whole is going over the peak right now. From now on, the increasing demand and shrinking supply will force oil prices to platinum. That is why the USA has been invading Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. It desperately wants their oil.

“We’re going to run out of air to burn before we run out of fossil fuels to burn.”
~ Richard Manning, Against the Grain

In other words, even before we run out of oil, we will have to stop burning it to avoid killing off the entire planet.

The problem is we are hopelessly dependent on oil for energy, chemicals, fertilizers, pumping water, making electricity etc. We have done almost nothing to prepare for the end of oil. Corporations are incapable of looking ahead more than a quarter or two, so that have not funded any research but window dressing. Government has been unwilling to fund research since campaign-contributing oil companies want the world to remain addicted to their products.

“Petrochemicals, fossil fuels, have become embedded in our food supply. If we run out of fossil fuel, that strategy will collapse in a heartbeat.”
~ Richard Manning, Against the Grain

Without oil, the earth can only sustain the population it had roughly at the time of the American civil war, 1 billion. That means if we don’t plan for the end of oil, about 5 billion people will die so it is downright criminal to put your head in the sand or try to trick others into ignoring the problem.

“Our global population is going to be reduced.”
~ William Catton, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Sociology & Human Ecology, Washington State University

The end of oil is not news. Even people in the 1800s understood oil was a finite, non-sustainable resource.

“Rational people will go quietly and meekly into a gas chamber if only you allow them to believe it’s a bathroom.”
~ Zygmunt Bauman

“There is no need to save the planet. It will be here a million years from now no matter what we do. We are really talking about saving humanity.”
~ Patrick Moore

Denial

“If you have a sick child and 98 doctors say she needs medication and two say she does not, I go with the 98 doctors.”
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

Despite fact the world’s climatologists are in near unanimous agreement that global warming is a major threat, the bulk of Americans ignore the warning and pretend to themselves there is no problem. Why?

  • Reducing CO2 emissions will mean making changes — switching to new forms of energy. Americans don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to deal with the expense.
  • There are a few scoundrels, mostly funded by coal and oil interests, who lie and dissemble to give the impression there still doubt that something has to be done now. According to Ross Gelbspan of the Boston Globe, in 1995, public utility hearings in Minnesota found that the coal industry had paid more than $1 million to four scientists who were public dissenters on global warming. And ExxonMobil has spent more than $13 million since 1998 on an anti-global warming public relations and lobbying campaign. For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the news media to accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations.To gain an understanding of the level of scientific consensus on climate change, a recent study by Naomi Orestes examined every article on climate change published in peer-reviewed scientific journals over a 10-year period. Of the 928 articles on climate change the authors found, not one of them disagreed with the consensus position that climate change is happening or is human-induced.

    These findings contrast dramatically with the popular media’s reporting on climate change. One recent study analyzed coverage of climate change in four influential American newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Wall Street Journal) over a 14-year period. It found that more than half of the articles discussing climate change gave equal weight to the scientifically discredited views of the skeptics.

  • Some dismiss any bad news as gloom and doom, and hence invalid. This is not a very good way to test the truth of an assertion. When the climatologists tell you a tornado is coming, you trust them and get out the way, even though this is very gloomy news that your house may be destroyed. When they tell you global warming is coming more gradually, you suddenly lose faith just because the news is too unpleasant? Playing ostrich won’t help.

Even president Bush, a representative of the oil interests, has finally admitted publicly that global warming is real and represents a real threat.

The Business Opportunity in Kyoto

If vehicles were more fuel efficient, oil companies could charge the same as they do now, yet pump less oil. This would increase their profits and also make the reserves last longer. Instead, the fools lobby for fuel-inefficient vehicles.

Other businesses besides oil also have much to gain from Kyoto. More efficient use of energy always means higher profit in the long run, simply because it means reduced energy costs.

As the oil reserves are consumed, by the law of supply and demand, the prices of oil will rise. Black gold will go platinum. So irrespective of global warming, the world is going to be forced to switch to energy-efficient machines and vehicles.

We Canadians must decide whether we want to be the providers or merely the purchasers of that high-efficiency, low-emission technology. The sooner we adopt the new technology ourselves, the more likely we will become the providers to the world.

Sharp and the Japanese government are already tiling the roofs of Japan with solar panels. With that experience they believe they will soon develop a solution at less that $1 per watt that will be cheaper than hydro electric or coal/oil-fired electricity and the Japanese will rapidly dominate the global energy market. Does it make sense to hand this giant market to the Japanese on a plate by playing ostrich and pretending we can do oil business as-usual forever?

Economics Of Clean

Most people assume that cleaning up will be costly. Usually the reverse is true.

“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.”
~ Richard Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller 1895-07-121983-07-01

According to Amory Lovins in the 2002 Summer edition of Orion Afield we have very powerful techniques now that can triple or quadruple the energy and water efficiency of most existing buildings. In new building the energy savings can be more like 90 percent, and these buildings typically work better and cost less to build.

“A 3 mpg increase in the auto and light truck fleet is worth a million barrels of oil a day.”
~ Ernest Moniz, Professor of Physics, [The giant tar sands of Canada, the last major untapped oil source, are projected to produce 3 million barrels of oil a day.]

With all the potential for saving energy, its obvious that protecting the climate is not costly but profitable: saving fuel costs less than buying fuel. That’s why DuPont the world’s biggest chemical company, announced that in this decade its energy use won’t increase, even though its business is projected to grow by six percent a year, because its goal is to get efficient at least that fast. STMicroelectronics, the fourth-biggest chip maker in the world has set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by the end of this decade, when they will be making 40 times the chips they made in 1990. British Petroleum just reached its 2010 carbon reduction goals seven years early — at a net profit of $650 million. These thing are being done in the name of shareholder value. Smart companies are behaving as if the USA had ratified the Kyoto protocol, because they make more money that way. Washington will be the last to know.

Nicholas Stern, who heads Britain’s Government Economic Service and formerly served as the World Bank’s chief economist produced a report for the British Government on the economics of dealing with global climate change, pointing out the stupendous costs of ignoring the problem.

“Failing to curb the impact of climate change could damage the global economy on the scale of the Great Depression or the world wars by spawning environmental devastation that could cost 5 to 20 percent of the world’s annual gross domestic product.”
~ Nicholas Stern

Kyoto Is Just A Start

“The best evidence indicates that we need to reduce our CO 2 emissions by 70 per cent by 2050. [Kyoto round one aims for only 6%]. If you own a four-while drive, and replace it with a hybrid fuel car, you can achieve a cut of that magnitude in a day, rather than half a century. If your electricity provider offers a green option, for the cost of a daily cup of coffee, you will be able to make equally major cuts in your household emissions. And if you vote for a politician who has a deep commitment to reducing CO 2 emissions, you might change the world.”
Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers

Unhappily, even if everyone in the world immediately reduced emissions to zero, we would still get a significant increased global warming caused by the gases we have already so cavalierly leaked into the atmosphere in the past. Even with a 6% reduction we are just making a tiny dent in the global warming problem.

So the 6% reduction is just a start, not sufficient to rectify the problem. You have to start somewhere. The worst polluters, e.g. Canada and the USA are scheduled first. The lesser ones such as China are scheduled to follow later.

The problem is we have already pumped so big an excess of CO 2 into to atmosphere, even if in 2004 we took the entire world back below 2004 levels of emission, there would still be four times as much CO 2 as there was before the industrial revolution. We are pumping far greater amounts into the air than the natural systems, (trees, oceans, plant) can deal with. The natural systems can cope only with the natural sources (animals breathing, volcanoes), not with our overload.

“It might take another 30 Kyotos over the next century to cut global warming down to size.”
~ Jerry Mahlman, director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton

Is Kyoto Practical?

Canada is committed to reducing emission rates to 6% below what they were in 1990, which is 20% below the 2002 level, and 35% below the projected 2010 business-as-usual level.

