February 2001

IPCC, the Mythmaker

In its latest headline grabbing move, the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released yet another Summary for Policymakers of an unfinished report. This summary claims to reflect the Working Group II report, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Like the summary released earlier of Working Group Is report, it distorts the true state of climate science.

The move to release summaries that are written and approved by government bureaucrats, not scientists, before the reports themselves, guarantees that the reports will be largely ignored when they are finally released in the fall. And it ensures that the conventional wisdom about global warming will be shaped by the outlandish claims of the summaries and not the more-reasoned scientific reports.

That is the idea of course. The goal of the IPCC is not to produce a true picture of climate science, but to influence the political process. “Scientists and environmentalists hope [the report] will prod political leaders to action,” according to the New York Times (February 19, 2001). Moreover, “Mondays report warned that the United States where skepticism about warming is strong in the new administration would not escape a rise in flooding and storms that have caused billions of dollars in damage in recent years.”

Several ludicrous claims are made in the Summary, which purports to show the impacts of global warming. It argues, based on extreme warming scenarios, that every major variable affecting human well-being will worsen, and it ignores any ecological or economic benefits from a warmer climate. It claims, for instance, that there will be “increased energy demand for space cooling due to higher summer temperatures.” This statement ignores the credit side of the equation.

Global climate models predict, for example, that most warming will occur in the winter and at night and that there will be very little warming in the summer. This is what has been observed so far. This would lead to lower heating bills and only slight increases in cooling bills a net benefit that the IPCC ignores.

Indeed, the El Nio of 1997-98, which led to milder winters and hotter summers, bears this out. A study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (September 1999) showed that there was a net benefit of $15 billion dollars, due in large part to the savings from lower heating bills.

The Summary also claims that global warming will increase exposure to vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever. Again, there is no evidence of a linkage between these diseases and global warming. These diseases are endemic to the northern latitudes and were wiped out by public health programs. As Dr. Paul Reiter of the Center for Disease Control has pointed out many times, these diseases flourish where there is poverty and have nothing to do with global warming.

The claims regarding flooding, droughts, heat waves, and so on are equally erroneous. The government functionaries who wrote the Summary ignore all mitigating factors and more importantly the empirical evidence. They rely almost entirely on computer model projections, which have been shown to be significantly at odds with the evidence.

US Rep. Calls for Kyoto Vote

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Commerce Committees Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, recently called on President George W. Bush to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for a ratification vote. He believes that the treaty would be rejected, thereby clearing the way for the Bush Administration to propose alternatives, such as regional and bilateral agreements with other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CBS News, February 8, 2001).

EU to Blame for Hague Failure

According to press accounts immediately following climate negotiations last November at the Hague, Netherlands, the US was the skunk at the party. Its refusal to compromise, said the reports, led to the talks collapsing. European Union negotiators berated the US for its failure to cooperate.

As Cooler Heads (November 29, 2000) has already noted, the reality was quite different. A major player in the Hague negotiations has now confirmed our view. According to Canadas Environment Minister, David Anderson, the EU refused to compromise. According to BBC News Online (February 13, 2001), Anderson claims that, “the European Union had stalemated the talks, and was holding the world to ransom.”

The talks failed because the EU would not budge on the use of sinks and the Clean Development Mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU wants to force countries to make most of their reductions domestically. But as Anderson points out, “Theres absolutely no difference whether you pull a ton of carbon out of the atmosphere in Kenya, or in Canada. And it doesnt make the slightest bit of intellectual sense for Europeans to pretend otherwise.”

Ford Makes Nice with Greens

Ian McAllister, chairman and managing director of Ford Motor Company UK, has agreed to become the first Chairman of the Carbon Trust, a government-created body intended to promote reductions of carbon emissions. The Carbon Trusts work, according to Environment News Service (February 13, 2001), “is aimed at promoting low carbon research and development, and helping business invest in energy efficient, low carbon technologies and practices.”

In other news from Ford, the automaker announced on February 16 that it will donate $5 million to the National Audubon Society. The corporate grant, the largest ever received by Audubon, “will support citizen science, education and conservation programs that protect wildlife and engage children and adults in developing an understanding and appreciation of nature that lasts throughout their lifetimes.”

This grant was not announced soon enough to help Ford escape being listed by Mother Jones magazine as one of the worlds worst corporations in its January 3, 2001 MoJo Wire (It should be noted that green-leaning BP also made the list of the worlds worst corporations.)

