The Week That Was
June 3, 2006

The Week That Was (June 3, 2006) brought to you by SEPP

Free use is granted for non-commercial purposes of all materials on this Website. Acknowledgement would be appreciated.
New on the Web: Journalist Gregg Easterbrook takes a jaundiced view of the exaggerations in Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and decries its moral double standard. Yet in a NY Times op-ed (May 24), Easterbrook tells how the federal Climate Change Science Program converted him from skeptic to a believer in AGW (anthropogenic global warming).
Unfortunately, he only read the press release and not the CCSP report itself - which presents evidence against AGW. If he read TWTW, he would have known this (see and )

Steve Milloy takes a jaundiced view of Easterbrook's "conversion" (Item #1).

Gretchen Randall looks at weak points of Gore movie (Item #2).

Al Gore's new movie runs up against an informed critic.
A global warming alarmist rebukes WSJ editorial board member Rob Pollock for getting his data wrong--but he cherry picks the data himself to do it, depending not on smoothed five-year average temperatures but on peak-to-valley changes.
India says it and other developing nations should tackle poverty first, not fight global warming. Good sense here!
Study shows major media have hyped climate change for over a century--switching back and forth between warming and cooling.

DER SPIEGEL ONLINE - 26. Mai 2006, predicts "gory" climate catastrophes (in German):,1518,418165,00.html
Heard that polar bears are threatened by global warming? Think again. Will Polar Bears ever catch Malaria?
People who actually live around them debunk the notion that GW is endangering polar bears

Worried about global warming? Don't be - it's too late to do anything about it. Sir James Lovelock, an eminent scientist thinks at least 80% of the population of the planet is about to be wiped out. But then he becomes sensible: "All talk of sustainable development is complete moonshine. wind farms are producing almost no energy. It's an expensive folly." So what's the answer: Nuclear and coal. (Item #3)
A Washington Post magazine article on "global warming" includes this howler:

*** QUOTE ***
James Hansen, the prominent NASA scientist, points out that the models don't realistically include ice sheets and the biosphere--all the plants and animals on Earth. The global climate surely has more surprises for us. . . .

Hansen thinks we have less than 10 years to make drastic cuts in greenhouse emissions, lest we reach a "tipping point" at which the climate will be out of our control.
*** END QUOTE ***

Someone might want to take Hansen aside and explain that the climate has always been out of our control.
How Can We Be Sure?
"A Warmer World May, or May Not, Be Wetter"--headline, USA Today, May 30

Al Gore Must Be Itching to Run for President
"Study: Global Warming Boosts Poison Ivy"--headline, Associated Press, May 29

Green Protesters Call for Resignations, Say NOAA Ignoring Global Warming Effect on Hurricanes (Item #4)

The Law of the Sea rears its ugly head (Item #5)
Just when you thought it could not go lower, the EU plunges to new depths
Available in some but not all European languages. They seem to have given up on Italy, Spain, and Greece

On the other hand, Europe also boasts some bright intelligent writers
"A good first step in asserting real control of our world would be to tell [EC president José Manuel] Barroso where he can stick his climate change campaign." (Item #6)
And in the Netherlands: Some 230 years after its flat pastures were wrested from the waters, the de Feijters' farm - their home for 33 years - is to be re-flooded to reverse the disappearance of Zeeland's mudflats and salt marshes. The end will be quick. Engineers will build a new dyke behind the de Feijters' land and demolish their 150-year-old farmhouse. Then they will breach the high, grass-sided dyke at the bottom of their drive and the sea will rush in. The final decision must be ratified by parliament next year, but chances of a reprieve look slim. Dutch officials support the project, part of a scheme to re-flood 1,500 acres of land on the banks of the Western Schelde estuary. The re-flooding has been imposed by the EU Habitats directive, and the EU Birds directive.
Ben Zycher wants to see a wind farm off Cape Cod (Item #7)

Arctic warmth 55 million years ago (Item #8) - without human intervention.

