September 2004

Climate change and malaria

by William Yeatman on September 30, 2004

in Science

Sir David A. King’s claim that “Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today–more serious even than the threat of terrorism” (“Climate change science: adapt, mitigate, or ignore?”, Policy Forum, 9 Jan., p. 176) is based, in part, on UK government-sponsored impacts analyses (1, 2) that estimate that by the 2080s, because “of continued warming, millions more people around the world may in future be exposed to the risk of hunger, drought, flooding, and debilitating diseases such as malaria. Poor people in developing countries are likely to be most vulnerable” (p. 176). But the very studies underlying the latter quote, and which King cites, show that, for the most part, many more millions would be at risk in the absence of climate change (2). For instance, the population at risk of malaria (PAR-M) in the absence of climate change is projected to double between 1990 and the 2080s, to 8,820 million (2). However, unmitigated climate change would, by the 2080s, further increase PAR-M by another 257 to 323 million (2).

Thus, by the 2080s, halting further climate change would, at best, reduce total PAR-M by 3.5% [=100 x 323/(323 + 8,820)] (3). On the other hand, reducing carbon dioxide emissions with the goal of eventually stabilizing carbon dioxide at 550 ppm would reduce total PAR-M by 2.8% (2) at a cost to developed nations, according to King, of 1% of GDP in 2050 (p. 177), or about $280 billion in today’s terms (4). But malaria’s current annual death toll of about 1 million could be halved at an annual cost of $1.25 billion or less, according to the World Health Organization, through a combination of measures such as residual home spraying with insecticides, insecticide-treated bednets, improved case management, and more comprehensive antenatal care (5). Clearly, implementing such measures now would provide greater malaria benefits over the next few decades than would climate stabilization at any level. It would also reduce vulnerability to malaria from all causes–man-made or natural–now and in the future (3). Similarly, reducing present-day vulnerabilities to the other risk factors mentioned by King (i.e., hunger, water shortage, and flooding) could well provide larger benefits at lower costs over the next few decades than would climate change mitigation efforts that go beyond so-called “no-regret” actions, that is, actions that are worth undertaking on their own merits unrelated to any climate change-related concerns (e.g., elimination of subsidies for fossil fuel usage or land clearance) (3).

The World Bank estimates that with additional annual expenditures of $40 to $60 billion, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals to advance sustainable development could be reached by 2015 (6, 7). Comparing these goals (e.g., at least halving poverty, hunger, illiteracy, child and maternal mortality, and the proportions of populations lacking safe water and sanitation) (6) against what can be expected from halting further climate change (2) indicates that no matter how serious climate change is compared to terrorism, it pales by comparison with the more mundane problems poor people in developing countries face today and over the next few decades. Even advancing halfway toward those goals would provide greater benefits for environmental and human well-being from now through the 2080s, and do so more economically than would heroic mitigation efforts (2, 6). Thus, it would be far more beneficial, and cost-effective, at least for the next several decades, to reduce vulnerabilities to current problems, especially if they might be exacerbated by climate change (e.g., hunger, malaria, drought, and flooding) (3). Even with a lagtime of 50 years to account for the inertia of the climate and energy system, the aforementioned analyses suggest we may have at least a quarter century window (2080s minus 50 years) before deciding on the depth and extent of mitigation. Meanwhile, we should focus on improving mitigation and adaptation technologies and our knowledge of climate change science, economics, and responses. This way we can advance sustainable development and solve the problems of today while furthering our ability to solve the problems of the day after tomorrow.

Indur M. Goklany*
Office of Policy Analysis,
U.S. Department of the Interior,
1849 C Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20240,

*Views expressed here are the author’s and not necessarily those of any unit of the federal government.


  1. M. L. Parry et al., Global Environ. Change 9, S1 (1999).
  2. N. W. Arnell et al., Clim. Change 53, 413 (2002).
  3. I. M. Goklany, Energy Environ. 14, 797 (2003).
  4. World Bank, World Development Indicators (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2004).
  5. World Health Organization, World Health Report 1999 (WHO, Geneva, 1999).
  6. World Bank, “The Costs of Attaining the Millennium Development Goals,” available at (accessed 25 June 2004).
  7. United Nations, “UN Millennium Development Goals,” available at (accessed 8 July 2004).

