- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

With Al Gore's election defeat, global warming has lost its most dedicated governmental sponsor. Mr. Gore may not have invented climate change but he certainly has been its most zealous advocate. He repeatedly proclaimed a non-existent scientific consensus, labeling skeptical scientists as naysayers who view global warming (in his words) as the equivalent of the Easter Bunny.

Now that he has retreated to the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City, will the global warming scare fade from the scene? Don't bet on it. There are too many now whose perks, power and prestige depend on keeping the myth alive not to mention the billions of governmental dollars flowing out to these eager recipients. Annual conferences in attractive cities around the world, involving some 180 (yes, count them) national delegations, with committee meetings in high-priced resort hotels in between: It's a great lifestyle and a full-time career for a growing number of scientists, bureaucrats and politicians, paid by the hapless taxpayers.

Don't expect these folks to pay any attention to climate science. For them, it is "settled" and "compelling" to use Bill Clinton's words. The UNEP science panel sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program keeps coming up with ever-more fantastic predictions of coming disasters.

Last fall, this group leaked a summary of their findings to influential newspapers, hoping to boost Mr. Gore's chances of being elected and also providing added urgency to negotiations at The Hague on how to put teeth into the Kyoto Protocol. This international accord has not been ratified by any of the industrialized nations; if adopted, it would restrict their energy use by between 30 percent and 40 percent within the next decade. So, if you like the California power crisis, you'll love Kyoto.

The Hague talks last November collapsed over relatively minor disagreements; but Kyoto is not yet dead. Its proponents are not giving up not just yet, at any rate. What will finally stamp out Kyoto? The U.S. Senate, which would reject such a treaty once President Bush submits it for ratification. Senators of both parties recognize the economic danger of energy restrictions and are becoming aware of the shakiness of the science that purports to back the Kyoto Protocol.

To counteract this trend, the U.N. science panel has just rehashed its same old tired predictions of last fall. They managed to get front-page attention from The Washington Post, which accepted uncritically the not-yet-approved summary of the U.N. climate report. It claimed that the climate had warmed in the last 50 years and that computer models predict a rise of more than 10 degrees F in the next 100 years, with all sorts of dire consequences. Other scientists (including myself) see little or no warming since about 1940 and therefore do not put much faith in these theoretical forecasts.

Laymen are understandably confused when scientists disagree. The explanation is simple. The U.N. group gets a warming trend by averaging data from all surface thermometers, including poorly characterized measurements of the sea surface. The so-called "skeptics" point to the absence of a temperature rise from well-controlled weather stations in the United States and Europe, where the local heating from urban effects can be eliminated. More important, the truly global data from weather satellites show no appreciable warming trend since 1979, and these results are independently confirmed by instruments carried in weather balloons.

Finally, we have additional temperature data that don't rely on instruments at all but come from "proxies" like tree rings, ice cores, and ocean sediments. While they all evidence a pre-1940 warming trend (starting in the 19th century when human influences were minor), they do not show a trend since about 1940. (Melting glaciers, shrinking Arctic sea ice and sea level rise, while real, are likely the delayed result of an earlier, pre-1940 warming of the world climate that has little to do with human activity.) .

Hence our conclusion: The balance of evidence suggests climate has not warmed appreciably in the past 60 years. We expect future climate effects from human activities to be barely detectable and certainly inconsequential. Let's see if Al Gore and the School of Journalism picks up on this. I am taking bets.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service (now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

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