[This article appeared in Conservative Review, July/August 1996, pp. 7-16.] 

“Global Warming”: A Lysenko-Like Challenge to the World Scientific Community 

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University 

An obvious premise of the recent film The American President is that virtue lies entirely on the side of those who think that "global warming” threatens imminent catastrophe. To this view, anyone who suggests otherwise or who calls for restraint on enormously expensive "solutions" until science obtains more data, is necessarily venal or woefully ignorant.

Vice President Al Gore expressed this outlook in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance. He wanted to preempt debate by consigning doubters to ineffectual spectator status: "If, when the remaining unknowns about the environmental challenge enter the public debate, they are presented as signs that the crisis may not be real after all, it undermines the effort to build a solid base of public support for the difficult actions we must soon take." He called for a "coalescence of public support for action." Prohibitively expensive action first -- before the collection of necessary data. The problem of closed-mindedness goes, however, far beyond a specific issue. Of more transcending importance is the fact that the global warming issue joins several others in showing that the scientific world is in crisis.  

The Crisis Within Science

The integrity of science is fundamental to civilization. But a fawning after "political correctness" has come to pervade much scientific inquiry.

Is integrity still a paramount value to most scientists? Subject of course to many exceptions, it would not seem so. The leading scientific journals' discussion of global warming features a dangerous combination: Much informed reason in the best tradition of scientific inquiry, but shaped by "hype" for the politically correct view.

After I finished much of my reading for this article, I delayed writing until I could find the results from the latest global satellite temperature measurements. These measurements have been made on a comprehensive worldwide basis since 1979. Although this is a relatively short period, each passing year provides a more extended picture of world temperature trends. Land- and sea-based measurements, although they go back over a much longer period, don't cover large parts of the world.

Accordingly, I read a number of the most recent scientific articles to see what they reported about satellite findings.

Significantly, almost none of them mentioned it. They pointed to one or another study that would support a warming trend. It wasn't until I came to the Science News article of January 13, 1996, that there was reference to recent satellite results. What this says, remarkably, is that "global temperatures read from space have actually decreased slightly since 1979" (my emphasis). It explains that "because they cover all areas of the globe, the satellites provide a more comprehensive picture of Earth's temperature."

This is vitally important to the assessment of "global warming" as a substantive issue. But we should first notice what the article reveals about the science itself. Far from treating the satellite results as important, the article gives an entirely different slant. The headline says nothing about the satellite results. Remarkably, in total contradiction to them, it trumpets that “1995 Captures Record as Warmest Year Yet." The lead sentence says the "earth's average temperature in 1995 jumped to a new high in the 140-year-long record of reliable global measurements." The article adds that "the warmth last year continues a 10-year trend of rising temperatures that has accelerated in the 1990s. The 5-year period from 1991 through 1995 is the warmest half-decade in the record…"

The first part of the article states all this as true, and says it is based on "data collected from land stations, ships, and buoys." Only then does the author tell about the satellite measurements and that they are more comprehensive than the other data. Read as a whole, the article contains both sets of information. But the article isn't a balanced discussion founded in scientific objectivity. It reeks of hype.1

Hype was at the core, too, of; the New York Times News Service report that appeared in the press on September 10, 1995. The headline in the Wichita Eagle read: "Human role in global warming confirmed, experts say.” Readers were told about a new report from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main international body established to sound the alarm), which said that the "signal" showing humanly-caused warming had been found. Commenting on the report, Michael Oppenheimer, "an atmospheric scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund" [an environmental activist organization], is quoted as saying that the scientific community "has discovered the smoking gun."

To understand this in context, one needs to I know that the global warming movement has been preoccupied by a search for a "signal" indicating the presence of anthropogenic (humanly caused) warming. But this is singularly odd and empty. Evidence of an effect does not address the extent of the effect and the direction and extent of the consequences. Strangely, after all the hue and cry, the search for a "signal" amounts to a search for evidence only of the most preliminary, threshold, rudimentary point.

What precisely is the "signal" that the IPCC report describes? Not newly discovered data. At the end of a lengthy article, readers are told only that "a new generation of studies has enhanced [scientists'] confidence in computer simulations." In other words, there is a rush to declare a finding of the "signal" even though it is based on computer modeling rather than observed fact.

