by     Bob Foster1

10 December 2001

Advocates of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC) would have us believe that human-caused global warming (plus consequent sea-level rise) is the greatest threat facing the planet.  This is not so; and IPCC is diverting attention from real-life environmental imperatives.  IPCC’s supporters assert that the modest warming of about 0.6 degrees C observed during the 20th Century was largely the result of human-caused changes to the composition of the atmosphere.  Instead, it is mostly natural rebound of our cyclic climate from the Little Ice Age.

IPCC’s computer-modellers forecast global average surface warming of up to 5.8 degrees C in the century ahead.  But for the century past, the modellers have failed to provide a plausible reconciliation of under-warming reality with their over-predicting models.  Furthermore, models can’t replicate a world where sudden non-linear transitions between climatic states – like the abrupt cooling in the 1940s or the abrupt warming at 1976/77 – are, and will continue to be, a prominent natural feature. Any forecast of climate a century ahead is spurious.

Substantial human-caused greenhouse gas emissions during the 20th Century, largely carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, appear not to be an environmental negative.  Atmospheric CO2 remains much depleted compared to the time when our plants evolved, and benefits to growth are already apparent from the increasing availability of this vital plant food.  If Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol it will be for reasons unrelated to the environment.  Already, this treaty is diverting money and zeal from here-and-now environmental needs. While Ministers talk at The Hague, Bonn and Marrakech about saving the environment, in our home region habitat destruction continues apace in Sumatra, Borneo, Melanesia - and Queensland.  Biodiversity is being lost for lack of interest.

The Protocol is a weapon in a Northern Hemisphere economic and political war.  If Australia ratifies, we must then begin a process of decarbonisation; and the Latrobe Valley’s vast wealth of low-ash, low-sulphur, low-extraction-cost brown coal will be set at naught.  But economic hardship and job losses will not stop at the Valley; and our country with its LDC-like economy will be harmed more than any other nation.  Having ratified, if we then fail to meet our treaty commitments, we will be punished with as-yet-undefined financial sanctions imposed from Europe.  Australian living standards will become collateral damage in the Battle of the Giants; and the human misery thus caused offers no countervailing environmental benefit.

Australians have not been told what is at stake in terms of sovereignty and economic wellbeing.  Neither have we been told that ‘doing the right thing’ about GHG emissions cannot stabilise climate nor prevent extreme weather events.  As was always the case, adaptation and mitigation will be required.  Tell it like it is – now, before the decision is made on ratification.
1.  Robert J Foster (Ph 61 3 9525 6335, Fax 6345, and Email fosbob@bigpond.com) is an Adelaide engineer by qualification, a Shell geoscientist by experience, a former GM Marketing at BHP Petroleum, and latterly a consultant in energy economics.  Bob is a founding director of The Lavoisier Group which is putting a view to Australians on climate–change contra to that of IPCC.  His more-detailed analyses are at www.lavoisier.com.au and Warwick Hughes’ site www.webace.com.au/~wsh.  This work is entirely unfunded.

1.  INTRODUCTION                                                                     3

2.  CLIMATE-CHANGE SCIENCE                                              3
 2.1 The ‘greenhouse effect’ hypothesis
 2.2 Smoking gun or ticking time-bomb?
 2.3 Looking for a sixpence
 2.4 Past climate variability

3.  PREDICTING FUTURE CLIMATE                                        6
 3.1 Looking a century ahead
 3.2 CSIRO’s spurious forecast

4.  FUTURE SEA-LEVEL RISE                                                    7
 4.1 The IPCC line on sea-level
 4.2 Threat posed to low-lying island nations
 4.3 What is driving sea-level change?
 4.4 A critique of IPCC’s sea-level analysis

5.  CARBON DIOXIDE – HERO, NOT VILLIAN                     9
 5.1 A long backward look
 5.2 The beneficial role of carbon dioxide
 5.3 How CO2 works

6.  ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS IGNORED                            10
 6.1 Saving the environment
 6.2 The target has moved
 6.3 Habitat destruction: a greater threat
 6.4 A long look ahead

7.  THE POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE                          12
 7.1 A cannon-shot in many battles
 7.2 An ominous future

8.  BAD NEWS FOR AUSTRALIA                                           14
 8.1 Comparing primary energy consumption
 8.2 Comparing emission targets
 8.3 Comparing coal usage

9.  BAD NEWS FOR LATROBE VALLEY                              16
 9.1 Decarbonising Australia
 9.2 Targeting the Valley
 9.3 What a waste!

10.  COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS                                             17

11.  CONCLUSIONS                                                                 18

The Kyoto Protocol is said to be science-based.  Those who urge Australia to ratify this treaty tell us that the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere is increasing as a result of burning fossil fuels - true enough; and that the world is warming - also true.  But they go much further than the science allows, by claiming that human-caused CO2 emissions are the cause of the warming; and that if urgent steps are not taken to ‘stabilise’ climate, global average surface temperature will increase by up to 5.8 degrees C by AD 2100, with terrible consequences.

This paper criticises the seemingly-monolithic conviction of Australia’s taxpayer-funded community of scientists - and of the Federal and State bureaucracies advising Ministers – that human-caused change to the composition of the atmosphere is the main driver of global climate change.  They are almost certainly mistaken.  My dissenting view on the science is of more than academic interest, because, if correct, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol offers no environmental benefit.  Furthermore, my economic/political analysis shows that ratification would have particularly adverse consequences for Australia.  The Latrobe Valley would be first to suffer.

 2.1 The ‘greenhouse effect’ hypothesis
Greenhouse is a phenomenon of the atmosphere; and naturally-occurring water vapour is responsible for the great majority of greenhouse warming; it keeps Earth at a habitable temperature.

