"But what happens when that felt need to 'act now' crashes into the
enormous reality check that 60, 70, or even 90 percent reductions are
needed in the output of greenhouse gases to make a significant
difference? One possible reaction, of course, is to wait, allow better
technologies to develop organically rather than forcing the pace, while
gathering more data. [...] This raises the question: has the fearful
interpretation of global warming gathered enough momentum to force
the pace, even at an economic price to Western economies, or will
realpolitik win the day? We should have a better idea soon."
  --John Gillot, Spiked Science, May 2001

"In the face of such disagreement, it is difficult-for scientists
and nonscientists alike-to decide who is right. Should Lindzen be
discounted as some lunatic on the fringe? Or is it foolish to wish too
hard for a consensus? Perhaps what's needed is a dispassionate look at the
--Fred Guterl, Newsweek International, 23 July 2001

"The debate about global warming is usually talked about as a
problem within science or as symptomatic of the changing relationship
between humanity and nature. But global warming can also be seen as
a social and an economic problem, which can be analysed in terms of the
costs and benefits with which it is associated - and economics adds a
radically different perspective to debate on the global warming thesis."
--James Harkin, Spiked Science, 13 July 2001

"Ice core samples from Greenland have also been cross-referenced
with major weather- altering events such as volcanic eruptions. If all
of this sounds straightforward, none of it is. For example, wind can
change the chemical composition of ice, which in turn alters a section of
the ice core and skews data. This can lead to inaccurate conclusions or pose
questions that lead scientists in the wrong direction."
--Joseph Frey, National Post, 12 July 2001

"We have a clock out there that decides that we will have long
glacial periods and then short warm periods. We are now living in a
warm period and they only last about 10,000 years. We have already had
these 10,000 years, so where are we heading?"
--Sigfus Johnsen, University of Copenhagen, 12 July 2001

"I added clouds to his model, and of course, they blew his results
right up. He was sure I'd messed up something in my calculations. So we
spent the summer figuring out that, no, my calculations were right
and clouds were that powerful. That was 25 years ago and we still
haven't figured clouds out."
-- Bruce Wielicki, NASA Langley Research Center, 12 July

    National Post, 12 July 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Harvey Leifert <>

    The Christian Science Monitor, 12 July 2001

    Greening Earth Society, 10 July 2001

    Jonathan Shanklin <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

     Andrew Yee <>

     Newsweek, 23 July 2001

     CNN, 12 July 2001

     CO2 Science, 18 July 2001

     CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001

     CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001

     CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001


     Spiked Science, 13 July 2001

     Spiked Science, May 2001

     The Sunday Times, 15 July 2001


From National Post, 12 July 2001

Scientists brave a forlorn wasteland in Greenland to pry data from ancient
snowflakes about how fast the Earth's temperature could change. The warm
spell might be over

By Joseph Frey
National Post

KANGERLUSSUAQ, Greenland - Landing on the world's longest ice runway at
Greenland's Summit research station, the back of the LC-130H Hercules opens
up half a metre above the ice. A pallet carrying two snowmobiles, sleds and
gear is pushed out on to the skiway while the aircraft is still moving.

Specialists in flying to remote research stations in both Greenland and the
Antarctic, the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard
delivers critically needed supplies to polar scientists. Contracted by the
National Science Foundation (NSF), the 109th supports scientists who are
engaged in a wide array of polar research, focusing primarily on
understanding the processes and impact of global climatic change.

At the Summit, it's early summer. The sun stays up for 24 hours and jokes
revolve around staying out until it gets dark. With wind chill, it is a
balmy -30C.

Everyone feels humbled by the ice cap's expanse. The glare off the ice is
intense enough to sunburn your retinas in two hours.

All around the camp are bamboo poles with flags. These navigational aids are
used whenever a storm blows up and visibility drops, sometimes to zero.

The region is so isolated and desolate that scientists stationed here have
stopped bringing shotguns: even polar bears won't come here.

The Summit's research station sits on an ice sheet that is an incredible 3.2
kilometres thick, with the bottom layers dating back 130,000 years.

The Summit's high elevation and frigid temperatures lower the barometric
pressure, making it feel as if we are more than 3,600 metres above sea
level. This increases the risk of hypoxia, or altitude sickness, which
afflicts one of the nurses who faints and is quickly administered oxygen.

The actual elevation of 3,250 metres and the virtually pollution-free
environment provide excellent conditions for conducting atmospheric tests.

Ideal as the Summit camp and its Danish counterpart, known as North GRIP,
may be for scientific research, they are logistical nightmares to keep

It is here that the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing comes
into play.

"The primary reason that we use the 109th is that they have decades of
experience flying into polar regions," says Peter West, of the NSF's Office
of Polar Programs.

"The 109th is the only organization in the world that flies ski-equipped
heavy airlift aircraft. Since all of our remote sites only have ice runways,
this is of prime importance to us. Without the LC-130s, meaningful
large-scale science could not be carried out in either Greenland or the
Antarctic. Without research in both places, we cannot fully understand
climatic change."

At 2.1 million square kilometres, Greenland is the world's largest island.
An ice sheet covers 85% of its land mass, the second-largest such sheet in
the world after Antarctica's. Greenland's ice sheet is extremely important
for climatological studies because it dates back to the last ice age, while
continuing to have a major influence on the northern hemisphere's climate.

Funded by the NSF, the Summit research camp was originally set up in 1989 to
drill for ice cores. Activities at the Summit now also include atmospheric
observation and chemical analysis of snow. The NSF, through its Arctic
System Science (ARCSS) program, is exploring how the arctic climatic system
fits into the Earth's overall system.

To better prepare for future climatic change, ARCSS is also trying to
lengthen the effective time scale of predicting environmental change, from
seasons to centuries.

A process known as ice coring can provide crucial seasonal-to-centuries data
if good samples are recovered.

Like cores taken from trees, ice cores can be read and used to reconstruct
climatic history. Each year, about 81 centimetres of snow falls at the
Summit site. Due to year-round cold temperatures, very little of it melts.
These yearly layers of snow weigh down the previous year's snowfall, forming
a compressed layer of snow. Each layer eventually turns into a visibly
distinct layer of ice, depending on whether the snow turned to glacial ice
during summer or winter.

As each year's layer of Summit snow turns into ice, it freezes into a
chronological cross section, which reveals the atmospheric history of much,
if not all, of the northern hemisphere.

Each layer brings to light new atmospheric information.

Every layer reveals data such as the air temperature in which a snow crystal
formed while falling to Earth.

During their decent to Earth these ancient snow crystals collected particles
that were floating in the atmosphere. These particles, along with
centuries-old encased bubbles of air that are free from man-made pollutants,
are being catalogued for further analysis.

Ice core samples from Greenland have also been cross-referenced with major
weather-altering events such as volcanic eruptions.

If all of this sounds straightforward, none of it is. For example, wind can
change the chemical composition of ice, which in turn alters a section of
the ice core and skews data. This can lead to inaccurate conclusions or pose
questions that lead scientists in the wrong direction.

Outside of Kangerlussuaq, on top of a snow-free, moss-covered hill with
muskox lazily grazing in the sun-drenched valley below, Sigfus Johnsen, a
professor of geophysics at the University of Copenhagen, reflects upon his
32 years of ice-core research. A veteran of ice-core drilling at both Summit
and North GRIP, he is one of the world's leading experts in the analysis of
ice cores and their relationship to the processes and impact of climatic

"Our climate has the ability to change very very rapidly," says Johnsen.
"Within 10 to 20 years, it can go from a very cold stage, at least here in
the North, into a rather warm stage and back again. This was a shock to
everyone, because it means a potential danger to our society if it happens
again. And it will happen again, this is for damn sure."

Mounting scientific evidence suggests that, as a rule, the Earth is a cold
planet. According to Johnsen, greenhouse gases certainly shape our current
climate, but we do not know if further increases will ultimately lead to a
warmer or colder planet.

"We have a clock out there that decides that we will have long glacial
periods and then short warm periods. We are now living in a warm period and
they only last about 10,000 years. We have already had these 10,000 years,
so where are we heading?" Johnsen says, reflectively.

The core being drilled at North GRIP may in part answer his question.
Drilling should be completed by this July. Johnsen and his colleagues hope
to find good samples of ice from the last warm period that show how this
planet's climate evolved during that interval.

Scientists need to know how warm periods end. Are they unstable, with warm
and cold fluctuations, or is the transition to a colder environment a stable
one? And if stable, do they occur over decades or millennia?

As we swelter in this summer's heat, these are the questions the scientists
working on ice coring projects in both Greenland and the Antarctic are sure
to be mulling over.

Copyright © 2001 National Post Online


From Andrew Yee <>

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

James Hathaway, (480) 965-6375,

Philip Christensen, 480-965-7105

July 17, 2001

Watch Global Warming Happen in Real Time -- on Mars

Though there has been a fair amount of evidence that the Earth's atmosphere
is undergoing global warming, the process is slow enough that there are
plenty of skeptics, including some very influential people, who argue that
it may not be happening at all.

Global climate change does occur, however, and sometimes so quickly that you
can watch it happening. Just look at our neighbor, Mars: within the last
month, the global atmospheric temperature of Mars has increased by
approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to data being received by the
Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor

The cause of this sudden shift is a giant dust storm that has snowballed and
now has enveloped almost the entire planet, absorbing a lot of the Sun's
energy in the upper atmosphere.

"It started out as a large dust storm in the southern latitudes in late
June," said Arizona State University's Korrick Professor of Geology Philip
Christensen, the principal investigator for TES. "The dust trapped sunlight
and heated the atmosphere locally. As this warm air flowed to regions where
the air was still cool it generated winds which raised more dust into the

"By the end of the first week in July, most of the planet was enveloped and
our readings of atmospheric temperature had increased by about 30 degrees

TES is an instrument designed to take detailed readings of energy emissions
in the infrared range (heat energy) to aid in studying Mars' geology and
atmosphere. A movie showing the instrument's readings over the last month,
tracking the expanding dust storm and the accompanying increase in
atmospheric temperature, is available on the web at:

Curiously, just as Earth's global warming may theoretically cause the
opposite thermal effect on some parts of the planet, so Mars' current heat
wave is likely to bring on a big chill further on down the road.

"In the end, the cloaking of the entire planet with dust is probably going
to cool down the surface of Mars significantly and ultimately shut this
entire weather system down again," said Christensen. "It's kind of like what
we imagine would happen with a nuclear winter on Earth."

In fact, Christensen points out, it was another global dust storm observed
on Mars in the early 1970's that gave astronomer Carl Sagan and others the
idea of the kind of catastrophic climate change that might be caused by a
global nuclear war.

"Mars' atmosphere is a much simpler system than Earth's," Christensen
cautions, "since it is much thinner and lacks most of the water that we have
in ours, trapping energy and moderating changes.

"Still, it provides us with an interesting model for how global climate
changes can occur, albeit much more quickly than on our planet. Nonetheless,
some large scale changes here could be abrupt as well."

A NASA/JPL press release on the current martian dust storm is available at:


From Andrew Yee <>

Lynn Chandler
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. July 16,
(Phone: 301/286-2806)

Release No. 01-68


A NASA satellite confirms that overturning in the North Atlantic Ocean -- a
process where surface water sinks and deep water rises due to varying water
densities -- speeds up and slows down by 20 to 30 percent over 12 to 14 year
cycles. Scientists previously believed that a change of this magnitude would
take hundreds of years, rather than close to a decade.

The findings were made possible by TOPEX/Poseidon satellite data that
measured sea surface height in the North Atlantic.

Sirpa Hakkinen of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., used
computer models to link sea surface height to natural cycles of overturning
in the North Atlantic. She found that when overturning increases, so does
the sea surface height, and vice versa.

As the Gulf Stream moves warm surface water from the equator north through
the Atlantic, the water cools, gets saltier due to evaporation and becomes
very dense. By the time it approaches the coast of Newfoundland, south of
Greenland, it becomes dense enough to sink. The current then slowly travels
in a kind of conveyor belt in the deep ocean back to the equator where it
heats, becomes less salty and rises. This process of sinking and rising
water is called overturning.

"The close association of the sea surface height and changes in overturning
provides a simple method for assessing the state of the ocean," Hakkinen

The study, which appears in the July 15 issue of Journal of Geophysical
Research-Oceans, supports the idea that ocean overturning drives the decadal
cycles of the Gulf Stream current, as opposed to winds. With careful
modeling simulations, Hakkinen extrapolated data back to the 1950s to find
overturning shifts on a near decadal time scale.

"These kinds of occurrences can be expected every 12 to 14 years," she said.
"It appears that in the last 50 years there have been three large-scale
changes in the overturning."

When a lot of warm water moves northward, the overturning process initially
speeds up, and that pulls the current along at a faster rate, and increases
the sea surface height along the current. But eventually, as warm water
starts to build up in the north near Newfoundland, it has a negative effect
on overturning. When enough warm water collects up north, it becomes less
dense, and slows down the circulation, which in turn lowers the sea surface
height. The cycle starts anew as the warm water that has pooled north
eventually cools again and begins to sink.

Using TOPEX/Poseidon sea surface height data from 1992 to 2000, Hakkinen
found that between the winters of 1995 and 1996, sea surface height over the
Gulf Stream decreased by about 12 centimeters. She suggests that this large,
abrupt change in sea surface height can be associated with a slow-down of
overturning from peaks in the early 90s.

By closely examining these heights, Hakkinen's results showed that the rate
of overturn not only increases and decreases according to near-decadal
cycles, but that rate varies by as much as 20 to 30 percent from the annual

"They are very large changes," Hakkinen said. "People have not wanted to
believe that you can have these kinds of changes over a decadal time scale.
They want to think about these changes over hundreds to thousands of years.
But in fact, very large changes can occur over decadal time scales."

