The Week That Was
October 12-18, 1998

The Clinton Administration is dodging more than just economic reality when it comes to activist efforts to impose mandatory emissions curbs on industrialized nations via the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the personal best of New York Times reporter Bill Stevens and Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, it's becoming all too apparent that the scientific case for human-induced global warming is faltering as well.

Research based on careful examination of ice cores, soil cores, and ocean sediment cores shows that the Holocene (the period since the last major ice age, approximately the past 11,000 years) has already experienced huge NATURAL swings in temperature, larger and more precipitous than those predicted (with accompanying disaster scenarios) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest research paper on ice cores, "Past Temperatures Directly from the Greenland Ice Sheet" by D. Dahl-Jensen et al and published in the October 9 issue of the journal Science, clearly shows much warmer temperatures 6,000 years ago and even 1,000 years ago. A sentence from one of the graph captions is particularly memorable: "The Little Ice Age is followed by a temperature rise culminating around 1930 AD. Temperature cools between 1940 and 1995."

Cooling? What about all those "hottest ever" months touted by Vice President Albert Gore? What about them indeed. The government's temperature data has been coming under attack right and left. Officials at the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), in a recent e-mail memo, admitted that the methodology they use to arrive at global temperature numbers has never been "documented in the open refereed literature" (peer-reviewed), prompting University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels to charge that top officials at the NCDC are more concerned with "political impact" than any realistic assessment of global climate.

For example, rather than an actual record of global temperatures, the NCDC cites an "index" combining land surface temperatures, sea surface temperatures, and temperatures from ocean buoys deployed in the 1980s. But the sea surface temperatures were adjusted upward by 0.25 degrees C after 1982 in order to calibrate them with land surface temperatures, says Michaels, and it is this unorthodox adjustment that causes the years after 1982 to appear warmer.

The siting of thermometer stations has also been criticized. After recent news reports in California revealed that some thermometers were located on tarred rooftops or adjacent to structures that were clearly radiating heat, the National Weather Service ordered the relocation of all rooftop temperature stations to "more representative locations." The NWS declined to reveal just how many rooftop stations there were or how many years their readings may have been distorted, but it is well known that many of these stations were moved from ground-level to the tops of Post Office buildings during the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration, when the federal government began consolidating the Weather Bureau and transferring the whole operation to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Colorado climate scientist James K. Hall raises another point. According to official manuals, temperature sensors that are standard at most National Weather Service offices and Federal Aviation Administration airport sites are considered "accurate" when they take a reading within 1 degree celsius of the actual temperature! The warming over the last century (0.6 degrees C), as presented to the public by the government, is measured in tenths of a degree celsius. If temperature sensors are giving "ballpark" numbers, how much faith should we put in the temperature record?

With the ongoing core sample research and with serious doubts being raised about the accuracy of the temperature data, it goes without saying that the seemingly endless round of hysterical press briefings staged by Our Pal Al over the past few months was a political exercise, not a scientific one. The catastrophe train has jumped the track, leaving the Administration's global warming promoters back-peddling, debate-ducking, and occasionally making unsuccessful attempts at damage-control and spin.

Last week was typical. SEPP President Dr. S. Fred Singer, slated to debate the global warming issue with Michael Hall, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Global Climate Research Program, at the October 13th FELSEF conference here in Washington, D.C., suddenly found himself opposite warming advocate Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, whom NOAA apparently flew in from Colorado as a surprise switch. Singer was flattered, but the change of challengers didn't appear to alter the results.

Later that same day, Michael MacCracken, who now handles the Administration's global warming public "education" programs, tried to take the edge off a public presentation by nationally recognized hurricane expert Professor William Gray of Colorado State University, who spoke at Washington's Army-Navy Club under the auspices of the George C. Marshall Institute. Gray demonstrated that, based on the record over the last century, there was no relationship between the warmer temperatures claimed by the government and the intensity and/or frequency of hurricanes.

MacCracken responded with a mumbled explanation of three impenetrable slides, said it wasn't the frequency or intensity of hurricanes but "flooding" caused by weak hurricane systems that we have to fear, and added that "if we continue as we're going now" carbon dioxide levels would more than double, to 700 parts per million, by the year 2100. He then had to admit that such CO2 figures were arrived at by projecting "current" energy use and "current" technology out over the next century--an absurd statement.

The next day, Dr. S. Fred Singer flew to Asheville, North Carolina, to present a global warming seminar at the National Climate Data Center. This scientist, whom Green activists, including those in the press corps, continually try to discredit as one of a "dwindling minority of global warming skeptics," drew an audience of nearly 100 federal scientists, many of whom had already purchased copies of Singer's latest book, Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate. It appears that even at the NCDC, skeptics, or at least the unconvinced, abound.

On Thursday, October 15, also in Asheville, Singer was scheduled to debate the global warming issue with Dirk Forrister, director of the White House Global Climate Change Task Force, at the annual meeting of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (boilers produce steam for everything from power plants to industrial processing). Forrister never showed up. Former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, there to serve as moderator for the debate, was forced to present the pro-Kyoto side, which in her view is that the Clinton Administration should postpone submitting the Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification because the Treaty needs a longer-term goal.

Postponement, of course, is risky from the Green point of view. Activists have been insisting that the government must take action on global warming "before it's too late"--i.e. before Congress gets a closer look at the costs, and before scientific research reduces the "problem" to less than regulatory size. Since new economic and scientific assessments are gaining attention--but the Climate Treaty isn't--they're getting understandably peevish.

Two weeks ago in San Francisco, a Green activist nailed Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman in the face with a coconut custard pie. If that's the best they can muster--and we have a choice--make ours lemon meringue.

Until next week...

TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

Go to the Week That Was Index