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Friday, January 24, 2003

Problems with the Kyoto Treaty and Doubts about Global Warming

Over the last three years, the Buggy Prof --- though a card-carrying member in the Sierra Club, and a committed environmentalist --- has been left aghast at the extravagantly overwrought efforts of ultra-greens, including numerous scientists of a marked policy-partisan orientation, to ram the Kyoto Treaty into law in the industrial democracies . . . Russia, East Europe, and the developing countries like China and India exempt from any obligations themselves to reduce alleged greenhouse gas emissions, especially C02.

Like many moderates environmentalists, too, he finds the recent efforts of politically correct scientists of a witch-hunting caliber in Scandinavia, above all Denmark, to slander and stigmatize the impressive work of Bjorn Lomborg's THE SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALIST . . . a remarkably systematic study sifting through wads of statistical materials in order to identify the nature of recent trends since WWII in environmental, demographic, and resource-laden controversies, in the process separating truth from exaggerated doom-doom fiction. Lomborg isn't the first to do this, Julian Simon in the US having . . .

been the pioneer here; but his work, while hardly the last word on this wide-sweeping, highly controversial topics, should be greeted by all open-minded citizens and scientific specialists as moving the public debate into a new, more reality-infused arena. We have commented at length on the Lomborg's Danish Star Chamber Inquisitors, the commentaries going out last week to our listserver (not shifted over to this site); and we will post those commentaries here again, along with an invitation to send your own comments to the buggy prof . . . just as we will do the same, not to mention several new commentaries in the future, dealing with global warming and the Kyoto Treaty.

In the meantime, here is a brief survey of SOME of the chief doubts and uncertainties that surround the claims about global warming that appear in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC . . . whose summary statements hardly reflect the range of controversy that numerous climate scientists have voiced about their conclusions . . . including several prominent scientists invited to contribute to the three volumes of IGCP work in the 1990s down through 2001. It was prompted, this fast-moving survey, in response to a set of queries sent to the buggy prof by Harvey Schecter, the former director of the western regional ADL, and an active member of the UCSB governing board who has fought tenaciously over the years, among other things, to infuse more balance into the pc-dominated Center for Middle Eastern Studies on this campus . . . so notorious for its anti-Israeli biases that it has drawn national notoriety in several newspapers and publications the last few years.

1) No one other than climate scientists --- a vague term that can cover dozens of scientific disciplines --- could determine whether global warming is a reality, what its causes are If it is real --- man-made largely or not; and what its long-term trend will be a century into the future (the Intergov. Panel on Climate Control, the Kyoto science group, projects a range of temperature rises until 2200, none of which modeling can account for what we know about previous climatic changes in older and pre-historic times, by looking at ice thickness, glacier readings, coral readings in the oceans, tree rings etc). If it's mild or moderate it would likely be a boon.

2) What a policy analyst who follows the debate can note is this: for several centuries the earth went through the little ice age, beginning in the 12th century --- the long-term trend that forced Viking settlements first out of Hudson Bay, then Greenland. From 1880 until 1939, the temperature rose on an average. Between 1939 and 1979, the rise stopped. Since 1979, the average temperature taken from meteorological stations around the earth, on the surface --- thousands --- find a steady but not precipitous rise until 1997, since which time temperature on the earth's surface measured this way has risen . . . but for non-made reasons, due to two severe El Nino's and a solar maximum-effect (see the clearly set out account below here, Triple Whammy).
    • Note, however, in the first place, that no warming trend even on the earth's surface has been detected over the Continental US, where all weather stations have taken sustained pains to correct for urban heat-effects: streets, freeways, shopping malls, big buildings, and airports absorbing sunlight all day long, then releasing it slowly at night, raising the average daily temperature. More, there has been scarcely any detectable 30-year trend in rising temperature over most of the EU or most of Australia. • Second, it turned out that the temperatures taken over the Arctic and Antarctic have reflected a major error that appears in the models of in the global circulation for decades as far as the Earth's polar regions are concerned. Specifically, in the August 28 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a study carried out by a scientific team, direct measurements of atmospheric temperatures at the stratopause and mesopause regions ("atmospheric layers at about 30 and 50 miles altitude respectively) over the poles found that the atmospheric temperatures at the South Pole are around 40-50 degrees F cooler than the model predictions. Global Warming
      "Our results suggest that wintertime warming due to sinking air masses is not as strong as the models have assumed," according to Chester Gardner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and coauthor of the study. "But in all fairness, since no one had made these measurements before, modelers have been forced to estimate the values. And, in this case, their estimates were wrong."
    • Next, no warming trend at all anywhere in the lower atmosphere has been detected since 1979 by daily satellite readings taken all over the troposphere --- a measurement average that is confirmed by sending radio-sound balloons up into the lower atmosphere too. See the site maintained by S. Fred Singer, who helped develop the space satellite technologies for such measurements: http://www.sepp.org/keyissue.html

3) The Kyoto Treaty was rejected in 1997 in its current form by the US Senate, 95-0. The main objections were the high costs to the US economy and above all the failure to get developing countries like India, China, Russia, and others to curb gashouse emissions, especially C02. The Treaty that was passed last year in an international conference --- but rejected by the US and Australia --- didn't differ much with the 1997 version. Even many of its advocates admit that if global warming is a serious problem, Kyoto won't do much about it.

