Saving the environment has just become a bit more complicated... German scientists found another culprit for the emission of greenhouse gases:
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics have now carefully analysed which organic gases are emitted from plants. They made the surprising discovery that plants release methane, a greenhouse gas - and this goes against all previous assumptions.
I guess that's the reason why so many computer based climate simulations get it wrong: "This study (not the Max Planck study mentioned above) suggests serious caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present climate and, a fortiori, in the perspective of modelling climate change." (via CCNET)
Here's what the folks at Fox News had to say about the results from the Max Planck institute:
Gigot: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits & Misses"--it is our way of calling attention to the best, and the worst, of the week.
Item one: Tree huggers beware. A new study is turning conventional wisdom about global warming on its head--Dan.
Henninger: Well you know, Paul, if you go onto a web site of Ronald Reagan's stupidest quotes, the one you'll always find is the one he said in 1981, which is that trees cause more pollution than automobiles. Well, maybe Ronald Reagan was a genius.
Because the eminent Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, has just reported in Nature magazine that plants, trees, forests, emit 10% to 30% of the methane gas into the atmosphere. This is a greenhouse gas. The sort of stuff the Kyoto Treaty is meant to suppress.
So, this is causing big problems for the tree huggers if plants, in fact, do cause greenhouse gases. I have just one message for them, the next time you are out for a walk in the woods--[inhales loudly]--breathe the methane.
Gigot: Have they checked the U.S. Senate for methane emissions lately, Dan?
Henninger: They should.
Gigot: All right. Thanks.
(Paul Gigot is editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal; Dan Henninger is Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor)
Well, there's at least one guy - a true "Kyoto" believer - who takes the fight against greenhouse gas emitting sources very seriously...
One of the few causes behind which the Left still can unite is the Kyoto treaty on the reduction of greenhouse gases. After all, the refusal of the U.S. to sign "Kyoto" makes a good reason to kick off anti-American campaigns.
Except... "Old Europe", among others, is failing to reach the reductions agreed upon in the Kyoto treaty:
Canada, Japan and the old 15-member European Union are falling short on their commitments to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, according to a new UN report on global warming.
Anyway, casual observation tells me that the front line of the "Sign Kyoto" movement is beginning to fall apart, in Europe as well as in the U.S.. The "consensus science" approach comes under increasing fire, for instance in this beautiful piece by Debra J. Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle:
THERE IS A MYTH in the American media. It goes like this: The good
Few newspapers have been as consistently one-sided and mind-numbingly populist over the past few years as the Sueddeutsche Zeitung when it comes to reporting on the United States and President George W. Bush. The latest example is an article entitled "USA: Economy Against Bush".
The article's opening paragraphs read:
"USA: Economy Against Bush
The US President bravely refuses environmental protection - but the companies of his country are rethinking in the meantime. By Andreas Oldag
With his categorical 'no' to all binding objective-setting for climate protection, President Bush has not only isolated himself in the circle of industrial states. Also in his own country he is increasingly encountering resistance. They are initiatives from the US states but equally from companies that have of late discovered their heart for environmental protection."
The first problem with the article is that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung appears to intentionally confuse President Bush's rejection of the Kyoto Treaty with a stubborn and sweeping refusal to protect the environment on any level. The article does not begin by stating that Bush bravely refuses Kyoto but clearly asserts that he "bravely refuses environmental protection" and categorically rejects all environmental standards and goals. In so doing, SZ is once again providing its readership with the simplistic, black-and-white, Bush-is-evil view of reality that they so obviously crave.
The Clear Skies Initiative: According to the White House, this plan "has been introduced in Congress and would dramatically improve air quality by reducing power plants' emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by approximately 70 percent over the next 15 years, more than any other clean air initiative."
"The EPA announced a proposal to require coal-burning power plants to make the steepest emissions cuts in over a decade. The Interstate Air Quality Rule will require power plants to substantially reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Sulfur dioxide will be cut by nearly 70 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions will be cut by approximately 50 percent.
"Mercury emissions from power plants are not currently regulated. For the first time ever, the Bush administration will impost a mandatory 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from those sources by 2018.
"In April 2003, EPA issued a proposed rule that will dramatically reduce pollution from heavy-duty diesel engines used in construction, agricultural, and industrial equipment. (...) Soot and nitrogen oxide emissions will decrease by more than 90 percent by 2014, and the sulfur content of diesel fuel will be cut 99 percent by 2010.
"President Bush has committed America to meeting the challenge of long-term global climate change by reducing the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output by 18 percent by 2012 compared to 2002.
"A 42 percent increase in climate change research initiative funding."
But of course, none of those items are ever mentioned by SZ. Readers are left to assume that Bush is a nature-hating barbarian out to destroy the environment at all costs. And that is precisely the view of Bush the media has conditioned them to expect.
Another interesting aspect of the Oldag article is its implication (in the headline) that the private sector is against Bush. So what is it now for the hard-left German media? Is the Bush administration the evil minion of American private interests or their new enemy? German conspiracy theorists are likely in a conniption over this article.
But Oldag reassures readers that capitalist firms like GE and 3M are not pursuing environmentally friendly products and technologies out of the goodness of their hearts, but are instead acting in self-interest to pad their bottom-lines. In so doing, the author unknowingly contradicts the titular claim of his article that the economy is "Against Bush". To quote from the White House website:
global climate change will require a sustained effort, over many
generations. My approach recognizes that sustained economic growth is
the solution, not the problem – because a nation that grows its economy
is a nation that can afford investments in efficiency, new
technologies, and a cleaner environment." ---President Bush
approach recognizes that sustained economic growth is an essential part
of the solution, not the problem. Economic growth will make possible
the needed investment in research, development, and deployment of
Finally, towards the end of the article the author touches on the true source of so much European ire: The refusal of the United States to sign the Kyoto Treaty. Oldag writes that American concerns over the treaty represent a "horror scenario":
"Washington has come up with a horror scenario according to which Kyoto would cost the US economy 400 billion Dollars (313 billion Euros) and 4.9 million jobs."
But the article never offers a shred of factual evidence or the slightest explanation as to why these estimates in fact represent hyperbolic exaggeration. Readers are provided no alternative view by SZ as to what the actual, "realistic" impact on the US economy would be. Essential elements of the Bush administration's views on Kyoto are omitted as well. Here is the White House's statement on the issue:
Administration decided not to participate in the Kyoto Treaty on
climate change because its implementation would have meant the loss of
nearly $400 billion in U.S. GDP, and up to 4.9 million lost American
jobs, many of which would be exported overseas to developing countries
with lower environmental standards, hurting our economic
competitiveness. It is bad enough that the jobs go to the other
countries. But that also means that the greenhouse gas emissions and
air pollution also go there, and in many instances go up -- so we would
not achieve anything to address the issue of reducing emissions
globally. That is why 95 U.S. senators, with no opposing vote, rejected
the design of the Kyoto Treaty in 1997, long before President Bush came
The SZ piece also never brings up the fact that India and China, the world's two most populous nations, are exempt from the treaty, meaning that nearly half the world's population is exempt. Another key fact that is largely ignored by the German media is that the US Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, voted unanimously (95-0) to reject Kyoto in 1997. Additionally, the 1990 baseline used by Kyoto for measurement of emissions provides a huge advantage to nations like Germany that once had territory in the Warsaw Pact and have since shut down large numbers of obsolete factories left over from the Cold War. Nations like Ukraine and Poland have effortlessly cut emissions since 1990 in that they have simply shut down unprofitable old Soviet-era factories. Nations like Japan, Australia and the United States don't share in that historic advantage.
But those facts are of little interest to a German media that has found the Kyoto treaty to be a convenient, populist blunt-object with which to bash the United States before the screaming masses. Blinded by ideology and profit-lust, many German news outlets have adopted the mentality that the United States and President Bush are guilty until proven innocent. SZ's Oldag piece is just another example of one-sided reporting that twists reality and "bravely refuses" to give readers all of the facts.
(Note: Emphasis above in the original)
Update: One of our commenters, Lars, says that he is a regular SZ reader and writes:
"I cannot remember of any article that correctly explained the US
environmental protection strategies compared to Kyoto. The place where
I first learned about the differences was a Slashdot discussion! And
the only German media so far which repeatedly had quite objective
comparative articles about the topic was Telepolis
The Annual Climate Change Convention Conference will run from Dec. 6 to 17 in Buenos Aires. Some (1, 2) German media outlets are already warming up to blame the U.S. government for the evils of global warming. Certainly more to come in the next couple of days...
I found this interesting Q&A piece in a transcript of a Washington "Foreign Press Center" briefing on global climate change. Two questions were asked by German correspondents. The briefing was done (and the questions were answered) by Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative, U.S. Dept. of State, and David W. Conover, Director, Climate Change Technology Program, U.S. Dept. of Energy.
QUESTION: Volker Bargenda of the German Press Agency.
Obviously, you have a lot of critics out there, including some EU members who are saying you're not doing enough and you're not signing the Kyoto Protocol. What's your response to critics who are saying the U.S. is not doing enough to support (inaudible) climate change?
MR. WATSON: Well, what I do is to recite all that we are doing and to challenge them to match us. And we believe that the true measurement is in results-oriented actions, not in agreeing to pieces of paper. So I challenge them to match us. As I say, we spend more on science and technology than anyone else in the world, by far. In fact, our expenditure on climate change science is more than the rest of the world combined, and certainly our significant technology expenditures far exceed, I believe in almost all the technologies, anyone else in the world.
We're also aggressively taking, in terms of our voluntary programs, we're making great strides with getting sectors and individual companies on board to help reduce the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions, again using a carrot rather than a regulatory stick, and we find we're making great headway there. And, in fact, over the last few years, our growth in emissions, our overall emissions, are lower than many of our EU colleagues. So that's my response.
MR. CONOVER: And we find common ground on the technology issues. The European Union is a member of both the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum and the International Partnership for Hydrogen Economy, and in those areas what we're focused on is solutions to this challenge, solutions that will need to be developed regardless of the international regime that governs reduction of emissions. (...)
QUESTION: Dietmar Ostermann, German newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau.
Can you give us some numbers? You said that you're on your way reaching that goal of the 18 percent reduction in intensity. And you also said that the growth in emissions is lower than in many or some of the EU countries. Can you just give us the numbers to that?
MR. WATSON: Well, let me give you a specific number that I can -- that most recent submission, at least that we did, and you can compare it with what other countries did. Each of the developed countries is required to submit an annual inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Secretariat. Typically, it happens in the April to June timeframe for most parties. And we reported in April, as did the other parties, our 2002 figures, as well as any updates we might have had on past figures.
Let me just say that from 2000 to 2002, which is really the time period that this President could impact, our emissions have declined by approximately 1 percent, and if you could compare that to what's happened in many countries, that's not a record that many could match. Now there are many reasons for that.
QUESTION: Is it intensity or is it the --
MR. WATSON: Oh, I'm talking about absolute emissions.
MR. WATSON: Yeah, absolute emissions. And we have had some significant economic growth during that time, so our intensity has gone down. But our emissions in 2002 were lower than they were in 2000. We'll have to see. I believe preliminary figures in 2003 indicated there -- I think --
MR. CONOVER: -- slight growth but --
MR. WATSON: Yeah, very, very slight growth.
MR. CONOVER: But intensity declined.
MR. WATSON: Yeah, but continued intensity declined. So we really believe we're making headway on reducing the growth in the emissions. And again, I'm sorry I don't have exact numbers on the intensity declined, but we feel we're well on our target to meeting the 18 percent goal at the present set forth.
(Official Transcript of FPC Briefing on "An Overview of U.S. Global Climate Change Policy in Advance of Conference in Buenos Aires,"12/2/2004.)