Human-caused emissions result in an increased concentration of lesser greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  The most important of the lesser GHGs is carbon dioxide; and the principal source of anthropogenic CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels.  Extra GHGs, while transparent to incoming solar radiation (in the short-wavelength visible spectrum), trap more of the heat outgoing from Earth toward Space (in the longer-wavelength infrared); and the lower atmosphere warms as a consequence.  This extra warmth is then redistributed in its turn, some onward to Space and some back to the Earth’s surface; and thus the in/out balance changes.  It is the resultant surface warming which is called the ‘greenhouse effect’.  If the atmosphere doesn’t warm, the surface can’t warm because of it.  Human-caused GHG emissions don’t warm the surface directly.

A comprehensive coverage of atmospheric temperatures is available back to 1979, derived from polar-orbiting weather satellites.  Amazingly, for this 23-year period, the lower atmosphere is warming only about a third as fast as the surface on a globally-averaged basis.  Tropical and polar regions haven’t changed, and atmospheric warming is confined to 30-70 degrees N latitude.  Indeed, Southern temperate regions have cooled slightly.  The simplest explanation is that most of the observed surface warming since 1979 is not greenhouse warming!

Greenhouse-effect surface warming appears largely confined to the very cold and very dry high-pressure cells of winter in Siberia and Alaska/Yukon, where atmospheric warming is evident.  In these harsh regions, winter temperatures remain far below freezing; and the main impact of this regional and seasonal warming is a slightly-extended northern growing-season.

 2.2 Smoking gun or ticking time-bomb?
In science, blind faith is not enough.  For a hypothesis to be truly ‘scientific’ it must be subject, at least in principle, to the Law of Empirical Disproof.  But we now know that the atmosphere is warming more slowly than the surface.  Does this mean the hypothesis that surface warming during the 20th Century was mainly ‘greenhouse effect’ warming has been disproved?
The answer is: “no” – or rather, “not yet”.  IPCC certainly recognises the problem, saying in the Summary for Policymakers of its Third Assessment Report “it is physically plausible to expect that over a short time period (e.g. 20 years) there may be differences in temperature trends” between atmosphere and surface, “but these differences are not fully resolved”.  An explanation of what the puzzling mismatch could mean for ‘policymakers’ is not forthcoming.

An investigation2 into the problem by the (US) National Research Council substituted “highly unlikely” for “physically plausible”, but could not reconcile this remarkable dichotomy.  It finds:
It is highly unlikely that a differential trend as large as the one observed during the past 20 years could be entirely due to the internal variability of the climate system.
But warns that
Trends in such short periods of record … are not necessarily representative of how the atmosphere is changing in response to long-term human-induced changes in atmospheric composition.

Therefore, only if it persists, should we accept the mismatch between temperatures in the lower atmosphere and at the surface as the smoking gun which empirically disproves the greenhouse effect hypothesis as the explanation of global climate change.  But already, climate-change science is a ticking time bomb.  We now have an undisputed miscorrelation of 22 10/12 years duration – and counting, month by month.

 2.3 Looking for a sixpence
The Australian science community’s taxpayer-funded involvement in the (doomed) attempt to establish greenhouse as the main driver of 20th Century climate change extends far beyond the atmospheric sciences sensu stricto.  But crucially, little or no funding is directed to the contrarian view.  Show me a dissident researcher, and I will show you an unfunded researcher.

Australian science is ignoring the abundant evidence pointing away from greenhouse.  It has dropped its sixpence out in the dark, but it is only searching for it where the funding is best.

David H Green FRS, Director of the Research School of Earth Sciences at ANU in Canberra, sent me a letter on 3 April 2001 enclosing a submission made by RSES to the Joint Standing Committee on Treatys’ inquiry into the Kyoto Protocol.  This submission, dated 1 September 2000, was in Professor Green’s name plus those of Dr M Bird, Prof JMA Chappell, Dr M Gagan, Prof R Grün and Prof K Lambeck.  Near its beginning, the submission says:
The statements to the JSCT Inquiry which follow are ‘authoritative’ in the sense that they are made by well-established scientists active in leading edge research on the natural variability of climate …
But implausibly, their 5-page document ends:
From the ‘authority’ of our published and unpublished research at RSES … we are of the firm view that 20th Century global warming and sea-level rise are observed and, on scientific grounds, attributable to changes in the Earth’s atmospheric composition caused by human activities.

A second submission to JSCOT in the sole name of Professor Green, as Chairman of the Greenhouse Science Advisory Committee to the Australian Government, goes even further:
2.  Panel on reconciling temperature differences 2000, Reconciling observations of global temperature change, John M. Wallace (Chair), National Research Council Washington DC, 85 p.
In preparation of advice to Government, GSAC is concerned to maintain the ethical principles for the scientific method and scientific community, recognising that ‘Greenhouse’ issues have attracted sensationalist media attention, marginal science and pseudo science and special interest groups …

No problems here; we all abhor “marginal science and pseudo science” and particularly “special interest groups”.  But no-one knows what drove global warming in the 20th Century.  The ANU Research School doesn’t know, IPCC doesn’t know, and I certainly don’t know.  However, there is an abundance of relevant evidence flowing into the scientific literature, including the growing electronic literature, which bears on the issue.  It is very briefly summarised below.

 2.4 Past climate variability
Our orbitally-driven Ice Age climatic cycle comprises 90,000-year Glacials and 10,000-year Interglacials; and in the past 10,000 years of benign Holocene (interglacial) climate, agriculture and subsequent urbanisation have supplanted hunter-gathering.  The rise of civilisation is a response to changing climate.

Overprinted on the longer Glacial/Interglacial cycle is a 1500+/-500-year cyclicity of which the Roman Empire warm period, Dark Ages cold period, Mediaeval warm period, and Little Ice Age (roughly, AD 1300-1900) were historical manifestations.  Since the last cold snap of the Little Ice Age at 1800-20, the world has entered a new warming trend.  The principal feature of climate change over the past two centuries is rebound from the Little Ice Age.

