The Week That Was
February 19, 2000 NEW ON THE SEPP WEB:

The NRC report again.  The venerable scientific journal NATURE got it all wrong, probably misled by the National Research Council’s press release.  We try to straighten them out with a letter to the editor (which they may or may not print).

The Week That Was February 19, 2000 brought to you by SEPP


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it had shut down its web site for fear of computer hacker attacks after security deficiencies were made public this week. (Reuters 2/17/00)

Knowing how much some of you love EPA, we wanted to pass on the word. Seems the US General Accounting Office, at the request of chairman of the House Commerce Committee Tom Bliley, did a test hack on the site to see if they could steal confidential business information submitted by permit applicants. They could.

Sort of like stuffing a big sock in Carol Browner's mouth, acc. to Electricity Daily's David Wojick. A moment to savor forever.


Our correspondent reports from Auckland, NZ:

Sir John's lecture was only partly concerned with the IPCC.  Indeed he differed from the
IPCC in several respects.

He started with a slide showing increases in insurance claims for hurricanes in recent years; implying that this had something to do with global warming.  The IPCC Reports have consistently denied any such connection.

He made use of the "Business As Usual" scenario, although this has been scrapped by the IPCC.

But, he has, at last, conceded (contrary to the 1990 IPCC Report and assorted apologists like Tom Wigley) that the surface temperature record before 1945 had little to do with greenhouse gases.  (IPCC chairman Prof. Bert Bolin admitted this in 1997: see TWTW July 27, 1997)

Then he went further, admitting that the temperature drop from 1940 to 1975 must also have been dominated by "natural variability."  This leaves the greenhouse effect as exclusively concerned with the period from (he said) 1979; only 20 years.  They used to tell us that the satellite MSU record (which showed no warming trend) could be ignored because the period was too short.  Now we have level pegging.  Even this period may have been influenced by "natural variability" (i.e. El Niño), but these effects were not enough.  There is a residuum which must be "anthropogenic," he claimed.

A questioner was rather horrified that they had been told for so long that the temperature rise over the last century was due to greenhouse gases.  Now he is saying it is only in the last 20 years.  Sir John confirmed that this is so.  But he made our flesh creep by pointing out that last year was the fifth-largest global temperature since records began!

COMMENT  BY VINCE GRAY:  The admission that much of the temperature change over the last century was due to "natural variability" (i.e. the sun, volcanoes, El Niño, even recovery from the "little ice age") poses great problems for the modellists, since you simply cannot compare a model based on only one climate-forcing mechanism, increases in greenhouse gases, with climate data that are influenced by many other factors.  You have no means of "validating" let alone "evaluating" your models.  They still seem to try and match the whole surface record regardless.

You can try to eliminate the various sources of "natural variability".  Phil Jones provided temperature figures "ENSO Subtracted" in "Trends '93", but the attempts to do this, or to subtract Pinatubo or the sun seem to have been abandoned, perhaps because they give an unwelcome answer.  The NRC panel should have tried it, if they wanted to compare surface with MSU data.

Even if you succeed in allowing for "natural variability" in the past, you cannot build it into the models for predicting the future unless you can predict volcanoes, El Niño, solar activity, plus "chaos".


An ambitious study has been undertaken by Ohio State University to analyze the basic issues of CO2 emission from an electric utility in terms of marginal damages and marginal benefits.  It will clarify the disparity between social and private costs and examine the Kyoto Protocol considering efficiency losses and gains that might be generated if the agreement enters into force. “Ohio's electric utility is used as a paradigm to capture the entire nation's scenario of social loss that could be reduced domestically under different market and non-market based options.”  For more information contact Akim Rahman , Environmental Science Graduate Program, The Ohio State University, E-mail  The paper is published in a SSRN Journal, February 07, 2000  You may view the abstract and download at website:


We have no doubt that this study will reach the expected, politically correct conclusion.  But consider the following:

1.  Now that we believe that Global warming is beneficial rather than harmful, it will be interesting to see how one can do a cost-benefit analysis.  Maybe the study will conclude that we should burn more coal  a lot more!

2.  The view that CO2 increase is harmful diminishes by the day.  At the present rate of increase (0.4% a year) it will take 250 years to double.  Kyoto, even if implemented, will be undetectable.  Of course, it wasn't designed to solve the problem.  It was designed to satisfy the gut feelings of the eco-philanthropists.

3.  Simply put, Kyoto seeks to change what Bill McKibben calls "the inertia of affluence".  In the end, economics may dominate and high oil prices may do for Kyoto what the policy makers can't.  The major problem with Kyoto is that it is now pushing wrong, inefficient, anti-technology solutions.  For instance, there is no question that economic growth slows down population growth.  Thus, since Kyoto inevitably will slow down the world economy, the effect will be that we will have more people (and hence more carbon emissions) in 2050 than we would if went on with business as usual.  And we are talking about a quite substantial difference between Kyoto and no Kyoto, probably more than 1 billion people.  Do you think that the "inertia of affluence" is worth this?

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