An update on an extensive PBS interview on GW (Item #9)

Finally, the Winning Letters (Item #10)

1. Skeptic schmeptic

By Steven Milloy
May 26, 2006

Al Gore's new global warming movie is apparently causing some to think that a major turning point in the debate is at hand. The ranks of the so-called global warming "skeptics" were supposedly thinned this week when prominent environmental commentator Gregg Easterbrook announced his defection in a May 24 New York Times op-ed. "As an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism. But based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert," wrote Easterbrook, a senior editor with The New Republic and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Easterbrook a "skeptic"? With "a long record of opposing alarmism"? Are there two Gregg Easterbrooks?

Though Easterbrook is far from a household name, readers of environmental commentary are certainly familiar with his reputation as a left-of-center eco-contrarian - an image secured by his 1995 book entitled, "A Moment on Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism." Publicly reviled by environmentalists and hailed by their opponents, Easterbrook's book examined human impact on the environment and concluded that the environment was getting better, not worse.

But 1995 is so over and now in 2006, Easterbrook concluded in the Times that "[Global warming] research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger."

So what changed Easterbrook's mind? Ironically, it was a report from the Bush administration released earlier this month. [SEPP Comment: Actually it was the press release, which misrepresents the CCSP report.] Before we get to that, consider what developments Easterbrook says in his op-ed didn't persuade him.

Easterbrook writes that, in 2003, the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Service "both declared that signs of global warming had become compelling" and "In 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that there was no longer any 'substantive disagreement in the scientific community' that artificial global warming is happening." He also notes that in 2005 the national science academies of the U.S., U.K., China, Germany and Japan issued a joint statement announcing that "significant global warming is occurring."

But it wasn't "case closed," according to Easterbrook's op-ed, until the Bush administration's Climate Change Science Program announced this month that research supports "a substantial human impact on global temperature."

It's difficult to take this alleged conversion seriously. Since at least 1998, Easterbrook has consistently regurgitated global warming alarmism.

In a 1998 New Republic article, Easterbrook wrote that "the scientific consensus on global warming has strengthened," that projected warming could be "quite nasty" and that "coming temperature increases appear cast in stone."

In 2000, Easterbrook criticized CBS for "trivializing the greenhouse effect" by broadcasting the 1993 miniseries "The Fire Next Time," which depicted the U.S. as destroyed by global warming in the year 2007. Later in 2000, Easterbrook wrote, "The signs of global warming keep accumulating… realistic steps against global warming could start right away. A warming world need no longer be our destiny."

In 2003, Easterbrook criticized Democrats for being too critical of President Bush and discouraging him from "proposing… meaningful global warming rules."

In 2004, Easterbrook wrote that, "There are troubling problems with Bush administration attitudes toward science, especially greenhouse gases." In 2005, Easterbrook wrote that "restraining greenhouse gases" was "our next great environmental project."

Contrary to assertions in his Times op-ed, Easterbrook's writings indicate that he became a global warming convert long ago - not just this month. So what's up with the melodramatic announcement of his "conversion"?

Easterbrook may be thinking that Al Gore's movie and attendant hoopla will finally cause sufficient public panic to catapult the global warming alarmists to rhetorical victory. If so, Easterbrook may want to atone to the environmental activist community that he previously alienated by "A Moment on Earth" and any other eco-contrarian "moments" he has had over the last decade.

Easterbrook will no doubt be welcomed and forgiven for any past sins by the environmentalists since, as a prominent eco-contrarian writer, his supposed "conversion" from skeptic to convert purports to signal the public that a major turning point in the global warming debate has been reached.

I suppose a major turning point has been reached - Al Gore and the alarmists have seemingly gone over the edge in thinking that a movie rather than scientific debate is the way to resolve the global warming controversy. There certainly has been no change in the science - there is still no persuasive evidence that humans are adversely affecting global climate or that humans can manipulate global climate by regulating greenhouse gas emission.

Moreover, it's quite ironic that the tipping point for Easterbrook was a statement about global warming from the Bush administration, whose viewpoint apparently is not credible until it coincides with his own.

It's quite laughable that Easterbrook and the New York Times fancy his imaginary status as a new convert of any importance to the global warming debate. It's the science that's important, not a journalist's self-aggrandizement for political and possible career-advancing purposes. \

And if there are two Gregg Easterbrooks, will the real skeptic please stand up?
Steven Milloy is the publisher of and

2. Opening day, Gore's An Inconvenient Truth appears in only four theaters

By Gretchen Randall

Date: May 30, 2006

Issue: Only four theaters (in New York and Los Angeles) showed Al Gore's documentary movie about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, on its opening day last week. The movie, claiming that "humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb" aims to scare viewers into believing catastrophic occurrences will occur if we don't stop global warming. The movie predicts "we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced."

Here are some of the catastrophic consequences it predicts:
300,000 deaths per year by 2030
rising sea levels worldwide which will devastate coastlines
more intense heat waves, droughts and wildfires
an ice-free Arctic Ocean by 2050
the loss of a million species worldwide by 2050

The movie website ( lists actions you can take to stem the tide of emissions that supposedly cause global warming such as:
Unplug electronics from the wall when you're not using them
Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible
Only run your dishwasher when there's a full load
Plant a tree
Eat less meat Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas & cows are one of the ` greatest methane emitters..
Buy locally grown and produced foods; buy fresh foods instead of frozen
Fly less or "share" a car instead of buying one

Comment 1: Americans aren't going to believe that by using a clothesline instead of a dryer they're going to help save the earth. Use a clothesline if you like the scratchy feel of your clothes dried that way but don't think you're saving the planet.

Comment 2: These suggestions aren't really serious ways to stop a planet that's doomed. Where are the real strategies that will help stop us from dying from heat waves and drought or that will stop the glaciers from melting?

Comment 3: That's it folks. Cow farts are going to sink New York and Los Angeles . . . and to think some of you actually believe Al Gore is nuts.

Background and links: You can read more about the movie at:

3. Sir James Lovelock on Global Warming - Just seconds to Midnight
26 May 2006
Copyright 2006. CMP Information Limited. All rights reserved.

Worried about global warming? Don't be - it's too late to do anything about it. Sir James Lovelock, an eminent scientist thinks at least 80% of the population of the planet is about to be wiped out. …an independent scientist, researcher, inventor and author [Lovelock] believes that about 5 billion people are about to die from war, disease and famine.

Lovelock argues that global warming is so far advanced that extreme climatic change is inevitable. "It won't make any difference if we stop producing carbon dioxide tomorrow," he says. And we are going to notice dramatic effects very soon. "I think it will be pretty bad by the middle of this century. By then all the floating polar ice will be completely gone and you'll be able to sail to the North Pole. That is a huge effect and adds enormously to the amount of heat been received by the Earth as all that white ice used to reflect solar heat. It's a pretty grim picture, there's no question about it."

But why should anyone listen to the dire warnings of this silver-haired 86 year old? Well, apart from anything else, Lovelock is sprightly and eloquent for his age, and speaks passionately about his science. Indeed, he is not sitting around at home but is on an intensive world tour of lectures to spread his message and promote his new book, which goes by the appropriately dramatic title The Revenge of Gaia.

Furthermore Lovelock is highly respected for his body of work, which includes the invention of the electron-capture detector - a device that can detect minute quantities of pollution - the microwave oven and, most significantly of all, the Gaia theory. Widely accepted within the environmental community, this states that the earth is a self-regulating mechanism where ecosystems and the elements needed for survival, such as the atmosphere, have evolved to work in harmony together. The problem is, mankind's activities have upset this equilibrium to such an extent that Gaia's response is to chew us up and spit us out.

Lovelock has warned about the consequences of global warming for many years, but his concern about the state of the planet took on a new urgency after a visit to the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter. "I get on well with the scientists there and they invited my wife Sandy and I to go along and see what they were doing. We went from one group of people to another and everyone had a very gloomy story to tell. But they hadn't factored in the whole picture."

Lovelock says scientists tend to work in relative isolation on tightly focused pieces of research. As a scientist whose Gaia theory is all about the big picture, he put these individual stories together and realised that the human race was on the brink of disaster. "The problem is we have all been in denial about it for much too long, and didn't realise how serious it was," he says. "All talk of sustainable development is complete moonshine. What we need is a sustainable retreat."

