Ethics Articles

Articles: Global Warming


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Let’s Be Honest About the Real Consensus (Tech Central Station, 041207)

Global Warming In Brief ( Website)

[1] The Global Warming Debate — Updated November, 2000

[2] Climate Change Treaty - October, 1997

[3] Global Warming Treaty Costs for the U. S.

[4] The climate change treaty in brief

[5] Lomborg Speaks About Global Warming

Global Warming (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Website)

20th Century Temperature Trends Not Unusual (Marshall Institute, 030417)

Global Warming (Global Issues Website)

Climatic Change (Greenpeace Website)

Global Warming (Environmental Protection Agency Website)

Was the Climate of the 20th Century Unusual?: A Reprise (Marshall Institute Website)

Corrections to the Mann et al (1998): Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemisphere Average Temperature Series

Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming (Book, 2002)

New Report Undermines Climate Change Claims (Marshall Institute, 041207)





My position on the issue: Please read my Question and Answer




>>Let’s Be Honest About the Real Consensus (Tech Central Station, 041207)

By Roy Spencer


The arguments for anthropogenic climate change often take the form of “we know it is happening, therefore we need to do something about it now”. While appealing to the uncritical thinker, it implies two important but unstated assumptions: 1) human induced climate change of any amount is very bad, and 2) public policy should be changed to fix it, regardless of the cost.


For instance, Naomi Oreskes introduces her recent editorial in Science with:


“Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


She then goes on to list all of the official scientific bodies who have produced statements or reports on the reality of global warming. Thus, elements of both “climate change of any amount is bad”, and “we need to do something about it” can be gleaned from her first two statements.


Oreskes puts great emphasis on something called the “consensus position” on climate change. While her arguments would seem to support the view that the consensus refers to “serious global warming”, a careful reading reveals that it really refers to the rather benign (and even meaningless) conclusion that humans are influencing climate. Climate scientists will tell you that everything influences the climate, so what we really should be asking is: how much are humans influencing the climate, and is there anything we can and should do about it?


Specifically, Oreskes notes a consensus statement from the 2001 report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):


“Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”.


Note that “most” and “likely…due to” are qualitative terms that reflect that fact that we really have little knowledge of whether the climate would have changed in substantially the same way without human influence during that 50 year period. There have been only a very few multi-decadal warming and cooling periods in the last 100 years, and it seems to be an overly vindictive view of nature to attribute the cooling periods to natural variability, while blaming the warming periods on humans. Climate models that are now purportedly able to mimic these few warming and cooling periods have so many adjustable parameters, and so few historical events to explain, that the resulting correlations could well be accidental rather than physical.


It is unfortunate, and causes confusion, that “global warming” has taken on a meaning in most peoples’ minds that includes elements such as extreme, devastating, calamitous… in other words, bad by definition. The most frequent question I’m asked about climate change is, “Do you believe in global warming”? I am always forced to answer with a question: “What do you mean by global warming?”. It is quite plausible that some portion of the 1 deg. F warming in the last 50 to 100 years is due to increasing concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases. But since climate science has still meager understanding of how much of this warming is natural (for instance, the multi-decadal warming trend that ended around 1940), scientists are prone to downplaying uncertainties, and over-emphasizing what they do understand: that increasing levels of carbon dioxide should cause warming. Virtually everyone agrees that more carbon dioxide causes a warming tendency — the real question is, how will the climate system respond?


For instance, the warming due to just carbon dioxide increases is predicted by climate models to be approximately doubled by increasing levels of water vapor, the atmosphere’s primary greenhouse gas. But what determines the level of water vapor in the atmosphere? It is a balance between (1) evaporation from the surface, and (2) removal by precipitation systems. Since science doesn’t yet understand how precipitation systems will respond to a warming tendency (for instance, warmer tropical systems are known qualitatively to be more efficient at removing water vapor than cooler high-latitude systems), it has virtually ignored research related to the efficiency of precipitation systems, and has instead emphasized the “increased evaporation” part of the equation. Quantitative knowledge of this “positive water vapor feedback” effect thus requires knowledge that we currently do not have. The effects of clouds are even more uncertain. What we do know, though, is that all of the weather that makes up climate is working with one goal: to get rid of excess heat.


The “new ice age” scare of the 1970’s should teach us something about statements coming from scientific bodies: that even in scientific reports, scientists sometimes get a little carried away with their theories. This explains in part why scientists’ pronouncements are not blindly accepted by the public anymore. Additionally, the most authoritative reports, produced by the IPCC, have been notorious for downplaying or outright ignoring uncertainties in their summaries for policymakers (the only part a congressional staffer is likely to read). Combined with the biased influence of the principals leading the IPCC report process, and the UN’s own agenda for future political influence (“Agenda 21”), it is easy to see how the scientific message can get distorted and misused.


In her Science editorial, Ms. Oreskes also makes a curious claim about past research on “climate change”: that of 928 climate research paper abstracts published from 1993-2003, none rejected the consensus view on climate change. While I doubt that I’ve read this many climate change papers, I do have several in my office that specifically state that quantitative estimates of global warming are not possible without further knowledge of certain elements of the climate system (e.g. Renno, Emanuel, and Stone, 1994; Grabowski, 2000) or that current climate models are overly sensitive (e.g. Hu, Oglesby, and Saltzman, 2000). And remember, the consensus view Oreskes refers to is so qualitative and innocuous that few scientists would dispute it anyway.


Furthermore, also unstated by Oreskes is the widespread practice by U.S. funding agencies of only funding research that implicitly accepts the putative global warming paradigm. Research funds from Congress depend on threats to the populace, and as long as there are possible climate mechanisms that could make global warming worse, funding is enhanced. I am not suggesting widespread deceit or questionable motives — only that public funds are usually made available to study problems, not non-problems. I agree that the possibility of significant global warming alone is sufficient justification to study it. But as a result of the phrasing of the governmental announcements for research funds availability, most published research is biased toward a myriad of possible destabilizing processes in the climate system. There is little practical difference (but great perceived difference) between the research findings phrased “mechanism X could possibly lead to serious global warming” and “mechanism X will probably not lead to serious global warming”. And guess which phrasing is more interesting to a reporter?


On the policy side, the unstated, but strongly implied, assumption by Oreskes that something should be done about global warming veers entirely outside the bounds of science. She alludes to the presumably sinister motives of “corporations who might be adversely affected” by controls on the production of carbon dioxide, without mentioning that those corporations will not pay the bulk of the cost — the public will. And it’s not just big corporations that are the emitters. We all are, through our consumption of everything that requires energy to produce.


While the example of phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons to prevent ozone depletion is sometimes cited as an example of how we can reduce our production of carbon dioxide, the two issues are worlds apart from a policy standpoint. Cheap energy is the lifeblood of economies. Until new and substantial sources of energy are found (or accepted — e.g. nuclear) that do not produce greenhouse gases, there is very little we can do about the problem. Feel-good measures like the Kyoto Protocol or the McCain-Lieberman legislation, while painful enough for economies, barely scratch the surface of what is needed to prevent future warming, no matter what prediction of future warming you believe. Indeed, if reducing the production of carbon dioxide were easy, or economically neutral, it would already have been done.


Only the strong economies of the world can afford to fund research into finding these new sources of energy, and shooting ourselves in the economic foot with carbon legislation might not be the most prudent path to take. Policy changes related to carbon dioxide will necessarily have to trade off many benefits and risks. Even though I am a scientist, I’m particularly thankful that scientists are not allowed to decide public policy.


“Consensus” among scientists is not definitive, and some have even argued that in science it is meaningless or counterproductive. After all, even scientific “laws” have been disproved in the past (e.g. the Law of Parity in nuclear physics). Global warming is a process that can not be measured in controlled lab experiments, and so in many respects it can not be tested or falsified in the traditional scientific sense. Nevertheless, I’m willing to admit that in the policymakers’ realm, scientific consensus might have some limited value. But let’s be honest about what that consensus refers to: that “humans influence the climate”. Not that “global warming is a serious threat to mankind”.




Grabowski, W.W., 2000: Cloud microphysics and the tropical climate: Cloud-resolving model perspective. J. Climate, 13, 2306-2322.


Hu, H., R.J. Oglesby, and B. Saltzman, 2000: The relationship between atmospheric water vapor and temperature in simulations of climate change. Geophys. Res. Letters, Vol. 27, No. 21, 3513-3516.


Renno, N.O., K. A. Emanuel, and P.H. Stone, 1994: Radiative-convective model with an explicit hydrologic cycle 1. Formulation and sensitivity to model parameters. J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 99, No. D7, 14,429-14,441.




Global Warming In Brief ( Website)


[Conservative Viewpoint which I support]


[1] The Global Warming Debate — Updated November, 2000


In 1992 the United States and nations from around the world met at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio and agreed to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Rio Treaty was not legally binding and, because reducing emissions would likely cause great economic damage, many nations will not meet the goal.


Representatives from around the world met again in December of 1997 at a conference in Kyoto to sign a revised agreement. The Clinton Administration negotiators agreed to legally binding, internationally enforceable limits on the emission of greenhouse gases as a key tenet of the treaty.


The president’s position is based on the idea that global warming is real and that it is caused by human activity. Further, it presupposes that the potential damage caused by global warming would greatly outweigh the damage caused to the economy by severely restricting energy use. Finally, his position assumes that the agreement will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions world wide and will prevent global warming. However, as this pamphlet shows, each of these premises is still very much in doubt.


In May 1997 Consumer Alert formed a subgroup of the National Consumer Coalition on climate change policy, the “Cooler Heads” Coalition, to address the consumer impact of climate change policies.




Is global warming occurring?


  • According to Accu-Weather, the world’s leading commercial forecaster, “Global air temperatures as measured by land-based weather stations show an increase of about 0.45 degrees Celsius over the past century. This may be no more than normal climatic variation...[and] several biases in the data may be responsible for some of this increase.”


  • Satellite data indicate a slight cooling in the climate in the last 18 years. These satellites use advanced technology and are not subject to the “heat island” effect around major cities that alters ground-based thermometers.


  • Projections of future climate changes are uncertain. Although some computer models predict warming in the next century, these models are very limited. The effects of cloud formations, precipitation, the role of the oceans, or the sun, are still not well known and often inadequately represented in the climate models — although all play a major role in determining our climate. Scientists who work on these models are quick to point out that they are far from perfect representations of reality, and are probably not advanced enough for direct use in policy implementation. Interestingly, as the computer climate models have become more sophisticated in recent years, the predicted increase in temperature has been lowered.


Are humans causing the climate to change?


  • 98% of total global greenhouse gas emissions are natural (mostly water vapor); only 2% are from man-made sources.


  • By most accounts, man-made emissions have had no more than a minuscule impact on the climate. Although the climate has warmed slightly in the last 100 years, 70% percent of that warming occurred prior to 1940, before the upsurge in greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes. (Dr. Robert C. Balling, Arizona State University)


  • A Gallup survey indicated that only 17% of the members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Society thought the warming of the 20th century was the result of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.


If global warming occurs, will it be harmful?


  • The idea that global warming would melt the ice caps and flood coastal cities seems to be mere science fiction. A slight increase in temperature — whether natural or mankind induced — is not likely to lead to a massive melting of the earth ice caps, as sometimes claimed in the media. Also, sea-level rises over the centuries relate more to warmer and thus expanding oceans, not to melting ice caps.


  • Contrary to some groups’ fear mongering about the threat of diseases, temperature changes are likely to have little effect on the spread of diseases. Experts say that deterioration in public health practices such as rapid urbanization without adequate infrastructure, forced large scale resettlement of people, increased drug resistance, higher mobility through air travel, and lack of insect-control programs have the greatest impact on the spread of vector-borne diseases.


  • Larger quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere and warmer climates would likely lead to an increase in vegetation. During warm periods in history vegetation flourished, at one point allowing the Vikings to farm in now frozen Greenland.




What are the policy proposals?


  • The U.S. agreed to a 7% reduction of CO2 emissions from what they were in 1990 — a target to be met by 2008-2012. This agreement would result in massive restrictions on energy use and large taxpayer-funded subsidies for new technologies.


  • The Clinton Administration has supported a system of tradable permits to be used by companies that emit CO2. These permits could be bought and sold inter-nationally, giving companies an incentive to lower emissions and thus sell their permits. But this system would require massive international oversight on the order of a worldwide EPA to track CO2 emissions, and the costs to consumers would still be high.


  • Because of the devastating effects that global warming policies will have on economic growth, the treaty that was discussed in Kyoto in December 1997 currently excludes developing nations. However, the US Senate has voted 95-0 against supporting a treaty that doesn’t include developing nations.


What economic impact will the proposals have?


  • According to a report by the Department of Energy, stringent targets to reduce fossil-fuel emissions in the US will cause energy-intensive industries, including steel, iron, chemical, rubber and plastic, to flee from the developed countries to undeveloped countries, taking with them hundreds of thousands of jobs.


  • Carbon taxes will cause relatively large income losses in the poorest one-fifth of the population. The poor, because they spend a greater proportion of their income on necessities, would have few ways to cut back to compensate for higher living costs.


  • Stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels by 2010 would reduce the growth of US per capita income by 5% per year.(Gary W. Yohe, Wesleyan University)


  • The burden would fall on many individuals and families and would be unfair in that it would be quite unrelated to income, wealth or ability to pay. Instead, the burden would be determined by energy use patterns and circumstances, such as distance from work, condition and energy efficiency of homes, automobiles, and appliances.


  • Senior citizens on fixed incomes would find their energy costs escalating and their income dwindling.


Will the policies actually stop global warming?


  • By all estimates, only severe reductions in global CO2 emissions — on the order of 60 percent or more — will alter the computer forecasts. The resulting economic dislocations would be tremendous, potentially outweighing the negative impacts of even the most apocalyptic warming scenario.


  • If the policies do not include developing nations the result will likely be a reallocation of emissions to developing nations, not a reduction of emissions.


  • If the entire world is included and CO2 emissions are severely restricted, the science is not clear what impact, if any, it would have on the world’s climate.


[2] Climate Change Treaty - October, 1997




The UN Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto (Japan) is only a few weeks away and, most of the countries have announced what position they intend to bring into the negotiations. Even the U.S. has finally announced its proposal on the reduction of CO2 emissions, which was revealed in a speech by President Clinton on October 22, 1997 at the National Geographic Society in Washington.


The following discussion, Part I, will outline the positions of several countries on the issue and provide an outlook on the up-coming negotiations in Kyoto, while in Part II (“Tradable Emissions Permits - the Perfect Solution ?”) emissions trading systems proposals shall be reviewed.


United States


President Clinton announced in his speech on October 23, 1997, at the National Geographic Society in Washington, that the U.S. will commit itself to reducing CO2 emissions to its


1990 emissions level by the years 2008-2012 and a further reduction in the following 5 years.


The Administration, in addition plans a $5 billion package of spending on R&D and tax incentives, energy-efficiency standards, Federal government energy initiatives and later on a national and an international emissions permit trading system.


The proposal also noted that the U.S. will insist that developing countries be involved in the reduction of greenhouse gases, otherwise, the U.S. threatened it would not sign-on to a treaty. In which form and what part developing countries would have to play in reducing greenhouse gases that would satisfy the Administration was left open.


The earlier prospect of a carbon tax brought so much criticism that the government has now distanced itself from the idea of an “open” carbon tax. The Administration now supports the politically more acceptable solution -a national and an international system of tradable emission permits. The advantages for the Administration are that in a trading system the economic burden is probably smaller and also less visible than in a tax regime. It can even earn some support from well-known economists,(1) and be portrayed as an innovative, progressive, and market-oriented approach.


The government’s planned increase in spending on R&D will be less controversial since some industries and business will profit from it, while the costs are buried in the national budget and will fall on the taxpayer. The impact of the increased spending on R&D is still disputed, since not everyone agrees with the findings and projections of the Department of Energy Study about the “Potential Impact of Energy Technologies by 2010 and Beyond,”(2) which predicts rather dramatic technological improvements, with the expenses of increased government spending in principal covered by cost savings from less energy use.


The approval of the Senate to a treaty containing legally binding emissions targets depends strongly on the participation of developing countries in the agreement. In its vote (95-0) for the resolution co-sponsored by Senators Robert Byrd (D-W.VA) and Charles Hagel (R-NE) the Senate showed its unwillingness to sign on to restrictions for U.S. industry while developing countries such as South Korea, India, China, and Mexico are not required to participate, especially because these countries, in the near future, will be the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. The timetable of bringing developing countries into a treaty and the form of their involvement will probably be deciding factor on whether the Senate will approve the treaty.


During the latest meeting in Bonn, Germany which was intended to prepare a draft for a treaty to be signed in Kyoto, the U.S. Administration presented its proposal and tried to win support among other countries. So far, however, there seemed to be disagreement about most key points of such a potential treaty, such as which emissions target, what timetable, who would have to participate, and how countries would be allowed to achieve the emissions target.


