Global Warming Policy Foundation | 29 Aug 2014
The Obama administration is signaling that there will be not be a new climate treaty. According to a report in Wednesday’s New York Times, the path to a treaty has come to an end, 14 months before the Paris talks scheduled for next year. Instead, the best deal on offer is a non-binding accord. There is a big problem with this. It has already been tried, and it failed. –Rupert Darwall, National Review Online, 29 August 2014
President Obama’s election-year plan to win a new international climate change accord is making vulnerable Democrats nervous. The administration is in talks at the United Nations about a deal that would seek to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by “naming and shaming” governments that fail to take significant action. One Democratic strategist said the proposal would put swing-state candidates who are critical to the party keeping its Senate majority “in front of the firing squad.” “You’re … making it more difficult for them to win and certainty putting them in a position to lose,” the strategist said. –Timothy Cama, The Hill, 27 August 2014
A vulnerable House Democrat is slamming President Obama’s reported effort to launch an international summit to address climate change without congressional input. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) says Obama’s plans to get a “politically binding” international climate agreement endorsed by the United Nations next year is “fruitless” for a president whose popularity is lagging even at home. “It is fruitless for this Administration — or any Administration — to negotiate agreements with the rest of the world when it cannot even muster the support of the American people,” Rahall said Wednesday in a statement. —Mike Lillis, The Hill, 27 August 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry said during his January 2013 confirmation hearings that he would be a “passionate advocate” on climate-change issues, and he’s living up to that promise. In a speech this month in Hawaii, Mr. Kerry called climate change “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now.” Not 10, 20 or 100 years from now—right now. If only Mr. Kerry were right. Unfortunately, America faces much bigger immediate challenges and threats than climate change. Our enemies around the world are intent on harming us—right now. America’s secretary of state should worry more about them and less about the Earth’s temperature decades from now. –John Barrasso, The Wall Street Journal, 29 August 2014
Virtually all of the research reports on polar bears over the last few years have contained good news. Who then is to blame for hyping the “polar bears are dying” meme? It’s easy to blame reporters for fanning the flames of hysteria – some of their copy on polar bears is truly over the top. Many news articles lack the application of common sense or even a modicum of fact checking. In a lot of cases, however, what’s happening is that science writers simply take everything that polar bear biologists and their co-authors say as gospel and reprint press releases word for word. –Susan Crockford, The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 28 August 2014
Germany’s climate and energy policy is the main threat to bio-diversity. More and more citizens are beginning to realise how the green energy transition is at odds with nature conservation and environmental protection in Germany. A policy that overestimates the dangers of climate change and that subordinates all other policy objectives, including nature conservation, whatever the cost, generates resistance. –Fritz Vahrenholt, Die Welt, 18 August 2014
1) Rupert Darwall: Good-Bye, Global Warming Treaty – National Review Online, 29 August 2014
2) Obama’s UN Climate Plan Spooks U.S. Democrats – The Hill, 27 August 2014
3) Vulnerable Dem Slams Obama Over ‘Fruitless’ UN Climate Effort – The Hill, 27 August 2014
4) John Barrasso: Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change – The Wall Street Journal, 29 August 2014
5) Susan Crockford: Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science – The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 28 August 2014
6) Fritz Vahrenholt: How The Green Energy Transition Is Destroying Germany’s Nature – Die Welt, 18 August 2014
1) Rupert Darwall: Good-Bye, Global Warming Treaty
National Review Online, 29 August 2014
The Obama administration plans to sign a non-binding climate-change accord. Good luck with that.
“I’am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot,” Abigail Borah, a youth delegate to the 2011 Durban climate negotiations, yelled from the conference floor. “I am scared for my future,” she cried, silencing Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s chief climate negotiator. “We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty.”
Now the Obama administration is signaling that there will be not be a new climate treaty. According to a report in Wednesday’s New York Times, the path to a treaty has come to an end, 14 months before the Paris talks scheduled for next year. Instead, the best deal on offer is a non-binding accord. This is big news.
Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is reheating the rhetoric from its fifth assessment report, doing what it always does: produce the right mood music ahead of crunch-time climate talks. Trouble is, it’s all sounding more than a little dated. In that report, the first installment of which was released last September, the IPCC ducked the big question unsettling climate science. What are the possible causes and implications of the pause — or hiatus, as the IPCC prefers to call it — in the rise in average global temperatures? The pause is already more than a decade old. With 39 explanations and counting, and some climate scientists now arguing that it might last yet another decade, the IPCC has sidelined itself in irrelevance until it has something serious to say about the pause and has reflected on whether its alarmism is justified, given its reliance on computer models that predicted temperature rises that have not occurred.
While the IPCC plays yesterday’s tired hits, it appears that next year’s climate-change negotiations will bring forth a mouse. In retrospect, the Durban climate conference turned out to be the high point for expectations that climate negotiations would produce a binding treaty. It was also the high point for the European Union’s climate-change strategy, knocking the U.S. on its heels. After the acrimonious collapse of attempts to agree to a climate treaty at Copenhagen in 2009, American and European climate negotiators drew diametrically different conclusions about what to do next.
The Obama administration reckoned that climate-change diplomacy had to be based on the recognition that opposition from China and India put a climate-change treaty beyond the realm of the realizable. The Senate was not going to ratify a treaty that did not include all the major emitters, and, as a matter of arithmetic, all the major emitters had to sign the treaty if it were to have any chance of tackling global warming.
It was the same logic that had led President George W. Bush not to send the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification. Instead, his administration developed a strategy aimed at including the major emerging economies. That strategy was adopted by President Obama. Success required overcoming the division between developed and developing nations that was enshrined in the 1992 U.N. climate-change convention. It is why the Senate adopted, 95–0, the Byrd-Hagel resolution shortly before Kyoto. Speaking with one voice, the Senate said that the U.S. should not ratify any climate-change treaty unless it included specific, timetabled commitments from developing nations.
By contrast, after Copenhagen, the Europeans clung to the hope of a binding treaty embracing all major emitters. Their strategy was to use the annual cycle of U.N. climate-change negotiations to fragment the coalition of developing nations through promises of billions of dollars of climate aid. Finding themselves isolated, the Indians and the Chinese would buckle under international pressure and sign on to a comprehensive treaty.
At Durban, the Europeans had an apparent trump card that encapsulated the delusory nature of the enterprise. All the other developed nations had decided to join the U.S. and effectively exit the Kyoto Protocol at the end of its first commitment period; Canada went further and formally withdrew. Without “hard, bankable” commitments from large nations on a roadmap to a binding treaty, the EU would pull the plug on Kyoto. So threatened Chris Huhne, the U.K. climate secretary who subsequently had to resign and serve time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, for perjury.
The EU’s hard line appeared to move the needle decisively toward a treaty. China indicated a softening in its position. The conference agreed to launch a process that aimed to deliver, at the very least, an agreed outcome with “legal force” applicable to developed and developing nations alike. Even Todd Stern was impressed, calling the Durban outcome “very significant.” The drive toward a comprehensive climate treaty, culminating at the Paris climate conference in 2015, was on.
Now that plan has collapsed. For the Obama administration, this means reverting to its pre-Durban Plan A: no legally binding commitments but voluntary pledges, notified under the auspices of the 1992 convention and underpinned by a regime of “naming and shaming” those who don’t live up to them. There is a big problem with this. It has already been tried, and it failed.
Out of the ashes of Copenhagen came the Copenhagen Accord, under which nations would notify the U.N. climate-change secretariat of their commitments to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions. In January 2010, Japan notified the convention secretariat of its pledge to cut its 1990-level emissions 25 percent by 2020. Last November, the government of Shinzo Abe tore this up, replacing it with a new target that implied a 3.8 percent increase. It caused hardly a ripple. Clearly, an international regime of emissions cuts enforced by naming and shaming has no credibility.
2) Obama’s UN Climate Plan Spooks U.S. Democrats
The Hill, 27 August 2014
President Obama’s election-year plan to win a new international climate change accord is making vulnerable Democrats nervous.
The administration is in talks at the United Nations about a deal that would seek to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by “naming and shaming” governments that fail to take significant action.
The State Department on Wednesday denied a report in The New York Times that the plan is to come up with a treaty that would not require Senate confirmation, but that appeared to provide cold comfort to Democrats worried the issue will revive GOP cries about an imperial Obama presidency.
One Democratic strategist said the proposal would put swing-state candidates who are critical to the party keeping its Senate majority “in front of the firing squad.”
“You’re … making it more difficult for them to win and certainty putting them in a position to lose,” the strategist said.
