- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

What's causing all of the crazy weather around the globe? Drought in northwest India, where the annual monsoon rains failed to arrive, and in many other regions. Meanwhile, devastating floods in northeast India, in Central Europe, and elsewhere. And surprise it cannot be blamed on Global Warming or on American consumption of energy.
Many experts point to the Asian Brown Cloud (ABC), a 2-mile thick blanket of air pollution covering much of South Asia, but with possible global consequences. Predictably though, leftist politicians and environmentalists still seek to link Europe's worst floods in decades to U.S. reluctance to endorse the Continent's approach to fighting global warming; their target is the Bush administration's decision not to accept the economically disastrous Kyoto Protocol.
The villain is certainly not Global Warming from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2), the favorite whipping boy of enviro-activists. And how do we know that? From a major study of the ABC, sponsored by the U.N. Environment Program and involving more than 200 scientists. The study will be unveiled at the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. It identifies the sources of the polluting cloud: local emissions of noxious substances. CO2 is not a pollutant that affects air quality.
But there is a big fight brewing between U.N. "global warmers" and more rational U.N. weather experts. A July 26 Page One story in the Indian Express of New Delhi reports that R.K. Pachauri, chief of the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), maintains that this current erratic behavior of the monsoon is the first strong signal of climate change with a direct impact on India.
However, in the 26 July issue of Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher David Anderson et al. document an increase in monsoon strength as temperature warmed since the Little Ice Age. It suggests any future warming may give more rains to India not a bad outcome.
Mr. Pachauri's position is also directly at odds with that taken by the Indian Meteorological Department, which says there's no question of climate change. S.R. Kalsi, IMD deputy director-general, believes it is "incorrect to say that there is a change in climate."
Mr. Pachauri, an engineer who heads the Tata Energy Research Institute in Bombay, graciously permits meteorologists to express their opinion: " the MD is entitled to have their opinions but the indications of climate change are very strong since the curves from the world over suggest a gradually warming Earth." Mr. Pachauri, who took over as chairman of the IPCC last April, parrots the IPCC line, which refuses to acknowledge that U.S. weather satellites do not show a warming trend, in contradiction to theoretical climate models.
Other "global warmers" go far beyond Mr. Pachauri. In a new twist, the Center for Atmospheric Sciences in New Delhi blames failure of the monsoon on greenhouse gases released by U.S. warplanes over Afghanistan. Its chief told the Press Trust of India (Aug. 2): "The injection of large amount of greenhouse gases and aerosols by U.S. fighter planes during the Afghanistan war contributed to significantly deficient rainfall over northwest and central India." Talk of paranoia.
All this wild speculation has no quantitative basis whatsoever: The war's contribution to total greenhouse gases is insignificant and the contribution of greenhouse gases to climate change has been too small to be identifiable. Respected climatologist Tim Osborn of the University of East Anglia told the BBC that global warming cannot be the cause of the floods in Europe and elsewhere. It brings us back to the more likely cause of the crazy weather, the Asian Brown Cloud.
The Associated Press reports from London that two of the leading researchers, V. Ramanathan and Nobelist Paul Crutzen, believe the ABC not only influences local weather but also has worldwide consequences. They identify burning of biomass as the main cause of the ABC and of similar pollution clouds over South America and Africa: Forest fires used to clear land and the use of highly polluting cooking and heating fuels such as cow dung.
It is ironic that much of the pollution could be avoided by the use of cleaner fossil fuels, like gas, oil, and even coal, all of which release CO2. The use of dirty renewable biofuels leads to massive air pollution that not only upsets global weather patterns but may be responsible for as many as half a million premature deaths in India alone. The real problem is that villagers in developing nations cannot afford to buy fossil fuels. The ultimate cause of the polluting Brown Cloud is poverty.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and visiting Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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