European Union


The EU is the biggest advocate for a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions and suggests a cut of CO2 emissions by 15% from the 1990 emissions level by 2010. The EU has criticized the U.S. proposal as insufficient and as not going far enough and has questioned the U.S. commitment to prevent global warming. The EU has a number of reasons for taking that position:


First, the political clout of the environmental movements in Europe (especially in Germany, but also in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and increasingly in France) puts European governments under pressure to call for a stringent reduction of emissions. European industry, fearing that Europe would go ahead with such a policy on its own, is concerned about its competitiveness in the global market, and therefore strongly argues for a “leveling of the playing field.” It is especially concerned about giving American and Asian competitors an additional advantage. Some in the industry are even hoping that new demand for “environmental technology” would benefit their advanced technology sector.


The EU is in a unique position because it has signed the treaty as a body (as well as the single member states), which allows it to arrange different targets for its members as long it meets the target for the EU as a whole. EU’s internal goals range from a 40% increase for Portugal to 30% cuts for Luxembourg and 25% for Germany, Austria, and Denmark. The huge reductions in some of the countries are achievable without a dramatic impact on industrial production because of the individual circumstances.


For example, the 1990 level for Germany includes the whole former East German industry, famous for its dependency on coal burning and, consequently, big CO2 emissions. The decision to close many of these unprofitable and inefficient plants makes it easier to achieve big cuts in emissions. Great Britain cut the subsidies for coal mines, which led to a switch from coal to natural gas, and less CO2 emissions. But these decisions were based on economic circumstances, not on concern for possible climate change. This could be seen when Germany’s government backed-off from a decision to cut more coal subsidies after angry mine workers “visited” the German government in Bonn.


The EU-members agreed to introduce a EU-wide carbon tax to reduce CO2 emissions, but despite this decision, the tax has never been implemented. The fear of a negative impact on the European economies loomed too large, especially if Europe would go ahead with such a policy despite the fact that others are not introducing similar measures.


The EU has always been pushing for higher standards but seems more reluctant than the U.S. to embrace market-oriented solutions. The idea of an international tradable permits system is more difficult to sell in Europe, where people are more willing to accept that their governments set standards and industry has to find a way to meet the standards. One has to keep in mind that industries are often closely consulted on the issues to find achievable goals. The cooperation and relations between companies and government are perhaps closer than in the U.S.


Some countries have reservations about emissions trading schemes, but few would go so far as the Dutch environmental minister, Magaretha de Boer: “That’s not something that belongs to our [European] culture.”(3)


Many find it easier to deal with a “simpler solution” - such as government regulations, than with setting up a world-wide trading scheme which needs more organizational preparation (and innovative thinking).The feeling in Europe is that the U.S. first has to do more to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases, since the U.S. is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world in absolute terms. The U.S. is still perceived as an economy which wastes energy in production and especially in its consumption patterns.


During the latest negotiations in Bonn, the EU-countries stuck to their proposal of a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gases from the 1990 level by the year 2010, they also insist that industrial countries reduce their emissions immediately and under regulatory conditions.




Canada used to be one of the leading advocates for a treaty on the reduction of greenhouse gases. During the Rio summit in 1992, Canada was one of the mediators that brought the different positions together in a voluntary agreement; but now Canada’s position is not so forthright. The Canadian government is expected to propose an extension of the deadline from the year 2000 to the year 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels, to the year 2012, but it will probably ask for a sharper reduction after the year 2012. The reluctance of the Canadian government to commit itself to sharp emissions reductions was heavily criticized by environmental groups as inadequate, while industries and opponents of an agreement think that drastic action could seriously damage the slowly recovering economy. The government has also not yet announced how it expects to achieve the emission targets; it is estimated that Canada’s emissions of CO2 have increased around 11 per cent between 1990 and 1996.(4)




Other countries argue that the model for differentiated targets should also apply to other countries, not just EU members. For example, Australia argues that there should be individual levels for every country considering its specific situation. The level should be determined by numbers like the projected population growth, GDP per capita, emission intensity of GDP, energy intensity of exports, etc.


Australia is resisting a big reduction in the emissions level, which would have a devastating effect on a country that is a big coal exporter and also relies on coal for domestic energy use. Australia supports the idea of a tradable permit system with some reservations, especially about the initial distribution of permits and the huge transfers of wealth.




Special focus is directed at Japan. As the host nation it is under pressure to do more than others to insure that there will be some agreement in Kyoto. The Japanese government announced its position a few weeks ago, proposing a 5 percent reduction of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions below the 1990 emissions level in industrial countries on average in the years 2008-2012. The proposal also allows exemptions and different measurements including GDP, projected development of population number and emissions per capita, which could mean an actual reduction of only 2.5 percent for the US and Japan.


Japan was criticized by the EU and environmentalists for its position, but the government defends its proposal saying the EU’s goal is unrealistic and the government’s proposals would already mean Japan would need 20 new nuclear power plants added to the already existing 52, (increasingly in the news in recent month for scandals involving the non-disclosure of accidents to the public). Internally Japan is divided between the position of the powerful Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) which is lobbying for lower emissions cut backs, while the Environmental Agency supports higher reductions of emissions.


Japan depends heavily on oil imports, and to increase the share of other energy sources is extremely difficult, especially for nuclear power after the recent scandals involving serious accidents. And Japan has already achieved a high degree of energy efficiency; therefore, the amount of energy that could be saved through new measures is limited. Japan like most of the other industrial countries, will not be able to stabilize its emissions to its 1990 level until the year 2000; its emissions of CO2 will probably have increased by about 6 percent from the 1990 level by the year 2000.(5)


Developing Countries


Developing countries are a diverse group of countries, from countries like China and India, which might soon became the biggest CO2 emitters, to small African countries with little industrial basis. They therefore hold different opinions on the issue, but they all seem to reject the notion that developed countries dictate them to cut emissions. They rightly argue that most of the emissions in the past came from industrial countries during their industrial development, and developing countries just want to have the same right for economic development for their people. They also insist that the emissions per capita is only a fraction of the emissions by industrial countries.


On the other hand, some industrial countries, in particular the U.S., want developing countries to be included in any agreement they reach, because these countries will increase their emissions drastically in the next decades. Also, industrial countries fear that stricter environmental regulations and increasing costs at home will drive more industries to relocate production to developing countries. This is already happening, but additional costs for CO2 emissions could accelerate this process.


The developing countries strongly oppose the pressure from the industrial countries to accept any restrictions. They fear for their potential for future development, and the words “Ecological Imperialism” are often heard. To expect that countries such as China would be participating in an international permit trading system in the near future seems unrealistic. These countries might be willing to accept foreign investment for cleaner technology for their utility plants and other industry but they probably will not accept any cap on their energy use.


Participation in an international emissions trading system would pose more technical and organizational problems for developing countries than it would for developed countries, such as lack of modern communication, technology to monitor companies, the setting up of markets, and many more.


Another danger may be that if energy prices in these countries would rise, more and more people would be driven away from market products, for example, people who can no longer afford kerosene for cooking will turn to non-market sources such as collecting fire wood. This sometimes leads to even more damage to already fragile ecosystems.


In the latest negotiations the developing countries, represented by the G-77, suggested a reduction of emissions from the industrial countries to 35 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020; in addition, the developing countries would receive financial compensation from industrial countries if exports from developing countries would be hurt by the climate change policy of the industrial world. In case the industrial countries would not meet the targets they would have to pay penalties to the less-developed countries. In contrast, the developing countries would be under no obligation to reduce their emissions.


Alliance of Small Island States


This association of smaller island states pushes for drastic reductions in CO2 emissions of 20 percent from the 1990 level by the year 2005. The governments of these islands fear that they would be particular hard hit in case global warming would occur, since their low lying countries would be especially vulnerable to possible rising sea-levels.




The OPEC countries are not particularly keen on an agreement that would reduce the demand for their main export product -oil- if industrial countries use less oil for their production and consumption prices and thereby revenues for OPEC countries would fall. They therefore demand that in case an agreement is reached on the reduction of CO2 emissions, their countries should be financially compensated for the possible loss in revenues; otherwise they would not sign any agreement. The idea that countries like the U.S. or Western Europe would compensate countries like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait for their loss is politically unthinkable.


Outlook on the Negotiations


The success of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto will depend on the ability to find an agreement on an emission target for CO2 and for the other so-called greenhouse gases, since most of the countries now accept legally binding emissions caps.


There are still big gaps between some of the proposals especially between the EU proposal of 15% reduction by 2010 and the US proposal of reaching the 1990 level between 2008 and 2012. In the last preparation meeting in Bonn (Germany) before the conference, the delegates tried to find as much common ground as possible before going into the Kyoto conference, but it turned out that most of the difficult issues are still unresolved. The EU and the U.S. are still far apart in their positions and it is not clear if one of them will show any willingness to give on its position. The question of participation of developing countries is also still unresolved, since most of the industrial countries seem willing to exempt developing countries from the emissions reduction process -at least for a while. On the other side, the U.S. delegation wants some reassurance that developing countries will join the agreement at some point in the future. The U.S. delegation would probably like to see some sort of timetable that it could then present to the Senate, which sees the participation of developing countries as a precondition for approval of a treaty.


The developing countries do not seem willing to participate in the reduction process as long as their standards of living are much lower than in the industrial countries. Some countries which were exempt at the Rio summit, but are not developing countries, such as Argentina, seem prepared to join a treaty in some form. Less-developed countries might be persuaded to reduce future emissions if industrial countries would compensate them for the economic loss they would endure. The question is, are industrial countries prepared to commit themselves to transfer large sums of money when that aid budgets are already cut back, and if they already fear economic losses due to the reduction of their own emissions?


Developing countries might be given long time-lags before they have to join in, and perhaps the most dangerous development could be that especially smaller developing countries as well as small developed countries could be pressured into an agreement. There is the potential that the threat of trade sanctions would become a “means of persuasion” for countries to join such an agreement, perhaps supported by boycotts organized by influential environmental groups from big industrial countries. For example, Paul H. Nitze, former American chief negotiator at the Geneva arms negotiations and now a member of the Environmental Defense Fund, suggested in a recent newspaper article that in case of a tradable budget system, participating countries could be deterred from violating the agreement through inspections by an international agency (just as it is done by the International Atomic Energy Agency) and possible sanctions or embargoes could be imposed on these countries by the UN security council, such as is done under nuclear weapons treaties. This might be technically possible, but CO2 emissions are not weapons and to punish a country for producing too much CO2 (because companies want to provide products for their customers) as if it had produced atomic weapons seems unwise.


Such actions would be a threat to free trade with enormous damage to the world economy, and once started, the erosion of world trade could increase very quickly.


1. Many economists like the idea of a permits trading system because of its cost-saving advantage, especially in comparison to a command-and-control policy.


2. Department of Energy (1997), “Scenarios of U.S. Carbon Reductions -Potential Impacts of Energy Technologies by 2010,” released September 25, 1997.


3. Cited by The Economist, June 14, 1997, p. 89.


4. Scott Morrison, (1997), “Canada buckles on greenhouse targets,” in Financial Times November 5, 1997, p.4.


5. Source: International Energy Agency cited by The Economist, June 28th 1997, p. 41.


[3] Global Warming Treaty Costs for the U. S.



No. 213

Friday, September 6, 1996


In 1992 at the United Nations - sponsored Earth Summit in Rio, the United States signed a treaty that established voluntary goals for returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000. Since voluntary action is not working, the Clinton administration now wants a new international treaty with enforceable goals.


At a recent U.N. conference on climate change in Geneva, Timothy Wirth, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, said that the Clinton administration is committed to legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. This is consistent with the views Wirth expressed in 1990 when he was a U.S. senator.  Wirth said then that “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing - in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”[Emphasis added.]


However, because the proposed treaty would be binding only on developed countries, it would encourage a redistribution of emissions (and economic growth). from rich to poor countries. As a result, the treaty would actually harm American industries and workers, significantly increase the cost of living and contribute little to reducing global warming - if, in fact, it is occurring.


Relying on Flawed Theory.


Ground-level measurements of temperature indicate that the earth has warmed between 0.3 and 0.6 degrees Celsius in the last century. In addition, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), a primary greenhouse gas, has increased by approximately 25 percent in the last century and a half.


From these facts and computer simulations of the climate, some scientists infer that the earth’s current warming is due to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the use of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). According to their models, absent a sharp and immediate reduction in the level of CO2 emissions, the earth will warm further, causing all manner of calamities. For instance, some scientists claim that continued global warming could melt the polar ice caps, raise sea levels and flood coastal cities and low-lying island nations around the globe. Others argue that global warming could cause droughts and floods in increased numbers and of greater severity.


If current trends continue, some scientists estimate a temperature increase of between 0.8 and 3.5 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. Even if this estimate is correct, it is well within the natural range of known temperature variation over the last 15,000 years. However, there is little evidence that increased CO2 has had more than a small part to play in this century’s temperature increase. Most of the warming occurred before the 1940s, before the widespread use of automobiles - which produce the vast majority of human-caused CO2 emissions. And satellite data, the most reliable climate evidence that we have, shows no evidence of warming over the past 14 years.


Based on these facts, some scientists have argued that global warming probably isn’t occurring. However, even if it does occur, the change in temperature would be so small as to be negligible; certainly the estimated change would not cause the apocalyptic effects predicted just a few years ago.

Proposals for reducing CO2 emissions include taxes on fossil fuels and on energy consumption, increased fuel economy standards for cars, subsidized technology sharing, “clean” fuel requirements (such as natural gas) and subsidized production of renewable energy. Alternatively, some have suggested that the U.S. institute a direct rationing scheme, requiring individuals to buy permits to use energy. This would give the government life-or-death power over six-sevenths of the economy, making the administration’s infamous health care plan look tame by comparison.


Impact on the U.S. Economy.


The implications of the proposed climate change commitments for the U.S. economy are grave:


* Some analysts have estimated that meeting the admin-istration’s proposal have to cut emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by $200 billion annually.


* A DRI/McGraw Hill study projected that over the next 14 years more than 500,000 Americans annually would lose their jobs if the 1992 Rio commitments were implemented.


* The study also estimated that the government would have to increase gas prices by more than 60 cents a gallon and double the price of heating oil just to hold carbon emissions at 1990 levels, and more than double those increases to reduce emissions another 10 percent.


* A study of the proposed commitments by Constad Research, Inc. estimated that the changes would kill off 1.6 million jobs over the next nine years and put another 3.5 million or so “at risk,” primarily in Texas, California, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.


In addition, the price of food and transportation would rise dramatically. In Geneva, Wirth dismissed these costs by saying “. . . in a world of change, not everyone can remain advantaged.” Yet those most disadvantaged by the policies would be low-income families who spend a higher proportion of their incomes on food and energy.


No Cuts in Emissions, No Help for the Environment.


Perhaps more disturbing than the rush to legislate based on incomplete and contradictory science, is that the proposed treaty would place U.S. industries at a gross competitive disadvantage and for little or no benefit to the environment.


Developing countries would not be bound by the treaty, because in 1995 the U.S. State Department agreed to the Berlin Mandate, which stipulated that new climate change commitments would apply only to developed countries.


Developing countries currently produce more than one-half of all greenhouse gases. According to the International Energy Agency, as much as 85 percent of the projected increase in CO2 emissions will come from developing countries - the same countries and regions that are exempted from the proposed treaties (Eastern Europe, Russia, China, India, South Korea, etc.). In fact, if developed countries unilaterally stopped all their greenhouse gas emissions immediately (something no one seriously proposes), total greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise. The U.N. estimates that exempted countries will contribute 76 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions within the next 50 years. By 2025, China alone will emit more carbon dioxide than the current combined total of the United States, Japan and Canada. Thus, while the U.S. and other developed countries would suffer serious economic dislocations, the economy of China and other less developed nations’ would continue to grow and the environment would not improve.


Agreeing to unilateral, binding CO2 reductions would give American businesses one more reason to move production facilities overseas. This would entail a loss of jobs in both the service and high-wage manufacturing industries. It would seem foolish to reduce U.S. competitiveness and encourage the flight of America’s industrial base to foreign countries.




These results have not gone unnoticed, even within President Clinton’s own party. In a letter to the president, six Democratic senators indicated that any climate change treaty that unfairly penalized the United States in relation to its trading partners or that was undertaken without an adequate assessment of the economic and social consequences of the pact would not achieve the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate. In the end, any future global climate change commitments should be based on sound scientific evidence and a careful consideration of the economic and social costs involved. They should not be driven by questionable theories and value judgments made by unelected, unaccountable bureacrats and environmental advocates.


This Brief Analysis was prepared by National Center for Policy Analysis environmental policy analyst H. Sterling Burnett.


[4] The climate change treaty in brief


This brief synopsis of the proposed treaty was written by the UN. Even this synopsis shows just how incredibly bureaucratic and confusing the implementation of the treaty would be.


The Convention on Climate Change: What does it say?


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the first binding international legal instrument that deals directly with climate change. The Convention was adopted on 9 May 1992 after 15 months of tough negotiations by the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC/FCCC). It was opened for signature at the Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro the following month, where it was signed by the representatives of 154 states and the EEC (now the EU). By 19 June 1993, when the treaty was closed for signature, 165 states (plus the EEC) had signed. The 50th ratification was received on 21 December 1993, triggering the Convention’s entry into force 90 days later on 21 March 1994.


