The Week That Was
July 29, 2000


On July 18, Sen. John McCain chaired a hearing of the US Senate Commerce Committee. Read Fred Singer's statement (followed by a news release) attacking the scientific base of the National Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Climate Change. The Administration has used the NACC (a/k/a the "National Scare") to frighten the population into accepting the Kyoto Protocol.

The Week That Was July 29, 2000 brought to you by SEPP


This was a follow-up to the May 17 hearing on the National Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Climate Change (NACC), a 3-year study by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The hearing was chaired by Sen. John McCain.

A written statement by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) accused the White House of timing the release of the draft synthesis (Overview) report to enhance the Gore campaign. But the NACC has been attacked from inside as well as by outside critics; it has been thoroughly discredited by scientific evidence and by economic and political arguments. It may backfire if Gore tries to use it.

Leading off was the testimony of the three co-chairs of the National Assessment Synthesis Team (NAST): Tom Karl, Anthony Janetos, and Jerry Melillo. They reviewed the structure of the Assessment (over 20 workshops) and claimed they received close supervision and approval from their review board (composed mainly of tame Green scientists). The NASTies then tried to present the major uncertainties as virtues.

Here it is best to quote from an article by Richard Kerr ("Dueling Models: Future U.S. Climate Uncertain." Science 288, 2113, 23 June, 2000). After describing many of the contrary results from the two climate models used in the study, Kerr remarks: "even the best models today can say little that's reliable about climate change at the regional level." And finally: "In 10 years, modelers say, they'll do better."

Raymond Schmitt, oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, urged support for ocean research as a way to better climate forecasts. He stressed the importance of measurements of salinity as well as temperature, not only at the surface but also in the deep ocean with the help of floating buoys.

Fred Singer, president of The Science & Environmental Policy Project, was the final witness. He testified that "we hold a skeptical view on the climate science that forms the basis of the National Assessment because we see no evidence to back its findings; climate model exercises are NOT evidence."

His three main points were that "there is no appreciable climate warming," "regional forecasts from climate models are even less reliable than those for the global average," and "sea level rise ... [is] controlled by nature not humans." He told McCain that the report "should definitely NOT be used to justify irrational and unscientific energy and environmental policies, especially the economically damaging Kyoto Protocol."

Karl reacted by labeling Singer's views "quite at odds" with the published literature" (thereby implying -- quite incorrectly -- that Singer used unpublished work).

After another question or two, McCain was forced to adjourn the hearing, telling the witnesses, "we will continue to pursue this ... it is extremely important to review this."

Unfortunately, there was no time for Prof. Robert Mendelsohn, Yale economist, to present his testimony. We quote here from his written statement, summarizing his forthcoming book "Global Warming and the American Economy: A Regional Assessment of Climate Change":

Climate change is likely to result in small net benefits for the United States over the next century. The primary sector that will benefit is agriculture. The large gains in this sector will more than compensate for damages expected in the coastal, energy, and water sectors, unless warming is unexpectedly severe. Forestry is also expected to enjoy small gains. Added together, the United States will likely enjoy small benefits of between $14 and $23 billion a year and will only suffer damages in the neighborhood of $13 billion if warming reaches 5C over the next century. Recent predictions of warming by 2100 suggest temperature increases of between 1.5 and 4C, suggesting that impacts are likely to be beneficial in the US.

The impact of warming depends upon the initial temperature of each region. With mild warming of 1.5 C, every region benefits from warming. The average American would enjoy benefits of about $100/yr. However, with 2.5C warming, the cooler northern regions of the country benefit far more than the warmer southern regions. The average citizen in the north would enjoy benefits of about $80/yr whereas southern citizens would enjoy average benefits of only about $6/yr. If warming rises to 5C, the benefits in the north shrink to about $40 per person, but citizens in the south may suffer damages from $120 to $370 per person.

In summary, climate change does not appear to be a major threat to the United States for the century to come. There is little motivation for expensive crash programs to curb short-term emissions of greenhouse gases. The focus of mitigation policy should remain on inexpensive ways to control global emissions over the next century.


NOTE TO ALL: To learn about the skullduggery that led from the 1992 Climate Treaty in Rio to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, read this Hoover essay, now on the Internet at



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