There is no real choice between action on climate change and action on poverty, disease, hunger, and other millennium development goals. These are part of the same sustainable development agenda. Climate change is already affecting developing countries, and it is the poorest regions of the world–such as Africa and Southeast Asia–that are most at risk. The many people who have died and the millions now homeless through the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh will bear witness to that. This kind of event can be expected to become more frequent and more extreme as global warming accelerates, exacerbated by rising sea levels.

To meet the millennium development goals, serious investment is needed in areas such as public health and infrastructure for water and energy. The British government under Prime Minister Tony Blair’s leadership is strongly committed to that. The total UK official development assistance (ODA) will rise to almost 6.5 billion by 2007/08, which will mean that our ODA will have risen from 0.26% of Gross National Income (GNI) in 1997 to 0.47% in 2007/08.

At the same time, the clock is ticking as concentrations of greenhouse gases mount in the atmosphere. At well over 370 ppm, we are already at 50% above preindustrial levels, unlikely to have been seen on Earth for around 20 million years. Global action is needed now if we are to retain the chance to stabilize emissions at a level to avoid even more dangerous climate change than that to which we are already committed. The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, representing the overwhelming majority of world scientific opinion, including in the United States, has shown that we are now on track to seeing average global temperatures rise by 1.5 to 5.8C this century as a result of human activities–burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Failure to act will result in a price, both human and economic, that will be paid across the world for generations to come. Once CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it will remain there for centuries.

That is why real climate action is needed now at a global level. As Tony Blair has announced, during our G8 Presidency, we wish to deliver real progress on both climate change and African development.

Sir David A. King
Chief Scientific Adviser to Her Majesty’s Government and Head of the Office of Science and Technology,
1 Victoria Street,
London SW1H 0ET,

The editors suggest these related resources at Science:

Climate Change Science: Adapt, Mitigate, or Ignore?

David A. King
Science 9 January 2004: 176-177
[Summary] [Full Text] [PDF]

Volume 306, Number 5693, Issue of 1 Oct 2004, pp. 55-57.
Copyright 2004 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

On March 29, 2001, just over two months into his new administration, President Bush announced that the United States would not comply with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which would have led to energy rationing due to its required cuts in carbon emissions, the inescapable byproduct of energy generation. The President made clear his opposition to the unreasonable demands the Kyoto Protocol places on the United States. We will not do anything that harms our economy, he said then.

However, over three years later, the Clinton-era signature remains on this potentially very harmful document. The Bush Administration should move to unsign it.

The continued presence of Americas signature on the Kyoto treaty sends the wrong signal. Sensing ambiguity in the U.S. position, European offi cials continue to press Kyotos case, and are placing immense diplomatic pressure on Russia to ratify, which would bring the Protocol into legal effect, since it would push Kyoto over the necessary threshold of 55 percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions. This carries considerable risks.

When in Kyoto, do as in Rome

In May 2002, the Bush Administration announced it would unsignthat is, rescind the American signature fromthe Treaty of Rome establishing an International Criminal Court,  which would have exposed American military personnel to politically motivated charges of war crimes (potentially brought by such humanitarian stalwarts as the governments of Cuba, Iran, and Syria). This begs the question: If the United States does not intend to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, why does it refuse to rescind its  1998 signature of it? Unsigning the Treaty of Rome belies the Bush Administrations claim that the United States, as a nonratifying signatory, faces no consequences from the Kyoto Protocol.

The Bush Administration has not stated that the U.S. will comply with Kyotoyet the failure to rescind our signature sends that same message to other countries negotiators.

Unsigning the Rome Treaty but not the Kyoto Protocol suggests that the U.S. intends to adopt Kyoto. This has emboldened the European Union (EU) to lobby Russia to seek the best deal it can while eventual ratifi cation by a future U.S. Senate remains a possibility. Most major EU countries, recognizing that Russia holds all the cards right now, are willing to give Russia major concessionsand the possibility of American ratifi cation places the pressure on Russia to ratify Kyoto fi rst.

