February has been a tough month for Global Warming doomsayers. First, their cataclysmic worst-case scenarios were debunked by the IPCC, which cut its own 2001 projections for temperature increase by a third and sea level rise completely in half. Then, just five days later, they learned that the environmentally irresponsible U.S was actually doing a better job of cutting CO2 emissions than their Kyoto-signing European Union heroes. And to top it off, attendees of a February 16th DC meeting of GLOBE nations agreed to abandon their adored Kyoto's economy-killing, energy-rationing, short-range, mandatory CO2 targets in favor of more realistic long-term goals.
The Valentine's week gathering of policy-makers from around the world was primarily the initiative of Britain's Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE). And, coming just 2 weeks after the announcement of a proposed EU carbon tax on non-Kyoto aligned nations from that French prince of pomposity, Jacques Chirac, it was a breath of lukewarm fresh air. After all, the nations meeting at the Washington Legislators Forum on Climate Change, the so called G8 Plus Five, were discussing an early retirement for the flawed and failed Kyoto protocols.
Ultimately, the group signed a declaration which established a long-term goal of stabilizing "greenhouse gas" (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level of between 450 and 550 parts per million (ppm). Most GHG advocates promote this as the range necessary to maintain their dream of a 2 degree Celsius maximum variance with pre-industrial temperatures.
Of course, as the new goals conform more or less to Kyoto, fans of one should eagerly welcome the other, right? Not quite. There's resistance brewing over this proposed post-Kyoto approach, which calls for a policy of measurable milestones addressing climate change over not the next 15 years, but rather the next century. Additionally, in the opposite corner, there remain many who disagree with the need for any action whatsoever and see the new plan as a design to bait otherwise unconvinced nations into nebulous indentures.
Superficially then, this month's revelations wouldn't appear to have brought conflicting sides of this ostensibly endless debate any closer to harmony. Yet, beneath the reputedly industrially polluted surface, hope glimmers.
You see, while non-binding, this new agreement will form the foundation of an upcoming June G8 summit on the subject and, likely, a new accord. Granted, its aspirations are based upon the still unsettled science of anthropogenic Global Warming. Still, there are many benefits to the projected pragmatic 2009 alternative to a 2012 Kyoto renewal for lucid believers and skeptics alike. As to alarmists - the plan has something to offer them too - a long overdue reality check.
For Believers - There's strength in numbers
Rational believers can take solace in the fact that the U.S, which wisely rejected the potentially catastrophic Kyoto accords, has tentatively signed on. In fact, just days before, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs told an audience in Berlin, Germany:
"Now, I know there is a deeply held view among many in Europe that the U.S. Government doesn't get it. That we don't care about climate change, that we are doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that Europe, while perhaps not perfect, is doing a far better job of tackling the issue than the United States. This proposition--no matter how simple, no matter how widely held, and no matter how much it fits a pop-culture ‘blame-the-United States' paradigm--is completely wrong, on every point."
And, while Kurt Volker's comments included a few questionable points regarding the roles of mankind in climate and scientists in the IPCC summary, he did a pretty clean job of defending our rejection of Kyoto as a rebuff not of principle, but of detail and reach.
Accordingly, in addition to the more pragmatic targets, the group of 13 nations wisely agreed that both developing and prosperous nations must meet those targets, not just selected "offenders," as in Kyoto. Indeed, the previous pact's exclusion of India and China, which continues to build coal-fired power plants at the rate of one a week, was a major obstacle to requisite international acceptance. And, while many dismissed President Bush's surprising call to "confront the serious challenge of global climate change" during his January 23rd State of the Union Address, their distrust has been proven increasingly vapid by both time and non-rising tide.
You believers will also like the proposed globalization of the European Union's carbon trading market. Here, CO2 emission "credits" are traded against quotas by big industrial firms in an effort to cap emissions and foment investment in "greener" energy sources. But beware: Although recently heralded by the Christian Science Monitor, this silly "cap-and-trade" model has thus far been a dismal failure on its flagship continent, with carbon credit values currently approaching zero.
Nonetheless, GLOBE does set reasonably acceptable CO2 goals and EU-recognized temperature ceilings. And, by providing realistic time to evaluate potential benefits of proposed changes versus their societal and economic impact, it does so in far less disruptive a manner than did its forerunner. After all, should the threat be accepted as real, only a fully cooperating planet which includes its largest economy can ever hope to mount a meaningful defense - No?
