|The Week That Was
November 4, 2000
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LETTER TO THE EDITOR, NY TIMES, ON GLOBAL WARMING
Your editorial (Oct 27) appears to accept uncritically the not-yet-approved draft summary of the UN climate report that was leaked to the NY Times As an official expert reviewer, I have pointed out that this summary is selective in summarizing the underlying 1000-page draft report. For example, it gives full weight only to the average global thermometer record that shows a recent warming trend. It does not report that well-controlled weather stations from the United States and Europe (with urban heating effects removed) do NOT show rising temperatures in the last 60 years. It downplays the data from satellites and weather balloons that show little if any recent warming. It neglects to mention that (non-thermometer) proxy records (from tree rings, ice cores, etc) show no warming trend either. Finally, melting glaciers, shrinking Arctic sea ice, and sea-level rise, while real, are likely the delayed results of an earlier, pre-1940 warming of the world climate that has little to do with human activity. Apparently, the summary was designed to support the prediction of a large future warming, which is not in accord, however, with the overwhelming scientific evidence.
IPCC DISTRIBUTES DRAFT REPORT
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) distributed a draft assessment and summary to governmental officials worldwide last week. The report is the first full-scale review and update of the state of climate change since 1995.
This report takes a stronger view of the impact of human activities on the climate than the 1995 assessment did. According to an October 26, 2000, article in The Washington Post, this report indicates that "there is stronger evidence" that man-made gases "have contributed substantially to the observed warming over the last 50 years." [But it does not cite any new evidence!]
The report also concludes that the Earth is likely to become hotter than previously predicted. If greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, the planet's average surface temperatures can be expected to increase between 2.7 and nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit. The range in the 1995 report was 1.8 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Comment: The Washington Post story fails to mention that the 11
F (6 degrees C) figure is based on heroic and implausible socio-economic
assumptions: continued population growth with world per-capita energy
consumption approaching the present US level. (Since the report is in
draft form, some of the conclusions may change before the formal release,
scheduled for an early 2001 meeting of the United Nations.)
The Gore campaign charges that Houston, Texas, has passed Los Angeles to become "the smog capital of the United States," "No. 1 in air pollution," and "the dirtiest city in the nation." The charge is false, say two experts who advise the Bush campaign.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, air quality in Houston is improving and is unambiguously better than L.A. and many other cities, based on levels of the six air pollutants the EPA regulates under the Clean Air Act.
It is true that in 1999, Houston had the highest number of days exceeding the EPA's ozone standard -- while L.A.'s number of exceedances fell sharply in 1999 due to unusually cool summer weather.
But Houston's level of particulates -- the other major component of "smog" -- was 20 percent lower than L.A.'s.
Houston's level of nitrogen oxides was 63 percent lower than L.A.'s.
And its levels of carbon monoxide were 64 percent lower, and 78 percent lower for lead.
L.A. and Houston had the same levels of sulfur dioxide.
According the EPA Air Quality Index, which aggregates levels of all six air pollutants and weights them according to the health risks of each, Houston is better than 10 other metropolitan areas, and was better than 10 other cities on a separate EPA index of ozone alone. (1998 data are the latest available, but rankings for the following years will probably be similar.) Ambient air quality in Texas improved for five of the six national air pollutants from 1994 to 1998, according to the EPA.
Source: Christopher DeMuth (American Enterprise Institute) and
Steven Hayward(Pacific Research Institute), "Smoke and Smearers,"
Weekly Standard, October 30, 2000.
The effects of today's high fuel prices most adversely affect the poor, minorities and those on fixed incomes. However, if the Kyoto Accord on climate change is implemented, the situation will grow far worse, according to experts.
A study for the National Center for Policy Analysis by Stephen Brown of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas discovered the following:
Under a best-case scenario, reducing CO2 emissions seven percent below 1990 levels, as required under the Kyoto Accord and signed by the Clinton administration, would cost American families between $3,684 and $6,400 per year for a family of four.
The poorest 20 percent of households spend almost nine percent of their income on energy compared to 6.9 percent for average American; thus the cost would fall more heavily on them.
A recent study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, "Refusing to Repeat Past Mistakes," estimated implementing the accord could cost up to 3.2 million jobs.
The report estimates blacks and Hispanics could lose as many as half of those jobs, or 1.6 million.
At the same time, scientists report little understanding of exactly what the causes and consequences of climate change are. A recent issue of Science reported researchers discovered a previously unknown greenhouse gas that absorbs 18,000 times more infrared radiation than CO2. In another recent report, urban air pollutants and greenhouse gases other than CO2 were called the main sources of human-caused warming.
The report was significant, because its author, NASA's James Hansen, brought the term "global warming" to public attention, and had maintained for 20 years that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels were the primary cause of global warming.
Source: H. Sterling Burnett (NCPA), "Most Likely to Suffer
from Kyoto," Washington Times, October 29, 2000.