Friday, April 24, 2009

ACESA 2009 and the U.S. National Strategy for Dealing with Climate Change

ACESA 2009 and the U.S. National Strategy for Dealing with Climate Change. By Lee Lane
Testimony, House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment
AEI, April 23, 2009

The current draft of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, while correct to stress adaptation measures and technological advances, exhibits some crucial flaws. The costs of the steep, short-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions will likely exceed their benefits, and many of the regulatory mandates within the bill are redundant to its cap-and-trade provisions. Furthermore, the United States is limited in its ability to bring about an effective global agreement on GHG controls and should therefore focus on the realistic opportunities for progress that are actually available.



Unilateral Action and Moral Suasion

First, the U.S. could enact go-it-alone GHG controls and trust the moral appeal of its example to sway other nations.[8] While it is clearly true that the U.S. could not expect China and India to bear the costs of curtailing their GHG discharges unless it were willing to do the same, it is quite another thing to leap from that statement to the assertion that the U.S. should act without firm pledges that other states will respond in kind.

The audacity of this leap has often been missed, but it merits real scrutiny. Does the United States conduct any other negotiation in this way? Did Congress, for example, as a prelude to the Uruguay or Doha Rounds, drop all U.S. tariffs and farm subsidies to zero? Did the U.S. win the withdrawal of Soviet conventional forces from Europe by first pulling its own troops out of Germany? Why, then, would we consider taking the functional equivalent of these steps in the area of GHG control? Or, to pose the same question in another way, how would ACESA's GHG reductions differ from the just-mentioned bargaining moves in trade or arms control?

No one can claim that the answer is that the Chinese and Indian governments have signaled their readiness to respond in kind to U.S. GHG curbs. To the contrary, they continue to insist that the developed countries must commit to pay them for any control costs that they incur.[9] The Chinese and Indian governments' statements are consistent with their behavior. These countries are clearly more interested in dodging the costs of GHG curbs than in capturing the gains from a global control regime.

ACESA could only harden their resolve. As other countries adopt GHG limits, China and India will make competitive gains by simply standing pat against controls. Over time, energy-intensive industries will migrate to the nations that reject controls. The growth in these states of energy-intensive capital and jobs will add to the political costs of any future move toward controls.[10] This outcome is the very opposite of the one that the U.S. should be seeking.

Trade Sanctions

Second, many proponents of U.S. GHG controls have proposed to allow the U.S. government to clap trade sanctions on countries that fail to cap their GHG discharges. ACESA also follows this strategy, albeit somewhat hesitantly. There are better grounds for the bill's hesitancy than there are for believing that trade sanctions will change Chinese and Indian policy.

One country adopting trade sanctions, or a few countries doing so, will merely change the geographic pattern of trade flows. It would do little net harm to China and India. As GHG controls raised U.S. production and transport costs, countries like Japan with low-carbon processes for producing steel, aluminum, or other energy-intensive goods would raise their exports to the U.S. At the same time, these countries could boost their own imports from China and India to fill the gap left by their higher exports. The Chinese and Indians would be largely indifferent to the change. The threat of U.S. action will, therefore, put little pressure on them.[11]

Paying China and India for GHG Abatement

Third, the U.S. could offer to pay for China's GHG reductions as well as its own. Although some ACESA provisions amount to paying other nations to reduce GHG emissions, the bill does not appear to envision the kind of very large transfer payments that the China/G-77 group is demanding. In their view, past U.S. emissions are a kind of historical guilt, and contemporary Americans should pay to expiate our ancestors' sins.[12]

The case for this demand is hollow. It rests, in part, on the false proposition that developing countries have added almost nothing to current atmospheric GHG stocks. The reality is quite different. The group of currently poor countries and the group of currently rich countries have each placed about the same amount of GHGs in the atmosphere.[13]

Confusion about this point stems from three mistakes. First, many studies consider only industrial sector emissions. Most of the poorer countries' emissions stem from land use changes, agriculture, and animal husbandry, so they are not counted. Second, studies often look only at CO2. Poorer countries tend to have large methane emissions; again their contribution is missed. Third, many studies have lumped those poor countries with high emissions with the many poor countries that have virtually none. The regional averages mask the true state of affairs. Cumulatively, these errors have created a badly distorted impression of the origins of today's atmospheric GHG stocks.[14] Furthermore, the situation is changing rapidly. The balance ten years from now will be much different than that which prevails today. The latter is simply irrelevant to decisions about who should pay to reduce future emissions. To the contrary, attempting to interject claims about the historical record is more likely to lead to stalemate and endless wrangling than it is to build consensus. It is hard to see why the U.S. would want to give credence to this approach.

Exaggerating the Extent of Other Nations' GHG Reductions

Fourth, some may be tempted simply to pretend to believe that a mix of Chinese or Indian "no-regrets" policies constitutes serious action on GHG controls. (No-regrets policies are those that would be rational to adopt even in the absence of concerns about climate change.) China and India, for reasons unrelated to climate, are very likely to adopt such policies. Their economies exhibit very low energy efficiency. They enjoy many options for making energy savings that will be cost-beneficial quite independently of concerns about climate.[15] Chinese and Indian actions to reduce this waste are, therefore, properly regarded as corrections to the estimates of their baseline GHG growth; as such, they are welcome. They are, however, not done in response to U.S. action, and they will affect GHG growth paths only at the margin.