The abuse of scientific objectivity extends well beyond the global warming issue. Hugh W. Ellsaesser, now retired from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, recently authored a study "The Misuse of Science in Environmental Management" that reviews air quality issues, the ozone-layer question, and global warming. After his discussion of air quality, he says: "The history of air pollution control regulation in the U.S. demonstrates how science is misused and disregarded. Activists, journalists, and public officials fanned public fears of deteriorating air quality even when measures of air quality were showing significant improvements." His report may be obtained from the Heartland Institute.2

One result of the rise of an ideologized scientific establishment is that the public is thrown into a quandary over "which science to believe." Experts vie against experts, and the public becomes no better off than a jury that must decide between experts who have sold their opinions to the contending sides in a lawsuit. Cynicism and loss of social consensus are bound to follow. 

A Case That Fifty Years Ago Scandalized the World Scientific Community: The Lysenko Affair 

There was a time when the world scientific community greeted with horror any attempt to impose ideology onto science. In 1948 scientists were scandalized by the Stalin regime's insistence on a certain "proletarian” version of genetics. The Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences endorsed biologist Trofim D. Lysenko's theory that an organism passes environmentally-acquired properties on to the next generation. Until the mid-1960s, all teaching of Mendel's theory of heredity-only-through-genes was suppressed in the Soviet Union as representing "bourgeois" science.

The reaction of the world scientific community was so strong that it must be counted among the many "shocks" that Marxism-Leninism suffered that brought it into eventual disrepute among intellectuals outside the Soviet bloc. Such a reaction speaks well for the science of a half-century ago. It was fundamentally committed to its own integrity.

This commitment is not nearly so strong today. Undeniably, work of immense value continues to be done. But a number of factors compromise scientific integrity. One, of course, is the presence of "politically correct" intellectual intolerance and the unfortunate desire that many have to conform to it, either because they are participants in the ethos of the intelligentsia as a subculture or because conforming is the easiest way to get along. Second, a recent book by Michael L. Parsons points to "career pressures" as "very strong in contemporary science." Third, the academic world's emphasis on publish-or-perish stresses quantity of output. And, fourth, "most scientific research is funded by federal grants from agencies" that have a particular interest or outlook, leading to the politicization of science.3

This institutionalization and funding is very much in evidence in the environmental "movement," which stands in tandem with much environmental science. The Heritage Foundation comments that "in 1996, Washington's environmental groups... are large and influential 'inside-the-beltway' political organizations with very large budgets: 1994 revenues for the Wilderness Society were over $15 million, National Audubon Society - $36 million, Sierra Club - $43 million, National Wild- life Federation - $101 million, Nature Conservancy - $307million.4

The crisis within science is of vast importance, but the loss of integrity and credibility also warps our media and educational system. These are just as much given to ideology and hype, and are just as hostile to an honest give-and-take of ideas. The American President illustrates the media's treatment of the issue. To check how objective the school system is, visit your nearest middle school's library to see what it carries on "global warming." Predictably, there will be a lack of balance.

This article will review the substance of "global warming." But we should keep in mind that even more important is the declining credibility of the scientific establishment, as well as of other sources of information.

What an irony! - that at the advent of "the Information Age" we are besieged not by information but by propaganda.

 

Theory of the Greenhouse Effect

There is no dispute about the presence of a "greenhouse effect," which is essential to life. The earth would be frozen without it, since the heat received from the sun would be released into space. What makes life possible is that an envelope of greenhouse gases traps some of the radiation, retaining warmth. Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas, but there are also others, among them carbon dioxide. In the cycle of nature, animals take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide; plants do the opposite, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Plant and animal life depend on the balance that the greenhouse effect creates between the amount of energy retained and the amount released to outer space. A great many natural events affect this balance, but it is also true that human activity -- mainly the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and the loss of farmland -- is increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.5 It is thought that (if there are no offsetting factors, in an atmospheric system of unbelievable complexity) this increase in an important greenhouse gas will increase the retention of heat, warming the atmosphere.

Less than two decades ago, the worldwide cooling that occurred between 1950 and 1980 caused many scientists to fear that the earth is entering a new ice age. It has been 11,000 years since the end of the last ice age. A fact that is surprising to me is that ice ages endure for about 100,000 years, with a mere 10 to 12,000 years of warmth between them. If a million-year cycle continues, we are near the end of a warm period.6 Most of us don't realize it, but the world recently experienced a "Little Ice Age" during the 200 years between 1650 and 1850.7

 

The Global Warming Hysteria

During the concern about earth cooling, opposing warnings began to be heard about too much heat retention. In 1967, a computer model at Princeton predicted a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit (3.6F) increase in average world temperature by the year 2100 (one and a third centuries). Michael Parsons says that during the 1980s "the popular press had a heyday" with the speculations arising from the growing use of computer simulations.

