The Week That Was
July 8, 2006


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The Week That Was (July 8, 2006) brought to you by SEPP

New on the Web: Sober thoughts by Robert Samuelson on why nothing will be done to "fight" global warming. "Global warming promises to become a gushing source of national hypocrisy.''
An expert panel convened by the BBC concludes that climate change is "real and severe", but maybe not "catastrophic" (Item #1). But we have been told so often that even a 2 C rise is catastrophic; now we learn that we can handle 3-5 C. What about the "tipping point" etc?
Reminds one of the report from the war front by the Austro-Hungarian general "The situation is hopeless but not serious."

How to save the world: A question of priorities: hunger and disease or climate change? (Item #2)

The Opinion Journal reports on global warming disaster fantasies (Item #3)

In a more serious vein: The US Supreme Court will rule on whether CO2 is a pollutant (Item #4).

Do you want a good laugh? Then read about Rep. Henry Waxman's Safe Climate Act (Item #5). It's so simple, an 8-year old kid can understand it. Here it is:
The Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642) freezes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, at the 2009 levels. Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990.
There you go…..

Meanwhile, Europe has trouble making the 5% cut mandated by Kyoto (Item #6). They need Waxman over there.

Will EPA regulate the greenhouse gas di-hydrogen oxide? (Item #7)

Climate Science: Anthony Lupo critiques paper on El Nino and GW (Item #8)

Did you know?

Uncontrolled fires in China's abandoned coalmines release as much carbon dioxide as the entire country of Japan does from useful fuel consumption. (See page C-1 of the June 23, 2006 NYT
From Dan Shanefield

EPA Publishes Roadmap for Mercury: U.S. mercury emissions to air have fallen by 45 percent since 1990, and use in products and processes fell by 83 percent between 1980 and 1997, states the EPA's Roadmap for Mercury. (Inside EPA, July 6) (

A final word on Gore's movie: It misses the most important point:
There is as yet no evidence that a significant part of current warming is of human origin. Model calculations are NOT evidence. Glacier melting etc are only consequences of warming and tell you nothing about the cause. The only evidence we have -- from the analysis of observational data - - shows that patterns of temperature change disagree with greenhouse models.

S. Fred Singer <>
Comments on the NY Times article (27 June) "How to Cool a Planet" by Wm Broad

I was appalled to read of the proposal by Paul Crutzen to release vast quantities of sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere to overcome "a potential planetary crisis." (This and other geo-engineering proposals will be published in the August issue of Climatic Change.) It was even more appalling to learn about the endorsement by the president of the US National Academy of Sciences.

I am surprised to see such ideas advanced by environmental advocates. They should know that stratospheric aerosols, while reflecting some sunlight, will also provide the surface areas for heterogeneous reactions that destroy stratospheric ozone. A few years ago, Edward Teller told me about similar proposals to create stratospheric aerosols. I was much too polite to contradict him but I remember shaking my head sadly. It shows how even great men can get carried away by unreasonable climate fears.

Crutzen estimates the annual cost of his sulfur proposal at up to $50 billion a year. Bjorn Lomborg can tell him of much better ways to spend such large sums of money. Skeptics of anthropogenic global warming are correct to dismiss this kind of geo-engineering as a "costly effort to battle a mirage."

The discussion prompted me to pull some old calculations out of my files and review the idea of a space-based solar radiation shield, combined with a solar power supply. Here are the numbers, which should still be valid.

Assume a world population of 10 billion around 2050, requiring 5 kilowatt of electric power per capita. Total power demand is 50 billion kW.

With a solar constant of 1.4 kW/m2 and photovoltaic conversion efficiency of 7%, the required collecting area is 5x10^11 m2, or 700x700 km2.

Compared to the cross-section of Earth of 1.27x10^8 km2, the collecting area is only 0.4%. However, a 0.4% reduction of solar irradiance could offset a substantial amount of GH warming. And if we choose to reduce the insolation for certain critical areas, we might even initiate another ice age.

This is illustrative, of course. There are many practical problems that must be solved. And it is also necessary to establish a real need for such a combination project.

Finally, John Brignell's list of climate disasters (Item #9). They are fully linked at
He invites you too submit more. What about asteroid impacts? Haven't you seen the argument that GW leads to thermal expansion of the atmosphere and therefore to a larger target?
Just kidding.


