The Week That Was
September 28 - October 4

As Washington gears up for the White House conference on global warming, one of our sources notes that a key piece of evidence prepared for Congress is not only full of unreliable computer climate projections but full of OLD unreliable computer climate projections. The publication Our Changing Planet: The FY 1998 Global Change Research Program is a 118-page, glossy, full-color report, prepared under the leadership of White House Science Coordinator Michael MacCracken and editor Rick Piltz. It makes much of the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory computer model and the United Kingdom Meteorological Office computer model, which project respectively an average increase in global temperature of 4.3 degrees celsius (7.7 degrees F) and 6.7 degrees celsius (12 degrees F) for a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. Both of these models are out of date. When asked why these models and their "high-end" projections were used in this report to Congress, editor Piltz shrugged it off as the "inevitable lag time" between the science and the impact analyses. But this "lag time" isn't being revealed to Congress, nor apparently to the public. In fact, Our Changing Planet is a big part of the Clinton Administration's public relations campaign to convince Americans of a global warming catastrophe that has yet to manifest itself. It is the centerpiece of 18 regional workshops.

Actually, what we found most fascinating about Our Changing Planet was the detailed overview of the U.S. Global Change Research Program FY 1998 budget. Broken down by agency, it includes cash to support programs at NASA/NOAA, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Smithsonian, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, Dept. of Interior, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Agriculture, and the Dept. of Health and Human Services. In short, a substantial segment of the federal government is bellied up to the trough on this issue. As one pundit noted, this is called "constituency building."

World Wildlife Fund gets the prize for being first out of the gate last week with a hysteria-charged report on global warming. According to the WWF, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Kyoto in December "could be the world's LAST CHANCE to head off a catastrophic century of warming." (Well, no. Even IPCC scientists say there would be no problem in waiting 10-15 years to more carefully study the impact of CO2 increases.) "The five warmest years since global records began in the mid-19th century have all occurred in the 1990s," said WWF. (Well, no. Corrected for the urban heat island effect, the temperature record still points to the 1940s.) WWF said global average temperatures "had risen dramatically." (Since the mid-19th Century--i.e. end of the Little Ice Age--yes. Since 1940, hardly at all. Since 1977, not at all.) "The effects of global warming were clear." (No, to the contrary.) "The harmful effects of global warming on human health were becoming clearer." (No). World Wildlife Fund's "director general" Claude Martin said the forest fires in Indonesia were an example of what might happen if world governments don't jump in with some bureaucratic solution right away. Well, we can think of a few equally compelling disasters that might happen if they do.

One of our Canadian colleagues passed along the latest Energy Outlook report from Natural Resources Canada. It projects that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will be 8.2 percent higher than baseline 1990 levels by the year 2000 and 36 percent higher by 2020, almost all of it from fossil fuels processing and burning. NRCan found that the largest growth would be in the energy sector itself, where just getting the fossil fuels out of the ground would boost emissions by 76 percent. Will Canada "do the right thing" and go from exporting fuel to importing fuel? For Maurice Strong, former head of PetroCanada and now environmental poobah at the United Nations, this could be a tough one to finesse.

We missed mentioning last week an excellent article that turned up in the Science Times section of the Sept. 24th New York Times, page C-1. Written by William J. Broad, "Another possible climate culprit: the sun" covers important research being done on the effect of sunspots and solar brightness on climate. Danish scientists Friis-Christensen and Svensmark are not mentioned unfortunately, though they are well-known for their work in this area. But overall, Broad and the NYT do a good job explaining the concept, and the article is a refreshing break from the usual global warming gloom and doom from Times' staff writer William K. Stevens. Some of our colleagues often complain about Stevens, by the way. We remind them that, even at the New York Times, editors can grow impatient with obviously biased reporting. A few years ago, Environment Writer, a newsletter for environmental journalists, noted that near the end of Phil Shabecoff's 16-year reign as the Times' premier environment reporter, editors were pouring red ink all over his copy in response to complaints from readers. Editors finally took him off the environment beat altogether and assigned him to cover tax issues, at which point he quit and started Greenwire. So, there is hope.

Dr. Fred Singer continues to lecture widely on environmental topics. On Tuesday, September 30, Singer took part in a lively 90-minute panel discussion on global warming, nuclear power, and other issues, broadcast live over the radio from Providence, Rhode Island. The discussion was one of a series sponsored by a local community group called "Action Speaks" and was held at a downtown coffee house, with an audience of college students from Brown University, faculty members, local reporters, and interested members of the community.

It wasn't an entirely friendly audience, to say the least, but Singer got in the last word, and struck a chord with many members of the audience, including the local press, by questioning whether environmentalism hadn't lost its moral base when it began to disregard the impact of regulation on the poor. And it's worth noting here, because we have seen this phenomenon before, that the most nattily dressed member of the panel, the guy with the $100 haircut and the red silk pocket square, was also the one calling loudly for coercive taxation, drastic cutbacks in energy use and life style, and an end to private property--all to "save the planet" from "doom."

Interestingly enough, USA Today reported the very next morning (Wednesday, Oct. 1) that White House spokesman Mike McCurry has been using an interesting angle in exhorting broadcast journalists to get aboard the Clinton/Gore global warming bandwagon. McCurry "urged correspondents to alert [their] bosses in New York about global warming and how, say, their vacation haunts in the Hamptons could be under water by the middle of the next century."

Well, we pretty much know the what of the Clinton/Gore plan. I guess now we know the why.

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