The warming issue really came into its own, though, quite recently -- in fact, less than a decade ago in 1988 --with the extravagant reception given to the Congressional testimony of James Hansen, the director in New York City of NASA' s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.8 His testimony merely pointed to "warming" without addressing its extent. Oddly, something so innocuous had an electrifying effect. A startling coordination of activity by the world political-scientific-ideological establishment followed on its heels.

That same year, the Toronto conference called for, in Parson's words, a "reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 20% of 1988 levels by 2005... [and] a world fund, supported by a carbon tax, to help developing nations cope with the special economic problems they faced in complying with emissions reductions." Also in 1988, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has since occupied center stage on the issue.9

One apocalyptic prediction followed another, so that a mere four years later Senator Gore, seeing an "extremely grave" crisis, called for immediate, worldwide measures and asserted that it would be catastrophic to await the collection of further data. He looked forward to the elimination of the internal combustion engine within twenty-five years.10

            Much of the increase in carbon dioxide comes, and in the future will increasingly come, from the Third World (which can hardly be anticipated to curtail its own industrialization). Accordingly, the proposals for fighting global warming call for the advanced nations to cut drastically their own economic activity and to transfer vast resources to the Third World in what can only be considered a quixotic effort to induce those peoples to join in massive emission controls.

            In 1990, Robert M. White, former head of the U.S. Weather Bureau, told how "a recent report of the Council of Economic Advisers... states that the cost of controlling carbon dioxide emissions and of taking other actions to address climate change would run into hundreds of billions of dollars." "Such reallocations of resources," he said, "raise the specter of grave economic consequences."11 Parsons says that "according to the Department of Energy, the cost to the United States of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 20% in the next ten years could be as much as $95 billion per year. Another estimate based on information from the Office of Technology Assessment, puts the cost of responding to the issue at between $350 billion and $520 billion per year" [although anticipated fuel savings would, it said, greatly offset these costs].12 The Electric Power Institute estimates $5 trillion for “a serious attempt" to reduce emissions, with an annual reduction of the United States' gross national product of two percent.13 Surely an updating of Senator Dirksen's dictum is in order: "Half a trillion dollars here and a trillion there, and pretty soon we're talking real money." We are actually talking about the fate of the Western nations' industrial systems.

            Here are some of the points made by those who support the global warming thesis:

  • A doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead, according to varied computer models, to an increase in average world temperature of from 3.25F to 9.54F.14

  • An atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute says "agriculture would be disastrously affected. Many crops will no longer grow where they do now. Water supplies will change, deserts will expand, forests will disappear. Floods and Storms will increase in severity and frequency... Sea level will rise; estimates range from one meter to dozens of meters. Even the lesser estimate will be disastrous for many cities and farmlands world wide."15

  • The 1990 report of the IPCC says that the "stabilization of greenhouse gases at present levels would require a reduction of manmade emissions of more than 60 percent." It predicts that at the current rate of growth of emissions, "temperatures will increase by 1.8F in the next three decades." Sea level "will rise... 26 inches by the end of the next century."16

  • David A. Wirth, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, says (contrary to the satellite data) that "the five warmest years in this century all occurred during the 1980s. Moreover, the rate of global warming for the past two decades was higher than any in recorded history."17

  •  

A Rhetoric of Suggestion

            As we analyze the hype, we should notice the seductive progression of the argument in the following passage from Wirth's article, which passes from "could" and "may" to "will." I have added the italics: "An international scientific consensus now supports the assertion that the accumulation of [greenhouse gases] could have sweeping and far-reaching effects on the earth's climate. By as early as the year 2030, the heat-retaining capacity of the atmosphere may have increased by an amount equivalent to doubling preindustrial concentrations of carbon dioxide. By the middle of the next century, average global temperatures may have risen by as much as 3F-9F. The absolute magnitude of these temperatures, as well as the rapidity of temperature change, will exceed any previously experienced in human history."l8

            The same form of argument appears in a World Health article by Enrique H. Bucher of the Centre for Applied Zoology in Argentina: "... could lead to global warming ...other gases may have increased ... there could be a rise in sea levels of ...could affect the epidemiological patterns ...could expand the areas ..." But then: "The disease would thus spread…"19

            This style, which passes from speculation to factual assertion, is important to the apocalyptic case, since most scientific writing admits that the supporting evidence is terribly sparse and is contradicted by other evidence. The proponents have the burden of showing that trillions of dollars should be spent and a vast shift of resources made from the developed to the underdeveloped world before rather than after the evidence is in any sense definitive. To do this, it is necessary to regale the public with speculative possibilities and then to secure its acceptance that those speculations are fact.