Even so, Kyoto is just a token start at the problem. The economic effects of the 6% reduction would barely be noticeable since the positive economic aspects of the cleanup would offset the negative. Economic factors like interest rates, exchange rates, wars and tariffs would dwarf the Kyoto effects.

For home appliances (e.g. refrigerators and washing machines) we already have the technology to cut the energy consumption in half. All it requires is gradually phasing them in. For automobiles we already have high efficiency vehicles. All we have to do is provide incentives to both manufacture and buy them, and disincentives to both manufacture and buy inefficient SUVs.

An area 161 × 161 km (100 × 100 miles) in New Mexico covered with solar panels could provide all the energy needs of the USA. We need to create only a very few new clean energy plants to meet the 6% target.

 

Ratifiers

Who has ratified Kyoto already: 80+ countries have now ratified the Protocol, including 18 industrialised countries (the fifteen member states of the European Union EU plus the Czech Republic, Norway and Romania), Japan, Russia, China, India, Canada and New Zealand.

Under George Herbert Walker Bush, the USA signed the Kyoto treaty on 1992-12-06. It ratified it in 1992-10-15. It came into effect on 1994-03-21. Under George Walker Bush, the USA reneged on the agreement in 2001.

There are only three other countries refusing to ratify the treaty: Australia, Monaco and Liechtenstein.

America’s excuse is that India and China should go first. Well, they have gone first. They have already ratified the agreement. The agreement was that Canada and the USA would develop the high technology required, field test it, then sell it to India and China.

The Greed Argument

Our generation has gobbled up more the earth’s non-renewable resources than all previous generations combined. Surely that legacy belongs to generations besides ours. We are stealing from our grandchildren simply because no one is stopping us from taking it all for ourselves.

When you work to reduce your energy and greenhouse gas footprint, you save money. Electricity costs about  a kilowatt hour. If you left a 100 watt bulb on for a month, it would consume 100 * 24 * 30 = 72,000 watt-hours or 72 kilowatt-hours. That would cost  . If you replaced that bulb with a 13 watt fluorescent, which is even brighter, it would cost only  a month. This does not sound like much, but add up all the lighting in your house. Similarly consider other energy hogs like ovens (5000 watts), clothes dryer (5000 watts), water heater (3800 watts), microwave (1500 watts), toaster (1500 watts), fridge (200 to 700 watts), desktop computer with CRT Monitor (330 watts), TV (90 watts), LCD flat panel TV (40 watts). Anything you can do to replace these with more energy efficient devices, or turn them off then not in use will save you money. That computer’s power running 24/7 will cost you  a month. If you turned on the hibernation feature, and you used the computer four hours a day, that bill would drop to 1/6 as much — . To get an idea of what these devices are costing you, try out this energy calculator. You can cut your hot water bill by 40% by using a hot water heater that prewarms the water from heat in your outgoing wastewater. Similarly, you can save on your heating bill by warming incoming ventilation air with outgoing exhaust air.

Eat Locally

Globalisation is a huge producer of unnecessary greenhouse gases. Foods are shipped half way round the world in energy-gobbling refrigerated units. These foods are artificially cheap because of the heavy government transportation subsidies. In the USA, food typically travels 2,500 to 4,000 kilometers from farm to plate, up 25% further than in 1980. If you live in Toronto Canada and eat California carrots rather than local ones, you will release 59 times as much CO 2. If you eat New Zealand lamb rather than local lamb, you will release 1100 times as much CO2.

Ostrich vs Cassandra

Even though science been near unanimous about global warming for decades, many people still play ostrich and use all manner of means to avoid confronting this disturbing reality. They will read articles in The National Enquirer or similar tabloids. They don’t believe a word of these publications other than the false optimism about global warming being a hoax or a giant conspiracy of all the scientists on earth. They will quote “experts” who don’t even have a degree, much less one in climatology. They will plug their ears to anyone but the oil lobby and their siren songs, fully knowing their vested interest in lying. Arguing with deniers can be as frustrating as arguing with fundamentalists who have predecided their holy book is the final authority on everything, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Sometimes they will make up childish objections, even though they know they have only a primary school understanding of science and no inkling of how the scientists came to their conclusions. They pretend to themselves that they noticed some anomaly that all the scientists of the world missed, that if exposed, would triumph over all other knowledge about global warming. Walter Mittys all!

