The Week That Was
June 1-7, 1998

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is haggling for more money and more clout. Reuters reported last week that a task force is now looking at various options, one of which is the evolution of UNEP into a World Environmental Organization, something akin to the World Trade Organization. UNEP is currently restricted to blowing just $55 million a year because UN funds are allocated according to the wishes of donor countries. Its managing director, Jorge Illueca, called that sum a "drop in the bucket" compared to what it could spend if it really tried.

China last week became the 37th nation to sign the Kyoto Protocol of the Global Climate Treaty, committing itself to voluntary emissions reductions. According to the Associated Press, none of the 37 nations has ratified the Treaty as yet.

Disco Press has just published the book "Der Treibhaus-Schwindel" (The Greenhouse Swindle), soon to appear in English, which claims the greenhouse effect does not exist because carbon dioxide "cannot reflect heat and make the Earth warmer." Wrong.

The MacArthur Foundation went three for three by naming Dr. Benjamin Santer a MacArthur "genius" for his work on global warming. Santer is perhaps more famous for altering the crucial Chapter 8 of the most recent IPCC report; his research methodology has been challenged in print recently by climate scientists Robert Davis of the University of Virginia and David Legates of Louisiana State University. Previous MacArthur geniuses include Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and Lester Brown, head of the Worldwatch Institute. Both men are noteworthy for forecasts of famines, cancer epidemics, and other global disasters that didn't come to pass. Santer's designation comes with a $270,000 check.

A colleague in Indiana drew our attention to astronomer Carl Sagan's posthumously published book Billions and Billions, which is devoted largely to the global warming and ozone depletion issues. Early on in the book, Sagan takes great pains to explain the power of ten and exponential growth, complaining that reporters often confuse million, billion, and trillion, and that misplaced zeroes are commonplace. He expresses his gratitude to publisher Prentice-Hall for carefully proofreading his work. Later in the book, on page 109, Sagan tells his readers that "25,000" IPCC scientists (!) have concluded that anthropogenic global warming is real.

In Washington, D.C., the global warming debate has turned to the efficacy of economic models in forecasting fallout from the Kyoto Protocol. One particular report, by the private economic firm WEFA Inc., has gotten the ear of the Congress. First brought to our attention in mid-May by former Delaware Governor Pierre "Pete" du Pont, the WEFA report forecasts on a state-by-state basis job losses and additional energy costs per family of four, as well as detailing impacts on agriculture, manufacturing, construction and other sectors. According to the report, states where families would see the largest increase in annual energy costs from Kyoto include Georgia ($1,708), Massachusetts ($1,736), Maine ($1,772), Florida ($1,816), and Montana ($2,740). States losing the most jobs--the ultimate family "cost"--include Ohio (119,800), Texas (124,600), Florida (142,000), Illinois (190,700), and California (278,800).

We'll leave this fight to the economists, but we would note that the Clinton Administration, while producing numbers that suggest little economic loss if energy use is curtailed by 35 percent over the next 10 years, still hasn't given Congress a peek at how it arrived at its figures. Since the Administration tends to downplay the ability of economic models to forecast such cost impacts, everyone is understandably curious. After all, former Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth, somewhat incoherently, said, " Anybody who believes that an economic model is going to be able to predict to points of percentage increase or decrease, I'd raise your eyebrows or take a deep breath or...look at what those people are smoking." Members of Congress are aware that no one in the Clinton Administration inhales, but they'd still like to see the calculations.

By the way, it almost goes without saying that this is the same Tim Wirth and the same State Department that accepts as gospel the 50-100 year predictions of global climate computer models, none of which have been able to hindcast the actual climate over the past few decades without considerable fudging and tuning. (Fudging and tuning is an important tool in forecasts of future climate as well.) This is also the same State Department that in April 1995, at the urging of Vice President Albert Gore, made environmental issues a top priority and declared global climate change and pollution a threat to national security. This prompted the U.S. Department of Defense to follow suit, creating the new position of Deputy Undersecretary for Environmental Security, now held by Ms. Sherry Goodman. And we wonder why the boom-booms in India and Pakistan took everyone by surprise.

Elsewhere, a spokesman for Pew Charitable Trusts, in announcing Pew's willingness to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote global warming to the American public, characterized controlling the climate as "one of the defining challenges of this generation, comparable to such feats as creating Social Security, putting a man on the Moon, and ending the Cold War." One hardly need comment on such exuberance except to note that, in keeping with this theme, newspaper advertisements placed this month by the Pew Center for Global Climate Change ($5.2 million a year in Pew money and counting) close with the admonition that "preventing climate change is serious business."

The Pew Center, run by former U.S. State Department official and more recently public relations consultant Eileen Claussen, is what the Washington Post editorial page touts as a fresh voice in the global warming debate--presumably because Ms. Claussen says her group does not explicitly endorse Kyoto; they consider it only a "first step." After seeing the ads, we hope Post writers are not mistaking this group for a scientific organization.

Pew Trust officials, of course, are not completely blinded by the light. They admit there are still skeptics in the scientific world about whether global temperatures are rising due to human activities, but they say there is a growing consensus among climatologists. (They just don't say for what.)

Meanwhile, Peter Kelley, spokesperson for the National Environmental Trust, another Pew-funded group promoting global warming, says organizations with titles like "sound science" and "consumer coalition" are obvious "front groups" for industrial corporations. We think that's cutting rather a wide swath. Does this mean any organization with "trust" in its title cannot be trusted?

Finally, the activist public-relations firm Fenton Communications and its cohort Environmental Media Services held their monthly press breakfast in Washington last week, showcasing claims that the recent El Nino and floods of "near-Biblical" proportions were due to global warming. A few years back, Fenton made its reputation by bringing actress Meryl Streep to Washington to promote the Alar scare. In 1996, Fenton got involved in the controversy over breast implants, claiming to represent women who'd been victimized. When pressed by Wall Street Journal editors, president David Fenton admitted the lawyers were paying his tab.

This time out three scientists were on tap: Kevin Trenberth, chief of Climate Analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a well-known advocate of global warming; David Easterling, research meteorologist with the National Climatic Data Center; and Joan Rose, professor of water pollution microbiology at the University of South Florida.

These scientists presented unpublished research, so it's difficult to offer a critique except to say that there is considerable published research, some of it in the IPCC report, that disputes such claims. We don't doubt that Dr. Trenberth has something, however. The Winter 1997 edition of the UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) Quarterly, in an article titled "El Nino and Global Warming: What's the Connection?" addressed this same issue. It has this memorable line: "But even though we can't trace the link between the changes in [El Nino] and global warming, [Kevin] Trenberth believes 'there's got to be a connection.'"

Ah, the scientific method at work.

This issue of TW^2 was compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

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