According to Lovelock, rapid temperature rises will turn most of the food-producing countries of the world into desert and scrub before the end of the century. "The four horsemen of the apocalypse will ride again - famine, pestilence, war and death," he warns. "We are talking about huge deaths. We would be lucky if a billion survive; it is more likely to be half a billion." Most survivors will try and get to the Arctic where conditions for survival should be just about right, he adds.

According to Lovelock, survivors will also try and get to the UK, which is where a note of slight optimism is sounded. "My hope is that these islands will survive it because of the Gulf Stream," he says, referring to the warm ocean current that keeps us some 8 deg C warmer than we should be at this latitude. Global warming will switch this current off, but the fall in temperature will be balanced by global warming. "It won't happen smoothly, but on the whole the British Isles will do a lot better than the rest of the world. We are a very desirable bit of real estate, but we'd better run it decently and properly."

Lovelock compares the UK's current situation to that of the Second World War. "You have to pull together and do everything you can to stop it," he says. "We can't stop climate change, but we can protect ourselves and save civilisation in these islands to a considerable extent."

He describes rising sea levels as a "nuisance", in that they won't have an immediate impact, but storm surges such as that which wiped out New Orleans are a real possibility. A lot of new homes will also be needed, partly to house those displaced by floods but also because energy efficiency will become essential. "All our houses are inefficient. We should really be thinking of replacing our housing stock with appropriate housing for the new world to come, which is going to be very strange," says Lovelock. "We have got to start thinking about high-density living, as we will need every scrap of land for food production. Building houses with gardens will be utterly out." These new communities will resemble dense medieval cities because the rarity of cars will make wide roads redundant. Houses will have to be built from locally sourced materials as the cost of energy will prohibit long-distance transportation.

Lovelock's view that it is too late to stop global warming means he has an unusual take on energy supply. He dismisses renewable energy and has a particular disregard for wind power, describing it as a "pointless exercise".
"Nobody mentions that the wind has changed as a result of climate change," he says. "It's no longer blowing great big westerly gales, but it's mostly coming from the north and east - gently - and the wind farms are producing almost no energy. It's an expensive folly."
Solar power is also dismissed as too expensive, unless there is a technical breakthrough, and Lovelock adds that it only produces energy when we don't need it. As for biofuels, these are totally out, because all available land will be needed for food. "Energy saving is more important than renewables," he says. "Proper construction of houses that are well insulated so they don't leak energy is the first requirement and should be a priority."

In terms of generating new power, nuclear is the answer. "I'm so glad the prime minister has gone nuclear because it's the only way of keeping business going," he says. His support of nuclear power has infuriated many in the green movement, which venerated Lovelock for the Gaia theory. Nevertheless, Lovelock wants new-generation nuclear - and fast. "We often hear that it will take 10 years to build a nuclear power station," he says. "This is rubbish. The first ones that were built in this country took three-and-a-half years and some are still working. It's the constipated civil service that slows everything down. It's got to be woken up and shaken up."

The main reason behind why a man who thinks it is too late to stop global warming wants nuclear power would surprise many. Lovelock describes it as potentially the cheapest source of energy there is. He says it is made expensive by planning and excessive health and safety regulations. "It's such a safe industry - nobody has died in it since it started in Britain, and nobody has been injured by radiation as far as I know."

He also describes the 70bn needed for decommissioning and dealing with nuclear waste as a complete waste of money. Those who raise their eyebrows at this should bear in mind that Lovelock is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. "I have offered many times to take the full output of any nuclear power station in the country and put it on the land I own because it's not unsafe - I know what it is because I have worked with radiation all my life. It could go in a concrete pit. It's perfectly safe - I would have my grandchildren sit on it."