Global warming deniers like to dismiss all scientists as Jeremiahs or Cassandras. Consider that Cassandra of Greek mythology, famous for her dire predictions, was always right. Her curse was that no one would take action to avoid the catastrophes, despite her track record.

If I predict that placing your hands across a 10,000 volt AC line will kill you, it does not make me wrong just because my prediction is dire. If a doctor tells you that you have lung cancer and likely won’t last the year, it does not make him wrong, just because that is the last thing you wanted to hear. You can always find some quack who will sell you snake oil at inflated prices and tell you that everything will be fine, but that does not make him right.

Similarly you should not believe someone just because they predict dire consequences. That, in and of itself, means nothing. The church has been using that trick for centuries to manipulate people and extort them out of “contributions”, given in the hope of mollifying the vengeful, angry, control-freak god du jour.

In summary, it is childish to evaluate the correctness of a scientific prediction based on how pleasant the expected outcome.

What About China?

Very few people could have foreseen the explosive growth of the Chinese and Indian economies in the last decade. When China and India ratified the treaty in 1993, the intention was the developed world would develop the technology for these countries to adopt later. In the meantime, China and India would not do much damage compared with the developed countries. However, that all changed. China opens a new dirty coal-fired electric generation plant every week. China is now about equal to the USA is terms of contribution to the total yearly carbon emissions. It is time to pressure China to go carbon neutral. It has plenty of money, so it has no excuse. The problem is being dirty gives a country an economic advantage. Industry in clean countries relocates to dirty countries where costs are lower. So countries are extremely reluctant to clean up. If our species is to weather this, we must insist every country clean up to some degree, so there is a level economic playing field. At that point, industry will climb on-board the cleanup, since they can make money from it.

Ideally we should institute a global value added carbon tax. It could be revenue neutral. Basically it would punish carbon emitters and reward those who reduce carbon emissions. If the VAT were global, there would be no incentive for an individual country to go dirty to attract industry. It could start with individual countries instituting the tax based on the total carbon footprint of a product including mining, manufacturing and shipping. This would discourage dirty production in foreign countries too.

What I find odious is the USA refusing to clean up, using as its excuse that China is dirty too. Imagine two dirty little boys refusing to take a bath, each floating the excuse the other is dirty, and staying dirty will encourage the other to bathe. What nonsense! If one boy climbs into the tub, the other is far more likely to conform too. You lead by example. You can’t very well demand behaviour from others you are unwilling to do yourself.

Lobby For Kyoto

“We would have to pull every truck and car off the street, shut down every train and ground every plane to reach the Kyoto target. Or we could shut off all the lights in Canada tomorrow.”
~ Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Environment Minister

This is a croque de merde (crock of shit). All it would take is some mandatory fuel efficiency standards on automobiles. Cars in 2006 are no more efficient than they were in 1982.

The new Conservative government is dedicated to making global warming worse. They have pulled the website and the environment minister and the Prime Minister have been spreading FUD and outright lies about global warming. It is imperative they be removed form office quickly by hook or by crook, using all means fair and foul. It is also important to let them know you are doing that. They might change their tune.

 

“Stephen Harper is 300 pounds of condemned beef.”
~ Mary Walsh

Premier Klein and the Alberta oil patch interests have put a ton of money into sinking Kyoto, even though it is against their own long-term economic best interests. Their propaganda was having an effect on Canadian public opinion, though it was not sufficient to derail Kyoto. Prime Minister Chrétien ratified the Kyoto treaty. Write to Stephen Harper to urge him to get on with implementation, and to tell him you will work to remove him from office by any means necessary if he does not.

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