 

Is There a Consensus Among Scientists?

            It is hard to tell how many scientists are convinced and how many simply conform themselves to the hype, since even most of the articles centered on hype eventually disclose the uncertainties and opposing evidence somewhere in their discussion.

            Senator Gore asserted that 98 percent of the scientists in the field support the thesis, and only two percent oppose it.20 Geoffrey Jenkins of the British Meteorological Office, who coordinated the IPCC report, is quoted as saying that "it's as close as you can get to a consensus in the meteorological community."21 The New York Times News Service report of September 10, 1995, which I mentioned earlier, conceded that "all but a few" climatologists have been unsure, but told how the IPCC had concluded in a new report that confidence in "a new generation of [computer] studies" had gone far to remove the doubts. Certainly my reading of recent scientific journals shows me that that literature is very much on the bandwagon.

            Nevertheless, many reasoned voices reject the hype and argue for objective science. Parsons says "atmospheric scientists have, with few exceptions, maintained their open-mindedness and scientific objectivity with respect to what can and cannot be concluded from computer climate models." He says "the results of the models have been misused and misstated by environmental advocates…"22 Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, asks, "where do we find the 'hundreds of scientists' who are usually cited as representing this or that consensus that the time to act is now? They are not members of the climate science community; there simply are not that many of us." The others are "scientists who are not climatologists at all but are in distantly related fields."23 Indeed, he says "the anti-apocalyptic argument is now so strong that it is becoming mainstream."24 This movement can be expected to increase if the best evidence -- the global satellite temperature readings -- continues with each passing year to provide no empirical verification of the predictions made by the simulation models.

 

The Case Against the Scare: Summary

            The strongest thing the apocalyptic view has going for it is "the argument from uncertainty": "we had better act now, because if we don't" ...followed by a parade of horrors similar to that used by a door-to-door fire alarm salesman.

            The case against the scare is strong, however, and consists of several parts:

            1. The severe limitations of the computer simulations that are relied upon by those who assert impending catastrophe.

            2. The empirical data, the strongest of which contradict the hypothesis of drastic earth warming.

            3. Causal factors relating to world climate that offset any propensity toward warming, or that even refute that humanly-caused increases in carbon dioxide play a significant role in climate changes.

            4. An insight that a general warming, if it occurs, will likely be benign or even of positive value.

            5. Reasons to believe that there is time to collect further data before taking steps that are enormously expensive.

            6. An awareness that there is little in any event that the industrialized nations can do to redirect the development of the Third World.

            7. A readiness to endorse measures that can be taken at reasonable expense and that would make sense even in the absence of an environmental scare.

            8. An awareness that there are ideological and political forces behind the scare, so that its assertions should not be accepted at face value.

            Let's examine these one at a time:

 

  1. Insufficiency of the Computer Simulations

Parsons indicates that since scientists began developing them in the 1950s, at least nineteen "general circulation

models" (GCMs) for the computerized simulation of world climate have come into use at research centers around the world. So great is the reliance on computer models that the argument is often made, Michael says, that "the observed data don't matter." He quotes Chris Folland of the United Kingdom Meteorological Office as saying that "we're not basing our recommendations upon the data; we're basing them upon the climate models.”25

Parsons says computer models must satisfy certain criteria if they are to approximate the real world: the model must consider all significant factors; the data fed into the model must be realistic; arbitrary "adjustment factors" shouldn't be used; only predictions extrapolating over a short period of time should be made; and their predictions should be successful, providing validation.

            The factors that must be included are, among others, the sun's radiation flux; sunspot cycles; effects of the earth's rotation; the moon' s gravitational pull; wind; clouds; ocean currents; ice cover; variations in the earth's orbit; day-night temperature fluctuations; and major natural events, such as volcanoes, forest fires, hurricanes, and El Nino and La Nina (the periodic warming or cooling of ocean surface temperature off the west coast of South America).26

            Even this list is far from exhaustive. In my notes I immediately come upon water vapor, the main greenhouse gas, which is a highly variable factor. In addition, "aerosols" (specks of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere that sometimes "float about on air currents for days, weeks, or even years" and that are not to be confused with household aerosol sprays) are "a powerful influence" that computer models have hardly taken into account.27

            It isn't enough, of course, simply 'to include all factors; each has to be quantified realistically. That's a tall order.