The Convention’s ultimate objective is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” To achieve this objective (Article 2), the Convention sets out a series of commitments. The adequacy of these commitments will be periodically reviewed in light of the treaty’s objective, new scientific findings, and the effectiveness of national climate change programmes.


As a framework treaty, the Convention sets out principles and general commitments, leaving more specific obligations to future legal instruments. The key principles incorporated in the treaty are the precautionary principle, the common but differentiated responsibility of states (which assigns industrialised states the lead in combating climate change), and the importance of sustainable development (Article 3). The general commitments, which apply to both developed and developing countries, are to adopt national programmes for mitigating climate change; to develop adaptation strategies; to promote the sustainable management and conservation of greenhouse gas “sinks” (such as forests); to take climate change into account when setting relevant social, economic, and environmental policies; to cooperate in technical, scientific, and educational matters; and to promote scientific research and the exchange of information (Article 4, para. 1).


The Convention also establishes more specific obligations for particular categories of states. It distinguishes between members of the OECD1 (listed in Annex II to the Convention), countries in transition to a market economy (Eastern European countries which, together with the OECD countries, are listed in Annex I), and developing countries. The Convention requires OECD countries to take the strongest measures, while the states in transition to a market economy are allowed a certain flexibility. The Convention recognises that compliance by developing countries will depend on financial and technical assistance from developed countries; in addition, the needs of least developed countries and those that are particularly vulnerable to climate change for geographical reasons are given special consideration (Article 4, paras. 2-7). This approach is consistent with the widely recognised principle of the common but differentiated responsibility of states at different levels of development.


Developed countries and states in transition to a market economy must take the lead in adopting measures to combat climate change. They should take measures designed to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with the aim of returning to 1990 emissions levels by the year 2000. However, the differing economic circumstances of these countries are to be taken into account, and several states may together adopt a common, joint target. (Article 4, para. 2).


The OECD countries must facilitate the transfer of technology and provide financial resources to developing countries to help them implement the Convention. The Convention requires OECD countries to finance the costs incurred by developing countries for submitting reports on their greenhouses gas emissions and measures for implementing the treaty. This financial assistance is to be “new and additional”, rather than redirected from existing development aid funds. In addition, OECD countries are to provide financial resources for other Convention-related projects that are agreed to by both a developing country and the Convention’s financial mechanism. This financial mechanism will initially be administered by the Global Environment Facility, but the Convention’s parties could agree in the future to transfer the administration of the mechanism to another international body. As for technology transfer, the Convention does not specify the terms of the transfers, such as whether they should be made on commercial or non-commercial terms.


The Convention establishes institutions to support efforts to carry out commitments and to monitor compliance. The Conference of the Parties (COP), in which all Parties (states that have ratified) are represented, is the Convention’s supreme body. It will meet for the first time in March 1995 and on a yearly basis thereafter. It will promote and review the implementation of the Convention and, if appropriate, adopt amendments, annexes, and protocols (Articles 7 and 15). The Convention’s Secretariat will provide administrative support and ensure the flow of information among Parties (Article 8); the INC/FCCC Secretariat is providing these services on an interim basis (Article 21). The COP will be assisted by two subsidiary bodies, one for scientific and technological advice (SBSTA) and the other for implementation (SBI) (Articles 9 and 10). The COP can also set up additional bodies if it so decides.


The Climate Change Convention is a major step forward in the international response to climate change. Much work remains to be done, however. Many states still need to ratify the Convention and formulate national laws and policies that will enable them to meet their commitments. Until the first session of the COP, the INC/FCCC will continue to meet and work on outstanding issues. The COP itself will have an enormous amount of work to do to ensure that the Convention is a success in the years and decades to come.


[5] Lomborg Speaks About Global Warming


At a briefing in Capital Hill on October 5 Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, once a member of Greenpeace, argued that predictions of the world heading for ruin are wrong. In 1997 he set out to challenge acclaimed economist Julian Simon who refuted environmentalist claims that the world was running out of resources. Lomborg discovered that the data on a whole supported Simon. “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Lomborg’s new book is a composite of graphs, charts and statistics that factually show the earth’s environment is steadily improving.


His book asserts among other things that the global warming issue is overblown. In short he attests, “Things are getting better.” In his presentation, Lomborg said that global warming is a real issue, but suggested that the prime danger is the Kyoto Treaty, which he cites as a grand waste of money. He said, “Essentially Kyoto will do very little to change global warming. On the other hand Kyoto will be very expensive. It will cost anywhere from $150-350 billion a year, and that’s a lot of money when compared to the total global aid of $50 billion a year. Basically, just for one year of Kyoto, we could give clean drinking water and sanitation to every person on earth. This would avoid 2 million deaths a year, and assist half a billion people from not getting seriously ill each year.”


Environmentalists tend to be ecologically pessimistic about the future. Veterans of the environmental movement such as Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute have formed a litany of fears. These fears include depletion of natural resources, ever-growing population, extinction of species and pollution of the planet’s air and water. However, Lomborg’s approach is decidedly different. He says, “We must remove our myths about an imminent doomsday and remember we do not have to act in total desperation. Essential information is necessary to making the best possible decisions. Statistics tell you how the world is. Resources have become even more abundant and things are likely to progress in the future.”


The briefing was sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition, made up of 23 non-profit organizations that work on global warming issues.




Global Warming (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Website)


[Liberal Viewpoint]




All figures linked from this page with the exception of global surface temperatures are from the IPCC 2001 report ‘Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis’.




This page is based on a brief synopsis of the 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the National Research Council’s 2001 report Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, as well as NCDC’s own data resources. It was prepared by David Easterling and Tom Karl, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, N.C. 28801.


One of the most hotly debated topics on Earth is the issue of climate change, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) data centers are central to answering some of the most pressing global change questions that remain unresolved. The National Climatic Data Center contains the instrumental records that can precisely define the nature of climatic fluctuations at time scales of a up to a century. Among the diverse kinds of data platforms whose data contribute to NCDC’s armamentarium are: Ships, buoys, weather stations, balloons, satellites, and aircraft. The National Oceanographic Data Center contains the subsurface data which reveal the ways that heat is distributed and redistributed over the planet. Knowing how these systems are changing and how they have changed in the past is crucial to understanding how they will change in the future. And, for climate information that extends from hundreds to thousands of years, the paleoclimatology program, also at the National Climatic Data Center, helps to provide longer term perspectives.


Internationally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), is the most senior and authoritative body providing scientific advice to global policy makers. The IPCC met in full session in 1990, 1995 and in 2001. They address issues such as the buildup of greenhouse gases, evidence, attribution, and prediction of climate change, impacts of climate change, and policy options.


Listed below are a number of questions commonly addressed to climate scientists, and brief replies (based on IPCC reports and other research) in common, understandable language. This list will be periodically updated, as new scientific evidence comes to light.


What is the greenhouse effect, and is it affecting our climate?


The greenhouse effect is unquestionably real and helps to regulate the temperature of our planet. It is essential for life on Earth and is one of Earth’s natural processes. It is the result of heat absorption by certain gases in the atmosphere (called greenhouse gases because they effectively ‘trap’ heat in the lower atmosphere) and re-radiation downward of some of that heat. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas, followed by carbon dioxide and other trace gases. Without a natural greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would be about zero degrees F (-18°C) instead of its present 57°F (14°C). So, the concern is not with the fact that we have a greenhouse effect, but whether human activities are leading to an enhancement of the greenhouse effect.


Are greenhouse gases increasing?


Human activity has been increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide from combustion of coal, oil, and gas; plus a few other trace gases). There is no scientific debate on this point. Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide (prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution) were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and current levels are about 370 ppmv. The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere today, has not been exceeded in the last 420,000 years, and likely not in the last 20 million years. According to the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), by the end of the 21st century, we could expect to see carbon dioxide concentrations of anywhere from 490 to 1260 ppm (75-350% above the pre-industrial concentration).


Is the climate warming?


Yes. Global surface temperatures have increased about 0.6°C (plus or minus 0.2°C) since the late-19th century, and about 0.4°F (0.2 to 0.3°C) over the past 25 years (the period with the most credible data). The warming has not been globally uniform. Some areas (including parts of the southeastern U.S.) have, in fact, cooled over the last century. The recent warmth has been greatest over North America and Eurasia between 40 and 70°N. Warming, assisted by the record El Niño of 1997-1998, has continued right up to the present, with 2001 being the second warmest year on record after 1998.


Linear trends can vary greatly depending on the period over which they are computed. Temperature trends in the lower troposphere (between about 2,500 and 26,000 ft.) from 1979 to the present, the period for which Satellite Microwave Sounding Unit data exist, are small and may be unrepresentative of longer term trends and trends closer to the surface. Furthermore, there are small unresolved differences between radiosonde and satellite observations of tropospheric temperatures, though both data sources show slight warming trends. If one calculates trends beginning with the commencement of radiosonde data in the 1950s, there is a slight greater warming in the record due to increases in the 1970s. There are statistical and physical reasons (e.g., short record lengths, the transient differential effects of volcanic activity and El Niño, and boundary layer effects) for expecting differences between recent trends in surface and lower tropospheric temperatures, but the exact causes for the differences are still under investigation (see National Research Council report “Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change”).


An enhanced greenhouse effect is expected to cause cooling in higher parts of the atmosphere because the increased “blanketing” effect in the lower atmosphere holds in more heat, allowing less to reach the upper atmosphere. Cooling of the lower stratosphere (about 49,000-79,500ft.) since 1979 is shown by both satellite Microwave Sounding Unit and radiosonde data, but is larger in the radiosonde data.


Relatively cool surface and tropospheric temperatures, and a relatively warmer lower stratosphere, were observed in 1992 and 1993, following the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The warming reappeared in 1994. A dramatic global warming, at least partly associated with the record El Niño, took place in 1998. This warming episode is reflected from the surface to the top of the troposphere.


There has been a general, but not global, tendency toward reduced diurnal temperature range (DTR), (the difference between high and low daily temperatures) over about 50% of the global land mass since the middle of the 20th century. Cloud cover has increased in many of the areas with reduced diurnal temperature range. The overall positive trend for maximum daily temperature over the period of study (1950-93) is 0.1°C/decade, whereas the trend for daily minimum temperatures is 0.2°C/decade. This results in a negative trend in the DTR of -0.1°C/decade


Indirect indicators of warming such as borehole temperatures, snow cover, and glacier recession data, are in substantial agreement with the more direct indicators of recent warmth. Evidence such as changes in glacier length is useful since it not only provides qualitative support for existing meteorological data, but glaciers often exist in places too remote to support meteorological stations, the records of glacial advance and retreat often extend back further than weather station records, and glaciers are usually at much higher alititudes that weather stations allowing us more insight into temperature changes higher in the atmosphere.


Large-scale measurements of sea-ice have only been possible since the satellite era, but through looking at a number of different satellite estimates, it has been determined that Arctic sea ice has decreased between 1973 and 1996 at a rate of -2.8 +/- 0.3%/decade. Although this seems to correspond to a general increase in temperature over the same period, there are lots of quasi-cyclic atmospheric dynamics (for example the Arctic Oscillation) which may also influence the extent and thickness of sea-ice in the Arctic. Sea-ice in the Antarctic has shown very little trend over the same period, or even a slight increase since 1979. Though extending the Antarctic sea-ice record back in time is more difficult due to the lack of direct observations in this part of the world.


Are El Niños related to Global Warming?


El Niños are not caused by global warming. Clear evidence exists from a variety of sources (including archaeological studies) that El Niños have been present for hundreds, and some indicators suggest maybe millions, of years. However, it has been hypothesized that warmer global sea surface temperatures can enhance the El Niño phenomenon, and it is also true that El Niños have been more frequent and intense in recent decades. Recent climate model results that simulate the 21st century with increased greenhouse gases suggest that El Niño-like sea surface temperature patterns in the tropical Pacific are likely to be more persistent.


Is the hydrological cycle (evaporation and precipitation) changing?


Overall, land precipitation for the globe has increased by ~2% since 1900, however, precipitation changes have been spatially variable over the last century. Instrumental records show that there has been a general increase in precipitation of about 0.5-1.0%/decade over land in northern mid-high latitudes, except in parts of eastern Russia. However, a decrease of about -0.3%/decade in precipitation has occurred during the 20th century over land in sub-tropical latitudes, though this trend has weakened in recent decades. Due to the difficulty in measuring precipitation, it has been important to constrain these observations by analyzing other related variables. The measured changes in precipitation are consistent with observed changes in streamflow, lake levels, and soil moisture (where data are available and have been analyzed).


Northern Hemisphere annual snow cover extent has consistently remained below average since 1987, and has decreased by about 10% since 1966. This is mostly due to a decrease in spring and summer snowfall over both the Eurasian and North American continents since the mid-1980s. However, winter and autumn snow cover extent has shown no significant trend for the northern hemisphere over the same period.


Improved satellite data shows that a general trend of increasing cloud amount over both land and ocean since the early 1980s, seems to have reversed in the early 1990s, and total cloud amount of land and ocean now appears to be decreasing. However, there are several studies that suggest regional cloudiness, perhaps especially in the thick precipitating clouds has increased over the 20th century.


Is the atmospheric/oceanic circulation changing?


A rather abrupt change in the El Niño - Southern Oscillation behavior occurred around 1976/77 and the new regime has persisted. There have been relatively more frequent and presistent El Niño episodes rather than the cool La Niñas. This behavior is highly unusual in the last 120 years (the period of instrumental record). Changes in precipitation over the tropical Pacific are related to this change in the El Niño - Southern Oscillation, which has also affected the pattern and magnitude of surface temperatures. However, it is unclear as to whether this apparent change in the ENSO cycle is caused by global warming.


Is the climate becoming more variable or extreme?


On a global scale there is little evidence of sustained trends in climate variability or extremes. This perhaps reflects inadequate data and a dearth of analyses. However, on regional scales, there is clear evidence of changes in variability or extremes.


In areas where a drought or excessive wetness usually accompanies an El Niño, these dry or wet spells have been more intense in recent years. Other than these areas, little evidence is available of changes in drought frequency or intensity.


In some areas where overall precipitation has increased (ie. the mid-high northern latitudes), there is evidence of increases in the heavy and extreme precipitation events. Even in areas such as eastern Asia, it has been found that extreme precipitation events have increased despite total precipitation remaining constant or even decreasing somewhat. This is related to a decrease in the frequency of precipitation in this region.


Many individual studies of various regions show that extra-tropical cyclone activity seems to have generally increased over the last half of the 20th century in the northern hemisphere, but decreased in the southern hemisphere. It is not clear whether these trends are multi-decadal fluctuations or part of a longer-term trend.


Where reliable data are available, tropical storm frequency and intensity show no significant long-term trend in any basin. There are apparent decadal-interdecadal fluctuations, but nothing which is conlusive in suggesting a longer-term component.


Global temperature extremes have been found to exhibit no significant trend in interannual variability, but several studies suggest a significant decrease in intra-annual variability. There has been a clear trend to fewer extremely low minimum temperatures in several widely-separated areas in recent decades. Widespread significant changes in extreme high temperature events have not been observed.


There is some indication of a decrease in day-to-day temperature variability in recent decades.


How important are these changes in a longer-term context?


Paleoclimatic data are critical for enabling us to extend our knowledge of climatic variability beyond what is measured by modern instruments. Many natural phenomena are climate dependent (such as the growth rate of a tree for example), and as such, provide natural ‘archives’ of climate information. Some useful paleoclimate data can be found in sources as diverse as tree rings, ice cores, corals, lake sediments (including fossil insects and pollen data), speleothems (stalactites etc), and ocean sediments. Some of these, including ice cores and tree rings provide us also with a chronology due the nature of how they are formed, and so high resolution climate reconstruction is possible in these cases. However, there is not a comprehensive ‘network’ of paleoclimate data as there is with instrumental coverage, so global climate reconstructions are often difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, combining different types of paleoclimate records enables us to gain a near-global picture of climate changes in the past.


For the Northern Hemisphere summer temperature, recent decades appear to be the warmest since at least about 1000AD, and the warming since the late 19th century is unprecedented over the last 1000 years. Older data are insufficient to provide reliable hemispheric temperature estimates. Ice core data suggest that the 20th century has been warm in many parts of the globe, but also that the significance of the warming varies geographically, when viewed in the context of climate variations of the last millennium.


Large and rapid climatic changes affecting the atmospheric and oceanic circulation and temperature, and the hydrological cycle, occurred during the last ice age and during the transition towards the present Holocene period (which began about 10,000 years ago). Based on the incomplete evidence available, the projected change of 3 to 7°F (1.5 - 4°C) over the next century would be unprecedented in comparison with the best available records from the last several thousand years.


Is sea level rising?


Global mean sea level has been rising at an average rate of 1 to 2 mm/year over the past 100 years, which is significantly larger than the rate averaged over the last several thousand years. Projected increase from 1990-2100 is anywhere from 0.09-0.88 meters, depending on which greenhouse gas scenario is used and many physical uncertainties in contributions to sea-level rise from a variety of frozen and unfrozen water sources.


Can the observed changes be explained by natural variability, including changes in solar output?


