December 3, 2003
by Dennis T. Avery
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has refused to commit his country to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, thus preventing the treaty from going into effect.
Countries representing 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must sign the treaty before its provisions come into force. The United States, with 36 percent of the emissions, had already rejected it. That leaves Russia, with 17 percent of the emissions, as the only hope for bringing Kyoto into effect. Yesterday, a Russian officially reiterated the government's opposition to the treaty.
President Putin has said, “The [Russian] government is thoroughly considering and studying this issue, studying the entire complex of difficult problems linked with it.”
The Russian decision is surely complex. Under Kyoto, Russia might benefit from its post-Communist industrial cleanup by selling emission rights to other Kyoto members, such as Japan and Germany. However, after 2012, the Kyoto treaty will demand far higher energy prices to sharply suppress CO2 emissions—radically increasing member countries’ current fuel and electricity costs. (The cuts in greenhouse gas emissions so far demanded by the Kyoto treaty would cut theoretically projected greenhouse warming by less than one percent.)
Sales of emission rights might net Russia billions of dollars; but sharply higher world energy costs could reduce the value of Russia’s exports of oil, natural gas, and fertilizer by billions of dollars.
Russia actually prefers the high CO2 levels that fertilize its crops, and wants milder winters, the major impact of any global warming, natural or man-made.
Finally, Putin should be questioning the validity of Kyoto and the whole global warming theory. Two researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Drs. V. S. Bashkirtsev and G. P. Mashnich, recently published a skeptical article in the journal Geomagnetism and Aeronomy. The Russian scientists say they see no evidence of man-made global warming.
The two Russians first note the 95 percent correlation between the length of the sunspot cycle and the surface air temperature of the Northern Hemisphere for the 128 years between 1861 and 1989. Secondly, they point to a 97 percent correlation between the average energy level of the solar cycle and the surface air temperatures in Russia averaged over the solar cycle. These two findings, they contend, mean the warming has been due to the sun, and “leave little room for the anthropogenic impact on the earth’s climate.”
They point out that solar variations explain a natural origin of the slight global cooling observed between 1950 and 1970. The global warming theory can’t account for it. There were lots of greenhouse gas emissions during these years and the greenhouse theory says these emissions should have “forced” temperatures higher.
The Russians say. . . “The decrease in solar activity in cycle 20 is accompanied by the temperature fall [from 1950–1970] and the subsequent growth of solar activity in cycles 21 and 22 entails the temperature rise [of the past 25 years].”
For the immediate future, Drs. Bashkirtsev and Mashnich predict some cooling. They say the current sunspot cycle (cycle 23) is weaker than the two preceding cycles and solar activity will thus decline, followed by lower earth temperatures. That, too, would be more consistent with the earth’s history of slow, erratic 1500-year warming-cooling cycles coinciding with the cycle of solar activity typified by the Medieval Warming (950–1300 AD) and subsequent Little Ice Age (1300–1850 AD).
These cycles were recently documented by a study that shows the rocky debris deposited by melting icebergs on the floor of the North Atlantic in nine global warming-cooling cycles over the past 12,000 years.
The Russians’ prediction of global cooling in the next two decades would obviously not be consistent with a human-driven warming, given the earth’s increasing emissions from factories and autos.
Will global cooling shortly replace global warming in the headlines? Will your gasoline prices quadruple? Stay tuned for the next riveting episode of “As the Climate Turns.”
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.
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