Scientific American has done it again -- demonstrating its devotion to the cause of Global Warming and disregard for scientific balance.
The March 2005 issue (pp. 34-35) carries a paean of praise for Michael Mann, contributed by science journalist and blogger David Appell. It pictures Mann as the victim of persecution by evil forces, which remain unnamed throughout. We never hear about Stephen McIntyre, Ross McKitrick, or any of the others -- nor are their publications cited. Mann's Corrigendum in Nature is used to show the "errors of his attackers." Mann himself describes them as "contrarians" and "pathetic."
There are swipes at the Greening Earth Society and Tech Central Station, with mentions of "disinformation campaign" and "oil money." And there is a plug (in fact, several plugs) for Mann's blog site with Gavin Schmidt and other activists -- with no word on who is funding their effort.
Mann's cautious reply as to whether global warming is really a problem: "To some extent, that's a value judgment." Interesting.
Gregg Easterbrook noted in the The New Republic that "The world's first international anti-global-warming agreement to take force is not the Kyoto treaty. It is a Bush Administration initiative, and you have not heard a peep regarding the initiative because the American press corps is pretending it does not exist."
That program is the Methane to Markets (M2M) initiative. According to Easterbrook, "The White House's July 2004 agreement requires the United States, United Kingdom, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and Italy to reduce global methane emissions by an amount equal to roughly one percent of all greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere by human activity."
Bush's methane initiative will remove 50 million metric tons by 2015. According to the Energy Information Administration, that amounts to the equivalent of:
** Taking 33 million cars off the road for a year.
** Eliminating 50 coal fired electricity plants.
** Providing enough heat to warm 7.2 million households for a year.
The most the Kyoto cuts will accomplish, according to the climate models cited by its supporters, is a delay in warming by six years at the beginning of the next century. And at a cost of hundreds of billions in economic losses annually.
Meanwhile, M2M will only cost the federal government about $53 million over five years. Why so little to do so much? Because methane is about 20 to 30 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, the main target of the Kyoto accord.
Further, M2M may actually produce some economic benefits for both developed and developing countries. Plugging methane leaks in natural gas lines means saving product. Capturing it from landfills to help run a local power plant gives local communities that permit them an economic benefit. Cleaning it from coal mines can reduce explosions.
And it can help in the exploitation of animal waste as a fuel and for food (not directly, but as a fertilizer). The United States alone has nearly 9 million dairy cows, 11 million cattle, and 60 million hogs. Just the thought might turn some vegetarians into meat eaters if they knew that the waste from these animals would help provide a clean fuel to combat global warming while offering organic farmers a new source of fertilizer.
Sound far-fetched? Well, dung from 5,000 cows is fueling a biogas plant in Devon in England. And EARTH University in Costa Rica -- endowed with $103 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development back in 1990 -- has developed a biodigester for the tropics that converts animal waste into fuel, so farmers don't burn trees, and fertilizer for crops, so they don't need to import it, all while helping purify the water supply through fish ponds.
So why aren't greens celebrating all this? As Daniel Sarewitz and Roger Pielke Jr. wrote in The Atlantic back in July of 2000: "A central tenet of environmentalism is that less human interference in nature is better than more." And the great symbol of non-interference has become reduction in CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide, which makes life on this planet possible, became the poster child for the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the like, of all human interference with Nature.
But as Sarewitz and Pielke argued then, "[E]nvironmentalists and scientists, in focusing their own, increasingly congruent interests on carbon-dioxide emissions, have framed the problem of global environmental protection in a way that can offer no realistic prospect of a solution."
The reason: The vast majority of developing nations have nothing to gain from emissions reductions for themselves. They only gain from developed nations seeking to meet emissions targets -- and either transferring their heavier industry to poorer countries that are excluded from Kyoto's emission cuts or getting money directly from developed countries not to develop industry themselves -- by becoming climate welfare states.
That Kyoto's unintended consequence may be more interference with the environment and more pollution in developing countries is lost on environmentalists and scientists on the anti-CO2 Kyoto bandwagon. Consider the comments of EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas regarding Bush's other push for combating climate change -- technological innovation.
The Bush administration has provided $700 million in tax credits to promote clean technologies next year, $3 billion in research on new clean technologies, and $200 million to help in the transfer of clean technology to developing countries. "Emerging technologies, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, (and) clean coal technology will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible," Bush said in Brussels.
"Technologies are important and the European Union has always been keen for progress in this area," Dimas sniffed. "However, to combat climate change, this is not enough."
Think about that for a bit. The alternative to technology providing solutions for climate change -- either in aiding adaptability to change or curtailing emissions or finding a use for them -- is what? Lower living standards -- and probably less freedom. Europeans will be in for a big disappointment once they discover what Kyoto is really all about -- that it is a non-starter in the developing world and that it's all pain and little gain.