Since our entire climate system is fundamentally driven by energy from the sun, it stands to reason that if the sun’s energy output were to change, then so would the climate. Since the advent of space-borne measurements in the late 1970s, solar output has indeed been shown to vary. There appears to be confirmation of earlier suggestions of an 11 (and 22) year cycle of irradiance. With only 20 years of reliable measurements however, it is difficult to deduce a trend. But, from the short record we have so far, the trend in solar irradiance is estimated at ~0.09 W/m2 compared to 0.4 W/m2 from well-mixed greenhouse gases. There are many indications that the sun also has a longer-term variation which has potentially contributed to the century-scale forcing to a greater degree. There is though, a great deal of uncertainty in estimates of solar irradiance beyond what can be measured by satellites, and still the contribution of direct solar irradiance forcing is small compared to the greenhouse gas component. However, our understanding of the indirect effects of changes in solar output and feedbacks in the climate system is minimal. There is much need to refine our understanding of key natural forcing mechanisms of the climate, including solar irradiance changes, in order to reduce uncertainty in our projections of future climate change.


In addition to changes in energy from the sun itself, the Earth’s position and orientation relative to the sun (our orbit) also varies slightly, thereby bringing us closer and further away from the sun in predictable cycles (called Milankovitch cycles). Variations in these cycles are believed to be the cause of Earth’s ice-ages (glacials). Particularly important for the development of glacials is the radiation receipt at high northern latitudes. Diminishing radiation at these latitudes during the summer months would have enabled winter snow and ice cover to persist throughout the year, eventually leading to a permanent snow- or icepack. While Milankovitch cycles have tremendous value as a theory to explain ice-ages and long-term changes in the climate, they are unlikely to have very much impact on the decade-century timescale. Over several centuries, it may be possible to observe the effect of these orbital parameters, however for the prediction of climate change in the 21st century, these changes will be far less important than radiative forcing from greenhouse gases.


What about the future?


Due to the enormous complexity of the atmosphere, the most useful tools for gauging future changes are ‘climate models’. These are computer-based mathematical models which simulate, in three dimensions, the climate’s behavior, its components and their interactions. Climate models are constantly improving based on both our understanding and the increase in computer power, though by definition, a computer model is a simplification and simulation of reality, meaning that it is an approximation of the climate system. The first step in any modeled projection of climate change is to first simulate the present climate and compare it to observations. If the model is considered to do a good job at representing modern climate, then certain parameters can be changed, such as the concentration of greenhouse gases, which helps us understand how the climate would change in response. Projections of future climate change therefore depend on how well the computer climate model simulates the climate and on our understanding of how forcing functions will change in the future.


The IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios determines the range of future possible greenhouse gas concentrations (and other forcings) based on considerations such as population growth, economic growth, energy efficiency and a host of other factors. This leads a wide range of possible forcing scenarios, and consequently a wide range of possible future climates.


According to the range of possible forcing scenarios, and taking into account uncertainty in climate model performance, the IPCC projects a global temperature increase of anywhere from 1.4 - 5.8°C from 1990-2100. However, this global average will integrate widely varying regional responses, such as the likelihood that land areas will warm much faster than ocean temperatures, particularly those land areas in northern high latitudes (and mostly in the cold season).


Precipitation is also expected to increase over the 21st century, particularly at northern mid-high latitudes, though the trends may be more variable in the tropics.


Snow extent and sea-ice are also projected to decrease further in the northern hemisphere, and glaciers and ice-caps are expected to continue to retreat.




20th Century Temperature Trends Not Unusual (Marshall Institute, 030417)


[Conservative Viewpoint]


The Marshall Institute today released a report, Lessons and Limits of Climate History: Was the 20th Century Climate Unusual?, showing that the temperature record of the late 20th century was not remarkable relative to that of the past 1,000 years. The report, authored by the Marshall Institute’s Senior Scientists Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, challenges frequently made claims that the 20th century was warmer than any other in the millennium, that the 1990s were the warmest decade of the millennium, and that 1998 was the warmest year in the past 1,000 years.


“Advocates who claim that human activity will cause serious climate change often attempt to bolster their arguments by drawing on a reconstructed record of the past 1,000 years,” Jeff Kueter, Marshall Institute Executive Director, said. “This report clearly reveals the limitations and uncertainties of reconstructing past temperature records.”


After reviewing more than 200 climate studies, the report concludes that the temperature record for the past 1,000 years is far too incomplete and uncertain to support such definitive conclusions about the 20th century, any decade in it, and especially any given year — the 20th century is neither the warmest century nor the century with the most extreme weather of the past 1,000 years.


To judge the validity of claims about long-term temperature trends, it is first necessary to judge whether the reconstructed climate history is sufficiently accurate for making comparisons with the 20th century. The study reviews the nature and quality of direct temperature measures since the latter half of the 19th century. That record consists of data from the direct measurement of surface temperature since the 1860s. Measurements for the remaining 900 years rely on proxy data drawn from tree rings, coral reefs, ocean sediments, ice cores and bore holes in the earth’s surface and glacier movements, from which information about temperature can only be inferred. The study then reviews the range of temperature proxies that exist for the earlier period of almost 900 years and discusses both their value and limits.


The examination of the available climate data and proxies lead to the following observations:


·         There was a worldwide Medieval Warm Period that lasted from the 9th to the 14th century which was followed by a worldwide Little Ice Age that lasted from 1400 to 1900.


·         Global surface temperature rose during the 20th century, in part due to recovery from the Little Ice Age.


·         Although the 1990s were the warmest in the 140 year period of direct temperature measurements, there were 50-year periods in the past millennium that were warmer than any 50-year periods in the 20th century.


·         There is no convincing evidence that the 20th century was “unusual.” On balance, the evidence indicates that the 20th century falls within the range experienced during the past 1,000 years.


“The lesson from this review is the importance of understanding the limits of available data and not pushing data beyond those limits,” William O’Keefe, President of the Marshall Institute, said. “The report clearly shows that claims that we are observing a warming unlike anything in the past 1,000 years are a triumph of assumption over scientific evidence.”




Global Warming (Global Issues Website)

[liberal viewpoint]


This section of the global issues web site looks at the issue of global warming and climate change, and especially what governments, companies, international institutions, and other organizations are attempting to do about this issue, as well as the challenges they face. Also, some of the major conferences in recent years are discussed, as well as looking at some of the effects from climate change.




With global warming on the increase and species and their habitat on the decrease, ecosystems’ chances for adapting naturally are diminishing. Recent years are showing increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns. Something of contention still, in the United States, is whether or not climate change is real, and, if it has been induced or accelerated by human activities or not (and given that the U.S. emits about 25% of the world’s carbon emissions, it is a big ramification for them). Many reports from various scientists show that climate change is here, and further, that human activity has contributed to it.


Climate Change Negotiations and Actions


With the world pretty much agreed that something needs to be done about it, there have been a number of attempts to tackle the issue of climate change and global warming. However, the first stumbling block — agreement on a framework has been hard. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meterological Organization (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on global warming and concluded in 1990 that there was broad international consensus that climate change was human-induced. That report led way to an international convention for climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. However, the United States as well as a few other countries, and many large corporations have been against this due to the fear of the threat to their economy and profits if they have to make substantial changes, as well as the fear of realizing that perhaps they methods have been the primary contributors to the problem.


Flexibility Mechanisms


Flexibility mechanisms were defined in the Kyoto Protocol as different ways to achieve emissions reduction as part of the effort to address climate change issues. These fall into the following categories: Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism. However, these have been highly controversial as they were mainly included on strong US insistence and to keep the US in the treaty. Some of the mechanisms face criticism for not actually leading to a reduction in emissions, for example.


Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change


A mechanism suggested for tackling climate change and warming has been the idea of using “Carbon Sinks” to soak up carbon dioxide. To aid in this, reforestation, or planting of new forests, have been suggested. This is a popular strategy for the logging industry and nations with large forests interests. While there may be some potential in this solution, it cannot be effective on its own. This is because it legitimizes continued destruction of old-growth and pristine forests which are rich ecosystem and have an established biodiversity base (albeit shrinking now) that naturally maintain the environment (at no cost!). Creating new forest areas would require the creation of entire ecosystems. It is also criticized for being a quick fix that doesn’t tackle the root causes effectively and doesn’t lead to, or promote actual emissions reduction.


Climate Justice and Equity


A growing concern from developing countries and various NGOs is the public participation and the effect on populations and poor countries that these negotiations have, given that the effects of global warming affect poor people and poorer countries much more. In some cases, it already has affected some small island nations. Climate justice, equity, sustainable development are all parts of this debate. Equal rights to the atmosphere for all human beings, equity within and between nations are paramount. This means for example, that reduction percentages and emissions allowances etc. should be based on on a per capita basis; a view held by many developing countries and the European Union — and a view that the United States disagrees with.


Delhi Conference


October 23 to November 1, 2001 sees the eighth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP8 for short). Leading up to this conference there has still been little progress on reducing emissions.


Marrakesh Conference on Climate Change


October 29 to November 9, 2001 saw the seventh session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP7 for short). The purpose of the meeting was to agree legal text covering outstanding technical aspects of the political agreement reached in Bonn in July 2001 on how to implement the Kyoto Protocol. While an agreement resulted, there are still concerns there will be little impact on emissions as a result.


The Hague Conference on Climate Change


November 13 to November 24, 2000 saw the sixth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP6 for short). Each COP meeting is where nations meet to evaluate the accords and compliance with meeting emissions reduction targets. This one was intended to wrap up three years of negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead though, the talks pretty much collapsed.


Buenos Aires Conference on Climate Change


November 2 - November 13, 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held. There were many issues that still needed to be discussed, epecially on the trading of Carbon emissions and equity between the rich and developing nations.


Kyoto Conference on Climate Change


1997, at the Conference of Parties III (COP3), Kyoto, Japan, the Kyoto conference on climate change took place. There, developed countries agreed to specific targets for cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases. A general framework was defined for this, with specifics to be detailed over the next few years. This became known as the Kyoto Protocol. The US proposed to just stabilize emissions and not cut them at all, while the European Union called for a 15% cut. In the end, there was a trade off, and industrialized countries were committed to an overall reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels for the period 2008 - 2012. (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 1990 report that a 60% reduction in emissions was needed...) As with the following COP meetings, there was enormous media propaganda by affected big businesses and by countries such as the U.S. who were openly hostile to the treaty. In fact one of the first things George Bush did when he came to power was to oppose the Kyoto Protocol.


The Ozone Layer and Climate Change


Scientists believe that Global Warming will lead to a weaker Ozone layer, because as the surface temperature rises, the stratosphere (the Ozone layer being found in the upper part) will get colder, making the natural repairing of the Ozone slower.


The Childish Pranks of El Niño


The 1997 Niño caused huge problems all over the world, from droughts to floods and poor yield of crops. It is thought that there is a link between climate change and the severity of Niño.




Global warming and climate change refer to an increase in average global temperatures. Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in “greenhouse” gases.


The term greenhouse is used in conjunction with the phenomenon known as the “greenhouse effect”.


* Energy from the sun drives the earth’s weather and climate, and heats the earth’s surface.

* In turn, the earth radiates energy back into space.

* Some atmospheric gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.

* These gases are therefore known as greenhouse gases.

* The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature on Earth as certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy.


These greenhouse gases are actually life-enabling, for without them, heat would escape back into space and the Earth’s average temperature would be a lot colder. However, if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, then the Earth might also become less habitable for humans, plants and animals.


For decades, greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide have been increasing in the atmosphere. A documentary aired on the National Geographic Channel in Britain on August 9, 2003 titled “What’s up with the weather” also noted that the levels of carbon dioxide for example, were currently at their highest levels in the past 450,000 years. Increased greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect is feared to contribute to an overall warming of the Earth’s climate, leading to a global warming (even though some regions may experience cooling, or wetter weather, while the temperature of the planet on average would rise).


With global warming on the increase and species and their habitat on the decrease, ecosystems’ chances for adapting naturally are diminishing. Consider also the following:


* 1998, 2002 and 1997 have been the three warmest years on record.

* According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the 1990s was the warmest decade.

* The 1900s was the warmest century during the last 1,000 years.

* Leading climate scientists now agree that human pollution, mainly from fossil fuels, has added substantially to global warming in the past 50 years and that the Earth is likely to get far hotter than previously predicted. A 1000-page document from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals far bleaker predictions and that the Earth will get far hotter than predicted.

* At the 1997 Kyoto Conference, industrialized countries were committed to an overall reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels for the period 2008 - 2012. (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its 1990 report that a 60% reduction in emissions was needed...)

* Six main gases considered to be contributing to global climate change are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), plus three fluorinated industrial gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Water vapor is also considered a greenhouse gas.

* In terms of countries, the United States, with roughly four percent of the world’s population is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for approximately 23% of global emissions and 42% of industrialized country emissions.

* If the the 15 member-nations European Union (E.U.) was considered as a whole (for it is more comparable to the U.S.), its population would be some 3 percent of the world’s population and account for around 10% of global emissions and 24% of industrialized countries’ man-made emissions of the six main gases. While recent years has seen a reduction in emissions it is not near the level required, and for the second consecutive year, have actually increased slightly (though still remaining slightly lower than 1990 levels).

* As the World Resources Institute highlights

o In terms of historical emissions, industrialized countries account for roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere to date. Since 1950, the U.S. has emitted a cumulative total of roughly 50.7 billion tons of carbon, while China (4.6 times more populous) and India (3.5 times more populous) have emitted only 15.7 and 4.2 billion tons respectively.

o Annually, more than 60 percent of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions originate in industrialized countries, where only about 20 percent of the world’s population resides.

o Much of the growth in emissions in developing countries results from the provision of basic human needs for growing populations, while emissions in industrialized countries contribute to growth in a standard of living that is already far above that of the average person worldwide. This is exemplified by the large contrasts in per capita carbons emissions between industrialized and developing countries. Per capita emissions of carbon in the U.S. are over 20 times higher than India, 12 times higher than Brazil and seven times higher than China.


Most scientists believe that the warming of the climate will lead to more extreme weather patterns such as:


* More hurricanes and drought

* Longer spells of dry heat or intense rain (depending on where you are in the world)

* Rising sea levels as the polar caps begin to melt — which is already affecting many small islands. In fact, the WorldWatch Institute reports that “[t]he Earth’s ice cover is melting in more places and at higher rates than at any time since record keeping began”. (March 6, 2000).

* Scientists have pointed out that Northern Europe could be severely affected with colder weather if climate change continues, as the arctic begins to melt and send fresher waters further south. It would effectively cut off the Gulf Stream that brings warmth from the Gulf of Mexico, keeping countries such as Britain warmer than expected.

* In South Asia, the Himalayan glaciers could retreat causing water scarcity

* An increase in pests and disease is also feared as the climate changes.


While many environmental groups have been warning about extreme weather conditions for a few years, the World Meteorological Organization announced in July 2003 that “Recent scientific assessments indicate that, as the global temperatures continue to warm due to climate change, the number and intensity of extreme events might increase.” The WMO also notes that “New record extreme events occur every year somewhere in the globe, but in recent years the number of such extremes have been increasing.” (The WMO limits the definition of extreme events to high temperatures, low temperatures and high rainfall amounts and droughts.) The U.K’s Independent newspaper described the WMO’s announcement as “unprecedented” and “astonishing” because it came from a respected United Nations organization not an environmental group!


If some of these do get worse, it is likely that the poorest regions and people are likely to suffer the most, as they would have the least resources at hand to deal with the effects.


For a very long time, something of contention and debate in the U.S. had been whether or not a lot of climate change has in fact been induced by human activities, while many scientists around the world, Europe especially, have been more convinced that this is the case.


In May 2002, the Bush Administration in the U.S. did admit a link between human activities and climate change. However, at the same time the administration has continued its controversial stance of maintaining that it will not participate in the international treaty to limit global warming, the Kyoto Protocol, due to economic priorities and concerns. (More about the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. and others’ actions/inactions is discussed in subsequent pages on this section.)


Many studies have pointed out that the rates of extinction of animal and plant species and temperature changes around the world since the industrial revolution has been significantly different to normal expectations.


A report in the journal Science in June 2002 described the alarming increase in the outbreaks and epidemics of diseases throughout the land and ocean based wildlife due to climate changes. One of the authors points out that, “Climate change is disrupting natural ecosystems in a way that is making life better for infectious diseases.”


Throughout the 1990s, especially in the United States, but in other countries as well, those who would try and raise the importance of this issue, and suggest that we are perhaps over-consuming, or unsustainably using our resources etc, were faced with a lot of criticism and ridicule. However, there have been enough studies to conclude that global climate change is here. For example, (and these are not the only studies; there are more):


* According to a study, by Patrick Mazza and Rhys Roth, there is enough evidence to conclude that Global Warming is here and human-induced. Their study is titled “Global Warming is Here; The Scientific Evidence”

* A scientific study by the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, verified the warming of Earth’s climate from space by comparison of satellite data over a 27 year time span. (Ironically, this study came out just as U.S. President George Bush decided to reverse an election campaign pledge to legislate limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, he said that any plan to legislate emissions would not include carbon dioxide (by far the largest greenhouse gas). Energy woes in California have been a factor in this decision.)


Pollution from various industries, the burning of fossil fuels, methane from farm animals, forest destruction, rotting/dead vegetation etc have led to an increased number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And, as international trade in its current form continues to expand with little regard for the environment, the transportation alone, of goods is thought to considerably contribute to global warming via emissions from planes, ships and other transportation vehicles. (For more about trade and globalization in its current form and how it affects the environment, as well as other consequences, visit this web site’s section on trade related issues.)


Even sulphur emitted from ships are thought to contribute a fair bit to climate change. (If you have registered at the journal, Nature, then you can see the report here.) In fact, sulphur based gas, originating from industry, discovered in 2000 is thought to be the most potent greenhouse gas measured to date. It is called trifluoromethyl sulphur pentafluoride (SF5CF3). reports (December 22, 2003) on a study that suggests soot particles may be worse than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming. The soot particles also originate from industry, and during the industrial revolution, was quite common. While on the positive side there is less soot these days and perhaps easier to control if needed, alone, as one of the scientists of the study commented, “It does not change the need to slow down the growth rate of carbon dioxide and eventually stabilize the atmospheric amount.”


An analysis of population trends, climate change, increasing pollution and emerging diseases found that 40 percent of deaths in the world could be attributed to environmental factors.


With Earth’s resources gradually being depleted, sustainability and alternative technologies become even more important. While some major companies are even trying to produce more efficient products or use energy more efficiently, other large corporations are actually pushing back environmental programs in order to increase profits or to survive in a tough business world. The efforts of others to help protect the environment, and ultimately ourselves, are seriously undermined, as a result.


The subsequent pages on this site look at the political issues around tackling climate change.


Kyoto Conference


1997, at the Conference of Parties III (COP3), Kyoto, Japan, the Kyoto conference on climate change took place. There, developed countries agreed to specific targets for cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases. A general framework was defined for this, with specifics to be detailed over the next few years. This became known as the Kyoto Protocol.


The US proposed to just stabilize emissions and not cut them at all, while the European Union called for a 15% cut. In the end, there was a trade off, and industrialized countries were committed to an overall reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels for the period 2008 - 2012. (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 1990 report that a 60% reduction in emissions was needed...)


Big Businesses on the Defensive


However, there were many political factors involved during the conference and many industries such as oil and coal had a huge campaign to discredit the conference.


Leading up to the conference, during it, and since, big corporations with financial interests at stake have had a lot of influence in the outcome and on the media. A lot of primarily industry arguments against the Kyoto conference and Global Warming in general, claim that it will hurt the global (or USA’s) economy and affect people’s jobs.


Some of the well-respected scientists claiming that Global Warming is a myth have been sponsored in some way by various commercial interests as well.


Yet as the Kyoto Climate Change Conference ended in what Greenpeace has termed “a tragedy and a farce”, the planet’s temperature continues to rise.


Washington Reluctant to Sign the Protocol


At the end of March 2001, U.S. President George Bush (a former failed oil business man) said that he “opposed the Kyoto Protocol.” One of the reasons he cited was because India and China would not be subject to Kyoto measures and would increase their emissions. Yet he ignored that on a per capita basis, India and China’s emissions are far less than the United States, which is the worst. Furthermore, the U.S. for over 20 to 25 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, for just 4 to 5 percent of the world’s population. Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment provide quite an explosive critique of Bush’s claims:


In fact, these “population centres” which Bush refers to [in his March 2001 announcement] make an insignificant contribution of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, since they have extremely low per capita emissions. The US, on the other hand, contributes to one-fourth of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The total carbon dioxide emissions from one US citizen in 1996 were 19 times the emissions of one Indian. US emissions in total are still more than double those from China. At a time when a large part of India’s population does not even have access to electricity, Bush would like this country to stem its ‘survival emissions’, so that industrialised countries like the US can continue to have high ‘luxury emissions’. This amounts to demanding a freeze on global inequity, where rich countries stay rich, and poor countries stay poor, since carbon dioxide emissions are closely linked to GDP growth. (Emphasis is original) — The leader of the most polluting country in the world claims global warming treaty is “unfair” because it excludes India and China, Centre for Science and Environment, March 16, 2001.


Also, China has taken steps to reducing its carbon emissions.


The business lobby in USA is extremely powerful and is afraid of the economic ramifications of this treaty. There were huge propaganda events and advertisements by Congress and by the Global Climate Coalition (a group of large businesses concerned at their bottom line if the Kyoto Protocol was signed), making it harder for Washington to sign.


The Global Climate Coalition has recently seen some of its prominent members drop out, such as Shell and BP, who, for example, are trying to adapt their images to energy companies, not just petroleum companies. Others who have pulled out include Ford, Dupont, Daimler Chrysler, Texaco, General Motors. An additional reason for pulling out of the Coalition has been due to their images suffering by staying in there. However, a number of these companies have promised to help reduce emissions and take other steps to help tackle climate change.


“Some of the exiting companies, such as BP Amoco, Shell, and Dupont, joined a progressive new group, the Business Environmental Leadership Council, now an organization of some 21 corporations. This new outfit, founded by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says, “We accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about the science and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address its consequences.”




“Abandonment of the Global Climate Coalition by leading companies is partly in response to the mounting evidence that the world is indeed getting warmer. The 15 warmest years in the last century have occurred since 1980. Ice is melting on every continent. The snow/ice pack in the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, and the Himalayas is shrinking. The volume of the ice cap covering the Arctic Ocean has shrunk by more than 40 percent over the last 35 years. To deny that Earth is getting warmer in the face of such compelling evidence is to risk a loss of credibility, something that corporations cannot readily afford.”


— The Rise and Fall of the Global Climate Coalition from the World Watch Institute, 25 July 2000




Climatic Change (Greenpeace Website)


[Liberal Viewpoint]


For more than a century, people have relied on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas for their energy needs. Now, worldwide, people and the environment are experiencing the consequences. Global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels, is the worst environmental problem we face today.


People are changing the climate that made life on earth possible and the results are disastrous - extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, disruption of water supplies, melting Polar regions, rising sea levels, loss of coral reefs and much more. Scientists and governments worldwide agree on the latest and starkest evidence of human-induced climate change, its impacts and the predictions of what is to come.


It is not too late to slow global warming and avoid the climate catastrophe that scientists predict. The solutions already exist. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar offer abundant clean energy that is safe for the environment and good for the economy.


Other green technologies, such as the refrigeration technology Greenfreeze, offer viable alternatives to climate-changing chemicals.


Corporations, governments and individuals must begin now to phase in clean, sustainable energy solutions and phase out fossil fuels. Major investments must be made in renewable energy, particularly in developing economies, replacing current large scale fossil fuel developments.


At the same time, immediate international action must be taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (the gases that cause global warming), or the world may soon face irreversible global climate damage.


Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the climate treaty finally agreed at Marrakech in November 2001, is a crucial first step in this process. However, the greenhouse gas reduction targets agreed at Marrakech are only a fraction of what is needed to stop dangerous climate change and the Kyoto Protocol is under fierce attack.


The US refuses to sign the climate treaty and take action to reduce emissions. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the US is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases and is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions. Also, governments continue to subsidise the fossil fuel industries, keeping dirty energy cheap while clean energy solutions remain under-funded.


Greenpeace is campaigning globally on a variety of fronts to stop climate change - from the campaign to pressure the ExxonMobil and George W Bush to work with the rest of the world to halt climate change, to researching and promoting clean energy solutions.


The cause


The earth’s atmosphere is made up of a delicately balanced blanket of gases, which trap enough heat to sustain life. These fundamental gases shape the environmental conditions on the planet, such as rainfall and evaporation levels.


Activists send a clear message about the problems of global warming.


However, by burning fossil fuels humans pump billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2 - the most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


These gases create a ‘greenhouse effect’, thickening the natural canopy of gases in the atmosphere and causing more heat to become trapped. As a result, the global temperature is increasing, throwing the world’s climate out of its natural balance and into chaos.


The main source of these human-produced greenhouse gases is burning large amounts of fossil fuels for energy production and transport. Changes in land use and deforestation also release more CO2 into the environment. Trees, for example, are natural ‘carbon sinks’-they absorb CO2-and when they are destroyed, CO2 is released into the atmosphere.


While many greenhouse gases occur naturally, the rate humans are adding them to the atmosphere is far from natural. It is estimated that concentrations of CO2 are 30 percent higher than before the industrial revolution, when the wide scale burning of fossil fuels started. Humans are also creating new greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from industrial activities.


Even if all greenhouse gas emissions were stopped today, the effects from past activities will persist for many centuries, due to the long life of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the long time required for transfer of heat from the atmosphere to the deep oceans.




Climate change is happening now and the evidence is clear. One hundred and fifty governments agree on the latest and starkest evidence of global warming from world renowned scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up by the United Nations in 1988.


Damage caused by Hurricane Andrew, USA.


Further, a group of 17 national academies of science from around the world issued a statement endorsing the IPCC as the most reliable source of information on climate change and its latest conclusions.


In 2001 the IPCC released its third assessment report which shows stronger evidence that we do understand how the climate system works, and how human activity is changing it. This latest report provides a clear warning that the first signs of climate change impacts are occurring and that the scale of the risks posed by climate change are enormous.


The assessment finds that there is ‘“new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Not only this, but global warming is happening more quickly than previously thought. The IPCC gives the following evidence that climate change is happening now.


· The 1990’s was most likely the warmest decade ever, and 1998 the warmest year.


· As the average global surface temperature has increased, snow cover and ice extent have decreased.


· Global average sea level has risen and the oceans are warming.


· Regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases, have already affected many physical and biological systems. These impacts include:


- Glacier shrinkage.

- Permafrost thawing.

- Later freezing and earlier break-up of ice on rivers and lakes.

- Lengthening of mid to high level growing seasons.

- Plant and animal range shifts.

- Declines of some plant and animal populations.

- Earlier flowering of trees, emergence of insects and egg-laying in birds.


The problem


The latest science confirms that the threat of climate change is even worse than was previously thought. At the same time public opinion polls around the world show overwhelming public support for positive action to combat climate change.


Air balloon highlights the real climate criminals.


The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was initially designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised countries by five percent.


By the end of the Bonn negotiations in July 2001, the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol had already been substantially weakened.


Emission reductions of 80 percent are needed if dangerous climate change is to be prevented.


After two weeks of negotiations at the climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco (2001), the fine details of the protocol’s implementation were ironed out.


Now that the protocol’s architecture was in place, government parties had no excuse to delay ratifying and implementing it, and many have already done so.


However, the protocol is just a small start in what must be an ongoing and ever increasing commitment to reduce greenhouse gases globally.


Bush, climate and the Exxon problem.

In late March 2001, US President George Bush announced that the US was abandoning the protocol.


The US alternative is very strong on talk, but very weak on targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


The US will try to postpone the hard choices to a time in the future when they will be much harder and more expensive to take and most likely when it is too late to reverse the damage being done to the world’s climate.


The influence of the fossil fuel industry on US Government energy policy has been divisive and fundamental.


The industry’s financial support during the election campaign is now paying off for its policies, which are extremely damaging to the climate. The biggest offender is Exxon.


While the rest of the world is trying to stop global warming and protect the planet for future generations, Exxon is denying the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change as well as busy drilling for more oil and polluting the atmosphere.


What’s worse, Exxon is doing its best to stop other countries’ attempts to prevent the world from heating up.




Global warming is already changing the earth’s climate. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their present levels, the predictions are bleak.


Aurora Borealis over Greenpeace protest against oil drilling by BP in the Alaskan Arctic.


The greatest dangers, which would result in global catastrophe, are posed by large scale and irreversible impacts such as:

* Greenland and Antarctic sheets melting. Unless emissions are reduced, warming in the next five decades could be large enough to trigger meltdown of the Greenand ice sheet;

* The Gulf Stream slowing or shutting down; and

* Massive releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and dying forests.


There is a high risk of more extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods. These pose the most immediate threats.


Climate change will have severe impacts on a regional level. For example, in Europe, river flooding will increase over much of the continent, and in coastal areas the risk of flooding, erosion and wetland loss will increase substantially.


Natural systems, including glaciers, coral reefs, mangroves, arctic ecosystems, alpine ecosystems, boreal and tropical forests, prairie wetlands and native grasslands, will be threatened.


Climate change will increase existing risks of species extinction and biodiversity loss.


The greatest impacts will be on those least able to protect themselves from rising sea levels, disease increases and decreases in agricultural production in the developing countries of Africa and Asia.


At all scales of climate change, developing countries will suffer the most.


More people will be harmed than benefited, even for small amounts of warming.


These are the predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the IPCC’s latest report, the third assessment released in 2001, the anticipated increase in average global temperature over the next 100 years is between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees celcius.


This is increasing from 1 - 3.5 degrees celcius according to the panel’s second assessment, which was released in 1995.


Not only is climate change happening faster than previously predicted, but it may happen even faster than the latest predictions.


Dying forests, more fires and warming soils could release huge additional amounts of carbon - substantially accelerating warming.


The IPCC’s third assessment states that “The projected rate of warming is much larger than the observed changes during the 20th century and is very likely without precedent during the last 10,000 years.” The difference between the present average global temperature and the last ice age was only five degrees celsius.


Never before has humanity had to grapple with such an immense environmental crisis. If we do not take action to stop global warming immediately, the damage will be irreversible.




Solutions to global warming - clean energy, energy efficiency and new environmentally sound technologies - already exist.


Greenpeace activists install solar panels on houses in Docklands, London.


Policy corner: Kyoto Protocol meeting in Milan


The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that hundreds of technologies are already available, at very low cost, to reduce climate damaging emissions and that government policies need to remove the barriers to these technologies.


Implementing these solutions will not require humans to make sacrifices or otherwise impede their quality of life.


Instead, they will enable people to usher in a new era of energy, one that will bring economic growth, new jobs, technological innovation and, most importantly environmental protection.


However, for green solutions to global warming to find a foothold in the market, governments and corporations need to lead the shift away from polluting technology.


At present, fossil fuel industries are provided with billions of dollars in subsidies so that dirty energy stays cheap.


Polluting industries are allowed to pollute for free, while clean technologies remain under-funded. Developing nations, which have the fastest growing energy needs, are locked into old fashioned fossil fuel technologies by Export Credit Agencies.


The time has come for humans to wean themselves off fossil fuels and other climate damaging technologies.


Oil companies must stop exploring for more fossil fuels that the world cannot afford to burn. Governments need to subsidise renewable energy and force polluters to pay.


Green technology is ready to take over


Wind power is already a significant source of energy in many parts of the world. It can supply 10 percent of the world’s electricity within two decades.


Solar power has been growing in a global capacity by 33 percent annually. Greenpeace and industry research shows that with some government support, the solar industry could supply electricity to over 2 billion people globally in the next 20 years.


By 2040 solar photovoltaics could supply nearly 25 percent of global electricity demand.


A report conducted by global financial analysts KPMG shows that solar power would become cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels if the production of photovoltaic panels was increased to 500 megawatts a year.


A renewable power plant in Asia could have the same costs and provide the same jobs as a coal fired plant, but with significant environmental advantages.


Greenfreeze refrigeration technology, which is safe for the climate and the ozone layer, has spread around the world. It is an ideal solution for developing countries where cost and efficiency are particularly important.




Global Warming (Environmental Protection Agency Website)




An Introduction


According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Human activities have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The heat-trapping property of these gases is undisputed although uncertainties exist about exactly how earth’s climate responds to them.


Our Changing Atmosphere


Energy from the sun drives the earth’s weather and climate, and heats the earth’s surface; in turn, the earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.


Without this natural “greenhouse effect,” temperatures would be much lower than they are now, and life as known today would not be possible. Instead, thanks to greenhouse gases, the earth’s average temperature is a more hospitable 60°F. However, problems may arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases.


Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%. These increases have enhanced the heat-trapping capability of the earth’s atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols, a common air pollutant, cool the atmosphere by reflecting light back into space; however, sulfates are short-lived in the atmosphere and vary regionally.


Why are greenhouse gas concentrations increasing? Scientists generally believe that the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities are the primary reason for the increased concentration of carbon dioxide. Plant respiration and the decomposition of organic matter release more than 10 times the CO2 released by human activities; but these releases have generally been in balance during the centuries leading up to the industrial revolution with carbon dioxide absorbed by terrestrial vegetation and the oceans.


What has changed in the last few hundred years is the additional release of carbon dioxide by human activities. Fossil fuels burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are responsible for about 98% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, 24% of methane emissions, and 18% of nitrous oxide emissions. Increased agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In 1997, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases.


Estimating future emissions is difficult, because it depends on demographic, economic, technological, policy, and institutional developments. Several emissions scenarios have been developed based on differing projections of these underlying factors. For example, by 2100, in the absence of emissions control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to be 30-150% higher than today’s levels.


Changing Climate


Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 19th century. The 20th century’s 10 warmest years all occurred in the last 15 years of the century. Of these, 1998 was the warmest year on record. The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased. Globally, sea level has risen 4-8 inches over the past century. Worldwide precipitation over land has increased by about one percent. The frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased throughout much of the United States.


Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to accelerate the rate of climate change. Scientists expect that the average global surface temperature could rise 1-4.5°F (0.6-2.5°C) in the next fifty years, and 2.2-10°F (1.4-5.8°C) in the next century, with significant regional variation. Evaporation will increase as the climate warms, which will increase average global precipitation. Soil moisture is likely to decline in many regions, and intense rainstorms are likely to become more frequent. Sea level is likely to rise two feet along most of the U.S. coast.


Calculations of climate change for specific areas are much less reliable than global ones, and it is unclear whether regional climate will become more variable.




Like many fields of scientific study, there are uncertainties associated with the science of global warming. This does not imply that all things are equally uncertain. Some aspects of the science are based on well-known physical laws and documented trends, while other aspects range from ‘near certainty’ to ‘big unknowns.’


What’s Known for Certain?


Scientists know for certain that human activities are changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2 ), in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times have been well documented. There is no doubt this atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is largely the result of human activities.


It’s well accepted by scientists that greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and tend to warm the planet. By increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, human activities are strengthening Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. The key greenhouse gases emitted by human activities remain in the atmosphere for periods ranging from decades to centuries.


A warming trend of about 1°F has been recorded since the late 19th century. Warming has occurred in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and over the oceans. Confirmation of 20th-century global warming is further substantiated by melting glaciers, decreased snow cover in the northern hemisphere and even warming below ground.


What’s Likely but not Certain?


Figuring out to what extent the human-induced accumulation of greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times is responsible for the global warming trend is not easy. This is because other factors, both natural and human, affect our planet’s temperature. Scientific understanding of these other factors – most notably natural climatic variations, changes in the sun’s energy, and the cooling effects of pollutant aerosols – remains incomplete.


Nevertheless, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated there was a “discernible” human influence on climate; and that the observed warming trend is “unlikely to be entirely natural in origin.” In the most recent Third Assessment Report (2001), IPCC wrote “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”


In short, scientists think rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are contributing to global warming, as would be expected; but to what extent is difficult to determine at the present time.


As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise, scientists estimate average global temperatures will continue to rise as a result. By how much and how fast remain uncertain. IPCC projects further global warming of 2.2-10°F (1.4-5.8°C) by the year 2100. This range results from uncertainties in greenhouse gas emissions, the possible cooling effects of atmospheric particles such as sulfates, and the climate’s response to changes in the atmosphere.


The IPCC states that even the low end of this warming projection “would probably be greater than any seen in the last 10,000 years, but the actual annual to decadal changes would include considerable natural variability.”


What are the Big Unknowns?


Scientists have identified that our health, agriculture, water resources, forests, wildlife and coastal areas are vulnerable to the changes that global warming may bring. But projecting what the exact impacts will be over the 21st century remains very difficult. This is especially true when one asks how a local region will be affected.


Scientists are more confident about their projections for large-scale areas (e.g., global temperature and precipitation change, average sea level rise) and less confident about the ones for small-scale areas (e.g., local temperature and precipitation changes, altered weather patterns, soil moisture changes). This is largely because the computer models used to forecast global climate change are still ill-equipped to simulate how things may change at smaller scales. [See the U.S. Climate section for more detail on climate models.]


Some of the largest uncertainties are associated with events that pose the greatest risk to human societies. IPCC cautions, “Complex systems, such as the climate system, can respond in non-linear ways and produce surprises.” There is the possibility that a warmer world could lead to more frequent and intense storms, including hurricanes. Preliminary evidence suggests that, once hurricanes do form, they will be stronger if the oceans are warmer due to global warming. However, the jury is still out whether or not hurricanes and other storms will become more frequent.


More and more attention is being aimed at the possible link between El Niño events – the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean – and global warming. Scientists are concerned that the accumulation of greenhouse gases could inject enough heat into Pacific waters such that El Niño events become more frequent and fierce. Here too, research has not advanced far enough to provide conclusive statements about how global warming will affect El Niño.


Living with Uncertainty


Like many pioneer fields of research, the current state of global warming science can’t always provide definitive answers to our questions. There is certainty that human activities are rapidly adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and that these gases tend to warm our planet. This is the basis for concern about global warming.


The fundamental scientific uncertainties are these: How much more warming will occur? How fast will this warming occur? And what are the potential adverse and beneficial effects? These uncertainties will be with us for some time, perhaps decades.


Global warming poses real risks. The exact nature of these risks remains uncertain. Ultimately, this is why we have to use our best judgement – guided by the current state of science – to determine what the most appropriate response to global warming should be.




Once, all climate changes occurred naturally. However, during the Industrial Revolution, we began altering our climate and environment through changing agricultural and industrial practices. Before the Industrial Revolution, human activity released very few gases into the atmosphere, but now through population growth, fossil fuel burning, and deforestation, we are affecting the mixture of gases in the atmosphere.


What Are Greenhouse Gases?


Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Naturally occuring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Certain human activities, however, add to the levels of most of these naturally occurring gases:


Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned.


Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from the decomposition of organic wastes in municipal solid waste landfills, and the raising of livestock.


Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels.


Very powerful greenhouse gases that are not naturally occurring include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which are generated in a variety of industrial processes.


Each greenhouse gas differs in its ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere. HFCs and PFCs are the most heat-absorbent. Methane traps over 21 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide absorbs 270 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide. Often, estimates of greenhouse gas emissions are presented in units of millions of metric tons of carbon equivalents (MMTCE), which weights each gas by its GWP value, or Global Warming Potential. For more on greenhouse gases and global warming potential, see:


* Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming Potential Values - Excerpt from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2000 (73.6 KB), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, April 2002.


This excerpt describes the characteristics of each of the various greenhouse gases and discusses the concept of Global Warming Potential (GWP) values. Both direct and indirect greenhouse gases are addressed. A detailed comparison of GWP values from the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR) and Third Assessment Report (TAR) is also made, including the effect of a change in GWP values on U.S. greenhouse gas emission trends. Overall, revisions to GWP values do not have a significant effect on U.S. emission trends.


What Are Emissions Inventories?


An emission inventory is an accounting of the amount of air pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. It is generally

characterized by the following factors:


* the chemical or physical identity of the pollutants included,

* the geographic area covered,

* the institutional entities covered,

* the time period over which emissions are estimated, and

* the types of activities that cause emissions.


Emission inventories are developed for a variety of purposes. Inventories of natural and anthropogenic emissions are used by scientists as inputs to air quality models, by policy makers to develop strategies and policies or track progress of standards, and by facilities and regulatory agencies to establish compliance records with allowable emission rates. A well constructed inventory should include enough documentation and other data to allow readers to understand the underlying assumptions and to reconstruct the calculations for each of the estimates included.


What Are Sinks?


A sink is a reservoir that uptakes a chemical element or compound from another part of its cycle. For example, soil and trees tend to act as natural sinks for carbon – each year hundreds of billions of tons of carbon in the form of CO2 are absorbed by oceans, soils, and trees.




In the United States, approximately 6.6 tons (almost 15,000 pounds carbon equivalent) of greenhouse gases are emitted per person every year. And emissions per person have increased about 3.4% between 1990 and 1997. Most of these emissions, about 82%, are from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power our cars. The remaining emissions are from methane from wastes in our landfills, raising livestock, natural gas pipelines, and coal, as well as from industrial chemicals and other sources.


U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Capita and Per Dollar of Gross Domestic Product


Emissions vary based on the country in which you live (see International Emissions). The U.S. presently emits more greenhouse gases per person than any other country.


Emissions also vary based on the state you live in. Several factors can affect the emissions per person in a state, for example, the types of fuel used to generate electricity, population and vehicle miles traveled (people tend to drive longer distances in sparsely populated areas), and whether fossil fuels are extracted or processed within the state. You will find additional information concerning emissions in your state in the State Emissions section.


Your Emissions


As an individual, you can affect the emissions of about 4,800 pounds of carbon equivalent, or nearly 32% of the total emissions per person, by the choices you make in three areas of your life. These areas are the electricity we use in our homes, the waste we produce, and personal transportation. The other 68% of emissions are affected more by the types of industries in the U.S., the types of offices we use, how our food is grown, and other factors.




Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level, and change precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It could also affect human health, animals, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts may expand into existing rangelands, and features of some of our National Parks may be permanently altered.


Most of the United States is expected to warm, although sulfates may limit warming in some areas. Scientists currently are unable to determine which parts of the United States will become wetter or drier, but there is likely to be an overall trend toward increased precipitation and evaporation, more intense rainstorms, and drier soils.


Unfortunately, many of the potentially most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decreases, which can not be reliably projected for specific areas.




Today, action is occurring at every level to reduce, to avoid, and to better understand the risks associated with climate change. Many cities and states across the country have prepared greenhouse gas inventories; and many are actively pursuing programs and policies that will result in greenhouse gas emission reductions.


At the national level, the U.S. Global Change Research Program coordinates the world’s most extensive research effort on climate change. In addition, EPA and other federal agencies are actively engaging the private sector, states, and localities in partnerships based on a win-win philosophy and aimed at addressing the challenge of global warming while, at the same time, strengthening the economy. For more information, see the US Climate Action Report (U.S. Department of State, May 2002).


At the global level, countries around the world have expressed a firm commitment to strengthening international responses to the risks of climate change. The U.S. is working to strengthen international action and broaden participation under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.




What difference can I make? When faced with this question, individuals should recognize that collectively they can make a difference. Think back to the days before recycling became popular – when everyone threw everything out in the trash. In less than 20 years, most households have gone from recycling little to nothing to recycling newspapers, plastics, glass and metal. Many businesses recycle paper and buy recycled products and many industries practice source reduction in their packaging efforts. An entire mindset has changed in one generation!


Taking action on global warming (or climate change) is similar. In some cases, it only takes a little change in lifestyle and behavior to make some big changes in greenhouse gas reductions. For other types of actions, the changes are more significant. When that action is multiplied by the 270 million people in the U.S. or the 6 billion people worldwide, the savings are significant.




Was the Climate of the 20th Century Unusual?: A Reprise (Marshall Institute Website)


[Conservative Viewpoint]


On July 29, 2003, in a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee a scientific dispute over the global surface temperature record of the past 1,000 years spilled into a charged political forum. In the highly politicized world of climate change, the trend in global surface temperature is highly salient to policy makers and the media. The claim that the trend seen during the 20th century is unusual is a linchpin of the climate change debate. In this paper the George Marshall Institute analyzes the scientific controversy underlying the political one.




The scientific debate started in 1999, when Michael Mann, now an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, and his co-authors combined a number of past studies to create a proxy average temperature record for the Northern Hemisphere for the last 1,000 years (Mann, et al., 1999). Since there are too few thermometer readings before 1860 to establish a hemispheric average temperature, the earlier part of the record was from proxy information, such as tree rings, ice cores, coral reefs, etc. Data for the early part of this time period was very limited; Mann, et al. used data collected from just 12 locations throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere for the period before 1400.


Despite their limited data, Mann, et al. concluded that Northern Hemisphere average temperature is higher now than it has been for at least 1,000 years. Caution limited the conclusion to the Northern Hemisphere, because data from the Southern Hemisphere are too limited to develop a similar history. The findings were seen as supportive of the Kyoto Protocol and were widely disseminated by those who support adoption of this treaty.


A different analysis is represented by two papers in 2003 arguing that the proxies include much information on environmental change at many locales, as has been recognized by researchers for approximately three decades. This information indicates that climate of the 20th century, on a location by location basis, did not look unusual (Soon, et al., 2003).


The debate continued with Prof. Mann’s July 29, 2003 testimony to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in which he characterized Soon et al.’s work as deeply flawed. Mann’s assertions are addressed in this paper.


No doubt the debate will continue as other scientists voice their opinions. And this is as it should be. Scientific knowledge is generated and understanding advanced through such interactions. However, normally such debates are carried on in scientific conventions and workshops, not in Senate hearings, and normally they do not include assessments of whether the science affects the premises of an international treaty.


Can We Reconstruct the Earth’s Climate?


At the end of the last Ice Age, about 11,000 years ago, the Earth’s climate warmed rapidly. Since then, it has fluctuated, with warmer and cooler periods. Several decades ago, researchers studying historical and paleo-climatic records, many from Europe, indicated that the time from about 800 - 1300, a period labeled by previous researchers as the Medieval Warm Period, was warmer, but that in about 1300, a cooler period, which lasted in some regions until about 1900, began. The early predominance of information from Europe led some to question whether these phenomena were global or limited to Europe. Subsequently, additional, but more limited, information was obtained for the climate of the Southern Hemisphere indicating that the climate changes noted in Europe were observed in other locations across the world. During the 1300 - 1900 period, which is known as the Little Ice Age, there were warmer and cooler times, but in general temperatures were cooler than they are now or were about 1,000 years ago, where temperature information is available. Fagan (2000) provides a fascinating summary of the hardships the Little Ice Age imposed on Western Europe.


In their 1999 paper, Mann, et at. developed a reconstruction of average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere since 1000 using a variety of proxies. It showed a slight decline in average temperature from 1000 to 1900, and then a sharp rise during the last century, in what has been dubbed “the hockey stick.” The period from 1000 to 1900 has a high degree of uncertainty in temperature estimates, but much lower uncertainty is associated with the average temperatures of the last century, which are based on weather station readings, not proxy data. Mann, et at.’s reconstruction of the average temperatures also has the effect of significantly reducing and essentially eliminating both the presence of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age in the hemispheric average temperature.


Based on their reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperatures, Mann, et al. concluded that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium.” This conclusion was then adopted by the IPCC in its Third Assessment Report (Houghton, 2001). However, an examination of the Mann, et al. paper raises serious questions about the basis for this conclusion.


Mann, et al. used only twelve locations to cover the period from 1000 to 1400. (More data were available after 1400.) The statistical significance of their correlations depends on the inclusion of one of these data sets: tree ring data from the western U.S. This data set is designated ITRDB PC#l in the paper. If this particular data set is removed from the analysis, no statistically significant conclusions can be drawn about differences in temperature over the last millennium.


Even Mann, et al. recognized the uncertainty of their conclusion:


Though, as discussed earlier, ITRDB PC#l represents a vital region for resolving hemispheric temperature trends, the assumption that this relationship holds up over time nonetheless demands circumspection. Clearly, a more widespread network of quality millennial proxy climate indicators will be required for more confident inferences. (p. 761)


The circumspection Mann, et al. call for in their discussion is not evident in their widely quoted conclusion about the decade of the 1990s.


Soon, et al. took a different approach in analyzing temperature proxies. Because individual proxies indicate local conditions, they may respond differently to different climate parameters and so cannot be accurately combined. Soon, et al surveyed the available literature and consolidated general findings from each location. What they found was that, in over 200 research papers using proxies to represent past climates. there was evidence that the climate of the 20th century was not the most extreme during the period of record on a location by location basis. In contrast to Mann et al. they did not try to construct a global or hemispheric average temperature record.


Review papers such as mlS are common In the scientific literature and serve the important purpose of summarizing the state of the science on a particular topic. Such papers contrast and compare methods and results among a large group of researchers. This is precisely what Soon, et al did.


Soon, et al. cite Grove (2001) on the difficulty of defining the hemispheric or global extent of the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period. Grove characterized the Little Ice Age as the last period in which glaciers generally advanced globally and remained advanced, and the Medieval Warm Period as a period before that when glaciers retreated. Since glaciers advance or retreat in response to decade or longer trends in temperature, precipitation, etc., the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period were not necessarily periods of uniform cool or warm conditions —there may have been opposite conditions persisting over a decade or so.


The effects of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age varied around the world, and these patterns help define irregularities in climate, which Soon, et al. call anomalies. According to Soon, et al., “anomaly, in our context, is simply defined as a period of 50 or more years of sustained warmth, wetness, or dryness within the Medieval Warm Period, or a 50-year or longer period of cold, dryness, or wetness during the Little Ice Age.” Since the manifestations of both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age varied over a range of climate and spatial responses, it is reasonable to look at a variety of climate indicators to evaluate patterns of climate change. Soon, et al. surveyed over 100 climate proxy studies, each with continuous records at least 400 to 500 years long, to obtain answers to three questions:


1. Was there a 50-year or longer period of sustained anomaly in a proxy, including colder or wetter or drier than average climate or other environmental indicator during the Little Ice Age, i.e., the 1300 - 1900 period?


One hundred and twenty-four studies were found that addressed the question of whether there was a Little Ice age; all but two of which yielded evidence confirming the existence of the Little Ice Age. Of thirty studies in the Southern Hemisphere, twenty-six showed the unequivocal presence of the Little Ice Age; two did not, and two were ambiguous.


2. Was there a 50-year or longer period of sustained anomaly in a proxy, and opposite to the anomaly in the 1300 - 1900 period, including warmer or drier or wetter than average climate, or other environmental indicator during the 800 - 1300 period, also known as the Medieval Warm Period?


One hundred and twelve studies contained information about the period 800 - 1300, known as the Medieval Warm Period. Of these, 103 showed evidence for an environmental anomaly during the period labeled the Medieval Warm Period, two did not, and seven had equivocal answers. Looking just at the Southern Hemisphere, twenty-two studies were found, of which twenty-one showed evidence for a Medieval Warm Period and one did not.