Several vulnerable Senate Democrats kept mum on the issue.
Other Democrats immediately distanced themselves from the proposal.
3) Vulnerable Dem Slams Obama Over ‘Fruitless’ UN Climate Effort
The Hill, 27 August 2014
A vulnerable House Democrat is slamming President Obama’s reported effort to launch an international summit to address climate change without congressional input.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) says Obama’s plans to get a “politically binding” international climate agreement endorsed by the United Nations next year is “fruitless” for a president whose popularity is lagging even at home.
“It is fruitless for this Administration — or any Administration — to negotiate agreements with the rest of the world when it cannot even muster the support of the American people,” Rahall said Wednesday in a statement.
“This Administration’s go it alone strategy is surely less about dysfunction in Congress than about the President’s own unwillingness to listen to our coal miners, steelworkers, farmers, and working families,” he added.
The Democrat, a 19-term House veteran, is distancing himself from Obama as he fights for his political career against Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins in West Virginia, where the president’s energy policy is deeply unpopular. The Cook Political Report, an online election handicapper, rates his race a “toss up.”
As reported by The New York Times Wednesday, the Obama administration is working to expand an international accord to address climate change, which most scientists say is exacerbated by human activity.
The current gridlock in Congress would likely preclude the possibility that the Senate would ratify a new treaty. Officials, though, are planning to sidestep Congress by pushing for a “politically binding” deal, in lieu of a legally binding accord, the Times reported.
Republicans wasted no time hammering Obama over the news, saying it’s another instance of the administration abusing its power.
“Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration’s tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn’t like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
Rahall agrees, and he’s letting Obama — and West Virginia voters — know it.
4) John Barrasso: Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change
The Wall Street Journal, 29 August 2014
The White House claims its foreign policy rule is “don’t do stupid stuff,” but putting climate change ahead of global threats fails that simple test.
Secretary of State John Kerry said during his January 2013 confirmation hearings that he would be a “passionate advocate” on climate-change issues, and he’s living up to that promise. In a speech this month in Hawaii, Mr. Kerry called climate change “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now.” Not 10, 20 or 100 years from now—right now.
If only Mr. Kerry were right. Unfortunately, America faces much bigger immediate challenges and threats than climate change. Our enemies around the world are intent on harming us—right now. America’s secretary of state should worry more about them and less about the Earth’s temperature decades from now.
Here’s a list of a few challenges, all of which pose a greater threat to the world than climate change. It might help the president and his colleagues understand why Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy approval rating is about 36%, according to an August poll by Gallup.
• Iraq is a greater challenge than climate change. While the president now likes to pretend that he didn’t force a total withdrawal of U.S. troops, Americans remember his 2008 campaign promise to do exactly that. When the U.S. leaves a vacuum, others will fill it. The barbaric Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is trying to build a base of operations in Iraq and Syria from which to attack the U.S. and its allies. The recent beheading of American journalist James Foley showed how serious ISIS is about “drowning” our nation in blood, as the group said in the video of the murder posted on YouTube.
• Afghanistan. The administration says it still intends to pull out the remaining 30,000 troops by the end of 2016. If it does, the country will quickly become a terrorist haven once again. As with Iraq, the timetable seems to be mostly about the political calendar. The Obama administration seems to have lost the will to win. The terrorists have not.
• Russia. President Obama was so intent on “resetting” U.S. relations with the Kremlin that he telegraphed a lack of resolve. President Vladimir Putin has only become more aggressive. That’s led to Russian troops in Ukraine and Russian-supplied weapons shooting a passenger plane out of the sky.
• An Iranian nuclear weapon. America’s enemies have shown they are content to stall for time, while President Obama gets distracted. That’s what’s happening as the president continues to negotiate indefinitely on Iran’s illicit nuclear program. An Obama administration desperate to strike a deal is likely to strike a bad one. It could leave in place an enrichment program that would be a pathway to a nuclear-armed Iran.
• Syria. It has been more than three years since President Obama said the time had come for President Bashar Assad to step aside. The administration drew a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, then did nothing when Assad crossed that line last summer. ISIS already has strongholds in Syria, while the Free Syrian Army desperately needs more U.S. assistance.
• North Korea. The North Koreans continue to test nuclear weapons. They have held multiple tests of missile technology designed to reach the continental U.S. President Obama has done nothing at all about this.
