September 1999

Global Warming Will Not Raise Sea Level

On September 24, Dr. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, discussed the likelihood that sea level would rise due to global warming at a Cooler Heads Coalition science briefing for congressional staff and media.

Dr. Singer does not doubt that sea level has risen by about 18 cm over the last century. The most recent IPCC report finds that a little less than half of that rise can be accounted for by thermal expansion of the ocean and glacial melting. Moreover, an increase of ice accumulation over the Antarctic, as expected from warmer temperatures, reduces the rate of sea level rise. This leads Dr. Singer to conclude that most if not the entire sea level rise experienced over the last century is due to factors other than climate variations. Singer concludes that the rise is due to the long-term warming that began at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum.

Dr. Singer has also found that over shorter time scales there is an inverse relationship between global temperature and sea level rise. That is, as temperature increases sea levels fall. This is due to sea surface evaporation that transports moisture to the polar ice caps, expanding the amount of water locked up in ice at the poles. According to Dr. Singer, any warming that may occur due to human influences will slow down rather than speed up sea level rise over decades.

Over thousands of years, sea level will continue to rise at a rate of approximately 18 cm per year until the next ice age begins. The paper upon which Dr. Singers lecture was based can be found at

IPCC: Hedging Its Bets

Citing the futures unpredictability, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will not forecast a “best guess” scenario for greenhouse gas emissions for the next century. “There can be no best guess,” according to the draft special report released by the IPCC. “The future is inherently unpredictable and views will differ on which of the scenarios could be more likely.”

The report gives a range of possible CO2 emission scenarios from five times todays levels or 36.7 billion tons by 2100 to 4.3 billion tons, slightly lower than todays levels. There are 40 scenarios in all, based on four different sets of assumptions about population, economic growth and technological advances. The main forecasts, for each set of assumptions, range from 6 billion tons to 29 billion tons. The report “extends the range significantly towards higher emissions,” more so than the previous IPCC report (New Scientist, September 18, 1999).

Hurricane Floyd in the Press

Although Hurricane Floyd spawned its share of over-hyped press, the aftermath has been fairly balanced. The September 27, 1999 issues of three major newsmagazines, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report all carried stories about Hurricane Floyd. Although each story raised the issue of global warming, they also discussed at length the fact that the current upswing in hurricane activity is due to natural, rather than manmade conditions.

The Time article claimed that global warming could increase ocean temperatures, leading to more intense hurricanes. Each one degree Fahrenheit rise in ocean temperature will increase hurricane wind speeds by 5 mph. This means that with global warming wind speeds could reach 200 mph. The North Atlantic is unusually warm this fall, and accounts for the peak size and strength reached by Floyd.

According to David Enfield, a researcher at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, there appears to be an upward trend in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures. “Like other oceanographers, Enfield believes this is the result of a natural climate shift, as opposed to human-induced global warming,” said Time.

According to Time, Roger Pielke, Jr., with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says “its really not necessary to concoct ways to make hurricanes any more threatening than they already are. With or without global warming, there are going to be some whoppers in our future, and unlike Floyd, many of these will prove to be megadisasters. For the days when a big hurricane could make landfall in sparsely populated places are fast disappearingand that alone is cause enough for worry.”

All three magazines agree that global warming has little to do with current hurricane conditions. According to U.S. News & World Report, “Researchers do not yet know what might cause these long-term fluctuations, but they dont believe global warming is the culprit.” The Newsweek story discusses conditions under which hurricane activity could both increase or decrease in the event of global warming.

Perhaps most disappointing is a story that appeared in Time for Kids (September 24, 1999). The story treats Floyd as if it were as big as its pre-landfalling hype, referring to it as “Monstrous Hurricane Floyd, a 600-mile-wide superstorm.” The story noted that, “Many meterologists saw its incredible size and stength as proof that we are in an era of stronger and more frequent hurricane.” The article gives considerable more weight to theories that global warming is to blame than did its counterpart in Time for adults.

Pressure seems to be building for developed countries to forgive developing countries debt. The latest ploy has been the claim that pollution emitted by rich countries causes environmental damage to poor countries, constituting an obligation towards the poor countries. A new report by Christian Aid claims that the “carbon debt” by developed countries that is leading to global warming exceeds the financial debts of less developed countries. In fact, says the report, “heavily indebted poor countries” have credit of $612 billion when pollution is taken into account (The Independent, September 20, 1999).

Bush Attacks Kyoto

Those who are concerned about the adverse economic consequences of cutting energy use to prevent the dubious threat of manmade global warming were upset when presidential candidate George W. Bush said, “I believe there is global warming.” But during a September 1 campaign speech in West Des Moines, Iowa, Bush strongly criticized the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that would require the U.S. to drastically cut energy use. “Its going to cost jobs,” Bush said. “I also dont appreciate the fact the United States bears the brunt of the goals of Kyoto while underdeveloped, developing nations are really excluded from cleaning up the environment.”

