Future Energy eNewsFebruary 19, 2002
Perspectives on Global Warming
1)Bush Alternative to Kyoto
3) No emission cut
4) Longer day from global warming
5) NY Times response
1) Bush unveils US alternative to Kyoto protocolNew Scientist, Feb. 15. 02, Exclusive to the Web
George W Bush unveiled the details of his alternative strategy for halting global warming in an address to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday.
He made no promises to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but instead set a national target of reducing by 18 per cent the amount of greenhouse gases the country produces for every unit of GDP.
A White House briefing document giving key details of plan said: "The president's goal seeks to lower our rate of emissions from an estimated 183 tonnes per million dollars of GDP in 2002 to 151 tonnes in 2012."
Bush claimed this would "put America on a path towards stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in the long run, while sustaining the economic growth needed to finance our investment in a new, cleaner energy structure."
Rising and falling
But critics said continued economic growth would make this unlikely. They calculated that the plan, even if achieved, would leave US emissions rising fast while those of most other industrialised nations would be falling, under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol which the US alone has refused to sign.
Chris Flavin, energy analyst and President of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said: "This will leave the US producing at least 35 per cent more greenhouse gases in 2010 than would be permitted under the Kyoto Protocol. It is particularly disturbing to see the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases propose to continue increasing those levels."
Bush said: "We will challenge American businesses to reduce emissions." His goal is not mandatory on industry or the nation, but he promised "additional measures... if in 2012 we find that we are not on track."
"This is a faith-based initiative," said Phil Clapp of the US National Environmental Trust. "We're all supposed to have faith that major corporations are going to line up and cut their global warming pollution. They haven't been willing to do that for the last 10 years; there's no reason to believe they'll do that for the next 10 years."
2) Statement by Al Gore: Response to Bush Environmental Overtures
US "Dangerously Dependent on Oil"
I am also particularly troubled by his plan from a national security perspective. It is now more than abundantly clear that our country is dangerously dependent on oil. A strong policy on climate change would lessen that dangerous dependence and move us to a clean and safe energy future. By contrast, this policy, like the Administration plans to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, keep us tied to the dangerous global oil politics that pose a grave threat to our national well-being.
The United States can and should lead the world to a clean technology future. Unfortunately this plan abdicates the responsibility instead of accepting it. A strong plan of action on climate change would stimulate the development of new transportation, power and manufacturing technologies and enable American companies to lead the world in capturing markets for those technologies. A weak policy like the one announced today, without binding requirements for greenhouse gas pollution reductions, makes it vastly harder for American companies to compete. And that's part of the reason why many business leaders have joined environmentalists in calling for the certainty and clarity that binding targets would provide.
3) US climate plan rejects emission cutsFred Pearce New Scientist, 07 February 02
The US President's long-awaited alternative to the Kyoto Protocol proposes no cuts in US emissions of greenhouse gases. The plan to gradually restrict, but not reduce, emissions may undermine efforts to get other nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, British officials believe.
President Bush first promised an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, as he announced that the US would pull out of the global treaty aimed at cutting emissions and slowing global warming.
The administration's policy finally emerged in six pages of a 440-page economic report issued by the White House Council of Economic Advisers on Wednesday. "We need to recognise that it makes sense to discuss slowing emissions growth before trying to stop and eventually reverse it," the report said. This approach would prevent any "shock" to the US economy.
Critics point out that this statement comes five years after the US initially agreed the Kyoto Protocol, which promised emissions cuts. And 10 years after it signed to Climate Change Convention, which pledged it to stabilising emissions during the 1990s. In fact, US emissions rose 13 per cent during the decade.
The White House report suggests that the US government might one day set national emissions targets that are tied to economic growth. Thus it might require fewer greenhouse gases to be emitted for every dollar of GDP.
But analysts in Washington were not impressed. Vicki Arroyo Cochran of the Pew Foundation on Global Climate Change said: "We have to have something that results in true reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."
Next week Bush visits Japanese ministers, who are believed to be wavering on whether to ratify the Protocol formally and bring its measures into force. At a meeting in Marrakech in November 2001, the Japanese government agreed with other nations that this should be done. But repeated reports from Tokyo say ministers may not ratify if there is no sign of action from the US.
The other major waverer, according to UK government sources, is Russia. Without both countries formally ratifying the treaty, the protocol could not come into force. The source told New Scientist: "We will be spending the next few months trying hard to make sure that Japan and Russia stay on board."
