|The Week That Was
January 25, 2003
1. New on the Web: SENATORS McCAIN AND LIEBERMAN PROPOSE BIPARTISAN
"CAP-AND-TRADE" LEGISLATION FOR CARBON DIOXIDE, effectively
creating a unilateral Kyoto Protocol for the US economy. This may become
a theme for the 2004 election campaign; we will wait to see if the White
House will oppose it strongly.
2. Science editor persists in promoting the Kyoto accord; claims the science is settled. Here is SEPP's response to Kennedy editorial:
Science Editor Bias?
"The scientific evidence on global warming is now beyond doubt." So claims Science editor Donald Kennedy  in his latest editorial (17 Jan.), disregarding contrary evidence published in Science  and presumably peer-reviewed. He does not cite any new evidence, of course, because there isn't any. There isn't even solid evidence of current warming; a National Research Council report  confirms that the atmosphere has not warmed appreciably for the past 20-odd years; and there are no "fingerprints" that would assign any observed surface warming trends to human-produced greenhouse gases .
Kennedy, like Al Gore before him, regards the "science as settled" and presumably sees no need for further research. He attacks the program for climate change science (CCSP) being prepared by the administration and slips in a personal attack on Dr. James Mahoney, the leader of the government's effort. He even misrepresents the result of NAPAP, the acid-rain study sponsored primarily by former Senator Moynihan .
Kennedy's editorial is a thinly veiled call for drastic action to limit carbon-dioxide emissions. He urges policy steps like raising fuel-economy standards for vehicles, sequestering CO2 from power plants, or the rationing of energy by legislated cap-and-trade schemes - all useless, ineffective, and costly. His ideologically based approach is diametrically opposed to that of the White House; he urges the National Academy panel reviewing the government's research plan to put aside the science and endorse such harebrained schemes for precipitous action to overcome - as Kennedy sees it - the "seriousness of the challenge."
1. D. Kennedy. The policy drought on climate change (editorial). Science 299, 309 (2003)
2. S.F. Singer. Global Warming: An insignificant trend? Science 292, 1063 (2002); responding to an earlier editorial by D. Kennedy, An unfortunate U-turn on carbon. Science 291, 2515 (2001)
3. National Research Council. Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000). The NRC panel could not account for the disparity between surface thermometers showing a warming trend and weather satellite and (independent) radiosonde observations showing no appreciable warming of the lower atmosphere since 1979.
4. Glaciers have indeed been shrinking, but as the result of naturally caused warming during the early part of the 20th century. After adjusting to the new higher temperatures, at least half of these glaciers have now stopped shrinking.
5. NAPAP didn't just call for further studies; it concluded that acid
rain was a minor environmental problem and not the calamity that environmental
zealots had pictured.
3. Increased Arctic river flow, plus climate model, predict huge climate shift
The scare story in the Dec 17 Toronto Star deserves some comments. Someone
should write them a letter and also copy the proper people in the Canadian
4. Insurance companies complain about losses; blame global warming
A top executive from the world's second-largest re-insurance company warned that U.S. businesses face catastrophic losses from ignoring increasingly more devastating storms caused by global warming. ``In Europe, it's a foregone conclusion that climate change will have an impact,'' Christopher Walker, a managing director of risk solutions at Swiss Re told researchers and press at Tufts University in Medford. ``In the U.S.,'' Walker said, ``it's been see no evil, hear no evil.'' Walker said a United Nations-backed report issued last fall should be a wake-up call to corporate America. That report, by the UN Environment Programme, said worldwide economic losses due to natural disasters appear to be doubling every 10 years, and next decade will reach $150 billion a year.
Walker's company, Swiss Re, is a Zurich-based conglomerate that insures insurance companies for life, health, property and casualty claims. Swiss Re and other reinsurance companies issue the policies based on calculated financial risks from so-called 100-year events, such as 1992's Hurricane Andrew that devastated South Florida and left $30 billion in damages.
Many scientists believe the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, is a major cause of global warming. That phenomenon, they believe, is triggering major climate changes, leading to rising oceans, floods, drought, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Walker was among more than a dozen panelists in a daylong conference at Tufts University on the business, political and health impacts from global warming.