An Effective Global Deal on GHG Control Is Unlikely

The conclusion seems inescapable. The U.S. can have little impact on when China and India become willing to bear the costs required to control GHG discharges. This limit on America's options reflects a basic reality: Conditions are not yet ripe for forging an effective global accord on GHG controls. To understand why this might be so, we might want to consider the economic roots of the GHG control issue.


Lee Lane is resident fellow and codirector of the AEI Geoengineering Project.

USAID Helps Establish First National Park in Afghanistan

USAID Helps Establish First National Park in Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan April 22, 2009

In celebration of International Earth Day, the Director General of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) declared Band-e-Amir as Afghanistan's first national park. This official designation affords legal protection to the lakes and surrounding landscape, and will ensure sustainable environmental management for this area of great natural beauty. Since 2006, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and local communities surrounding Band-e-Amir to establish the national park.

Band-e-Amir is a series of six lakes in central Bamyan Province, and the national park covers 56,000 hectares of land. The lakes present a stunning visual landscape, with their clear, azure-blue color set against red-rock cliffs and dry grasslands. The lakes are held back by natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits. Some of the dams are breathtaking: 30-foot rock walls stretching across the valley in long, graceful arcs. The combination of desert, water, and rock make for landscapes that rival those of national parks anywhere in the world.

To ensure the park's long-term sustainability, USAID, through its implementing partner the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), founded a local institution to manage the proposed park and helped to prepare a park management plan. USAID also advised the government on the development of the legal framework for establishing protected areas. The official declaration enhances the Afghanistan's ability to manage its natural resources, and will help bring international recognition to this area of great natural beauty.

The national park designation will also encourage economic development in the fifteen villages surrounding Band-e-Amir. Before the years of war and Taliban rule, Band-e-Amir was a popular tourist destination, and recently, tourism has begun to increase. With help from USAID and its implementing partners WCS, Ecodit, and the Agha Khan Network, local entrepreneurs are already building small shops, restaurants, and hotels - in accordance with the park's environmental management plan - to serve the growing number of tourists. A campground is also planned. These improvements are expected to attract more Afghan and international tourists over the coming years, contributing to Afghanistan's economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.

U.S. Malaria Initiative Releases Third Annual Report

U.S. Malaria Initiative Releases Third Annual Report
US State Dept, Washington DC, Apr 24, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 23, 2009 - The United States, through the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), has helped 15 high burden countries in Africa to dramatically scale up highly effective malaria prevention and treatment interventions, according to the PMI third annual malaria report released today.

Working with other development partners, the PMI has helped Rwanda, Zambia, and Zanzibar to achieve major reductions in the number of people infected with malaria. Declines at the regional and district-level have also been reported from Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. These achievements have been associated with substantially reduced mortality rates of children under the age of 5 in both Rwanda and Zambia.

PMI represents an historic $1.2 billion, five-year expansion of U.S. government resources to fight malaria in Africa, the region most affected by this disease. The goal of this initiative, which is led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in the 15 African countries with a high burden of the disease, leading to the possibility of a better life for those spared the ravages if this life-threatening disease.

Malaria is one of the major causes of illness and death among children in Africa and adversely affects productivity among all age groups. Malaria and poverty are closely linked. Economists estimate that malaria accounts for approximately 40 percent of public health expenditures in Africa and causes an annual loss of $12 billion, or 1.3 percent, of the continent's gross domestic product.

Working in partnership with national governments and other donors, PMI has helped rapidly scale up malaria prevention and treatment measures by delivering a package of high impact interventions that includes: insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women (IPTp), and artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for malaria infections.

In 2008, PMI procured more than 6.4 million long-lasting ITNs for free distribution to pregnant women and young children and a total of 15.6 million ACT treatments. Indoor residual spraying activities covered 6 million houses and protected nearly 25 million people at risk of malaria. In addition, PMI supported a broad range of programs to strengthen health systems and health education in host countries.

USAID partnerships with host country governments; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and others have made these successes possible.

In addition, partnerships with faith-based and community organizations are bringing value to malaria control efforts because of the credibility these groups have within their communities, their ability to reach the grassroots level, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. PMI has supported more than 150 nonprofit organizations, over 40 of which are faith based.

To access the Third Annual Malaria Report and Executive Summary, visit and

State Sec Clinton's Remarks: World Malaria Day

Secretary's Remarks: World Malaria Day
Fri, 24 Apr 2009 10:37:23 -0500
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Washington, DC, April 24, 2009

Video link:

Every year, between 300 and 500 million people suffer the effects of malaria. The disease claims more than one million lives annually, and 90% of its victims are children.

Together with its terrible human toll, the effects of malaria hurt educational achievement, worker productivity, and economic development. It afflicts the impoverished, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and is itself a source of poverty.

We know we can put an end to this cycle of disease and poverty. In the last few years, we have witnessed a growing global effort to combat this curable and preventable disease. We are using proven drugs to treat malarial illness and simple tools to prevent the disease, including insecticide nets, indoor spraying, and safe, inexpensive drugs for pregnant women. Millions of people have benefitted, translating to lives saved and the advancement of human progress.

The United States has been a leader in working with our partners to curb the spread of this disease. In the past year alone, the United States provided malaria prevention or treatment measures to more than 32 million people in 15 focus countries across Africa. We are already seeing major reductions in the proportion of the population infected with the disease, and we are witnessing a striking decrease in the number of deaths among children under the age of five. The people benefiting the most are those least able to afford protection and treatment on their own.