Christy Scoffs at IPCCs Doomsday Scenario

Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and a lead author of the IPCCs Third Assessment Report, has publicly criticized the IPCCs media campaign to generate public alarm about global warming. “The world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints,” he told the London Times (February 20, 2001). “There are 245 different results in that report, and this was the worst-case scenario. Its the one thats not going to happen. It was the extreme case of all the different things that can make the world warm.”

On the computer models that form the foundation of the IPCC report, Christy said, “You should approach climate models with a degree of awe and a sense of humor. They are incredible accomplishments of code-writing, but they are not the real world. They have many shortcomings the sort of tiny shortcomings that can make long-term predictions suspect.” Indeed, said Christy, no model accurately portrays the current climate. How then can we trust future predictions?

Christy also noted that mans impact on the earth is too small to detect. “Hurricanes are not increasing,” he said. “Tornadoes are not increasing. Storms and drought do not show any pattern of increasing or decreasing. The evidence shows we are living in a climate of natural variability. Variations of climate have always occurred, even when humans could not have had any impact!”

The specter of malaria in England from global warming is a red herring, according to Christy. “Malaria is not a warm weather disease and was endemic in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is constrained by simple public health measures. In countries wealthy enough to support a good public health infrastructure, there is little or no malaria, such as Singapore and northern Australia.”

Russias Frigid Winter

Russia is experiencing its coldest winter in 50 years, according to official measurements. The average temperature in Siberia was 40 degrees C and fell as low as 70 degrees C (Arizona Republic, February 18, 2001). This is significant because according to greenhouse theory places such as Siberia should see the largest rise in temperatures from increases in atmospheric concentrations in greenhouse gases.

Because the coldest air masses on earth are also the driest, greenhouse gases exert a relatively larger influence on temperatures than in more humid regions, such as the tropics. Indeed, tropical temperatures should remain nearly steady.

UK to Fall Short of Pledge

by William Yeatman on February 7, 2001

in Blog

To meet the European Unions overall Kyoto target of 8 percent below 1990 levels, Great Britain committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. It was thought that this level would be easy to reach because of the large-scale conversion of electricity production from coal to natural gas. So in a fit of enthusiasm, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Britain would do even better and voluntarily reduce its emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Now, both are beginning to look politically difficult. According to Cambridge Econometrics, a private economic forecasting firm, Britain is on a course that will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by only 6.6 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Decreases in emissions by electricity generators and manufacturers will largely be offset by increases from transportation and household energy use (Financial Times, February 5, 2001).

The British Parliament has passed a climate levy on energy use by businesses that will come into effect in April. The highly controversial tax, which amounts to only 1 billion per year, has come under heavy fire from business interests on the grounds that it would hurt their international competitiveness.

In an attempt to reduce industry opposition, the Labor government will offset the tax by reducing business employers National Insurance contributions by 0.3 percent and cut taxes for energy-saving investment. The whole scheme, however, would fall more heavily on companies with high energy-to-employment ratios. The Conservatives in their party manifesto have promised to abolish the climate change levy if returned to office at the next election. This would be in addition to 8 billion in tax cuts targeted for businesses, savers, and working families (Financial Times, January 5, 2001).

The climate levy is not the only new tax that the British government has in mind to deal with global warming. Jonathan Porritt, chairman of the governments Sustainable Development Commission, said at the launch of the governments first annual report on quality of life that there would have to be a tax on air travel to pay for damage to the environment and human health (Daily Telegraph, January 26, 2001).

Little Ice Age was Worldwide

Much has been made of the “hockey stick”, a graph that shows a relatively stable global temperature from 1000 to 1900 AD and then a sudden acceleration of global temperatures in the 20th century. The temperature records that make up the hockey stick consist of tree ring data taken almost entirely from the northern latitudes used to reconstruct temperature from 1000 to 1900 AD, and thermometer-based temperature records for the 20th century.

One of the puzzling things about the tree ring data, which first appeared in a paper by Michael Mann in Nature, is that it no longer showed the Medieval Warm Period nor the Little Ice Age (LIA), both of which are widely recognized global phenomena. Mann has argued that the Little Ice Age was not a global event, but a localized Northern European event.

