SPAIN has business leakage, California has banned all coal-based electricity, cap and trade creates vested interests in property rights – these are some of the issues economist Alan Moran reports on in his summary of the recent Climate Change Conference in New York.
Dr Moran also notes that scientists at the conference did not agree on whether there is likely to be global warming or cooling in the near future or on the key drivers of climate.
The New York Heartland Conference of “Climate Realists”
By Alan Moran
OVER 700 people attended the second Heartland Conference on Global Warming in March 2009. At least 100 of these were scientists of considerable prominence and, as Marc Moreno pointed out the crucial part of the IPCC report was signed by only 52 scientists, not all of whom were climate alarmists.
Among the pantheon of experts and celebrities who addressed the meetings, none were more prominent than the first two speakers: Vaclav Klaus and Richard Lindzen. Lindzen is Professor of Atmospheric Physics at MIT and probably the most renowned expert in the world in his field. He reiterated the evidence that global warming was not and could not occur except on a scale that is a fraction of the UN forecasts. And he argued that the temperature trend, having risen to 1945, fallen to 1968, risen again to 1995, was now falling.
Klaus is the President of the Czech Republic and presently President of the EU. On his inaugural address to the EU he emphasised a need for Brussels to seek less power centrally and divest more to the members. This prompted a walk-out of 200 of the 700 MEPs. He is a total skeptic about global warming, which he sees as being motivated by a scare campaign in which interested parties – functionaries, scientists, vendors of particular sorts of power plant – combined with green alarmists to introduce the agenda.
He fears it may be unstoppable and related that he had discussed the matter with President Obama, who had never before heard the skeptic viewpoint but listened intensely. Later Richard Lindzen discussed the experience of Professor Richard Epstein, a colleague of Obama’s at Chicago University. Epstein said that he found Obama to be ever-ready to listen but had never known such readiness to lead to a change of mind! Obama has on several occasions referred to the need to reduce CO2 emissions as among the most pressing issues.
President Obama has appointed several people to high office who are on record as favouring drastic measures to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Among these is John Holdren (a long time associate of the Club of Rome’s John Ehrlich) as Science Adviser, Stephen Chu as Secretary of Energy, and Carol Browner (former EPA head) as Energy Co-ordinator.
Altogether there were some 40 papers delivered on the science and politics of climate change. There is general agreement that some warming has taken place this last 100 years, albeit very much less than the amount that might be expected from the increase in atmospheric CO2 combined with the IPCC’s forecasts of the effect of this on temperatures.
The scientists did not agree fully on the direction of future climate trends, and the causes of these trends. Some placed greater emphasis on solar changes, others on oceanic current shifts; most agreed that CO2 increases played a part.
All however, rejected the positive feedback effect from CO2 forcing which amplifies any theoretical effect of the increase in CO2 on temperatures. The theoretical warming from a doubling of CO2 is relatively uncontroversial (0.5-0.7 degrees C with present atmospheric levels of CO2; less with future increases as the temperature effect is logrithmatically related to the increased CO2 ) but the feedback is said by the IPCC to result in an affect that increases this to 2-5 degrees C. An important paper by William Kininmonth, former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre, demonstrated that major positive feedback is impossible. Some papers, notably that of NASA’s Roy Spencer, produced evidence that the feedback is negative and might totally negate the CO2 effect.
That might bring the rival explanations into accord. The 0.5 degree C per century warming that has occurred this last 100 years is consistent with the theoretical level of warming that might occur with a doubling of CO2. But it is also similar to the warming that has taken place on Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.
John Sununu, a former New Hampshire Governor and prominent in the first President Bush’s administration (when he was instrumental in agreeing a vast expansion in funding for climate science) traced the long lineage of the green activists campaigning against economic growth. Like many others he pointed out that it was temperature rises that drove the increase in CO2 in previous eras of warming (not CO2 which drove the temperature increases) and that there was no theoretical basis for arguing that an increase in CO2 would drive temperature. Again like many others he pointed out that the rise in temperature in the first half of the 20th Century (when CO2 growth had not been significant), fall in the period till the late 1970s (when alarmist were concerned about global cooling) and rise to the mid 1990s has been followed by a falling trend since then.
In the EU, MPE Roger Helmer pointed out the objective is for 20% of energy, which implies an unachievable 36% of electricity. Benny Peiser however detected a softness in the EU, especially outside of the UK. The present goal is a 15-30% reduction but this is on BAU levels. Moreover Italy has forced through a measure requiring the EU to revisit all goals in eh event that there is to be no Copenhagen agreement.
Klaus related data on public opinion regarding greenhouse, which showed support for action in the US to have fallen to 45% and in a recent Rasmussen poll it was rated as 20th out of 20 issues canvassed. In Czeck Republic only 11% believe that mankind is responsible for global warming. He also urged continued promotion of the truth about warming or lack of it but thought there was only a slender chance that the moves could be arrested in Europe as a result of the financial crisis and recession.
Several speakers reviewed the goals of the reductions in CO2 which jurisdictions had mandated. Californian congressman Tom Mclintock pointed to the absurdity of the state’s AB 32 which requires a 25% reduction and 10% ethanol in petrol (which would require one third of the state’s farmland). The state has also banned all coal based electricity which is resulting in a near doubling of the contract price.
Others pointed to the malevolent nature of cap-and-trade (most speakers thought a tax is the lesser of two evils, though acknowledged that if the EU had a tax it would be, say eu 30 rather than the eu 9 that presently prevails under the ETS). Once introduced it is very difficult to remove since it creates vested interests and property rights.
Professor Gabriel Calzada, addressed the disaster of wind power that Spain had experienced. The present program has 10.2% of capacity 14,836 MW of wind and 3000 MW of solar. Originally costed at eu85 million, the cost according to PWC eu15 billion. Wind adds 90% to the market price and solar 460%. Moreover this does not include the subsidy which is up to 50%, for capital installation. Job creation which was estimated to be 50,000 is now 14,000 and falling. Most jobs are in installation and therefore the program must increase exponentially if jobs are to grow. It is estimated that each job has cost eu 500,000 pus the jobs destroyed as a result of the higher taxes/energy charges required to finance them.
Spain has also seen business leakage. There are documented cases of firms not proceeding as a result of not having an accredited GHG plan. For example, one of the largest Spanish firms, stainless steel producer Acerinox, has moved two factories to the US and South Africa in response to the higher energy costs.
The various papers will eventually be available on-line but in the interim, Professor Bob Carter, as well as presenting a key paper himself, operated a running synopsis of the sessions he attended.
Alan Moran is an economist at the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs.