August 1999

Is Weather Becoming More Extreme?

Those who would like to see massive cuts in energy use associate bad weather with global warming in an effort to promote their cause. One popular doomsayer, Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat is On, recently wrote a letter to the New York Times (August 28, 1999) claiming that “The most likely cause of the intense downpour on Thursday in New York was global climate change.”

But is the weather really changing for the worse? An article in the USA Weekend (August 29, 1999) by two Weather Channel meteorologists, Colin Marquis and Stu Ostro, argues that the weather is pretty much the same as it has always been, only that our perceptions have changed.

One of the reasons why we may think the weather is wilder is the massive growth in media coverage. “Today, real-time multimedia communication means gripping images get beamed instantly from tornado alley into our living rooms or PCs. Its as if were all experiencing the bad weather, albeit vicariously,” say Marquis and Ostro.

The authors admit that it is getting warmer. But the change has been small, only 1 degree Fahrenheit this century. Moreover, they say, “it is important to remember that specific temperature records over land date back only about 120 years, and data over the oceans (70 percent of the globe) was quite sparse until about 25 years ago, when satellites became more versatile.” They go on to say, “precise measurements of temperature do not extend far into the past, a mere drop in the bucket when considering the realm of global climate change.”

The authors also believe that it is getting wetter. They cite a study by Tom Karl at the National Climate Data Center that found a 20 percent increase in heavy precipitation events for much of the U.S., Canada and Europe in the last century. (The increase may seem large but the paper actually found that there is only one additional day every two years that experiences rainfall of over 2 inches).

The number of land-falling hurricanes has fallen, according to the authors. There were 23 from 1940-69, but there have been only 14 since 1970. Damage from hurricanes has increased dramatically, however, from $36.8 billion from 1940-69 to $74.9 billion from 1970-96. This can be attributed entirely to the “nearly uninhibited growth continuing along the nations coasts.”

It is uncertain whether there has been an increase in tornadoes, say the authors. A dramatic increase in the number of reported tornadoes doesnt necessarily mean that there are more tornadoes. The authors believe that the numbers have increased due to more reporting, not more tornadoes. “Simply put,” they say, “there are more people to witness tornadoes.” Moreover, there are now storm chasers who were nearly nonexistent in the 1950s. There are literally hundreds of people who search out tornadoes and document them with palm-held camcorders.

Finally, Marquis and Ostro discuss the work of Richard Alley from Penn State University. He has shown “that global temperatures and precipitation in the last few thousand years have been as steady as any time during the last 100 millennia.” Long before man exerted any influence on the climate there were severe swings in both temperature and precipitation in periods as short as 10 years. “This evidence raises an interesting and provocative idea,” say Marquis and Ostro: “Perhaps wilder weather is actually more typical than benign weather. Whether humans are contributing to climate change or not, maybe the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward the wild side.”

More Benefits of CO2

We all learned in grade school that plants need CO2 to survive. Scientific research has confirmed this many times over. A new study by the Greening Earth Society argues that to feed the earths growing human population, CO2 must continue to increase. According to the authors, Keith and Craig Idso, at the Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, to meet the dietary demands of the projected world population of 8.9 billion people by 2050, we will need to depend on both enhanced crop production technologies as well as enhanced ambient CO2 levels. The study can be found at

The Clinton/Gore Administration claims that through the development of energy efficient technologies we can meet our Kyoto targets at little cost. A new report by the Mobil Corporation, however, argues that economic growth in the developing countries will overwhelm any emission reductions that may be made through technology development.

New advances in technology will be helpful in reducing energy emissions, says the report. But even if those technologies are implemented in both the developed and developing countries it will still be impossible to meet the Kyoto targets. The implementation of hybrid electric and fuel-cell vehicles, for example, could reduce developed country emissions to 1990 levels. Implementing the same technology in the developing countries would reduce their emissions by 8 billion tons per year by 2030. “Still,” says the report, “that represents less than 20 percent of the worldwide total for the year.”

“Sheer growth in developing countries simply overwhelms the emissions reductions that countries can achieve with advanced technology,” said Michael Ramage, chief technology officer at Mobil. “And by the end of the 21st century, developing countries are projected to contribute up to 80 percent of the worlds CO2 emissions,” he said (Octane Week, August 30, 1999).

Mounting Evidence Points to Sun

The sun continues to get increasing attention and study as scientists struggle to determine the causes behind climate change. One of the top scientists studying the suns influence on the climate is Dr. Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist with the George C. Marshall Institute and deputy director of Mount Wilson Observatory. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (August 5, 1999), Dr. Baliunas discusses the suns role in global warming.

Baliunas points out that computer models show that the climate should have risen by about 1 degree C over the last 100 years, but that the actual temperature rise has been only half that amount. Most of the rise occurred prior to 1940, but 80 percent of the manmade carbon dioxide was emitted into the air after 1940, making the carbon dioxide-global warming link tenuous at best.

A better explanation for the observed warming is changes in the suns brightness. The sun experiences magnetic cycles that last 22 years, during which the sun reaches peak brightness and then swings back to a dimmer state. Baliunas also points out that, “The length of the magnetic cycle is closely related to its amplitude; thus the sun should be brightest when the sunspot cycle is short.”

According to Baliunas, “Changes in the length of the magnetic cycle and in Northern Hemisphere land temperatures are closely correlated over three centuries.” She also argues that if the data are correct, “Changes in the sunspot cycle would explain average temperature change of about 0.5 degrees C in the past 100 years.”

Finally, Baliunas explains that the highly accurate satellite temperature data fail to show any warming over the last 20 years. Some scientists claim that the global warming that should have occurred, according to climate model forecasts, is being offset by industrial emissions of aerosols which cool the climate. But, says Baliunas, nearly all aerosols are emitted in the Northern Hemisphere, “leaving the Southern Hemispheres air free to rise with increasing carbon dioxide.” But so far there has been no temperature increase in the Southern Hemisphere.

Baliunas concludes that, “Introducing the suns impact in the models has shown that the human effects on temperature are much smaller than first projected, and perhaps insignificant compared with natural temperature changes.” A transcript of Dr. Baliunass Cooler Heads science briefing can be found at

Chaotic Weather Sans Global Warming

Much has been made of severe weather phenomena of late. Anything that falls outside the realm of pleasant, benign weather is blamed on global warming. A recent news story on NBC News at Sunrise (August 12, 1999) even raised the possibility that the tornado that hit Salt Lake City was linked to climate change.

“With each of the freak and often deadly weather events this year the question keeps coming up, is our climate changing permanently in frightening ways?” asked reporter Robert Bazell. “Almost every weather scientist will say that no single event can be tied to overall climate change,” said Bazell. “But the earth is getting warmer, about one degree warmer since the beginning of the century.”

And what does this prove? Absolutely nothing! First, U.S. temperatures have remained flat over the last 80 years. Blaming weather events in the U.S. on warming on a global scale is just plain silly. Second, even if the “freak” weather events in the U.S. could be linked to higher global temperatures, that wouldnt explain this summers weather events. Summer global temperatures this year have been below normal, according to satellite temperature measurements.

Third, highlighting record-breaking weather events exhibits a profound ignorance of statistics. Extreme weather is a statistical certainty. As pointed out on a global warming website at, “The probability of breaking a weather record is equal to 1/n where n is the number of years for which measurements exist.” This simple equation means that on an average day 2 million square miles of the earths surface will experience weather that breaks a 100-year-old record.

Finally, at a convention of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Birmingham, England, climate modelers Barrie Hunt and Anthony Hirst with the Mebourne-based Division of Atmospheric Research of Australias national research organization, revealed the results of a new climate model.