            Do the models adequately take these things into account? Not according to Fred Singer, director of the Science and Environmental Policy Project in Fairfax, Virginia, who calls them "quite primitive."28 Parsons says "climate scientists do not understand the extremely complex interactions between water vapor, clouds, oceans, and ice packs that make up the hydrological cycle, and their computer climate models do not adequately account for them." Moreover, "scientists don't know where almost half of the carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere ends up!"29 Dixy Lee Ray pointed out that James Hansen, whose 1988 testimony was so electrifying, used a model that did "not take sea temperatures into account. Yet the oceans cover 73 percent of the earth's surface."30

            Much of the data available for use in the models is incomplete and of questionable reliability, in part because a comprehensive scientific effort to measure all the factors consistently and accurately hasn’t existed in the past and is just now coming into being, if at all. Even so seemingly rudimentary a thing as land and sea temperature measurements involves a shaky historical record, since methods of  measurement vary, locations change, readings are subject to the heat-increasing influence of urbanization, etc.

Despite the IPCC’s recent announcement of confidence, the models fail the validation test. Singer says that "for a model to predict future climate with any credibility, it must first be able to reproduce the current climate... [but] the models have failed miserably in accounting for past temperature changes, cannot explain the highly accurate global record from weather satellites -- and are internally inconsistent to boot. Model predictions of future global warming vary by 300 percent."31 Parsons says "you probably have not read about model validation in any of the popular literature. The omission... stems from the fact that current computer climate models... do not accurately predict known weather on a global basis." Later, he says: "The fact is the earth should already have warmed enough for detection by our current experimental measurement systems if the computer climate models were correct. This warming has not occurred, which is reasonable proof of their inadequacies."32

As if this weren't enough, the models have operated on a totally unrealistic assumption. They have hypothesized an immediate doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rather than the gradual build-up that would actually occur. Parsons says "a realistic model would slowly increase the concentrations of these gases over the years." He says that "according to the IPCC, several recent experiments that have followed a more realistic approach... predict global temperature increases of only about one-third of those models that double the carbon dioxide concentration."33

As this tells us, the models are gradually producing more moderate predictions. Parsons says "the early models predicted greater increases in global warming than more recent ones... It appears that the more realistic the global climate models become, the smaller the temperature change they predict!" He quotes William Nierenberg of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography: "It was only some 17 years ago that serious predictions of a 25 ft. rise [in sea level from the melting of the polar ice caps] in a matter of 'decades' was made by an expert. This estimate has been steadily reduced... In fact, there are some who believe, on the basis of the actual measurements of the change in Green- land ice-cap thickness and model predictions, that the average sea-level may even decrease! ... The current version of the IPCC barely mentions sea- level rise."34 

 

2. The Conflicting Data

We have already seen how the Science News article in January 1996 spoke of a "20-year trend of rising temperatures that has accelerated in the 1990s" -- based on "data from land stations, ships, and buoys." Robert T. Watson, associate director for environment in the Clinton White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, writes that "there is no doubt that the Earth's climate has changed during the last 100 years. The global mean air-surface temperature over the land and ocean has warmed between 0.6 and 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit, glaciers have retreated globally and sea level has risen 10 to 25 centimeters."35

Parsons, however, points out that the IPCC's finding that there has been a 0.5-1.1 degree Fahrenheit increase over the past century (upon which Watson may have based his slightly varied figure) "is no greater than that caused by natural climate variability." (The world has, after all, been rebounding from the "Little Ice Age.") He goes on to say, however, that "there may not have been an increase at all," citing a group of MIT climatologists. In any event, he says, "there is considerable inconsistency in the temperature data gathered during the past hundred years."36

Most significantly, the two best sets of data show no increase at all. One is of the land measurements taken at 1219 stations in the United States since 1900; the other is of the satellite measurements since 1979.

As to the first, Parsons cites T. R. Karl at the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina as reporting that "there are essentially no trends observed in the contiguous United States from 1900 to 1990." (Parsons later mentions, however, a slight cooling, of 0.11F, during that time.)37 Michaels also uses Karl as a source, but reports a somewhat different picture: there was a rise of 1.4F in the United States between 1895 and 1935, followed by a net cooling of 0.5F since 1935. He observes that the cooling has occurred during the time when three-fourths of the increase in greenhouse gases has taken place.38

As to satellite measurements, we have already seen what Science News so reluctantly reports about them. They provide the most comprehensive picture, and they show a slight cooling.