Overprinted in turn on the 1500-year cycle is a further cyclicity at about 50/70 years.  Stronger warming in the early/mid 19th century, in the early 20th century at about 1910-45, and since 1976 observes this period.  The world warmed about 0.6 degrees C in the 20th century, in two roughly-equal bursts with an intervening cooler period.  The most prominent climatic event of the century was the step-jump in temperature at 1976/77.  This was directly related to a sudden reduction in the upwelling of cold, deep, water in the eastern Pacific – reversing an increase in upwelling associated with the cooling of the 1940s.  Both are ocean-related events, with widespread ramifications in the climatic and biological record.  These abrupt events are inertially-driven.  Good supporting evidence is length-of-day variation at about the same times.

There can be little doubt that the three warming steps seen over the past two centuries is natural variability - rather than a response to the gradual human-caused change to the composition of the atmosphere.  At the earliest jump, the CO2 concentration (now 370 parts per million)  had barely departed from its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm.  Even at the second in about 1910, it had only increased a small amount to some 300 ppm.  It is quite implausible that these two warming-steps were greenhouse-caused.  They were probably also inertia-related.

The warmings correlate suggestively with isotopic and/or inertial indications of extra-terrestrial (solar, planetary, galactic) influences, although (perhaps  related) sea-level / volcano, core/mantle, lunar, and ice-stream-surge factors need to be considered.  This 50/80 year cycle, albeit with its mechanics unresolved, is clearly natural and is overprinted on longer natural cycles  (eg 170/220 and ~1500 years).  These warmings are not caused by "human activities", as asserted by ANU.

More-frequent variations, for instance El Niño warm events arising in the equatorial eastern Pacific every few years, hint at  even-shorter ( also perhaps in some way solar / inertia-related )  natural climatic cycles.  We still have a lot to learn about the drivers of climate change.

 3.1 Looking a century ahead
Average global surface warming of some 0.6 degrees C (disproportionately in the Northern Hemisphere) in the century past was mostly natural.  But it included some greenhouse warming, plus other non-greenhouse but human-related impacts (such as over-grazing which reduces transpirational cooling, and the insidious ‘urban heat-island effect’ at on-land measuring stations).

IPCC’s oft-quoted computer-based prediction of another 5.8 degrees C of greenhouse warming in the century ahead is the most extreme of 245 outcomes – derived from 35 ‘story-lines’ of future human activity, run on seven different numerical models.  The highest predicted rise comes from combining the most sensitive model with the CO2 output of the most outrageous scenario.

Let’s look first at sensitivity.  IPCC’s models can be compared by means of the warming they predict for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration.  The temperature sensitivity of state-of-the-art models to CO2 doubling is about 1.5 to 4.5 sdegrees C – quite a range.  How plausible is this range?  We can in fact already get a good idea.  But first we need to recognise that there are other human-caused GHG emissions besides those of CO2 – of which methane is the next most important.  When their global warming potential is added to that of CO2 emissions, we find total human-caused emissions have already attained a GWP of 65% above their pre-industrial level.  Even if all observed warming in the 20th Century had been greenhouse warming – most of it was not – the sensitivity of IPCC’s models is in most cases far too high.

IPCC’s ‘doomsday’ scenario assumes a CO2 concentration in the atmosphere of 1260 ppm in AD 2100, compared to 370 ppm now.  Currently, the annual CO2 increase is averaging about 1.5 ppm (it was up only 1.1 ppm in 2000).  Why is it so small?  Table 1 (IPCC data) shows a greater proportion of emissions being sequestered – probably on land in the extra-tropical north, because of a longer growing season plus increased carbon and fixed-nitrogen fertilisation.

Table 1:                                                  Carbon dioxide emissions and sinks
                                                                      (Giga Tonnes carbon per year)

                                                                      1980-1989         1990-1999
Human-caused emissions                                   5.4 +/- 0.3        6.3 +/- 0.4
Increased atmospheric content                           3.3 +/- 0.1        3.2 +/- 0.1
Percentage going elsewhere                               39                      49

IPCC’s extra-scary prediction requires CO2 concentration to rise by an implausible 9 ppm/year for the next 100 years.  We have been snowed on both model sensitivity and CO2 build-up.  Hence, we have been snowed on forecast climate 100 years ahead.  Shame on you, IPCC!

 3.2 CSIRO’s spurious forecast
But this shame should be shared.  CSIRO has published3 a preposterous prediction that most of Australia will be up to 6 degrees C warmer than now by 2070, with parts of the NW even warmer, because of “continued increases in greenhouse gas levels”.  It also tells us that since the industrial revolution, increasing emissions of GHGs have “led to increased trapping of infrared radiation and greater warming in the lower atmosphere”.
3. “Change in the wind” is the title of an article by Wendy Pyper in CSIRO’s environment magazine Ecos, v 108 for July-September 2001 (pp 16-21), which presents model-based predictions by CSIRO’s Climate Impact Group.

But we know that, for the past 23 years of comprehensive records at least, the lower atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere has cooled.  We also know Thomas Huxley said “blind faith is the one unpardonable sin”.  It is hard to believe, but CSIRO appears to have allowed blind faith to over-ride observational truth!

Only 20,000 years ago, at the Last Glacial Maximum, ice was piled on North America (a kilometre of ice at the site of Detroit) and Eurasia and, as a result, sea-level was 130 metres lower than today.  Australia was almost ice-free then, but cold and very dry; Australians could walk through the dunes to Tasmania.

 4.1 The IPCC line on sea-level
Those who support IPCC’s line would have it like this:

 4.2 Threat posed to low-lying island nations
Oft-quoted as being under particular threat, are island nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Tuvalu in the Pacific, with an average elevation only a couple of metres above sea-level.  In both cases, national leaders are assiduous in their pleadings to the developed world on the threat posed by our continued fossil-fuel profligacy.

At the Last Glacial Maximum, were these islands standing proud 130 metres above the ocean of the day?  Of course not.  Those (then uninhabited) coral atolls still would have been a couple of metres above water, and their growth would have kept pace with its subsequent rise.  The problem isn’t sea-level, it is over-population.