Invitation to Litigation

Once it is in effect, other countries will likely use Kyoto to beat up on the U.S.a signatoryat various international fora, even without Senate ratifi cation. Recent litigation by state attorneys general against U.S. power generators and the Administration itself hint at future lawsuits: At least three law review articles have set forth how Third World plaintiffs can use the national signature on the  protocol to sue, under the Alien Tort Claims Act and other statutes, over costs allegedly imposed on them by climatechange. The EU is threatening the use of the World Trade Organizations Shrimp-Turtle precedent to make the case that our failure to match EU energy taxes is either an impermissible advantage (eco-dumping) or an unfair trade barrier. The  U.S. signature on the protocol invites such action.

Status Quo Makes No Sense

The 1972 Vienna Convention on Conventions (Title 18) delineates treaty interpretation, dealing specifically with the issue of a non-ratifying signatory state: a State is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty, until and unless it shall have made its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty, or it has expressed its consent to be bound by the treaty. This is restated by the Law of Foreign Relations of the United States ( 312 of the Restatement 3d). This is expressly why President Bush unsigned the Treaty of Rome.

That requirement is not satisfi ed by verbally disavowing a treaty, while at the same time maintaining ones signature and continuing to send delegations to ongoing negotiations. The Vienna Conventions withdrawal requirement is achieved only by filing an instrument rescinding the signature with the same body to which the signature was communicated.

The Solution

The Bush Administration should formally announce its  intention to rescind the American signature on the Kyoto Protocol. The move would carry no risk. By formally doing what the American and global public believe he has already done, President Bush will surprise no one. And rescinding the signature will remove two possible risks. First, it will take Kyoto off the table and force the world to look again at the issues surrounding global warming alarmism. Second, it will much reduce the chance of litigation to force the U.S. to adopt Kyoto-style energy suppression policies regardless of the Administrations position.

Unsigning the Kyoto Protocol would be consistent with the Presidents correct approach to the Treaty of Rome and reiterate his Administrations willingness to defend American sovereignty and the Constitution against international pressure.


Christopher C. Horner ( is a Senior Fellow at CEI and Counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition. Iain Murray ( is a Senior Fellow at CEI, where he specializes in the debate over climate change and the use and abuse of science in the political process.

Recent hurricane activity in Florida and throughout the southeastern U.S. has prompted much speculation as to whether a particular cause or trend is to blame, and temperature data released by NASA suggests one possible answer.  Despite repeated predictions from global warming alarmists that warmer weather will lead to more hurricanes and other extreme weather events, this summers large number of hurricanes has been accompanied by the coolest summer temperatures in several years.


A link between warmer weather and extreme weather events has been theorized by some climate modelers, but the real world seems to contradict that theory, said Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming & International Environmental Policy.  In fact, there is a consensus among scientific experts: in a warmer world, extratropical storminess will be reduced. 


This reversal of alarmists claims has implications far beyond the realm of meteorology, said CEI Senior Fellow Iain Murray.  The same climate models and theories that connect increasing storms with higher temperatures form the basis for much of the international response to the question of global climate change.  The Kyoto Protocol and similar policies such as the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act are increasingly justified on the basis of unreasonable speculation and climate models that cannot even replicate past climate history.


NASA climate data online:

There will be NO appreciable CO2 emissions reduction even if Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol

Climate analysts at the George Marshall Institute said today there will be no appreciable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions even if Russia adopts the Kyoto Protocol, allowing it to enter into force. Yesterday, several press accounts indicated that Russia may be reversing its position on the treaty.

Russia will benefit from a great wealth transfer as EU funds flow into the country in exchange for rights to Russian CO2 allowances, Institute President William OKeefe said. The tangible effect on carbon dioxide emissions will be non-existent.

O’Keefe said Russia is so far below its allocated emission levels that it will be able to trade its excess to the European Union, who, in turn, will technically meet the Kyoto target but not reduce their CO2 emissions at all.

Russia emitted 1614 million metric tons of CO2 in 2001, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administrations (EIA) 2004 International Energy Outlook. The European Union produced 4123.3 million metric tons of CO2 in 2002 (data from the European Commission, press release, July 15, 2004).

