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February 2002



New Research Indicates the Earth May Be Cooling


by Amy Ridenour

 

After a decade of warnings that the Earth's temperature may be rapidly warming, and that this supposed warming may result in a surge of catastrophic flooding and lethal storms, it now appears that we may be in for global cooling instead.

The mammoth west Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough water to lift the world's sea levels by 20 feet, isn't melting after all. Instead, it's actually thickening and Antarctica itself is getting cooler.1

A new study by researchers from the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California at Santa Cruz, published in the respected journal Science, found that the ice sheets of Antarctica, far from melting, actually are expanding by some 26.8 billion tons of ice a year.2

The scientists, Ian Joughlin, a geologist at CIT, and Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, speculate the thickening ice sheets are repeating a pattern that occurred from 1650 -1850 when the Earth went through what became known as the Little Ice Age.3

The study's lead author, limnologist Peter Doran, an expert on the study of fresh water at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is worried about the cooling's impact on the environment.

Doran says cooling temperature not only is reducing the amount of fresh water feeding into Antarctica's lakes, but it's also making the surface ice thicker so plankton that use sunlight for energy are getting less sunlight. And that, he says, is bad news for the life forms that depend on plankton for food.

"The ecosystem would continue to diminish, and eventually it would essentially go into a deep sleep - like a freeze-dried ecosystem," Doran said in a January 21 interview with Richard Harris, a science reporter for National Public Radio.4

Doran noted that only a few years ago the National Science Foundation was seriously considering moving its campsites away from lakeshores to escape higher lake levels caused by the melting water.

"We went into this project with the idea that global warming was going to hit us any time now, and we kept waiting for the warm summers to come and they never came," Doran said. "It just kept getting colder and colder, and that's the story."

The new Antarctica studies show just how prescient the Bush Administration was last year when it announced it was would not send the 1997 Kyoto Treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Supporters of Kyoto - including most environmental groups and former presidential candidate Al Gore - have argued that the Earth's temperature will increase by up to eight degrees over the next century and that this warming will unleash a chain reaction of environmental disasters.

A global warming fact sheet circulated by the National Resources Defense Council indulges in some particularly heated rhetoric, direly predicting that: "Sea levels will rise, flooding coastal areas. Glaciers and polar ice packs will melt. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often. And as habitat changes or is destroyed, species will be pushed to extinction."5

Gore, ignoring the advice of several key Clinton Administration officials, took a last-minute flight to Japan in November 1998 to sign the Kyoto Protocol even though the Energy Information Administration, the official forecasting arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, found that meeting the treaty's requirements could increase gasoline prices by up to 66 percent and electricity prices by up to 86 percent, and throw up to several million Americans out of work.6

The Clinton Administration, however, never sent the treaty to Capitol Hill for ratification, in large part because the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the Administration not to seek approval of any global warming treaty that "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States."7 President Clinton even signed appropriations bills in 1999, 2000 and 2001 prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from using any funds to "issue rules, regulations, decrees of orders for the purpose of implementation, or in preparation for implementation, of the Kyoto Protocol" unless and until the treaty is ratified by the Senate.8

The Bush Administration, now struggling to move the country out of a recession, pretty much delivered the coup de grace to the Kyoto treaty last year when President Bush announced that the United States would withdraw from Kyoto, although it would continue to participate fully in the international meetings that developed it.9 On June 11, 2001, the President committed his administration to support for greater levels of funding for scientific research into climate change.10

In light of the new information, President Bush's decision to pursue more research seems especially perceptive.

The new Antarctica studies ought to pound the final nails into Kyoto's coffin. It's ironic that two studies suggesting that a new Ice Age may be underway may end the global warming debate.

Many of the environmental groups championing the global warming theory were zealous proponents of a global freezing theory in the 1970s. These groups then warned that a barren, ice-bound Earth might, in geological terms, be imminent.

Mark Twain once noted, "I'm from Missouri... if I don't like the weather, I just wait a few minutes."

We might say the same about predictions from environmentalists.

 


Footnotes:

1 For more information on recent temperature readings in Antarctica, see Gretchen Randall, Ten Second Response #TSR11502, "Antarctica Cooling Despite Supposed Global Warming," January 15, 2002, available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR11502.html, and Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, "Antarctica is Freezing Cold," TechCentralStation.com, January 15, 2002.

2 For articles about these issues, see Joseph Perkins, "Scientific Findings Run Counter to Theory of Global Warming," San Diego Union-Tribune, January 25, 2002, and Steve Connor, "Ice Is Becoming Thicker in Parts of West Antarctica," The Toronto Star, January 19, 2002.

3 During the Little Ice Age, reports John Carlisle in The National Center for Public Policy Research's National Policy Analysis #203, "Sun to Blame for Global Warming": "Temperatures in this era fell to as much as 2° F below today's temperature, causing the glaciers to advance, the canals in Venice to freeze and major crop failures." This paper is available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA203.html.

4 Richard Harris, reporting, National Public Radio Morning Edition, January 21, 2002.

5 Natural Resources Defense Council, "Consequences of Global Warming: Scientists Predict Rising Temperatures that Could Have Impacts from Floods to Droughts," downloaded from http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/fcons.asp on January 29, 2002.

6 "Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on the United States," Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC, October 1998.

7 Resolution submitted by Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), expressing the sense of the U.S. Senate regarding the conditions for the United States becoming a signatory to any international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations, adopted by the Senate by a vote of 95-0 on July 25, 1997. For the complete text, visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/KyotoSenate.html.

8 Tom Randall, "Bonn Earth Summit Fact Sheet," July 2001 (available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/Bonn2001.html), citing P.L. 105-276 (Conference Report 105-769), P.L. 106-744 (Conference Report 106-379), and P.L. 106-377 (Conference Report 106-988).

9 For a review of issues surrounding President Bush's decision, see Tom Randall, "Bonn Earth Summit Fact Sheet," July 2001, available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/Bonn2001.html.

10 Christopher Horner, "Rush Hour," TechCentralStation.com, January 29, 2002.

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Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].


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