 4.3 What is driving sea-level change?
Sea-level change is a particularly complex issue; and both past movements and likely future influences are difficult to quantify.  Changes are measured relative to adjacent land, which may also be moving up or down; and sea-level rise or fall is neither contemporaneous nor equal from place to place.  For instance, at both Maldives and Tuvalu, sea-level has fallen over the past decade and perhaps for the past half-century.

There is no doubt that most of the rise since the Last Glacial Maximum results from the melting of the Northern Hemisphere continental ice-sheets. But all this ice had gone by 6 or 7 thousand years ago, and the rise has continued - albeit at a much slower rate.  Continental ice now remains on Antarctica (90%) and Greenland (10%); and that in the south comprises 90% on the continent of East Antarctica and 10% on the submerged continental shelf of West Antarctica.

Outbursts from the Greenland ice-sheet, leading to the launching of iceberg fleets into the North Atlantic, have occurred over the past few thousand years of the (interglacial) Holocene in phase with cyclic cold events such as the Little Ice Age.  Continental ice at high latitudes becomes water in equatorial seas; the sea-level rise causes Earth’s radius of gyration to increase, and the Earth slows down as a consequence.

This inertial effect causes in turn (temporary) redirection of oceanic heat transportation, reduced flow of warm equatorial water into the Nordic seas, and consequent cooling in the Northern Hemisphere.  Something similar could well happen in relation to East Antarctica.  But in either case, slow accumulation of snow replaces ice lost in sudden surges.  There is little or no long-term impact on sea-level.

West Antarctica is very different.  The base of its ice-sheet is submerged; over 100 metres of sea-level rise appears to have destabilised it; and it is collapsing into the sea at a rate too great for snowfall to replace the loss.  Over the past 10,000 years, it has lost almost two-thirds of its ice – contributing some 10 or 11 metres to global sea-level over the period, or an average of about 1mm/year.  Detailed monitoring of ice-streams on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun only recently, but surging speeds of 1 to 2 km/year have been observed.  WAIS is still on the move.

Over the past 150 years, for which observations are available, global average sea-level has risen at a relatively steady rate - with no apparent acceleration in the past decade.  What is this rate?  I think you already know the answer – about 1 mm/year.

 4.4 A critique of IPCC’s sea-level analysis
IPCC says that “global mean sea level is projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 metres between 1990 and 2100”.  This rise is attributed primarily to thermal expansion of the oceans, although some allowance is made for loss of mass from glaciers and ice caps.  The lead author for the chapter on sea level in IPCC’s Third Assessment Report is from CSIRO Marine Research in Hobart.

The National Tidal Facility (based at Flinders University, Adelaide) keeps score in our part of the world.  An NTF conference contribution (W. Mitchell et al 2000, delivered at James Cook University, Townsville) finds long-run sea-level rise in the Pacific to be 0.77 mm/yr, although around the Australian circumference it is only 0.3 mm/yr.  This paper concludes:
…  it is difficult to find evidence of any change in the sea level trend in the whole region, as might have been expected, based on the output of climate models.
…  over recorded history, sea level rise has occurred, but at a rate which falls significantly short of the IPCC world assessment.  …  Is it possible … that the indications of real sea level trends, which are derived from observations, may set tighter bounds on the prognoses of the numerical models?

However “leading edge research” in the field of climate-change is much less gentlemanly in the sea-level specialty, than appears to be the case elsewhere.  I quote below from the website www.pog.su.se/sea of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, whose President is Professor Nils-Axel Mörner of Sweden.  Under the title “Research Topics 5: The expected sea level changes in the next century”, the Commission begins:
This is a topic of much controversy.  Our commission, representing the true sea level specialists, must enter the debate and take a lead in it.  As it is now, the scenarios are primarily presented by people with little or no specialization in sea level research.  This is especially true for the IPCC project where “sea level changes” are treated in ways far away from proper observational records.
And it ends
The last trend was ~1.0 mm/yr, the present trend is ~1.0 mm/yr and this value is likely to persist even in the next century.  My personal evaluation is “10 cm, at the most 20 cm”, in the next century.

Elsewhere in the electronic world, Mörner is even less circumspect:
Chapter 11 on “Sea Level Changes” of IPCC’s 1999 TAR paper was written by 33 persons, none of which represent actual sea level research.  …  It seems the authors involved in this chapter were chosen not because of their deep knowledge of the subject, but rather because they should say what the climate model has predicted.
And he continues
This chapter has a low and unacceptable standard.  It should be totally rewritten by a totally new group of authors chosen among the group of true sea level specialists.  … let this group work independently of climate modellers.

The prediction of a 10-20 cm rise by 2100 would be much less alarming for low-lying states than, say, 10-90 cm.  IPCC has snowed us on sea-level as well!

 5.1 A long backward look
We live in an Ice Age, where the atmosphere is depleted in CO2.  The Permian glaciation, 300 million years ago, was the last time that concentrations as low as the 180-280 parts per million of our Pleistocene Ice Age persisted.  During the warm, wet, earthly paradise of the Eocene optimum 50 million years before the present, for instance, it was 2000-4000 ppm.  Trees evolved in a CO2–enriched world.  This natural atmospheric constituent is not a pollutant; and people put CO2 into greenhouses to make their plants grow better.

 5.2 The beneficial role of carbon dioxide
Literally hundreds of laboratory and out-door experiments, including well-controlled, large-scale, and naturalistic field studies of multi-year duration, demonstrate that woody plant species do better in an atmosphere enriched with CO2 – to, say, double the ambient 370 ppm.

Satellite observations over the past two decades find a pronounced greening of the temperate and northern regions of the Northern Hemisphere; and the likely explanation includes the beneficial impact of increasing CO2 fertilisation.  The decline over the century just past in the real-terms price of the world’s most important internationally-traded agricultural commodity, wheat – despite soaring demand – points in the same direction.

 5.3 How CO2 works
This issue is fundamental to the greenhouse debate, as follows4:
Owners of commercial greenhouses discovered long ago that seedlings grow faster when the air in the greenhouse is enriched with carbon dioxide.  …  [Experiments on the American poplar in the 1970s show that] the saturation value of growth rate is one and a half times the rate at the outdoor [CO2] level, and is reached at three times the outdoor level.  So far, the results are unsurprising.