 

3. Causal Factors that Offset or Negate Warming

Atmospheric interactions are vast and extremely complex, so that the simplistic axiom of the global warming movement that "more humanly-caused carbon dioxide will lead to global warming" doesn't automatically follow. Much else is going on.

Variations that have occurred in the earth's orbit, Parsons says, "are consistent with the timing of the ice ages." I commented earlier about a startling fact discussed by Parsons when he says that "during the past million years there have been ten ice ages, each lasting about 100,000 years, interspersed with short interglacial periods of relative warmth lasting only about 10,000 to 12,000 years."39 We are already 11,000 years into the current period of warmth. If the world is heading back into another long ice age because of a long-term cycle in the earth's orbit, even the most strenuous efforts to create a warming will likely be of negligible effect.

If the world's cloud cover increases, more sunlight will be reflected away from the earth, with a cooling effect. Michaels says "a small increase in cloudiness could spell the death of the Popular Vision." And cloudiness is increasing: Michaels reports that "even if we disregard the data before 1950, there is an overall increase in Northern Hemisphere cloudiness of 2 percent from then through the early 1980s, which is the current termination point of the analyzed record. There is also an increase in cloudiness in the Southern Hemisphere, although the magnitude of that increase is about half…"40

Increased carbon dioxide leads to more plant growth. (Recall that plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen). Sherwood Idso, research physicist with the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, writes that "gaseous carbon dioxide is the primary raw material used by plants in producing food via photosynthesis." He points out yet another surprising fact: "Throughout the history of life on Earth, it almost always has been present in the atmosphere in much greater concentrations than exist today. Hence, over the course of geologic time, plants have become accustomed to air considerably more enriched with carbon dioxide than ours is. Whenever they are 'fed' more atmospheric carbon dioxide, they grow bigger and better" (emphasis added). Moreover, "enriching the air with carbon dioxide leads to greater levels of soil organic matter, which promotes the building of the earthworm populations, which helps plants to grow better still…"41 These things are worth remembering when we hear hysterical comments about deforestation.

Aerosols (fine particulate matter in the atmosphere) are increasing. This is a major offset against warming. Parsons speaks of "the cooling effects of aerosols because of both their direct reflection of solar radiation and their indirect participation in cloud formation." Their role is now "recognized to be nearly equal in magnitude, but opposite to the warming effect caused by the increase in greenhouse gases." He adds: "This means that in the two years after the first IPCC report, the scientists on the panel found a global cooling process that equals the dreaded global warming!" (emphasis added)

Human activity emits some cooling gases, such as sulfur, but so do volcanoes, and the earth has been in a period of intensified volcanic activity, with about 100 eruptions per year. Dixy Lee Ray pointed out that "all of the air polluting materials produced by man since the beginning of the industrial revolution do not begin to equal the quantities of toxic materials, aerosols, and particulates spewed into the air from just three [major] volcanoes…"42

In addition to these and other offsets, there is a natural cap to the warming that carbon dioxide produces. Michael says that small increases result in temperature changes, but that "as concentrations increase, the response becomes muted, and eventually the temperature does not change" (emphasis added). Why? Ellsaesser says that "Priestly deduced that there should be a 'rather sharply defined upper limit to which air temperature will rise above a well-watered surface.'"43

Moreover, there is doubt about the direction in which causation runs. Michaels reports that "gas bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice tell us that the temperature dropped before the carbon dioxide concentration changed, not after." Pointing to a known lag between temperature changes and carbon dioxide changes, Parsons poses the question of "does the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere regulate the earth's temperature or does the earth's temperature determine the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere?"44

A similar question of causation relates to whether human activity has anything to do with the sea-level rise that has occurred during the past century. Chris Harrison of the University of Miami is quoted as saying that "the rate of change has been constant over the past 100 rears, whereas if the sea-level rise were caused by humans, the curve should have taken a marked upward bend over the past 50 years" as world population increased and economic development sped up.45

 

