Battle Between U.S. and China Threatens Climate Conference

Ronald Bailey's second dispatch from the Copenhagen climate conference

Copenhagen, December 15— “We can fail,” warned Danish Minister of the Environment Connie Hedegaard, president of the COP-15 climate change conference now happening in Copenhagen. Her warning was echoed by Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who added, “There has been some progress, but not nearly enough to present to the world as a success in Copenhagen.” These dour assessments were made at the end of the 9th day of the conference at the ceremonial session welcoming the arrival of environment ministers from around the world. Both nevertheless gamely suggested that “success”—by which they mean significant commitments to establishing some kind of global scheme to handle man-made climate change—could still be had.

More than 100 heads of state are planning to show up at the end of the week to endorse whatever agreement their environment ministers manage to hammer out over the next two days. So there’s a lot of pressure on the negotiators to come up with something that will make their bosses look good on Friday.

However, failure is a real option. Deep divisions between the rich and poor nations—and especially between the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, the United States and China—are threatening to derail the conference. It’s interesting to see how the two countries portray their disagreements. China’s Ambassador Yu Qingtai characterizes his country’s stance as defending the terms that the whole world has already agreed to in earlier climate covenants. U.S. Ambassador Todd Stern argues that the United States is not bound by the Kyoto Protocol, for the simple reason that it never signed that treaty. The Kyoto Protocol imposed greenhouse gas reduction goals on those developed countries that ratified it. Reductions averaged about 5 percent below 1990 levels.

Yu believes that the fact that the U.S. was not included in the Kyoto Protocol is being used as a pretext to “kill the Kyoto Protocol.” Yu points out that two years ago at COP-13, the U.S. agreed to the Bali Action Plan under which U.S. greenhouse gas reductions were to be comparable to those of other countries. Yu also noted that several developed countries have failed to meet their agreed upon Kyoto Protocol reduction goals. He added that behind closed doors the delegates from these countries have told the Chinese “Almost word for word—we didn’t meet our targets. It’s a fact of life and you’d better just accept that.”

China's fierce defense of the Kyoto Protocol arises from the fact that that treaty imposed no greenhouse gas reductions on the country. China strenuously objects to U.S. insistence that economically emerging countries be obliged to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases. China is particularly invested in keeping the Kyoto terms alive since it now emits more greenhouse gases annually than the United States. “From our point of view, you can't even begin to have an environmentally sound agreement without the adequate, significant participation of China,” insisted U.S. Ambassador Stern. And he’s right. There is no chance that the Senate will ratify a climate agreement that doesn’t include China.

Before the conference, China pledged to increase its carbon intensity 40 to 45 percent by 2020; that is, it would reduce by that much the amount of fossil fuels it burns to produce a given amount of economic output. Although the U.S. and the E.U. have not accepted China’s pledge, Stern noted that it nevertheless raised the issue of verification. He insisted that there must be some measure of international consultation on what constitutes transparency in meeting climate change commitments. China views such independent auditing as an intrusion on its sovereignty.

Another major bone of contention at the conference is financing. In the negotiations, poor developing countries are trying to shake down the rich countries for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid that would allegedly be used to help them adapt to climate change. The poor country negotiators argue that the industrialized countries have filled up the atmosphere with the extra carbon as they grew rich leaving less “space” for developing countries to emit as they now industrialize. In fact, scientists estimate that since 1750 about 27 percent of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was produced by the United States. In comparison, all of Europe, excluding Russia, is responsible for about 30 percent, while China has put only 9 percent of the additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The European Union has pledged €2.4 billion in climate aid to poor countries over the next three years, but it appears that most of that is simply re-packaging previous pledges, not new money. Always the stickler for contractual details, Chinese Ambassador Yu reminded the press that under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the size of the financial contributions that the developed countries committed themselves to cover for developing countries are the “full incremental costs of the damages from climate change.” Yu cannily suggested that lots of research shows that climate damages are far greater than the rich country aid pledges already made. Yu said that all China and other developing countries are asking at COP-15 is for rich countries to fulfill their clearly agreed on financial commitments.

But this again raises the issue of verification. U.S. and E.U. negotiators, mindful that the trillions spent on foreign aid over the past 50 years have been largely wasted, are insisting on what amounts to outside auditing to make sure that any climate aid provided is not stolen or frittered away by incompetent governments.