1. BBC NEWS Climate change 'real and severe'
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website

An expert panel convened by BBC News has concluded that climate change is "real and dangerous". Temperatures are likely to rise by 3C to 5C by the end of the century, with impacts likely to be "severe" but not "catastrophic", the panel said. It also concluded that politicians are unlikely to cut emissions sufficiently to prevent dangerous global heating.

The panel's discussions were based on themes set by Professor James Lovelock in his latest book The Revenge of Gaia. The book argues that human society, through greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of environmental degradation, has brought the natural world to the brink of a crisis.

Temperatures will rise, Professor Lovelock warns, reliable supplies of water will be disrupted, life in the oceans will be compromised, food production will decline, and there will be mass migrations to areas of the planet's surface which remain habitable. With fossil fuels currently the dominant source of energy, he sees a large-scale switch to nuclear power as vital if electricity supplies are to continue reliably and carbon dioxide emissions are to be brought down.

After its publication earlier this year, The Revenge of Gaia was criticised by some scientists who felt it painted an overly apocalyptic vision and did not reflect uncertainties in scientific understanding. Despite the phrase "How we can still save humanity" in the book's subtitle, others argued it was an alarmist text, likely to promote despair and hopelessness rather than being a "call to action", as the author intended.

For perspectives on these issues, BBC environment affairs analyst Roger Harrabin brought together a panel of seven eminent academics with expertise including climate modelling, the Antarctic, and social aspects of environment policy. On Monday and Tuesday they discussed and debated issues raised in The Revenge of Gaia in BBC Broadcasting House in London, a discussion recorded for use on Thursday's edition of the Today programme on Radio 4 and for a future BBC World Service broadcast.

There was general agreement that Professor Lovelock had used rather severe projections of future climate change. But, he insisted, he had not gone further than the science indicated; a temperature rise of between 3C and 5C over this century was within the range projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its most recent major report.

Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey, declared that Professor Lovelock's choice was fully justified. "The fact that you've been taking higher-end, pessimistic predictions of the IPCC is something that shouldn't be dismissed," he said, "even if there's only a 5% or even a 1% probability that they might be real. "Would you get on an aeroplane if the pilot told you there was a 5% or a 1% probability that you wouldn't reach your destination? No of course you wouldn't; you have to take even very low-probability scenarios very seriously."

The panel spent a vigorous session debating how precisely to word their view of the climate "threat", eventually concluding unanimously that it will "probably bring severe changes" to human societies and rejecting the phrase "catastrophic changes". There was acknowledgement that some areas of climate-related science remain substantially uncertain. The behaviour of forests and the impacts of rising greenhouse emissions on oceans were two fields picked out as needing further study.

Hans von Storch from the Institute for Coastal Research in Geesthacht, Germany, cautioned against making public statements on the basis of science that is not fully mature. Early computer models of climate, he said, had predicted increases in storminess, which had not shown up in later, more sophisticated models. "So as long as we simply play around with these models as toys and enjoy ourselves and develop our knowledge, that's fine," he said. "But if we at the same time go out and speak to journalists and say 'therefore we will have this and that disastrous event', I think we are doing a disservice to the public."

There was general agreement that the rising global population and rising levels of consumption are major issues which are largely absent from discussion in political and public circles in many countries.

But on nuclear power, Professor Lovelock found himself at odds with the BBC panel. While declaring it an option meriting "full public and political discussion" for the UK, they could not endorse his view in The Revenge of Gaia that it was "the only effective medicine we have now".

Professor Lovelock insisted he did not rule other energy options out. "I'm not a nuclear fanatic, I don't believe in it for all the world, or that it's the absolute solution for everything," he told the panel. "But it happens to be the cheapest, the cleanest, and the most reliable source of electricity; and that's the key thing, electricity. You can't run a modern city without it; London would die within a week, totally die, if the electricity supply was cut off."

If the panel endorsed Professor Lovelock's climate diagnosis, what of its potential impact on society? Views were divided on whether it was likely to promote action or apathy.

"I hope the reaction won't be the one that I think there may be, that everything is so bleak that we should just throw up our hands and enjoy what remains, or commit suicide, or whatever occurs to us," said chairman Brian Hoskins of Britain's Reading University. "I think it should be a call for action, and that action has to involve organisations and governments worldwide."