3. Is there a 50-year period in the proxy record that is warmer or more extreme than the 20th century?


102 studies yielded information about whether the 20th century contained the warmest or most extreme anomaly. Nineteen of these studies answered the question qualitatively but for the most part equivocally; three were unequivocal and the remaining sixteen gave equivocal answers. Of the remaining eighty-three studies, seventy-nine show periods of at least fifty years that were warmer than any fifty-year period in the 20th century. Four records show the first half of the 20th century to be the warmest period in the record.


While Soon, et al., caution that their proxy data yield local information only, they conclude that the data clearly suggest the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period were phenomena that affected the entire Earth, and that differences in timing help to define the patterns of local and regional change. A summary of the Soon, et al. study can be found in the Marshall Institute report, Lessons and Limits of Climate History.


The Debate


In his July, 29, 2003 testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Prof. Mann characterized Soon, et al. as a deeply flawed study for three reasons. His arguments and our rebuttal are presented below:


1. “In drawing conclusions regarding past regional temperature changes from proxy records, it is essential to assess to make sure that the proxy data are indicators of temperature and not precipitation or drought.”


Climate is broader than temperature alone. Soon, et al. compared each climate indicator to itself over time. If paleoclimate experts showed the indicator as a function of temperature, then temperature was the climate variable used to assess climatic change with time. Some proxies were not (and could not be) calibrated to temperature. In those cases, they were assessed for anomalies only on the basis of the indicator itself. For example, in the case of precipitation or drought data, they were used only to define whether there were unusual conditions during the Medieval Warm Period and opposite conditions during the Little Ice Age in particular regions. Precipitation conditions cannot yet be linked accurately to temperature in individual locations, but the existence of precipitation anomalies can be seen in the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age, periods defined by previous paleoclimate experts. Such information helps to define past patterns of climate change.


Mann et al. do include in their temperature reconstruction proxies strongly influenced by precipitation.


2. “It is essential to distinguish between regional temperature changes and truly hemispheric or global changes.”


This is true, but invalid as a criticism of Soon, et al. Both Mann, et al. and Soon, et al. used data from a number of points around the globe in their analyses. Mann, et al. used a small number of data sets to draw conclusions about the climate (actually, just temperature) history of the Northern Hemisphere. Soon, et al. were more cautious and less quantitative in their approach, even though they made use of a larger number of data sets, saying that they could not construct hemispheric or global average climate (including more than just temperature) conditions, but only suggest patterns.


3. “It is essential, in forming a climate reconstruction, to carefully define a base period for modern conditions against which past conditions may be quantitatively compared.”


True, but invalid as a criticism of Soon, et al. Soon, et al. clearly defined the base period used in their comparisons as the 20th century, and made distinctions between the first and second halves of the century. This made their base period fifty years long rather than the thirty-year base period that Mann, et al. used. Also, it is incorrect to characterize Soon, et al.’s study as a climate reconstruction. They carefully state that the proxy data are too limited to support such an effort and avoided making a reconstruction.




The George Marshall Institute is committed to encouraging the use of science in the making of public policy. We welcome legitimate scientific debate over the validity of Soon, et al.’s findings, but assessments of their paper should not be based on whether or not it supports the Kyoto Protocol.


Soon, et al. will not be the final word on evaluation of the climate of the past thousand years. New paleoclimatic studies appear almost weekly and paleoclimatologists are becoming more ingenious at finding new proxies for past climate. As new data accumulate, it will become appropriate to conduct another analysis and evaluate whether these data support or challenge Soon, et al.’s conclusion.


With our current knowledge it is not possible to construct a reliable, quantitative climate history for the past 1,000 years for the world or for the Northern Hemisphere. Paleo-climatic data make it clear that local climates varied significantly around the world during the past 1,000 years. Since global or hemispheric averages are the averages of these local conditions, they will be reliable only when we have sufficient data to ensure that we are providing true coverage for either the globe or the hemisphere. The twelve studies that Mann, et al. used to characterize the Northern Hemisphere between 1000 and 1400 are far too few to establish a reliable average, as shown by its uncertainty. While Soon, et al. used many more studies for a different purpose—to include more than just temperature in the context of the discussion, they recognized pitfalls in trying to combine studies using very different techniques and calibrations into a single average.


While it is currently not possible to develop quantitative and accurate estimates of the climate of the last 1,000 years, considerable qualitative information is available. The climate of the past 1,000 years varied significantly, with warmer and cooler periods in many regions of the world. We also know that the period before 1300 was generally warmer than the period between 1300 and 1900, and that it has been getting warmer since 1900.


Understanding the climate of the past is important since it allows us to estimate the natural variability of the climate system. The significance of any potential human impact on the climate system can only be judged in terms of this natural variability. However, we do not have good estimates of the natural variability of climate on decadal, century, or millennial time-scales. Determining the natural variability of climate should have high priority in climate science.




Corrections to the Mann et al (1998): Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemisphere Average Temperature Series


Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick


This is the web site for the above paper, published in Energy and Environment 14(6) 751-772.



The data set of proxies of past climate used in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998, “MBH98” hereafter) for the estimation of temperatures from 1400 to 1980 contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects. We detail these errors and defects. We then apply MBH98 methodology to the construction of a Northern Hemisphere average temperature index for the 1400-1980 period, using corrected and updated source data. The major finding is that the values in the early 15th century exceed any values in the 20th century. The particular “hockey stick” shape derived in the MBH98 proxy construction – a temperature index that decreases slightly between the early 15th century and early 20th century and then increases dramatically up to 1980 — is primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.


UPDATE: January 22, 2004 Despite the long quiet on this page, the past 7 weeks have been very busy for us. A number of people have written to ask about progress on Part II, while others have interpreted the 7 week gap as a sign that maybe we ran out of material. No, there is a lot of material, and the challenge has been to sift through it and put it into coherent form. There are now some new journals involved in handling material that arose from our paper, and we have held back releasing any of the Part II contents connected to these review processes. Professor Mann’s response focuses on the role of 3 (out of 22) key indicators available in the 15th century portion of the data base. His calculations show that without these series the MBH98 results would look like ours, and his assertion is that we improperly “omitted” the series in question. Our response will establish that the series in question are in fact inadmissible. Of course the discovery that the 1998 conclusions rest so sensitively on only 3 series already points to the lack of robustness of this famous graph. But there is much more to be said, when the time comes.


UPDATE: December 1 We are continuing to work on Part II of our response, which has required a detailed examination of Professor Mann’s ftp site, hence the delay. We also traveled to Washington DC on November 18, to present a briefing on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the Marshall Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, on our work to date. A transcript will be published in a few days, we’re told. Some interested experts at a European climate lab had privately criticized us for what they regarded as an insufficiently wide circle of reviewers for the E&E paper. We offered to them that they could review Part II before its release, on the condition that if they found errors they could hold us to public account to rectify them, but if the document checks out they would have to issue a statement saying so. After considering it for a week they declined the offer, saying they don’t have time to do the review, and would prefer to follow the debate’s progress in journals.




# The well-known study Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. & Hughes, M.K. (1998) Global-Scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries, Nature, 392, 779-787, 1998.


is one of the most influential scientific papers of the past 10 years. It introduced the “multiproxy” method to the study of past climates, and produced what was purported to be a 600-year history of the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the basis for the claim by Environment Canada (and many other governmental agencies) that the Earth is “warmer” now than it has been for 600 years. A companion paper published a year later in Geophysical Research Letters extended the 600-year series back to 1000 and spliced a surface temperature record to 1998, producing the famous hockey stick graph of the NH climate.


This graph figures prominently in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has been reproduced many times. It was the basis for the claim in pamphlets mailed by the Government of Canada to Canadians in 2002 that said “The 20th Century was the warmest globally for the past 1,000 years.” The pamphlets were sent to generate support for ratifying and implementing the Kyoto Protocol in Canada.


In 2003, Steven McIntyre, a Toronto business man who specialized in mathematics at university, got interested in the process by which IPCC Reports were being put together and used for driving major policy decisions. Long experience in the mining industry, including close observation of the delinquent accounting that led to the Bre-X scandal, gave him a good nose for promotions based on unaudited claims. It also taught him that when big investments are at stake, due diligence requires relentless testing and independent verification of the data by all parties at every stage. Also, attention must be paid to potential conflicts of interest—for instance the author of a project feasibility study should not also be a major shareholder in the project. These are rigorous requirements in the private sector, yet in the case of the IPCC, chapter authors routinely promote their own research. This makes it even more important that there be external auditing of the reports’ foundation.


The Mann hockey stick curve was given central prominence in the 2001 IPCC Report. The IPCC claims it has a rigorous review process. If this is true, the Mann, Bradley and Hughes paper should have no problem passing a detailed audit. Since governments around the world (including here in Canada) are making some very expensive policy decisions based on uncritical acceptance of the IPCC Report, an independent review seemed in order, and indeed should be a mere formality.


The Project


Mr. McIntyre obtained the underlying data set from Professor Michael Mann of the University of Virginia. Based on some apparent difficulties experienced by Mann’s associates in supplying the data set, he surmised that it was possible that no one had ever previously requested the data set and that it would be a worthwhile endeavour to try to replicate the famous graph.


In the summer of 2003 he contacted Ross McKitrick, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph and coauthor of Taken By Storm: the Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming, to discuss his findings to that point. They joined forces to write up the results and publish them. Their paper has been published in the British journal Energy and Environment.


Their conclusion, after detailed study of the Mann et. al. data base, is that the “hockey stick” graph is an artefact of poor data handling, selective use of sources, reliance on obsolete versions of source data and erroneous statistical calculations. Correcting the copying errors and updating the source data yields the following revision to the original graph:


The top diagram is from the Mann et. al. study (with the error bars removed). The vertical axis measures “anomalies” or departures from a notional hemispheric “average temperature” in tenths of a degree C. The bottom diagram is based on the corrected data. Applying the Mann et. al “multiproxy” procedure on their own data, when updated and correctly collated, contradicts the claim that the late 20th century climate is unusually warm or variable.


The above shows the same comparison using 20-year moving averages.

[see environ_rep3 for graphs]


Questions and Answers, in case you were wondering….


Who paid for this research?


* No one. We neither sought nor received financial support for this project.


Was your article peer-reviewed?


* Yes. Our article was read by numerous colleagues in Canada, the US, Australia and Europe, including experts in mathematics and statistics, geology, paleoclimatology, climatology and physics. It was refereed for Environment and Energy by reviewers selected by the editor.


If there were all the errors in Mann et al (1998) that you allege, how could it have passed peer review for a prestigious journal like Nature?


* You would have to ask Nature about the steps taken by their peer reviewers to verify the results in Mann et al. (1998). However, a peer review is not an audit. It is extremely unlikely that the peer reviewers for Nature even requested the original MBH dataset, much less that they carried out the quality control tests that we carried out.


How can a third party decide whether you are right or Mann et al. are right?


* We have created an audit trail so that third parties can verify these findings for themselves.  This includes what we think is the first Internet posting of the original proxy data used in Mann et al (1998). Some of the points are very easy to verify. To verify the collation errors resulting in duplication of 1980 entries in the data, one needs only inspect a few numbers. We’ve created excerpts from the data and directions to the exact locations in the original data base. Anyone can check this.  Similarly, we’ve created excerpts and pointers in the data base so that anyone can verify the extrapolations and “fills” merely by inspection. To verifying that the MBH data base contains obsolete data, we’ve made graphs to show the differences between the MBH versions and the updated version in every case found (so far); we’ve also included data files showing both versions together and URLs for the updated data. Anyone can check this for themselves. We’ve included computer scripts in R, which will collect the data from the URL site and make the graphs. Verifying the principal components calculations is more work, but we’ve also made the tools available to do this. We’ve provided collated data files for the underlying tree ring series as well as descriptions of how to collect the data. We’ve provided computer scripts showing our principal component calculations and the explained variance using MBH principal components. We’ve also provided a collated version of all the data and scripts for how we replicated the MBH reconstruction. We believe that audit trails are extremely important for this type of analysis and that the Internet provides an ideal mechanism for ensuring public accessibility to such audit trails.


Why didn’t IPCC pick up these errors?


* You’d have to ask them. IPCC have not described what measures of due diligence they carried out. One would surmise that they did not carry out the type of data quality control tests that we did. We understand that Mann was a lead chapter author and, in his IPCC capacity, may not have carried out any due diligence on his own work.


Why has no one else picked up these errors?


* Our guess is that no one else ever examined the data in detail. MBH never placed the compilation at the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology or at their own FTP sites, as one might have expected. [Nov 4/03: This is not correct. An FTP site was identified in the responses to our paper. It is] [Nov 11/03 The previous correction was premature. See this update for some further comments on FTP disclosure. Professor Mann has asserted that the data we analyzed was not the data behind MBH98. But it turns out to be identical to what was on the ftp site. So either we did audit the right data or the MBH98 data still haven’t been FTP-posted.] When Prof. Mann arranged for the data to be provided in April 2003, it was not immediately available and it’s possible that no one ever requested it before.


What led you to request the data from Prof. Mann?


* McIntyre has a background in the mineral exploration business. He wanted to see the underlying proxies (before any statistical manipulations by Mann et al.) for exactly the same reason that mining engineers want to look at drill cores in calculating ore reserves. He had seen other proxy data which did not suggest that proxies were behaving differently in the late 20th century. He had also seen comments by Briffa that tree ring proxies had declined in the second half of the 20th century and, since MBH data was heavily based on tree rings, wondered how this was reflected in the MBH data. Since he was unable to locate the data in a public archive, he requested it from Prof. Mann.


Did you show this paper to Prof. Mann or ask Prof. Mann for comments prior to publication?


* In late September 2003, we asked Prof. Mann for additional information on his reconstruction methodology. Prof Mann advised us that he was unable to provide us with such additional information and would be unable to respond to further inquiries, owing to the numerous demands on his time.


Are you qualified to verify this data?


* Ultimately, to borrow a phrase, “the proof is in the pudding”. If we’ve identified material errors and defects in this data base, this would prove that we were qualified to do so. As a more detailed answer, both of us have strong backgrounds in handling data and in assessing data quality. McIntyre’s intuition that the data should be examined like drill core shows that the practical experience and scepticism that one acquires in the mineral exploration industry was not misplaced here. Moreover, the paper is about statistical and “accounting” issues, both of which are well within our ranges of experience and competence. While McIntyre’s background is more on the practical side and McKitrick’s more on the academic side, both have strong mathematical skills and statistical training.


Do you have any ties to the energy sector or anti-Kyoto think tanks?


* McKitrick is a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian policy think tank that has taken a stand against Kyoto. McIntyre has worked many years in the mineral exploration industry. McIntyre is a shareholder of a micro-capital energy exploration company, CGX Energy, has acted in the past as a consultant to CGX and sub-leases office space from CGX. CGX is not a producing company and, as a company, has no views on Kyoto and has provided no financial support to this study.


Your graph seems to show that the 15th Century was warmer than today’s climate: is this what you’re claiming?


* No. We’re saying that Mann et al., based on their methodology and corrected data, cannot claim that the 20th century is warmer than the 15th century – the nuance is a little different. To make a positive claim that the 15th century was warmer than the late 20th century would require an endorsement of both the methodology and the common interpretation of the results which we are neither qualified nor inclined to offer.


What led you to publish in E&E rather than Nature?


* After receiving the MBH98 data from Scott Rutherford and Michael Mann, McIntyre posted a series of observations about curiosa in the data on the internet discussion group climateskeptics. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen invited McIntyre to consider writing up his work for submission and McIntyre agreed. Subsequent to this, McKitrick joined with McIntyre in the analysis and preparation of an article. McKitrick suggested that an article be submitted to Nature and a 1500-word version (to fit the word limit in Nature) was drafted. But after showing it to some scientific colleagues who were not familiar with the issue, we were advised that it was too short a format to convey the scope of the argument. So we chose to write a longer paper first in order to get the full body of material out. It has been suggested to us that we write a letter to Nature summarizing what is spelled out in the longer paper and we are considering this.


What if someone comes along and finds errors in your work?


* We’ve made it as easy as possible for them to do so. We’ve displayed all our data and all our methods. We welcome the scrutiny.


How closely did you replicate the original MBH98 results using the data they supplied you?


* As we state in the paper we achieved substantial success in replication, but some differences remained between their results and ours. We were unable to obtain advice from them on either data questions or methdology questions, so we carried on with the rest of our analysis. Figure 6 in our paper shows the comparison of their temperature PC1 and ours. The comparison of the final NH index versions looks very similar to that between the PC1 versions:


In their reply (see above) MB&H can also obtain a large variation in the 15th century, similar to ours, by making some changes that approximate some of the changes between our versions.




Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming (Book, 2002)


Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick


Is global warming the greatest threat facing humanity?


One hundred Nobel Laureates recently signed a statement saying so; a UN panel of scientists has also testified to this; and governments around the world have put the climate change issue at the forefront of their political agendas. Can all of these bodies be wrong?


The physical phenomena in climate and weather change are among the most complex in nature, and science can say very little about what will happen to our environment in the future. Yet a large international policy framework has been built precisely on the assumption that we know what is happening and how to control it. In Taken By Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming, Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick prove this internationally accepted assumption is false.