With solutions already in hand, we can envision a world free of the scourge of malaria. So today, we reaffirm our commitment not just to curbing the spread of this disease, but to working with our global partners to end malaria as a major public health threat. We will redouble our own efforts, and we will call on our partners to join us in reaching the day when we can celebrate a world without malaria.

PRN: 2009/376

Libertarian: LOST is an artifact of the collectivist of the 1970s' New International Economic Order

Paper Promises vs. Real Costs. By Doug Bandow
LOST is an artifact of the collectivist of the 1970s' New International Economic Order
Washington Times, April 22, 2009

The return of piracy to the high seas demonstrates the limits of international law. The international community might agree that it is wrong to seize ships for ransom, but a few thugs with guns in Somalia beg to differ. Paper guarantees cannot stop seajackings.

Yet Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wants Congress to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, the ultimate in paper guarantees. LOST, which essentially creates a second United Nations, is an artifact of the collectivist New International Economic Order popular in the 1970s, but it is being resold as a guarantor of freedom of the seas.

The convention obviously doesn't do anything to prevent piracy. Moreover, the recent contretemps between the U.S. and Chinese navies demonstrates that LOST's navigational guarantees are no more certain.

The USNS Impeccable, an unarmed spy ship, was operating 75 miles from China's Hainan Island. Chinese vessels harassed the U.S. vessel and ordered it to leave, causing the U.S. Navy to send in a supporting destroyer.

Territorial waters extend just 12 nautical miles, but LOST empowers nations to exercise control over resources in the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Washington contends that U.S. ships are allowed to conduct activities "in waters beyond the territorial sea of another state without prior notification or consent," according to Defense Department spokesman Stewart Upton. Beijing disagrees.

Washington would seem to have the better argument, though China's contention that peaceful uses of the ocean do not include spying is plausible. Alas, LOST fails to offer the clear, unambiguous protection of navigational freedom as claimed by its proponents.

LOST largely codifies customary international law, which favors free transit. However, the treaty only offers a paper guarantee. Even if LOST recognizes the Impeccable's right to spy, it offers no practical protection of that right.

If China - or Brazil, Malaysia or Pakistan, which also purport to forbid intelligence gathering within their exclusive zones - believes it to be in its interest and ability to prevent foreign passage, it won't spend a lot of time parsing ambiguous LOST provisions before acting. Geopolitical interest and military capability, not juridical technicalities, will triumph.

The problem is likely to grow as Beijing develops a blue-water navy. Last month, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "In the past several years, they have become more aggressive in asserting claims for the [exclusive zones] which are excessive under almost any international code." Despite China's adherence to LOST.

Although the treaty's navigational benefits are more theoretical than real, LOST has significant downsides. Most important, the so-called Part XI governing seabed mining was amended in 1994, but the result is only less bad.

LOST was crafted to redistribute wealth from First World democracies to Third World autocracies. The International Seabed Authority would regulate private ocean development, mine the seabed itself through an entity called the Enterprise, and pay off favored nations and groups. Those objectives remain unchanged.

Moreover, treaty proponents talk excitedly about new litigation opportunities created by LOST. Professor William C.G. Burns of the Monterey Institute of International Studies wrote that the convention "may prove to be one of the primary battlegrounds for climate change issues in the future." He dismissed the argument that the document does not authorize such litigation: "While very few of the drafters of [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] may have contemplated that it would one day become a mechanism to confront climate change, it clearly may play this role in the future."

Environmental activists also look forward to using LOST Article 207, which directs countries to "adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources." Treaty advocates publicly claim the provision is merely hortatory.

Yet the mandate already has sparked litigation between Ireland and Britain. Moreover, Citizens for Global Solutions and the World Wildlife Federation argue that the convention will stop Russia from polluting the Arctic. They have yet to explain how LOST would bind Russia but not America.

No wonder Bernard H. Oxman of the University of Miami warned LOST backers to shut up about their plans. He explained: "Experienced international lawyers know where many of the sensitive nerve endings of governments are. Where possible, they should try to avoid irritating them."

Finally, the United Nations proclaims that LOST is not "a static instrument, but rather a dynamic and evolving body of law that must be vigorously safeguarded and its implementation aggressively advanced." If you like activist judges at the national level, imagine what you will get at the international level.

Before the Senate approves the Law of the Sea Treaty, members should consider the tradeoff they would be making. The convention offers paper benefits but imposes real costs. It's a deal only a pirate could love.

The Benefits of Port Liberalization: A Case Study from India

The Benefits of Port Liberalization: A Case Study from India. By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar
Cato Development Policy Analysis no. 7
December 3, 2008

In contrast to the rest of India, where it is the government that predominantly owns and manages ports, the Indian state of Gujarat has implemented various forms of port liberalization since the 1990s. This has helped it become the country's fastest growing state. Gujarat's economy has grown at an average of 10.14 percent per year from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2006, the last five years for which data are available. This is comparable with China's average growth rate since 1978, and is distinctly faster than the growth of the other Asian tigers in the 15 years before the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Gujarat has broken new ground with different forms of privatization, ranging from private provision of port services to completely private ownership of new ports. The process started in the 1980s and gathered momentum rapidly after the central government in New Delhi enacted major economic reforms in the early 1990s. Gujarat has taken advantage of a constitutional loophole to convert its minor ports into some of the biggest ports in the country, vastly improved the availability and efficiency of port infrastructure, and facilitated the development of industrial centers that otherwise would not have existed.