The panel did not believe, however, that governments were hearing alarm bells as loudly as they should, with only one of the seven members feeling that carbon emissions would be cut sufficiently to avoid "dangerous" warming.

Ron Oxburgh, a former chairman of Shell, contended that the die had not yet been cast. "Whether the very serious and gloomy scenarios that Jim is emphasising come about is really within our own grasp," he said. "I'm confident on the technology; I'm much less confident that we have the social and political will to make the hard decisions that are required. The future is not inevitable, but we have to work hard to avoid the scenarios Jim has described."

2. How to save the world : A question of priorities: hunger and disease or climate change?
The Economist, June 22, 2006

TWO years ago, a Danish environmentalist called Bjorn Lomborg had an idea. We all want to make the world a better place but, given finite resources, we should look for the most cost-effective ways of doing so. He persuaded a bunch of economists, including three Nobel laureates, to draw up a list of priorities. They found that efforts to fight malnutrition and disease would save many lives at modest expense, whereas fighting global warming would cost a colossal amount and yield distant and uncertain rewards.

That conclusion upset a lot of environmentalists. This week, another man who upsets a lot of people embraced it. John Bolton, America's ambassador to the United Nations, said that Mr Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus provided a useful way for the world body to get its priorities straight. Too often at the UN, said Mr Bolton, everything is a priority. The secretary-general is charged with carrying out 9,000 mandates, he said, and when you have 9,000 priorities you have none.

So, over the weekend, Mr Bolton sat down with UN diplomats from seven other countries, including China and India but no Europeans, to rank 40 ways of tackling ten global crises. The problems addressed were climate change, communicable diseases, war, education, financial instability, governance, malnutrition, migration, clean water and trade barriers.

Given a notional $50 billion, how would the ambassadors spend it to make the world a better place? Their conclusions were strikingly similar to the Copenhagen Consensus. After hearing presentations from experts on each problem, they drew up a list of priorities. The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came last.

The ambassadors thought it wiser to spend money on things they knew would work. Promoting breast-feeding, for example, costs very little and is proven to save lives. It also helps infants grow up stronger and more intelligent, which means they will earn more as adults. Vitamin A supplements cost as little as $1, save lives and stop people from going blind. And so on.

For climate change, the trouble is that though few dispute that it is occurring, no one knows how severe it will be or what damage it will cause. And the proposed solutions are staggeringly expensive. Mr Lomborg reckons that the benefits of implementing the Kyoto protocol would probably outweigh the costs, but not until 2100. This calculation will not please Al Gore. Nipped at the post by George Bush in 2000, Mr Gore calls global warming an onrushing catastrophe and argues vigorously that curbing it is the most urgent moral challenge facing mankind.

Mr Lomborg demurs. We need to realise that there are many inconvenient truths, he says. But whether he and Mr Bolton can persuade the UN of this remains to be seen. Mark Malloch Brown, the UN's deputy secretary-general, said on June 6th that: there is currently a perception among many otherwise quite moderate countries that anything the US supports must have a secret agenda...and therefore, put crudely, should be opposed without any real discussion of whether [it makes] sense or not.

3. Hot Enough for You?

Parade magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement, has joined the global-warming alarmists with a cover story titled "Why You Can't Ignore the Changing Climate." Author Eugene Linden writes:

*** QUOTE ***

From the Fertile Crescent to the Yucatan peninsula, past civilizations made the fatal mistake of assuming that good weather would continue. An abrupt shift to drought in Mesopotamia 4,200 years ago probably spelled the doom of the Akkadian culture, which united city-states into the first known empire. Others see the fingerprints of climate in the collapse of the Mayans around 900 A.D., the disappearance of the Anasazi from the American Southwest a few centuries later and the end of Norse expansion into the New World in the 14th century. A recurrent pattern of history has been for civilizations to take root and flourish while the weather is good, only to fall when the weather suddenly changes.

*** END QUOTE ***

You'd think that this history would put things in some perspective, reminding us that weather and climate have never been constant and are beyond human control. Quite the contrary. As reader Gayle Trotter notes:

*** QUOTE ***

These ancient civilizations did not assume good weather would continue. In fact, they had elaborate religious rituals (sometimes involving human sacrifice and infanticide) to attempt to influence the weather. I would argue that our current environmental policy is about as effective at influencing the weather as their ancient religious ceremonies, and indeed, environmentalism has become a new religion in our age.