"The altimeter has provided a useful tool to study and monitor the ocean
circulation on spatial scales from 100 to 1000's of kilometers and temporal
scales from days to years and beyond with the increasing record length," she

The Topex/Poseidon satellite was launched on August 10, 1992. A joint effort
between NASA and France's National Center for Space Studies, this satellite
mission measures global sea level every 10 days. This mission allows
scientists to chart the height of the seas across ocean basins with an
accuracy of less than 4 centimeters (1.5 inches), affording a unique view of
ocean phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina. NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory manages the mission.

More information on Topex/Poseidon can be found at:

Additional information and graphics to support this release can be found at:


From Harvey Leifert <>

American Geophysical Union
Geophysical Research Letters
Highlights of This Issue - 1 August 2001

6. Major global cooling followed 19th century volcanoes

Volcanic impact is a key factor in short-to-medium term climatic variations.
Chenoweth ["Two major volcanic cooling episodes derived from global marine
air temperature, AD 1807-1827"] uses
a new data set of global marine air temperature data (1807-1827), consisting
of more than 43,000 marine air temperature observations from ships of
opportunity, to show the impact of volcanic eruptions around 1809 (location
unknown) and in 1815 (Tambora, Indonesia). Based on a sudden cooling in
Malaysian temperature data, the author dates the circa-1809 eruption to
March-June 1808. The annual temperature anomalies in the tropics are lowest
in 1809 (-0.84 degrees Celsius [1.51 degrees Fahrenheit]) and 1816 (-0.81
degrees Celsius [1.46 degrees Fahrenheit]). For the 50 degrees North-40
degrees South latitude band, maximum cooling was in 1809 (-0.59 degrees
Celsius [1.06 degrees Fahrenheit]) and in 1816 (-0.50 degrees Celsius [0.9
degrees Fahrenheit]). The author argues that the data confirm that Tambora
and the 1808 eruption produced the greatest volcanic-induced surface cooling
of the Earth in the past two centuries.

8. Large earthquakes also follow the law

For many years, there has been a debate about why large earthquakes do not
appear to fit the scaling laws for smaller earthquakes. This observation
would seem to imply that the
physics of large earthquakes is somehow fundamentally different from that of
smaller events. Shaw and Scholz ["Slip-length scaling in large earthquakes:
Observations and theory and implications for earthquake physics"] bring
together recently compiled observations of large aspect ratio earthquakes
and a new 3-D dynamic earthquake model to show that the larger earthquakes
do, in fact, follow the same scaling laws as the smaller events. These new
results generate renewed confidence in using observations of more common
smaller earthquakes to predict the effects of the rare and damaging great

II. Authors referenced in the Highlights (in order of appearance):

6. Hartmut H. Hellmer, Aike Beckman, Alfred-Wegener Inst. for
Polar and Marine Resarch, Bremerhaven, Germany.

8. Norel Rimbu, Gerrit Lobmann, Thomas Felis, Jurgen Patzold,
Bremen U., Dept. of Geosciences, Bremen, Germany.

III. Notes, including ordering information

Authors are listed above, with institutional affiliations, in the order in
which their papers appear in these Highlights. This information is not
repeated in this form in GRL itself. The Highlights and the papers to which
they refer are not under AGU embargo.

Journalists and public information officers of educational and scientific
institutions (only) may receive one or more of the papers cited in the
Highlights; send a message to Dawn McGee at, indicating which one(s). Include your name, the name of your
publication, and your fax number. State whether you prefer to receive the
paper(s) as PDF attachments by
email or as a fax.


From The Christian Science Monitor, 12 July 2001

I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall,
I really don't know clouds at all.
- Joni Mitchell, singer-songwriter 

Clouds remain a weak point in scientists' ability to forecast climate

By Peter N. Spotts (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

During the summer of 1976, a dozen years before climate change burst on the
scene as a hot-button issue, climate scientist Bruce Wielicki saw the
future, and it was in clouds.

A grad student at the time, Dr. Wielicki was summering at the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, taking part in a 12-week
brainstorming session on climate.

At one point, he recalls, he teamed up with a climate modeler studying how
the Earth and atmosphere balance the energy they receive from the sun.
Wielicki had been working on a simple computer model to simulate the effect
changing sea-surface temperatures have on climate, including cloudiness. The
two decided to see what would happen if they linked their models.

"I added clouds to his model, and of course, they blew his results right
up," Wielicki says, laughing. "He was sure I'd messed up something in my
calculations. So we spent the summer figuring out that, no, my calculations
were right and clouds were that powerful."

"That was 25 years ago," he says, "and we still haven't figured clouds out."

Indeed, Joni Mitchell's '60s-era lyrics still resonate with climate
scientists today as they probe the mysteries of clouds and their impact on
Earth's climate system.

"We've made a lot of progress" in understanding and modeling clouds and
their impact on climate, acknowledges Jeffrey Kiehl, who heads the climate
modeling section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Colo. "But in the last five years, progress has flattened out in trying to
sort out cloud processes." Clouds are still a weak point, he says, in
reducing the uncertainties in climate forecasts.

Small clouds hard to gauge

Some of the challenges, he notes, lie in the nature of modeling itself. Many
of the key processes that take place in clouds occur on scales so small that
large climate models can't see them. As knowledge about these small-scale
processes grows, the potential to include them in models exists, researchers
say, but to do so would require an enormous increase in computing power. As
an alternative, researchers are using smaller-scale models that can
accurately capture features, important to events such as thunderhead
formation, and then using those results as reality checks for how
larger-scale models treat such phenomena.
Challenges also lie in understanding basic cloud processes, such as factors
that influence where a cloud's base forms or what determines how high clouds
get, Dr. Kiehl says. "These are critical to understanding whether clouds
present a positive or negative feedback to the system" - essentially whether
they act to heat or cool the planet.

A thick layer of stratus clouds, for example, which can range from fog at
ground level to cloud masses a few hundred feet above the surface, typically
moderates daytime temperatures by reflecting most of the sunlight striking
them back into space.

High-flying cirrus clouds, on the other hand, can be thin enough to let
sunlight through while trapping heat that rises from Earth's surface.
Researchers note that when the sun is low on the horizon, sunlight can
strike the underside of high-latitude cirrus layers, which reflect that
radiation back toward Earth.

By some estimates, a 50 percent increase in cirrus-cloud cover could warm
the climate much more than a 50 percent increase in atmospheric carbon

In other cases, the challenge lies in more subtle interactions between
clouds and other constituents of the atmosphere.

Enough progress has been made on basic cloud processes, that to continue to
focus on them "may be looking under the streetlight for the lost keys," says
James Hansen, a climate researcher at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York. He holds
that the "real uncertainty lies in the effect aerosols have on clouds."

Aerosols are the wild card

Aerosols are tiny particles of material such as sulfates, dust, sea salt,
and soot, and often they are tied to industrial pollution. During the late
1980s and early '90s, an appreciation for their direct effect on climate
grew as scientists came to understand that aerosols can reflect incoming
solar radiation back into space. Moreover, scientists had long known that
aerosols act as seeds around which cloud droplets can form. By increasing
droplet size and reducing precipitation, aerosols can help clouds retain
their moisture, boosting a cloud's ability to reflect sunlight.
But recent studies have shown that aerosols and soot can have the opposite
effect as well. An ambitious international experiment in 1998 and 1999
combined data from aircraft, satellites, ships, and ground stations to track
the effect of aerosols and soot on cloud formation over the Indian Ocean.

Dubbed INDOEX, the experiment showed how soot particles can absorb sunlight
and re-radiate it as heat. That added heat can raise air temperatures
sufficiently to burn off nascent clouds before they fully form.

In addition, says Wielicki, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Langley
Research Center in Hampton, Va., the study also showed that when a cloud
moves into a thick layer of soot, the soot within the cloud joins forces
with the cloud's water droplets to trap heat, changing the distribution of
heat in the atmosphere's boundary layer, which in turn affects cloud

Beyond the impact of aerosols lies a need to get a better handle on tropical
clouds, particularly tropical cirrus clouds, researchers say. Indeed, this
class of cloud represents a priority for cloud research, notes Bruce
Albrecht, a professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the
University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in
Coral Gables, Fla.

Tropical cirrus clouds typically form as thunderheads, transferring heat
from the ocean to the atmosphere, and grow to heights of 12 kilometers (7
miles) or more. At those heights, high-altitude winds shear their tops into
an anvil shape, then extend them until they become cirrus clouds. Their
water droplets will have turned to ice crystals.

"These layers are relatively thin, sometimes so thin you can't see them from
the ground. But they are still important" to the Earth's radiation budget,
Dr. Albrecht says.

Natural thermostat?

How they respond to changing climate, however, has been the subject of
debate for years. Some researchers have proposed that processes in the
tropics may regulate cirrus formation in a way that serves as a natural

A paper published earlier this year in the Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society, for example, proposes that when temperatures rise in
cloudy regions of the tropical Pacific, cirrus formation drops off, allowing
more heat to escape into space. The paper's lead author, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen, and his
colleagues suggest this as a plausible explanation for trends in cloud
formation and temperatures they saw in data from satellites and buoys. They
have dubbed it "the iris effect."

Others, however, suggest that newer data may indicate that the region does
not exhibit a self-regulating mechanism.

Researchers hope to get a better handle on this and other issues through
NASA-funded experiments scheduled for the next few years. In 2002,
researchers are slated to study tropical cirrus formation from thunderheads
over southern Florida, in a project dubbed CRYSTAL-FACE. That effort also is
designed to serve as a warm-up to another study that will focus on the
Western Pacific.

Copyright 2001, The Christian Science Monitor


From the Greening Earth Society, 10 July 2001

Publication of the quarterly climate journal World Climate Review began
about ten years ago when we noticed every run-up to an international
conference on climate was heralded by a spate of climate research reports
intended to herd policymakers toward draconian climate policies. The problem
became so acute during the Clinton/Gore Administration we launched the
twice-monthly World Climate Report to review the research as it emerged. The
quickening pace eventually gave rise to the "Virtual Climate Alert." Now, in
the run-up to COP6 bis in Bonn, Germany, press reports, rather than hard
research, emerge. The Washington Post's July 9th publication of foreign
correspondent Scott Wilson's "Warming Shrinks Peruvian Glaciers" is an

Wilson's story features Benjamin Morales, someone he dubs "the dean of
Peru's glaciologists," who blames industrialism for the glaciers' demise.
Describing Peru's glaciers as the world's most sensitive thermometers,
Morales claims, "The temperature was rising very slowly until 1980, and
then" - as described by Wilson - he sweeps his arm up at a steep angle.

We downloaded the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data and
discovered that the surface temperature history for Peru since 1900 doesn't
support Morales' claim (see Figure 1). In fact, since 1980, Peru's
temperatures haven't increased at all notwithstanding Morales' dramatic
gesture. The fact is - and you'd think the dean of glaciologists would know
it - Peru's glaciers have been retreating for at least 150 years.

The IPCC data show how twenty-five years ago, in 1976, there was a jump in
temperature. But in the time both before and after that single-year shift
there is no statistically significant temperature change. The 1976
temperature jump is the subject of many scientific papers, where it is
referred to as the "Great Pacific Climate Shift." So far no researcher has
pinpointed its cause.

If you are tempted to believe that global warming may be to blame, keep in
mind climate models produce rather smooth temperature increases - not sudden
jumps - when increasing levels of greenhouse gases are fed into them. So if
you choose to believe that greenhouse gases are to blame for the Pacific
Climate Shift, then you've just undermined the computer models upon which
predictions of apocalypse rely.

To help bolster his story's premise, Wilson cites Ohio State University's
Lonnie Thompson's estimate that many of the world's ice caps could disappear
in the next 15 years while at the same time noting the existence of
unspecified dissenting opinion. "Other scientists say this is implausibly
fast," he reports. But, for the sake of argument, what kind of change in
temperature will it take to melt Peru's glaciers in fifteen years?

First, assume air temperature decreases about 4°F for each 1,000 feet of
elevation. Next, assume the average temperature at sea level in Peru is
about 72°F in summer. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that
it will take warming of about 20°F to raise the average summer temperature
above freezing at an elevation of 15,000 feet. That would still leave a lot
more room - another mile of elevation - for snow accumulation, because many
Peruvian peaks exceed 20,000 feet. Then, too, rising temperatures might
simply displace the snow accumulation to higher elevations. No matter. There
isn't a single climate change scenario that calls for this kind of dramatic
temperature rise. Not one.

But what seems odd about Wilson's coverage of this story is his tally of
anticipated terrible consequences. He points out how, in recent decades,
glacier melt has made available more running water, more electricity, and
higher agricultural yield and production throughout the region. He then
surmises this may only be temporary, that hard times will return once the
glaciers disappear. His reporting would benefit from conversations with a

Peru's glaciers are caused by a combination of precipitation and cold
temperature. Because the geometry of the Andes isn't likely to change
anytime soon, there always will be enhanced "upslope" precipitation (whether
it is frozen or not), all year. People in California have adapted to similar
circumstances by building dams and storing water, and in the process,
creating an agricultural paradise.

Morales opines this isn't possible in Peru. The dams would be enormously
expensive because they would be located in "dangerous seismic zones." It's
difficult to imagine a much more dangerous seismic zone than California or
Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental (analogous to California's Sierras and
Peru's Andes), where a massive series of dams has been constructed in a
seismically active area. The result is agricultural production rivaling

Wilson and Morales seem unable to see what is really happening as Peru's
glaciers melt. Peruvians are adapting, just as most people do in the face of
ever-present change. New hydroelectric plants will bring more power to the
more people, increase the availability of running water in homes (with
significant health benefits), and make possible two large irrigation
projects expected to raise living standards for the region's more than
160,000 farm families. Granted, advance planning is required so that in
years when stream flow is low, water can be released from reservoirs to
maintain volume. But such practices are nearly universal.