Essex and McKitrick explain the science of climate change and show that the widespread belief in global warming is really a house of cards. Along the way they expose society’s precarious relationship with science, and propose that the breakdown in this relationship is at the heart of the policy crisis around climate change. Their book proposes a new way of dealing with public issues involving environmental and scientific research that allows the scientific and political processes to function with integrity without undermining each other.


“Any politician who has failed to read this book and yet is willing to commit society’s resources to avert global warming has been derelict in his or her duty to the public.”

- Professor G. Cornelius Van Kooten, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate Change, University of Victoria.


“In Taken By Storm Essex and McKitrick offer a scientifically sound argument that is against the mainstream. Let’s open up a debate and see who is willing to participate.”

- Professor Anastasios Tsonis, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Group, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


“Essex and McKitrick cut through all the obfuscation and double speak which surrounds one of the most complex scientific and economic issues of our times. This book should be required reading by policy makers, and any one in the general public who is concerned about what the Kyoto Accord really means for the environment and the economy.”

- Professor Timothy Patterson, Paleoclimatologist, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University


“ I strongly recommend this book.”

- Dr. Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard University


“A good natured but ultimately serious, well documented, and scientifically careful analysis of how a crisis defying both common sense and normative science engulfed the popular imagination, the body politic, and much of the scientific community.”

-  Dr. Richard P. Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


0. Preface


1. A Voice from the Whirlwind

Thunderstorms are intriguing in that scientists have a complete theory for all parts of it, yet the physics cannot be used for computational predictions. This means that climate models do not treat storms, and many other things, from first principles. Instead they use approximations which stand in for physical theory. Uncertainty is therefore intrinsic to any discussion of climate issues. Yet the debate over global warming is conducted under the shadow of a Doctrine of Certainty: namely that we understand the problem and how to fix it. This book explores how this Doctrine arose, why it is at odds with the science, and how it has impaired our ability to think through the policy challenge.


2. The Convection of Certainty

In this chapter we look at the main players on the climate stage, namely politicians and Official Science. The latter is not the same as science, instead it is an administrative layer that represents science to the public and to politicians. But politicians and Official Science respond to the incentives each one gives the other, which lead to a reinforcement of the Doctrine of Certainty. The media and outside interest groups amplify these incentives. We trace this process, show where regular scientists fit in the picture, and how it gave rise to the impossible notion that we have the climate problem all figured out.

2.1 The Scientist’s Burden

2.2 The Key Players

2.3 The Motions of the System

2.4 From Polar Bears to Kyoto: a Microclimate Case Study


3. Theory Versus Models and Metaphors

Our challenge to the reader is that undoing the damage of the Doctrine requires that people be willing to learn the science. This is true even of scientists for whom atmospheric physics is not their specialty. This chapter looks at the differences between theory, models and metaphors. There is no theory of climate, but we discuss what might be involved in developing one. We also introduce the theme of “averaging” as a way of moving up scales of detail, and why this must be done carefully or it can lead to false conclusions. We look at how models function in lieu of a theory, and what their limitations are. Finally we show that metaphors like “the greenhouse effect” and the “global temperature” have served as replacements for both theory and models and further confused the discussion.

3.1 Climate Theory and Climate Models

3.2 Marooned Halfway Up Mount Climate Theory

3.3 Fairy Tales of Computation and the Devil’s Ball of Yarn

3.4 Models in Lieu of Theory

3.5 Professor Thermos Teaches a Lesson About Global Temperature

3.5 Runaway Language and Metaphors That Feed the Doctrine


4. T-Rex Devours the Planet

This chapter takes up the theme of averaging in the context of averaging temperatures. There is no physical rationale for constructing average temperatures, nor is there such a thing as a “global temperature.” Average temperatures correspond to nothing in the actual climate system. So what do those famous graphs really show? In this chapter we argue that it tells us nothing useful about the physical world, that it is at best an ill-defined index, and that different but equally-valid methods for producing the index could generate completely different graphs.

4.1 Panic in the Streets

4.2 The Bones of T-Rex

4.3 The Bones of Contention

4.4 Global What?

4.5 What Does T-Rex Have to do with Climate?

4.6 One Strange Beast


Chapter 5: T-Rex Plays Hockey

The recent climate panel report made much of a graph of temperatures over the past 1,000 years. But there weren’t thermometers back then. So people ought to ask: how did they make this graph? Once we understand how they did it we free it up to serve its scientific purpose, rather than the political purpose it was put to.

5.1 The Mutant Ninja Temperature

5.2 The Rings of Power

5.3 Maps and Mappings

5.4 Wishing for Stationarity

5.5 The Hockey Game


Chapter 6. The Unusual Suspects

The climate panel tries to distinguish between “detection” of climate change and “attribution” of cause. Except in a very trivial case these cannot be viewed separately. Methods of detection, on close inspection, seem like a police set-up. The lineup of suspects is arranged to highlight infrared gases, other potential suspects are not examined, the statistical interrogation methods force confessions even when the data do not provide them and a conviction is being sought even though there is little evidence a “crime” has even been committed.

6.1 Climate and Punishment

6.2 The Lineup

6.3 Rounding Up More Suspects

6.4 A Second Opinion on the Autopsy

6.5 Signal Detectives and the Degenerates who Would Not Confess

6.6 Conclusion


Chapter 7: Uncertainty and Nescience

It is routine to speak of uncertainty in climate change, then to carry on as if one had complete certainty anyway. The problem is that the word “uncertainty” suggests a kind of knowledge, while on many fundamental issues we have no knowledge at all. The word for this is “nescience.” We give an example of mere uncertainty: the reconstruction of past carbon dioxide levels. Then we give two examples of nescience: whether adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes local surface warming, and whether statistical methods can detect a human influence on climate.

7.1: In the Land Beyond Uncertainty

7.2 Mere Uncertainty: Past Carbon Dioxide Levels

7.3 Nescience I: Carbon Dioxide and Surface Warming

7.4 Nescience II: Statistical Causality Between Carbon Dioxide and Climate, or Truth is Granger than Fiction

7.5 A Concluding Comment


Chapter 8. Ceiling Fan Gases and the Global Blowing Crisis

Discussion of the “impacts” of global warming follows from the Doctrine of Certainty, but a better understanding of the climate problem makes this discussion problematic. Why don’t we talk about global average wind speed and the global blowing problem? Or global humidity and the global moistening problem? The discussion of impacts reflects an inordinate focus on temperature, whereas climate is more complicated and peoples’ relationship to climate more complex yet.

8.1 Waterworld and other Impacts Studies

8.2 Measuring the Future

8.3 How Does Climate Matter?

8.4 The Role of Adaptation

8.5 Bugs and Bad Weather

8.6 Those Little Superscripts

8.7 Apres Global Warming, Le Deluge

8.8 Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels and Plant Growth

8.9 Conclusions


9. Kyoto, Son of Doctrine

The Kyoto Protocol reflects Doctrinal thinking taken to its conclusion: we know what the problem is and how to fix it. Yet viewed from outside that framework, the treaty fails to make sense on scientific or economic grounds.

9.1 Flat Beer

9.2 The Kyoto Protocol and its Gaseous Targets

9.3 Lemon Permits

9.4 The Benefits of Implementation

9.5 Thinking About Costs, and Other Jobs for Grownups

9.6 Options for Meeting the Kyoto Protocol Target

9.7 The Optimal Carbon Dioxide Price

9.8 Meanwhile, Back at Kyoto

9.9 Fatally Flawed


Chapter 10. After Doctrine: Making Good Policy When the Science is Uncertain

Underneath the global warming issue is the general question of how to make good policy when the science is uncertain. In this chapter we re-cap why the Doctrine is false, by going over it item by item. Then we propose a new way of relating science to politics that will avoid the convection of certainty between politics and Official Science, thereby preserving the independence of science even when hot political and policy questions are at stake.

10.1 After Doctrine

10.2 What Should We Do About Global Warming?

10.3 The Law of Group Polarization

10.4 In Praise of Polarization: The People v. Carbon Dioxide

10.5 The Flying Dutchman




Response to Review of Taken By Storm by Peter Calamai (Literary Review Canada, 030700)


By Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick


We certainly share Mr. Calamai’s despair over the low level of public debate on Kyoto and climate change, but deny that we’re “intellectually dishonest.” Of course if we really are dishonest, our denial just confirms his suspicions! But if we claim to be dishonest, it would imply we tell the truth, at least sometimes, which would make us honest. This could get confusing.


Better, therefore, if people just focused on our book rather than trying to peer into our souls. Our main point in Taken By Storm is that the inherent complexity of the climate issue overwhelmed our decision-making institutions in ways that have damaged the relationship between science and the policy process. One result was an unintended and false “Doctrine of Certainty” which arose despite the best intentions of all the players. How it arose, the problems it has caused, and how to avoid it in future, is the real plot of our book, which you might not have gathered from Mr. Calamai’s review.


The Doctrine states, in a nutshell, that we understand the climate, that we know infrared-absorbing gases are “warming” the world (in some sense), that this is a dangerous problem, that we know how to fix it, and that those who deny these things are bad people.


Taken By Storm debunks the Doctrine of Certainty by showing that there is no certainty even on issues that have been presented to the public as matters of simple and settled science. We also present a model for connecting science and the policy process in a way that we believe stands a better chance of preserving the integrity and independence of each side. Mr. Calamai didn’t talk about these things in his review, so we don’t know if he disagrees with us. But he apparently believes the public discussion on global warming was a torrent of inaccurate, alarmist nonsense; the policy (Kyoto) does not solve the putative problem; and its cost estimates are in the tens of billions. Right on! Well said.


Unfortunately for LRC readers Mr. Calamai’s review mostly offered vigorous challenges to positions we don’t take, or which are, at best, peripheral to our book, while ignoring the many interesting and witty things we do say. For instance we do not “verge on paranoia” regarding the IPCC. Satire maybe, but not paranoia. In pointing out its unrepresentative membership (p. 300, which he cites without disagreement) we are arguing that it fits the pattern for a sociological effect called group polarization. But we don’t think they’re out to kill us or anything! And while we do think it would be better if leaders read the full report than just the 18-page summary (or the 62-page Technical Summary), our preferred alternative is something else entirely, and is fully set out in Chapter 10.


He spends time arguing against John Daly’s views on sea levels, as if our book, or even that section of Chapter 8, depends on whether Mr. Daly is right. Our point was simply that the sea levels topic is more interesting and uncertain than the IPCC let on in their famous summary. The 1841 Lempriere-Ross benchmark is a good example because its rediscovery poses a problem for the view that Southern Ocean levels rose over the past 150 years. The intensive and longstanding research work on the benchmark shows that the scientific community takes the matter seriously. Mr. Calamai chides us for not accepting at face value a (then) unpublished argument by some Australian researchers, yet in the previous paragraph takes us to task for even mentioning an unpublished argument by another Australian researcher. Sheesh! You can’t win with some people. Anyway, here as elsewhere we are only pointing out that certainty is elusive, and there’s more than one side worth hearing from.


Speaking of which, while we say that it’s an “uphill struggle” to publish skeptical results in some journals we don’t say it’s impossible. After all, as he points out, there is a lot of science now in print in good journals that casts doubt on global warming. Exactly. But if the IPCC never gets around to saying so, how are inquiring minds supposed to find out? Good thing there are books like Taken By Storm available.


Apparently our worst, most “egregious” error is the claim that “Official Science says the entire world is getting hotter.” Actually, the quote he cites (from p. 135) isn’t about this. It is part of a critique of the concept and construction of so-called “global temperature” statistics, of which there are 3 or 4 commonly used. The IPCC believes these global statistics should be consistent. The quote is taken from a discussion of how the IPCC wiggled its way around the fact that they are not. Ironically our argument is that these statistics have little physical meaning and do not, in principle, have to agree.


Nonetheless people could be excused for thinking that when the IPCC talks about “global warming” they mean “warming” on a “global” scale. Certainly a picture like Figure 20 in the Working Group 1 Technical Summary (in which the entire world map is painted beige, yellow or red for warming) looks like warming is projected every where. But apparently we are now to believe that Official Science has abandoned this idea. In Mr. Calamai’s words the new, improved claim is a generic “climate change” under which “some parts of the world will warm and others cool, under certain assumptions” (his emphasis.) Talk about moving the goal posts! This hypothesis is meaningless. It could never be empirically tested since any change at all, even opposite events, can be equally cited as supporting evidence.


If this is what “climate change” really means, then sensible debate is over. To think we went to all the work of writing a book to debunk global warming, only to find that its proponents had retreated off the field. And now we’re being criticized for saying the IPCC is still even worried about global warming. It’s hard to keep up.


That being the case we can scarcely be criticized for not presenting the pro-warming side in greater detail. And we wonder if Mr. Calamai has ever laid the “one-sided” charge on Environment Canada or the IPCC. After all, we aren’t the ones who sent full-colour booklets telling one side of the story to households across Canada, or put frightening ads on national TV showing melting icebergs and drought-ravaged fields. Nor do we have multimillion-dollar budgets to produce glossy reports for international distribution telling one side of the story, nor the institutional muscle to summon world leaders and the international media to one-sided briefings. We don’t, they do: so they can make their own case. We make ours. It’s a suitable division of labour, even if some folks complain it seems to give us an unfair advantage.




New Report Undermines Climate Change Claims (Marshall Institute, 041207)


Key scientific questions remain unanswered.


7th December 2004: As the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) begins in Buenos Aires this week - the first COP since the ratification of the Kyoto protocol - scientists have published new research that calls into question many of the scientific assumptions driving global climate change policy.


The report, produced by the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington DC and the Scientific Alliance in London, suggests that calls for global action on climate change are often based on poor or uncertain science. In particular, the report sets out nineteen key questions and assumptions underpinning the climate change debate and global climate policy, highlighting a number of important areas where scientific uncertainty remains, as well as those where sound scientific evidence throws the Kyoto process into doubt.


Mark Adams, Director of the Scientific Alliance, said: “The debate over the state of climate science and what it tells us about past and future climate has been going on for at least 15 years. It is not close to a conclusion, in spite of assertions to the contrary. The purpose of our paper is to subject the fundamentals of climate change science to the highest level of scientific scrutiny and to highlight those areas where further research is still needed.”


William O’Keefe, President of the George C. Marshall Institute, said: “Climate change science has fallen victim to heated political and media rhetoric and as a consequence, the quality of science and rigors of the scientific process have suffered. The result is extensive misunderstanding over what we know about the climate system and what influences it, and the impact of human activity on future climate. The world will be ill served if global climate policy, planned out at events such as COP10, continues to be driven by politicized science instead of scientific facts and reality. The aim of our paper is to go some way towards restoring accuracy and clarity to the debate.”


There are key issues that must be better understood if policy is to more closely match current knowledge levels. Examples of issues that are not adequately understood in the climate debate include:


- The assertion that there is a direct causal relationship between increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other green house gases, and increased temperature – during the 20th century, greenhouse gases CO2 rose steadily, while temperatures rose fell and rose in a pattern that showed no direct relation to increased greenhouse gases.


- Whether global warming over the past century is unique to the past 1000 years or longer – the IPCC Third Assessment Report conclusion that the warming of the 20th century is unique to at least the past 1000 years was based on a study (by Mann, et al.) that has been shown to be incorrect by three studies recently published in peer-reviewed literature. These studies show that many parts of the world have experienced warmer temperatures at some time during the last 1000 years than they did during the later part on the 20th century.


- The influence of the sun on global climate – new studies indicate that changes in the Sun’s magnetic field may be responsible for shorter-term changes in climate, including for much of the 20th century.


- The influence of human activity on the possibility of abrupt climate change – all available evidence indicates that ‘ice ages’ are caused by changes in the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface rather than changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.


- The accuracy of climate change modelling – the estimates from current climate change models are highly uncertain and large differences between the results from different modelling methods remain. No climate model has been scientifically validated


- Understanding about major climate processes and their importance in terms of understanding future climate change - key uncertainties about the influence of ocean circulation, the hydrological (water) cycle, cloud formation and the properties of aerosols on the climate system remain. The cumulative effect of these and other uncertainties in our understanding of the climate system is an inability to accurately model the climate system and therefore accurately project future climate.


The nineteen questions addressed by the report are as follows:


1. How is the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) determined and how

accurate are the measurements?

2. How much of today’s atmosphere is CO2?

3. What has been the history of atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

4. Do we know why CO2 concentrations are rising?

5. What do we know about the relation between increases in the atmospheric

concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and temperature?

6. If temperature changes cannot be correlated with the increase in atmospheric

concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, what is causing them?

7. What influence does the Sun have on global climate?

8. What is known with a high degree of certainty about the climate system and human

influence on it?

9. What major climate processes are uncertain and how important are these processes to

understanding future climate?

10. What tools are available to separate the effects of the different drivers that contribute to

climate change?

11. How accurate are climate models?

12. What is the basis for forecasts of large temperature increases and adverse climate

impacts between 1990 and 2100?

13. How accurate are the parameters used in climate models?

14. How well have models done in “back-casting” past climate?

15. Is global warming over the past century unique in the past 1000 years of longer?

16. How much does the global climate vary naturally?

17. What do we know about the extent of human influence on climate? To what extent has

temperature increase since 1975 been the result of human activities?

18. Could climate change abruptly?

19. Will sea level rise abruptly?