The U.S. is being heavily criticized by developing country negotiators and activists for not adopting “ambitious” greenhouse gas reduction goals. President Barack Obama has tentatively offered to cut U.S. emissions by 17 percent by 2020, a goal set by the House of Representatives last June in the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act. The activists point out that this would amount to a cut of just 4 percent below the levels emitted in 1990, which is less than the 7 percent target set for the U.S. in the never-ratified Kyoto Protocol.

Stern struck back at critics in the press conference, noting that only in the “hermetically sealed” world of climate change negotiations do 1990 emissions levels become “sacrosanct.” He pointed out that the ACES bill included interim targets in which the U.S. could cut emissions 30 percent by 2025 and 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. These emissions cuts would amount to 18 per cent and 33 percent below 1990 levels, respectively. The European Union has proposed that it would cut its emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, but has offered no targets for cuts beyond 2020.

If a substantial agreement can be finalized, the Obama administration will use it to argue that Congress needs to pass some carbon rationing legislation so that the U.S. can negotiate a legally-binding international climate change treaty when COP-16 meets in Mexico City next November.

One note: Not surprisingly, I have not heard a word about Climategate inside the COP meeting. However, I did snap this picture of a polar bear wondering where Climate Research Unit’s Phil Jones was.

Tomorrow: Some new scientific information of snow and ice melting trends. Hint: They are worse than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected two years ago, but people will still be able to retire to Florida at the end of the century.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is available from Prometheus Books.

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  • The Libertarian Guy||

    China is not a developing country. Period.

  • turdat||

    So you've never been there? Or anywhere outside the big cities?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    No, and I don't need to go there to know what I posted.

    How can a "developing nation" be prosperous enough to own so much of OUR debt?

  • ||

    Because they have over a billion people living in the country, and they export more than they import.

    Even if the average individual doesn't make much money, if you get huge numbers of people living below their means because of government policy, they can accumulate lots of cash.

  • ||

    How can a "developing nation" be prosperous enough to own so much of OUR debt?

    Never really understood what the problem with this was.

    We get a bunch of stuff and they get a bunch of paper with no assets attached. How is this a bad deal for the US?

  • ||

    It is truly amazing to see how often the US gets out negotiated in International treaties.

    I guess we will have to wait and see what the damage will be...

  • ||

    We don't care about the formation of the treaties.

    The Senate must pass them with a 2/3rds vote. Quick check: The Dems don't have 66 votes to make this stick.

  • ||

    The Senate must pass them with a 2/3rds vote.

    JESUS!!! really?

    It is a fucking miracle that NAFTA ever passes.

  • ||

    China's having it both ways here...but what do you expect? They've played Todd Stern like a fiddle for the conference, that's for sure.

    Climate implications used to be a U.S. game on the emissions front. But with India and China coming on-line (and most of it appears to be coal-powered) its no longer a solo act, but the Three Amigos. Going to have a hard time telling a developing country that they need to stay poor on behalf of the Africans. What a joke...

  • Chad||

    Ahh, the prisoners' dilemma in full force. It is a difficult problem even when everyone knows that we are stuck in one.

    Too bad markets don't have a solution for this type of problem, either.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    What is a government solution that DOESN'T turn America into East Germany Part Two?

    Quick, Chad... name it. You're a genius, remember? Sooo much smarter than everyone else? Get goin'!

  • ||

    What "problem"?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Ask Chad. Probably that stupid AGW shit he keeps harpin' about.

  • ||

    I *was* asking him/her. If Chad is to ask for a solution to a problem, I'd like to see the problem defined in pretty specific terms.
    It's similar to the debate on heathcare 'reform'; what is it you'd like to address?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Sorry, I shouldn't have started the post that way. My bad.

  • Chad||

    Here is my solution to health care:

    1: Write the names of each OECD country except the USA on a slip of paper

    2: Put the slips in a hat

    3: Close your eyes, reach into the hat, and pick one

    4: Copy that country's system exactly

    Problem solved.

  • ||

    It's official...Brainy Smurf has officially jumped the shark.

    And why exactly did Papa Smurf make you his assistant?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I don't think Chad is using a hat... he must be pulling his ideas from another source. A deep, dark, rank-smelling one.

  • ||

    IOWs, you haven't a clue.

  • Tonio||

    What if Mexico's name is drawn, Chad?

    Heh.

  • Sean Healy||

    It's obvious you've never watched a family member die of treatable cancer in Ireland.

