01 Apr 2002 Questions and Answers on Global Warming
1. Is global warming occurring? Have the forecasts of global warming been confirmed by actual measurements?
There is no proof that significant man-made global warming is taking place. The computer models used in U.N. studies say the first area to heat under the “greenhouse gas effect” should be the lower atmosphere – known as the troposphere.1 Highly accurate, carefully checked satellite data have shown absolutely no such tropospheric warming. There has been surface warming of about half a degree Celsius, but this is far below the customary natural swings in surface temperatures.2
2. Are carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels the primary cause of climate change? Can the Earth’s temperature be expected to rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit in this century as has been reported?
There are many indications that carbon dioxide does not play a significant role in global warming. Richard Lindzen, Ph.D., professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 11 scientists who prepared a 2001 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on climate change, estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would produce a temperature increase of only one degree Celsius.3 In fact, clouds and water vapor appear to be far more important factors related to global temperature. According to Dr. Lindzen and NASA scientists, clouds and water vapor may play a significant role in regulating the Earth’s temperature to keep it more constant.4
3. Under the Berlin Mandate, developing nations are to be exempt from any emission reduction requirements agreed to in Kyoto. What effect will this have on overall greenhouse gas emissions over the next thirty years?
Undeveloped countries such as China, India and Brazil are included in this exemption. However, they are projected to produce 16 percent more carbon dioxide by the year 2020 than the United States, even if the Kyoto Protocol is not in place.5
4. Would a modest increase in the temperature of the planet necessarily be bad? Are there any potential benefits?
According to the World Bank, one-third of the world’s population already suffers from chronic water shortages. The Worldwatch Institute predicts that this situation will be exacerbated further by the addition of an estimated 2.6 billion people to the world’s population over the next 30 years. By 2025, the group claims, some three billion people — or 40% of the world’s population — could be living in countries without sufficient water supplies, leading to crop failures, diminished economic development and even to regional conflicts as nations find it necessary to fight for control over scarce water resources.
While the scientific community is divided over many aspects of the global warming theory, the effect of global warming on precipitation levels is not one of them: Global warming would mean more condensation and more evaporation, producing more and/or heavier rains. Global warming, therefore, could offer the answer to the water scarcity problem that the Worldwatch Institute has been seeking.
If history is any indication, greater precipitation may be only one of many benefits of global warming. For example, between the 10th and 12th Centuries, when the temperature of the planet was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today, agriculture in North America and Europe flourished and the southern regions of Greenland were free of ice, allowing cultivation by Norse settlers. Evidence of this was found in 1993 when scientists from the National Science Foundation-sponsored Greenland Ice Sheet Project II extracted an ice core from Greenland’s ice sheet that spanned more than 100,000 years of climate history. Samplings from the core suggest that a Little Ice Age began between 1400 and 1420, blanketing the Vikings’ farms in ice and forcing them to abandon their farms in search of more hospitable climates. Prior to the onset of this Little Ice Age, temperatures were comparable to the temperatures general circulation models used by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have projected for 2030-2050. Yet, the world’s leaders stand poised to take dramatic steps to curb the risks of this kind of climate change.
Global warming could also mean greater agricultural productivity and greater water conservation. CO2 acts as a fertilizer on plant life while reducing plant transpiration (the passage of water from the roots through the plant’s vascular system to the atmosphere). Thus, with global warming, agricultural output could be expected to increase while making less demands on the water supply.6
5. What would be the economic impact of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to meet the standards of the Kyoto Protocol?
If the Kyoto Protocol had been ratified by the U.S., the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates gasoline prices would rise 14 to 66 cents per gallon by the year 2010, electricity prices would go up 20 to 86 percent7 and compliance with the treaty would cost the United States economy $400 billion per year.8
6. If the United States can meet the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with little or no costs, why haven’t corporations done so on their own?
This question is irrelevant, since abiding by the Kyoto Protocol would be devastating to our economy. However, supposing it was economically responsible to adopt it, we still must never base environmental actions on anything but sound science. We have ample experience of doing more harm than good with environmental regulations based on unsure science. For example, the Clean Air Act mandated oxygenates in gasoline and we ended up with no improvement in air quality but now have the oxygenate MTBE polluting wells in 31 states.9,10,11
We should not take actions that may not be necessary but will certainly increase the level of poverty in this. As economist Walter Williams of George Mason University has observed, “As you look around the world, it is poverty, as opposed to dirty air, that has implications for health.”12
7. Are the burdens of meeting the demands of the Kyoto Protocol are distributed fairly?
No, the burdens of meeting the demands of the Kyoto Protocol would fall most heavily on minorities. A study commissioned by six African-American and Hispanic organizations found that the increased costs forced by the treaty would cut minority income in the United States by 10 percent (in contrast, white incomes would go down only 4.5 percent) and 864,000 black Americans and 511,000 Hispanics would lose their jobs.13
8. Is there scientific consensus that global warming is underway? If so, how was this consensus determined?
Dr. Lindzen has said there were a wide variety of scientific views presented in the NAS report and “that the full report did, [express a wide variety of views] making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them.”14 The same is true of the all of the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change’s studies on which the notion of global warming is based.
Claims that scientific opinion is nearly unanimous on the subject of global warming are wrong. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine received signatures from over 17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees, to a document saying, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”15
Footnotes1 James K. Glassman and Sallie Baliunas, The Weekly Standard, June 25, 2001.
3 Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Academy of Sciences, “Scientists’ Report Doesn’t Support The Kyoto Treaty,” The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001.
4 Glassman and Baliunas.
5 Heritage Foundation calculations, based on data from U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency Administration, International Energy Outlook 2001, Table A10.
6 David Ridenour, “Cure to Global Warming Could Be Worse Than the Disease,” National Policy Analysis #165, The National Center for Public Policy Research, February 2001, available on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA165.html.
7 Jay E. Hakes, Administrator, Energy Information Administration, Testimony before the Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, October 9, 1998.
8 John Carlisle, “President Bush must kill the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty and Oppose Efforts to Regulate Carbon Dioxide,” National Policy Analysis #328, The National Center for Public Policy Research, February 2001, available on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA328.html.
9 1990 Clean Air Act, as amended.
10 Ozone-Forming Potential of Reformulated Gasoline, the National Research Council, May 11, 1999.
11 MTBE, “The Biggest Environmental Crisis of the Next Decade,” Chicago Life Magazine, Summer 2000.
12 Interview with Walter Williams, Ph.D., Environment and Climate News, The Heartland Institute, February 2000.
13 “Study Says Global Warming Treaty Will Hurt U.S. Minorities,” Associated Press, July 6, 2000, cited by John Carlisle, “Treaty to Combat Unproven Global Warming Threat Would Hurt Americans’ Standard of Living,” National Policy Analysis #309, The National Center for Public Policy Research, September 2000, available on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA309.html.
14 Richard Lindzen, “Scientists’ Report Doesn’t Support The Kyoto Treaty,” The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001.
15 The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, “Petition Project,” available on the Internet at http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p357.htm.