To Skeptics - Time will tell
We skeptics may enjoy a new post-Kyoto realism for which the watchword will be a cautious "long-term" rather than a hysterical "immediate." Even if relegated to the short-term by some, this renaissance will have long-lasting value. As witnessed by the 6 year thaw in the IPCC's sense of urgency, given time, eco-science knowledge is subject to drastic turns. In fact, data rotations of 180 degrees in less than a week are not unheard of.
Case in Point:
The recent IPCC summary was broadly criticized for not including the 2004 report of a doubling in Greenland's melt rate. Drew Shindell, a climate expert at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, went so far as to say on February 2nd:
"The melting of Greenland has been accelerating so incredibly rapidly that the I.P.C.C. report will already be out of date in predicting sea level rise, which will probably be much worse than is predicted in the I.P.C.C. report."
Yet, just 6 days later, the NY Times reported that not only wasn't Greenland melting as fast as previously thought -- the thaw may have ended altogether:
"It was big news when the rate of melting suddenly doubled in 2004 as ice sheets began moving more quickly into the sea. That inspired predictions of the imminent demise of Greenland's ice - and a catastrophic rise in sea level. But a paper published online this afternoon by Science reports that two of the largest glaciers have suddenly slowed, bringing the rate of melting last year down to near the previous rate. At one glacier, Kangerdlugssuaq, ‘average thinning over the glacier during the summer of 2006 declined to near zero, with some apparent thickening in areas on the main trunk.'"
Moreover, in the coming years a number of currently explored cyclical theories (particular those involving solar and cosmic rays) will see their results presented prior to any imprudent action being taken. Indeed, as Greenland attests, anything that buys time also returns up-to-date facts as a dividend.
Origin of the Specious
Surely, the softer projections of the IPCC and the recent declaration of the GLOBE meeting have shaken and will continue to shake the counterproductive doom merchants out of their endangered trees. And, while time is an asset to the rational, it's an affliction to their counterparts. Having the G8 plus 5 agree to 50-100 year goals certainly takes a gust of the 380 ppm CO2 wind out of the sails of Nobel and Oscar nominee Al Gore's 2006 admonition in An Inconvenient Truth that:
"We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin."
And here's how his fellow alarmist James Hansen, head of the same NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies which pays Drew Shindell, addressed as little as a 2 degree temperature change during a February 3rd radio interview:
"But if you start talking two or three degrees Celsius, then you're really talking about a different planet from the one we know. There would be no sea ice in the Arctic in the summer and fall. That means the species that live there now - polar bears, the seals that live on sea ice, and reindeer on the tundra - they would not be able to survive. So it's like the million-year flood; it's never happened in the past century. So, were talking large regional changes."
"The projected target for climate-wrecking gases would result in a disastrous three-degree increase in temperature. This would see the loss of 20-30% of species, melt of two polar ice sheets, add one to two billion more people to those suffering water scarcity and trash the world's remaining rainforests and coral reefs. Politicians can't truly tackle climate change by statements alone. Real action and political will is urgently needed to prevent a global disaster."
This continued turgidity in the face of evolving contrary science places the eco-maniacs in the unenviable position of having to substantiate their ongoing alarmism to the rational amongst their believing ranks. Meanwhile, more and more nations are accepting the need for human reaction to what may or may not be the result of any demonstrable human action. Subsequently, alarmists will soon be forced to deal with the science and economics of climate shift, rather than their mankind stinks politics - something they're pitifully even less qualified to do.
The Mauritius Dodo Bird (Raphus cucullatus) has been extinct for over 300 years. As with most unfortunate outcomes on the planet, its demise as a species has been widely attributed to the actions of mankind (Homo sapiens). Be that as it may, the same forces which demanded adaptation from the doomed flightless bird will ultimately and rightly demand it of all obstacles to human survival and advancement.
Be they unyielding treaties (Kyoto accordis) or stridently foolish alarmists (Skyis fallinonus), those that cannot respond to changes around them shall not endure on this Earth (Terra firma).
Marc Sheppard is a technology consultant, software engineer, writer, and political and systems analyst. He is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He welcomes your feedback.