More surprising and of greater practical importance are the measurements of water transpiration in the poplar experiment.  Transpiration means the loss of water by evaporation from the leaves.  The rate of transpiration falls steadily as carbon dioxide increases, and is reduced to about half its present value when the carbon dioxide is enriched threefold.  How is this decrease of transpiration to be explained?
4.  I here quote from The Faber Book of Science (edited by John Carey, Faber & Faber 1995, pp 492-4):

The essential point is that carbon dioxide molecules are rare in the atmosphere.  They are hard for a plant to catch.  The only way a plant can catch a carbon dioxide molecule is to keep open the little stomata or pores on the surface of its leaves, and wait for the occasional carbon dioxide molecule to blunder in.  But the air inside the stomata is saturated with water vapour.  On average, about two hundred water molecules will blunder out of the hole for every one carbon dioxide molecule that stumbles in.

The moral of this story is that for plants growing under dry conditions, enriched carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a substitute for water.  …  Since the growth of plants, both in agriculture and in the wild, is frequently limited by lack of water, the effect of carbon dioxide in reducing transpiration may be of greater practical importance than the direct effect in increasing photosynthesis.

The crucial fact is that CO2 emissions confer substantial environmental benefits.

 6.1 Saving the environment
IPCC is the child, albeit at some remove, of the Toronto Conference The changing atmosphere: implications for global security of June 1988.  The statement released at this conference began:
Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war.  It is imperative to act now.

Catastrophist sentiments still pervade the greenhouse issue.  For instance, under the double-entendre “It’s a cool place to live.  Let’s keep it that way.” a full-page advertisement containing only a single paragraph (Scientific American, December 2000) says:
Increasing air pollution means our world is warming faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years, affecting the world’s forests, oceans, atmosphere, animals and ourselves.  WWF is urging governments and businesses to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming.

And in the lower RH corner is the ‘WWF panda’ logo, and the words “Lets leave our children a living planet”.

Catastrophism is writ large.

Here it is in a nutshell: CO2 is a pollutant, its human-caused emission is warming the planet, and that warming is bad for both us and the world’s forests and animals.  But there is no hint that money and zeal devoted to greenhouse are not then available for here-and-now protection of the world’s vanishing wildlife.  WWF can’t see the trees for the wood!

 6.2 The target has moved
Protection of the environment was the sole motivation for the Kyoto Protocol.  But, as one might infer from what was left unsaid in the WWF advertisement, this eminently worthy objective has been all but subsumed by covert factors.

A clear-cut illustration of this point comes from the current (11/2001) ‘spiked-science’ electronic debate on the environment Global warming: should we implement the Kyoto Protocol?

The initial statement for the “No” case is by Bjørn Lomborg5; he summarises his case as follows:
We risk burdening the global community with a cost much higher than that of global warming.

Lomborg accepts without question IPCC’s, almost-certainly mistaken, fixation with the human-caused greenhouse effect is primary driver of global climate-change.  Certainly, he opposes the Kyoto Protocol – but on economic, not scientific, grounds.

The statement for the “Yes” case is by Mike Hulme6; and his summary says:
The benefit/cost analysis is inappropriate: the argument is about risk management, global justice and our responsibility to future generations.

Hume’s view of human-caused climate change is so literal as to be almost fundamentalist.  Remember the UK floods of 2000 - which Prince Charles had no doubt resulted from man’s arrogant disregard for the delicate balance of nature?  In Science & Public Affairs, Hume (see footnote) says:
As the current floods in this country have shown, adapting to climate change is not so much an issue of technical ability, but rather a question of identifying socially and economically acceptable precautionary policies, and implementing them.

Of course, policies of adaptation and precaution (such as not building homes on flood-plains) are essential – irrespective of what causes floods.  But Hulme goes one better – or perhaps worse – in the debate by clouding the environmental issue with concepts such as “global justice and our responsibility to future generations”.  No-one would quarrel with his sentiments on either count; but how does diverting attention in this way help to protect the environment?

 6.3 Habitat destruction: a greater threat
What is the greatest threat facing the world today?  Thankfully, it appears no longer to be global nuclear war.  Rapid population growth, too, appears less of a threat than it once did; and greenhouse is looking more and more like a toothless tiger.  But there is a threat which is still worsening – that to biodiversity from continued habitat destruction.

A tragic recent example is the fires in east Kalimantan (Borneo) at the time of the El Niño-related 1997-98 drought.  Much exacerbated by human activities including logging and clearing, these fires burned a phenomenal 5 million hectares, of which about half were forest.  But Australia’s record is also bad - as The Age of Melbourne (20 November 2001) tells us:
A report by the Queensland Herbarium concluded that 446,000 hectares of remnant or virgin bushland were cleared each year in Queensland between 1997 and 1999. … Combined with an estimated 138,000 hectares of regrowth bushland bulldozed each year, a total of about 584,000 hectares of native vegetation a year were cleared in Queensland over the three years – one of the highest rates in the world.
5.  Dr Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the real state of the world (Cambridge University Press, 539 p), is a statistician at the University of Denmark formerly with “left-wing Greenpeace views”.  He was keynote speaker on 22 November 2001 at the Australian Institute of Energy national conference in Sydney.
6.  Dr Hulme is Executive Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.  Elsewhere, he tells us in “UK climate research set fair” (a joint article with Ian Dwyer, Global Change Co-ordinator at the Natural Environment Research Council, Science & Public Affairs, December 2000 pp 22, 3) that the UK Research Councils have provided ten million pounds over 5 years to create the Centre.  It “aims to study climate in a holistic fashion, embracing science, engineering, sociology and economics”.

“At this rate of clearing … 70 per cent of Australian bird populations will be gone by the middle of this century,” Professor [Harry] Recher [at Perth’s Edith Cowan University] said. … “No birds or other wildlife can sustain this rate of clearing.  We are facing terrible losses of native wildlife”.