According to Lovelock, 30-40% of our energy needs should be provided by nuclear energy. He says it could be even higher - if politics didn't prevent it. The rest of our energy will have to come from coal. "Global warming is going to happen whether we burn coal or not and the UK's contribution is tiny. For us to burn coal to generate electricity would probably add 0.5% to the total of the world's CO2," he says. He adds that nations such as China and India are burning vast amounts of coal and nothing we do will stop them.
Lovelock does have some good news. After all, he points out, someone has to build all these flood defences, new homes and power stations. "This is an enormous opportunity for the construction industry," he says. "It sounds awful to say it but you have an exciting future - there are enormous challenges but there is a lot of money to be made too." However he does admit to wondering quite what this rich construction industry will spend its profits on when the four horsemen ride into town...

4. Green Campaigners Call For Scientists' Heads To Roll
Protesters Call for Resignations, Say Government Ignoring Global Warming Effect on Hurricanes
ABC News, 31 May 2006

To anyone who spent time watching hurricane forecasts last summer, Max Mayfield may seem like a hero. The director of the National Hurricane Center predicted many of the season's worst storms. But a day before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, environmental groups called for Mayfield and other officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to resign.

"NOAA is actively covering up the strong and growing scientific link between more powerful hurricanes and global warming," said Mike Tidwell, who represents a group called the U.S. Climate Emergency Council.

The groups demanded that Mayfield and NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher step down. "They must resign immediately," said Tidwell, in front of about 30 protesters who'd gathered for a morning rally outside NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.

NOAA officials declined to be interviewed today but released a statement saying the agency had not taken a specific position on the relationship between global warming and hurricane behavior.

"We recognize there is an ongoing scientific debate and will continue to support research that might identify detectable influences of global warming in hurricane frequency and/or intensity," the statement said.

5. Views on Law of the Sea
The Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) was negotiated in the late 1970s, an era when Third World nations looked to the U.N. to distribute resources from rich to poor nations. President Reagan rejected American participation in the 1980s. Slight changes introduced in the 1990s persuaded the Clinton Administration to endorse the treaty. The Bush Administration, perhaps because it is eager to improve its internationalist credentials, has also endorsed the treaty. But it remains a bad deal for the United States.

The Law of the Sea treaty does not simply set rules for commercial activity beneath the high seas. It establishes a new international tribunal and new international bureaucracies to interpret and apply a wide range of rules for activities on the seas and to proceed with such rules even against U.S. objections. It threatens to introduce international legal complications into national security missions of the U.S. Navy. It threatens to complicate not only deep-sea mining if it ever becomes a realistic commercial prospect but also fishing and other commercial activities at sea and perhaps even on adjacent lands. Above all, it sets a very bad precedent..

The EC's message to the people of Europe: make do and mend
6. The latest European campaign on climate change is driven by killjoy arguments for rationing and restraint.
Sandy Starr SPIKED 1 June 2006

The European Commission campaign You Control Climate Change is the latest high-profile initiative aimed at tackling global warming through modifying our personal behavior. The campaign slogan, now emblazoned across an enormous poster next to the EC's main building in Brussels, is: 'Turn down. Switch off. Recycle. Walk.' (1)

That perfectly encapsulates the message behind popular climate change initiatives, which are always urging us to scale down our ambitions. We're forever being asked to temper our desires to live life in the most convenient and enjoyable ways possible, and instead to keep a constant eye on our natural environment and its future.

The EC's message is similar in essence to the poor housewife's proverbs 'make do and mend' and 'waste not want not', which were traditionally used to encourage people to conserve materials during wartime shortages and rations. So, the green slogan 'think globally, act locally' asks us always to be mindful of the bigger picture and yet modest in our own pursuits. Rather than reining in our behavior for the sake of any war effort, today we are asked to ration ourselves in the service of something more intangible - the alleged needs of the planet and of future generations.

Since neither the planet nor future generations can speak for themselves, environmentalists and others have a blank cheque to babble on their behalf, and to assume the moral high ground in the process. In truth, neither planets nor the unborn are capable of having interests, since neither of these entities is capable of formulating or pursuing interests. It is only we who live in the present who can determine our interests and shape our future accordingly. And whether our interests are best served by defining ourselves, almost to the exclusion of everything else, as Environmentally Responsible is highly dubious.

