July 1997

Ecological Imperialism

In a paper delivered at “The Costs of Kyoto” conference, sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Deepak Lal, James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies, UCLA, argued that “At Kyoto Third World countries are going to face their first serious confrontation with the growing ecological imperialism of the international green movement . . .”

Though treaty proponents initially proposed restrictions only on the industrialized countries, the Clinton administration has stated “that the Kyoto accord must include ‘language that makes it clear’ that developing country obligations under the pact will increase over time ‘and will include binding targets.'”

Lal cited a study by Thomas Schelling which shows that a delay in doubling of CO2 emissions for four decades would lead to a loss of 2 percent of gross world product in perpetuity. Though this will harm the industrial countries it could be devastating for the Third World.

Lal points out that it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that it became possible to eradicate “mass structural poverty.” “So” concludes Lal, “I look upon the green agenda . . . as ultimately trying to stop growth in the Third World. And if you’re saying you’re going to stop growth in the

Third World, you’re really going to say that you’re willing to condemn three-quarters of the world’s population to continuing poverty.”

Ignorance is Bliss

The Clinton administration has decided to dispense with using three economic models to analyze policy options to reduce greenhouse gases. Timothy Wirth, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, argued that the economic models were unable to produce an “honest result” in predicting the economic effects of climate change policy.

A draft report by the interagency team, that will not be completed, showed that a reduction in greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010 would require a $100 per ton carbon tax increase the price of gasoline by 26 cents per gallon, $1.49 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas, $52.52 per ton of coal, and 2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.

Janet Yellen, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, told a House subcommittee that the administration would do economic analyses, but will “preclude . . . detailed numbers.” Not to worry, the administration will tell the public what it believes the impact of climate change policy will be: “Any policy the president endorses on climate change will be informed by his commitment to sustaining a healthy and robust economy” (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 16, 1997).

Real Action Not Likely

According to Robert J. Samuelson, “Global warming may or may not be the great environmental crisis of the next century, but – regardless of whether it is or isn’t – we won’t do much about it.”

To do something effective Congress would have to impose something equivalent to a $100 carbon tax, which would raise gasoline prices by 26 cents per gallon and electricity and natural gas rates by about 30 percent.

Because of the great amount of uncertainty surrounding the likelihood or magnitude of global warming, Congress is not likely to pass a tax that would put the economic screws to the American people.

The best way to cope with potential warming, according to Samuelson, is to adapt to it. To sign a sweeping treaty that would ultimately lead nowhere would make global warming “a gushing source of national hypocrisy” (Washington Post, “Dancing Around a Dilemma,” July 9, 1997).

Baby Steps to Lower Greenhouse Emissions

In hearings before the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee, the panel of four scientists and one economist generally agreed that moderate steps should be taken to reduce greenhouse emissions. Harvard University Economics Professor Dale Jorgenson, argued that the U.S. should eliminate energy subsidies and adopt a tax based on carbon content of fuels. The proposed tax would lead to an increase of 5 cents per gallon of gasoline by 2025, starting at $5.29 per ton of CO2 and rising gradually to $10 per ton.

Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and well-known skeptic of the global warming hypothesis, argued that Jorgenson’s proposal would have no effect on climate change. Both John Christy, associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama at Hunstville, and Eric Barron, director of the Earth System Sciences Center at Penn State University, endorsed modest emissions reductions that would improve energy efficiency and provide overall benefits to the economy (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 11, 1997).

There is one problem with such modest proposals. If human-induced climate change is a major problem then modest proposals will do nothing to avert it. If it isn’t a problem, then why do anything at all?

Canada Could Be Divided

According to the study by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE), a treaty to restrict greenhouse emissions would be devastating to Alberta’s oil, coal and gas industries as well as to Ontario’s iron and steel sector. Additionally, governments of the Atlantic provinces are counting on growing offshore oil and gas production to spur further economic growth. On the other hand, Central Canadian manufacturers will benefit by absorbing labor and capital driven out of the oil producing sector. Overall, Canada will experience a 0.5 percent reduction in output by 2010.

Chris Peirce, vice president of strategic planning with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said, “You can kind of gloss over the really difficult issue that people would have to deal with by saying, ‘Well, the overall number [for the economic cost] is only 0.4 percent of gross domestic product’ . . . . When you look beneath that surface at what it’s going to do within the sectors, it’s quite a different matter” (The Financial Post, July 5, 1997).


NATO Soldiers to Fight Climate Change?

According to the Washington Post (“Clinton’s NATO Effort Risky; President’s Vision Rests on Historic Rationale,” July 8, 1997) the Clinton administration envisions a new role for the expanded NATO alliance.

“The administration argues that the new NATO will be the cornerstone of a new system of international security dealing with a much wider array of threats than was the case during the Cold War. ‘Unlike Marshall’s generation, we face no single galvanizing threat,’ [Madeleine] Albright said at Harvard. ‘The dangers we confront are less visible and more diverse – some as old as ethnic conflict, some as new a letter bombs, some as subtle as climate change, and some as deadly as nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands” (emphasis added).

Investor’s Business Daily (“Our Rain Forest Rangers,” July 7, 1997) reports that the administration’s Quarterly Defense Review claims that, “The most serious security problems are . . . those threats to the ‘international community’ stemming from ‘instability’ caused by ‘transnational problems’ such as poverty, disease, terrorism, global climate change, migration, and integration into a global economy” (emphasis added).

The United Nation’s Windbags

In a scathing editorial in the Village Voice (“When Smog Snobs Meet: Saving the Earth From Windbags,” July 8, 1997), Linda Stasi asks, “What do you call it when billions of tons of hot air per second are released into the atmosphere by gigantic gas bags? How about Rio Plus Five – the recent UN conference on the environment?”

Stasi continues, “Last week, world leaders and assorted international windbags from 60 – count em – 60 countries arrived here to whine about pollution while simultaneously causing massive traffic jams, which in turn caused massive pollution.”

Stasi is skeptical whether anything will come of the conference; instead she suggests, “maybe we’d have a better environment if they just shut down the UN altogether – it would be years before anybody even noticed that nobody was there.”

Senate Resolution Passes 95-0

The Byrd-Hagel Resolution (SRes 98) passed on July 25 by a margin of 95-0 (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 28, 1997). The resolution states that the U.S. Senate will not ratify any treaty signed at Kyoto that:

  • Would impose binding limits on the industrialized nations but not on developing nations within the same compliance period.
  • “Would result in serious economic harm to the economy of the United States.”

Senator Robert Byrd argued during the floor debate that climate change is a global problem requiring global action. He hopes that the resolution will give U.S. negotiators the clout they need to complete a truly global treaty.

Japan to Propose Climate Change Legislation

Japan’s Environment Agency will propose binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions to avert global warming. A carbon tax is under consideration. Other ideas include stricter fuel economy standards for cars, restrictions on energy use for domestic electrical machinery, and environmentally friendly tax and fiscal systems.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has, to date, opposed binding targets on emissions. “We haven’t yet judged whether such ideas will be needed after the Kyoto conference,” stated an MITI official (Japan Economic Newswire, July 7, 1997).

Nuclear Power, Anyone?

At a gathering in Santa Fe’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, fifty energy experts from the United States and Japan urged greater use of nuclear power to combat global climate change.

According to Dr. Chauncy Starr, president emeritus of the Electric Power Research Institute, “a strong consensus emerged that nuclear energy is an important power source that must be supported and expanded if the world is to address the environmental, security and economic well-being of its people” (U.S. Newswire, July 9, 1997)

Also, at the UN environment conference Hans Blix, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, argued against a report by the UN Development Program which concluded that nuclear power is not necessary to meet future energy needs. According to Blix, nuclear power is essential if the developing nations are to meet their energy demands without significantly raising greenhouse emissions (Greenwire, July 7, 1997).

Nebraska Coalition Opposed to Treaty

A coalition of farm organizations, the AFL-CIO and the State Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nebraska held a press conference opposing a treaty that would discourage fossil fuel use. The coalition argued that there are still serious doubts about the magnitude and effects of climate change, claiming that precipitous action will lead to higher home heating and transportation costs, taxes on fuel and fertilizer for farmers as well as planting controls and limits on livestock production. Factories will be forced to relocate to countries with fewer energy restrictions, taking American jobs.

The coalition stated, “Rather than rushing into policies that would lower our standard of living and force unwelcome changes in personal lifestyle we believe it would make far more sense to concentrate on improving the scientific research on climate issues and on developing new, cost-effective technologies for use in the United States and around the world” (Omaha World-Herald, July 8, 1997).

What About Clouds?

According to the Anchorage Daily News (July 10, 1997) the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program is going to fund a 10-year, $10 million study to “track how clouds soak up or reflect the sun’s energy in the Earth’s polar regions.” The effect of clouds on climate change is still a mystery for scientists. Sometimes clouds cool the earth, at other times they keep it warm.

Knut Stamnes, a researcher at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, asks, “Are increased greenhouse gases going to have an effect or not?” His answer? “To understand that, we need to understand what clouds do.”

Sensors located Alaska’s North Slope, Oklahoma and Guam will provide new information that will lead to a greater understanding of how clouds affect global climate change in polar, midlatitude and tropical areas. According to Martha Krebs, director of DOE’s Office of Energy Research, “The question is whether or not the use of energy is going to cause a major impact on our environment . . . . That requires more data, and better and more accurate models.”

Melting Icecaps, Schmelting Icecaps

According to David Vaughan, a British Antarctic Survey member, “At current warming rates it will take 200 years before the problem in the Antarctic became serious . . . . And it is very unlikely that the warming trend in the Antarctic Peninsula could be sustained for that length of time without very major changes elsewhere which would make this issue rather irrelevant.”

Warnings of rising seas that will flood island states are overblown and, according to Vaughan, it is very possible that the “effects of oceanographic conditions on the ice shelves could thicken them” (Daily Mail, July 10, 1997).

Birds of a Feather Arrive Early Together

Ecologists are puzzled by the return of some species of birds earlier in the spring than usual. According to records kept by ornithologist Elizabeth Browne Losey, birds are returning to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 21 days earlier than they did in 1965, suggesting that spring’s arriving earlier than before.

Though a report by the World Wildlife Fund recently warned that, “The first signs of climate change have been detected and can be seen in our own back yards,” ecologists are more cautious about blaming ecological changes on human-induced climate change since “North America’s ecological systems have always been in flux.”

Eighteen thousand years ago ice sheets two miles thick covered the northern half of the American continent. Also, the mid 19th century saw the Little Ice Age with temperatures a few degrees colder than now. In fact, the warming we have experienced over the last one hundred years may be a natural recovery from that cooler period.

Dan Fagre, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Resources Division, said, “Our goal is not necessarily to say human-induced climate change is responsible as much as to say that things are changing.”

Regardless, some ecologists are worried due to melting glaciers in Glacier National Park, warmer waters off the coast of California, declining bird and salmon populations, and other changes. Ken Cole, a government ecologist based in Flagstaff, Arizona says, “I think we can eventually do it but I’m not ready to commit myself and say that these changes are due to climate change and not these other causes.”

David Peterson, professor at the University of Washington states, “Change is natural and normal. The question at this point is: Are the changes that we’re seeing really natural or are they human-caused? And that poses some really tough questions” (Associated Press, July 7, 1997).

New and Improved Climate Modeling Computers

Japan’s Science and Technology Agency will develop a new computer system called the Earth Simulator to model regional climate variations with greater precision. To date limitations on computer power have frustrated the ability of scientists to accurately model the earth’s climate systems.

What will become the world’s fastest dedicated parallel-processing computer, the Earth Simulator will be able to model temperature variations on a grid 100 times finer than current advanced simulators. The Earth Simulator will allow scientists to better understand the regional effects of climate change (The Nikkei Weekly, July 7, 1997).

Early Humans Experienced Rapidly Changing Sea Levels

According to a study by Heiner et. al. appearing in the journal Science (“Early Humans and Rapidly Changing Holocene Sea Levels in the Queen Charlotte Islands – Hecate Strait, British Columbia, Canada,” July 4, 1997), humans during the Holocene era experienced rapidly changing sea levels.

Marine cores from the continental shelf edge of British Columbia, Canada show that sea level varied from -153 to +16 m between 14,600 and 10,100 calendar years B.P. Using marine core data and archeological evidence, researchers were able to determine that local sea levels rose rapidly (five centimeters per year) during the period of early human occupation.

To put this in perspective, climate change catastrophists are predicting a 2 foot increase in sea levels from global warming over the next 100 years. A five centimeter per year rise, however, would increase sea levels by about 19 feet.