5) Susan Crockford: Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 28 August 2014
Virtually all of the research reports on polar bears over the last few years have contained good news. Who then is to blame for hyping the “polar bears are dying” meme?
It’s easy to blame reporters for fanning the flames of hysteria – some of their copy on polar bears is truly over the top. Many news articles lack the application of common sense or even a modicum of fact checking. In a lot of cases, however, what’s happening is that science writers simply take everything that polar bear biologists and their co-authors say as gospel and reprint press releases word for word.
6) Fritz Vahrenholt: How The Green Energy Transition Is Destroying Germany’s Nature
Die Welt, 18 August 2014
Germany’s climate and energy policy is the main threat to bio-diversity. Politicians, however, have closed their eyes from the distructive effects of the rampant expansion of renewable energy.
Dankwart Guratzsch has convincingly described the destruction of the environment by the energy transition in these pages. The mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer (Green Party), responded in an article, saying: “Everything is not so bad. The impact of wind farms on nature is almost zero … The only relevant negative aspect of wind power is the optical … Many wind farms attract visitors, who do not find repulsive.”
What a devastating form of denial by the Green mayor. But he shares the fatal disregard for the destruction of nature with many greens who – helped by the WWF and Greenpeace – open up forests and premium areas of natural beauty for businesses and belittle the intrusion by wind turbines into nature.
More and more citizens are beginning to realise how the green energy transition is at odds with nature conservation and environmental protection in Germany. A grassroot protest movement has started with thousands of local citizens’ initiatives, barely connected with each other, who are against the planting of biofuels far and wide and which is destroying biodiversity, against the threats to indigenous birds by wind turbines built in forests, and against the devastation of unique cultural and landscape areas by photovoltaic excesses.
A biodiversity disaster
Of Germany’s 115 most common bird species, 51 have declined significantly in the last 20 years. The head of the biosphere reserve in Schorfheide, Martin Flade, speaks of a “biodiversity disaster” which is due to “the hectic climate, energy and agricultural policy: In the corn farmland birds have no chance – the field processing falls in the breeding season, and later they hardly find any insects to eat in these mono-cultures. Of the 30 most common species, there are just four that could hold their numbers, all the rest are declining since at least since 2007.”
The Lesser Spotted Eagle, also called Pomerania Eagle, became extinct in Saxony-Anhalt last year. Only 108 breeding pairs remain in Germany. It finds less and less food in the declining grassland and open meadow. The distances between breeding sites and food areas are getting longer and are also increasingly endangered by wind turbines.
Notably countries with Green Party ministers (North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wurttemberg, Brandenburg and Hessen) have approved regulations which open the use of forests for wind turbines. To place a wind farm every 500 meters in the forest, six meter wide open lanes have to be cut through the forest in order to transport the 100-ton turbines and to maintain them later. Around each turbine, a five-acre open area must be created to lift the blades by giant cranes.
Wind farms in pristine forests
What a wind farm forest looks like can now be seen in many parts of Germany – for instance around Soonwaldsteig, a part of the Hunsrück, one of the last great, largely untouched forest areas in Rhineland-Palatinate with high biodiversity and the presence of numerous highly endangered species. There, the project developer Juwi has erected eight wind turbines in the middle of a forest – despite public protests – and then sold the park to an Austrian energy supplier. Faced with the images of demonstrating citizens, the Green minister Evelin Lemke could only come up with: “Without climate protection, there will be no more biodiversity here.”
But a policy that overestimates the dangers of climate change and that subordinates all other policy objectives, including nature conservation, whatever the cost, generates resistance. The Soonwaldsteig has become a nationwide focal point of citizens’ initiatives against the use of wind power in sensitive areas.
Today, 200,000 dead bats are found under wind turbines annually. The clever animals locate the rotors, fly through them and in the lee behind the turbines, where the air pressure decreases sharply, the bats’ lungs burst. Particularly affected are the noctule, the Serotine, the Small Noctule or the parti-colored bat. The female bat only gives birth to one or two young per year, thus these useful insectivores are endangered by a further uncontrolled construction of new wind turbines.
The red kite is acutely threatened
Following the review of the German Council for Bird Preservation (DRV) and the umbrella organization of German Avifaunists (DDA, 2012), the Red Kite is also in particular danger. After an investigation by the State Ornithological Institute of Brandenburg, the Red Kite is no longer safe in this state with its 3,200 wind turbines. About 300 Red Kites are killed annually in Brandenburg alone by wind turbines.
