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Global Warming: Fact, Fiction, Politics

Global Warming: Fact, Fiction and Political Endgame

 

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Albert Arnold Gore, was the toast of Hollywood at the self-congratulatory soiree known as the 2007 Academy Awards.

Gore, whose failure to carry his “home” state of Tennessee cost him the 2000 presidential election, has recast himself as the populist pope of eco-theology and the titular head of the green movement’s developmentally arrested legions.

Now the darling of Leftcoast glitterati, predictably, Gore received two Oscars for a junk-science production called “An Inconvenient Truth,” a pseudo-documentary follow-up from the eco-disaster fiction, “The Day After Tomorrow.” Gore’s “Truth,” however, is about 10 percent substance and 90 percent fragrance.

“The Academy Awards have gone green,” said Gore, after collecting his Oscars—maybe a thin coat of green over a thick base of red.

The awards for Gore’s climate diatribe coincide, not coincidentally, with the much-ballyhooed release of a media summary of a report on global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These two events are a launch pad for the coming cavalcade of dire ecological predictions by Gore and his ilk. Their goal will be to saturate the all-too-sympathetic media outlets with apocalyptic hysterics about a man-made global disaster. Perhaps, too, if all goes according to plan, we’ll see another Gore presidential run.

All the “Live Earth” road-show talking points will play up an alarming assertion from Bill Clinton’s former veep: “Never before has all of civilization been threatened. We have everything we need to save it, with the possible exception of political will. But political will is a renewable resource.”

To be sure, there is “no controlling legal authority” for this, the biggest political and economic power grab ever attempted. The Left’s desire to hamstring the U.S. economy and force worldwide Kyoto Treaty compliance will, according to one United Nations estimate, cost the world economy $553 trillion this century.

Al Gore may be a comical dupe when it comes to climatology (in college, he collected a C+ and a D in his two natural-sciences courses), but the global-warming debate and the consequences of that debate are serious. To participate meaningfully, one must distinguish between fact and fiction ?- in addition to understanding the underlying political agendas.

In the inimitable words of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” To that end, Al Gore’s “facts” are deserving of rigorous scrutiny.

Separating fact from fiction

First, let’s be clear that the current debate about climate focuses on “global warming,” which is not synonymous with the debate about the environmental consequences of the “greenhouse effect.” The latter issue concerns what, if any, relationship exists between man-made CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperatures.

For the record, most reputable scientists agree that we are in a period of gradual global warming (about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the last century), and that the greenhouse effect prevents our climate from becoming a deep freeze. Most also agree that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased in the last century, and there is a growing consensus that global warming is due, in part, to the greenhouse effect.

However, there is no scientifically established correlation between global-warming trends and acceleration of the greenhouse effect due to human production of CO2—only broad speculation. Although some politicians and their media shills insist that the primary cause of global warming is the burning of hydrocarbons here in the United States, that government regulation of man-made CO2 will curb this global warming, that our failure to limit CO2 output will have dire consequences, and that the costs of enacting these limitations far outweigh the potential consequences, there is no evidence supporting any of these assertions.

Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, notes, “When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works.”

In fact, there remains substantial doubt that the production of CO2 by human enterprise has any real impact on global temperature, and if it does, that such impact is, necessarily, negative. Human activity may contribute a maximum estimate of three percent of CO2 to the natural carbon cycle (the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere of the Earth), but there is broad dispute about the total production of CO2 from natural sources, which is to say the human contribution may be a much smaller percentage. Atmospheric CO2 levels have increased from about 315 parts per million five decades ago, to about 380 ppm today, which is to say, there are major factors influencing the amount of CO2 levels in the atmosphere besides our burning of hydrocarbons.

Case in point: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has maintained the world’s longest continuous worldwide record of atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels—those cited by global-warming alarmists. In 2002 and 2003, NOAA recorded increases in atmospheric CO2 of 2.43 and 2.30 ppm respectively—a 55 percent increase over the annual average of 1.5 ppm for previous years. In 2004, however, this increase fell back to 1.5 ppm per year.

Did human industrial output somehow increase 55 percent during those two years, and then decline by that amount in 2004? Of course not. For the record, NOAA concluded that the fluctuation was caused by the natural processes that contribute and remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Al Gore would be hard-pressed to explain NOAA’s findings within the context of his apocalyptic thesis, and he would be hard-pressed to convince any serious scientists that his Orwellian solutions could correct such fluctuations. This is because his thesis is based largely on convenient half-truths.

For instance, Gore insists that the increased incidence of hurricanes, tornadoes, drought and other weather phenomena is the direct result of global warming.

Renowned meteorologist Dr. William Gray takes exception: “The degree to which you believe global warming is causing major hurricanes,” he says, “is inversely proportional to your knowledge about these storms.”

In a recent issue of Discover Magazine, Gray, described by Discover’s editors as one of “the world’s most famous hurricane experts,” wrote, “This human-induced global-warming thing … is grossly exaggerated. … I’m not disputing there has been global warming. There was a lot of global warming in the 1930s and ‘40s, and then there was global cooling in the middle ‘40s to the early ‘70s. Nearly all of my colleagues who have been around 40 or 50 years are skeptical … about this global-warming thing. But no one asks us.”

Gore preaches about the two percent of Antarctica that is warming without noting that temperature readings over the rest of Antarctica indicate the continent has cooled over the previous 35 years, or that the UN’s climate panel estimates net snow mass increases in Antarctica this century. Gore notes the increasing temperatures and shrinking ice caps in the Northern Hemisphere but does not note the decreasing temperatures and increased sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Richard S. Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, writes, “A general characteristic of Mr. Gore’s approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”

Perhaps worse still is Gore’s intellectual cowardice. During his visit to Europe in January, Gore agreed to an interview with Denmark’s largest national newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. Then, when he learned that Bjorn Lomborg, one of the world’s leading critics of eco-theological dogma, was also going to be interviewed, Gore abruptly canceled.

