In January, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change issued a new report on global warming, stating that the earth’s average temperature could rise by as much as 10.4 degrees over the next 100 years, which is 60 percent higher than the same group predicted just six years ago.
Last week, the U.N. panel followed up with some alarming predictions of what this rise in temperature would mean to our planet and its inhabitants: Ocean currents would be altered and huge portions of Alpine snowcaps would be wiped away. There would be devastating droughts, floods, violent storms and the spread of cholera and malaria.
Dr. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, has compared this hysteria to the reactions of an imaginary crew of a ship at sea where there might be icebergs. “Fearing the worst, the navigator suggests that everyone should man the lifeboats. Pondering this, the captain ignores the engineer who tries to point out that no one has actually seen an iceberg, the radar shows no icebergs on the horizon and if everyone was rousted out of bed, they would be too tired to respond properly in a real emergency. Meanwhile, the cruise director is making announcements over the ship’s PA system that icebergs are everywhere and the ship is bound to hit one, and the ship’s nurse is warning that exposure to icebergs causes colds.”
Dr. Singer wrote a letter to the Washington Post (submitted but not printed, it can be found at his Science and Environmental Policy Project website) pointing out that the spokesman for the IPCC also claims that the climate has warmed in the last 50 years. However, he and other scientists have seen little or no warming since about 1940. Therefore, they can’t put much faith in these “theoretical forecasts.”
The scientists who agree with Dr. Singer are too numerous to mention. In 1998, 17,000 signed a petition circulated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, saying, in part, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
In 1997, a survey of over 400 German, American and Canadian climate researchers, conducted by the Meteorologisches Institut der Universitat Hamburg and the GKSS Forschungszentrum, found that 67 percent of those surveyed either disagreed or were uncertain about the proposition that global warming will occur so quickly that lack of preparation could devastate certain parts of the world.
While more than 2,000 scientists were consulted by the IPCC in drafting its reports, not all of them have agreed with the findings. However, even if there had been total agreement among this group, we cannot ignore the fact that these scientists were handpicked by the IPCC and their respective governments, most of which were beating the drums for the Kyoto treaty. Therefore, the IPCC’s reports have been the products of political rather than scientific processes.
On Aug. 19, 2000, the New York Times ran a front-page story stating that for the first time in 50 million years the ice pack at the North Pole had melted. This was based on an observation by Harvard University oceanographer James J. McCarthy, a prominent member of the IPCC panel. It seems Dr. McCarthy had observed open water at the North Pole while on an educational cruise and he promptly reported this as evidence of the effects of human-induced climate change.
After the story ran, the Times was contacted by scientists more familiar with the Arctic’s climate history and geological record who pointed out that, during the summer, more than 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean is free of ice and it is not rare that the North Pole is part of that 10 percent. Ten days later the Times buried a retraction, which was not challenged by Dr. McCarthy.
The IPCC has stated that global warming is causing the sea level to rise dangerously. This too has been challenged. In October 1999, a team of scientists led by Dr. Howard Conway of the University of Washington reported that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was indeed melting. However, Dr. Conway and his team believe the melting to be part of an ongoing natural cycle than began when the ice age ended 10,000 years ago — not as a result of anything we humans did or are doing. Conway predicts that it will take several thousand years before this melting ice sheet would begin to affect seaboard cities, assuming the earth doesn’t enter a new ice age.
Another important factor to consider:
- While the IPCC is able to show a recent temperature rise by averaging data from surface thermometers, there is no corresponding rise when data is obtained from well-controlled weather stations where local heating urban effects are eliminated.
- Data from more reliable weather satellites show no appreciable warming trend since 1979, nor does the data gathered from weather balloons.
- Data from tree rings, ice cores and ocean sediments shows, after the modest 1.0 degree global warming of the last 140 years, present-day temperatures remain cooler by about 1.0 degree than they were when the Vikings settled Greenland in medieval times.
- For more than 7,500 of the last 10,000 years, temperatures have been higher than today.
Those who are skeptical of the latest reports from the IPCC have every right to remain skeptical. They are in good company. Let us not be manipulated into ratifying a treaty that would transfer our wealth and cripple our economy, especially one that does not have universal standards that can be applied to every other country in the world.
Let us not be like the alarmist crew aboard Dr. Singer’s imaginary ship. Let’s not yell, “iceberg” or “permanent heat wave” until one is spotted or can be documented.