Recher estimates that in Australia, 22 million native birds are being killed each year through native vegetation loss – but no action is taken.

The same applies in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Melanesia.  In our part of the world, biodiversity is being devastated while ministers and bureaucrats talk at The Hague, Bonn and Marakech about the threat which greenhouse poses to the environment.

 6.4 A long look ahead
‘Doing the right thing’ about greenhouse gas emissions can stabilise neither climate nor weather; and mitigation and adaptation will still be needed for alleviation of human misery.

On the other hand, when the next ‘Little Ice Age’ comes, it might be the one that tips us over into an irreversible decline leading on to the next Glacial.  Armageddon, when it comes, will be cold not hot.

When full glacial conditions recur – and doubtless they will, sooner or later – biodiversity will be under stress which is far, far greater than now.  In the Northern Hemisphere, ice and permafrost will return almost down to 40 degrees N, and much of the Southern Hemisphere temperate region again will become desert.  The global reservoir of biodiversity, and hence the source of evolutionary radiation once benign conditions return, only can be the tropics and subtropics.

In both the near and long terms, therefore, security of the world’s biological wealth depends on the preservation of large tracts of undegraded habitat in the areas of greatest species diversity – the tropics and subtropics.  While environmentalists allow the greenhouse issue to occupy centre-stage, the opportunity to make secure large and representative areas of as-yet-unalienated habitats is melting irreversibly away.

 7.1 A cannon-shot in many battles
If the Kyoto Protocol is not really for protection of the environment, what then is it for?  In fact, it is a cannon-shot in many battles.  The remarkable wealth-creation of the second half of the 20th century was based on the ready availability of cheap energy, largely from the combustion of fossil fuels.  At its most basic level, the attempt to decarbonise western economies is a shot in the battle between (fossil-fuelled) global capitalism as the dominant economic system, and those yearning for a new age of economic fundamentalism.

But it is also an integral part of the struggle between the US and EU for economic dominance of the developed world.  The refusal of the Bush Administration to ratify Kyoto underlines the growing tension between the US and the EU that is an inevitable outcome of the demise of their unifying force - the Soviet Empire.  But there are other struggles in progress of a commercial nature between coal and gas; and between unsubsidised fossil fuels and subsidised renewables.

Within Europe, the battle is between Brussels and individual member-states for bureaucratic control of energy production and use; and between the Socialists and the Greens for the non-right vote.  But one potential battle has hung fire – that between carbon-free nuclear power and electricity generated from fossil fuels; politics still trumps environment.

Some acknowledge the dubious and hypothetical nature of the greenhouse threat, but then invoke the precautionary principle to justify ratification of the Protocol and acceptance of its obligations.  The precautionary principle, however, can be used to justify any policy to ward off any conceivable threat.  But political decisions ought to be made in the light of real threats, and real impacts on national well-being - which include economic well-being.

 7.2 An ominous future
Climate-change science is a ticking time-bomb; and the Europeans have chosen not to wait until it explodes.  They have already decided to press for global governance, and hence for the right of supra-national intrusion into the domestic affairs of nations.  French President Jacques Chirac sets the mood in his address of 20 November 2000 to the first COP6 negotiating meeting:
I arrive in The Hague with a sense of urgency.  Yesterday’s hypotheses have turned out to be true.  Scientists now have no doubts: global warming has set in, as a result of the prodigious concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past century. … The time has come for action.

The President then elaborates the intended role7 of the Kyoto Protocol:
An equitable agreement is one that provides for an independent and impartial compliance mechanism, possessing irrefutable data and able to decide remedial political and financial penalties in case of non-compliance.  That would avoid the “free-rider” problem …
By acting together, by building this unprecedented instrument, the first component of an authentic global governance, we are working for dialogue and peace.  We are demonstrating our capacity to assert control over our fate in a spirit of solidarity, to organise our collective sovereignty over this planet, our common heritage.

A Euro-centric world order is to be created in the name of the environment.  But if the Europeans delay, an under-warming reality will defeat the over-predicting models; and hence, it is easy to see why early ratification and enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol is seen by them as vital.  What then will become of little Australia?  The President has not forgotten us:
Finally, let us start thinking about the post-Kyoto period without further ado.  Tomorrow, it will be up to us to set forth the rights and duties of each, and for a long time to come.  In order to move forward while respecting individual differences and special circumstances, France proposes that we set as our ultimate objective the convergence of per capita emissions.

Australia has a typical OECD standard of living, and hence an OECD-like per capita energy consumption.  But nuclear-powered France relies on coal for only about 5% of its energy needs, cf an LDC-like 44% in Australia.  We are especially vulnerable to any forced convergence of per capita GHG emissions.  The attempt would impoverish this country.
7.  It was agreed later (at COP7, Marrakech) that the setting of “financial penalties in case of non-compliance” would be deferred until the first Conference of Parties after the treaty comes into force.  If Australia ratifies, it will not be a matter of ‘you get what you see’.

 8.1 Comparing primary energy consumption
Which country will be hurt the most if the capitalist West undertakes a serious program of decarbonisation?  No prizes here; it will be Australia.  Table 2 shows tradeable primary energy consumption in the 2000 year for the world’s major users, and the proportions of energy supplied from various sources8 including, crucially, coal.