“In this context,” states the researchers, “it is interesting that the Gwaii Haanas Haida Indian oral history abounds in legends of rapidly rising seas.” It is also interesting to note that sea levels changed by magnitudes far exceeding anything predicted by climate change proponents in the absence of anthropogenic influences.

 Labor and Industry Warn Senate Against Targets

Labor and manufacturing officials warned the Senate on June 26 against signing a climate change treaty without requiring compliance by developing countries (BNA Environment Report, June 27, 1997). Officials claimed that reducing greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels would require a 50 percent increase in the price of natural gas and electricity and a twofold to fourfold increase in the price of coal. They also warned that such a treaty would send 1 million U.S. jobs to developing countries. According to David Montgomery, vice president of Charles River Associates, the industries hardest hit would be producers and miners of cement, aluminum, ferrous metals, iron ore, paper, stone and clay, fertilizers, chemicals, and glass.

Robert Repetto, vice president and senior economist at the World Resources Institute, argued that these predictions are “gross simplifications of the real world.” Though Repetto agreed that a stabilization of emissions would lead to a 1 to 2.4 percent loss of GDP in 2020 for the U.S. he disputed the warnings of trade disadvantages. He also conceded that without commitments from the developing nations it would be impossible to stabilize emissions. But, he argued, developing countries have already taken steps to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Kyoto: What will be required

The following is reported in a United Mine Workers of America/Bituminous Coal Operators Assn. climate change briefing paper, From Rio to Kyoto, 1997: “A 1996 U.S. EPA study concluded that massive life-style changes such as requiring new vehicles to achieve 63 mpg by 2010 and retrofitting existing homes with state-of-the-art appliances and other energy-saving technologies would not allow the U.S. to reduce emissions below 1990 levels.

Cutting our emissions by 10% or more below 1990 levels would require huge reductions of industrial and transportation energy use, extensive residential energy conservation programs, and elimination of coal use. Coal represents 30% of domestic energy production, and provides more than half of total U.S. electricity. The U.S. does not have adequate supplies of natural gas or alternative fuels to replace coal use by electric utilities (emphasis in original).”

U.S. Derided for Failing to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro became a United States bash-fest. This years “Earth Summit Plus-5” meeting at the United Nations in New York continued that tradition. Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a clear reference to the U.S., stated, “The biggest responsibility [for averting climate change] falls on those countries with the biggest emissions . . .

We in Europe have put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit.” Britain has called for steep emission cuts and increases in foreign aid to help developing countries grow without increasing emissions. Other countries, Germany included, called for a new international environmental bureaucracy.

Britains Foreign Secretary echoed Blairs concern, “I dont have a problem with the American Administration. The American public have not come to terms with their energy consumption.” Britain and Germanys posture is a bit disingenuous, however. Though they will successfully meet the voluntary emission targets agreed to at Rio, this is a result of economic conditions, not environmental policy. According to Nature magazine (June 12, 1997), Tony Blair can declare success mainly because Margaret Thatcher “crushed” the power of the coal miners, Labours strongest supporters. Germanys success results from being able to shut down extremely inefficient and polluting factories and power plants in East Germany.

What the Europeans havent come to terms with is that their policies and the policies of the respective member governments have put their economies in a lurch. Pushing the U.S. to adopt similar regressive European policies is not going to help their industries compete with the U.S., rather it will hurt the world economy, dragging everyone down.

Clinton Responds to Critics

In his June 26, 1997 address before the United Nations President Clinton defended his environmental record, citing several “successes” such as toxic dump cleanup and his recent decision to implement new air quality standards.

Turning to climate change Clinton went through a litany of horrors associated with warming: “Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at their highest levels in more than 200,000 years and climbing sharply. If this trend does not change, scientists expect the seas to rise two feet or more over the next century.” He continued, “Climate changes will disrupt agriculture, cause severe droughts and floods and the spread of infectious diseases, which will be a big enough problem for us under the best of circumstances in the 21st century.”

Clinton announced that he would convene a White House Conference on Climate Change, “to convince the American people and Congress that the climate change problem is real and imminent . . . to lay the scientific facts before our people to understand that we must act, and to lay the economic facts there so that they will understand the benefits and costs” (New York Times, June 27, 1997).