Not to miss a lick, though, Wilson's coverage of global warming offers the
Peruvian trump card - El Niño. As Figure 1 reveals, Peru's temperature
history is dominated by El Niño events. Notice the temperature spikes in
1997, 1983, and 1972, each a major El Niño event. Wilson deems El Niño "the
culprit" for the rapid glacial melting and notes, "Many scientists blame
[increased frequency and intensity of El Niño] on atmospheric disruption
caused by pollution." The scientist who primarily is responsible for the
notion that global warming makes El Niños worse is the National Center for
Atmospheric Research's Kevin Trenberth. He has stated that "there's got to
be a connection," even though none has been found, not even using climate

The latest version of the Hadley Centre's general circulation model reveals
no change in El Niño patterns when it is run under increasing levels of
greenhouse gases. This is another example where faith in global warming
undermines the very climate modeling that makes it out to be such an
imminent problem.

Figure 2 shows the five-year running mean of the Southern Oscillation Index
(SOI), a common measure of El Niño, since 1872. Negative values of the SOI
are associated with El Niño events - the more negative the value, the
stronger the event. We use a five-year running mean to better capture the
longer-term variations in El Niño that would indicate whether its strength
or frequency is changing. While the 1990s were marked by a rather unusual
period of El Niño activity, the "naughties" (2000-2010) are seeing a return
to normal conditions (see World Climate Report, Volume 6, Number 21 or for more
details). Therefore, if El Niños lead to higher rates of glacial melting,
their influence should have declined in the past several years.

End of a non-story, story.


From Jonathan Shanklin <>

Readers can find information about the monthly mean temperature at Antarctic
stations and various references to Antarctic temperature change at

Jonathan Shanklin
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, England


From Andrew Yee <>

ESA Science News

16 Jul 2001

Surfing and diving in the Earth's magnetosphere, Cluster celebrates one year
of science excellence in orbit

Space scientists around the world are today celebrating the first
anniversary of the European Space Agency's revolutionary Cluster mission to
explore near-Earth space and study the interaction between the Sun and
Earth. This groundbreaking mission began exactly one year ago, on 16 July
2000, when two of the four Cluster spacecraft were launched from Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Within a month, a second pair of identical satellites joined
them in similar orbits that pass over the Earth's poles.

After the most complex period of spacecraft commissioning ever undertaken
for any space mission -- including the verification and testing of 44
separate instruments and 64 boom deployment sequences -- full scientific
operations started on 1 February 2001.

Since then, the Cluster quartet has been carrying out the most comprehensive
exploration of the Earth's environment ever undertaken. For the first time,
scientists have been able to explore the magnetosphere -- the magnetic
bubble that surrounds the Earth -- with a flotilla of four identical

"Although Cluster has only been fully operational for five months, we have
already gathered a huge amount of new information about the Sun-Earth
connection," said Professor David Southwood, ESA Director of Science. "More
than 200 scientists around the world are currently analysing this remarkable
treasure trove of data."

"It has been a very challenging, but satisfying year," said Philippe
Escoubet, Cluster project scientist. "Cluster is a completely new type of scientific
mission, so it took us a while to find out how to get the best out of the
satellites and their suite of instruments. Now we are receiving exciting new
information about the magnetosphere and making new discoveries all the

By flying in a close, tetrahedral (lopsided pyramid) formation, the four
spacecraft have provided scientists with their first small-scale,
three-dimensional views of near-Earth space.

"Cluster's new three-dimensional 'picture' of the magnetosphere is rather
like looking at photos of an old familiar scene, but instead of the dull
black-and-white pictures, we now have the same view in brilliant colours,"
said Professor André Balogh of Imperial College, London, principal
investigator for the FGM experiment on Cluster.

Monitoring the magnetic shield around Spaceship Earth

Like a spacecraft orbiting another world, our Earth is trapped on an
everlasting journey around the Sun. During its eternal voyage, Spaceship
Earth is continuously exposed to the solar wind, a perpetual blast of plasma
(electrically charged particles) sweeping outwards from our nearest star.

Fortunately for us, the Earth is protected by a powerful magnetic field
which forces the supersonic solar wind to sweep around the planet. In the
process, the magnetic field is shaped into a gigantic teardrop that
typically extends approximately 65,000 km towards the Sun and more than two
million km -- five times the distance to the Moon -- in the opposite

However, a continuous struggle for supremacy rages as gusts in the solar
wind cause the magnetosphere to balloon in and out. The fluctuating fortunes
of the magnetic field are monitored by the Cluster flotilla as it flies
through different regions of this unpredictable teardrop -- the bow shock,
the magnetopause, the cusps and the tail.

On the sunward side of the Earth lies the bow shock, where particles of the
solar wind slam into the magnetosphere at a speed of about 400 km/s (around
1.5 million km per hour). This creates an enormous shock wave similar to a
sonic boom ahead of a supersonic aircraft.

The new three-dimensional view from Cluster reveals a fast-moving, complex
surface, in contrast to the motionless snapshots, frozen in time, provided
by previous spacecraft measurements. During their encounters with the bow
shock, the Cluster satellites have found that this turbulent boundary moves
through space at 5 to 6 km/s (about the same speed that the International
Space Station travels around the Earth).

Cluster has also provided the first confirmation of waves along the
magnetopause -- the outer limit of Earth's magnetic field. Until now, these
plasma waves have only existed in computer simulations, but the Cluster
spacecraft have surfed these waves and confirmed their existence. The speed
of the waves has been estimated at around 70 km/s -- equivalent to
travelling from London to Paris in 4.5 seconds.

One of the real surprises concerned the polar cusps -- 'windows' above the
northern and southern polar regions where the particles from the solar wind
can penetrate the magnetic shield. These cusps rapidly shift position due to
gusts in the solar wind. The Cluster quartet has shown that they pivot
through space at between 10 and 30 km/s -- the first time this motion has
been directly measured by spacecraft.

Closer to Earth, the mini-armada has flown through the plasmasphere -- a
doughnut-shaped region of dense plasma, mostly electrons and protons, that
lies between the Earth's two magnetic poles. By flying in formation through
the narrow part of the doughnut, Cluster has provided the best data yet on
its complex ingredients of particles, electric and magnetic fields.

Radio signals from lightning, auroras (the curtains of red and green light
that illuminate the polar skies) and particles that are trapped in the
Earth's radiation belts have also been detected by Cluster. The new data are
enabling scientists to find out where these signals originate and how they
travel through near-Earth space.

Most dramatic of all have been the Cluster observations of solar storms.
With the Sun now at maximum activity in its 11 year cycle, numerous powerful
sunstorms are expected to occur. When one of the biggest solar storms on
record began on 8 November 2000, instruments on Cluster were
used to monitor the dramatic changes around Spaceship Earth.

About 8 minutes after a huge cloud of hot gas, known as a Coronal Mass
Ejection (CME), was blasted from the Sun, the WHISPER instrument on Cluster
detected an intense radio emission. Several days later, when the CME arrived
at the Earth, it punched into the magnetosphere, pushing the magnetic shield
toward the planet and leaving the Cluster spacecraft exposed to the solar
wind, where they stayed for many hours.

The best is yet to come ...

The latest chapter in Cluster's exciting exploration began in June, when
ESA's intrepid flotilla began to explore the elongated magnetotail which
stretches far beyond the Moon. During the next few months, Cluster will cast
new light on this region where storms of high energy particles are
generated. When these particles arrive at the Earth, they can cause intense
auroras on the nightside of the Earth. A less attractive consequence is
their ability to cause power cuts, damage satellites and disrupt

"Cluster will provide us with a mass of new information about what takes
place inside this magnetic 'power station' and help us to find out what
generates such surges of energetic particles," said Dr. Escoubet.

"As we pass Cluster's first launch anniversary, we are all looking forward
to even more exciting results in the months ahead," he added. "The best is
yet to come."

For more information please contact:

Dr Philippe Escoubet
ESA Cluster Project Scientist
Tel: +31 71 565 3454


* Cluster first anniversary to be marked by presentation in Bristol
* Bristol and Cluster -- the link
* Cluster home page


[Image 1: ]
ESA's revolutionary Cluster mission is providing new insight into near-Earth
space and the interaction between the Sun and Earth.

[Image 2: ]
Cluster has provided the first confirmation of waves along the magnetopause.
Our planet is surrounded by a magnetic shield -- the magnetosphere -- which
protects the Earth from most of the charged particles that are blasted
across interplanetary space by explosions of the Sun.

In this image, the four Cluster spacecraft are flying in tetrahedral formation
in the vicinity of the magnetopause -- the outer boundary of the magnetosphere.
Here, one spacecraft (right) is still inside the magnetic field, one (centre)
is at the undulating magnetopause and the other two have passed into
interplanetary space.

Events such as this will take place on a regular basis over the next two years.
By comparing data from each member of the Cluster quartet, scientists are
gathering the first detailed, three-dimensional views of the most important
regions in the magnetosphere.

See also an animation
[ ]
illustrating how the four Cluster spacecraft can
measure different parts of the waves as they move through the magnetopause.

[Image 3: ]
The fluctuating fortunes of the magnetic field surrounding Earth are
monitored by the Cluster flotilla. The Earth is protected by a powerful
magnetic field which forces the solar wind to sweep around the planet. In
the process, the magnetic field is shaped into a gigantic teardrop that
typically extends about 65,000 km towards the Sun and more than two million
km in the opposite direction. This region is the magnetosphere and is bounded
by the magnetopause. Above the magnetopause is a layer of turbulent magnetic
field (the magnetosheath) which is itself bounded by the bow shock. The polar
cusps are 'windows' above the northern and southern polar regions where the
particles from the solar wind can penetrate the magnetic shield.

[Image 4: ]
In June 2001 Cluster began to explore the magnetotail -- the region where
storms of high energy particles are generated. The Earth's magnetosphere
on the sunward side extends to about 65,000 km, but stretches to many times
this on the side away from the Sun. In June 2001, Cluster began to explore
the extended magnetotail. It is in this region that storms of high energy
particles are generated. When these arrive at Earth they can result in
auroras on the nightside of Earth. Other less attractive consequences are
power cuts, damage to satellites and disruptions in communications.


From Andrew Yee <>

ESA News

17 July 2001

A decade of ERS Earth-watching

When ERS-1 was lofted into orbit by an Ariane-4 launcher on 17 July 1991, it
carried the hopes of Europe's scientific community. For nerve-wracking
minutes, those hopes looked as though they might be dashed when contact was
lost with the craft as it rose into space. Hundreds of scientists and
engineers breathed a collective sigh of relief when an Australian tracking
station re-established communication.
Since then, ERS-1 and ERS-2 have provided a stream of data which has changed
our view of the world on which we live: more than 3500 scientists have
published over 30,000 scientific papers based on ERS data. The ERS programme
has provided striking new insights into the shape of our planet, the
chemistry of our atmosphere, the behaviour of our oceans, and the effects of
mankind's activity on our environment.

The ERS programme went beyond its designers' imaginings on 20 April 1995,
when ERS-1 was joined in orbit by its sister, ERS-2. "The most outstanding
success of the ERS programme is the interferometry application and the later
adaptation of the tandem mission for the two satellites," comments Prof
Preben Gudmandsen, former Chairman of the European Association of Remote
Sensing Laboratories. "This was something the fathers' of the satellite did
not think of -- the few that dared to contemplate it ruled it out, worried
about the stability of the system and the techniques that would need to be
applied to retrieve the data."

"The tandem mission became possible because ERS-1 lasted three times as long
as its design lifetime," explains ESA's Reinhold Zobl, the ERS-1 Project
Manager. "It was never expected, but the community of scientists and
engineers working on the ERS mission soon developed an entirely new
interferometry technique to take advantage of this new opportunity."

The tandem mission did not yield the only unexpected results. "Using ERS
interferometry data covering periods following large earthquakes, we have
learned that, after an earthquake, physical processes take place in the
rocks adjacent to the fault, producing a regional stress readjustment over
several years. These post-seismic processes produce small and slow surface
shifts that have been observed for the first time using ERS, and these
quantitative observations are essential to understand the physics of the
Earth's crust," explains Gilles Peltzer, of CalTech's Jet Propulsion

Peltzer is clear about the new capabilities that ERS offered the seismology
community: "ERS provided the first complete images of the surface
deformation associated with geophysical processes. These images are
spectacular and will remain the first ever produced," adds Peltzer.

Other scientists in different disciplines are equally impressed. "The ERS
mission's most significant achievements to date are its detailed mapping of
the marine geoid and seafloor topography, and the use of SAR interferometry
to map deformations in the Earth's crust," says Dr Anny Cazenave, of
France's CNES Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiale.

"The ERS programme has shown us that satellite altimetry is a new and very
valuable tool to monitor surface continental waters with important
applications to continental hydrology, regional climate variability and
water resources policy," adds Dr Cazenave.

According to Dr Per Knudsen and Dr Ole Andersen, of Denmark's KMS, "The ERS
mission gave us altimetry data which enabled us to study the marine gravity
field in very high detail; altimeter data which enabled us to study the
marine gravity field and ocean dynamics in polar regions; and we were able
to map the height of the entire ice sheet in Greenland -- including the
altitude of the centre, which had never been measured before."

"In atmospheric science, the ERS programme's most significant achievements
have been the global measurement from space of minor trace gases responsible
for ozone depletion, measurements of air pollution (trace gases in the
troposphere) from space, and exploiting the possible synergy of different
sensors on the same platform, which is an important lesson for Envisat,"
explains Ankie Pieters from KNMI, the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institite.
"ERS showed us that it is possible to use global space measurements to
support global change studies, leading to political decisions on
international agreements and treaties, and changes in the behaviour of
society -- companies adopting green labelling, for example," Pieters adds.

ERS has not only made a major contribution to research. Data from ERS
instruments is being used operationally in a number of applications.
"ERS-SAR provided a unique data source, which enabled national organisations
to prototype and validate the operational infrastructure for oil spill
detection and sea ice mapping services. ERS SAR data was also important for
establishing agreements with end users to demonstrate the capabilities, and
these information services would not have the performance levels seen today
without the benefit of ERS SAR," explains Jan-Petter Pedersen from Tromsoe
Satellite Station.

"Another very important contribution of ERS was to make SAR data available
to the science community on an unprecedented scale. ERS helped to build
scientific acceptance of the use of SAR for Earth System monitoring."
comments Professor Werner Alpers from the University of Hamburg.

Another major success of the ERS mission has been the operational use of
data from the scatterometer, which measures the 'roughness' of the ocean
surface, from which wind speed and direction can be calculated, and oil
leaks detected. "In our wave forecasting service we use ERS SAR imagery to
measure the spacing between wave packets. We can then forecast local
properties at our customers' operations sites. Without the ERS SAR imagery,
such measurements would be prohibitively costly," explains Hafedh Hajji of
France's MeteoMer. Adrian Huntley, of Infoterra in the UK adds, "The ERS SAR
archive offers a unique capability to distinguish genuine seepage slicks due
to their persistence between acquisitions. This is a major factor in our
service to the offshore oil and gas industry".

Experience with the ERS programme has shaped its successor, Envisat. But ERS
also leaves a legacy of data still to be explored. "We've seen a pattern in
the evolution of the science from the ERS mission," comments Professor
Alpers. "Initial research has focussed on what you can do with the data,
followed by validation of the use of data for deriving earth science
measurements, and then analysis of earth system processes using the data.

The continuing contribution of the ERS mission will be the use of the
archive as a 10 year snapshot of earth system parameters, such as land
cover, ice cover, global sea surface temperature measurements for ocean
warming and air-sea exchange, ocean variability records, and finally global
wind fields and wind stress," Ankie Pieters adds. "Combining Envisat and ERS
atmospheric measurements will give us a ten year data set of atmospheric
constituents, which is the minimum timeframe necessary for long-term trend

"We're still getting new science from ERS data," comments Gudmandsen, "for
example, we're beginning to be able to monitor subsidence and land movements
of only a few millimetres using new techniques."

"The ERS mission has shown conclusively how valuable remote sensing data can
be," concludes Alpers, "we can directly observe climate change and its
effects, monitor changes in global forest cover through clouds, measure the
variation of sea levels globally, track pollution in the atmosphere and the
sea, observe global ocean currents, measure the true shape of the Earth and
watch it changing -- without ERS some of these things would have been
impossible, and others would have needed hundreds of thousands of
measurement stations."

Related articles

* Satellite view aids Saône flood mapping
* ESA ERS data shows West Antarctica is thinning
* Satellite sniffs out chemical traces of atmospheric pollution
* Satellites help to clean up the sea

Related Links

* ERS 1 and 2
* ERS homepage
* ERS Instruments
* Earth Observation Homepage
* ESA's Earth Watching website


[Image 1:]
Happy Birthday ERS.

[Image 2:]
Like its predecessor ERS-1 (launched in July 1991 by Ariane 4 and
successfully put into orbit at an altitude of some 780 km), the ERS-2
satellite launched on 21.04.95 by Ariane 4, monitors the Earth day and night
under all weather conditions thanks to its powerful sharp-eyed,
cloud-piercing radars. ERS-2 also carries an instrument to help monitor the
ozone layer around the Earth.

[Image 3:]
The image shows the area of Turkey affected by the earthquake which occured
on 17 August 1999. The image has been generated from an ERS-SAR tandem pair
acquired on the 12th and 13th of August 1999, i.e. 4-5 days before the

[Image 4:]
Surface winds around Antarctica (strongest in yellow-tinted areas) as seen
by the radar scatterometer on ERS-1.

[Image 5:]
On the 2nd October 1994 the Panamanian oil tanker Cercal struck a rock while
entering the harbour of Leixoes (the Oporto harbour), releasing about 1,000
tonnes of crude oil into the sea. The ESA ERS-1 satellite acquired this SAR
image two days after the accident. Because of the damping effect of the oil,
the reduced roughness of the sea surface appears clearly as a black mark on
the SAR image. The spill can be seen floating along the coast and out into
the sea. The coastal city of Oporto, lying near the centre of the oil spill,
appears as a cluster of white dots. The rainy and foggy weather that
prevailed in that region of Portugal on the date of the accident made it
very difficult to evaluate the spill from an aircraft. However, thanks to
the all-weather capabilities of the ERS-1 SAR instrument it was possible to
acquire this very useful scene through the cloud cover. (Image processed by
ESA's Earth Watching Team)

[Image 6:]
Envisat in the clean room at ESA's test facilities at ESTEC, Noordwijk,
spring 2001.

[Image 7:]
Deforestation areas appear in light-coloured linear features of relatively
high temperatures, in this thermal image from ERS-2. Photo: Leicester


From Andrew Yee <>

International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP)


In Stockholm:
Susannah Eliott,
Clare Bradshaw,
Paola Fastmark,
Phone: +31 (0)20 549 1295
Mobile: +46 708 346 463

Local contact in Amsterdam:
Lex Linsen,
Mobile: +31 6-1202-55-45

Thursday 12 July 2001

Beyond Global Warming: Sudden changes and critical thresholds

Amsterdam -- Global change is now occurring at such a rapid pace that the
Earth could be shifted into a different mode of operation, say a group of
global change experts at a conference in Amsterdam today.

It is now apparent that the many individual changes occurring all over the
globe from human activities and natural variability are cumulative and
interacting and could push the Earth beyond a critical threshold.

As Dr Will Steffen from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme puts
it, "We are heading into un-chartered waters and it is difficult to predict
what lies ahead".

A major factor is that the Earth does not respond in a linear way to
pressures from global change. It is tempting for people to assume that
global warming, for example, will occur evenly and gradually over a century
or more. "There is mounting evidence that this is not the way it will be,"
says Professor Tom Pedersen from Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University
of British Columbia in Canada. "This can be difficult for people to imagine
because much of our thinking is linear," he says.

According to Professor Pedersen abrupt changes have occurred naturally in
the past. In some regions of the world average temperatures have been known
to increase by at least 5 to as much as 10 in a less than decade.

"What many people don't realise is that we are currently living within a
"sheltered period" of only about 10,000 years in which conditions have been
comparatively stable. Paleo (past) records spanning many hundreds of
thousands of years tell us that abrupt changes in conditions on Earth have
occurred before. There is no reason why they will not occur again in the

The critical point is that human activities could be driving the Earth out
of this stable state and into an era in which abrupt changes could occur.

Another speaker, Nobel Prize winner, Professor Paul Crutzen, says that such
an abrupt change could easily have occurred in the 1970s if a slightly
different combination of ozone depleting chemicals had been used.

"Had industry used bromine instead of chlorine in the chemicals used in
spray cans and as solvents and refrigerants, we would have had a
catastrophic ozone hole everywhere and at all seasons by the mid 1970s. The
impact on the chemistry of the atmosphere would have been profound, and the
consequences for life on the surface of the planet would have been severe.
We avoided such a fundamental change in Earth's chemical mode of operation
by luck rather than foresight and planning".

An example of a rapid change that is occurring right now is the thawing of
large areas of frozen ground (permafrost) in northern Russia, America and
Canada, says speaker, Professor Oleg Anisimov from the State Hydrological
Institute in St Petersburg, Russia. This is causing major structural damage
to cities, roads, pipelines and power stations and is only one of a range of
problems caused by global warming in the Arctic regions.

"Arctic sea ice is already 30% reduced compared to 1870 and could shrink by
a further 60% this century. Such a loss would alter ocean circulation,
impacting climate worldwide," he says.

Professor Pedersen adds, "High population densities and over-reliance on
limited resources mean that many societies are now even more vulnerable to
abrupt changes than they were in the past. Humans are exhausting the natural
capital that formerly allowed resilience".


Prof Tom Pedersen, Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
Prof Paul Crutzen, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Prof Oleg Anisimov, State Hydrological Institute, St Petersburg, Russia
Dr Stefan Rahmstorf, Postdam Institute of Climatic Research, Potsdam, Germany

Chair: Dr Will Steffen (Executive Director, IGBP)


From Newsweek, 23 July 2001

The Truth About Global Warming
The forecasts of doom are mostly guesswork, Richard Lindzen argues-and he
has Bush's ear
By Fred Guterl
July 23 issue - For the past five years, Richard Lindzen and his wife have
summered in Paris, always staying with family or borrowing an empty
apartment from a friend. This year, however, Lindzen decided to splurge. His
wife found a modest but airy flat on a noisy street near the Cimetiere du
Pere Lachaise. The neighborhood is not the most fashionable, but it has
other qualities. When outraged citizens declared their independence from
France after the war with Prussia in 1871 and the government sent in the
Army to quell the rabble-rousers, the last of them held out in Belleville, a
few blocks east of Lindzen's flat. This same district of Paris, he points
out, also includes the Bastille. "I think it's safe to say that this area
has had more than its share of defiance," he says.

LINDZEN DOESN'T seem capable of rabble-rousing. Sitting on his sofa in
black-stockinged feet, he looks like a shorter, nerdier Orson Welles. He
became a meteorologist back in the 1960s, when it was a backwater among the
sciences. Little did he know how fashionable a weatherman could become.
These days the highest levels of government consult meteorologists and other
"climatologists" on one of the most urgent issues of the day, global
warming. If you believe that science is a polite, orderly march to the
truth, you will be surprised at how sharp the disagreements are, and at the
magnitude of Dick Lindzen's defiance. 
When climate scientists got on board the global-warming movement in the late
1980s, Lindzen remained steadfastly on the fringe. Back then he took issue
with the notion that the earth is headed for catastrophe, and nothing has
happened in a decade of climate research to convince him otherwise. With the
Kyoto plan to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions effectively dead and
environmentalists up in arms, Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of
Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has become the
most well-respected voice of dissent. Colleagues praise his scientific work
and do not assign political motives. And yet his scientific views have led
him, a Democrat, into the lonely position of defending George W. Bush's
Kyoto stance. "Bush is guilty of nothing more than being honest," he says.
"There's no current Western leader who's as well informed on the issue as
Bush, as strange as that may seem. European politicians are just using Kyoto
for cheap virtue." Lindzen was one of a handful of authors of a recent study
requested by the White House. After Bush's Kyoto about-face, Lindzen was
summoned to Pennsylvania Avenue. Even if you accept the doomsday forecasts,
he told Bush, Kyoto would hardly touch the rise in temperatures. "Kyoto
would be to do nothing at great expense," he says.

Lindzen is not a complete skeptic. He acknowledges that the earth is getting
warmer, and that human activity might have something to do with it. Over the
past century, cars and factories have released carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases into the air, trapping the sun's energy and warming the
atmosphere. The key question is, how warm will it get? Lindzen doesn't think
scientists have a very good handle at all on how the earth's atmosphere will
respond to increased levels of carbon dioxide. He doesn't think much of the
half-dozen or so gigantic computer programs, or models, that simulate what
the earth's climate will be like 100 years from now-and form the basis of
all the predictions of doom. Whereas most models predict a warming of 3 or 4
degrees centigrade in the next 100 years, Lindzen's calculations show less
than 1 degree, a figure that makes Kyoto seem downright hysterical. Most
climate scientists, it's fair to say, disagree. They stick by their models,
despite the flaws. "It's easy for Lindzen to criticize," says one. "But he's
a theorist, not a modeler. He points out errors, but he's not the one who
necessarily has to correct them." Annoying as he may be, his defiance serves
as a reminder that climate scientists, despite their newfound relevance to
policy and public renown, are still grappling with huge gaps in their

Lindzen may raise his colleagues' hackles by criticizing their science, but
when it comes to politics, he strikes a chord. Last week the Independent,
the British newspaper, summarized the report of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-sponsored group: "Global warming
is happening now, caused by human actions, and threatens the Earth with
disaster, the world's leading atmospheric scientists insisted yesterday."
This is news to Lindzen, who literally is one of those scientists. He was
coauthor of the IPCC report, but did not participate in writing the widely
cited "summary for policymakers." "The 'consensus of scientists' is a very
weird thing," he says. "The summary is written by 14 of the hundreds of
scientists that contributed. Is that a consensus? I don't think so." Many
scientists agree that the IPCC, in its zeal to build the case for doing
something about global warming, plays fast and loose with the science,
glossing over uncertainty and pushing its conclusions too far.

Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He'll even expound on how
weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full,
impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with
thoughtful drags on a cigarette. His parents arrived in the United States
from Germany in 1938, two years before his birth. His father, a bootmaker,
worked in a shoe factory in Massachusetts but eventually moved his family to
the Bronx in New York City to live in a Jewish community. Lindzen won a
scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and tranferred to Harvard a
year later. An interest in ham radio piqued his curiosity about how the
atmosphere affects radio waves, and this led him to meteorology.

Lindzen's contrarian attitude about global warming first stirred in 1988. In
the heat of an atypically hot summer in the United States, Sen. Al Gore held
hearings in which prominent scientists raised fears of rapid warming. The
IPCC was formed to assess the need for action. "I wrote a piece for the
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society saying that perhaps we
should go easy on this because the case wasn't strong," Lindzen recalls. "I
got people telling me that perhaps, as a Democrat, I shouldn't say that." In
1989 he spoke to an Earth Day gathering at Tufts University. "I was put down
immediately," he says. "Scientists can have doubts, but environmentalists
In the early 1990s Lindzen was asked to contribute to the IPCC's 1995
report. At the time, he held (and still does) that untangling human
influences from the natural variation of the global climate is next to
impossible. When the report's summary came out, he was dismayed to read its
conclusion: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible
human influence on global climate." "That struck me as bizarre," he says.
"Because without saying how much the effect was, the statement had no
meaning. If it was discernible and very small, for instance, it would be no
problem." Environmentalist Bill McKibbon referred to this phrase in an
article in The Atlantic in May 1998: "The panel's 2,000 scientists, from
every corner of the globe, summed up their findings in this dry but historic
bit of understatement." In an angry letter, Lindzen wrote that the full
report "takes great pains to point out that the statement has no
implications for the magnitude of the effect, is dependent on the [dubious]
assumption that natural variability obtained from [computer] models is the
same as that in nature, and, even with these caveats, is largely a
subjective matter."