The Kyoto Protocol calls for the European Union to reduce its CO2 emissions by 8% from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. According to the European Commission, 1990 emissions totaled 4245.2 million metric tons, which would require the EU to meet a 3905.5 million metric ton mark by 2008-2012. Credible projections suggest that EU CO2 emission levels will begin rising again, following modest decline from 1990 to 2002.  Russia is required to maintain its 1990 level of emissions in the same timeframe. The EIA puts Russian CO2 emissions in 1990 at 2405 million metric tons, meaning that it need only maintain that same amount. In fact, its 2001 emissions were significantly below that level (by 791 million metric tons). EIA projections call for a modest increase in Russian emissions, but the level will remain well short of the level allowed under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Russians can sell the EU their excess allowances under the emission trading system called for by the Protocol and European emissions of CO2 will rise as they are expected to, OKeefe concluded. The net effect will be minor, at best.

Pincas Jawetz’s argument that the United States economy would benefit by following the path of the Kyoto Protocol’s few adherents (Letters, Tuesday) is logically and factually unsound.


Consider his premise: 38 countries of the worldLiechtenstein, Luxembourg, Iceland, the United States, etc.agreed in principle to an energy suppression measure, the Kyoto Protocol.


The same measure was refused by 160 other countries: China, Mexico, India, Brazil, South Korea, and the like. Even among the mere 38, an insufficient number agreed to ratify the treaty to bring it into effect according to the agreement’s own formula.

Only the United Kingdom and Sweden among the pre-May European Union-15 nations are actually in compliance. By remaining among the 160-plus countries with no desire to inflict Kyoto on themselves, by Mr. Jawetz’s logic, the United States is going it alone.


What of those proud, supposedly economically vibrant few who soldier on “in exasperation” with our refusal to adhere?


Other than 10 percent unemployment and next-to-flat economic growth since they undertook this campaign, stubbornly clinging to Kyoto‘s prescriptions seems to be working out just fine.


Actually, this experience further dispels the notion that energy suppression paves the road to economic health.


Every major economic downturn in the past century was preceded by the increase in energy prices that is Kyoto‘s hallmark. In fact, just wait until the energy rationing really kicks in and the results match pro-Kyoto rhetoric.


Claiming that President George H.W. Bush “supported the Kyoto Protocol” is absurd, if consistently so.


The Kyoto Protocol is named for the conference at which it was drafted, in December 1997. Thematic talks did not even begin until 1995.


President George H.W. Bush was defeated in 1992. If anyone can show me evidence of George H.W. Bush supporting Kyoto, I will show you a Kinko’s copy shop in Abilene, Tex.


As to President Clinton, he indeed signed this abominable treaty, but for the remaining three-plus years of his presidency refused to submit it to the Senate for ratification.


Mr. Jawetz concludes by menacingly intimating the collapse of the World Trade Organization over the Kyoto differences. In his hypothetical, he lays this at the feet of the United States.


This scenario presumes that the WTOa body created to break down discriminatory trade barriersis likely to accept the argument that if EU nations decide to do something remarkably silly to themselves, then the United States must either follow suit or be punished.


If any organization that could reach such a conclusion were to collapse, it would be no great loss. Fortunately, it remains as unlikely as the rest of this odd mishmash of Kyotonomics.

Today and tomorrow, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding a public hearing on its plan to implement a law requiring maximum feasible and cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles. In comments filed earlier this week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute challenged the rulemaking on scientific, legal, economic, and auto safety grounds.


The comments (,04218.cfm), written by Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis and General Counsel Sam Kazman, make the following key points:


         ARBs regulatory proposal lacks a credible scientific rationale. Global warming alarmism is based on hyperbole and fear, not science.

         ARBs proposal is prohibited by federal law. Maximum feasible greenhouse gas reductions cannot be achieved without mandatory engineering and design modifications to increase new-car fuel economy. However, the federal Energy and Conservation Act of 1975 prohibits states from adopting laws related to fuel economy.

         ARBs proposal fails its own cost-effectiveness test. Even if the theory of catastrophic global warming were true, the emissions reductions achieved would make no detectable difference in global temperature trends over the next 50 years. As environmental policy, the proposal is all cost for no benefit. Further, it will raise the sticker price of new cars more than it will lower operating expenses for most consumers.