*** END QUOTE ***

Sure enough, Linden advises that you can help stop "warming the globe" by engaging in various rituals: "buy a fuel-efficient car; take mass transit; and, when you can, bicycle or walk to work."

4. Top US court to take on CO2 case
By Nick Miles BBC News, Washington

The US Supreme Court is to consider whether to force the government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from energy producers and cars. A dozen states and environmental groups asked the court to take up the case after a lower court ruled against them. They argue the onus should be on the government's Environmental Protection Agency to limit CO2 emissions. They say CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas causing a warming of the Earth and so should be categorised a pollutant.

The US government says that CO2 is not a pollutant under federal laws and that even if it was, it would have discretion over whether or not to regulate it. A federal appeals court recently sided with the government.
If the Supreme Court disagrees when it makes its ruling later this year, it could have a profound impact on American life. It could pave the way, for example, for car manufacturers to be forced to improve fuel efficiency as a way of reducing CO2 emissions.
Taking a Molecule to Court
By Iain Murray
Published 7/7/2006

The Supreme Court, by agreeing to hear a case on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must take steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, will finally judge on the alleged threat of global warming. The stakes are huge. Should the Court find in favor of the plaintiffs, it would put the EPA in control of the U.S. economy for the foreseeable future.

The modern global economy is powered by hydrocarbons -- oil, natural gas and coal. Burning these fuels releases the energy we need to light our homes, heat and cool our offices, and get us from place to place. But the process also releases a byproduct called carbon dioxide (CO2). We have known for well over a century that, all other things being equal, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will warm the atmosphere as it absorbs energy up to a certain point. In recent years, with the atmosphere warming since the 1970s, scientists have connected the warming trend to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is the phenomenon of global warming.

The case arose when a group of activist state attorneys general (AGs) petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to make rules to control emissions of carbon dioxide. When the agency determined that it had no power to do so, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, joined by other states, cities , and several environmental pressure groups sued, claiming, "The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to take certain actions when it determines that a pollutant may 'cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.'"

Their petition was turned down on a 2-1 verdict by the D.C. Circuit Court in July 2005. However, the verdict was a curious one, with the majority issuing two separate opinions that dwelt mostly on the merits of global warming science while ignoring the central question of the case -- whether or not the EPA has the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. (By contrast, the dissenting judge wrote a strong opinion that signified a serious disagreement over the scientific case and also addressed the central issue.)

The Supreme Court's agreeing to hear the case underscores its importance to the American economy. Regulation would directly affect 70 percent of the electricity sector and 98 percent of the transportation sector -- with repercussions throughout the entire economy as those sectors are forced to raise costs to comply with new regulations. Had the Court not agreed to hear the case, the plaintiffs would surely seek out other judicial avenues to force the EPA to regulate. By agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has at least signaled that there will be an end to the uncertainty soon. Businesses around the U.S. will be grateful for that.

It is hard to overstate the effect on the U.S. economy if the Court were to find in the petitioners' favor. The EPA would be forced to set acceptable carbon dioxide levels nationwide along the lines of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program, which currently sets such standards at the state level. By enforcing compliance nationwide, the EPA would have to set controls on all those activities that produce carbon dioxide, most notably electricity generation and transportation.

In effect, the Supreme Court would be enacting the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gas emissions, and has never been ratified by the Senate. Yet the EPA could well find itself compelled to impose stricter limits than Kyoto. Even the Protocol's supporters admit it will do little to reduce global warming (averting at most 0.7 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050). Yet the cost of Kyoto alone to the economy could be around $150 billion annually. Stricter emissions controls designed to avert more warming would cost far more.

There is another problem. Carbon dioxide is "well mixed" in the atmosphere, meaning that other countries' emissions affect the atmosphere over the United States. If other countries, such as fast-growing China and India, continue to emit large amounts of CO2, the entire U.S. could be in violation of the new standards even if emissions were reduced to zero.

Ironically, Congress has repeatedly considered and rejected controls on greenhouse gas emissions. For the Supreme Court to rule that Congress intended to control such emissions when it passed the Clean Air Act would require judicial activism of the highest order. For the sake of the economy and out of respect for the Legislative Branch, the Court should reject this petition.

Iain Murray is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.


