September 4, 2003
by Dennis T. Avery
Earlier this summer, the Bush White House just directed a major rewrite of an Environmental Protection Agency report on global warming to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding climate change—thereby incurring both political and activist wrath. Why?
Because of new science that has arrived during Bush's term in office.
For a decade, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has pushed the theory of fierce man-made global warming, supposedly caused by burning fossil fuels. It would theoretically drive temperatures up as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The IPCC wants American to join the Kyoto Protocol, quickly doubling U.S. energy prices, without making much impact on the warming. (Kyoto would be a 'down payment' on much more severe energy cutbacks.)
However, most of the earth's recent warming occurred before 1940, and thus before much greenhouse gas was released by human factories and cars. The headlines scream that recent temperatures are "the highest ever recorded"—but the records go back only to 1860, during the world's recovery from the Little Ice Age.
During Bush's term, scientists delving into the earth's history have found quite a different global warming: an ancient, natural, 1500-year warming-cooling cycle driven by a known cycle in the magnetic activity of the sun.
Written history tells us the Medieval Warming, a mild-weather period from the 11th to 13th centuries, with temperatures 1 to 3 degrees F. warmer than today. It was followed by the Little Ice Age, with temperatures 2 to 4 degrees F. lower, harsh storms, encroaching glaciers, and crop-failure famines. History also records an earlier Roman warming, it too followed by a mini-ice age.
In 2001, the journal Science published a careful, long-term analysis of iceberg debris on the floor of the North Atlantic—bits of rock carved from Canada by glaciers and floated out to sea. A Team led by Dr. Gerard Bond of New York's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found nine global warmings and nine global coolings in the last 12,000 years.
Matching ice debris with solar activity (through tree rings and beryllium-10 in a Greenland ice core) showed the icy periods correlate strongly with low solar activity. The coldest point in the Little Ice Age occurred at the only time in 400 years when there were no sunspots at all. (Our sunspot observations go back to 1600.)
Climate researcher John Christy points out that official thermometers show a temperature rise of 0.7 degrees F. for the last 24 years, far less than the greenhouse theory projected. However, the temperature readings from satellites and high-altitude balloons show less than half that warming (0.3 degrees F). These readings represent the bulk of the atmosphere, up where the greenhouse theory says warming is supposed to occur first!
Most official ground-level thermometers are in urban heat islands, surrounded by increasing amounts of masonry and blacktop. A retired California climatologist, James Goodrich, divided California's weather stations into three groups, and plotted their temperature records by population density. In the last 100 years, the California counties with more than 100,000 to one million people had a slightly rising trend, and the low-population counties had no temperature rise at all.
Believers in fierce warming warn that the polar ice could melt and raise sea levels by a horrifying 15 to 25 feet. However, warming would also add to the ice caps (increased rain and snow from more evaporation of the oceans). Dr. Howard Conway of the University of Washington reported in Science (Oct. 10, 1999) that the Antarctic ice has been melting at about its present rate since the end of the Great Ice Age 15,000 years ago. We can expect the sea level to keep on rising about six inches per century. Until the next Ice Age.
The fierce global warming scenario is now backed by little except computer models and activist press releases. Plus, a European desire for the U.S. to penalize its economy by emulating Europe's heavy taxes on fuel. (A barrel of oil that net Kuwait $30 may net the British government $150 in taxes, "justified" by the global warming theory.)
President Bush's task is a delicate minuet to avoid doubling U.S. energy prices and throwing the American economy into a Depression; while not alarming a mass of voters who haven't read the earth's own temperature record, and fear their car exhausts are burning up the planet.
Based on new and solid science, no fuel rationing can stop the mild natural warming likely over the next 500 years.
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.
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