A Gore spokesman, Chris Lehane responded that “Its no surprise that the governor is parroting the right wings line on Kyoto. After all, hes carried the dirty water for some of Texass worst polluters for years.” He also claimed that “the last seven years have shown that choosing between the environment and jobs is false you can do both, as 19 million new jobs and the cleanest environment in a generation can attest” (Houston Chronicle, September 2, 1999).

In other election news, the Friends of the Earth political action committee announced its endorsement of former Senator Bill Bradley over Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination. FOE stated “both disillusionment with Gores environmental performance over the past seven years and recognition of Bradleys superior environmental credentials,” as justification for the endorsement. It also pointed out that Bradley had a higher environmental rating while in the Senate, as judged by the League of Conservation Voters, than did Gore, 85 to 66 percent (Washington Post, September 14, 1999).

Big Business Tries to Force the “Credit For Early Action” Issue

Credit for early action legislation that would give companies emission credits for voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions have not made the splash that its sponsors and supporters had hoped for. Opposition from across the political spectrum has thwarted progress on this front. Now, those who would benefit most from such laws, namely big businesses, are seeking to force the issue.

At a September 13-14 conference on credits for early action sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, DuPont announced a plan to reduce voluntarily its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent below their 1990 levels by 2010. It will also use renewable energy to provide 10 percent of the energy it uses by 2010.

DuPonts vice president and chief operating officer Dennis Reilley, said, “Our bias should be for prompt and meaningful action where there is reasonable cause for concern. And there is no question in our minds about whether there is reasonable cause for concern” (BNA Daily Environment Report, September 14, 1999).

Businesses like DuPont are gaming the political process for economic gain, however. Its not surprising that supporters of credit for early action are big businesses that have the financial wherewithal and legal expertise to engage in early emission reductions and verification. By acquiring early credits, these companies can corner the market on emissions credits.

Companies who are unable to play the early action game will find themselves shouldering the burden of future Kyoto-style regulations. Those that do participate in early action will gain a huge competitive advantage over their smaller rivals (see CEIs On Point Policy Brief, “Early Action Crediting: Growing the Kyoto Lobby at Small Businesss Expense” at

By taking such a step, DuPont will, in the event that Congress imposes Kyoto-style emissions limits, be able to claim that it deserves credit for what it has already done, thereby transferring the burden onto other businesses.

Condors Clash with Global Warming

For years we have been hearing the global warming will be the doom of endangered species. It now appears that global warming policy may be far more menacing. The National Audubon Society has launched a campaign to prevent construction of a wind energy project in northern Los Angeles County, historic habitat for the endangered California condor.

The wind farm project is part of an aggressive effort by the California state government to promote renewable energy. It awarded $7 million to the Houston-based Enron Wind Corp. for two wind farms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded that the project would endanger the condor that has been reintroduced to the area at enormous cost to taxpayers. “It is hard to imagine a worse idea than putting a condor Cuisinart next door to critical condor habitat,” said Daniel P. Beard, the Audubon Societys senior vice president. The Audubon Society wants Congress to make wind farms within 10 miles of habitat of endangered birds ineligible for tax credits (Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1999).

El Nios Benefits Greater Than Its Costs

A lot of attention was devoted to the El Nio event of 1997-98. Most of the attention was focused on the negative impacts of El Nio. Droughts, floods, tornadoes and other severe weather events were attributed to the much maligned weather phenomenon. A new study appearing in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (September 1999) by climatologist Stanley Changnon, finds that El Nio was a net economic benefit to the U.S.

According to the report, the losses included 189 lives due to tornadoes, property and crop damages from storms, and losses to the winter recreation industry and snow removal industry due to the mild winter, as well as government relief costs. The benefits included 850 lives saved because of the mild winter, major savings in the use of natural gas and heating oil, record retail and real estate sales, fewer spring floods, record construction levels and savings in airline and highway transportation. El Nio also served to greatly suppress the number of Atlantic hurricanes, leading to zero losses as a result.

The estimated losses from El Nio for the U.S. amounted to about $4 billion while the benefits were about $19 billion, a net benefit of $15 billion. The accurate prediction of the 1997 El Nio by the Climate Prediction Center allowed for mitigation efforts, which also led to a decrease in potential losses.

“The Lost Squadron” Buried Deep in the Ice

Melting glaciers have been a major concern in the global warming debate, especially the major ice sheets, due to the potential devastating consequences of rising sea levels. The evidence about whether the ice sheets are growing or shrinking has been mixed, however. Scientists are still not sure how glaciers will respond to changes in temperature.