This statement contains the crux of Lindzen's beef with the global-warming
establishment. What is the relationship between nature, on the one hand, and
the gigantic computer models that churn out climate predictions for 100
years hence? "In the scientific methodology," he says, "simulation is the
weakest link. To say you've simulated something is to say very little." To
appreciate why requires a brief foray into the world of climate science.

When it comes to meteorology, data can be very iffy. The United Nations
specifies that thermometer readings in harsh polar climates, for instance,
should be taken in a shelter that is freshly painted, of a specified height,
ventilated in a certain way and so forth. When the Soviet Union fell and
Siberian data collectors stopped being paid, did they continue to maintain
the shelters? In the oceans, sometimes data collectors take the temperature
of water drawn in a bucket over the side of a ship. Other times they put
their thermometers in the water that enters the ship's engine intakes. Such
inconsistent practices may have something to do with why observations show a
warming at the North Pole but not at the South, while some areas even seem
to be cooling. The overall warming trend of 0.6 degrees centigrade in the
past 100 years is just discernible above these messy readings. "The
observations are not great, but there's a consistency in the trend," Lindzen

Back in the 1980s, climate models were very crude simulations of the
greenhouse effect. The main test of a climate model is to start sometime in
the past and "predict" the present, with all the temperature swings and ice
ages and so forth in between. When scientists tried this out on their early
models, they got silly results, such as severe ice ages occurring in the
20th century. To avoid this kind of "drift," scientists applied a sort of
fudge factor to ensure a sensible outcome. This doesn't do much good when it
comes to predicting the future, which may be why 1988 predictions of rapid
warming by 2000 never panned out. The average temperature hasn't climbed at
In recent years climate scientists have added a great deal of complexity to
their models in the hope of capturing the essential behavior of the earth's
climate. They have tried to account for clouds, water vapor, ocean currents,
dust particles in the air (aerosols), sea ice and variations in ground
cover. They have coupled the oceans to the atmosphere so that changes in one
affect the other, and vice versa. Only recently have the better models, such
as that of the Hadley Centre in Britain, abandoned the practice of fudging.

The change adds to the models' credibility, but does it mean they are
reliable in predicting the future? It doesn't, Lindzen argues. For one
thing, added complexity does not ensure that the models reflect what nature
is doing. Take the case of aerosols-dust and other particles in the
atmosphere. Scientists realized only a few years ago that aerosols reflect
light and may exert a cooling influence; their effects are poorly
understood. Putting them in climate models is essentially the same thing as
adding a fudge factor. "There are no records of aerosol production before
the 1960s," Lindzen says. "So you have complete freedom to adjust the amount
of aerosols to make the models replicate the temperature record."
The Politics of Apocalypse

Aerosols are small potatoes when you consider the effects of clouds and
water vapor. Water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon
dioxide-a change of a few percentage points in the atmosphere's humidity
could wipe out, or amplify, the effects of a rise in carbon dioxide. Even a
doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels (which is expected to
happen in 100 years if no effort is made to reduce carbon emissions) would
probably, by itself, increase temperature only about 1 degree centigrade by
the end of the century-warmer, to be sure, but probably short of doomsday.
True catastrophe would require a helping hand from water vapor. That's
exactly what most models depict.

But here's the rub: water vapor is not well understood. Models, for
instance, assume that a warmer atmosphere would hold more water vapor, but
it wouldn't necessarily, says Lindzen. Another wild card is the role of
clouds in regulating humidity. Cumulus clouds draw moist air from the
surface and carry it skyward. Some of the moisture falls back to the ground
as rain, and what's left over is taken high up in the atmosphere, where it
freezes into cirrus clouds. These clouds drift hundreds of miles raining ice
particles into the lower atmosphere; these evaporate and raise humidity. But
how much? Lindzen asserts that as the atmosphere warms, cumulus clouds will
produce rain more efficiently, thereby leaving less for humidity-causing
cirrus clouds. The result would be drier air. Rather than amplifying the
greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, this would counteract it.

Even if scientists understood climate perfectly, the models would still
contain another type of error inherent in the way computers do the
calculations. In an ideal world, models would account for everything, down
to each molecule of water. In practice, compromises are made. The Hadley
Centre's model, for instance, dices the atmosphere into 250-kilometer
squares, and then crunches equations that describe scientists' best
approximation of the atmosphere's aggregate behavior. Making the squares
smaller would reduce error, but it's expensive: shrink the squares to 125km,
and the calculation balloons 16-fold. Even so, much of what goes on at the
scale of clouds is lost.

Modelers concede both types of uncertainty but insist that their predictions
are still valid. "There are many things we're uncertain about in climate
modeling," says David Griggs, director of climate research at Hadley. "But
there are a lot of things we can say with confidence. Our estimates take all
of these uncertainties into account." The IPCC report agrees: "Confidence in
the ability of models to project future climate has increased." Nonsense,
says Lindzen. "The argument that the models are continually improving is a
kind of motherhood statement that international reports always make. But
there's no evidence of that."  
Another way of estimating how much the climate will warm is a matter of
dispute. By looking at events that disrupt climate and measuring the amount
of time it takes for temperatures to change in response, scientists can
calculate how sensitive the global climate might be to a change in carbon
dioxide. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, for instance, it spewed ash
into the atmosphere, which reflected sunlight and caused a discernible
cooling across the globe. Lindzen studied volcanic eruptions and found that
cooling tends to kick in pretty quickly, which suggests that the climate is
relatively insensitive to disruptions. From this he concludes that a
doubling of carbon-dioxide levels would lead to a warming of less than 1
degree centigrade.

Case closed? Hardly. James Hansen, a climate scientist at the Goddard
Institute for Space Studies in New York City, has studied the end of the
most recent ice age, when temperatures rose to the level they've more or
less maintained for the last 10,000 years. (The data come from ice-core
samples taken in Antarctica and Greenland, an approximate record of past
climate change.) He found a sensitivity consistent with a warming of 3 or 4
degrees centigrade, which jibes with current models. "Dick's idea that
climate sensitivity is low is simply wrong," says Hansen. "The history of
the earth proves him wrong."

In the face of such disagreement, it is difficult-for scientists and
nonscientists alike-to decide who is right. Should Lindzen be discounted as
some lunatic on the fringe? Or is it foolish to wish too hard for a
consensus? Perhaps what's needed is a dispassionate look at the research.
This is a big part of what Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber does. As director of
the Potsdam Institute for Climate Studies in Germany, where he oversees the
work of oceanographers, meteorologists, mathematicians and biologists, he is
a practiced synthesizer of disparate scientific specialties.

Schellnhuber acknowledges the difficulty of interpreting the IPCC's
temperature-increase predictions for the end of the century, which range
from 1.4 degrees centigrade to 5.8 degrees. "There is a certain
arbitrariness," he says. "Two Japanese models, one showing a 9-degree
warming and the other showing zero warming, were thrown out because they
were felt to be too far outside the range. So you take all these models and
average them out, and you get a 3- or 4-degree warming. What does it mean?"
He shrugs. "If one model is operating on wrong principles, all of them are

In light of the uncertainty, Schellnhuber takes a very European view of
climate policy. He favors cutting emissions, a la Kyoto, just in case the
pessimistic majority is correct. He believes in consensus. "Science really
comes down in the end to the scientists," he says. "You have to make your
best judgment." What does he make of Lindzen? "People like him are very
useful in finding the weak links in our thinking," says Schellnhuber. It may
take many years to sort out just where those weak links are. But it's worth
being reminded that the answers will come in their own time, no matter how
badly the world wants them now.
© 2001 Newsweek, Inc.

From CNN, 12 July 2001

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A new report which paints a pessimistic future for
the world's climate has been dismissed as "scaremongering" by some experts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims that the planet is
warming up faster than at any time in the last 1,000 years and predicts that
global mean temperatures could increase by as much as 5.8C by the year 2100.

Its report comes against the background of evidence that the climate has got
warmer in recent years.

Six of the 10 warmest years ever recorded were in the 1990s (the other four
were in the late 1980s) and the growing season in Europe is 11 days longer
than it was 35 years ago.

But some experts, including historical climatologists, say a study of
temperatures over hundreds or even thousands of years show that what is
regarded as global warming is in fact a "blip" of nature.

The report, published on Thursday, also comes amid growing concern that the
Kyoto agreement on cutting carbon emissions is on the verge of collapse
because of the United States' refusal to sign up.

A negotiating session to discuss the U.S. reluctance -- mirrored in Japan
and Australia -- has been set up for July 16.

Professor Philip Stott, from the Bio-Geography Department at the University
of London, told CNN that the report's findings amounted to "scaremongering"
and was a "last-ditch" attempt by the supporters of Kyoto to present the
"very, very worst estimates" before the Bonn summit.

"This is just hype and I find it deeply depressing by what I see is a misuse
of science.

"There are many scenarios as to what could happen -- over 40 -- ranging from
cooling to intense warming, and the bottom line is that we do not have an
idea of what the climate is doing at the moment.

"There is hysteria about this in Europe and this is a last ditch attempt to
get the U.S., Japan and Australia back on board (the Kyoto agreement).

"But the reality is that even is all 180 nations signed up to the Kyoto
model, it might reduce climate by about 0.07C and would cost billions and
billions of dollars.

"The dangerous thing about Kyoto is that is gives the impression that we can
do something about the climate."

Piers Corbyn of Weather Action, a UK-based company that provides long-term
forecasts to UK industry, said the report offered "wild statements" and
"misplaced alarmism."

Corbyn, who provides forecast based on solar activity, said he believed
temperatures would get cooler rather than warmer.

"The fact that there is a broad correlation between particles from the sun
and world temperatures than between carbon dioxide emissions and world
temperatures suggests the key to understanding what will happen in the next
100 years is not what man is doing but what the sun is doing," he told CNN.

"The increased solar activity of the last 100 years will not continue over
the next 100 years so its is very likely that we will go into a cooling
period rather than get hotter."

"This report," he said, "is misplaced alarmism which serves to justify
nuclear power and increased taxation in the name of saving the planet."

Copyright 2001, CNN


From CO2 Science, 18 July 2001

The winter of 2000/2001 was bitterly cold in many parts of Asia; in fact,
many cold-temperature records were set.  According to NBC News correspondent
Dana Lewis, extreme cold blasted Russia into the coldest winter in a century
(see "The Planet is Warming Up!"). From Siberia to the Far East,
bone-chilling temperatures some 30 degrees below normal made it "a battle
just to survive."

Similar information was obtained from a report by Red Cross staff writer
Stephanie Kriner, who wrote about some other cold-induced disasters. She
reported, for example, that in the first week of January 2001, many people
died "as a result of a bitter cold front sweeping across northern India,"
which brought "the coldest temperatures to hit the region in several years."
Kriner noted that the same cold front also swept into Pakistan, threatening
the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees. In China, she says
that "the worst winter weather conditions in decades" left many people dead,
and that Barbara Wetsig of the American Red Cross feared that thousands of
other people were "at risk of frostbite, hypothermia and starvation,"
especially "the poor, homeless, elderly and children." In fact, Kriner says
that the Inner Mongolian Branch of the Russian Red Cross estimated that up
to 1.35 million people were affected. She also reports that "the worst
snowstorm in 50 years" stranded "tens of thousands of herders and their
livestock" in Inner Mongolia, and that blizzards paralyzed South Korea in
what weather forecasters there described as "the worst snowstorm in 20
years," adding that the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan was subjected to
"its coldest winter weather in 40 years."

At a time when we're told the world is hotter than it's ever been in the
past thousand years, this information is not exactly what one would expect
to hear, unless, of course, this claim is wrong. And indeed it may be; for a
number of recent papers provide evidence that Asian temperatures during the
past century and beyond were at times much warmer than they are presently.
Furthermore, some of them suggest that temperature trends of the past few
decades have been negative, rather than positive.

Kadioglu et al. (2001), for example, analyzed temperature trends in Turkey
over the period 1930-1996, finding significant cooling during this period.
Zeeberg and Forman (2001) also found a recent decline in temperature for the
Russian Island of Novaya Zemlya. They report a significant and accelerated
post-Little Ice Age glacial retreat observed there during the first and
second decades of the 20th Century. In the second-half of the 20th Century,
however, the recession of over half of the glaciers stopped, and many
tidewater glaciers began to advance. Such advances were likely provoked by a
sudden decrease in temperature, where in the four decades since 1961, summer
temperatures declined by 0.3 to 0.5°C and winter temperatures declined by
2.3 to 2.8°C.

Additional data supporting a regional cooling in Asia since the mid-20th
century come from Vaganov et al. (2000). In analyzing temperature variations
for the Asian subarctic, they report a cooling trend since about 1940.
Furthermore, analyses of their data, which extend back in time 600 years,
reveal that the amplitude of 20th Century warming "does not go beyond the
limits of reconstructed natural temperature fluctuations in the Holocene
subarctic zone." These findings have been confirmed by Naurzbaev and Vaganov
(2000), who analyzed a 2200-year temperature record derived from Siberian
tree rings over the period 212 B.C. to 1996 A.D.  Several warm and cold
periods were noted throughout their 2000-year record: a cool period in the
first two centuries A.D., a warm period from 200 A.D. to 600 A.D., cooling
again from 600 to 800 A.D., followed by the Medieval Warm Period from about
850 A.D. to 1150 A.D., the cooling of the Little Ice Age from 1200 A.D.
though 1800 A.D., followed by the recovery warming of the 20th century.  In
regard to this latter warming, the authors note that it is "not
extraordinary" and that "the warming at the border of the first and second
millennia [1000 A.D.] was longer in time and similar in amplitude."
Reconstructed temperatures for the mid-Holocene, approximately 5000 years
ago, revealed an even warmer time period, when temperatures averaged 3.3°C
higher than those of the past two millennia.

