For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has based its environmentalregulations on a poor understanding of contemporary science. The new EPA administrator, Christine Whitman, is the latest victim.
Appearing recently on CNN's "Crossfire," Whitman said correctly that "globalwarming is a real phenomenon," a statement that should have no policyimplication. But she went further, announcing that the Bush administrationwas going to put a lid on carbon dioxide emissions. Even Al Gore knew betterthan to mention emissions curbs in the campaign because it means--noequivocation please--energy rationing. Californians are especially touchy onthat subject these days.
Whitman's science advisers at the EPA neglected to tell her that what reallymatters is how, and how much, the planet warms, not whether it does. Despitethe gloom-saying of the media, which is trumpeting the hottest of the 245global-warming forecasts recently concocted by the United Nations, scienceindicates that warming this century will be modest.
Whitman also needs to know that no viable policy can reduce that warming ina meaningful fashion. Even assuming the United Nations' more extremefantasies, the amount of warming prevented by raising the price of gasolineto, say, $5 a gallon--which would make her new job a four-year affair--wouldbe 0.07ºC over the next 50 years.
>From there, Whitman's science became even worse. She argued that warmingwill produce increased floods and droughts, adding that "the science isstrong there." It is not. Not one shred of evidence points to a worldwideincrease in drought. It is as obvious as the price of corn, which for yearshas been hovering at century lows. We can't have an overabundance of foodand significantly increasing drought at the same time.What is truly embarrassing, though, is how far behind the power curve EPAscientists are. They should have at least briefed Whitman about thecontemporary scientific literature. Two recent items are of paramountimportance and prove that the "skeptics" (those who think warming is anoverblown issue) were right all along.
The big-warming crowd has always been at a loss to explain why the planethas warmed less than earlier forecasts predicted it would. The fashionabletheory is that sulfate particles in the atmosphere are "hiding" globalwarming. But the Feb. 8 issue of Nature featured an article by Mark Jacobsenof Stanford University demonstrating that removing sulfate particles fromthe atmosphere would do little to accelerate warming. The one U.N. forecaststhat is blazingly hot assumes that sulfates suddenly drop out of theatmosphere, unmasking the warming. Jacobsen's result shows that this effectis largely cancelled by another emission--soot--that would automatically beremoved along with sulfates.
The March issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Societycontains another stunner for the hot-planet mob. Scientists at MIT and NASAhave shown that when the tropics heat up--a central feature of any bigwarming scenario--the sky literally opens and the heat is exhausted intospace. Upper level clouds, which would normally keep the excess heat in,were found to evaporate under warming conditions. This was proven by ameticulous study of satellite images, and it is the polar opposite of whatis predicted by the global warming models that the EPA wants to base policyon.
Why did EPA scientists advise Whitman so poorly? In the interests of"continuity," the new administration has kept on Clinton's staff to bringthe newcomers up to speed on negotiations over the infamous Kyoto Protocol,which requires major reductions in U.S. energy use. Any credentialedscientist who could demonstrate the scientific flaws in the disastrouswarming theory has been brusquely turned away. But given recent scientificfindings, the EPA, Whitman and the administration ignore these people attheir peril.
Not surprisingly, logical inconsistencies are creeping into theadministration's proposals, namely the notion of opening up the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas drilling while proposing acap on greenhouse emissions. Either you want more fossil fuel from ANWR, oryou want to cut use, which is required to meet Kyoto. The administration andthe EPA must choose one of these courses, but they need to know that cuttingenergy use will have no effect on warming.
I hope that degree of understanding is not beyond the agency's grasp. If itis, Whitman would do well to clean the EPA's scientific house before itembarrasses her again.