Date sent: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 12:37:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: Benny J Peiser <>
Priority: NORMAL


OF THE MILLENNIUM (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996), Damian
Thompson describes how the invention of the atom bomb at the end of
WWII gave birth to a new, secular form of apocalypticism. Ever
since that time, the threat of man-made global disaster has (often
unconsciously) replaced many traditional End-time beliefs of
Western thought - at least among many 'enlightened' non-believers.

"The agents of destruction this time were pollution, global
warming and the hole in the ozone layer. As with nuclear weapons,
the danger may have been real enough: but there were also signs
that an ancient dynamic had reestablished itself. The Green lobby
invariably talked as if the process of decline was accelerating."

Over the past 20 years, the scientific (and political) controversy
about whether or not we are heading for catastrophic 'global
warming' has had an enormous impact on the public mind, on the
emergence of 'New Age' cults and Green movements and on policy
making in general. Some critics even blame the Western world for
promoting a 'global warming' policy in order to head off the
growing challenge by the booming, new industrialised countries in
many parts of the former 'Third World'.

From a scientific perspective, concerns about our environmental
future has also triggered an increasing number of research projects
about sudden climate changes and ecological disasters during
mankind's past. Interestingly, findings in Greenland ice cores,
ancient tree rings and pollen cores have revealed that such climate
catastrophes did occur at various stages of the Holocene - long
before the invention of the internal combustion engine, mind you.

In a recently published statement ("World Scientists' Warning to
Humanity"), over 1,670 scientists, including 104 Nobel laureates,
have expressed their growing concerns about global warming and
other environmental stresses which - unchecked - could lead to
disaster [the statement was published in SKEPTIC 5:1 (1997)
together with an excellent assessment of this and other
environmental doomsday-predictions].

Prominent pessimists such as Steven Schneider and Paul Ehrlich
claim that by 2050 human-induced emissions will have doubled the
current concentration of carbon-dioxide and predict that this will
inevitably lead to disastrous temperature changes (occurring at 10
to 50 times the ongoing rate) with catastrophic ecological and
economic affects. Other scholars, such as optimist Julian Simon,
emphasise that billions of people around the world (with the
previous exception of the communist countries) have been
experiencing continuously growing living, health and nutrition
standards since WWII - and that in spite of all predictions of
ecological doom and economic decline.

So, how reliable are the predictions of catastrophic global
warming? And how real is this threat to social order,
economic stability and world peace? A new study by a team of
scholars from the University of Washington in Seattle suggests that
some of the computer simulations, on which many of the doom-laden
forecasts are based, may have to be revised. (For more detailed
information, please contact Professor Peter Hobbs, University of
Washington, Seattle).

Benny J Peiser

from: THE SUNDAY TIMES, 8 June 1997


by Sean Hargrave

Scientists will have to rewrite the computer simulations used to
predict the extent of global warming, according to a team of
pollution researchers,

The team, from the University of Washington in Seattle, believes
its research will prompt a rethink of why we are not experiencing
the significant rises in temperature that high levels of
carbon-dioxide emissions should be causing.

The explanation that has been generally accepted in the past few
years is that sulphur in the atmosphere forms a shield that
reflects heat from the sun. Industrial pollution and volcanic ash
introduce sulphur compounds as well as the carbon dioxide that is
blamed for global warming. The sulphur molecules are believed to
form a thin sheen (sic) around the earth which reflects solar
radiation, cooling the planet. This "shield" is credited with
slowing the rise in the atmosphere's temperature. Ironically, one
pollutant - sulphur - is thought to be saving us from the damage
caused by another - carbon dioxide.

One of the main reasons why the early 1990s saw the smallest
increase in atmospheric temperatures for many years has been
largely put down to the huge quantities of sulphur particles spewed
into the atmosphere when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines
in 1991.

On the basis that carbon-dioxide emissions could be doing far more
damage than they appear to, governments are being persuaded to meet
in Kyoto, Japan, in December to discuss the impact of global
warming and set limits on the amount of carbon dioxide each country
is allowed to emit.

Now the theories have been thrown into doubt by the Seattle team.
Their research has shown that if the industrial east coast of
America is typical, computer predictions will have to be revised.

The team flew an aircraft fitted with scientific equipment over a
large industrial area that included New York, Washington and much
of the Virginia coastline. Analysis of air samples taken on
different occasions at up to 10,000ft showed that although sulphur
particles were present, carbon particles (soot) were dominant.

THis is important because whereas sulphur reflects solar radiation,
carbon absorbs it. If carbon particles are predominant in
pollution, there ought to be a net warming effect - but, as that
has not happened, the "sulphor shield" theory must be wrong.

Peter Hobbs, professor of atmospheric sciences at the university,
says that it has serious implications for climate prediction. "I
guess, in a sense, you could say it's back to the drawing board,"
he says. "We've only got data from one region, but if it proves to
be typical, then we're going to find that the computer simulations
we all use are not nearly complex enough. You can't rely on them to
be accurate if they don't have the right programming.

"As scientists, we already understand the greenhouse effect. What
we're know finding is that the way the earth seems to be able to
regulate its own temperature is proving to be incredibly complex.
We simply don't understand all of it yet." [...]

The potential dominance of carbon was "among several factors not
considered" in research carried out by the [Hadley] Center two
years ago that, alongside other countries' findings, went towards
the 1995 report of climate change. This will be debated in Kyoto
and acted on by the United Nations Climate Change Convention.

John Mitchell. Hadley's head of climate-change modeling, agrees
that the more realistic the data programmed into a computer, the
better its predictions will be, but he predicts that it will only
make a small difference to Hadley's forecasts because there are
"several other uncertanties" that can affect accuracy.

Hobbs and Mitchell are agreed that the findings should not prompt
the authorities to underestimate the problem of global warming.
Hobbs believes that in addition to computer simulations taking note
of the greater complexity of global warming, further research into
the earth's ability to cool itself is needed with particular
attention in forming clouds that shade the planet and reflect solar

CCCMENU CCC for 1997