Gujarat's port liberalization, along with its status as one of the economically freest states in India, should serve as a model for the rest of India and other developing countries, which can also benefit from the dynamic gains of port privatization.

Read the study in PDF format.

Swaminathan Aiyar is a research fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and has been the editor of India's two biggest financial dailies, The Economic Times and Financial Express.

The Problems and Potential of China's Pharmaceutical Industry

The Problems and Potential of China's Pharmaceutical Industry. By Roger Bate, Karen Porter
Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009
AEI Online

Click here to view this Outlook as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.

After 29 years, Senate ratification of the CEDAW treaty is still a terrible idea

This Is No Time to Go Wobbly. By Austin Ruse
After 29 years, Senate ratification of the CEDAW treaty is still a terrible idea.
The Weekly Standard, Apr 27, 2009

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women once told Libya to reinterpret the Koran so as to fall within committee guidelines. It instructed Belarus that a national celebration of Mother's Day violated women's rights by perpetuating a negative cultural stereotype.

It appears that the Obama administration and Senate Democrats want the United States to sit in the dock before this same committee, as must every country that ratifies the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, pronounced See-Daw). The CEDAW treaty has bounced around the Senate for 29 years, ever since President Jimmy Carter signed it in 1980. It has twice been voted favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but has never received the necessary concurrence of two-thirds of the senators present, no matter which party has been in power. Now, however, with staunch backers like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in key positions in the executive and legislative branches, CEDAW's moment may finally have come.

Let us hope not. The first big reason for rejecting the CEDAW treaty is wholly practical: It is unneeded. American women enjoy civil and human rights that are the envy of the world. Take the word of one of America's leading feminist activists and theoreticians, Janet Benshoof. She writes on RH Reality Check, a website funded by Ted Turner's UN Foundation, "No one questions that American women enjoy a higher standard of rights and freedoms than do most people in the world." American women do not need CEDAW to guarantee them their rights.

The second big reason not to ratify is the language of the treaty itself. Note that it calls for the elimination of "all forms" of discrimination against women. And its backers are not kidding. The treaty is explicit that this refers not just to public but also to private behavior. Two years ago the committee instructed both Greece and Indonesia to root out sex differences in housework; another signatory, Norway, actually legislated sex parity on private corporate boards, then testified before the committee that the law was proving difficult to enforce.

The treaty may be bad, but the committee that is charged with monitoring compliance is worse and is the third big reason to resist CEDAW. All U.N. human rights treaties establish compliance committees before which governments must report every few years. At least on paper, the committees have the power only to "offer observations." But they go further, and much of what they say is purely ideological. The CEDAW committee directed China to legalize prostitution even though the treaty condemns prostitution. It criticized Ireland for allowing the Catholic Church too great a voice in public policy. It took Slovenia to task because only 30 percent of children were in state-sponsored day care.

Some will look at these pronouncements and conclude the committee could not possibly have any real power. They would be wrong. Many legal advocates and national courts around the world take the committee seriously. It should be noted that any power the committee has is given to it by leftist lawyers and activist judges. Still, it is actual power.

The high court of Colombia recently overturned the country's laws on abortion. In doing so, it cited the CEDAW committee, which had told Colombia it was treaty-bound to change its laws. The Mexican high court recently upheld the liberal abortion laws of Mexico City, and at least two of the judges mentioned supposed CEDAW obligations.

Keep in mind that the CEDAW treaty is silent on abortion, something Senator Barbara Boxer and the Congressional Research Service underscore in deflecting this objection to it. What they don't say is that the committee's General Recommendation 24 has reinterpreted the treaty to make abortion a part of its health mandate. According to Human Rights Watch, the CEDAW committee has directed 93 countries to liberalize their abortion laws.

Who sits on this committee that reinterprets the hard-fought political decisions of sovereign states? Twenty-two academics and left-wing NGO advocates for women's rights from countries like Bangladesh, Cuba, Algeria, Thailand, and Ghana (to cite just the countries of the first five members listed). At present all but one of the members are female. As for their eminence, it's a safe bet that long-time CEDAW supporter Vice President Joseph Biden couldn't name a single one of them. Nevertheless, once nominated and elected by signatory nations, the members of the committee are accountable only to themselves. And this is the group the Obama administration would invite to judge the United States.

Which brings us to the final big reason for refusing to ratify the CEDAW treaty. Like every kangaroo court, it undermines the rule of law, and in this case it also sullies the international system. If the treaty obligations of sovereign states can be reinterpreted by this committee and then accepted by national courts, the concept of sovereignty has been drained of meaning. For that matter, the whole notion of human rights is up for grabs if left-wing nonstate actors are allowed to create and impose new human rights at will.

It is tempting to assume that neither the CEDAW treaty nor the committee could affect a big, strong country like the United States. But remember, the Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons overturning the juvenile death penalty cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty the United States has never ratified. The Court also cited the death penalty provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a provision the Senate formally rejected when approving the covenant. Far from deterred, the left-wing legal class in this country is primed and ready to advance litigation citing CEDAW, and high officials toeing the feminist line are eager to give them that chance.

Still, sensible politicians of both parties have found good reason to resist this troublesome treaty for a generation. May they once more carry the day.

Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington-based research institute on international social policy.