Lomborg, a statistician, has delved deep into the data to expose the environmental movement’s selective and oft-misleading use of evidence. His book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist” was hailed by Washington Post Book World as “a magnificent achievement” and “the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in 1962.” Perhaps a thoughtful debate is what scares Al Gore most of all.

Dr. Roy Spencer, former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has some additional “Questions for Al Gore” based on what he calls “Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.” We are still awaiting Gore’s reply…

Alternative causes for global warming

Beyond the natural carbon cycle and greenhouse warming, there are some other serious causal explanations for global warming.

Among the suspects are, of all things, the sun and its fellow stars. A venerable scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, published recent research done at the Danish National Space Center indicating that the impact of cosmic rays on the climate could be much greater than scientists estimated. The researchers put forth evidence that cosmic rays have a lot to do with cloud formation in the atmosphere, which in turn has a lot to do with shielding us from the sun’s warmth. Combining this discovery with evidence that our local star is experiencing historically high levels of solar activity, the researchers suggest that our sun is batting away cosmic rays from elsewhere in the galaxy and thus reducing our planet’s cloud cover. Imagine that: The sun is affecting our planet’s temperature.

Nigel Calder provides another angle on this thesis: “After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago. Climate history and related archeology give solid support to the solar hypothesis.”

Research concerning cosmic radiation as a factor in global warming builds on earlier comprehensive research done a decade ago by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Arthur Robinson, whose research soundly refutes Gore’s thesis that global warming is human-induced, noting the relationship between the solar magnetic cycle and global temperatures over the last 250 years.

In 1997, Dr. Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, invited colleagues to sign a petition based on Robinson’s work, which received more than 20,000 signers, most of whom hold advanced degrees in relevant fields of study. That petition stated, in part: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Some other global-warming factors being seriously considered scientifically include ocean currents, changing jet-stream patterns and the Earth’s mantle activities affecting ocean temperatures.

The Political Endgame

During the second term of the Clinton/Gore administration, the U.S. faced international pressure to become a signatory to the Kyoto Treaty. The Senate, however, passed a resolution rejecting approval of that treaty in an eye-popping show of bipartisanship. The vote was 95-0, and 56 of those senators are still in Congress.

That 1997 Byrd-Hagel Senate resolution objected to the lack of any “specific scheduled commitments” in regard to the CO2 output of 129 “developing” countries, most notably, China and India, the second and fourth most powerful economies in the world.

China, home to 1.3 billion people, will have the largest economy on earth in little more than a decade. Currently, the country accounts for 33 percent of the world’s steel production and 50 percent of all concrete. China burns 2,500 tons of coal and 210,000 gallons of crude oil per minute. Every ten days, China fires up a new coal generator, and plans for 2,200 additional plants by 2030. China consumed in excess of 2.7 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006—almost twice the consumption rate of 2002. At current growth rates of consumption, China alone will devour all the earth’s resources in three decades and generate a whole lot of CO2 in the process.

Yet European industrial nations and developing nations on other continents would like to see the U.S. economy restrained by the Kyoto Treaty.

Clearly, some U.S. politicians understand the implications of Gore’s folly. Don’t expect that to stop Democrats from milking every last drop of political capital from this debate. Talk of carbon credits and other nonsense is really all about campaign coffers—holding out the threat of regulation as a means of financing campaigns and perpetuating office tenures.

University of Colorado climate scientist Roger Pielke fantasizes about a Gore victory in ‘08 based on swing states with lower-than-average CO2 output: “[I]n 2004 the per-state carbon-dioxide emissions in states that voted for George Bush were about twice as large on a per-capita basis than those in states that voted for John Kerry. If climate change is a major issue in 2008 then there is a decided advantage in [important swing] states to the Democrats. Colorado and Nevada are below the national average for carbon-dioxide emissions, and Ohio and Iowa stand to benefit immensely from an ethanol bidding war.”

However, Gore’s political and economic agenda runs deeper than environmental concerns. In his recent book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, Christopher Horner, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, aptly describes Gore and his ilk as “green on the outside, red to the core,” noting that they are motivated by an anti-capitalist agenda.

Conclusions

Regarding the prevailing winds of contemporary science, my colleague Thomas Sowell reminds us, “Back in the 1970s, the hysteria was about global cooling and the prospect of a new ice age.” I published a collection of those dire predictions in an essay entitled, “The Day After Tomorrow.”

Al Gore’s current hysterics should be received with much more skepticism than the last round of climate soothsayers. His efforts to politicize meteorological science (what little we actually understand about our climate), is ludicrous. A lethal dose of his eco-elixir is precisely the wrong prescription, as it is full of the Left’s archetypal defeatist, retreatist statism but void of regard for real-world economic consequences.

Gore’s flawed analysis notwithstanding, however, sea level has risen, by best estimates, between four and eight inches in the last 150 years.

The annual rate of rise has remained relatively stable since the “big thaw” ended some 6,000 years ago. However, if current temperature trends continue, an increased rate of rise could pose significant challenges to nations around the world as millions of people now live only a few feet higher than current tides.

Increasing global temperatures will also have other consequences—some positive, some negative.

Although Gore, et al., would insist otherwise, we mere mortals are no match for the age-old forces that heat and cool our planet. Yet, in the face of enormous odds, we Americans have a history of perseverance and success. We can improvise, adapt and overcome—just as we have for hundreds of years in response to catastrophe. Unbridled innovation and ingenuity have served us well throughout our history, and these tools will take us, and the rest of the world, far into the future—unless shackled by a subterfuge like the Kyoto Protocol.

 

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Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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