         ARBs proposal will reduce auto safety. Downsizing and down-weighting of cars is the most likely means of complying with the rule. Lighter, smaller vehicles are less crashworthy. Federal fuel economy mandates killed between 1,300 and 2,600 motorists in 1993, according to the National Research Council. To the extent ARBs proposal constrains vehicle size and weight, it will put motorists at risk.


ARB cannot achieve maximum feasible greenhouse gas reductions from automobiles without poaching on federally preempted policy terrain. It cannot achieve cost effective reductions with any set of regulatory tools, said Lewis. ARB should brief Governor Schwarzenegger and the California legislature on the practical and legal impossibility of accomplishing the laws objectives, and about the adverse safety effects of greenhouse gas emission standards.  

In a behind-the-scenes move with far reaching implications, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a bill including language that would shield one of the federal governments most important scientific agencies from legal requirements mandating integrity in government science.  A clause in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce and other agencies (S. 2809) would exempt research produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from complying with the Federal Data Quality Act, which requires that data circulated by federal agencies conform to standards of scientific integrity.


This quiet ploy is clearly aimed at avoiding the inevitable lawsuits exposing the junk science, much of it traceable to NOAA, which has been employed in government publications in recent years, including two alarmist global warming reports, said Christopher C. Horner, Senior Fellow and Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  The apparent strategy here that any agency or department report using NOAA science will now be above the law guts existing data quality rules in the very context which forced Congress to enact them in the first place.


The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in response to a lawsuit filed by CEI, was previously forced to admit that at least one such federal studythe National Assessment on Climate Changewas never subjected to the requirements to the Data Quality Act and thus does not represent government policy.


The Data Quality Act is a valuable tool to stop federal agencies from producing or using faulty and biased information, said Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy.  How any Senator could be against basing public policy on sound science is beyond belief.

70 Percent of Roundtable Companies Have Already Signed up for Climate RESOLVE

Washington, DC Business Roundtable today announced that 70 percent of its member companies representing every sector of the U.S. economy have embraced voluntary actions to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by participating in its Climate RESOLVE program, which was launched in February 2003.

The Roundtables release of its first progress report on Climate RESOLVE coincides with the beginning of a two-day workshop for companies on ways to build and enhance programs to manage GHG emissions. The Roundtable has also launched a new ad campaign highlighting its member companies commitment to voluntary action.

The Roundtables Climate RESOLVE report presents results of a survey of participating companies which show that all of the respondents are putting in place the building blocks for effective GHG management and that 92 percent of these companies have taken or are taking measures this year to manage GHG emissions.

Climate RESOLVE demonstrates that effective climate change policies can be compatible with continuing economic and social progress, said Michael G. Morris, Vice Chairman of the Roundtables Environment, Technology & the Economy Task Force and Chairman, President and CEO of American Electric Power. We are delighted that so many Roundtable companies from every sector of the economy have joined Climate RESOLVE and have embraced voluntary actions to control GHG emissions.

New Initiative Focuses on Energy Efficiency in Service Sector

To further increase participation in Climate RESOLVE, the Roundtable also announced a new initiative to help non-manufacturing companies manage GHG emissions. The focused effort will include a guidebook on energy efficiency in office buildings and development of a new Web tool that provides step-by-step assistance in establishing energy efficiency programs.

Climate RESOLVE is based on the idea that effective action to reduce the GHG intensity of our economy requires a contribution from every company in every sector of the economy, Morris said. We have challenged all of our member companies to take part in the voluntary programs, and we are also committed to showing them practical steps that they can take to reduce emissions by using energy more efficiently in the buildings they occupy.

Part of the Administrations Climate VISION initiative, Climate RESOLVE (Responsible Environmental Steps, Opportunities to Lead by Voluntary Efforts) seeks to help meet the Presidents goal of an 18 percent reduction overall in greenhouse gas intensity in the U.S. economy by 2012. The voluntary program does not set a specific target for each company and allows individual companies to decide the most appropriate course of action.