When challenged about their tendency to revere nature at the expense of the needs of humanity, environmentalists tend to take the fallback position of appealing to our desire for self-preservation. Never mind the tree hugging, they say, what about the continued existence of the human race? However, merely continuing our existence is hardly the highest goal one can think of. Human history is a history of progress - of forging ahead and improving our lot by changing our circumstances, not accommodating to them.
Today, in the absence of big ideas and political dynamism, we have become acutely aware of what seem like the natural parameters within which we live and work. Indeed, we fret about such natural factors prematurely, going out of our way to defer to them even before they can impose themselves upon us.

Take fossil fuel. Doubtless, fossil fuel is not the greatest means of generating industrial, domestic or locomotive power that humanity will ever devise, and work on developing viable alternatives is ongoing. But this resource has benefited us immeasurably, remains useful to us in the here and now, and still stands to improve the quality of life for millions in the developing world. However, these facts barely get a look-in in current debates, instead being subordinated to concerns over the environmental impact of fuel emissions and how we might fare if and when the fuel runs out.

If our first instinct is always to project from our present capabilities and cower at daunting scenarios ahead, we will never be able to grapple fruitfully with the challenges presented by nature. 'Nature's revenge' is a popular theme in today's discussion of the climate - but why would nature need to exert her revenge when we seem so keen on devising and enacting it on her behalf?

None of this is to deny the importance of forward planning based on expert knowledge. Those global warming 'sceptics' who claim that we can never fully understand nor hope to influence the climate are as misguided in their own way as the doom-mongering greens. But to present the complexities of climate change as a brute set of geophysical facts, the only sensible response to which is to scale down the way we live now, does an immense disservice to humans' ability to devise solutions and shape the world around them.
Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept all of the premises of climate change orthodoxy and all of the worst-case scenarios that follow, there remains a strong element of bad faith in the idea that the best solution to these challenges is for individuals to modify their behaviour. If the collective impact of all of us 'turning down, switching off, recycling and walking' really could make the difference between humanity prevailing or being extinguished, what kind of fool would wager their future on hoping that everyone decides to behave in the approved manner?

Inasmuch as climate change poses us with a challenge, it needs to be met with the most ambitious and innovative solutions that our finest minds can muster. Wagging the finger at us for enjoying the hard-won conveniences of modern life, and telling us to be more austere, does not constitute any kind of solution. In fact, that stance has little to do with taking a scientific approach to the climate, and is more about those in authority forging a new morality for which the climate is a useful pretext.

Lacking any grand political vision that might engage us, the European authorities resort instead to issuing high-handed advice on our habits and lifestyles. According to EC president José Manuel Barroso, the You Control Climate Change campaign 'makes clear to which extent we all are responsible for climate change and what individuals can and need to do to limit this threat'. Holding us responsible for climate change in this way is like the Church of yesteryear holding us responsible for averting the wrath of God - an invocation of a phantasmagoric higher power, which dulls our passions and underlines our subservience to the ruling order.

The message 'You Control Climate Change' suggests that the most significant control we can exercise over our circumstances is the reduction of our impact upon the natural environment. In political terms, we may as well be told 'you control nothing'. Fortunately, some of us aspire to greater freedom and a better future in the dynamic, open-ended world of human affairs, not the dismal cul de sac of natural facts misrepresented as political scripture.

A good first step in asserting real control of our world would be to tell Mr Barroso where he can stick his climate change campaign.

reprinted from:

7. Windmills in Environmental Jihad
Letter to the Editor Wall Street Journal,
May 26, 2006

William Koch (May 22) misses the wind farm for the turbines in his economic analysis of the proposed field of wind turbines off Nantucket Sound. Yes, the proposal is uneconomic, even with massive subsidies. But that is not the point: For years the environmental lobby has joined hands with the Northeast liberal left to force a myriad of "environmental" requirements and projects upon the rest of the country, with actual environmental benefits either nonexistent or negative. And now we find Senator Kennedy and many of the other "environmentalists" in opposition to just such a monstrosity in their back yard. Is it because of the famous Cape Cod concern with benefit/cost analysis? Or is it far more likely that yet again we are observing the hypocrisy of the leftist elite? Whatever the numbers, this project should be forced upon them as a matter of justice.

Benjamin Zycher
Senior fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

8. Studies Portray Tropical Arctic in Distant Past

The first detailed analysis of an extraordinary climatic and biological record from the seabed near the North Pole shows that 55 million years ago the Arctic Ocean was much warmer than scientists imagined - a Floridian year-round average of 74 degrees.
The findings, published today in three papers in the journal Nature, fill in a blank spot in scientists' understanding of climate history. And while they show that much remains to be learned about climate change, they suggest that scientists have greatly underestimated the power of heat-trapping gases to warm the Arctic.

Arctic's tropical past uncovered
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Fifty-five million years ago the North Pole was an ice-free zone with tropical temperatures, according to research.
A sediment core excavated from 400m (1,300ft) below the seabed of the Arctic Ocean has enabled scientists to delve far back into the region's past. An international team has been able to pinpoint the changes that occurred as the Arctic transformed from this hot environment to its present cold status. The findings are revealed in a trio of papers published in the journal Nature.

Unlocked secrets
Until now, our understanding of the Arctic's environmental history has been limited because of the difficulties in retrieving material from the harsh, ice-covered region. But in 2004, the Arctic Coring Expedition (Acex) used ice-breaking ships and a floating drilling rig to remove 400m-long cylinders of sediment from the bottom of the ocean floor. The cores were taken from the 1,500km-long (930 miles) Lomonosov Ridge, which stretches between Siberia and Greenland.

The core holds layer upon layer of compressed fossils and minerals, which when studied can tell the story of millions of years of Arctic history. The bottom end of the cylinder helped scientists to uncover what had happened to the Arctic during a dramatic global event known as the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which occurred about 55 million years ago.

"This time period is associated with a very enhanced greenhouse effect," explained Appy Sluijs, a palaeoecologist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and the lead author on one of the papers. "Basically, it looks like the Earth released a gigantic fart of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - and globally the Earth warmed by about 5C (9F). "This event is already widely studied over the whole planet - but the one big exception was the Arctic Ocean."
The core revealed that before 55 million years ago, the surface waters of the Arctic Ocean were ice-free and as warm as 18C (64F). But the sudden increase in greenhouse gases boosted them to a balmy 24C (75F) and the waters suddenly filled with a tropical algae, Apectodinium .
When current climate models were applied to this period of the Earth's history, said Dr Sluijs, they predicted North Pole temperatures to be about 15C (27F) lower than the core shows.

Blanket layers
The second of the three papers, led by paleaoecologist Henk Brinkhuis, also from Utrecht University, reports that the Arctic Ocean underwent another transformation about 50 million years ago. The water changed from salty to fresh, and the ocean became covered with a thick layer of freshwater fern, called Azolla .
"We assume from climate models from the early Eocene Period that there was lots of fresh water coming into the basin via precipitation and giant Canadian and Siberian river run-offs," said Professor Brinkhuis. "And, at a certain point, this gave rise to this whopping great growth of Azolla ."
He believes the prolific growth of this fern, may be linked to the later drops in temperature in the area.
"When you have so much of this plant in this giant sea, you have a mechanism to pump out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is sort of an anti-greenhouse effect," he said. "We argue that this sits right on the break from the really warm hot-house period into the time when the ice house begins."
Future predictions
Further up the core, the first evidence of ice formation emerges.
"Five hundred thousand years above where the Azolla was found, we found the first drop stones," explained Professor Brinkhuis, who is also a co-author on the third paper which details Arctic ice-formation. "These are little stones that come from icebergs, ice sheets or sea ice. So it must have been cold enough to have ice.
"Before we did this, it was thought that the ice field in the Northern Hemisphere only began about three million years ago; but now we have pushed that back to 45 million years ago."
Although the data tells us how the world changed from one with greenhouse conditions to one with ice house conditions millions of years ago, it may also help scientists to predict what will result from the present changes in climate. Appy Sluijs points out that the data reveals that some of the climate models used to detail the Arctic's history got things wrong; and, as they are the same models that predict our future climate, they may need adjusting.
Kate Moran, lead author of one the papers and professor of oceanography and ocean engineering at University of Rhode Island, agrees: "We anticipate that our data will be used by climate modellers to give us better information about how climate change occurs and possibly where global climate might be leading. "Today's warming of the Arctic can, in all likelihood, be attributed to mankind's impact on the planet; but, as our data suggest, natural processes operating in the past have also resulted in a significant warming and cooling of the Arctic."

