CO2 Reductions Falling Short in Great Britain, Proving Costly in Japan

CO2 Reductions Falling Short in Great Britain, Proving Costly in Japan
October 1, 2004

A new report from Cambridge Econometrics concludes Great Britain's 20 percent domestic carbon-reduction goal "is likely to be missed by a large margin," according to a July 30 Bloomberg News report. Cambridge Econometrics also projected emissions from road transportation will rise 14 percent by 2010 from 1990 levels.

In related news, The Guardian reported on July 29 that the U.K. government is planning to "press on with plans to build 120,000 homes in the Thames Gateway flood plain despite accepting the increased chance of flooding disasters due to global warming." The announcement said, "New homes on floodplains would have to be sited and designed to ensure that they were 'flood resilient.'"

This action, placing current needs over future worries, may reflect the current state of public opinion in the U.K. A BBC poll, taken in mid-July to coincide with a series of BBC television programs pushing the alarmist case on global warming, found that climate change finished at the bottom of the public's concerns among a list of seven "important issues" facing the U.K., below even immigration.

Of the poll respondents, 53 percent thought Britain would be affected "only a little" or "not at all" by climate change. Although most respondents said they would be willing to change their lifestyles to combat global warming, only low-cost options were popular. For example, a mere 37 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for gasoline.

Japan May Tax Fossil Fuel Use

The government of Japan is considering taxing consumers of fossil fuels, including petroleum and coal, in its latest plan to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. To ensure Japanese business does not suffer, steelmakers and other businesses using coal and oil as fuel would be given tax waivers or receive lower rates.

The Japanese environment ministry expects revenues of roughly 600 billion yen (US $5.4 billion) per year from the new greenhouse gas taxes. With approximately 45 million households in Japan, the new taxes will cost each household roughly $120 per year.

Specific tax amounts will be determined according to the nation's overall carbon dioxide emission volume and will be added to gasoline prices, electricity fees, and the like. Under the ministry's draft proposal, a tax of slightly more than 1 yen (US $0.009) would be imposed for each liter of gasoline. The revenues would be used to finance energy-saving policies.

The ministry is presenting its proposal to the Liberal Democratic Party's environmental research council. According to an August 3 report from Asia Pulse/Nikkei, the ministry hopes to incorporate the proposal into a fiscal year 2005 tax reform.

Higher Energy Prices Hurting U.S. Economy

The lessons being learned in Britain and Japan are not being lost on U.S. consumers. Although the United States is not implementing costly greenhouse gas taxes, rising energy prices due to other reasons provide a glimpse of what the Kyoto Protocol would do to the U.S. economy.

Rising energy prices are slowing the growth of the U.S. economy. The rate of annual growth in gross domestic product declined from 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2004 to 3 percent during the second quarter. Consumer spending also dropped, from a growth rate of 4.1 percent to a meager 1 percent in the second quarter.

Although economists predict the economy will rebound over the next few months, analysts say rising oil prices are the biggest threat to the recovery. The price of crude oil is up 35 percent since January 1, at around $44 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, told the Boston Globe on July 31, "Rising oil prices are one of the biggest concerns I have. It's like a tax, and that will hurt consumers and the economy in general."

Economists generally agree that long-term high oil prices hurt consumer spending, one of the primary drivers of economic growth.

Coldest Month in Four Years

The need for carbon dioxide reductions is being cast into doubt by recent temperature trends. The global temperature report for July 2004 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Earth System Science Center found the month was the coolest in four-and-a-half years and the coolest July in a dozen years.

The data show the global temperature was 0.21º C (about 0.38º F) below the 20-year average for July. This followed a June temperature about 0.02º C below average. Only three months in the past 41 had been below this norm.

Dr. John Christy of UAH said, "This was the coolest July since 1992, when global temperatures were cooled by dust thrown into the atmosphere by the Mount Pinatubo volcano." A color map of temperature anomalies is available at http://climate.uah.edu.

Kilimanjaro Ice Melt Not Due to Global Warming

Addressing a related controversy, Georg Kaser of the University of Innsbruck and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Tanzania Meteorological Agency provided more proof, in a new paper published in the International Journal of Climatology (24; 329-339), that the snows of Kilimanjaro are disappearing due to factors other than global warming.

In "Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence of Climate Change: Observations and Facts," Kaser et al. "develop a new concept for investigating the retreat of Kilimanjaro's glaciers, based on the physical understanding of glacier-climate interactions." The authors wrote, "The concept considers the peculiarities of the mountain and implies that climatological processes other than air temperature control the ice recession in a direct manner. A drastic drop in atmospheric moisture at the end of the 19th century and the ensuing drier climatic conditions are likely forcing glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro."

The authors refer to another study, soon to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. According to Kaser et al., "Mölg and Hardy (2004) show that mass loss on the summit horizontal glacier surfaces is mainly due to sublimation (i.e. turbulent latent heat flux) and is little affected by air temperature through the turbulent sensible heat flux."


Iain Murray (imurray@cei.org) is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in the debate over climate change and the use and abuse of science in the political process. Myron Ebell (mebell@cei.org) oversees global warming and international environmental work at CEI and chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, a subgroup of the National Consumers Coalition that focuses on climate change issues.


For more information ...

Visit the Web sites of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, at http://www.cei.org, and Cooler Heads Coalition, http://www.consumeralert.org/.