Climate RESOLVE demonstrates that voluntary actions can deliver continued economic growth, meaningfully reduce the GHG intensity of our economy, foster innovation and promote investment in new technologies without government mandates and rigid compliance timetables, said John J. Castellani, President of the Roundtable. Our companies are leading the way in pursuing climate change by improving energy efficiency, sequestering greenhouse gas emissions and developing low-carbon technologies that can facilitate economic growth without corresponding increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Findings

Key findings from the Roundtables survey of Climate RESOLVE participants include:

  • 92 percent of respondents have reviewed their GHG emissions profile or are doing so in 2004.
  • 89 percent have taken or are taking actions to reduce, avoid, offset or sequester GHG emissions
  • 71 percent have established or are establishing written policies to track and meet GHG emissions goals.
  • 72 percent have reported or are reporting GHG management activities to the public.
  • 76 percent have participated or are participating in government-sponsored programs to reduce, avoid, offset or sequester GHG emissions.
  • 61 percent have invested or are investing this year in new technologies or products to improve energy efficiency, reduce GHG emissions or lower GHG intensity in the environment.

Climate change is a challenge that requires sustained public and private efforts by all countries, Castellani said. Our companies understand that improving energy efficiency is good for the environment and good business. This progress report shows that the climate has indeed changed in companies across America.

Providing Companies with Assistance

However, the Roundtable has committed to building on the solid foundation in the program.

More work lies ahead to strengthen Climate RESOLVE, and we will continue to challenge our members to do more to manage GHG emissions, Castellani said.

To give companies the insight and the tools to improve their GHG management programs, the Roundtable is continuing to hold workshops, conduct telephone learning sessions, offer one-on-one consulting support and provide examples of options to reduce, avoid, offset and sequester emissions.

The two-day Climate RESOLVE workshop for companies that begins today in Colorado Springs includes presentations from leading officials from the Administration, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, private sector officials with first-hand experience in managing greenhouse gas emissions and representatives of environmental groups. The Roundtable also conducted two workshops for companies in 2003.

The Roundtable has also been talking to international business groups about the importance of voluntary action in addressing global climate change. Last December, the Roundtable and several member companies attended a United Nations conference in Milan, Italy and discussed Climate RESOLVE during meetings with groups such as the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, Keidanren, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Chamber of Commerce.

To view a copy of the report Every Sector, One RESOLVE: A Progress Report on Business Roundtable’s Climate RESOLVE Program click here.

# # #

Business Roundtable ( is an association of chief executive officers of leading corporations with a combined workforce of more than 10 million employees in the United States and $4 trillion in revenues. The chief executives are committed to advocating public policies that foster vigorous economic growth and a dynamic global economy.

This past week has seen significant media coverage of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s ‘global warming’ fears. (UK: PM’S ENVIRONMENT SPEECH [Press briefing]; UK: PM Speech on Climate Change [Text of speech] (Number 10)) We might wonder what makes him so fearful.

To establish whether Mr. Blair is suffering relatively local warming is not too difficult since we have Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research‘s Central England Temperature record (CET):

The above graph indicates by color the Annual Mean Temperature ; 10-year Running Mean ; Series Maximum Value (10.63C) ; Series Minimum Value (6.84C) and; Series Mean (9.47C) .

The most impressive warming evident occurred from the 1690s through 1730s with the running mean climbing almost 2C! We imagine that was a significant relief in the depths of the Little Ice Age although 1740 was obviously a bummer. Abrupt warmings also occurred in the 1770s; 1810s/20s; 1890s and 1990s. Abrupt coolings are evident and a relatively sustained warming in the first half of the Twentieth Century. With our 10-year running mean showing warmer than the series mean for almost the entire Twentieth Century it is fair to say there has been a net warming over the record period. Some argue that warming is a problem and we will not dwell on our contention that warming is distinctly preferable to cooling.

Having established that there has been a warming and avoided the question of whether this constitutes a problem, the next and obvious question is: “why has this occurred?”

Tony Blair appears convinced by the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis but atmospheric CO2 levels do not fit changes in the CET at all well. For example, from 1695 to 1733, the annual mean temperature rose from 7.25C to 10.47C at a time when there was negligible change in atmospheric CO2 – the running mean did not return to such readings until the 1990s. On the other hand, annual mean temperatures fell from 10.62C in 1949 to 8.47C by 1963, a period when atmospheric CO2 levels were measurably rising. Greenhouse does not appear to be exerting a strong influence on the CET.