Table 2:                       World primary energy consumption for year 2000
                                  Total Energy                         Percentage Shares                    Kyoto target
                                    (MTOE)             Coal     Oil      Gas     Nuclear      Hydro    % of 1990

United States              2279                       24.8    39.4      25.9        9.0             1.0          93
Russia                          621                       17.8    19.9      54.7        5.4             2.3        100
Japan                           511                       19.4    49.6      13.4      16.1             0.2          94
Germany                      329                       25.1    39.4      21.7      13.3             0.6          79
France                         258                         5.4    36.9      13.8      41.6             2.4        100
Canada                       232                        12.6    35.7      30.2        8.1           13.3          94
United Kingdom          226                        16.7    34.4      38.1      10.6            0.3          87.5
Italy                            166                          7.0    56.0      34.6         -               2.3          92
Ukraine                      132                         29.4      7.9      46.7      15.1            0.7        100
Spain                         126                          17.1    55.6      12.1      12.7             2.5        115
Australia                    106                          44.1    36.5      18.1         -               1.3        108

China/HK                   768                        63.0    30.8        3.2        0 1             2.5          nil
India                           294                        55.6    33.2        7.7        1.4             2.2          nil
South Korea               192                        22.3    53.0        9.8      14.6             0.3          nil
Brazil                          133                          9.2    63.6        6.4        1.1           19.7          nil
South Africa                108                        75.6    20.8          -         3.2             0.3          nil

Total world consumption of tradeable energy in 2000 was 8750 million tonnes of oil equivalent comprising oil 40%, coal and gas each 25%; non-carbon-emitting sources, nuclear and hydro, provided about 7.5 and 2.5%, respectively.

The United States consumed about 26% of world primary energy, followed by China (8.6%) and Russia (7.1%).  If (as now seems likely) the US does not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the largest energy consumer with a commitment to reduce emissions below its current level (see discussion below) will be Japan with only 5.8% of the total.  Japan’s participation is crucial to Kyoto.

 8.2 Comparing emission targets
Also listed in Table 2 above, are the individual targets of the larger OECD countries committed to curtail GHG emissions - if the Kyoto Protocol were to be ratified by sufficient signatories, and come into force as was envisaged in 1997.  These targets are given in terms of a percentage of the 1990 base-year emissions level, and apply as an average for the five years 2008-12.  It is expected that all targets will be tightened thereafter.

Australia has a seemingly-undemanding108% target.
8.  World energy data in Table 2 is from bp statistical review of world energy, June 2001.  Energy units are million tonnes oil equivalent; one TOE is about 10 million kilocalories, 42 gigajoules or 40 million Btu.

Not listed above are smaller energy consumers Greece and Portugal with targets (within the EU ‘umbrella’) of 125 and 127%, respectively.  There is a point to be made here.  The EU has an umbrella target of 92%, and how it distributes this burden between its member states is its own affair.  The reason Europe can allocate such unchallenging targets to the likes of Spain, Greece and Portugal is largely an artefact of the year (1990) chosen as the base.

This serendipitous choice allows the base to incorporate the horribly energy-inefficient industries and brown-coal-based power generation of the former DDR, now shut down following German re-unification.  It also allows inclusion of the previous coal-fired UK electricity supply, now almost entirely supplanted by North Sea gas.

Included above are the Russian Federation and Ukraine - countries listed in the treaty’s provisions but not needing further action in order to meet their over-generous targets.  In fact, Russia and Ukraine are likely to be major beneficiaries of the enforcement of this inequitable treaty – from selling ‘hot air’.

The choice of base year works for them as well.  Their current energy consumption is down to about three-quarters and half, respectively, of the 1990 level.  A lower target would have locked in that reduction in GHG emissions for the world’s benefit.  Instead, their shortfall can be traded away to strong-currency countries (such as Japan), who can thus buy their way out of their emission-reduction obligation.  There is no doubt that Russia and Ukraine need economic help to smooth their path toward living-standards parity with the OECD nations.  But, however worthy, aiding the states of the former Soviet Union is not a declared objective of the Kyoto Protocol.  It is easy to see why these nations support ratification.

Also appended for comparison are the largest energy-users not having a target (China, India, South Korea), plus our Southern Hemisphere neighbours Brazil and South Africa.

 8.3 Comparing coal usage
Coal is both the most abundant and the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels.  World coal reserves (as is also the case with oil and gas) are unevenly distributed.  USA, Russia and China have 25, 16 and 12% respectively of the world total (Russia also has 32% of the world’s gas reserves!).  Australia, with 9.2% (cf only 0.3 and 0.8% for its oil and gas reserves) lies fourth, well ahead of India, Germany and then South Africa.

Within Australia, there are reserves of 47 and 43 billion tonnes of black and brown coal, respectively.  Most of the former is sited in NSW and Queensland, and most of the latter in Victoria.  Coal from Victoria’s Latrobe Valley cannot be transported because of its propensity for spontaneous combustion; but east-coast steaming and coking coal comprise Australia’s largest commodity export, at over A$10 billion/year – larger than wool and wheat combined.

(Australia is also one of the world’s principal holders of low-cost uranium reserves, but that fact is irrelevant, at least in the domestic context, because the cost of our coal-fired electricity is so low.  Furthermore, it will remain irrelevant while keeping Australia nuclear-free is a greater political imperative than preventing global warming.)

Australia is odd-man-out in the OECD.  We have a much larger reliance on coal (see Table 2) than do other nations who might be required to meet a Kyoto Protocol target.  If decarbonisation becomes an obligation, Australia must reduce its use of coal for power generation.

 9.1 Decarbonising Australia
A potted description of the decarbonisation task facing Australia, should we be unwise enough to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, is here included9 as Table 3.  Totals are given in million tonnes CO2 equivalent, and an as-is projection of emissions to 2010 is included.

Table 3:                        Australian carbon-equivalent emissions – sectors and targets
                                                                                 1990   1999   2010
Energy sector share, per cent
 Stationary                                                                    53.4   56.7      61
 Agriculture                                                                  22.6   20.5      18
 Transport                                                                    16.1   16.1      16
Carbon emissions, MT CO2 Equiv.
 Annual output                                                              385    458    567
 Kyoto target @ 108% of 1990                                                        416
 Excess over target                                                                   43    151
 Per cent excess over 108%                                                    10%   36%

No one could quarrel with Hal Clough’s words of 11 September 2001:
If we continue for the next eight years as we have in the past and we want to comply with our Kyoto target we have to reduce our emissions in 2010 by 151.3 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.  This is an awesome task.

Indeed it is.  How then might Australia meet its decarbonisation challenge?