Given the results of the studies referenced above, we wonder how climate
alarmists can continue to claim that 20th century warming is unprecedented
over the past millennium. Clearly, this has not been the case for various
parts of Asia, which have, in fact, exhibited negative temperature trends
that are in direct contradiction of climate alarmist claims.


Kadioglu, M., Sen, Z. and Gültekin, L. 2001. Variations and trends in
Turkish seasonal heating and cooling degree-days. Climatic Change 49:

Naurzbaev, M.M. and Vaganov, E.A. 2000. Variation of early summer and annual
temperature in east Taymir and Putoran (Siberia) over the last two millennia
inferred from tree rings.  Journal of Geophysical Research 105: 7317-7326.

Vaganov, E.A., Briffa, K.R., Naurzbaev, M.M., Schweingruber, F.H., Shiyatov,
S.G. and Shishov, V.V. 2000. Long-term climatic changes in the arctic region
of the Northern Hemisphere.  Doklady Earth Sciences 375: 1314-1317.

Zeeberg, J. and Forman, S.L. 2001. Changes in glacier extent on north Novaya
Zemlya in the twentieth century. Holocene 11: 161-175.
Copyright © 2001. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


From CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001

Baker, A.C. 2001. Reef corals bleach to survive change. Nature 411: 765-766.

What was done
The author conducted an experiment in which he transplanted corals of
different combinations of host and algal symbiont from shallow (2-4 m) to
deep (20-23 m) depths and from deep to shallow depths in order to test the
hypothesis that the stress of coral bleaching offers reef corals the
opportunity to replace suboptimal algae with those more tolerable of the
stressful environmental conditions associated with bleaching.

What was learned
After 8 weeks nearly half of the corals transplanted from the deep to
shallow depths had experienced partial or severe bleaching, whereas none of
the corals transplanted from shallow to deep depths showed any sign of
bleaching. After 12 months, however, despite "more extensive bleaching,
upward transplants showed no mortality," while nearly 20 percent of downward
transplants died. Control transplants showed no sign of bleaching or
mortality. The reason for the bleaching and mortality patterns was explained
by symbiont community structure; corals that were transplanted upwards
adjusted their algal distributions to more tolerant species, whereas those
transplanted downward did not.

What it means
In the words of the author, these findings "support the view that coral
bleaching can promote rapid response to environmental change by facilitating
compensatory change in algal symbiont communities." Without bleaching, he
continues, "suboptimal host-symbiont combinations persist, leading
eventually to significant host mortality." In light of this information, it
appears that coral bleaching may, in the author's words, "ultimately help
reef corals to survive" the perceived stress of global warming; and it may
help explain why reefs, though depicted by climate alarmists as
environmentally fragile, have survived through geologic time.
Copyright © 2001. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


From CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001

Nearly all of earth's plant life responds favorably to increases in the
air's CO2 content by exhibiting enhanced rates of photosynthesis and biomass
production.  However, there is a question about how these positive responses
might be modified by changes in soil nutrient status, particularly nitrogen
content.  In this summary, we review agricultural plant responses to
atmospheric CO2 enrichment under conditions of varying soil nitrogen
availability in an attempt to answer this important question.

Elevated CO2 nearly always increases rates of net photosynthesis in
agricultural species, even under low soil nitrogen conditions. This occurs
because in a CO2-enriched atmosphere, plants often reduce the amount of
rubisco they contain (Sims et al., 1998; Theobald et al., 1998).  This
enzyme, which plays a key role in photosynthesis, operates more efficiently
at elevated CO2 concentrations; and the excess amounts of this enzyme
typically present at ambient CO2 concentrations are no longer required to
sustain plant growth and development when the air's CO2 content is raised.
This phenomenon, known as acclimation, allows nitrogen to be mobilized away
from rubisco and other photosynthetic proteins so it can be reallocated to
other processes more limiting to growth. Thus, even under low soil nitrogen
conditions, significant CO2-induced growth enhancements can still occur, as
nitrogen made available via CO2-induced acclimation can be utilized to
increase plant structural biomass.

In the study of Deng and Woodward (1998), for example, strawberry plants
grown with an additional 170 ppm of atmospheric CO2 produced total fresh
fruit weights that were 42 and 17% greater than those produced by
ambiently-grown plants at high and low soil nitrogen contents, respectively.
Similar results were obtained for rice enriched with an extra 522 ppm of
CO2, which produced total plant dry weights that were 60 and 21% greater
than control plants simultaneously exposed to high and low soil nitrogen
regimes (Weerakoon et al., 1999).  In addition, in a study that enriched
wheat with an extra 640 ppm of CO2, total plant biomass increased by 15%,
regardless of soil nitrogen content (Smart et al., 1998).

In two additional studies, similar positive responses were reported for
plant growth when the air's CO2 content was essentially doubled. Zerihun et
al. (2000), for example, observed that sunflowers grown at an atmospheric
CO2 concentration of 700 ppm exhibited total plant biomass values that were
115 and 44% greater at high and low soil nitrogen concentrations,
respectively, than they were under ambient CO2 concentrations. Likewise,
Demmers-Derks et al. (1998) reported that sugar beets exposed to an
atmospheric CO2 concentration of 700 ppm CO2 displayed total biomass values
that were 25 and 13% greater at high and low soil nitrogen concentrations,
respectively, than they were under control air containing 360 ppm CO2.

In conclusion, these several observations indicate that agricultural plants
will likely exhibit increased photosynthetic rates under future conditions
characterized by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Moreover, such
increases in photosynthetic activity will likely lead to greater biomass
production in agricultural crops, with greater absolute responses occurring
under higher, rather than lower, soil nitrogen conditions. Nonetheless,
these studies reveal that low soil nitrogen contents will not eliminate
CO2-induced increases in agricultural plant growth.  Thus, as the air's CO2
content continues to rise, we can anticipate increased agricultural plant
growth will provide greater food and fiber resources for feeding and
clothing our expanding human population.


Demmers-Derks, H., Mitchell, R.A.G., Mitchell, V.J. and Lawlor, D.W.  1998.
Response of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) yield and biochemical composition
to elevated CO2 and temperature at two nitrogen applications.  Plant, Cell
and Environment 21: 829-836.

Deng, X. and Woodward, F.I.  1998.  The growth and yield responses of
Fragaria ananassa to elevated CO2 and N supply.  Annals of Botany 81: 67-71.

Sims, D.A., Luo, Y. and Seeman, J.R.  1998.  Comparison of photosynthetic
acclimation to elevated CO2 and limited nitrogen supply in soybean.  Plant,
Cell and Environment 21: 945-952.

Smart, D.R., Ritchie, K., Bloom, A.J. and Bugbee, B.B.  1998.  Nitrogen
balance for wheat canopies (Triticum aestivum cv. Veery 10) grown under
elevated and ambient CO2 concentrations.  Plant, Cell and Environment 21:

Theobald, J.C., Mitchell, R.A.C., Parry, M.A.J. and Lawlor, D.W.  1998.
Estimating the excess investment in ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate
carboxylase/oxygenase in leaves of spring wheat grown under elevated CO2.
Plant Physiology 118: 945-955.

Weerakoon, W.M., Olszyk, D.M. and Moss, D.N. 1999. Effects of nitrogen
nutrition on responses of rice seedlings to carbon dioxide. Agriculture,
Ecosystems and Environment 72: 1-8.

Zerihun, A., Gutschick, V.P. and BassiriRad, H. 2000. Compensatory roles of
nitrogen uptake and photosynthetic N-use efficiency in determining plant
growth response to elevated CO2: Evaluation using a functional balance
model. Annals of Botany 86: 723-730.
Copyright © 2001. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


From CO2 Science Magazine, 18 July 2001

In our Editorial of 27 June 2001 - The Art of Swallowing Camels - we
reported on a number of what Crowley and Berner (2001) refer to as "notable
disagreements" between inferred trends in near-surface air temperature and
CO2 concentration over Phanerozoic time.  These disagreements led them to
"reevaluate the validity of the assumed CO2-climate link," as they put it;
but the damning evidence did not lead them to renounce that controversial
hypothesis.  In fact, Crowley and Berner somehow concluded that the very
real and obvious problems raised by the disagreements should not be allowed
to "cloud interpretations of future anthropogenic greenhouse gas
projections," which is the humongous CO2-induced global warming camel they
and so many others are trying so desperately to make us swallow.

In and of itself, Crowley and Berner's conclusion makes no sense at all; and
there is now additional evidence that makes that massive meal even more
objectionable, giving us ample reason to say a loud "No thanks!" to the
unpalatable economic pottage the IPCC politicos have been trying to shove
down our throats ever since their unfortunate rise to bureaucratic power
among the nations of the earth.

What we're talking about in this specific instance is the study of Royer et
al. (2001).  Based on an inverse relationship they developed between the
partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 and the leaf stomatal indices of modern
Ginkgo biloba and Metasequoia glyptostroboides plants, the group of seven
scientists (one of whom is Berner) recently constructed a history of
atmospheric CO2 concentration for the middle Miocene (18 to 14 Ma) and the
middle Paleocene to early Eocene (60 to 50 Ma) based on fossil Ginkgo and
Metasequoia leaf cuticles from which they were able to derive stomatal
indices.  Their results, based on fossil cuticles recovered from 24
different localities in western North America and from one locality in
Scotland, are deemed by them to be the "most reliable" of all atmospheric
CO2 reconstructions for these periods, particularly for the middle Paleocene
to early Eocene; and, hence, their findings provide a firm foundation for
their conclusions.

Royer et al.'s results?  That the atmosphere's CO2 concentration remained
between 300 and 450 ppm throughout the periods studied, much below what had
previously been believed likely, with the exception of a single high
estimate near the Paleocene/Eocene boundary. Their conclusions? That "these
results suggest that factors in addition to CO2 are required to explain
these past intervals of global warmth." Our conclusions? That Royer et al.'s
results and conclusions are both correct, and that they reinforce the
reality of the growing number of "notable disagreements" between what
scientific data reveal to be true and what has previously been erroneously
believed about the role of atmospheric CO2 in forcing global climate change.

These observations raise a whole host of intriguing but worrisome questions.
Why, in the face of ever more accumulating evidence for non-CO2-forcing of a
large number of past climate changes, do certain scientists and politicians
continue to claim, as Crowley and Berner do, that it is not only unwise but
actually hazardous to infer that "existing discrepancies between models and
data" weaken climate alarmist predictions of impending CO2-induced
catastrophic global warming?  Would not wisdom suggest that we do just the
opposite, i.e., that we should question the climate alarmists' predictions
in light of what sound science is continuing to reveal? Especially when
nearly everyone realizes that truly draconian measures would be required to
reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions to a level that would have a significant
impact on earth's climate? And even more especially when it's a proven fact
that atmospheric CO2 enrichment significantly enhances plant growth and
greatly improves plant water use efficiency? And even much more especially,
if such were possible, when there is indisputable evidence we are facing a
future food production crisis that overshadows the global warming scenario
and is even more certain of occurring, unless we allow the air's CO2
concentration to continue to rise (see our Editorial of 13 June 2001)?

What has happened to reason? Where has it fled? Has political correctness
become so powerful that logic hides its face in fear of retribution? Where
are the valiant and uncompromising souls of our day - the modern George
Washingtons, Patrick Henrys and Thomas Jeffersons. Where are the stalwarts
who are willing to swear eternal enmity to every form of tyranny over the
human mind and rise up and challenge the false theories that threaten to
wreck havoc with the affairs of liberty-loving men and women everywhere?
Have we become mere chattel to be driven by the designs of the conspiring
few who would bring the whole world under the thumb of their planetary
management authority? Where are the true of heart and honest of mind? Where?

In spite of the forlorn tone of our questions, we believe such thinking and
conscientious men and women are everywhere, interspersed among all the
nations of the earth, and that they will indeed rise to the occasion and
ultimately stand for what is right and true ... and that they will,
eventually, prevail. But unless they begin to act soon, and make their
voices heard, a whole lot of damage could be done in the interim.  Ergo, we
continue to call for the application of both the mind and heart to what we
truly believe is a challenge of mammoth proportions, praying that the U.S.
Catholic bishops would reconsider certain of the conclusions of their
initial foray into the CO2/climate debate in light of our response to their
plea for dialogue on the matter (see our Editorial of 4 July 2001). The
world needs the best efforts of honest people everywhere to properly resolve
this important issue; and the bishops could do much to make that happen.

Dr. Craig D. Idso, President 
Dr. Keith E. Idso, Vice President 


Crowley, T.J. and Berner, R.A.  2001.  CO2 and climate change. Science 292:

Royer, D.L., Wing, S.L., Beerling, D.J., Jolley, D.W., Koch, P.L., Hickey,
L.J. and Berner, R.A.  2001.  Paleobotanical evidence for near present-day
levels of atmospheric CO2 during part of the Tertiary. Science 292:
Copyright © 2001. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


From, 15 July 2001

Wigley's Surface Record

This chart of global temperature as determined from surface thermometers was
published in the latest 'Summary for Policymakers' by the IPCC, with blue
and purple labelling added by this website (

It illustrates one of the key points of contention between the advocates of
global warming and the 'skeptics'. The surface chart was mostly compiled by
Tom Wigley and Phillip Jones, and it shows a +0.6°C warming from 1860 to
In a recent interview he gave to the PBS TV network in the U.S., Wigley said
this about the above temperature history -

"If I go back now and look at that record of global warming, it's
true that over the period from about 1910 to 1940, there was very
substantial warming, so much so that it cannot have been due only to
human activities.  But there are two other possibilities. It could be due
to changes in the output of the sun.  And, in fact, we believe that this is
the primary reason for that warming."