What they found was that even with stable CO2 levels the climate system is very chaotic. “Fifty percent of the globe seems to have a 10-year drying or wetting sequence within a 1000-year period,” said Hunt. As reported in the New Scientist (August 7, 1999), the model shows that “Some regions could suddenly be seared by intense heat and drought, or inundated by rain, for the best part of 30 years.”

So Whats Causing this Summers High Temperatures and Drought?

This years summer weather has been a major topic of discussion in the national press. Heat waves and drought conditions have certainly been unpleasant this year, but they are hardly the stuff of apocalyptic dimensions, and it certainly isnt because of global warming. According to U.S. News & World Report (August 9, 1999), “Those who deal with the global climate seem more certain that the summer heat and even the years drought, are not evidence of a profound change” in the climate system.

“This summer, weve had more than our fair share of heat waves,” says Ed OLenic, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Other than “a persistent pattern of high pressure stuck over the middle part of the country,” scientists arent sure of the cause. “The fact that its hot for a week has nothing at all to do with global warming, which would be measured over decades, not days,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Tinker.

The article states, “The total U.S. land area currently under drought is not in itself unusual; every year, about 10 to 15 percent of the country faces extremely dry conditions.” Its the pattern of drought that is unusual. The Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states almost never experiences severe drought conditions. Its shaping up to be the driest year in 100 years for those states.

La Nia is believed to be at least partially responsible. Even though La Nia usually causes drought in the Southeast rather than the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, this year could be an exception. “We dont have enough long-term data on either El Nio or La Nia,” says OLenic. “Whats happening this summer may simply be a natural variation weve never seen before.”

Another article from the Environmental News Network (August 11, 1999) quotes Charles H.V. Ebert a professor at the State University at Buffalo, as saying that, “No, its (the drought) not global warming That could be occurring as well, of course, but based on 100,000 years of geological evidence, we just seem to be going through a warm phase of our climatology. He also argued that “Media attention combined with our poor memories of past weather, tend to generate unjustified alarm for our climatic future (

Economic Growth and Energy Use De-linked?

The Worldwatch Institute recently put out a press release (widely reported as a study by the press) claiming that a recent decline in worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, amidst economic growth, shows that economic growth is no longer dependent on increasing energy use. Worldwatch Institutes numbers, based on figures from BP Amoco, show that worldwide carbon emissions fell by 0.5 percent. U.S. emissions rose only 0.4 percent even though the nations economy grew by 4 percent.

This, according to Worldwatch, proves that complying with the Kyoto Protocol will be much easier than claimed by treaty opponents. Of course if their claims are true it could also suggest that the Kyoto Protocol is unnecessary. A closer look shows a story quite different from the one given by Worldwatch. As pointed out in the World Climate Report, “Worldwatch/BP found dramatically reduced emissions in China, Japan, and Russia, with a smaller reduction in the European Union. What did these nations have in common in 1998? How about lowered growth, recession, depression, and stagnation, respectively?”

WCR also points out that due to the El Nio induced mild winter there was a 15 percent decrease “in the use of heating energy, which normally eats up $50 billion in fossil fuel” (

Aggressive Global Warming Policy Would Create Jobs

A new study commissioned by the World Wildlife Foundation claims that aggressive policies to cut energy emissions “would spur substantial job and economic growth throughout the United States.” Cutting energy use would save the nation $43 billion per year and create more than 870,000 new jobs by 2010, according to the report.

“The results,” says the report, “come from a mix of policies designed to drive innovation in energy resources and technology, including: incentives for efficient vehicles and equipment; elimination of regulatory impediments; new efficiency standards for buildings, cars and other gear; enhanced R&D; and improvements in land-use and infrastructure. The measures also entail tax reform and reductions in subsidies to polluters.”

The benefits stem from massive reductions in energy use, which WWF terms as savings, and “sharp increases in renewable energy including wind, solar and biofuels made from plants, as well as a carbon cap that would yield a significant reduction in the use of highly polluting coal.”