If not greenhouse then what? Certainly there has been significant urbanization – with the English population rising from about 9 million in 1800 to almost 50 million now that is inevitable. Urbanization or at least population growth, however, has been continuously positive since the mid-17th century and that does not really suit our mean temperature track either. Or does it? Consider the effect of so many more urbanites and their fuel sources of the day – see how Roehampton University writes it up:

What is the urban effect on sunshine? This is one aspect of the region’s climate that has dramatically changed over the late 19th and 20th centuries. At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the latter half of the 19th century, vast amounts of smoke and soot were emitted into the atmosphere in London. This led to the absorption or blocking of a remarkable proportion of the incoming radiation from the sunshine and hence sunshine amounts were curtailed.

It is difficult to believe today how profound this effect was and how quickly it has changed. In the 1880s, it was estimated that London was ‘losing’ up to 80% of its winter sunshine. In December 1890 no sunshine was recorded at Westminster. As recently as 1921-50, central London averaged only 50% of the winter sunshine as surrounding rural areas. The effect was concentrated in winter because of the increased emission of smoke and soot associated with the greater use of coal burning to heat houses and offices and also because of the low angle of the sun.

The situation is quite different today – emissions of pollutants that cause a shading effect have dropped dramatically with the switch away from coal as the prime source of energy in industry and in the home, a change well under way before the passing of the Clean Air Acts in the 1950s and 1960s. Not only has this led to a reduction in the frequency of winter smogs and fog (possibly assisted by more mobile, changeable winters in recent decades) but on occasions, central London is now sunnier than the outlying areas because of the urban heating effect evaporating low cloud or fog.

Seems plausible, a lot more people, all using what would currently be abhorred as “dirty” fuels, could conceivably generate enough smoke to interfere with solar warming, at least regionally. We are not aware that anyone seriously disputes the dramatic improvement in urban air quality over the Twentieth Century so increased solar radiation penetration to surface must at least be entertained as a probable result. Here is a mechanism by which increasing populations could influence both increase and decrease of regional temperatures and specifically where near-surface temperature readings are recorded. Importantly, it is not merely current urban heat island effect, which datasets try to address (with varying and, we think, limited success) that is affected by urbanization but, through earlier regional sunshine suppression, prior cooling (not addressed in any dataset to our knowledge) that gives the impression of current warming within the dataset. While merely an assertion rather than any form of cause and effect explanation for recorded temperature trends, the differing effect of urbanization over time highlights some of the problems with simplistic associations like enhanced greenhouse – it is not as simple as: atmospheric greenhouse gas levels have risen; recorded temperatures have risen – therefore greenhouse gases drive temperature.

There has been much discussion of solar activity recently and New Scientist published the following graph in Sun more active than for a millennium.

Granted, this gives us some familiar patterns, the low 1700s look reasonable, so too the high in the early 1800s and rising trend through the 1900s but hardly a great fit. Let’s look at a few other graphs produced elsewhere:

Looks pretty good but…

Ooh… the Medieval Climate Optimum is a bit of a spoiler isn’t it. It doesn’t fit either our solar activity or atmospheric CO2 scenarios – or any known combination thereof.

Perhaps the Danes have the answer for that, here’s how John Daly wrote it up:

In November 1991, Danish scientists Eijil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen, startled the climatological world with a paper in Science describing a 0.95 correlation between solar cycle length and global temperature (IPCC version). Science writer, Richard Kerr described it as “one dazzling correlation”

Solar Cycle Length and Global Temperature (surface)

(The blue line is temperature, the red line is solar cycle length)

As can be seen, global temperature has tended to increase in lockstep with shortening of the solar cycle length (i.e. solar maxima becoming more frequent)

Friis-Christensen and Lassen’s theory to explain this correlation was that if the time duration between solar maxima peaks was shorter, then the earth was collecting more net energy overall than if the time between maxima was longer. The cycle averages 11 years, but it does shorten to about 10 years at times, and can open out to 12 years. From the maximum of 1980 to that of 1990, the cycle was only 10 years, resulting in the 1980s collecting greater warmth from the Sun than would be usual for other cycles.