Do you want a good laugh? Then read
5. Rep. Henry Waxman's Safe Climate Act
Posted by David Roberts at 3:18 PM on 27 Jun 2006

For weeks now, I've had an open tab in Firefox with Rep. Henry Waxman's Safe Climate Act languishing in it, waiting for my loving bloggy ministrations.

Today, I finally had a look, and -- this is a more powerful and more sensible plan that the one Kerry described yesterday. The main reason, in my view, is not so much the stronger ultimate target (80% vs. 65% below 2000 emissions by the year 2050) but the incrementalism -- precisely the problem ffletcher identified. Here's the capsule version of the plan:

* Science tells us that we face a grave risk of irreversible and devastating global warming if global temperatures increase by more than 3.6°F.
* The bill sets greenhouse gas emissions targets that aim to keep temperatures below the danger point. The level of emissions is frozen in 2010 and then gradually reduced each year through 2050.
* The bill achieves these targets through a flexible economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, along with measures to advance technology and reduce emissions through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cleaner cars.

Here's how the targets will work:

The Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642) freezes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, at the 2009 levels. Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990.

The great benefit of incremental targets -- as aptly described in this Worldchanging post -- is that they are predictable. They call for steady work and stable programs; they allow no procrastination and last-minute band-aids.

Waxman seems to have really bright people on his staff. Kerry's speech and his plan have a bit of posturing and showmanship about them, but Waxman's is carefully and structurally sound, down to the details (check out the stuff about national energy-efficiency and renewable-energy standards). You can read a detailed description of the plan here or the full text here (PDF). I also highly recommend Waxman's statement.

What need to happen next is for a Democrat to introduce the bill in the Senate. Someone looking to make this a defining issue in their political life. Obama?
SEPP comment: Yeah, sure! We need Al Gore back in the Senate!

6. Europeans Miss Kyoto Targets By Large Margins

New figures reveal that the European Union (EU) is falling far short of reaching its emissions targets under the international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, greenhouse gas pollution rose for the second year in a row, according to the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency.

o Emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases from the whole of the EU increased by 18 million tons (0.4 percent) between 2003 and 2004, while emissions from the EU-15 (the original 15 member states) increased by 11.5 million tons (0.3 percent) in the same period.

o Spain and Italy were the biggest green sinners with emission increases of 19.7 (4.8 percent) and 5.1 (0.9 percent) million tons respectively.

o On the other hand, Germany, Denmark and Finland all saw decreases in their gas emissions.

"An increase of 0.4 percent may appear small; however, the magnitude of (greenhouse gas) emissions is such that the actual increase is significant," says Jacqueline McGlade, director of the agency.

Despite the various policy initiatives, this report highlights that the trend is still going in the wrong direction. Europe must implement all planned policies and measures relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, she added.

Source: Helena Spongenberg, "EU falls behind on green targets," EU Observer, June 23, 2006; based upon: "Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2004 and inventory report 2006," European Environment Agency, Technical report No. 6, June 22, 2006.
Courtesy NCPA

7. EPA to control greenhouse gas di-hydrogen oxide

Washington, DC) The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to classify water vapor as a pollutant, due to its central role in global warming. Because water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for at least 90% of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect, its emission during many human activities, such as the burning of fuels, is coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators.

Until now, the carbon dioxide produced during the burning of fuels has been the main concern. The extra carbon dioxide causes a manmade enhancement of the greenhouse effect. But water vapor is also produced by combustion of most fuels, as well as by industry and utilities that use water for cooling. The EPA would be able to regulate its manmade sources if it is classified as a pollutant.

EPA Director of the Department of Pollutant Decrees, Ray Donaldson, said, "Back before carbon dioxide was declared dangerous, we simply assumed that water vapor was also benign. But all reputable scientists now agree that the increased water vapor content of the atmosphere from such sources as burning of fuels and power-plant cooling-towers will also enhance the greenhouse effect, leading to potentially catastrophic warming."

If successful, the push to classify water vapor as a dangerous pollutant would impact virtually everyone. For instance, homeowners could see a wide variety of common activities that cause evaporation being regulated: watering the lawn, or using a hot tub or swimming pool.