The Global Climate Coalitions executive director Glenn Kelly responded, “They have one-upped the Administration study that economists called wildly optimistic.” Green activists like the WWF are “producing some very amusing economic analyses these days,” said Kelly. “No where on Earth can you find the kind of magic dust that produces estimates like these.”

There is a glaring error in WWFs claims that these types of policies can lead to increased efficiency and economic savings. Job loss in an industry is often a sign of increased efficiency. Two hundred years ago nearly the entire U.S. population was employed in agriculture. Now the percentage is between 2 and 3 percent. That is due to a massive increase in productive efficiency.

WWFs style of job creation would most likely occur as a result of moving from the use of efficient fossil fuels to inefficient renewables. While jobs would be created the cost would be tremendous. The study can be obtained at

Clintons Biomass Program

In an obvious attempt to buy support from farmers for its global warming policies, the Clinton Administration has unveiled its latest scheme to reduce energy emissions. On August 12 President Clinton issued an executive order calling for an increase in the use of biomass to produce energy. The executive order sets a goal of tripling the use of biomass for energy generation in various industries by 2010.

The administration is claiming that the new executive order will result in $15 to $20 billion in new farm income by 2010 as a result of increasing the use of farm products as a fuel source. In a speech announcing the new plan President Clinton said, “One hundred years from now, people will look back on this time and compare it to the time when Mr. Burton (a chemist who launched the modern petrochemical industry) figured out how to get more out of every petroleum molecule if we do our jobs.” Its far more likely that this will be remembered like all other government energy projects: a massive boondoggle wasting billions of hard-earned tax dollars (New York Times, August 12, 1999).

Airline Industry: Rushing to Appease

The British aviation industry is running scared due to the possibility of being taxed for using energy. According to Charles Miller, policy director of the British Air Transport Association, “A tax is not staring us in the face. But it is the option we are most concerned about. It is the solution that has been mooted more than others.” In an attempt to head off a carbon tax the industry is putting forth a proposal in which the airline industry would voluntarily agree to increase fuel efficiency by 23 percent by 2010 (Financial Times (London), August 14, 1999).

Knollenberg Language Strengthened

Congressional attempts to limit federal agencies efforts to implement or promote the Kyoto Protocol have intensified during the current appropriations cycle. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and his allies on the House Appropriations Committee have succeeded in attaching the “Knollenberg provision” to six major spending bills.

The original Knollenberg provision was included last October in legislation making fiscal year 1999 appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency. It prohibits EPA from taking actions that have no other purpose than to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to its ratification by the Senate or from advocating ratification.

The Clinton-Gore Administration has largely ignored the provision on the grounds that EPA actions are taken for all sorts of reasons. Thus a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be proposed because it would help to meet Kyoto targets but also because Administrator Carol Browner thinks its a fun thing to do to make energy less affordable for the poor and needy. EPA has also continued to hold “educational” conferences that are really advocacy events.

In response to these blatant attempts to evade the clear intent of Congress, the Appropriations Committee included report language that spells out what the Congress intends. “Although the agency may under the current prohibition continue to conduct educational seminars and activities, it should ensure balance in those programs. Balance does not mean merely that there is an acknowledgement of viewpoints different from those of the Administration, but that qualified representatives of those viewpoints are included in the programs and in numbers roughly equal to the participants representing the Administrations positions. One dissenting voice in what is otherwise an obviously stacked or biased program does not constitute balance.”

The Committees report continues: “The bill language is intended to prohibit funds provided in this bill from being used to implement actions called for under the Kyoto Protocol, prior to its ratification.” Last years report language barred funds to be used for actions designed solely to implement Kyoto.

Greens Attack Fossil Fuel Industry

Its really not news when Green activists attack the fossil fuel industry. In this case however, a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists, explains too much. The report is an “expos” of the worlds largest carbon producers. The report, according to the contributors, is the “first-ever company-by-company tabulation of carbon pollution based on fuel production,” and includes emissions from the activities of 122 companies.