Shanahan et alii's article on severe droughts in Africa

Comment On “Debate Over Climate Risks - Natural or Not” On Dot Earth. By Roger Pielke Sr
Climate Science, Apr 20, 2009

There is an interesting discussion on going at Andy Revkin’s weglob Dot Earth on the topic Debate Over Climate Risks - Natural or Not, which invites responses to the statement,

“One clear-cut lesson [of this study] seems to be that human-driven warming, for this part of Africa, could be seen as a sideshow given the normal extremes. Tell me why that thought is misplaced if you feel it is.”

This subject was initiated by a Science article by Shanahan et al and subsequent news item on April 16 2009 by Andy Revkin which includes the text

“For at least 3,000 years, a regular drumbeat of potent droughts, far longer and more severe than any experienced recently, have seared a belt of sub-Saharan Africa that is now home to tens of millions of the world’s poorest people, climate researchers reported in a new study.

That sobering finding, published in the April 17th issue of Science magazine emerged from the first study of year-by-year climate conditions in the region over the millenniums, based on layered mud and dead trees in a crater lake in Ghana. “

The abstract of the Science article by Shanahan et al reads

“ Although persistent drought in West Africa is well documented from the instrumental record and has been primarily attributed to changing Atlantic sea surface temperatures, little is known about the length, severity, and origin of drought before the 20th century. We combined geomorphic, isotopic, and geochemical evidence from the sediments of Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, to reconstruct natural variability in the African monsoon over the past three millennia. We find that intervals of severe drought lasting for periods ranging from decades to centuries are characteristic of the monsoon and are linked to natural variations in Atlantic temperatures. Thus the severe drought of recent decades is not anomalous in the context of the past three millennia, indicating that the monsoon is capable of longer and more severe future droughts.”

Climate Science and our research papers have emphasized the large natural variations of climate that have occurred in the paleo-climate record and that these variations dwarf anything we have experienced in the instrumental record.

For example, in

Rial, J., R.A. Pielke Sr., M. Beniston, M. Claussen, J. Canadell, P. Cox, H. Held, N. de Noblet-Ducoudre, R. Prinn, J. Reynolds, and J.D. Salas, 2004: Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system. Climatic Change, 65, 11-38,

our abstract reads

“The Earth’s climate system is highly nonlinear: inputs and outputs are not proportional, change is often episodic and abrupt, rather than slow and gradual, and multiple equilibria are the norm. While this is widely accepted, there is a relatively poor understanding of the different types of nonlinearities, how they manifest under various conditions, and whether they reflect a climate system driven by astronomical forcings, by internal feedbacks, or by a combination of both. In this paper, after a brief tutorial on the basics of climate nonlinearity, we provide a number of illustrative examples and highlight key mechanisms that give rise to nonlinear behavior, address scale and methodological issues, suggest a robust alternative to prediction that is based on using integrated assessments within the framework of vulnerability studies and, lastly, recommend a number of research priorities and the establishment of education programs in Earth Systems Science. It is imperative that the Earth’s climate system research community embraces this nonlinear paradigm if we are to move forward in the assessment of the human influence on climate.”

In an article specifically with respect to drought,

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: Global climate models - Many contributing influences. Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Climate Change, Colorado Climate Foundation for Water Education, pp. 28-29,
I wrote

“A vulnerability perspective, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources, is a more inclusive, useful and scientifically robust framework to use with policymakers. In contrast to the limited range of possible future risks by current climate models, the vulnerability framework permits the evaluation of the entire spectrum of risks to the water resources associated with all social and environmental threats, including climate variability and change.”

Thus, regardless of the role humans play within the climate system (and it is much more than due to carbon dioxide increases; see), adaptation plans to deal with climate variations, beyond what occurred in the historical record, should be a priority.

Capitalist Reform to Reduce International Oil Demand: Getting World Refiners to Price at Market

Capitalist Reform to Reduce International Oil Demand: Getting World Refiners to Price at Market. By Donald Hertzmark
Master Resource, April 23, 2009

A market-driven revitalization of the world oil refining sector is the best and fastest way to reduce both oil demand and related air emissions, including CO2. A combination of market-based pricing–absent from foreign refineries (most politically owned and/or managed)– and new investment brought forth by the improved profitability of such pricing, could reduce the demand for crude oil by between eight and twelve million barrels per day, or about 10–15 percent.

A Bold Hypothesis

This rather astounding assertion can be educed as follows:
  • Most countries subsidize refined oil product consumption, usually middle distillates (diesel and kerosene) at the expense of gasoline and other products;
  • Owing to the price controls on heavily used middle distillate products, most oil refiners outside the U.S. and a few other countries lose money;
  • The subsidies to middle distillate users, at the expense of gasoline and LPG consumers, creates an “unbalanced” demand barrel – one that defies both economics and chemistry;
  • Refiners lose money and avoid investing in modern refining technology; instead refiners build more simple refineries and use up crude oil to meet the unbalanced demand barrel, which creates more heavy fuel oil (HFO);
  • The U.S., with its sophisticated refineries and market-based pricing of oil products, creates virtually no net HFO, using it as a feedstock instead. In fact, the U.S. is a net importer of HFO from Europe and the Caribbean, a less expensive feedstock for refining than crude oil;
  • Most of this HFO created outside the U.S. is used to generate electricity, creating significant greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Right-pricing refined oil products would (1) reduce the demand for middle distillates; (2) make refining a going business without subsidies; and (3) induce investment in better refining technology;
  • The excess HFO now created as a artifact of middle distillate subsidies would be absorbed within the refining system as a feedstock, reducing the demand for crude oil by at least 8 million barrels per day, perhaps 12-13 million b/d;
  • Replacement of this HFO in power generation by natural gas would, on balance, reduce the output of CO2 by an amount greater than the CO2 generated by all natural gas flaring worldwide, or, equivalently, taking 20% of U.S. electricity generating capacity out of service.