Clinton proposed several measures to be taken to address global warming. First, he promised a billion dollars in foreign aid over the next five years to help promote energy efficiency, better resource management and economic growth in developing countries. $150 million per year will be direct aid focused on technical assistance and training to improve forest and energy sector management. $25 million per year will be in the form of USAID credit financing for climate-friendly development projects.

Second, new and stronger environmental guidelines will be required for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to encourage responsible investments. OPIC will be required to make annual reports on its power sector project and OPIC will not be allowed to finance mining, drilling or infrastructure projects in ecologically sensitive areas. Third, the President urged increased use of new energy-saving technologies, such as automobiles that are three times more fuel efficient. He also pledged to have solar panels on one million roofs by 2010 (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 27, 1997).

Administration Continues Looking Ahead to Kyoto

Listening to the environmentalists, one might get the impression that the Clinton Administration completely backtracked on its commitment to sign a treaty in Kyoto, Japan. Statements by the administration following the Earth Summit, suggest otherwise:

  • President Clinton stated that for the U.S. to do its part, “we must first convince the American people that the climate change problem is real and imminent.” He promised to “personally . . . take a role . . . so that our people understand why we must act.” He repeated the Administrations position that the industrialized nations must sign the treaty with binding emissions reductions and establish an international trading system for emission allowances.

  • Katy McGinty, who chairs the Council on Environmental Quality, affirmed the Administrations stance on Kyoto, “We need legally binding emissions standards,” asserting that “voluntary is not sufficient.”

  • “This is a global problem,” stated McGinty. “This job gets much more difficult if China and the rest of the developing nations do not become part of the solution.” To make them part of the solution the administration has promised $1 billion in foreign aid. (BNA Daily Environment Report, June 27, 1997)

Global Warming as Opportunity?

Nature magazine (“Seizing global warming as an opportunity,” June 12, 1997) argues that the conference in Kyoto represents a major opportunity for countries to “devise sound economic policies that make sense both scientifically and environmentally.”

Britains stance, for example, on emissions reductions has met with skepticism given the Labours past distrust of environmentalists. The Greens relentless attacks against industrial growth has succeeded at the expense of Labours base. Nature argues, however, that skepticism is unjustified. By linking climate change policies with energy conservation and increased public transportation, Labour can successfully commit Britain to aggressive targets.

This tactic will allow developed nations to sell binding targets to the public. Nature concludes, “Their greatest opportunity is that a growing sense of crisis over global warming will focus minds on the need to rethink our use of energy and other resources, and to accept the pain that this will inevitably require.”

But is the goal to save the planet from ecological catastrophe or simply to lower energy use? Nature admits in the article that more science is needed, that better and more credible models must be developed. Indeed, it warns governments against relying too much on climatologists! Regardless, Nature argues for signing a treaty because reducing energy use is a good thing in and of itself. Global warming is just a convenient excuse.

CAFE Cheapens Life

Twelve hundred more Americans will die on the nations highways if the Federal auto fuel economy requirements known as CAFE are raised to 40 mpg, according to a new study, “CAFEs Smashing Success: The Deadly Effects of Auto Fuel Economy Standards, Current and Proposed,” released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “The latest rush to join the global warming bandwagon is in the form of proposals for greater fuel economy standards,” said study author, CEI Policy Analyst Julie DeFalco.

CAFE legislation, passed by Congress in 1975, has contributed to about half of the thousand pound decrease in the average weight of cars over the last twenty years, decreasing crash-worthiness.

The current CAFE standard of 27.5 mpg was responsible for between 2,700 and 4,700 deaths in 1996.

To read the study click here.

IPCCs Policymakers Summary: A Political Document

Attending a speech by S. Fred Singer in Helsinki, Finland, Robert Reinstein, former chief State Department negotiator on the climate treaty under the Bush administration, confirmed that the Policymakers Summary of the IPCC report did not reflect the views of the scientists but was negotiated by international delegations. “Because of this,” he stated, “the summary must be considered purely a political document, not a scientific one.”

Singer noted that it is the Policymakers Summary, not the science, that is the impetus behind proposals to negotiate binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 (PR Newswire, June 23, 1997).

Japans Split on Climate Treaty

According to Nature, (“. . . as Japan seeks to bridge split on emissions policy,” June 12, 1997) Japans Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and their Environmental Agency cannot agree on reduction methods and targets to be negotiated in their own country in December. For now, a compromise consists of a flat-rate emissions reduction for developed countries and a per capita-based emission ceiling for developing countries, allowing total emissions to increase while decreasing per capita emissions.

The two ministries, however, still cannot agree on how or how much to reduce emissions. MITI believes that population growth will make total reduction impossible. Many are concerned that Japans disagreements may cause a very complex treaty process to unravel. Some observers feel that international pressure must be used to encourage the Japanese cabinet to make the decision.

Former IPCC Chairman: Greens Cannot be Trusted

It has become standard procedure for advocates of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to link extreme weather events, such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, etc., to rising global temperatures. But according to the former chairman of the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Bert Bolin, “There has been no effect on countries from any current change.” Attempts by activists to establish such a link “is why I do not trust the Greens,” stated Bolin.

During a debate with University of Virginia atmospheric physicist, S. Fred Singer in Stockholm, Sweden, Dr. Bolin argued that there has been some human influence on the climate, however, “man-made increases in temperature are so small as to be barely detectable.” As to Timothy Wirths assertion that global warming science is “settled,” Bolin said, “Tim Wirth may have said that but Ive talked with him and I know he really doesnt mean it” (PR Newswire, June 23, 1997).

Scientists Must Influence the Political Process

Christian Azar and Henning Rodhe argue in Science (“Targets for Stabilization of Atmospheric CO2,” June 20, 1997) that scientists should play a role in determining what amount of human interference in the climate system should be considered dangerous even though, they admit, that it is “ultimately a question of value judgments that can only be settled in the political arena.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for a stabilization of greenhouse gases below “dangerous” levels. But, states Azar and Rodhe, no one really knows what that level is since the potential impacts from any given level of greenhouse gas is uncertain. The IPCC has estimated that a doubling of CO2, for instance, would lead to a 1.5 degree to 4.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature, a rather large range of uncertainty. Because of the uncertainty, Azar and Rodhe argue that scientists must participate in the debate or “decision makers and social scientists, like economists, [will be] in an even more difficult position.”

What is Azars and Rodhes “scientific” assessment: “It appears that to keep the changes in global temperature within the range of natural fluctuations during the past millennium, . . . atmospheric CO2 concentration has to be stabilized at around 350 parts per million by volume (ppmv).” This would keep the temperature variation at around 1 degree Celsius. They state that until proven otherwise, that a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature should be considered a critical level. To achieve stabilization at 350 ppmv would mean a 50 percent decrease of CO2 emissions worldwide, below current levels, over the next century.

Michaels Responds to Gelbspan

In a broadside against greenhouse “skeptics” Ross Gelbspan accused “a tiny band of scientists” of distorting the scientific “consensus” and advancing the interests of corporate polluters. Unfortunately for Gelbspan, Sciences Richard A. Kerr (May 16, 1997) went searching for that consensus and was unable to find it. What he found was a lot of “silent doubters: meteorologists and climate modelers who rarely give voice to their concerns. . .” One of the scientists to whom Gelbspan referred was Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia. In an article in the Washington Post (“Holes in the Greenhouse Effect?” June 22, 1997) Michaels responds. Whereas, Gelbspan claims that industry money has swung the climate change debate in their favor Michaels argues that industry spends about $35,000 per year on each of a few climate researchers, compared to the $2.1 billion spent by government. Indeed, 84 percent of Michaels funding comes from taxpayers.

Michaels also discusses the scientific controversy. Although the skeptics pointed out in 1990 that computer models were predicting much more warming than observed, it wasnt until 1995 that the IPCC admitted as much. The argument made, according to Michaels, was, “Either its not going to warm up as much as we said it was, or something (like sulfate aerosol) is reducing the warming.”

An article in Nature by Benjamin Santer bolstered that argument showing a correspondence between temperature and the presence of sulfates (sulfates reflect heat, cooling the planet). The study began in 1962 and ended in 1987. The problem with Santers model is that it only assumed a change in the amount of warming radiation of 1.25 watts. The correct number is 2.5 watts, which when plugged into Santers model produced more warming than models that have already been abandoned. Furthermore, when the data is run from 1958 to 1995 the correspondence disappears.

Finally, satellite measurements show a statistically significant cooling since 1979. These measurements perfectly match weather balloon data. Computer models predict a 0.35 degree Celsius warming over the same period.