  • ||

    Let's just pick the system with the best medical outcomes and survival rates.. oh wait, we have that.

    You do realize lower survival rates means people die don't you?

    That's people Chad.

    Why do you want people to die Chad?

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Copenhagen stalls decision on catastrophic climate change for six years

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....955237.ece

  • ||

    A quick search tells me that:
    A) No one is bragging about actually meeting the Kyoto goals
    B) It looks like Eastern Euro is the only area that did (and that's because of the collapse of Communism)
    So for all the warm and fuzzy bragging about caring for the environment by those who *did* agree, no one has accomplished it without real economic turbulence. Or, perhaps some hanky-panky with the books concerning 'carbon trading'.
    And now, they're attempting to set 'new' goals based on the ones everyone has bagged to date.
    Sounds like the worst nightmare of some business 'team building meeting'.

  • hank||

    No, that sounds like government.

  • ||

    You're probably right, but my experience is for-profit bureaucracy. I can only imagine the mind-numbing banality of the alternative.

  • hank||

    Did I just read an excerpt from a Carl Hiaasen novel (fiction hopefully)? Next thing you know Nancy Pelosi will be a finalist for Time's person of the year! Or, the gubment is going to force people to purchase a product. Uh oh.

    Why isn't the Gorecle doing the negotiating? Perhaps Obama could make a personal speech to Yu. I don't think them China-mans are quite the suckas Americans are, though. Or, we could send Geithner back over there for another stand-up routine, Dane Cook style.

  • ||

    So, which ice cap melting is going to flood Florida? Arctic? No, as most of it is already floating. Simple experiment: fill your glass with water, add one ice cube, cover the top of the glass with a coffee saucer and wait for the ice cube to melt. Overflow? No. So no ice that's floating on the seas or oceans already is going to raise sea levels. Antarctic? Only when the global warming gets the interior up by about 50 or 60 degrees, 'cause that's the present temperature -- okay, winter; summer is twenty or so degrees warmer. Thirty or 40 degrees warmer then. We gettin' that much heat, we're all dead anyway, chief. Get a check on your "sucker" circuits; somebody's having you on, big time.

  • Chad||

    Apparently you missed the news.

    http://climateprogress.org/200.....sing-mass/

    Not that I would expect a denier to read Nature subjournals.

  • ||

    From the site defending Gore's foot-in-mouth diesease:
    "So the flap over the former Vice President’s accurate statement of what Maslowski said is, indeed, symptomatic of an underlying medical condition — one that, I’d add, is often confused for ASS"

    Clever? Well, maybe. Biased? You bet!

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Other scientists are raising concerns that the ice loss measurements from satellites are inaccurate and overestimate the ice loss.
    West Antarctic ice loss overestimated by NASA sats

    West Antarctic Ice Sheet May Not Be Losing Ice As Fast As Once Thought

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Split sue to stupid two links per comment
    Even in articles stating that the World's last bastion of stable ice now thawing acknowledge that there are doubts among scientist.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Split sue to stupid two links per comment
    Even in articles stating that the World's last bastion of stable ice now thawing acknowledge that there are doubts among scientist.

  • ||

    Somehow, Chad's appeal to authority sorta suggested his worship of same and lack of interest in opposing views.
    The site he offers looks good at first glance, but a bit of searching shows it to be a propaganda site.

  • Al Gore||

    I knew you deniers would spin it. The debate is over. I don't have time for you flat-earthers, moon-landing hoaxers. I have a jet to catch. I have a poetry reading at Chad's. Maybe even a little finger cockin'.

  • ||

    Hide the decline! Hide the decline!

  • ||

    BTW, please define "denier" and "subjournal"

  • ||

    Chad, you really really need a refresher course in basic physical science. When the temperature of the entirety of the Antarctican continent averages, on an annual basis, minus 30 degree Centigrade or below, the ice cannot be melting at any significant rate anywhere ... well, maybe on the bottom of those miles-thick glaciers where the rock and ice meet, but I haven't seen proof that happens either. (Possible because pressure melts ice.) Until and unless the temperatures rise above freezing, there isn't enough energy available in that region to melt the ice. If it doesn't melt, it doesn't cause sea level rise.