Subsidizing Middle Distillate Is Like Fighting Chemistry And Economics At The Same Time

The Government giveaways of gasoline in a number of oil exporting countries, especially Venezuela and the Persian Gulf nations, are well known. But while these subsidies are considerable, the far greater player in the subsidy game is the encouragement of middle distillate over-consumption in country-after-country in the developing world.

In many countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and other leading developing countries, prices of diesel and kerosene are maintained at 70–85% of the energy equivalent price of gasoline. These price ratios, unlike those in the real world, which are generally within 5-6% of one another on an energy basis, give energy consumers every reason to use more of the middle distillates and less of the more expensive products.

Moreover, since the low prices for middle distillates are below the cost of supplying such products, the funds to supply the induced demand must come from somewhere – either taxpayers or the consumers of the non-subsidized oil products (gasoline, HFO, LPG) must foot the bill. Although increasing numbers of taxpayers have become alarmed (rightly) about the subsidization of renewable energy, the harm to the economy of the world that is created by subsidies for refined oil products, especially middle distillates, currently dwarfs the resource misallocation created by renewable energy policies. In 2007, middle distillate subsidies cost Indonesia about $9.8 billion, more than 2% of that country’s GDP.

At worst, subsidies can so promote demand for the subsidized product, while simultaneously retarding the efficient supply of that product that vast financial and economic imbalances in the energy sector may occur. Worldwide, the demand for middle distillates in recent years has increased from about 35 to 38% of the crude oil barrel. In the countries cited above, as in many other subsidizers, the middle distillate proportion in the demand barrel can range from 50–60%.

Countries import middle distillates at market prices and sell them for less; or worse, they build expensive refinery add-ons solely to meet middle distillate demand and then sell the products for less than the cost of production. By rendering the oil refining sector less profitable than would otherwise be the case, subsidies stunt the investment in new technology and clean fuels needed to meet increasingly stringent environmental demands for reducing plain old pollution (lead additives for gasoline, volatile organic compounds, CO, sulphur).

Simply put, where middle distillate subsidies are present, the country’s approach to meeting refined oil product demand is tantamount to fighting chemistry. There is almost no way to make a barrel of oil produce a 50–60% yield of diesel, jet fuel and kerosene at a reasonable cost (yes, it can be done at an unreasonable cost, just as you can grow bananas in Alaska – that doesn’t make it a good investment). Pressure, heat and catalysts will almost always generate other products, gasoline and LPGs, as well as (some) HFO.

Ending Oil-Product Subsidies Offers an Environmental Upside

A country with refined-product subsidies will tend to consume more oil products than it might without below-market pricing. At the same time, as long as refiners lack the financial capability (or even the desire) to invest in better yields of light products, they will try to meet demand in the least expensive way, either importing middle distillate products or refining more crude in simple refineries. (Note: Countries without any oil refineries tend not to subsidize the consumption of these products).

In a simple refining configuration, about one third of the output is heavy fuel oil, assuming a light crude is used. Heavier crudes may yield more than 40% HFO from simple distillation. The proportion of middle distillates and gasolines are about equal, at roughly 30–35%, depending on cut points and the specifics of the crude oil used. Such a refinery cannot produce a demand barrel that is more than 50% middle distillates. So the refiner will export some of the unwanted gasoline and HFO and import middle distillates. If this is done at the margin, then there is little or no impact on prices and product availability, but if it is general practice, then the prices for the exported gasoline, naphtha and HFO products will tend to be depressed. The financial impacts on a refiner of selling middle distillates below cost and other products at depressed prices virtually guarantees continuous financial stress for such companies.

If a refining company could recoup its investments in upgrading low quality feeds and avoid selling unfinished gasolines and HFO at distressed prices, then they might be able to build a better refinery. In a highly complex refinery, with full reduction of heavy byproducts, middle distillate yields rarely rise above 40%. With a mix of various unappetizing heavy, high sulphur crudes and HFO, Valero Energy’s Delaware City refinery produces 40% middle distillates, 53% gasolines, 3% HFO, and precious little else. Even the petroleum coke, about 1% of output, is recycled to generate electric power.

The roughly 155,000 b/d of light products produced in Valero’s complex refinery requires just 170,000 b/d of low quality feed. A simple refinery will need roughly 240,000 b/d to produce the same yield of light products. If rest of the world were able to replicate the efficiency of the U.S. refining sector, then current demand for gasoline and middle distillates, LPGs and chemical feedstocks could be met with 10–15% less (lower quality) crude oil each day, even allowing for lags in adoption.