4. A Possible Net Benefit From Warming

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been higher than they are today "throughout most of the past billion years," and "the same is also true for most of the past 100 million years, which is the period," Michaels says, "during which most of our food and fiber crops evolved." The lower level has been present during the past five million years. Before the global warming scare, climatologists spoke of a "climatic optimum" that occurred 4,000 to 7,000 years ago when temperatures were 3.6F higher than they are today. It is little wonder, then, that Sherwood Idso can "suggest that ... the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect significantly will enhance the direct biological benefits of atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment and thereby help thrust the planet into a new era of enhanced biospheric productivity, creating a clear and present benefit for all the many species…"46

 

5. There is Time to Collect Data

Research into global climate change has received immense funding -- "$2.1 billion per year, topping the budget of the National Cancer Institute," Singer said in his September 1995 article. He argues that, "the timing [of expensive measures] can be delayed safely by a decade or more... By then we also will have 25 years' worth of satellite data and perhaps a better scientific understanding of what's wrong with the theory."47 This is consistent with what we have seen so far. An implication, Singer suggests, is that the United States should withdraw from the Global Climate Treaty, invoking Article 25.

 

6. The Quixotic Foolishness of Worldwide Mobilization

Where are carbon dioxide emissions increasing? Not in the "developed world," Parsons says. There, they have "leveled off or even decreased." But "the developing nations of India and China are increasing both their total and their per capital emissions. The developing nations are also increasing their populations at much faster rates than the developed nations." Dixy Lee Ray said that "in China, 936 million metric tons of coal were burned in 1987"; and she asked "who is going to tell China to stop or to change? What alternative do the Chinese have?" The result is that "no matter what we in the Western world do, the amount of carbon dioxide arising from human use of fossil fuel will not be significantly reduced." A 1980 article in Forbes warned that efforts to slash growth in the Third World would risk "a revolt of the have-not nations against the haves."48

The result is that the worldwide mobilization called for by Gore and by the Global Climate Treaty is a tilting at windmills, ultimately ineffectual but disastrously expensive. Gore's Earth in the Balance acknowledges that the Third World "will not be denied" the hope for rapid economic development and that "that choice must not be forced upon them," but this simply prompts him to call for a "Global Marshall Plan" paid for by the developed nations (which means, of course, largely by the United States’ taxpayers).49 The scare can best be seen as a pretext for redistribution and political control, both of which the Left heartily desires.

Hugh Ellsaesser's recent Heartland Institute study concludes that "at stake in the debate over global warming is nothing less than the continued advance of technology and prosperity around the world. To cap or reduce man-made carbon dioxide emissions would require draconian restrictions on manufacturing in the U.S. and around the world. It would require that we condemn persons in third-world countries to lives of continued misery and suffering, perhaps even that we use force to stop them from advancing their condition."50

 

7. Reasonable Steps that Would Make Sense Anyway

Even though global warming is doubtful, and effective measures to prevent it would be impossible in any event, some emission-reducing measures would make sense even in the absence of the panic. Dixy Lee Ray made an intelligent appeal for nuclear energy, which by an ironic quirk of ideology isn't "politically correct" even though it involves no emissions, and addresses the important questions of safety and disposal of nuclear waste.51 Parsons says that conservation and improving energy efficiency is "no doubt the single most effective strategy."52 Alternative energy sources -- solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, along with nuclear energy based on fission and perhaps eventually on fusion -- may develop as technology improves and economic forces alter comparative costs.

It is reasonable to refrain from "solutions" that don't make sense independently. Among those that have been proposed are injecting dust or soot into the atmosphere  (i.e., increasing the aerosols), seeding clouds with particulates, putting mirrors into space to deflect sunlight, and fertilizing the oceans' algae.

 

It is Time for the Scientific Community to Regain Control as Against Ideology

Dixy Lee Ray wrote that "it's up to good scientists to weed out the phonies." Unfortunately, the problem is broader than that and lies at the heart of the great "scientific establishment," where it must be fought out among men and women with differing visions of the nature of science.

The infection has come from the Left, which pervades the scientific community just as it does the world artistic and literary establishment. Because of that, the most effective opposition to ideology must come from scientists who see themselves as "of the Left," but who are committed to integrity. In other words, it must come from the Sidney Hooks of the scientific world.

Parsons begins his final chapter with a quote from Richard Feynman, 1965 Nobel Prize winner in physics:  

If science is to progress, what we need is the ability to experiment, honesty in reporting results -- the results must be reported without somebody saying what they would like the results to have been -- and finally... the intelligence to interpret the results.

How Best to Serve the World We Love

I grew up trout fishing on the streams of Colorado, and today I mix fishing with oil painting, enjoying every light and shadow, every rivulet of water coming down out of the high country. The high country is part of me, and I care no less deeply about it than "environmental activists" claim to.