"Right now, we are not so concerned about the water vapor exhaled by people. That is low on our list of priorities", said Mr. Donaldson. "We'll tackle that manmade source at a later time." One likely result of such regulation would be an additional tax on fuels used by cars, trucks, passenger jets, and a wide variety of industries and utilities.

Predictably, the Bush Administration has voiced opposition to any regulation of water vapor emissions. White House staffer Lew Moninsky told ecoEnquirer, "This is simply ridiculous. The EPA wants to regulate all human activity out of existence. What about the massive amounts of water vapor being evaporated from the world's oceans every second? That's OK?, but human production of small amounts of vapor isn't? If it weren't for water vapor, there would be no rainfall! Give me a break!"

"Well, of course the Administration would say that…", said Mr. Donaldson, "..they're in the pocket of 'big oil' anyway."

The EPA is rumored to have a rather extensive list of potential pollutants in addition to water vapor, and some insiders claim that all known chemical compounds are targeted for future regulation. When informed of the rumored list of chemicals, Mr. Moninsky asked, "Well, since everything is made of chemicals, I guess that means that even every molecule of your body will be subject to regulation as well, doesn't it?"

Asked for their position on the matter, Greenpolice spokesperson Rainbow Treetower stated, "Our basic policy is, if it's good for people, it's bad for the planet."

.8. Hot Air: Does GW increase frequency of El Ninos?
By Anthony Lupo,| 19 Jun 2006

A recent study by Vecchi, et al titled "Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing"[1], states that there has been a discernable (approximately 3.5 percent) weakening in the Walker Circulation since the mid-1800's. [The Walker Circulation is an atmospheric circulation germane to the tropical latitudes in the Pacific Region, whose strength is linked to El Niño.]

The researchers also suggest that the Walker Circulation will weaken by another 10 percent by 2100, and the attribute these changes to anthropogenic climate change. They also suggest that the climate is moving toward a more El-Niño-like state. [The El Niño here refers to the warming of sea surface temperatures that occurs in the tropical central and eastern Pacific every 2 - 7 years, and the associated changes in the atmospheric circulation.]

The researchers used historical records dating back to the mid-1800s, as well as a general circulation model (GCM) to study the problem. [A GCM is a dynamic model that uses basic physical principles and mathematical statements to simulate the atmosphere, and these can be used in a predictive or a diagnostic capacity. Thus, a GCM, or any model, is a statement of hypothesis about how a system works.]

If the climate were moving toward a more El Niño-like state, then it would be reasonable to assume that the El Niño phenomenon would occur more often, and/or become stronger with time. This indeed seemed to be the case during the period 1977 - 1998 when three strong El Niños occurred, and several years during the early 1990's were arguably in a prolonged El Niño-like state. By the year 2000, it certainly seemed that El Niño was becoming more common and stronger -- as a paper published by researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences [2] reveals.

However, since 1997-1998, for almost an entire decade, there has not been a strong El Niño. The El Niño of 2002-2003 was very weak, and the El Niño of 2004-2005 is not even classified as an El Niño using some definitions [3]. The Vecchi, et al paper does not account for this fact, as their study only covers the 1861 to 1992 period. The Tropical Pacific has been characterized more by La Niña conditions since the Fall of 1998. [La Niña is simply characterized by cooler than average waters occurring in the same regions where El Niño occurs.]

This recent period mimics the period of 1947-1977, when El Niños were weak and La Niña events were more prominent. This would confirm the results of studies [4], including some by our own research group [5,6,7], that have suggested that a longer-term Pacific Ocean-based cycle, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) modulates the occurrence and intensity of El Niño on a very long-term (50-70 year) timescale.

As for the GCMs, it is close to impossible to use them to deduce a small percentage change in the strength of tropical circulations such as the Hadley or Walker Circulations. Comparisons of the different General Circulation Models to observations [8] have consistently shown that the models tend to underestimate and/or overestimate the intensity of these circulations by as much as 33 percent. Since the models, in some cases, cannot even get close to replicating these circulations well, is it possible to discern a 3.5 percent change in the strength of these circulations?

One can even question the use of observational data for the tropics going back to the mid-1800's to deduce a 3.5 percent change in the circulation strength, since obviously, the farther back in time the records go, the fewer observations there are. This is especially true for the upper-air circulation, as upper-air observations were not viable before about the 1940's. Even if there were good and plentiful observations going back to the mid-1800 for tropical areas, it is well known that atmospheric pressures and heights from balloon measurements have a 1-2 percent error-margin built in. This would then account for half or more of the purported change in the circulation intensity.