Shifting the HFO now used to generate electricity to natural gas, where feasible, would result in a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. Worldwide, the consumption of HFO for power generation and industry is about 10 million b/d, 12% of total oil demand. Reducing the crude oil distillation that is rendered unnecessary with modern technology, and replacing current industrial and utility consumption of HFO with natural gas, an excellent financial option for most countries, could result in a net annual reduction in CO2 emissions of more than 500 million tonnes, more than the CO2 emissions from all natural gas flaring worldwide.[1]

The moral of the story is that fighting the market and fighting chemistry is a bad idea – bad for profits, bad for oil reserves and bad for the environment. There is literally no other set of investments in the next 10–15 years that could reduce air pollution (and CO2 emissions) as dramatically as the investments induced by good oil pricing policies. It is literally equivalent to removing 20% of U.S. power generation capacity from service, a feat that is beyond the wildest dreams of any renewable energy advocate.


[1] This reduction is calculated as follows:

Nine million barrels per day (b/d) of HFO, when burned, creates 1.55*109 T/year CO2 – all this HFO could go into fuels production, displacing crude oil, since the demand for the light products is evident.

An equivalent power or industrial output from natural gas creates no more than 1.08*109 T/year CO2. Efficiencies more typical of natural gas use in power would lower this energy equivalence figure to about 560 million T/year CO2.

The differential, about 500-1,000 million T/year CO2, is greater than the known emissions from gas flaring worldwide (see Chapter 6).

WaPo on OLC memos: The Accountability Question

The Accountability Question. WaPo Editorial
The right way to deal with torture's legacy
WaPo, Friday, April 24, 2009

THE APPARENT confusion within the Obama administration about whether to prosecute officials of the previous administration for committing torture is not surprising. Two fundamental principles are colliding in this matter, and it's not easy to achieve a fair outcome that reconciles both.

On one side, you have the sacred American tradition of peacefully transferring power from one party to another every four or eight years without cycles of revenge and criminal investigation. It's one thing to investigate Richard Nixon for authorizing wiretaps and burglaries in secrecy, outside the normal channels of government, for personal political gain. It's another to criminalize decisions authorized through all the proper channels, with congressional approval or at least awareness, for what everyone agrees to be the high purpose of keeping Americans safe from terrorist attack. Once you start down that road, where do you stop? Should Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger and their team have been held criminally or civilly liable for dereliction of duty 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, given that they knowingly allowed Osama bin Laden to flee Sudan for sanctuary in Afghanistan? What if the next administration believes that Barack Obama is committing war crimes every time he allows the Air Force to fling missiles into Pakistan, killing innocent civilians in a country with which we are not at war?

Such concerns are heightened when the country is at war, as we in fact are, though in the daily life of most Americans it might not seem so. Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict great damage, perhaps on a scale far larger than in 2001, and the country needs its guardians in the armed forces, the CIA and elsewhere to focus on defending the country against that threat, not themselves against legal action. The Obama administration needs to attract the best possible talent into government, and then expect from those who serve unflinching advice on hard calls. Neither will happen if public service routinely is followed by the need to hire private attorneys and empty one's bank account.

AND YET, on the other side, we have this: American officials condoned and conducted torture. Waterboarding, to take the starkest case, has been recognized in international and U.S. law for decades as beyond the pale, and it was used hundreds of times during the Bush years. Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general of the United States, has stated flatly that it is illegal. In a country founded on the rule of law, a president can't sweep criminality away for political reasons, even the most noble. When the United States sees torture taking place in other parts of the world, it issues some pretty simple demands: Stop doing that, and punish -- or at least identify, and in some way hold accountable -- those responsible, so that the practice will not be repeated. How can a country that purports to serve as a moral exemplar ask any less of itself?

The answer does not lie with those congressional Democrats who are eager to put the entire Bush administration on trial. Nor, as President Obama has discovered this week, can it be found in his own wishful calls to look forward rather than dwelling on the past. As other nations have discovered, the past will haunt the present until it is investigated and openly dealt with. And although we have misgivings about international justice intruding on the sovereignty of democratic governments, it's also true that if the United States doesn't examine its own record, other nations will have a better claim to do so.

To an extent, such an examination is going on all around us. The Senate intelligence committee is conducting a review. The Senate Armed Services Committee, having been mostly AWOL when it could have made a difference, has issued a useful report. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is examing the conduct of Bush administration lawyers. It may seem, after a week of constant news coverage and newly published legal memos, that there isn't much left to learn.

But wide holes remain in public knowledge of how torture came to be official U.S. policy and how that policy was implemented. The efficacy of "enhanced interrogation techniques" remains in dispute. We don't know if some interrogations went beyond even what the Justice Department had approved. The extent of congressional knowledge and approbation remains unclear. And as former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld might note, we don't know what we don't know.

SO THERE remains, as we have long argued, a need for a bipartisan commission composed of respected leaders to conduct a thorough review. Mr. Obama should take the lead in forming such a panel. It should conduct its work deliberately and issue its findings publicly.

In the end, no such panel can answer every question. We will never know what detainees might have disclosed if interrogators had persisted with more humane techniques. We can't measure precisely the damage inflicted on the United States and its soldiers by the fallout from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. But a presidential commission could produce the fullest, least-heated account possible.

Once it did so, prosecutions would not be the only option. Based on what we know today, we do not believe they would be the best option. For reasons laid out at the beginning of this editorial, we would be extremely reluctant to go after lawyers and officials acting in what they believed to be the nation's best interest at a time of grave danger. If laws were broken, Congress or the president can opt for amnesty. In gray areas, the government can exercise prosecutorial discretion. But the work of the commission should not be prejudged. And the prudence of not prosecuting, if that proves the wisest course, would earn more respect, here and abroad, if it followed a process of thorough review and calm deliberation.