Wigley's admission is based on the fact that the increase in atmospheric CO2
was not significant up to around 1940. He referred to 'human activities'
rather than CO2 specifically during this period, since that could include
such human activities as land clearing and agriculture.

The IPCC claims a +0.6°C warming over the last 140 years, but they present
that claim as if it could all be blamed on fossil fuels. However, it is
clear from Wigley's remarks and from CO2 data on public record that anything
pre-1940 could in no way be blamed on fossil fuels. This means that fully
half of that +0.6°C warming was due to pre-1940 forcings, most probably the
sun, as is now generally agreed by everyone.

But was there really a warming of +0.6°C?

The final 21 years of the above surface record shows a strong warming.
However, it overlaps with the satellite data (thick blue line), which shows
no such warming, leading to the obvious question as to whether the pre-1940
warming was as big as claimed. If the statistical processing of the surface
record post-1979 could lead to an error of that magnitude in the surface
record, the same processing procedures applied to pre-1979 data would in all
probability over-estimate previous trends also. By contrast, the satellite
record has been validated against independent radio-sonde data and is
accurate to one hundredth of a degree. The surface record pales in


From Spiked Science, 13 July 2001
by James Harkin

The news in March 2001 that President George W Bush had decided to pull out
of the Kyoto protocols on global warming, earned him not only the wrath of
environmentalists around the world, but the scorn of much of the US

Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite, Stephen Hawking and former astronaut John
Glenn have penned a letter to President Bush within the pages of Time
magazine, claiming that 'no challenge we face is more momentous than the
threat of global climate change' (1).
Most Americans, on the other hand, betray a curiously schizophrenic approach
to the global warming thesis. An opinion poll published in the same edition
of Time suggests that 75 percent of Americans believe global warming to be a
'serious problem', but only 48 percent of those same Americans would be
willing to pay 25 cents more for a gallon of gasoline in order to address
the problem.
Environmentalists, no doubt, will accuse Americans of fiddling while Rome
burns. But it would be a shame if scepticism about the global warming thesis
were to become the monopoly of the US Republican party and a dwindling
network of pro-business lobbyists.

The debate about global warming is usually talked about as a problem within
science or as symptomatic of the changing relationship between humanity and
nature. But global warming can also be seen as a social and an economic
problem, which can be analysed in terms of the costs and benefits with which
it is associated - and economics adds a radically different perspective to
debate on the global warming thesis.

Most scientists now agree that the earth is getting warmer, but the
contribution of humanity to climate change - whether humans are the chief or
significant perpetrators of global warming - remains uncertain. Much more
importantly, and more often forgotten in the debate about global warming, is
that proponents of the global warming thesis must prove that humans will be
victims of global warming, or that global warming will pose harmful effects
for humans around the world - some countries, for example, may well end up
benefiting from increased agricultural yields as a result of that climatic

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the environmental
worst-case scenario is correct: that, by the year 2050, it has been proven
beyond reasonable doubt that human action is a significant cause of global
warming and that global warming and associated fluctuations in weather
conditions are presenting a real major social problem from which many
countries are suffering.

To the economist, global warming would now represent a problem of harmful
effects or a problem of social cost: an unintended consequence of the
production or consumption activity of one economic agent that has an effect
on the production or consumption activity of another. Since the problem of
social cost is always of a reciprocal nature, an efficient bargain to
resolve the problem can always be arrived at in the form of a bargain
between its perpetrator and its victim - a bargain which will make both
parties better off and which will serve to maximise the value of production.

Take, for example, one environmental worst-case scenario - that Bangladesh
will be partially flooded by the year 2050 as a result of global warming.
Economics teaches us that any bargain to resolve this problem will turn on
weighing the value of the activities which give rise to global warming for
its perpetrators (the Western countries whose larger economies rely on much
greater emission of greenhouse gasses) against the losses which accrue to
the economy of Bangladesh as a result. In such an eventuality, as the
economist Wilfred Beckerman has argued, both Bangladesh and the Western
nations (whose larger economies are causing global warming) might be better
off if Western countries paid that country to do what it could to cope with
the consequences of warming. (Provided, that is, that Bangladesh were armed
with a right that enabled it to bargain for its losses at an international

Would it pay Bangladesh to have the nations of the West restrain the
economic activities that give rise to global warming, or would Bangladesh be
better off accepting a bribe whose value will amount to more than the costs
that it will incur in taking measures to protect against the ravages of
global warming, and still have money left over to invest in its economy or
to feed its people?
If the bargain to resolve the problem looks unfair, that is primarily
because it reproduces existing inequalities within the value of national
economies, which have nothing to do with global warming.
Global warming too easily serves as a metaphor for our common humanity and
the indivisibility of the species in a fragmented world. But in the real
world, there is nothing indivisible about the gains which flow from the
activities that may give rise to global warming, and there is nothing
indivisible about any of the losses which may or may not be caused as a

We have all internalised the irresponsible idea that global warming is
something that we must seek to prevent at almost all costs. This is a
misanthropic illusion which assumes that there ever existed a harmonious
equilibrium between humanity and nature, and which arrogantly ignores the
fact that humans always have to allocate resources towards securing their
material lives (feeding, clothing and housing themselves, for example)
before they begin to trade off those goods against the harmful effects posed
to the reproduction of their material lives by global warming.
We should all be profoundly relaxed about global warming, and concentrate
our energies instead on the more pressing problems facing humanity: like,
for example, how to lift Bangladeshis out of poverty and economic

James Harkin is a trend forecaster for the Social Issues Research Centre in
Oxford and a consultant to global intelligence projects at HeadlightVision.

(1) Time, 9 April 2001

© spiked 2000-2001 All rights reserved


From Spiked Science, May 2001
by John Gillott

European politicians, environmentalists and the media are unable to resist
the temptation to link contemporary extremes of weather to global warming,
even though there is little or no evidence for this. And they know it.

A greater awareness of the range of variables influencing climate change and
the potential impact on humans is making for a more interesting and
realistic scientific debate. But this is rarely reflected in the public
discussion. Instead, worst-case scenarios are commonly presented as fact.
A rapid warming, of 3.5 degrees centigrade or more within the next century,
would threaten significant changes. But would a more modest warming pose
such a threat? There is a sound scientific basis, in both theoretical
modelling and the study of past climates, for the view that a warmer world
might be a better place for humans.

Environmentalists, policy makers and some scientists might prefer
comfortable claims such as 'science tells us' we must do x, y or z. But
given a range of uncertainties, cultural and social expectations have as
much - if not more - bearing on the way we feel we should act as does
scientific data.

George W Bush's apparent questioning of the seriousness of the threat posed
by man-made global warming, and the soundness of the science upon which
global warming projections are based, has understandably irritated many
But before they heap even more opprobrium on the oilman from Texas,
scientists should take the time to put their own house in order. For they
have often left unchallenged a simplistic and fearful public and policy
debate on the issue of global warming - and some even have colluded in this
debate, in which worst-case scenarios are presented as projections, and
possibilities as certainties.

In rejecting the deal to reduce the output of greenhouse gases that was
agreed at Kyoto in 1997, Bush highlighted the energy crisis that has caused
power cuts in one of the most technically advanced states in the world: 'At
a time when California has already experienced energy shortages, and other
Western states are worried about price and availability of energy this
summer, we must be careful not to take actions that could harm consumers.'

This was all a bit too much for Donald Kennedy, the [Californian]
editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal Science. '[It was] bad enough
that we had our notorious deregulation fiasco, abetted by industry advocates
and accomplished in governor Pete Wilson's term; now, just when our electric
bills have tripled, we get used as an excuse for another unfortunate move!,'
he wrote in March. 'It's almost enough to make us pretend we're from
somewhere else.'

In Kennedy's view the scientific consensus around global warming is so
strong that it 'leaves little room for the defensive assertions that keep
emerging from the cleverly labelled industrial consortium called the Global
Climate Coalition and from a shrinking coterie of scientific skeptics'.
Indeed, 'consensus as strong as the one that has developed around this topic
is rare in science' (1).

For Kennedy, the issue is a clear case of oil interests versus science. He
would have a point if all that mattered were the question 'Do you believe in
the theory of man-made global warming?'. But the issues are messier than
that; and on most of the interesting questions, those shouting at Bush need
to face some uncomfortable truths about the public discussion of climate

European politicians, environmentalists and the media are unable to resist
the temptation to link contemporary extremes of weather to global warming,
even though there is little or no evidence for this. And they know it.
The public consensus - that adverse events are already upon us - rests on
very shaky scientific foundations
A very wet autumn throughout Britain last year led the BBC's flagship
documentary programme Panorama to declare that Britain was 'at war' with
unfamiliar weather. In his big pre-election speech on the environment on 6
March 2001, UK prime minister Tony Blair told us that heavy snowfall in
Scotland had something to do with global warming as well.

According to Christian Aid, global warming was responsible for the most
severe drought in India for 100 years in the summer of 2000. 'One hundred
million people in India', the charity asserted, 'are paying the price of
climate change'. And CNN told the world in February 2001 that the latest
research from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns
of 'climate destruction'; 'enormous loss of both human and animal life due
to greater risk from diseases like malaria'; and more 'cyclones, floods and
droughts and massive displacement of populations in worst-affected areas'.
All these changes threaten social dislocation, hitting the poorest and most
vulnerable hardest. We are also warned of knock-on social effects.
Influential sociologist Ulrich Beck tells us that the international
insurance trade is feeling the 'devastating consequences of the greenhouse
effect'. The result, he argues, is that 'insurance companies drop risks'
Beck is right - to the extent that the insurance industry is certainly
talking up the threat of global warming. Gerhard Berz of Munich Re, the
world's largest reinsurer, believes that 'there is reason to fear that
climatic change will lead to natural catastrophes of hitherto unknown force
and frequency', leading to worldwide losses 'totalling many hundreds of
billions of dollars per year'.
But this public consensus - that adverse events are already upon us with
much worse to come - rests on very shaky scientific foundations, as the
chief executive of the UK's Met Office felt compelled to tell The Times
after the flood of speeches by Blair, deputy prime minister John Prescott
and environment minister Michael Meacher (3). On many issues, most
scientists introduce numerous qualifiers. Regarding some key claims, many
scientists flatly contradict the public consensus. And while it clearly
believes that global warming is a serious threat, the IPCC cannot be
entirely blamed for CNN's alarmist coverage, at least as much as their most
recent official report is concerned.

Extreme events are easy to find once you start looking for them. Most weeks
something really unusual usually occurs somewhere (4). Tony Blair's
statement that the heaviest snowfall in the Scottish Borders since 1947 was
peculiar smacked of not really trying.

Are any of these extremes indicative of anything more than normal variation?
You might be surprised to hear that the IPCC does not generally think so. On
two key global issues, storm activity and drought, it says observed
variation shows 'no significant trends evident over the last century', with
what variation there is being dominated by 'interdecadal and multidecadal
climate variability' (5).

Given this, it shouldn't be surprising that those who have studied the
matter do not believe the modest global warming we have so far experienced
has had any real bearing on the rapid rise in insurance claims over the past
few decades. In a survey of climate extremes in Science, David Easterling
and his colleagues argued that 'most of the increase has been due to
societal shifts and not to major increases in weather extremes'.

The IPCC has introduced an assumption of harm into its policy
The important 'societal shifts' in the US context are demographic movements
to more vulnerable locations and the growth of wealth. Were these to
continue and be combined with more climate extremes in the future, this
could 'greatly exacerbate the loss problem' (6). But what is the likelihood
of this happening? And what are the possible impacts of change on developing

A greater awareness of the range of variables influencing climate change,
and the potential impact on humans, is making for a more interesting and
realistic scientific debate. Unfortunately this is rarely reflected in the
public discussion. Instead, worst-case scenarios are commonly presented as
fact. Part of the blame for this must be placed on politicians and some of
the media. However, official bodies such as the IPCC are far from innocent.

The IPCC is quite tentative in its projections for an increase in extreme
events and detrimental human consequences in the upcoming 100 years. Much
has been made of the fact that, in its most recent assessment, the IPCC is
more uncertain than it was five or six years ago about the possible scale of
future warming. Some skeptics have leapt on this in order to rubbish the
science. But that is to misunderstand what is going on.

The greater range of possibilities projected, now running from 1.4 degrees
centigrade to 5.8 degrees centigrade over the next 100 years, is a
consequence of a greater awareness of the many influences at play, both
physical and social. Some of this uncertainty may be reduced in time by a
further refinement of the models, and the contribution of a wider range of
scientists. But much will remain-the sheer complexity of the physical
interactions involved, and the near impossibility of predicting patterns of
social and technological development (and hence the output of the
all-important gases and particles) will see to that.

Less has been made of the distinction the IPCC draws in its reports between
what it calls simple and complex extreme events, and in particular the fact
that the IPCC is much more confident in its predictions regarding simple
events than regarding complex events.
The IPCC is very confident that the earth as a whole will warm up over the
coming century, even if they are unsure by how much. As a consequence, we
can expect more days of extreme heat and fewer of extreme cold globally. We
can also expect more heavy precipitation resulting from a moister
atmosphere. These are examples of simple extreme events. In general, the
IPCC is much less confident regarding complex extreme events, such as storms
and El-Niño-like phenomena, or something involving a range of human
variables as well, such as disease spread. Importantly, these are the kinds
of extremes that matter most to human wellbeing.
The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed at the
Rio 'Earth Summit', states: 'The parties should take precautionary measures
to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change and mitigate
its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible
damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for
postponing such measures.'

Although the IPCC is formally independent of the UNFCCC, being charged with
simply providing scientific assessments, in practice (especially through the
summaries presented to policy makers) it works within this precautionary
framework. As a result, the IPCC has introduced an assumption of harm into
its policy recommendations.