This is simply not true according to Diane Douglas Dalziel, with the Office of Climatology at Arizona State University. In a paper written for the Greening Earth Society, Dalziel reviews the paleoclimatic data from 29 different studies that show that the LIA was a global event. Dalziel says that, “In addition to investigating glacial geology, scientists study marine cores, sea-level curves, tree-ring chronologies, peat bogs, salt marshes, stalagmites, historic records, and even human tooth enamel to determine the magnitude, timing, and geographic extent of the LIA” (www.greeningearthsociety.org).

These different types of evidence show that there was a synchronous response to the LIA in Asia, New Zealand, North and South America as well as in Northern Europe. “Although there is some regional variation in the timing of cooling during the LIA, cold periods typically were synchronous over broad regional areas and often synchronous around the world,” Dalziel concludes. “The hockey stick curve used to highlight 20th Century temperature must therefore be considered within the context of the lower global temperatures associated with the LIA phenomenon.”

The Little Ice Age in History

For those who still doubt the calamitous effects that sudden climate change can have on mankind, a new book by archaeologist Brian Fagan should change their minds. “For five centuries, Europe basked in warm, settled weather…. Summer after summer passed with long, dreamy days, golden sunlight, and bountiful harvests. Compared with what was to follow, these centuries were a climatic golden age…. Nothing prepared them for the catastrophe ahead. As they labored through the warm summers of the thirteenth century, temperatures were already cooling rapidly on the outer frontiers of the medieval world” (page 21).

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Changed History, 13001850 (Basic Books, 2000) provides a wealth of well-organized evidence that the sudden global cooling caused crop failure, famine, and much more frequent and severe storms. Interestingly, some countries, such as Holland and England, adapted rather well, while the French didn’t change their farming practices and suffered the consequences. “The Little Ice Age may have imposed more benefits than costs on the Dutch. Extensive land reclamation turned liabilities into assets so powerful that they helped forge the first modern economy in Europe” (page 107).

Fagan, professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, tries to make his story politically correct by packaging it with introductory and concluding warnings that the Little Ice Age is a precautionary tale. Although he makes a good effort to claim that future global warming may result in dislocations similar to the Little Ice Age, all the evidence in the book suggests that, in regard to human flourishing, warmer is better than colder.

Antarctica: To Melt or Not to Melt?

A study in the February 2, 2001 issue of Science reports that a remote glacier in the West Antarctic may slide into the sea in 600 years if the current rate of thinning continues. According to the researchers the area, known as the Pine Island Glacier, is melting too fast to sustain itself. “Over the past eight years the same areas have been thinning at the same rate. The pattern has not spread anywhere else,” said Physicist Andrew Shepherd, part of the team from University College London and the British Antarctic Survey. This would raise sea levels by 6 mm in 600 years.

Shepherd also pointed out, however, that they dont know the cause of the thinning. “We dont have any evidence to suggest change of climate,” said Shepherd. MSNBC (www.msnbc.com, February 1, 2001), noted that, “The West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been steadily melting since the end of the last ice age.”

Although some may attribute melting glaciers in the Antarctic to global warming, other studies cast doubt on this conclusion. A study in the Journal of Climate (13, 2000), finds that current trends in Antarctic sea ice are running in the opposite direction than predicted by climate models.

Climate models suggest, for instance, that Antarctic sea ice is highly sensitive to manmade global warming. A rise in surface temperature reduces sea ice coverage, thereby reducing albedo (or reflectivity). Lower albedo allows more incoming solar radiation to be absorbed, which leads to further rises in temperature. As a result, “High latitudes would experience [the] greatest change from any enhanced greenhouse warming.” Thus early signs of global warming should be detected in Antarctic sea ice.

What the study finds, however, is that, based on data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Special Sensor Microwave/Imager from December 1987 to December 1996, sea ice area and total sea ice extent has increased. Combined with additional data from the 1978 to 1987 period the researchers concluded that from 1978 to 1996 sea ice has increased rather than decreased. Finally, the sea ice season lengthened throughout the 1990s.

Another study appearing in the Journal of Glaciology (46, 2000) used data from the western Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica to model changes in ice sheet volume under six different temperature forcing scenarios over a period of 20,000 modeling years.

What they found was that it required 20,000 years for the ice sheet to fully respond to the different temperature changes. Scenarios of warming and cooling of 5 degrees C lead to a mere 1 to 1.5 percent change in initial ice sheet volume. This suggests that, “The investigated part of the [East Antarctic Ice Sheet] does not appear to be very sensitive to present or future climate changes.” The authors conclude, the EAIS “may still be adjusting to the climate change that ended the Last Glacial Maximum.” See also, http://www.co2science.org.