An interesting bit of evidence has come to light with the discovery of “The Lost Squadron,” as shown in a study by climatologist Robert Balling for the Greening Earth Society. In 1942, a squadron of eight airplanes was forced to land on Greenlands icecap due to bad weather. The planes were recently discovered buried under 268 feet of snow and ice.

The dynamics of Greenlands icecap are very complex. One study posited that 1 degree C of warming would increase the amount of ice on Greenland due to increased snowfall. Other studies have found, however, that Greenland has cooled. Temperature data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that the area where the planes were landed has cooled 2.25 degrees F since 1942. One study found that the seven glaciers in the southern part of Greenland responded very differently to a fall in temperature. Yet another study showed that Greenlands mass ice balance increased between 1950 and 1991.

According to Balling, the discovery of “The Lost Squadron” tells us that “linking temperature trends to changes in ice packs involves a complicated set of processes that defy the simplistic notion that warming automatically yields a loss of mass over major ice sheets. Once again we learn that things in the real world are never so simple as they might seem. We should be skeptical of bold pronouncements permeating conventional wisdom about global warming” (

Britains Birds Like Warming

Contrary to speculation by Green activists that global warming will be devastating to earths biodiversity, scientific studies have confirmed that in the past greater levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures were beneficial to earths biosphere. Further evidence to suggest that a warmer climate would help wildlife comes from the largest survey ever made of Britains common birds, conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The survey found Britains “best-loved birds” are being helped by warmer weather. In Scotland, for example, species “which are experiencing a population boom outnumber those in decline by almost three to one,” reports The Scotsman (September 13, 1999). Fourteen of Scotlands species are experiencing population growth while just five are in decline. For the UK as a whole, thirty-three species are increasing their numbers while 20 are in decline.

Species that are in decline in England include mostly farmland birds, which are being hurt by the intensification of agriculture. In Scotland, however, farmland species are also doing well. According to David Noble of the British Trust for Ornithology, “It is obvious that some birds are doing better in Scotland, and that may be due to different farming practices there.”

“It is also possible climate change has allowed a northern expansion in the range of some birds, but that is only a theory,” said Noble. “More work is need on the causes of these trends.”


  • Twelve confirmed cases of encephalitis, a form of yellow fever, and three deaths in New York have already sparked rampant speculation about a connection to global warming. An editorial by Mark L. Winston, a professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, claims that global warming caused the outbreak. Hes just getting warmed up, however. According to Winston, global warming is bringing killer bees to the American Southwest; Fire ants from Argentina are now spread from California to Florida; and olive fruit flies from the Mediterranean were discovered in California last year (New York Times, September 11, 1999).

Winston mentions that man imported these pests to the American continent. How he implicates global warming is a mystery. Killer bees were imported to Brazil from Africa in the 1950s, for example. They “have been terrorizing South and Central America and are now spreading throughout the American Southwest,” says Winston. Its should be obvious that a newly introduced insect species could gradually and naturally expand its population and territory quite a bit over a 50-year time period. But Winston will have none of that, even though he doesnt present any evidence that the territorial expansion of these pests are temperature related in any way. He just asserts that its global warming related. The last time we checked, bees and ants and flies were surviving just fine in the cooler northern latitudes.

Energy Tax to Hurt Farmers

Britains proposed energy tax has come under fire from various sectors of the economy. Many industries have claimed that the levy would do serious harm, and have sought exemption from the tax. The latest economic sector to oppose the tax is agriculture.

According to the Country Landowners Association, the industry is in the midst of its worst recession in 60 years. An energy tax would threaten jobs and incomes and may well spell the end for many farm businesses. The association argues that the tax should not be imposed unless it is part of a European-wide global warming program. The association argues that this would protect British agriculture from unfair competition. “If a levy is required, it must be introduced on an EU-wide basis to safeguard UK economic interests by ensuring that all our major trading partners are subject to the same cost,” said Geoffrey Hopton, a regional director for the association.

Hopton also said that if introduced any surplus from the tax should be put towards a national insurance rebate to offset losses in farm income and other primary production income, and for the development of renewable energy sources (Birmingham Post, September 9, 1999).

Nuclear Power Needed Says IEA

If there is one thing that the Greens consider to be on par with global warming in terms of its danger to the environment it is nuclear power. Now the International Energy Agency, in a move sure to send the Greens into spasms, has told Switzerland, Finland and Poland that commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would prevent them from phasing out their nuclear power sectors.

In Switzerland, for example, nuclear power provides 40 percent of electricity. The Swiss government had decided to limit the operational lifetime of its nuclear plants in an attempt to move away from nuclear power. Both Finland and Poland seem to be moving to a greater commitment to nuclear power (Greenwire, September 9, 1999).