The decline of the red kites since 2005 in West Germany is striking, as Klaus Richarz, former head of the State Ornithological Institutes for Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, has warned. For him too, windmills built in the habitats of kites are fatal for the birds. The protection of the Red Kite is of special obligation for Germany, because a large percentage of the global population of the birds live in Germany. If you like, it is the real national bird of Germany.
In his hard-hitting article “From the energy transition to biodiversity disaster” Martin Flade, the recognized bird expert, describes climate protection and energy policy as a “major threat to biological diversity”. He concludes: “Overall, you have to draw the bitter conclusion that effects of climate change on biodiversity are hardly detectable; the effects of climate and energy policies, however, are dramatic.”
The problem with intermittent wind turbines
Tübingen’s mayor Boris Palmer demands: “We need to double the number of currently 25,000 wind turbines in order to supply Germany.” What a mistake!
Even 50,000 wind turbines only lead to massive surpluses if the wind blows. Wind turbines have on average around 2,500 full load hours per year, but the year has 8,760 hours. In times of no wind, no electricity is generated, even if one multiplies the number of facilities. Zero times x is zero. The intermittency of renewable energy such as wind and solar require either backup fossil power plants or energy storage capacities.
Storage technologies can only do this tasks with excessive costs. Without fossil power plants to balance the intermittency of renewable energy there will be no guaranteed power supply in Germany, with fatal consequences for the competitiveness of German industry and the manufacturing industry.
It should also be known to the Greens that the expansion of renewable energy due to Germany’s Renewable Energy Law is completely ineffective in terms of CO2 emissions in Europe. The CO2 emissions in Europe are determined solely by the capping of the emissions trading scheme. New wind and solar power, in fact, set more emission allowances free.
These certificates float through the stock exchanges to coal power plants in other EU countries where they allow further increase in CO2 emissions which amount to the same level as the reductions in Germany. Besides additional costs for citizens and the devastation of nature, any expansion of renewable energy will not achieve a single ton of CO2 reduction.
Assumptions of climate policy are flawed
Fossil fuel power plants are not an alternative for Boris Palmer and the Greens because they cause climate change, claiming that “some nature reserves, but also some urban areas cannot be saved from rising sea levels, drought and floods and devastating storms”.
But there are growing signs that the assumptions used for German and European climate policy are flawed. Surprisingly, no global temperature increase has occurred for about 15 years. However, computer models used by climate scientists had predicted a temperature rise of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.
In early 2013, 17 renowned climate scientists came to the conclusion that the climate sensitivity of greenhouse gases should be significantly reduced. Hans von Storch, researcher from the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht, admits: “First option: global warming is weaker because the greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have a lower impact than assumed. That does not mean that there is no man-made greenhouse effect, only that our influence on the climate system would not be as strong as expected. The other possibility: In our simulations we have underestimated how much the climate varies due to natural causes “.
In fact, there are good reasons for the global warming pause. Solar activity has reached a maximum in the second half of the last century. But since the last eleven-year solar cycle, solar activity has decreased dramatically, the solar maximum exited very quickly. The current solar cycle 24 is the weakest in 200 years.
Ocean currents shift into cold phase
Another crucial error by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was its failure to take into account the 60-year-old oceanic-atmospheric cycle of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The ocean currents change in 30-year intervals between warm and cold phases. They are now moving into a cold phase in which they will remain until 2035. The natural temperature rise in the past was also blamed on CO2, and so scientists got the wrong predictions.
Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas; it causes a warming of about 1.1 degrees Celsius per doubling of its concentration. But catastrophic global warming of three to six degrees Celsius this century, which justifies energy policies that threaten the existence of local wildlife, is not to be feared.
The sacrifice of German forests may do for wind energy what the battle against the Whyl nuclear power plant was for Germany’s nuclear energy. None of the political parties represented in the German parliament intends to end this attack on the environment. However, the Green Party would feel the impact most if the growing protest movement against the destruction of nature were to raise this threat onto the political agenda.
Fritz Vahrenholt is the chairman of the German Wildlife Foundation and author of the 2012 bestseller “The Neglected Sun”. He is a member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.
Translation Philipp Mueller