    I need to read "...Nature subjournals." in order to convince me that basic physical facts are somehow mysteriously being changed? That fundamental thermodynamics are recently and miraculously being thwarted? Oh, I forgot that all that heat is coming from increasing water vapor triggered by the rising temps caused by carbon dioxide emissions of mankind (all 4% of total CO2 emissions) - only, no natural emissions and no other cause of rising temps - and just as we suffer catastrophic temperature increases each year when the Northern Hemisphere experiences spring and summer when the increased sunlight raises temps by 50 - 60 degrees in 60 days or less, we're all gonna die because of a 1 degree temp increase spread over a century. Yeah, I've got a need to read some drivel in Nature. Right.

  • ¢||

    my experience is for-profit bureaucracy. I can only imagine the mind-numbing banality of the alternative.

    It's the same, but you get paid way the fuck more.

  • ||

    And the government guys get benes I never saw....
    Hell, I'm paying my own healthcare, and since 'reform' doesn't care about me, it's after-tax money.

  • The Expatriate||

    In fact, scientists estimate that since 1750 about 27 percent of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was produced by the United States.

    There was a "United States" in 1750????

  • hank||

    The Injuns done it. Burning coal in them tp thangs. Smokin' them crack pipe and stuff.

  • ||

    No, no U.S. as such, but there was plenty of them evil white mens around, you betcha! That's why that period of climate history is called the "Little Ice Age", all them devil white mens breathing in and out and causing the temperatures to shoot way up! Yep.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    There was a "United States" in 1750????

    Yes, the history is settled.

  • Rich||

    +1.

  • ||

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/ess.....aria.thtml

    Al Gore caught in another lie.

  • Al Gore||

    Oh yeah, how about if publicly debate you on that "lie?" Well, we have a climate crisis and I am obligated to prior engagements. But, send me some dough and I will absolve you of your climate crimes.

  • ||

    http://planetgore.nationalreview.com/post/?

  • ||

    q=NzY4YzVmNWEyMjY1MmZjNDlhMzc5MWFlODc4N2JmM2M=

    put those two lines together and it leads to av ery interesting video on the evolution of the hockey stick. Thanks to the dumb ass spam filter i can't post it all at once

  • Coral.boi||

    People always say that the Maldives will suffer because their islands will go underwater during global warming.

    But their islands are made of coral (that's why their beaches are so white). Coral doesn't grow above the water line, it grows underwater.

    Doesn't that imply that they are living below the waterline so to speak, and that their natural sea level is higher? I'm being serious / curious here, somebody please set me straight.

  • ||

    Maybe not. Quite a few islands are volcanic, and the volcano raised the coral well above sea-level.
    Regardless, quite a few Pacific islands are 'temporary' whether it's a result of sea-level changes or volcanic activity.
    Should we call it AVC?

  • ||

    Anthropogenic Tectonic Shift

  • Sean Healy||

    Is it wrong of me to say I don't owe a fucking thing to the Maldives? Just like I don't owe a fucking thing to the Netherlands - a below-sea-level country that will suffer no ill effects from supposed consequences of the highly debatable AGW. You know, we could totally destroy our awesome Western economies to stop AGW and the fatalistic retards in places like Bangladesh will still be living in squalid shitholes for the next 100 years. I mean, they're beyond help even under optimal conditions.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    “We can fail,”
    Ummm we were doomed to fail from the start. There is no way for the US to cut CO2 production by 17% in 10 years.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    You forgot that we Changed Hope into the White House. The O-boy can do anything, if you will only believe.

  • ||

    I'm getting sick of seeing this framed as "rich" nations vs "poor" nations.

    The phrases illustrate how Marxist this whole movement really is at its core.

    There is no discussion of 1) the integrity of the data itself, or 2) practicle solutions to warming (if any) other than regulations (which may not work).

  • ||

    The reality is that CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas and is only present in trace amounts (it's only about 0.035% of the atmosphere). It doesn't produce much warming, even in the shaky models the alarmists are using. Rather, they are bootstrapping, saying that CO2 has a huge multiplier effect on the elephant in the room, the abundant greenhouse gas known as "water". Except, any honest researcher will admit that no one really understands very well how clouds and other water vapor actually works. Thus, the models are terribly flawed because nobody knows how to accurately predict how the most important variable in atmospheric warming works.

  • Tony||

    no one really understands very well how clouds and other water vapor actually works

    Except you, of course. So you're sort of guesstimating that increased proportions of CO2 can't cause warming because it sounds like too little a factor? Who needs science when you have prolefeed's intuition?

    What you're leaving out is that we know CO2 leads to warming. This causes more atmospheric humidity (meaning more of the greenhouse agent water vapor), leading to more warming, more water vapor, in a spiraling cycle. Which is exactly what scientists know to be happening, which they (specifically, NASA) predicted before confirming experimentally.

  • ||

    cause there is no way increased humidity could lead to increased cloud cover (which reflects solar radation) or increased rainfall (which leads to increased biomass, a carbon sink)
    Anything else idiotic you would like to state?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    prolefeed, meet Tony. Tony wouldn't know absorption or emission spectra from his own ass. But Tony knows who to believe.

    You clearly don't.

    I, OTOH, have modeled radiative heat transfer processes inside combustion chambers (hint: think "a place that's just loaded with CO2, way beyond anything found in the atmosphere"). Don't tell Tony that H2O vapor effects dominate CO2 effects by at least an order of magnitude.

  • Tony||

    But the initial warming isn't coming from increased water vapor, it's coming from increased CO2. Increased CO2 is causing increased water vapor. What exactly is your point?

  • ||

    Increased CO2 is causing increased water vapor.

    Do you have empirical evidence of increased water vapor?

    I will answer this for you. No.

    The reason why is that there is no empirical evidence of increased water vapor.

    Plus if CO2 warms global temps to a tipping point that it increases water vapor and therefore global temps then why doesn't water vapor warm global temps to a tipping point that it increases water vapor and therefor global temps?

    What is so special about CO2? And why, if global temperatures are so susceptible to greenhouse gases, then doesn't water vapor cause wild temperature swings in global temps?

  • Neu Mejican||

    What is so special about CO2?

    Well, we are dumping a lot of it into the atmosphere. I thought you paid closer attention to this issue than that.

    The climate models all take water vapor into account. And yes, it is one of the more complicated aspects of those models. And yes, the modelers already know about all the issues you raise and work to address them appropriately in their models. And yes, some of them specialize in studies that try and understand water vapors role in all of this.

    A nice review on the general topic of what is or is not controversial in the field.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/6801631u70ng0432/

  • ||

    Yeah, they "take water vapor into account". Here's how that conversation goes: "M, how much water vapor feedback do we need to show Greenland melting down to the rock? That little? Okay, put that in the constant's list for the program okay?"

    Read the programming that was stolen/released/whatever and if you can't read the posts on the Net by folks who can: the programs are full of kludge and fudge to produce the output that is desired. Plain and simple. Computer program output is not data. Look out the window: that is data.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    It's clear, it doesn't occur to you that this is precisely the problem.

    How many things besides CO2 can impact the H2O content of the atmosphere?

    Liberal Democrat scientists are sure that CO2 is the predominant gas to worry about in this whole debate. The rest of the world doesn't necessarily agree.

    Liberal Democrat "scientists" can shout a trillion times, "if you don't agree with me you're no scientist". But the shouting doesn't make it so.

    There are lots of reasons to doubt a) that this problem is anywhere near well enough understood yet, in spite of Al Gore and Michael Moore's rantings, and b) that the "solutions" the liberal democrats want to ram down our collective throats are in fact the best answers.

    But I don't expect you'll see it that way.

    Whatever.

  • ||

    Liberal Democrat "scientists" can shout a trillion times, "if you don't agree with me you're no scientist". But the shouting doesn't make it so.

    What that shouting does, is make them ex-scientists. Mann, Jones, and the rest of the Hockey Team are politicians. It's not clear at this point if they ever were scientists.

    -jcr

  • Neu Mejican||

    I'm not sure what you mean by...

    "this problem is anywhere near well enough understood yet"

    If you mean that we have a long way to go to understand all the complexities of climate and our influence on it, then I would agree. If you mean that we don't know enough to feel confident in the basic AGW predictions, I think I disagree.

    that the "solutions" the liberal democrats want to ram down our collective throats are in fact the best answers

    I agree that we don't know what the best solutions are. I happen to think that the best approach is a carbon tax of some type. I am not a big fan of the current cap-n-trade bill. A proposal worth looking at is the one that google has put together.

    http://knol.google.com/k/jeffe.....zlqeo5n/1#

  • ||

    But the initial warming isn't coming from increased water vapor, it's coming from increased CO2

    I realize that's an article of faith for you, but you might just consider that the initial warming is actually coming from increased solar input, since we're seeing the same thing happening on other planets.

    -jcr

  • Al Gore||

    The sun has nothing to do with this. The debate is over.

  • Neu Mejican||

    But we aren't seing "the same thing" on other planets.

    A nice short discussion of the general idea that solar variation is the main player...

    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....lltext.pdf

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Other planets aren't the same thing in the first place. Not sure but I think Jupiter's atmosphere is just a tad different than earth's. Neptune too, the last I read, and all the other planets too.

    Come to think of it, I can't believe humans haven't yet managed to cause lunar warming, leading to the extinction of solid rock because it's all melting.

    We've gotta stop this before it's impossible for the next man to walk on the moon.

  • ||

    "What you're leaving out is that we know, CO2 leads to warming." There you have it, proof positive.

    Yes, sir. NASA confirmed it experimentally. Every spring and summer, when the CO2 increases because people burn stuff so they don't freeze and that causes the temps to rise - you know? February, March, April, May? - then then the water vapor goes up because of that sudden 40 - 60 degree warming (ymmv, depends on what latitude you live at) and then we all die from the catastrophic warming that follows close upon .... oh, wait; does that happen? No. So what experimental confirmation of that utterly false hypothesis about "magic water vapor multiplier" are you referring to there, friend? And what "important journal" was it published in, so that Chad and his like can find it to squish us "deniers" with? I'm sure it was and peer-reviewed too, by ... Mann, Jones, Hansen ... them guys. Yeah. Confirmed experimentally, what the experience of each and every year's change from winter to spring/summer teaches us cannot happen, because of the feed-back mechanisms built into water vapor and clouds and all that. I was born at night, just not last night, Tony.

  • ||

    leading to more warming, more water vapor, in a spiraling cycle

    Then why didn't the earth 'spiral' into an inferno last interglacial? Or in any of the many times the earth was much warmer?

    Most of the earth's history it was much warmer. Where's the 'spiral'?

  • cbmclean||

    Except, any honest researcher will admit...

    No True Scotsman sighting!!!!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

  • ||

    Rather, they are bootstrapping, saying that CO2 has a huge multiplier effect on the elephant in the room, the abundant greenhouse gas known as "water". Except, any honest researcher will admit that no one really understands very well how clouds and other water vapor actually works.

    Water IS the elephant in the room, bar none. Actually, the more I learn about this subject the more I'm inclined to believe the strongest human forcing of climate (in whatever capacity that is) comes through the hydrosphere than the carbon sink. Factory direct instead of a carbon middle-man so-to-speak.

    Specifically, I'm more and more thinking of contrails from aircraft as a kind of "culprit." The upper troposphere is so dry compared to the lower atmosphere, there is no vapor typically up there, all the water is in the form of microscopic ice crystals. And now at any second there are thousands and thousands of football-field sized metal tubes spewing out tons and tons of water (which actually by both weight and mole count exceeds the carbon dioxide output in the exhaust assay of a jet engine) as clouds dozens of miles long, at an altitude where natural humidity is exceedingly rare. In addition, the thermal energy in the exhaust forces the dew point at those altitudes, phase changing the sparse, frozen water crystals into vapor...which means literally tons and tons more clouds than just from the exhaust alone.

    Unlike any other human activity, these airplanes truly cover the globe. No matter where I go on the surface of this earth (oceans included) I can chill for a few hours and there's a good chance I'll see one airliner track within visual range of me.

    Its a recent phenomena too, basically as old as the Boeing 707. And it is a phenomena that has increased in magnitude at a logarithmic pace since then. There is no analog of anything like that going on in the geological record. Sadly for the warmers, there are lots of examples of heat-cycle engines emitting carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere...such as every animal that has ever existed.

  • Neu Mejican||

    There's a guy who did some nice work on airline contrails after 9/11. Can't seem to remember his name.

    I do seem to remember reading that currently humans are dumping c02 at a rate faster than the largest natural event we know of (the Siberian Traps). Sure, they went on for a million years so we've got some work to do for total tonnage (1700 or so ppm, iirc), but the current rate of increase is faster. We could potentially get there in a couple hundred years.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Here's a good read on water vapor...

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0908/0908.4410v2.pdf

  • ||

    That is an interesting document, thanks. Ironically, a quick search reveals the word "contrail" doesn't appear in it once.

  • ||

    Check this little slideshow out:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sun/cont-04.html

    The coverage in a couple of those photos is shocking. I remember noticing how BUSY the sky was over Brussels, Belgium when I was there in 2006. Absolutely choked with man-made clouds.

    Anecdotally, lots of things line up with contrails affecting climate...at least at first thought.

    The northern pole has been losing ice at an accelerating rate over the past ten years. That corresponds with the Open Skies agreements that led to regular flights over the Arctic Circle (now numbering in the hundreds-per-day). The Cold War prevented this development until then.

    Warming skeptics have pointed to the flat line of temperature increase over the past ten years or so (since 1998 I believe). However pro-Warmers have countered that this relative flat line has only been observed over North America and places in Europe. Coincidentally, airline travel in the USA has declined by a staggering 60% (thanks 9/11, TSA, etc.) over the same period.

    I don't know, but the more I think about it this phenomena is a bigger climactic player than acknowledged, and we don't understand it.

    Just as a side note, in the NOAA data-sets I've been looking through, there is no attempt at accounting for contrails in any way. Cloud cover is tracked, and has been increasing (global dimming) and is included in the observables. But how much of that increase is due to human-made clouds? Judging from that slideshow, I would think that fraction is not a trivial amount.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I think we have a stealth chemtrailer infiltration here...

  • ||

    I was waiting for that...

  • ||

    "...Tons and tons of water." Any idea how much water vapor is in the atmosphere, TheZ? Can you say "gigatons"? So explain to me again clearly and concisely with reference only to known physical science facts - no computer output need be offered! - how 1 part in billions or perhaps tens of billions is going to end the world? Change something? Surely. Enough to worry about? Not at all likely. Better to worry about them butterflies' wings messin' up the weather.

  • ||

    You know what would be really, really cool? If the Chinese delegation said something about how Al Gore obviously doesn't believe his own bullshit.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Blah Blah Blah! This is just more horsebleep from the warmists who worship at the altar of Gaia.

  • ||

    Don't be a Gore-on!

  • ||

    Yet again more 'factual' reporting by Ron Bailey that is context free -- just what is it that is at risk of 'failure'?

    How, in the context of Climategate, can he not at least aknowledge that failure of the 'solution' proposed by these guys might not be a bad thing?

  • mr simple||

    China views such independent auditing as an intrusion on its sovereignty.
    Because it is. Anyone who tries to turn over US sovereignty to a foreign power should be impeached, tarred and feathered.
    But then that is the progressives dream: a world government telling everyone how to live.

  • ||

    One thing the article left out is that the Chinese feel that emission rates should be on a scale related to population. On that basis China is one of the smallest emitters of CO2.
    China is also not bound by the politically correct western view of global warming and can look at all the evidence. I think they are really laughing at all the true believers in the west and are perfectly happy to take advantage of the willingness of the west to commit economic suicide.
    In regards to China as a developed nation, I have lived in a small Chinese farm town in the far northeast more than a year and have also lived on a single small farm in Hainan Island. 60% of Chinese live in rural settings which are well below developed status. If you only visit Beijing and Shanghai, you don't have a very good idea of what is going on in China.

  • ||

    It's too bad intelligence isn't threatening "Climate Conference".

  • Kroneborge||

    I say either way we would still be better off replacing the income tax with a carbon tax. Get our economy ready for the peak cheap oil shock that is coming so soon.

  • ||

    What is the goal here? IF warming is happening, what are the negative consequences? What should the average temperature of the earth be? Who gets to decide for all of us what that temperature is? What happens if we take measures, and they work, but we overshoot that temperature?

  • ||

    Warming is happening! We're still warming up from the Little Ice Age. Compared to the Roman period, we're chilly still. Geeze! The argument is about doing drastic things that will - with considerably more certainty than the likelihood of AGW catastrophe! - impoverish billions, make human life more miserable, and likely as not cause wars over who gets to die. All based on what are, clearly now with Climategate, faked numbers and untenable hypothetical climate mechanisms. That's the fuss. The goal is to defeat the folks who think, based on the authority of liars and cheats and fakers, that they ought to control our lives. What's the clincher? Remember "Global Cooling/Freezing" of thirty + years ago? What was the recommended solution? Same as being recommended now: more laws, more taxes, more miserty among most of us, more power for the elite statists. Doesn't that give you a clue?

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books.

  • nike shox||

    is good

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