The intent of the report is to indict the fossil fuel industry. It even goes so far as to liken energy producers to drug pushers and by implication energy users to drug addicts. The clear intent is to paint energy use as something immoral. Glenn Kelly of the Global Climate Coalition responded by asking, “Does the NRDC really intend to compare workers and families who drive to work or cool their homes with drug addicts?”

Kelly also pointed out that “NRDCs top kingpins are the biggest state-run companies in China, India, Mexico, Indonesia, the Middle East and Russia.” These companies are far more inefficient and wasteful than their private sector counterparts. If the Greens are interested in energy efficiency, they should begin a campaign to privatize and deregulate the energy industry, not try to restrict energy use as some sort of social dysfunction. The report can be found at

Administration Seeks Latin American Participation

The Clinton-Gore Administration continues to prod the developing countries to take on commitments to reduce energy emissions. At a meeting of energy ministers from Western Hemisphere nations, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson hopes to reach an agreement with Latin American countries on Kyoto participation.

“What we want to see is stronger commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but on hemispheric terms,” said Richardson. “We want to see if through a commitment to renewable energy, through increased energy cooperation, through reliance on technology to develop ways to address greenhouse gas emissionswe can come forth with a statement that continues the dialogue towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol” (BNA Daily Environment Report, July 26, 1999).

Environmental Regulations as Trade Barriers

The developing countries are becoming wise to the imperialistic tendencies of Green activists both within the governmental and non-governmental (NGO) communities. At a recent meeting of the National Council of Ecologic Industrialists, Pablo Bifani, an environmental adviser to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, told the audience that developing countries see international environmental regulations as trade barriers.

It is no secret that Green NGOs are pushing to implement environmental standards within the framework of the World Trade Organization. These attempts “are increasingly perceived as a mere disguise for trade barriers imposed by developed countries to overcome the inconveniences” of competition. They are also skeptical as to whether these standards have any significant environmental benefits (BNA Daily Environment Report, August 3, 1999). The push by U.S. industries and Congress to require the developing countries to take on commitments to reduce energy emissions also adds to that perception. Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will be difficult and expensive for the rich developed countries, but it will be devastating for developing countries.

Abrupt Climate Change

Several studies have established that the Earths climatic history is peppered with sudden, rapid, and natural climate changes. A new study in Nature (July 29,1999) again shows that there were two such episodes close together between 8 and 10 thousand years ago.

The researchers analyzed sediment cores from the bottom of Deep Lake in Minnesota and found further confirmation of a rapid worldwide cooling that occurred 8,200 years ago. Evidence of this cooling period has also been found in Greenland ice core samples and other places throughout the world. Most scientists believe that this cooling event was caused by the collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that drained large glacial lakes into the North Atlantic Ocean, altering the thermohaline circulation.

Some news reports have claimed that this study warns of a coming ice age as a result of global warming. A letter to the editor by Konrad Gajewski, a geography professor at the University of Ottawa, states that such a conclusion is unwarranted. Dr. Gajewski pointed out that the Laurentide Ice Sheet disappeared 6,000 years ago. “There is currently no comparable ice sheet in the Arctic, so a similar cooling cannot occur in the near or distant future,” said Gajewski. “Although the event of 8,200 years ago is interesting for historians of climate, it has little relevance to our understanding of future climate conditions” (Ottawa Citizen, July 29, 1999).

North American Carbon Sink: Is it there?

Last year a study published by Science (October 18, 1998) found that North America absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits. A new study in Science (July 23, 1999) argues that this is not the case. The researchers from Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts developed a model of carbon emissions and sequestration from the year 1700 in which they calculated the land use changes from agriculture, forestry and other factors.

Their model showed that from 1700 to 1945 North America was a net carbon emitter due to land use practices. After 1945, due to fire suppression and other changes in land use management, there has been an absorption of about 2.2 petagrams of carbon. The rate of sequestration peeked from 1960 to 1980 and is now in decline, according to the study. This finding differs greatly with the previous finding that North America is absorbing carbon dioxide to the tune of 1.7 petagrams per year.

