|The Week That Was
September 21-27, 1998
Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, who ousted German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in last week's elections, is touting a Red-Green coalition in the belief he can hold Germany's Greens in check. At a news conference the day after the election, the tough-talking Mr. Schroeder was emphatic that the Greens--who have called for a tripling of gasoline prices to combat a putative global warming--would not compromise his party's policies.
For their part, the Greens have been making nice, noting in a memo that the environment was no longer a front-burner issue politically. Schroeder hinted at the possibility of appointing Green Party leader Joschka Fischer--a former '60s radical who regular shows up at public functions in a T-shirt or leather jacket--to the Foreign Minister's slot. For Americans, this would be a tremendous plus, of course, providing a new source of material for late-night comedians besides our President.
The European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) is taking it more seriously. Last week it began distributing to all members of the German Parliament and all members of the EU Parliament a 24-page German-language brochure containing details of the Oregon Petition, a discussion of the solar radiation/climate change hypothesis, and an assessment by the Rhinische Westfaelische Institute of the costs and economic consequences of climate policies in Germany. ESEF is printing 30,000 copies and hopes to print an additional 20,000 for insertion in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The report will soon be posted at the ESEF web site, in German, at www.esef.org
Closer to home, Time magazine's managing editor Walter Isaacson, ever eager to demonstrate why Time's circulation figures have been dropping in recent years, noted that Green issues have long been a "preoccupation" of the magazine and announced that he is launching its biggest environmental project ever: "Heroes for the Planet," a two-year series of quarterly articles profiling people who are working to "preserve our natural heritage." Among the first of these "heroes" will be Greenpeace activist Niaz Dorry. We're hoping, for Mr. Isaacson's sake, that Ms. Dorry's mother will purchase a subscription.
More environmental disasters. Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey announced recently that the sky is literally falling. The Earth's atmosphere over the Antarctic has dropped five miles they said, a condition they assume is due to global warming. Actually, we've also seen this condition attributed to stratospheric cooling due to ozone depletion. (More on that next week.)
NASA-funded scientists at the University of California at Berkeley just announced that on August 27 the Earth experienced a five-minute burst of cosmic radiation equal to what the sun would produce over 300 years. Almost all of the radiation, generated by a distant exploding star, was absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so at the surface the end result was something less than what humans experience in getting a medical x-ray. (Which is probably why nobody noticed it at the time.) Nevertheless, concerned that reporters wouldn't get a good story, scientists starring at NASA's press briefing struggled for the kind of cataclysmic language usually reserved for California earthquakes and nuclear holocausts.
Said research physicist Kevin Hurley: "Living in California, we're waiting for the big one. When I saw the flash, I knew the wait was over." Robert Duncan, of the University of Texas at Austin, said rapidly spinning neutron stars create a magnetic field far greater than any other known. The magnetic field around the star is so powerful that from more than 100,000 miles away ``it could erase the magnetic strip on your credit card and suck the keys out of your pocket." We were unimpressed. Any American teenager can do that.
British lepidopterists are finding themselves at odds with the Greens over an observed proliferation of butterflies in Britain. In 1993 thousands of Green protesters tried to stop construction of the M3 highway claiming it would disturb Britain's largest population of chalkhill blue butterflies. A report just released by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology now says that since building the M3 the butterflies have positively prospered.
It turns out that plowing under the old A33 resulted in a net gain of butterfly habitat. Not only are the original two colonies producing in record numbers, but they've been joined by a third breeding colony. Activists responded glumly that if it hadn't been for the highway there "probably" would have been five or six colonies, so really it's a net loss. Besides, they said, the "new" chalk grasslands that have sprung up over the old A33 cannot be said to have the same value as the "ancient" chalk grasslands. We would interject that they seem to have the same value to the blue butterflies.
Green activists have also recently been attributing the sightings some butterfly species in Britain to global warming. In other words, butterflies are good, but they're bad. David Dow of Colchester felt moved to provide a little reality check on the pages of the Sunday Telegraph. The appearance of certain species in northern latitudes was not at all unusual, he said, pointing out that their existence in Britain was noted in butterfly reference books dating back to 1906.
Hurrah for butterflies! And for citizens who do their own research!
Speaking of which, kudos to Ross Thomas of Lufkin, Texas, who went to considerable trouble to get his hands on local weather records over the last century or so to see if east Texas was indeed having the warmest summer on record. Like climate scientist Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who examined Huntsville's reported "record" temperatures a couple of months ago, Thomas got a decidedly different result from the National Weather Service. The warmest summer, defined as May 1 through August 31, was actually in 1951, he said, followed by 1909, 1969, 1910, 1948 and finally, 1998.
Why the discrepancy between local records and National Weather Service announcements? Dr. Christy speculated that the NWS is basing its conclusions on an incomplete computerized data base that extends back only about half a century. (This is also a problem, by the way, for the Canadian weather agency.) That's not only a very short time frame but begins during a period when global temperatures, for unknown reasons, had dropped. Beginning from a cool period almost guarantees local hot weather "records" all over the country. Perhaps citizens need to follow the Christy and Thomas example and start crunching the local weather numbers on their own.
Finally, the Eco-Stewards Alliance scheduled its 6th annual "Prayer Vigil for the Earth" on the grounds of the Washington Monument Sept. 26-27. Given the economic instability in many parts of the globe, the rampant corruption within the Russian government, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology, the widening disaster of malaria and AIDS in the Third World, and the apparent willingness of developed nations to let 40 percent of the world's population languish in 13th century living conditions, we were sorely tempted to attend. But we decided that prayer and more Green micromanagement by the U.S. government were probably not the answer.
Until next week...
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall