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Kyoto Count-Up

Feb. 16, 2005, is a day that may well live in scientific and economic infamy. That’s the day that the international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol (search) went into effect around the world — but, fortunately, not in the U.S. and Australia.

The treaty calls for the 35 industrial nations that ratified it to reduce man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, to below 1990 levels by 2012.

At JunkScience.com, we proclaimed Feb.16 to be the first annual “Hot Air Day — Save your breath. Save the planet. Stop exhaling…” After all, you wouldn’t want your carbon dioxide-laden breath to contribute to any alleged warming of the Earth’s atmosphere or cause any extreme weather events.

On a more serious note, we also installed two counters at JunkScience.com to estimate the costs and benefits of the Kyoto Protocol.

Similar to the famed National Debt Clock (search) near Times Square in New York City, one counter racks up the immense compliance costs of the Kyoto Protocol, conservatively estimated for the counter’s purpose at $150 billion per year.

If the astronomical compliance costs don’t impress you, we’ve got another counter — one that shows an estimated running total of the potential “warming” avoided by the treaty’s restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

Both global warming skeptics and advocates agree that the potential amount of warming that hypothetically might be avoided through Kyoto Protocol implementation is roughly 0.07 degrees centigrade by the year 2050.

So to be able to show any activity on the clock, we had to go out nine places to the right of the decimal point — that would be potential temperature changes on the order of a billionth of one degree Centigrade.

Combined, the two counters indicate that the Kyoto Protocol costs roughly $100,000 to “prevent” just one-billionth of a degree of warming. So at the bargain price of just $100 trillion, the average global temperature could theoretically be lowered by 1 degree Centigrade.

That’s why we think of the Kyoto Protocol more as a “global economic suicide pact” than as an “international treaty.”

If the estimated cost-benefit analysis of the Kyoto Protocol isn’t sufficiently shocking, let me draw your attention to an article in the Feb. 14 Wall Street Journal exposing the top secret “junk science” behind global warming hysteria.

The article, entitled “In Climate Debate, The ‘Hockey Stick’ Leads to Face-Off,” reported on the controversy over a graph of, supposedly, the average global temperatures for the last 1000 years or so. The graph is nicknamed the “hockey stick” because of a sharp spike upward, meant to represent 20th-century temperature increases.

“The eye-catching image has had a big impact. Since it was published four years ago in a United Nations report, hundreds of environmentalists, scientists and policy makers have used the hockey stick in presentations and brochures to make the case that human activity in the industrial era is causing dangerous global warming,” reported the Journal.

But the hockey stick has been way oversold.

Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian minerals consultant who has spent a great deal of time and (his own) money studying the graph says that, for one thing, the mathematical technique used to draw the graph is prone to generating hockey stick-like graphs even when applied to random data. So the hockey stick graph data proves nothing according to McIntyre.

McIntyre would like to do more research on the hockey stick, but the graph’s author, Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, is blocking that effort.

McIntyre requested the raw data Mann used to construct the hockey stick. But after initially providing some information, Mann refused further cooperation, claiming he doesn’t have time to respond to “every frivolous note” from nonscientists, according to the Journal.

While McIntyre thinks there are more errors in the method used to develop the hockey stick, Mann refuses to release the requested computer code claiming that, “Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in,” reported the Journal.

But asking for a scientist’s data and methods for purposes of evaluating scientific conclusions is part-and-parcel of the time-honored traditions known as the scientific method and peer review — it’s hardly “intimidation.”

Moreover, Mann’s research was funded by U.S. taxpayers through the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s simply unfathomable that Mann thinks he can secrete his publicly-financed data and methodology from independent review by interested members of the public — particularly when he and other global warming promoters are trying to use his results to change public policy.

Maybe we should add a third counter — one representing the number of days Mann hides his dubious data from the public that paid for it.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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