We already know that market-based mechanisms won’t do the job.  Let me repeat: market-based mechanisms will not do the job.  I base this assertion on Australia’s experience over the past decade with ever-increasing excise on petrol (ie gasoline tax) – escalating every six months in line with CPI.

Only recently, automatic tax increases were suspended in the face of public outcry.  We thus confirmed (if confirmation were needed) that petrol consumption is price-inelastic; taxes become politically unsustainable before they make substantial inroads into consumption.

As Table 3 tells us, achievement of our 2008-12 Kyoto target (ie 108% of 1990, on average) depends largely on curtailing emissions from power generation.  It is safe to assume that, here again, market based mechanisms - such as carbon taxes combined with emissions trading - will fall far short of requirements.  A politically-tolerable increase in the price of electricity cannot be high enough to make people go cold in winter and hot in summer.  Government would change first.

Measures will therefore be required which have a more-direct impact on emissions in proportion to the contemporaneous misery caused.  A narrower political fall-out is to be preferred – indeed, is essential.  Obviously, those of our export-oriented industries which are energy-intensive will move overseas (to countries without a target); but the consequent reduction in electricity demand will not be nearly enough.  Also obviously, non-tax (ie dirigiste) measures to curtail the carbon-intensity of Australia’s remaining electricity production will be required.
9.  From the presentation by W.H. Clough to the Lavoisier Group conference in Melbourne on 11 September 2001.

 9.2 Targeting the Valley
More than 80% of Australia’s electricity is generated from coal; and Latrobe Valley brown coal is a much more carbon-intensive source of electricity than NSW black coal (because the as-mined brown coal is two-thirds water).  Despite Valley coal being very low indeed in ash and sulphur, despite the minimal release of methane (itself a greenhouse gas) during the winning of brown coal, despite the good safety record of Victorian (open-cut) coal mining vis a vis NSW, Queensland and the wider world, and despite the supreme economics (on a merit-order basis) of Victorian power from existing coal-fired stations, the Valley’s days are numbered.

The emissions comparison in Table 4 shows us why.

Table 4:                               Carbon output from existing electricity generation
                                                      (kg of carbon per kWh sent out)

Hydro                                                                       nil
Gas, combined cycle                                                0.11
Gas, open cycle                                                       0.17
Fuel oil                                                                    0.20
Black coal                                                               0.24
Brown coal                                                              0.37

Australia’s decarbonisation will require priority substitution of electric power generated from Latrobe Valley brown coal by black-coal-derived electricity imported from NSW.

In the first instance, black coal will replace brown for base-load electricity supply, with the consequent substantial reduction of CO2 emissions. Additional reductions can then be made if the intermediate-load end of the natural market, partly met now from base-load coal (because of off-peak-tariff incentives for storage-type hot-water heating), is also supplemented by imported Tasmanian hydro-power and, to the extent limited reserves permit, by accelerated utilisation of Gippsland natural gas.

 9.3 What a waste!
The Latrobe Valley brown coal resource is a world-class store of wealth in terms of its size and cost of extraction; and it is also very clean in terms of its low ash and low sulphur content.  A State and a community already depend on it.  Why condemn it for no known countervailing benefit?

Lomborg (see Section 6.2) accepts IPCC’s version of climate-change science, but opposes ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on cost/benefit grounds.  Nordhaus is of his ilk10, telling us:
The present analysis shows that the accord will accomplish relatively little in emissions reductions without U.S. participation – reducing global carbon-dioxide emissions by about 1% relative to no policies in the first period, 2008 to 2012.
The overall assessment of the accord is that it pays a high price for very small reductions in carbon emissions.
10.  William D. Nordhaus 2001, “Global warming economics”, Science v 294, pp 1283, 4.

Nordhaus explains why the US will not ratify the treaty:
The impact of the U.S. withdrawal on abatement costs is striking.  Global discounted abatement costs are projected to fall by 85%.  Most of the decline is due to the nonparticipation of the United States, whose discounted abatement costs over the coming decades fall from $2.5 trillion to essentially zero.  (On an annualized basis, the U.S. cost falls from approximately $125 billion per year to around zero.)

He concludes:
The Kyoto-Bonn Accord will make little progress in slowing global warming while incurring a substantial cost.  But make no mistake: if the Kyoto-Bonn Accord is implemented as designed, there is trouble ahead.  The accord is particularly optimistic in assuming that countries will willingly transfer tens of billions of dollars to Russia and other Eastern European countries to buy phantom emissions.

Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would make either very little difference, or no difference, to climate.  It depends on the veracity or otherwise of IPCC’s ‘greenhouse effect’ hypothesis of global climate change.  But it would bring very interesting times – and not just for Australia.

The climate-change issue is both complex and multi-disciplinary.  However, it can be simplified by starting with its keystone - the ‘greenhouse effect’ hypothesis:

Climate-change science is a ticking time-bomb.  Every month that the atmosphere still fails to warm as fast or faster than the surface, strengthens the empirical disproof of IPCC’s ‘greenhouse effect’ hypothesis.  There is little doubt that most of the observed warming since the last cold snap (AD 1800-20) of the Little Ice Age is not greenhouse warming.  The last two changes of climate - cooling in the mid 1940s and warming at 1976/77 - were the direct result of changes in the upwelling rate for cold, deep, water in the Pacific; and length-of-day changed at about the same times.  These abrupt transitions between climatic regimes were inertially triggered, and not the result of human-caused CO2 emissions.  In fact, enrichment of an atmosphere currently impoverished in CO2 has enhanced plant growth to the benefit of both humans and other biota.

If Australia should ratify the treaty negotiated at Kyoto, it would be for reasons other than the environment.  The Kyoto Protocol is already diverting attention from real-life, here-and-now, environmental imperatives.  If this treaty comes into effect, the consequent economic hardship would cause an even-greater diversion of money and zeal from pressing environmental needs; and both humanity and biodiversity will be losers.  Beware those political leaders, bureaucrats, and scientists who invoke the environment in its support!

Posted 16, January, 2002

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