- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

I got a charming little note from a reader.”I realize facts don´t play much of a role in your belief system,” it read, “but this piece … just might give you pause.”

Enclosed was a clipping from the local paper. It was a New York Times News Service story with the headline “New Global Warming Data Could Alter Bush´s Stance.”

So I read the piece.

It concerned a National Academy of Sciences report on climate change requested by the White House in advance of an international meeting on global warming next month in Bonn, Germany.

According to the Times, “Eleven leading atmospheric scientists and oceanographers, including previous skeptics about global warming, reaffirmed the mainstream scientific view that Earth´s atmosphere is getting warmer and human activity is largely to blame.”

The Times also extracted this nugget from the Academy report: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth´s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.”

So there I had it. The “facts” about global warming as determined by a panel of scientists (including previous skeptics); as reported by the unimpeachable Times.

How could I continue to question the global warming orthodoxy that human consumption of fossil fuels is giving Mother Earth hot flashes?

How could I hold fast to my heretical belief that, while there is little dispute that a planetary warming trend is under way, it is far from certain this trend is attributable to human activity?

Because I actually read the academy report. And I noted that the panel´s conclusions were not as unequivocal as the Times suggested.

While the panel did, in fact, state that greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere as a result of human activity and that human activity has caused air and ocean temperatures to rise, it didn´t say how much.

It didn´t say that Earth´s human inhabitants have caused the entire accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It didn´t say that our species is fully responsible for the rise in planetary temperature.

In fact, the panel members state that “we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes are … a reflection of natural variability.”

In other words, the global warming trend very well could be naturally occurring, rather than anthropogenic (influenced by humans).

The report acknowledges, for instance, that “global warming rates as large as 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) per millennium may have occurred during retreats of the glaciers following the most recent ice age.”

And since there weren´t very many of us around back then, it´s safe to say humans had nothing to do with that past warming trend.

I hope the reader who dropped me the note and attached article had a chance to read the essay authored by MIT professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen, which appeared this week in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Lindzen, one of the 11 scientists who prepared the academy report, wrote that there was “no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them” contrary to suggestions by the Times that the entire panel (including “skeptics”) affirmed “mainstream” scientific thinking on global warming.

Furthermore, Mr. Lindzen wrote, there is nothing in the panel report that should compel President Bush to reconsider his repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol. (The Kyoto Protocol is the ill-conceived international global warming treaty that calls for the United States to drastically reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.)

“My own view,” wrote Mr. Lindzen, “consistent with the panel´s work, is that the Kyoto Protocol would not result in substantial reduction in global warming.”

That means the cost to implement the treaty, which would require Americans to pay 2 or 3 times as much for energy, would far outweigh any putative benefit.

Those who accept the global-warming orthodoxy as an article of faith don´t want to hear from skeptical scientists like Mr. Lindzen and don´t want to read the writings of dubious journalists like yours truly.

It´s too much of a challenge to their belief system.


Joseph Perkins is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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