Dr. Fan, the lead author of last years study, defends his groups study, however. He has argued that his findings are based in part on atmospheric samples and not just on models (Electricity Daily, August 3, 1999). Fans group used carbon dioxide levels from 63 ocean-sampling stations. They took into account ocean uptake and wind currents and found that as air currents move from west to east across North America, there is a slight decrease in carbon dioxide concentrations. The Woods Hole researchers admit that their model does not take into account soil sequestration.

Temperature Update

According to the satellite temperature data, this summers global temperature is 1.6 degrees F cooler than last year. The month of June in the Southern Hemisphere is the third coolest month since the satellite record began in 1979. The two cooler months were March 1993 in the aftermath of the Mount Pinatubo eruption and September 1984. See


  • The flow of doomsday articles and op-eds about global warming continues unabated, despite the growing evidence that global warming will be benign and maybe even beneficial. Time magazine (August 9, 1999) laments that even though “a great many scientists believe that by continuing to pump greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere, humans are forcing drastic climate changeCongress seems determinedly indifferent.”

An article in The Guardian (London, July 29, 1999), however, wins the prize for overblown anguish. The author, George Monbiot, wails that “the global meltdown has begun. Long predicted and long denied, the effects of climate change are arriving faster than even the gloomiest prophets expected.” He goes on to say, “climate change is perhaps the gravest calamity our species has ever encountered. Its impact dwarfs that of any war, any plague, any famine we have confronted so far. It makes genocide and ethnic cleansing look like side shows at the circus of human suffering. A car is now more dangerous than a gun; flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable, in terms of its impact on human well-being, as child abuse. The rich are at play in the worlds killing fields.”

Crisp as french fries? Worse than genocide or ethnic cleansing? Come on! Were talking about a 3.5 degrees warming at most. If global warming does occur it will take place almost entirely in the cold regions of the earth. The warm regions of the world will experience almost no change.

Global Warming Will Be Good

The conventional wisdom about global warming has been that it will be universally devastating for the worlds peoples. This belief is based on an assessment conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. The EPA concluded that a 3 to 6 degree C warming would lead to a reduction in global GDP of 1 to 2 percent. Some of the consequences that were imagined included ecosystem collapse, reductions in agriculture yield of between 30 and 40 percent, the spread of vector-borne disease increased water pollution, soaring heat-related deaths, and so on. This bleak outlook has been very influential in the policy debate.

Over subsequent years, however, there has been a sea change in the way experts view the consequences of global warming. Recently, a major study published by Cambridge University Press titled The Impact of Climate Change on the United States Economy concluded that on net global warming will be beneficial. Now one of the authors of that study, Robert Mendelsohn of Yale Universitys School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has written a monograph for the American Enterprise Institute that summarizes the current state of opinion regarding the impacts of global warming.

One of the biggest changes is that scientists have revised downward the expected warming from 3 to 6 degrees C to 1 to 3.5 degrees C. They have also lengthened the time frame from 50 years to 100 years, giving us much more time to adapt. Previous studies failed to recognize that people adapt to changes in the climate, biasing the results to greater harm than warranted. Heat related deaths, for example, were estimated to rise by between 6,000 and 9,800 deaths per years. But people are not going to sit around and do nothing while the deaths mount. This is borne out by the fact that heat-stress deaths “are higher in cold parts of the United States with high seasonal temperature variability not in stable warm climates.” Moreover, people live longer in warmer climates.

The EPAs assessment claimed that agriculture would suffer large damages from global warming. But new studies that allow for adaptation and carbon fertilization find that agriculture yields will increase. The same can be said for forestry production. Overall, global warming will lead to a slight net benefit for the global economy.

In the policy discussion Mendelsohn concludes, “more expensive abatement programs do not guarantee benefits, and spending trillions of dollars on abatement over the next few decades is simply wasting resources, given what we now understand about climate change.”