The Week That Was
March 16-22, 1998

The other day we received by e-mail a frantic "Info-Alert," cautioning us about yet another right-wing conspiracy. No, it was not from Hillary, but from -- none other than the Union of 'Confused' Scientists, USA. (Apparently, there are also centers of confusion in Europe and elsewhere; these things do metastasize rapidly when fertilized with money.)

And what was the deep, dark scheme they uncovered. Why, a dangerous Petition Drive addressed to scientists, pointing out the shortcomings of the conventional climate science being peddled as the basis for the Kyoto Protocol.

The UCS is a little late. The Petition Drive seems to be going full blast, with over 10,000 signers, and with more signing up daily. It is deliciously ironic to watch the UCS squirm. After all, they have made a profession out of collecting signatures, not always from reputable scientists, for various harebrained schemes -- from anti-nuclear crusades to global warming disasters. They seem not to be bothered at all by the oxymoronity of their causes; after all, nuclear energy releases no CO2 and is the perfect solution if one were really concerned about greenhouse warming. But if one has another agenda ....

The last big signature collecting effort we saw was engineered by Dr. "Climate-Calamity" Jane Lubchenko, who as president of the venerable American Association for the Advancement of Science managed to hook up the AAAS with Ozone Action, a Washington-based pressure group. Just before Kyoto, they proudly presented the White House with 2600 names, with very few qualified climate scientists amongst them. CSE (Citizens for a Sound Economy) had a field day, analyzing the weird qualifications of many of the signers. We happened to notice the huge contribution from the State of Oregon -- not surprising perhaps, when we found an e-mail letter from Jane to the deans of Oregon State University suggesting that they do a little arm-twisting on their faculties and graduate students.

Now it feels good to see the shoe on the other foot and watch all that foaming at the mouth. The "Info-Alert" complains about the sponsors of the Petition (which the UCS assumes are the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and the George C. Marshall Institute) and claims to know that the enclosed scientific summary (by Arthur and Zachary Robinson, Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon) has not been peer-reviewed. But the summary agrees with what Nature tells us -- the actual observations -- unlike the climate models cited by the IPCC, the UN science advisory group.

The UCS science, such as it is, is pitifully out of date and fully exposed in their "Alert" and in their highly selective reading list. BTW, they don't they list Hot Talk, Cold Science? How can we ever take them seriously?

But never mind, to many politicians the science is already "settled." Mostly lawyers, they find it so much easier to stipulate the science than to rely on data from the real world. With this mindset, it's not surprising to find the White House forcing the federal agencies that fund the $2-billion-a-year US Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP) to divert money from real research into what's called "assessment." It is little more than a giant effort to brainwash the public into accepting the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and gain grassroots support for the $6.3 billion welfare program for corporations, the Climate Change Technology Initiative proposed by the White House.

To shape public opinion, this new "program of national assessment" (can you guess who thought this up?) focuses federal agency efforts, and money stolen from climate research, on all sorts of imagined consequences of hypothetical climate warming. A future warming is taken for granted in this exercise, and its consequences --surprise, surprise -- are all bad.

The main component of this assessment of the regional consequences of climate variability and change is a series of regional workshops--18 in all (!), in different regions of the country. (Thatís supposed to produce pressure on Congress.) An Aspen Global Change Institute meeting of regional workshop participants was held last July and a National Climate Forum was held in Washington DC last November, just before Kyoto -- all part of a costly public relations exercise.

In his address to the Forum, Dr. John Gibbons, science adviser to President Clinton and director of OSTP, explained "the move from science toward implications and impacts is a matter of practical necessity." (Yep, we notice that he has just resigned his job.) Let's not worry about understanding the physical climate system; we are now required to pay more attention to "societal needs." "When the USGCRP began in 1989, it was organized into various scientific disciplines. Now the program is more goal oriented," admitted Dr. Michael MacCracken, head of the National Assessment Coordination Office. (We'll bet he had to swallow hard when he said that.)

By design, the revamped "research" program now devotes resources to establishing and maintaining a dialogue between global change scientists, policymakers, and a broad range of stakeholders (how trendy!) that include farmers, businessmen, insurance industry representatives, and a host of others whose livelihood might be impacted by climate change. It also includes representatives from environmental pressure groups whose livelihood depends on maintaining a state of alarm about global warming.

We don't know where it will all end. Much depends on the oversight and appropriations committees of Congress. But we'll keep an eye on it and let you know. But not by next week...

This week's TW2 was compiled by S. Fred Singer. Regular writer Candace Crandall will return in a few weeks.

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