Thus, while recent studies [1] may claim to be able to quantify the anthropogenic climate change signal in the data and using the models, it would be wise to remember the limitations of the tools and data at our disposal. Suddenly, a 3.5 percent change in the strength in the Walker Circulation per 150 years seems not only irrelevant, but dubious as well.
Dr. Anthony R. Lupo is an Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Missouri Columbia.
[1] Vecchi G.A., et al., 2006. Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing. Nature, 44, 73-76.

[2] Mokhov, I.I., D.V. Khvorostyanov, and A.V. Eliseev, 2004. Decadal and Longer-term Changes in ENSO Characteristics. I. J. Climatol., 24, 401 - 414.

[3] The Center for Ocean and Atmospheric Prediction Studies (

[4] Gershunov, A., and T.P. Barnett, 1998. Interdecadal modulation of ENSO teleconnections. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 2715 - 2725.

[5] Lupo, A.R., and G. Johnston, 2000. The Interannual Variability of Atlantic Ocean Basin Hurricane Occurrence and Intensity. Nat. Wea. Dig., 24:1, 1-11.

[6] Berger, C.L., A.R. Lupo, P. Browning, M. Bodner, C.C. Rayburn, M.D. Chambers, 2003. A Climatology of Northwest Missouri Snowfall Events: Long Term Trends and Interannual Variability. Phys. Geog., 23, 427 - 448.

[7] Lupo, A.R., Kelsey, E.P., D.K. Weitlich, I.I. Mokhov, F.A. Akyuz, J.E. Woolard, 2006: Interannual and interdecadal variability in the predominant Pacific Region SST anomaly patterns and their impact on a local climate. Under review

[8] Gates, W.L., et al., 1999: An Overview of the Results of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP I). Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 80, 29-55.

9. A complete list of things caused by global warming
By John Brignell

Aggressive polar bears, algal blooms, Asthma, avalanches, autumn leaf colour change, billions of deaths, blackbirds stop singing, blizzards, building season extension, bushfires, cannibalistic polar bears, Cholera, civil unrest, cloud increase, CO2 emissions from plants, coral bleaching, cold spells, damages equivalent to $200 billion, declining fish stocks, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, desert advance, desert retreat, destruction of the environment, disappearance of coastal cities, Dolomites collapse, drought, drowning polar bears, dust bowl in the corn belt, early spring, earlier pollen season, earthquakes, Earth light dimming, Earth slowing down, Earth spinning out of control, Earth wobbling, El Niño intensification, erosion, emerging infections, Everest shrinking, evolution accelerating, expansion of university climate groups, extinctions (ladybirds, pandas, gorillas, whales, frogs, turtles, orang-utan, elephants, tigers, plants, salmon, trout, wild flowers, woodlice, penguins, a million species) extreme changes to California, famine, floods, Florida economic decline, forest decline, forest expansion, frosts, fungi invasion, glacial retreat, global cooling, glowing clouds, Gore omnipresence, Gulf Stream failure, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, harvest increase, harvest shrinkage, hay fever epidemic, heat waves, hibernation ends too soon, hibernation ends too late, human health improvement, hurricanes, hyperthermia deaths, ice sheet growth, ice sheet shrinkage, inclement weather, Inuit displacement, insurance premium rises, islands sinking, itchier poison ivy, jellyfish explosion, krill decline, landslides, lawsuits increase, lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!), Malaria, malnutrition, marine diseases, Maple syrup shortage, Melanoma, methane burps, melting permafrost, migration, microbes to decompose soil carbon more rapidly, more bad air days, mudslides, next ice age, ocean acidification, ozone loss, ozone rise, plankton blooms, plankton loss, rainfall increase, rainfall reduction, refugees, release of ancient frozen viruses, rift on Capitol Hill, salinity reduction, Salmonella, sea level rise, smog, snowfall increase, snowfall reduction, squid population explosion, tectonic plate movement, tree foliage increase (UK), tropics expansion, tsunamis, Venice flooded, volcanic eruptions, wars over water, West Nile fever, wildfires, wind shift, World bankruptcy, Yellow fever.

and all these on 0.006 deg C per year!
Please send any omissions of climate disasters (with URL) to




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