In the longer term, it is a worthwhile ambition to understand and manage
climate change
Human societies have the potential to develop and manage environmental
change. As regards human wellbeing, the level of development is by far the
most important causal factor in determining the impact of environmental
change. One consequence of the assumption of harm is that the public
discussion often ignores this. This is reinforced by the cultural framework
in which climate change is discussed, which tends to see economic and
technological development as part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Take, for example, CNN's warning of 'enormous loss of both human and animal
life due to greater risk from diseases like malaria'. As Rogers and Randolph
point out, such projections are based on 'biological transmission models
driven principally by temperature' (7), while in reality many other factors
matter, including the interactions of parasite and host in a changed
Most importantly, aspects of the human environment, such as the level of
sanitation and other basic factors affecting health and parasite spread, are
the key determinants. Historically, regions of Italy have been plagued by
malaria; its relative absence now owes much more to social development than
to changed climate. From 1980 to 1996 there were more than 50,000 confirmed
cases of dengue in the three Mexican states that border the Rio Grande;
across the river in Texas there were fewer than 100 cases.

It might seem fanciful (or 'Western-centric') to imagine that Mexico will
suddenly resemble Bush's home state. And it would be if we were talking
about changes required within a few years. But over a time-span of decades,
even centuries, it is rather depressing to think that countries such as
Mexico will not advance significantly. Interestingly, projecting a simple
continuation of existing patterns of social development, Rogers and Randolph
predict 'remarkably few changes' in the prevalence of such diseases compared
to the present, 'even under the most extreme scenarios'.

In the longer term, it is a worthwhile ambition to understand and manage,
perhaps minimise, climate change. Tony Blair's dream of a 'green industrial
revolution' that is high on technology and low on greenhouse gas emissions
might yet catch on in Texas as well as the Netherlands. Certainly, if this
possibility becomes a reality, we might expect US governments and everybody
else to start taking more serious measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But until they see the hi-tech, developing countries would be wise to prefer
development to low emissions. It will give them the flexibility to respond
to potentially damaging changes, if and when they occur.
That 'if' is something we should keep hold of. And similarly, the most basic
assumption of the UN convention on climate change - that 'parties should
take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of
climate change' - should not be accepted at face value. For there is a sound
scientific basis, in both theoretical modelling and the study of past
climates, for the view that a warmer world might be a better place for

A warmer world could just as easily be less severely affected by extreme
events than more so. One of the USA's most intelligent skeptics of received
wisdom on the issue, Patrick Michaels, points out in his provocative book
The Satanic Gases that warming will not be evenly spread, but will rather
occur most noticeably in the very cold regions in the dead of winter. What,
he dryly asks, 'is so bad about this type of warming?'.

Greater warming in the polar regions might have benefits globally
Greater warming in the polar regions might have benefits globally: the
future contrast between the polar latitudes and the tropics should lessen,
particularly in winter, 'producing a weaker jet stream, a more contracted
vortex, with fewer and/or less powerful cyclones. In short, the future
atmospheric circulation should be less 'winterlike', with fewer intense
storms' (8).

Deep ice-core records illuminating conditions in warmer times support
Michaels' suggestion. Quite likely, historical evidence also suggests, a
warmer world would be a more fertile one too. Between 6000 and 7000 years
ago, during the mid-Holocene thermal optimum, temperatures were two to three
degrees centigrade warmer than today. Net precipitation was nine percent
higher, and the Sahara desert effectively did not exist - in its place was
savannah hospitable to life (9).

There is a reasonably strong scientific consensus that a rapid warming, of
3.5 degrees centigrade or more within the short time-span of the next
century, would threaten significant changes affecting both the natural world
and human life. But whether a more modest warming would pose such a threat
is far from clear.
Environmentalists, policy makers and some scientists might prefer
comfortable claims such as 'science tells us' we must do x, y or z. But the
truth is that, given a range of uncertainties, cultural and social
expectations have as much - if not more - bearing upon the way we feel we
should act as does scientific data.

In their famous work Risk and Culture, Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky
argued: 'In the [nineteenth] century, prevailing opinion held that the
future would have better solutions for its problems than the present
generation could devise. They rejected "overconsuming safety" in favour of
allowing the future to decide for itself' (10). Bereft of that
nineteenth-century confidence in the future we flee from uncertainty and
embrace such 'overconsuming safety'. As the Conservative John Gummer
hysterically put it: 'We can't take risks with our children's future and
expect something good to turn up. We need to act now.'

But what happens when that felt need to 'act now' crashes into the enormous
reality check that 60, 70, or even 90 percent reductions are needed in the
output of greenhouse gases to make a significant difference? One possible
reaction, of course, is to wait, allow better technologies to develop
organically rather than forcing the pace, while gathering more data.
In effect this is, in large part, what is happening. It is just that nobody
dares make a virtue of it. Instead, such drastic reductions in the output of
greenhouse gases are seriously proposed, as for example by the UK House of
Commons Science and Technology Committee, which chastises governments for
not beating us all about the head hard enough on the issue (11).

This raises the question: has the fearful interpretation of global warming
gathered enough momentum to force the pace, even at an economic price to
Western economies, or will realpolitik win the day? We should have a better
idea soon.
John Gillot is coauthor of Science and the Retreat from Reason, Merlin Press
1995. Buy this book at Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA).


(1) 'An unfortunate U-turn on carbon', D Kennedy, Science 291 (2001), p2515

(2) World Risk Society, Ulrich Beck, Cambridge: Polity 1999, p159. Buy this
book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

(3) All change over the climate, The Times 16 April 2001

(4) Global Climate Prediction Center

(5) 'Summary for Policymakers: Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and
Vulnerability', IPCC 2001. Available from the IPCC website

(6) 'Climate extremes: observations, modelling, and impacts', D Easterling
et al (2000), Science, 289, p2072

(7) 'The global spread of malaria in a future, warmer world', R Rogers and S
Randolph (2000), Science, 289, p1763

(8) The Satanic Gases, PJ Michaels and RC Balling, Washington: Cato 2000,
p91; p149. Buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

(9) Wouldn't a bit of global warming be a good thing?, Peter Sammonds, LM
106, December-January 1998

(10) Risk and Culture M Douglas and A Wildavsky, Berkeley: University of
California Press 1982, p23. Buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

(11) 'Scientific Advisory System: Scientific Advice on Climate Change',
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. London: HMSO 2001, pxvi;

© spiked 2000-2001 All rights reserved. 


From The Sunday Times, 15 July 2001

Bjorn Lombörg has recanted his green beliefs and tells Stuart Wavell why the
planet is doing better than ever
'A lot of people really, really hate me," says Bjorn Lombörg. It's easy to
understand why. The Danish statistician has gone to infinite pains to show
that most people's cherished beliefs about the lamentable state of the Earth
are bunk.

A pending fuel crisis? Forget it: we are not running out of energy or
natural resources, he claims. World hunger? Baloney: food is increasing per
head of population. Extinction of species? Rubbish: the world's species are
not vanishing at an alarming rate. Disappearing forests? Tosh: forest cover
has increased. In fact, nearly every indicator demonstrates man's lot has
vastly improved, he proclaims.

"The world in decline is a litany we have heard so often that another
repetition is, well, almost reassuring," he says. "There is just one
problem: it does not seem to be backed up by the available evidence."

What has really demonised him in the eyes of environmentalists are his views
on global warming and the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the subject of a
big international summit in Bonn this week.

Using the most sophisticated computer models, he asserts in a new book that
the Kyoto plan is a waste of money that will achieve little. To compound his
heresy, he says it would be better spent on solar energy research and the
Third World.

Nobody will be surprised if President George W Bush turns up flourishing a
copy of Lombörg's forthcoming book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, a
providential tome that contends America can handle global warming without
breaking into a sweat.

Lombörg, a professor from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, turns out to be
not quite the dry ascetic I am expecting. He is a 36-year-old in T-shirt and
jeans, speaking in broad American. The drawl comes from a year's study at
Georgia University, although he sometimes stumbles over the odd phrase.
"Cover their ass - is that correct?" he inquires.

His most reluctant convert was himself. When the scales fell from his eyes,
he was a Greenpeace supporter who voted for a left-wing Danish party. "I was
never in a rubber boat or anything, but I had the same perspective that most
city dwellers have - the Earth is beleaguered, things are going downhill and
we aren't doing enough."

His epiphany came in 1997 after reading an article on a right-wing American
economist who maintained that doomsday conceptions of the environment were
plain wrong. With 10 of his sharpest students, Lombörg set out to demolish
his claims.

"We honestly believed we were going to prove him wrong. But we suddenly
realised he had a lot of correct points. I felt cheated because I had spent
my life believing something that turned out to be at least partially untrue.
I can understand why people feel personally offended by me."

Delegates at Bonn will be contrasting Lombörg's optimistic forecasts with
the dire predictions of a 2,000-page report by the authoritative
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to press reports
last week, it warns that global temperatures will rise by up to 5.8C by the
end of the century, almost twice the increase envisaged in its 1995 report.

The 2001 report talks of crop failures, water shortages, increased disease,
flooding, landslides and sea storm surges. Lombörg dismisses this as
hysterical. "The point is, they are saying the Earth is warming at a rate of
between 1.4C and 5.8C. Obviously, the figure that gets quoted is the most
extreme. But they'd rather say things are very bad, because then nobody can
blame them afterwards.

"The worst scenarios for a temperature rise of 5.8C are unrealistic. They
say we're going to consume more and more fossil fuels through the 21st
century. But we know renewable energy rescources have dropped in price by
50% per decade over the past three decades.

"All the models show that these resources are going to be competitive by the
mid-century and even out-compete fossil fuels soon after. So it's unlikely
we're going to go on using fossil fuels. Sheikh Yamani, the former Saudi oil
minister, loved to say the oil age will not end because we run out of oil,
but because we get alternative - just as the Stone Age didn't end through
lack of stone."

Lombörg had never number-crunched the environment before. Normally he uses
statistics to construct game theories - computer models of how individuals
behave in society.

He believes there will be a temperature increase of between 2C and 3C then
it will fall as fossil fuels are replaced by more benign energy sources.
This leads to his central assertions: "The cure is worse than the ailment.
Let's not focus on phantom problems at the expense of real problems."

All the treaty would achieve is to postpone warming for six years, he
argues. For a bill of $4 trillion, a 2C rise in temperature would arrive in
2106 instead of 2100. "Or you could say that the people who will be flooded
in Bangladesh get another six years to move."

Using the IPCC's own figures, Lombörg has reached some surprising
conclusions on the consequences of global warming. Even in the worst-case
scenario for agriculture, he says industrialised countries will benefit from
a longer growing season and the fertiliser effect of carbon dioxide. It will
be much tougher for developing countries, he predicts, but points out that
by 2100 they will be considerably richer and capable of taking precautions.

He finds few grounds for alarm about rising sea levels. Over the next
century the global level will rise by 31-49cm (12-19in), of which
three-quarters will be due to expanding warm water and only a quarter from
changes in melting ice sheets. "Greenland contributes virtually nothing over
the coming century and Antarctica decreases sea level by about 8cm (3in)."

Human health could actually benefit from climate change, he believes, noting
that more people die from cold weather than from heat. As for increased
storms and hurricanes, he could find no evidence of a dramatic change.

"The combined increase in temperature, carbon dioxide and precipitation will
make the Earth greener," he says. "A test of different vegetation models
shows that global biomass will increase by more than 40% over the century,
almost back to prehistoric levels."

The bottom line, however, is that coping with global warming will be
expensive - about $5 trillion, excluding Kyoto - but not insuperable.
"People have these images of people drowning under seawater or baking. Of
course, that's not going to happen. It won't do much damage to the
industrialised world, but for the developing world it will be unpleasant,
especially if we don't help them now."

His views must be seen as manna by the radical right. "A little bit," he
concedes. "I've talked to a lot of these people, but I was very conscious I
didn't want to have any contact with politicians because that could easily
taint me, too. I made a policy that if anyone wanted me for political
things, I ask for an opponent, too - somebody from Greenpeace."

Surely President Bush must be dancing a hornpipe? He grimaces. "It's one of
the slightly unpleasant parts of all this. I've thought a lot about it. As a
scientist I simply have to call it the way I see it. It's very dangerous for
a scientist to start thinking, 'If I say that, Bush will be stronger.' Then
you're suddenly not a scientist any more, but trying to be a small

Hasn't he told industrialists precisely what they want to hear? "Why should
I be criticised for saying, 'Let's not spend money on things that will do no
good when there are things that would?' It just doesn't make sense."

But countries are primarily motivated by self-interest. By proclaiming that
there is not a global problem but a Third World problem, hasn't he removed
the incentive to help poorer countries? "I fully take the point. But a
scientist can't allow himself to say, 'If I tell people the truth, the
developed world won't care so we'll just play on the fear thing.' "

He says it is a political question how much money should be given to help
Third World countries develop their health, welfare and infrastructures to
the point where they can take precautionary measures. His personal
preference would be at least a quarter of the Kyoto spending budget,
estimated at between $150 billion and $350 billion a year. (Current global
aid runs at about $50 billion a year.)

But, critics ask, what is the point of improving peasants' health if they
are going to die in the floods that he admits will happen? "I've met the
argument a couple of times. But the real argument is to say that if you only
implement Kyoto and don't help these guys get clean drinking water, they'll
be dead but maybe you'll have postponed the flooding of their graves."

He professes to have been mystified initially at the gut reaction of
"complete denial" by environmental groups, where his name is mud. "Now I
think it makes sense. I would have reacted somewhat similarly. I can imagine
that if you've structured your life around something that turns out to be
untrue, you can't really give it up. You have to deal with this Lombörg guy,
so you demonise him."

For the first few months after his ideas were publicised, he checked his
mail carefully for suspicious packages. "I'm surprised to have had only one
bad letter and that's it. I have to admire the fact that my critics draw a
line between public debate and making it personal."

The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lombörg, is published in August by
Cambridge University Press
Copyright 2001, The Sunday Times
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