Take my brother, Chuck, who’s been digging out of his driveway in upstate New York non-stop since Halloween. After powering down the snow blower, Chuck recently explained to me that all this global warming hoopla is a conspiracy to redistribute American wealth to developing nations, under the auspices of the U.N. (which just happens to put out all those horrifying projections about climate change run amok–coincidence? You decide).
Climate change skeptics like Chuck have a lot of support for their views when the plow goes by and throws up a 6-foot wall of snow in front of their driveways and CNN switches from O.J. to avalanche coverage. Rush Limbaugh weighs in on their behalf. They even have their own convention, scheduled for March in New York. Then to cap it all off, London Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has declared 2008 as “the year man-made global warming was disproved.” (Last time I checked, his column on this had more than 1,000 comments).
But it’s more than just the chilling effect of winter. Across much of the country (California being a notable exception), recent public polling would seem to indicate an eroding public acceptance of climate science, increasingly divided along party lines. A survey by the Pew Research Center last spring found that 71% of those surveyed accepted the basic premise of climate change but less than half believed it was related to human activity (“Republicans are increasingly skeptical,” noted Pew).
The most common arguments set forth by skeptics are pretty well summarized in this letter we got from William McKillop, a resource economist now retired from the U.C. system. I present McKillop’s comments without annotation, except for one, which you’ll find at the end of his remarks, below. As always, I invite your comments.
Human Activity May Not Be The Main Cause Of Global Warming
- It is possible that human activity may not be the main cause of global warming.
- Humans are responsible for only 2% to 5% of total carbon dioxide emissions and less than two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) of total greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere each year.
- Higher temperatures increase non-human emissions of carbon dioxide from plant-life and the sea
- Recent reductions in sunspots on the solar surface suggest that we may be entering into a cooling period
- More than 17,000 scientists of diverse backgrounds signed the Oregon Petition against the Kyoto Protocol because they saw “no compelling evidence that humans are causing discernible climate change.”
- The Kyoto Protocol would cost the U.S. economy $100 to $200 billion per year, as estimated by the Clinton Department of Energy.
- Kyoto would restrain temperature increases by less than one degree and delay global warming by only six years.
- Kyoto was rejected by the U.S. Senate 95-0.
It is legitimate to recognize that global warming is taking place and will cause significant problems. And few in the U.S. will deny that we should decrease our dependence on oil from the Middle East. But some persons think it is heresy to disagree with the view that human activity may not be the main cause of global warming rather than factors such as change in solar activity and change in the earth’s orbit and tilt. Some of them appear to be confused. They do not seem to understand that the debate is not about the fact that global warming is taking place but rather about its major cause. Some believe, based on a review of 928 studies that there is no controversy that human activity is causing global warming. They seem not to realize that only 2 percent of the 928 studies wholly endorsed that claim and that there were 11,000 studies on the subject that were not examined.
One should also be careful in studying findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A University of Auckland [New Zealand] paper by C.R. de Freitas says “The UN IPCC’s voice to the public, press and policy makers regarding climate science is through summaries; in particular, the brief, politically approved “Summaries for Policymakers” (SPM), which have become notorious for their bias, tendency to overstate problems and penchant for simplifying and dramatizing scientific speculation”. Nor should one be swayed by the fact that a large number of scientists contributed to the preparation of the IPCC report. In 2000, Professor S. Fred Singer testified to the U.S. Senate that more than 17,000 scientists of diverse backgrounds signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition against the Kyoto Protocol because they saw “no compelling evidence that humans are causing discernible climate change.”
Modeling of the causes of global warming requires use of a comprehensive data series and a complete and logical set of explanatory variables. A proper analysis should use a data set that includes the whole of the twentieth century and not just the last few decades. Also, it should include as explanatory variables, measures of solar activity and indicators of the earth’s orbit and tilt. Carbon dioxide concentration by itself is an inadequate explanatory variable, especially in view of the fact that higher temperatures increase non-human emissions of carbon dioxide from plant-life and the sea.
Persons who are eager to place predominant blame on mankind for global warming often specialize in personal attacks on those who have an opposing view. For example, they promulgate smears that dissenting scientists are bribed by energy producers such as “Big Oil”. People who want to know the facts should seriously study websites such as geocraft.com, friendsofscience.org, investorsinsight.com and meteo.lcd.lu.
For a broad overview they should read “The politics of global warming,” an interview of the Canadian climatologist, Dr. Tim Ball, in the February 10, 2007 Pittsburgh, PA Tribune. They should be dismissive of attempts by entities with a political agenda to smear Dr. Ball and others. Persons with a background in science should read the critique of the climate change modeling process by Meyer (A Skeptical Layman’s Guide to anthropogenic global warming); and “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” by Robinson and Soon. Persons with a background in science and economics should read the scathing analysis of the IPCC and Stern report by a British panel of fourteen independent expert scientists and economists at katewerk.com. They should consider whether it is wise to impose huge costs on consumers by adopting the Kyoto Protocol for very little gain. [Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy $100 to $200 billion per year, as estimated by the Clinton Department of Energy, and restrain temperature increases by less than one degree. That is equivalent to delaying global warming by only six years]. Kyoto was rejected by the U.S. Senate 95-0.
They should pay particular attention to the chart on the Friends of Science home page which shows a close relationship between temperature anomaly and the length of sunspot cycles, but a very weak relationship between temperature anomaly and concentration of carbon dioxide. Recent reductions in sunspots on the solar surface suggest that we may be entering into a cooling period. And, in his movie, even Al Gore seems to be aware that tilt of the Northern Hemisphere towards the sun leads to global warming because of its greater land mass. The Geocraft website explains the effect of cyclical eccentricities in the earth’s rotation and orbit.
Furthermore, on the basis of U.S. Department of Energy data, J. DuHamel in his paper, Climate Change in Perspective, noted “that humans are responsible for 2% to 5% of total CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide constitutes about 3% to 4% of total greenhouse gases by volume; therefore anthropogenic CO2 represents less than two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) of total greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere each year”.
Editor’s Note: McKillop makes reference to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition, first circulated in 1998. This is often cited by climate change skeptics, including the chairman of General Motors. Others, however, including the National Academy of Sciences, have called this petition drive and its bona fides into serious question. Likewise the climate science credentials of Arthur B. Robinson & Willie Soon, whose paper is also cited here, have been similarly challenged.
Photo by Chuck Miller: October snow in Pierrepont Manor, NY