4) Global warming will lengthen the dayGeophysical Research Letters (DOI:10.1029/2001GL013672)
Global warming will make days longer as well as hotter, say Belgian scientists.
A team led by Olivier de Viron of the Royal Observatory of Belgium has calculated the impact of global warming from the build-up of greenhouse gases in the air on the angular momentum of the planet.
The rate at which the Earth rotates is slightly variable because of interactions between the solid Earth and its fluid components: the atmosphere, oceans and molten core. Essentially, they slosh around, slowing or increasing the speed of rotation.
Known variables include tidal friction, sea level, earthquakes and the rebound of the Earth's crust from the last glaciation. But, says de Viron, "the atmosphere is known to be one of the largest causes of the variation of the Earth rotation speed".
Now he has shown that predicted changes in wind, coupled with smaller changes due to ocean currents and atmospheric pressure, as a result of global warming, will add to this natural variability.
The overall effect will be to give the planet a nudge from east to west, marginally slowing its rotation from west to east. The nudge will be small - enough to increase the length of the day by only around 1 microsecond, or a millionth of a second, over a year. It will take the most sensitive instruments a decade to spot any change.
De Viron's calculations are based on an expected rise of 1 per cent in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"The largest contribution is an increase in wind between 10 and 60 degrees of latitude in both hemispheres," he says.
Additional effects come from an expected displacement of air in the atmosphere from over the equator to polar regions, and changes in ocean currents, especially in the Southern Ocean.
Fred Pearce New Scientist, 13 February 02
5) Backward on Global Warming
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from President Bush's latest global warming strategy, unveiled this week, is that he does not regard warming as a problem. There seems no other way to interpret a policy that would actually increase the gases responsible for heating the earth's atmosphere. That the policy demands little from the American people, while insulting allies who have agreed to take tough steps to deal with the problem, only adds to one's sense of dismay.
The White House described Mr. Bush's strategy as aggressive and bold. The only thing bold about it are accounting tactics worthy of Enron that are designed to make an increase in emissions look like a decrease.
The plan is voluntary and consists mainly of tax credits and other incentives to encourage Americans to limit emissions. There is nothing wrong with voluntary measures or with the credits. Several American companies have already reduced emissions on their own, partly for environmental reasons and partly because the efficiencies required to achieve reductions make economic sense.
But these piecemeal efforts have been undertaken largely in the expectation that at some point the United States would join in a collective attack on the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which mainstream scientists now agree could trigger unwelcome changes in the earth's climate. Mr. Bush has refused to join that effort, abandoning his campaign pledge to limit carbon emissions and renouncing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol committing industrialized nations to mandatory reductions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.
Mr. Bush's long-awaited substitute for Kyoto is a disappointment. The essence of his strategy is a concept that seems to have been minted for the occasion, called "emissions intensity," under which carbon dioxide pollution would be allowed to grow, but at a slower rate than economic output. That sounds attractive, but it misses the point. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, already alarmingly high, is a cumulative process. Thus the name of the game is to stop adding new emissions to the vast amounts already up there, not simply to slow their growth.
Yet that is all Mr. Bush is proposing to do, meanwhile dressing up his meager agenda with some squirrely math. He first posits an increase in emissions that is higher and more rapid than the forecasts of his own Energy Department. Then, from this "business-as-usual" baseline, he promises reductions of 18 percent in the next 10 years. By his own figures, however, actual emissions - the ones that count - could rise by 14 percent, which is exactly the rate at which they have been rising for the last 10 years.
Mr. Bush's speech also included proposals aimed at reducing three other pollutants largely unrelated to global warming: mercury, sulfur dioxide - the main cause of acid rain - and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to urban smog. The president called for stronger, mandatory caps on all three pollutants and for market-based mechanisms like emissions trading to help companies meet those targets. Mr. Bush would substitute this "cap and trade" approach for the complex system of regulations that now govern clean air enforcement.
In principle, these are fine ideas. But before disposing of the existing regulatory structure, Congress must be fully satisfied that the president's proposals will in fact achieve the sizable reductions he and his senior associates say they will. We cannot abandon existing law for a promise. Meanwhile, Congress is obliged to do something, and soon, to develop a credible national strategy on global warming. On this score Mr. Bush has fallen well short of the mark.
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