The Spring Offensive and the Summer Campaign


On January 10, CBS News began a series of six, count 'em, separate global warming scare stories. On January 27, President Clinton called global warming "the greatest environmental challenge of the new century." On February 1, Roger Ballentine, Clinton's deputy assistant for environmental initiatives, sent a "Dear Interested Party" letter elaborating on the president's position. On February 9, Bill Stevens, the New York Times global warming reporter (and advocate of Clinton/Gore policies; see his new book The Change in the Weather) called, saying he's writing a new, comprehensive feature article on the subject. On April 22, Earth Day, presidential candidate Al Gore will release a new edition of his 1992 bestseller, Earth in the Balance.

Is there a pattern here?

After avoiding the issue like the political plague that it is, the Gorecampaign has decided to go into high dudgeon over climate change.

The Gore team is banking on some type of national weather disaster thissummer. They hope to call attention to global climate change and theirbelief that uncaring Republicans refuse to pass the Kyoto Protocol on globalwarming. This U.N. document will cost the country a fortune and has thepotential to relegate an amazing percentage of our land -- the UnitedNations calls it "Kyoto lands" -- to their watchful eyes. They are about torelease a report that puts just about all U.S. forested land in thiscategory, as well as much of our farmland. That’s easily half the country.

This makes it a good idea to examine what is coming out of the White Houseas it ramps up the weather horror machine.On February 1, Deputy Assistant Ballentine wrote, "You may have noticed thesteady stream of new scientific studies suggesting that global warming is .. . occurring more rapidly than previously thought."

What "steady stream?" Fact: Of hundreds of global warming papers thatappeared last year, only one, published in Geophysical Research Letters,says this, and it does so by using 16 months of data to forecast the next100 years. The only "steady stream" it has created is a torrent ofscientific criticism.

Rather, the balance of scientific evidence, according to the U.N.Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to the contrary. In its lastcomprehensive report, the United Nations stated, "When increases ingreenhouse gases only are taken into account, most [climate predictionmodels] produce a greater mean warming than has been observed." In otherwords, the computer models that gave rise to the initial concern predictedtoo much warming.

From Mr. Ballentine: "Reports by . . . the National Climatic Data Center . . . found that since 1976 the planet has been warming at a rate of 0.35degrees Fahrenheit per decade."

Fact: Integrated over the troposphere--the earth's active weather zone --the planetary warming since 1976 has been a mere 0.07ºF/decade, or farbeneath normal background fluctuations in this region. According to NASAscientist John Christy, writing in Nature magazine, the originally forecasttropospheric warming rate was around 0.70ºF/decade. This is 10 times whathas been observed. Because those models, in the United Nation's words"produce[d] a greater mean warming than has been observed," the integratedtropospheric warming forecast was lowered, by 1997, to 0.4ºF/decade. Thisis still an egregious error, and a new report by the National ResearchCouncil has finally admitted that it casts serious doubt on current computerforecasts of global warming.

More Facts: It is seriously misleading to report the temperature of "theplanet" in disregard of the distribution of observed surface warming. HadMr. Ballentine consulted the latest issue of Climate Research, he would haveseen that by far the greatest warming is occurring in the coldest winter airmasses of Siberia and northwestern North America. Northern Hemispherecold-season warming outside those regions averages one-tenth of what isbeing observed within them, which is below normal variability.

Still More Facts: The very air masses that are warming are those under whichwinter mortality is four times greater than summer mortality. Furthermore,in almost every year that surface temperatures have warmed, global foodproduction has risen. This results from improved technology, benign weatherand the same carbon dioxide that makes the coldest air of winter lessdeadly. Finally, as surface temperatures have warmed, we have witnessed thegreatest democratization of wealth and expansion of longevity in humanhistory.

None of this matters when the hype is on, and Gore knows a lot aboutAmerican weather. He has been told, for sure, that conditions in theindustrial Midwest, Texas and Southern California are fairly dry,predisposing the region to a very mediagenic drought, just in time for thenominating conventions.

And Gore surely has been told that the way the federal government measuresmoisture status -- please sit down -- puts an average of 20 percent of theElectoral College in drought each summer. This year, thanks to where thedry conditions are, it's closer to one-third, or a mere New York+Floridafrom putting Gore in the White House.

Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels is Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute and author of an upcoming book, "The Satanic Gases". This essay first appeared in the March 7, 2000 Washington Times.