Where the maxima are very large ones, as in the last 4 cycles, then a shortening in the time duration between maxima will increase the long-term energy input into the earth-atmosphere system.

Tony Blair seems to have fallen into the old post hoc, ergo propter hoc (it happened after, so it was caused by) trap. Do global temperatures react to recent increases in atmospheric greenhouse gasses? Quite possibly but temperatures obviously respond to other influences, possibly much more so than atmospheric CO2. From what we can see, GHGs are a poor fit with measured global near-surface temperatures, so, too, are simple urbanization and sunspot numbers, although length of solar cycle appears to have promise as a primary driver.

Whatever is finally discovered to be the case, simplistic notions about greenhouse gasses appear to fit the post hoc fallacy far better than they do global temperature. Some of the things so briefly discussed here might be drivers of global temperature but hardly in isolation. As the source of global warmth, the sun, and its various phases, looks a likely culprit as a primary driver of global climate, as do the Earth’s orbital eccentricities.

On reflection, having the CET show the 1990s just barely eclipse annual mean temperature recorded in 1733 (a 266 year-old record following a temperature climb of ~3.25C in under 4 decades, a rise which would cause pandemonium today), suggests negligible warming over two and one-half centuries, despite massive population increase, urbanization and clearer skies allowing greater solar radiation penetration to ground.

We freely admit cherry picking some of the dates used for comparison here – and why not, the greenhouse industry is shameless in their selective use of data – our purpose is to demonstrate that there’s really nothing new under the sun.

A favorite comparison is the temperature increase since 1880 (roughly the end of the Little Ice Age) and that’s fine. The CET above certainly indicates an annual mean increase of ~1.6C 1880-1999 – half that observed 1695-1733. Twice the warming occurred over one-third the time and this was before humanity could possibly have significantly influenced the greenhouse gas balance in the atmosphere, so why the current panic over possible warming and specifically over atmospheric CO2?

To return to our original point, Tony Blair has made much of enhanced greenhouse and global warming – the Central England Temperature record suggests his fears are groundless. You can either believe a 340-year temperature record or a politician – suit yourself.

See also Days of Sunshine by John L. Daly;
Heat Wave in Europe: The Mystery Unveiled by Eduardo Ferreyra

Copyright 2004 – All Rights Reserved.

This article, including graphics, may be reprinted in full or in part with attribution.

Planting politics

    More now on yesterday’s item about the national Democratic Party appealing for financial aid in hurricane-battered Florida, where a succession of deadly storms has seriously hampered fund-raising efforts at a critical time in the 2004 campaign.

    “In line with that,” writes Inside the Beltway reader Larry Whitehurst from Wisconsin, “I actually tuned to Air America radio and heard one of the morning-show hosts … comment that she believed it when she heard that … the Bush administration is seeding clouds over the Atlantic to enable more hurricanes so that Florida voters will not be able to reach the polls.” 

    Have you been eating too much cheese, Mr. Whitehurst?
 “When I heard this, I fell out of my chair laughing,” he insists. “I sure hope most other listeners did, because those that would believe something like this … should not be allowed even near the election voting booths.”

Seeds of scandals
(September 16, 2004 )

    Our humorous (or so intended) item this week about “seeding” hurricanes so as to disrupt the political campaign season caught the eye of Christopher C. Horner, a top counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.    

 Don’t laugh, advises Mr. Horner, who has actually dealt with the issue of cloud seeding on the worldwide front: “[U]nder international law, a state engaged in weather modification activities is responsible for any significant injuries if causation can be proved,” he reads from legal scripture. 

    “True story,” Mr. Horner insists. “This could actually turn the campaign around.” 

    He recalls Soviet howling over purported dirty tricks like cloud seeding “to disrupt their wheat crop (as if collectivism didn’t do enough) during the Cold War.” 

    “The alleged cloud seeding,” adds Mr. Horner, “is a prima facie violation of not only a U.N. directive, but a U.S.-Canadian treaty, not to mention 601 of the Restatement (3d) of the Law of Foreign Relations.”