9. Update on PBS Frontline interview 2000
There are only three amendments and additions since 2000:

1. Satellite data now show a slight global warming trend over the last 25 year instead of a slight cooling trend. [Note that I am talking about GLOBAL Average Temperature.]

2. Is this an indication of a human cause? A direct comparison with greenhouse models is not sufficient. Recall that different GH models have sensitivities that vary by a factor of 5. So you can match any observed global trend to a suitable model. One therefore needs to match the PATTERN of warming, both geographic ( by latitude zone) and by altitude.

We have done both and published our results in two papers in the peer-refereed literature (Geophys Res Lett. 2004). There is no match. The models have not been validated.

We have just extended our analysis, using recently corrected data and some 20 climate model results. There is still strong disagreement between observed trends and those derived from models. We have just submitted these new results t GRL for publication.

3. In the discussion of what happens when CO2 doubles, triples, quadruples, etc, I forgot to mention an important fact (on which there is complete scientific agreement): Acc to GH theory, the effect of increasing CO2 is not linear but logarithmic. This means that each additional increment is less effective than the previous one. So if we are now at 50% towards a CO2 doubling, the additional temperature increase will be much less than double. The physical reason is that the GH effects of the CO2 saturate as its level increases.

10. The Winning Letters

Dear Sirs:
Bill McKibben claims (Washington Post May 27) that now is "a moment of opportunity" for those who want "to raise awareness about climate change". But everybody is already aware that climate changes: it always has and always will -- everywhere. Everybody has been aware of this since the Bronze Age, when it was pointed out to Pharaoh by Joseph (with one with the Technicolour Dreamcoat).
At issue is whether human activity is or is not affecting the changes to the Earth's temperature that have always happened naturally. Nothing is constant in nature; everything changes all the time. And the Earth must have recently warmed or cooled if its temperature were not constant. But the recent changes to the Earth's temperature are within the natural variability seen in the past.
Furthermore, there is no "evidence" for man-made global warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions: none, not any of any kind. Decades of research have failed to find any. And there are other more likely possible causes for the recent warming. For example, changes to cloud cover.
Clouds reflect solar heat and a mere 2% increase to cloud cover would more than compensate for the maximum possible predicted warming due to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the air. Good records of cloud cover are very short, but it appears that cloudiness has recently decreased. Between the mid 80s and late 90s decreased cloud cover reduced the Earth's reflectivity to the extent that if the Sun were constant then the reduced cloudiness provided the Earth's surface with extra warming of 5 to 10 Watts/sq metre. This is a lot. The IPCC says that since the industrial revolution, the build-up of human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has had a warming effect of only 2.4 W/sq m.

From: Richard S Courtney (Dr)
Falmouth, UK

And if Gore didn't exactly run away from the climate issue during his tenure in the White House, he sure wasn't able to do much about reducing the emissions that cause it. When Gore opens Saturday Night Live (May 13), pretending to have been the president these past six years and claiming to have stopped global warming, it's funny in part because of how absurd it is.
During the years Clinton and Gore ran the country, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars remained static, General Motors rolled out its first civilian Hummer, and the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 not to ratify an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases called the Kyoto Protocol. The last time the U.S. participated with any sincerity in climate talks, at The Hague in late November 2000, the United States came to the table insisting that its vast forests should count toward the country's overall reduction of carbon emissions, and the talks fell apart.
Although Clinton's presidency was in its last days and the election was over, the administration's trees-eat-carbon policy had its roots in Gore's campaign for the presidency: "[It] was intended as a pre-emptive strike," wrote an astonished Gelbspan at the time, "calculated to blunt a predictable Republican attack against Gore's environmentalism."
(Name withheld)



Go to the Week That Was Index