So it isn't out of callousness that I take a jaundiced view of environmental extremism. Those who exaggerate and propagandize do not best represent the claims of the natural world. Mental intolerance, hyperbole, selective use of data, hype, compromised science, a quixotic worldwide redistributionism, anti-Western and anti-industrial ideology, and ever-growing governmental control and centralization of power -- can we honestly say these are appropriate means? Perhaps we should "check our premises" about what ends they are designed to serve.

 

Dwight D. Murphey, an associate editor of Conservative Review, is the author of Issues in American History - A Conservative Scholar's Perspective.   

 

Endnotes

 

1. Article by R. Monastersky, “1995 Captures Record as Warmest Year Yet,” Science News, January 13, 1996, p. 23.

2. Contact the Heartland Institute at 800 East Northwest Highway, Suite 1080, Palatine, IL 60067; 708/202-3060, fax 708/202-9799.

3. Michael L. Parsons, Global Warming: The Truth ... Behind the Myth (New York: Plenum Press, 1995), pp. 40-42.

4. Heritage Foundation's "The Insider," issue of February 1996, p. 1.

5. Douglas Fulmer, former National Space Society Field Coordinator, tells us that "prior to the industrial revolution the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 275 to 285 parts per million ... [It has now risen] to 350 parts per million." Douglas Fulmer, "Turning Up the Heat," in Matthew A. Kraljic, ed., The Greenhouse Effect (New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1992), p. 25. Patrick J. Michaels however, says that "as a result of all the infrared-absorbing emissions, the effective carbon dioxide concentration is not 357 ppm but 432 ppm." Patrick J. Michaels, Sound and Fury. The Science and Politics of Global Warming (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1992), P. 13.

6. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 7; Dixy Lee Ray, Trashing the Planet (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), p. 41; Parsons, Global Warming, p. 116.

7. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p. 43.

8. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 7.

9. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 59.

10. Senator Al Gore, Earth in the Balance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), pp. 36, 326.

11. Robert M. White, "The Great Climate Debate," Scientific American, July 1990, reprinted in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, pp. 21-22.

12. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 48, 49.

13. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p. 6.

14. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 19.

15. Quoted by Douglas Fulmer, "Turning Up the Heat," in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 27.

16. Michaels, Sound and Fury, pp. 26, 27.

17. David A. Wirth, "Climate Chaos," in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 75.

18. Wirth in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 73.

19. Article reprinted in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 94.

20. Gore, Earth in the Balance, p. 38.

21. Quoted by James Trefil in a Smithsonian article reprinted in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, pp. 51-52.

22. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 103.

23. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p. 183.

24. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p. xi.

25. Michaels, Sound and Fury, pp. 82-83.

26. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 21, 22, 16; Ray, Trashing the Planet, p. 39 (as to sunspot cycles).

27. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 213.

28. Article by Fred Singer, insight, Sept. 4, 1995, p. 19.

29. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 142.

30. Ray, Trashing the Planet, p. 35.

31. Singer article, insight, pp. 19, 21.

32. Parsons, Global Warming, pp, 99, 238.

33. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 103, 104.

34. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 198-199, 33.

35. Article by Robert T. Watson, Insight, September 4, 1995, p. 18.

36. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 32.

37. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 130, 136.

38. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p; 111.

39. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 150, 116.

40. Michaels, Sound and Fury, pp. 95, 97.

41. Article "Carbon Dioxide Can Revitalize the Planet" reprinted in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, pp. 78, 80.

42. Parsons, Global Warming, pp. 224-225; Ray, Trashing the Planet, p. 37.

43. Ellsaesser study (see Endnote #2), p. 21.

44. Michaels, Sound and Fury, p. 10; Parsons, Global Warming, p.149.

45. Quoted in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 58.

46. Michaels, Sound and Fury, pp. 10, 73; Sherwood Idso in Kraljic, The Greenhouse Effect, p. 84.

47. Article by Fred Singer, Insight, September 4, 1995, pp. 19, 21.

48. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 75; Ray, Trashing the Planet, p. 42; the Forbes quote is given in Parsons, p. 80.

49. Gore, Earth in the Balance, pp. 279, 297.

50. Ellsaesser study (see Endnote #2), p. 24.

51. See her detailed discussion in Ray, Trashing the Planet, pp. 95-158.

52. Parsons, Global Warming, p. 65.