  • In place of it, President Bush's administration has called for a variety of voluntary programs on the part of industry and public utilities to cut back emissions --- while pushing for more R&D and ultimately technological breakthroughs in new, non-fossil sources of energy. At the same time, localities and states are free to develop their own standards --- as California is doing . . . something we all ought to support, given that even if global warming turns out to be non-existent, or benign, or nature-caused, we should be moving for other reasons (environmental and security) away from dependence on oil, especially from the Middle East.

Which brings us to . . . 4) . . . last Sunday's NY Times, which carries an intriguing story here, with the Bush administration pressuring industries to hasten their voluntary programs for cutting back emissions:

Bush Policy

January 20, 2003 U.S. Is Pressuring Industries to Cut Greenhouse Gases By ANDREW C. REVKIN In an aggressive effort to show that President Bush's voluntary climate strategy can work, senior administration officials are traveling the country collecting written promises from industries to curb emissions of gases linked to global warming.

White House officials, insisting on concrete commitments measured in tons of gases, have rejected written offers from some industry groups to take nonspecific actions, several industry officials said. The administration and industry leaders plan to unveil a broad array of pledges at the White House on Feb. 6.

This is the administration's latest and most intensive effort to demonstrate that voluntarily controlling emissions can make mandatory reductions unnecessary. Mr. Bush has said such reductions will harm the economy. The effort has no teeth, officials and company representatives say, other than the growing realization in industry that without measurable success from voluntary reductions, it will become ever harder in coming years to stave off legislation requiring companies to act. Senators of both parties introduced such legislation in Congress this month, and states are acting on their own as well. The administration's intent, once all the industries' commitments are tallied, is to meet Mr. Bush's stated goal: an 18 percent reduction, by 2012, in emissions of greenhouse gases for each unit of gross domestic product. Overall emissions would continue to grow, but more slowly ....[cont. at the NY Times]

5) A very useful sight for scientific and policy-oriented specialists who contest the IPCC is at Still Waiting for Greenhouse, an Australian site, from which the following brief article is taken:

The Triple Whammy (19 Jan 03) Triple

The last four years has seen the greenhouse industry in a state of frenzy exploiting one climate event after another (all the `warm' ones that is, the cooling ones like the recent northern freezes being hushed). We have had droughts, floods, bushfires in various parts of the world, and people would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the `smoking gun' of global warming really had arrived. In each case the industry has seized upon each event either explicitly or implicitly as being caused by human agency, and using selective statistics to show each event was somehow unusual or unprecedented. And in all cases, the snake oil cure has been at hand - the Kyoto Protocol, that piece of paper which conned the European and Canadian governments, but not the U.S. or Australian. So why has the climate been so active in the last four years? We can put it down to Nature, not man. It all began in 1997 with the onset of the second biggest El Niño event of the 20th century. No two such events are identical, some moderate, some severe, and 1997-98 was very severe indeed (the biggest was 1982-83 when 65 people were killed in Australia by massive bushfires on Ash Wednesday in 1983). El Niño happens about every 4 to 7 years and is a completely natural event, with no human agency possible since it is a process involving gargantuan cyclic ocean movements. Once the 1997-98 El Niño had passed, with the associated residual warming of the Pacific Ocean, less than a year had passed before we began to surge into yet another big `Solar Maximum', that period when the sun develops massive sunspots and radiates more energy. A solar max occurs every 11 years or so, and has its greatest impact in warming of the oceans and ice caps and glaciers. (No-one has yet claimed that the sun's periodic outbursts are caused by man). The current solar maximum was somewhat different to most in that it has lasted longer and had two distinct peaks, in 2000 and 2001. The longer it lasts, the more warmth accumulates in the oceans, impacting on weather worldwide. (Solar maxima over the last 50 years have been the most intense since records began in 1600 AD, and this current one was no exception. Future maxima may well be weaker as the sun cannot and does not maintain this level of intensity indefinitely. Between 1650 and 1710 AD, it went very quiet, a period called the Maunder Minimum, with the result that the earth experienced the `Little Ice Age' at exactly the same time). Finally, last year in 2002, even before the solar cycle had started its usual decline towards the cooler Solar Minimum, we saw the development of another El Niño on top of an already stretched out solar maximum. A Solar Maximum happening concurrently with an El Niño, with no cooling volcanic action for the last 10 years, is a potent combination climatically. And the weather has been very active as a direct result of this combination. But it will pass. These things always do. The solar cycle is now heading down towards its expected solar minimum around 2006, while the current El Niño is expected to wane in the next few months, possibly being replaced by its cooling counterpart, La Niña. The greenhouse industry has thrived off Nature's climatic drama of the last 4 years, using a combination of public hysteria and bent statistics, but the pickings will be leaner in the months and years ahead - until we reach the next El Niño or the next solar maximum expected around 2012 (the same year the Kyoto Protocol expires).