- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

The conclusions of a recent National Academy of Sciences report on global warming should surprise no one: global warming is an important problem and the planet will warm somewhere between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
This is the same range projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a report to be released with great fanfare some 60 days from now. The reason that the National Academy report looks a lot like the U.N.s is that it was produced by a microcosm of the same people, and with the same process: groupthink.
To produce whatever you want, all you have to do is select the right people. But, for cover, include one or two known dissenters who can then be listed as participants even as they are ignored by the dynamics of the larger group.
I know because I have been in similar meetings with many of the same people on this Academy panel; instead of being called by the White House, the one I recall was requested in response to Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat. The meeting was chaired by Eric Barron, from Penn State, a member of the current panel. There were about 15 participants, the same number involved in this most recent report. And what "we" said seven years ago looks a lot like what the Academy said yesterday.
The other dissenter in that case was the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Richard Lindzen. For several hours, we raised a number of objections concerning facts and uncertainties about climate change. Finally the chairman announced that if we didnt stop objecting he was going to stop the meeting. This is how legitimate scientific dissent was handled.
We can only surmise that similar things happened with the new report by looking not at what it says, but what it omits. In this case, the two likely dissenters were again Mr. Lindzen, and John ("Mike") Wallace, who chairs the Atmospheric Science Department at the University of Washington. Mr. Wallace invited me for a very well-received seminar last year and expressed considerable agreement with arguments that warming may well be overestimated, and that the process by which we assemble "consensus" (the new report being the latest example) may be fundamentally biased. But he also thinks we should lower our use of fossil fuels, his personal opinion.
Want proof that groupthink smothered inconvenient dissent in this new report? Here are four glaring examples:
(1) Mr. Lindzen recently published a bombshell paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society demonstrating there is a huge tropical "thermostat" that regulates planetary warming. It reduces the likely warming in the next century to, at warmest, somewhere around 1.6 degrees C, or the lowest end of the National Academys range. I find no mention of this paper in the new Academy report. It is impossible for me to believe Dick did not bring it up.
(2) The first sentence of the Academy report talks about how changes in the Earths greenhouse effect are "causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise". Wouldnt it be logical if one then immediately asked what this meant? The paper on ocean temperatures was published only three months ago, in Science. When the rise in ocean temperatures is coupled to a predictive climate model, the warming for the next 100 years again comes out at the low end, around 1.4 degrees C.
(3) Almost all of our climate models predict that once human warming starts, it takes place at a constant (not increasing) rate. The Academy report concurs with the U.N. that much of the warming of the last several decades is caused by people. Therefore, the warming rate that has been established should be the most likely one for the next 100 years, unless all those climate models are wrong. Again, it works out to 1.4 degrees C.
(4) The physics of the greenhouse effect requires that warming begins to damp off if the increase in a greenhouse compound is constant. So the only way that the computer models can maintain a constant warming rate for the next 100 years is to assume that the greenhouse gases go in at ever-increasing (exponential) rates. They are not doing this. Despite the prior beliefs of every atmospheric scientist on the Academy panel, the increase in the last 25 years has been constant, not exponential. This will tend to reduce, rather than maintain warming in coming decades. The Academy report makes brief mention that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases is below the projections of the U.N., but thats all. If one assumes their projected range, a non-exponential increase in greenhouse gases will drive the warming right down to its bottom, or 1.4 degrees C in this century.
Is there a pattern here? You bet. By far the most consistent interpretation of that thing that climatologists must ultimately confront reality is that warming is destined to be modest. Further, the atmosphere has already told us that two-thirds of this will take place in the winter, with three-quarters of that in the dead of Siberia, northwestern Canada and Alaska.
The logical question to ask is why the Academy didnt put all of these things together. The answer is simple: The people on this panel are largely the same ones who produce the United Nations reports, as well as earlier Academy reports. They have been touting big warming for nearly two decades. Reversing course, and saying anything else would have been self-destructive. Thats why the contents of this report were predictable, with as small a range of uncertainty as is indicated by a critical look at our climates behavior.

Patrick J. Michaels is professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute.

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