The Week That Was
November 23-29, 1998

An important 20th century political figure (we'll leave you to guess who) once remarked "What good fortune it is for governments that the people do not think." Those promoting global warming are counting on that to be true, particularly members of the press. Just prior to the UN's Buenos Aires confab, a survey commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund claimed that 66 percent of Americans thought the United States should act unilaterally (i.e., ALONE) to reduce CO2 emissions, regardless of what other countries do. Either the survey withheld significant information from those polled or WWF is asking us to believe that a majority of Americans are complete idiots! (Actually, a Minnesota survey commissioned by a fossil fuel industry in November came up with exactly the opposite results. Perhaps such surveys are beginning to tell us more about the veracity of polling companies than about public opinion.)

Last week the Associated Press reported that the Washington, D.C-based Worldwatch Institute and Munich Re, a German reinsurer, had estimated that violent weather, including Hurricane Mitch and the Yangtze River flood, did a record $89 billion in damage last year, which was 48 percent higher than the previous record (another Worldwatch/Munich Re estimate?) of $60 billion. The cause was laid to deforestation and global warming.

We would like to point out to Associated Press that increases in insurance claims and in news reports of weather disasters are not a reliable gauge of whether or not more weather disasters are actually occurring, and they certainly tell us nothing about the cause. Here's a reality check, courtesy of one of the public policy groups here in Washington. Weather disasters are nothing new. Filing insurance claims and seeing film footage that same day on CNN are new.

1780, The "Great Hurricane," kills 22,000 people in the eastern Caribbean.

Sept 21, 1900, India: An estimated 35 inches of rain floods Calcutta, submerging half the city.

1900, Texas: A hurricane kills more than 8,000 people.

Aug 29, 1909, California: A massive flood kills 1,200 people in Monterey.

Jan 26, 1910, France: Paris flood, so big it imperils the Louvre.

June 12, 1910, Hungary: Continuous rain causes the Danube and other rivers in the region to overflow, killing more than 400 people.

April 22, 1927, Tennessee: A massive flood kills 150 people and leaves 75,000 people homeless

April 30, 1927, US Mid-West: A Mississippi flood covers vast areas, resulting in landmark federal action to prevent future flooding.

August 13, 1935, Italy: 1,000 people drown as a dam collapses near Turin.

June 12, 1938, China: Yellow River dikes burst, killing 150,000 people.

May 31, 1948, Oregon: A huge flood drives 18,500 people from their homes.

Aug 7, 1948, China: A Yangtze River flood leaves three million people homeless.

Oct 19, 1949, Guatemala: 4,000 people killed in a devastating flood.

Aug 14, 1968, India: A prolonged flood causes the death of more than 1,000 people.

1974, Honduras: Hurricane Fifi, an estimated 10,000 people killed.

(For more information on historical weather fluctuations and disasters, see Gary Sharp's "It's All About Time and Place")

Weather used to be referred to as an "Act of God" and deaths and damage attributed to flimsy housing and bad luck. Now it's an "Act of Man" and the insurance industry has teamed up with Green activists to force the government to do something about it.

The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania claims that organic farming methods are an effective way of combating global warming by sequestering more CO2 in the soil. Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska has been touting this idea for some time (do we hear farm subsidies?), but it's unclear from Joby Warrick's write-up in the Washington Post last week whether such methods, on balance, actually result in a net reduction of greenhouse gases. Organic farming calls for reducing chemical fertilizer in favor of more cow manure and plowing under immature plants.

But cow manure and plowing under plants results in emissions of greenhouse gases (they quickly rot), plus any CO2 sequestered in agricultural produce is immediately released once it's eaten. Clearly, agriculture is not the carbon "sink" that forests are. If you sequester CO2 in wood you can lock it up for decades in housing, furniture, newspaper, and even government forms in triplicate, and it isn't released until it's burned. Still, we're glad to see people thinking along the lines of "sinks" instead of "controls."

States News Service reported last week that Ohio state legislators were planning to ask Congress to reject the Climate Treaty for fear that controls could raise energy prices and cost 80,000 Ohio jobs. SNN also reports that the U.S. steel industry is beginning to squawk about that Treaty. Weirton Steel Vice President Bill Kiefer says the Kyoto Protocol would put strict standards on emissions in the United States but would make no demands on underdeveloped countries. Kiefer points out that these are the same underdeveloped countries already putting undue pressure on the U.S. steel industry by dumping cheap steel on the U.S. market.

Those anxious over the dearth of snow in the United States thus far this winter should look to Europe where blizzards coming down out of the Arctic have already killed scores of people. Here oil and natural gas prices continue to drop (natural gas in storage is at a four-year high), wheat prices are falling (surpluses are at an 8-year high), housing starts are at a 13 month high, and salt, snow shovels, and auto chains remain on the hardware store shelves. The National Weather Service still predicts the worst winter in 20 years because of the La Nina effect. Well, it's early yet.

In closing, we'd like to put in a plug for Silencing Science, a new book out by Steve Milloy and Michael Gough. The sequel to Milloy's Science Without Sense, it's a pip. Copies can be ordered via Milloy's Junk Science Home Page at and are a tremendous bargain at a mere $8 a pop.

And next week we're going to talk about something other than global warming...

TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

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