Reckless 'Endangerment' - The Obama EPA plays 'Dirty Harry' on cap and trade

Reckless 'Endangerment'. WSJ Editorial
The Obama EPA plays 'Dirty Harry' on cap and trade.
WSJ, Apr 24, 2009

President Obama's global warming agenda has been losing support in Congress, but why let an irritant like democratic consent interfere with saving the world? So last Friday the Environmental Protection Agency decided to put a gun to the head of Congress and play cap-and-trade roulette with the U.S. economy.

The pistol comes in the form of a ruling that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant that threatens the public and therefore must be regulated under the 1970 Clean Air Act. This so-called "endangerment finding" sets the clock ticking on a vast array of taxes and regulation that EPA will have the power to impose across the economy, and all with little or no political debate.
This is a momentous decision that has the potential to affect the daily life of every American, yet most of the media barely noticed, and those that did largely applauded. When America's Founders revolted against "taxation without representation," this is precisely the kind of kingly diktat they had in mind.

Michigan Democrat John Dingell helped to write the Clean Air Act, as well as its 1990 revision, and he says neither was meant to apply to carbon. But in 2007 five members of the Supreme Court followed the environmental polls and ordered the EPA to determine if CO2 qualified as a "pollutant." The Bush Administration prudently slow-walked the decision. As Peter Glaser, an environmental lawyer at Troutman Sanders, told Congress in 2008, "The country will experience years, if not decades, of regulatory agony, as EPA will be required to undertake numerous, controversial, time-consuming, expensive and difficult regulatory proceedings, all of which ultimately will be litigated."

The Obama EPA has now opened this Pandora's box. The centerpiece of the Clean Air Act is something called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, under which the EPA decides the appropriate atmospheric concentration of a given air pollutant. Under this law the states must adopt measures to meet a NAAQS goal, and the costs cannot be considered. For global warming, this is going to be a hugely expensive futility parade.

Greenhouse gases mix in the atmosphere, and it doesn't matter where they come from. A ton of emissions from Ohio has the same effect on global CO2 as a ton emitted in China; and even if Ohio figured out a way to reduce its emissions to zero, it would still have no control over the carbon content in its ambient air. But under the law, EPA would be required to severely punish Ohio -- and every state -- for not complying with NAAQS.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA also must regulate all "major" sources of emissions that emit more than 250 tons of an air pollutant in a year. That includes "any building, structure, facility or installation." This might be a reasonable threshold for conventional pollutants such as SOX or NOX, but it's extremely low for carbon. Hundreds of thousands of currently unregulated sources will suddenly be subject to the EPA's preconstruction permitting and review, including schools, hospitals, malls, restaurants, farms and colleges. According to EPA, the average permit today takes 866 hours for a source to prepare, and 301 hours for EPA to process. So this regulatory burden will increase by several orders of magnitude.

The EPA took the highly unusual step of not accompanying its endangerment finding with actual proposed regulations. For now, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims her agency will only target cars and trucks. That is bad enough. It probably means, for example, that California's mileage fleet burdens will seep out to every other state. So even as taxpayers are now paying tens of billions of dollars to prop up GM and Chrysler, Ms. Jackson will be able to tell the entire auto industry it must make even more small cars that consumers don't want to buy.

Still, why confine the rule only to cars and trucks? By the EPA's own logic, it shouldn't matter where carbon emissions come from. Carbon from a car's tailpipe is the same as carbon from a coal-fired power plant. And transportation is responsible for only 28% of U.S. emissions, versus 34% for electricity generation. Ms. Jackson is clearly trying to limit the immediate economic impact of her ruling, so as not to ignite too great a business or consumer backlash.

But her half-measure is also too clever by half. By finding carbon a public danger, she is inviting lawsuits from environmental lobbies demanding that EPA regulate all carbon sources. Massachusetts and two other states have already sued in federal court to force the EPA to create a NAAQS for CO2.
Which brings us back to the Obama Administration's political roulette. Democrats know that their cap-and-tax agenda is losing ground, notably among Midwestern Senators. The EPA "endangerment" is intended to threaten businesses and state and local governments until they surrender and support the Obama agenda. The car industry is merely the first target, meant to be the object lesson.

Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey put it this way at MIT recently: "Do you want the EPA to make the decision or would you like your Congressman or Senator to be in the room and drafting legislation? . . . Industries across the country will just have to gauge for themselves how lucky they feel if they kill legislation in terms of how the EPA process will include them."

This "Dirty Harry" theory of governance -- Do you feel lucky? -- is as cynical as it is destructive. And contra Mr. Markey, if cap and tax is killed this year, it will be done in by Democrats, many of whom are starting to realize the economic harm it would inflict. In March, the Senate voted 89 to 8 on a resolution vowing to pass a climate bill only if "such legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices."

That's called democracy, but for the Obama Administration such debate is an inconvenient truth. If they can't get Congress to pass their agenda, they'll use EPA and the courts to impose it. How lucky do you feel?

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - April 2009 Newsletter

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - April 2009 Newsletter

"Keep the Light On" Project Helps Guyanese Woman Turn Her Life Around [more]
Public-Private Partnership Targets Russian Youth [more]
Spotlight on ABC: A Comprehensive Strategy for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of HIV/AIDS [more]
Engaging People Living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti’s Community-based Economic Growth [more]
2009 HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting [more]

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