- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 6, 2003

Ding dong. The witch looks dead. Which old witch? Well, with apologies to the joyous song in “The Wizard of Oz,” it’s not a nasty creature dressed in black and intent on spreading nastiness wherever she could, but the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty that supposedly would help avert catastrophic global warming.

The treaty would do nothing of the kind, as even many of its advocates confessed when pressed on the subject. “It’s, uh, you see, a first step,” they said, trying to explain away the nearly imperceptible stifling of warmth that would come about only if their theories happened to be right and then at an economic cost that could have devastating human consequences.

It is not sure yet, but it is beginning to appear scientists and economists in Russia have figured out the theories were filled with holes and that saluting a purpose more ideological and Europe-serving than scientific would be detrimental to their developmental goals. Despite mixed messages, Russia now sounds as if it will refuse to ratify Kyoto, at least unless it is radically revised, which would mean not enough of the world is participating for the treaty to go into effect.

Some drastic revision or different proposal, of course, may rise to take Kyoto’s place, perhaps something just as bad, perhaps something worse, for the true believers are nowhere near admitting they are wrong. It’s their contention that burning fossil fuels is going to burn Earth. We keep sending more and more carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to trap more and more heat waves, they tell us. When some scientists question their theories or raise various objections about evidence of harm, the true believers try to make them as miserable as possible.

Something like that recently happened to Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. These heretics produced research reasserting an old truth, namely that there was a Medieval Warm Period that was just as hot as anything seen in the 20th century. Theirs was a conclusion that makes true believers cringe. It could mean nothing terribly out of the way is now transpiring or that natural variability has had as much to do with warming as greenhouse gases. And besides, Michael Mann of the University of Virginia had produced research with a contrary conclusion for a U.N. report that serves as the true believers’ bible.

Several sources I talked to about this tell me Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon were subjected to castigation far beyond ordinary scientific disputation — nothing less than attacks on their reputations as honest, competent scientists. The fact that their science is solid will save them finally, I believe, and another development will help, as well. Two Canadians — one a businessman who is expert in statistics and the other an economics professor — reviewed Mr. Mann’s original data and found it rife with errors. When those errors are corrected, the Medieval Warm Period reappears.

The arguing isn’t over on this issue. While I spent some time listening to the Canadians explain their findings to an audience in Washington and found them convincing, I would hardly insist no one could possibly discover something amiss in their work. But some very fine scientists, such as Patrick Michaels at the University of Virginia, have already located much that is amiss in the work of those telling us something drastic awaits if we do not abide by Kyotolike formulas. He told me we will have some warming over the next century — some of it human-induced — but it will be mild, and quite possibly beneficial.

The true believers have also slashed away at Mr. Michaels’ reputation, he said in answer to a question. It is as if the believers are on a mission — an ideological mission — and will do whatever it takes to win. In the end, I believe, good science will throw water on this ideology and its justifications for Kyotolike treaties, and the global-warming mania will melt away. Ding dong.

Jay Ambrose is chief editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service.



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