Climate Change Conference Invigorates Global Warming Debate

Published May 1, 2008

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, hosted by The Heartland Institute and more than 50 cosponsors, brought together more than 500 attendees and 100 expert speakers presenting the message that global warming is not a crisis.

Addresses by the Hon. Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, John Stossel of ABC News, and leading scientists received thundering standing ovations from a capacity audience.

Press coverage was extensive, including television coverage by CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox, PBS, and BBC, and print coverage by AP, Reuters, Greenwire, The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, New York Sun, and countless other press outlets.

The three-day conference got off to a fast and successful start on March 2 with a capacity crowd at the opening dinner, featuring remarks by Heartland President Joseph Bast, comedian Tim Slagle, and climatologist Patrick Michaels. The room was packed with guests from at least 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, England, France, New Zealand, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, and Sweden. Klaus was a distinguished guest.

Nonexistent Consensus

During his opening comments, Bast cited a 2003 survey of 530 climate scientists in 27 countries, conducted by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch at the GKSS Institute of Coastal Research in Germany, which found only 27 percent believed “the current state of scientific knowledge is able to provide reasonable predictions of climate variability on time scales of 100 years.”

“That’s a long ways from ‘consensus,'” Bast observed. He then named 29 universities and other academic institutions represented by the speakers on the program, including Harvard University, the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the London School of Economics, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

“If this is the fringe [of the scientific community], where’s the center?” Bast asked.

Bast said, “it is my hope, and the reason The Heartland Institute organized this conference, that public policies that impose enormous costs on millions of people, in the United States and also around the world, will not be passed into law before the fake ‘consensus’ on global warming collapses.

“Once passed, taxes and regulations are often hard to repeal,” said Bast. “Once lost, freedoms are often very difficult to retrieve.”

Warming Slower than Predicted

The opening evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute and the University of Virginia, began by warning the audience not to argue recent cooler temperatures were proof global warming had ended, since other climatic factors could change and result in resumed warming.

Michaels also dissected claims of “unprecedented” sea ice melting in the Arctic and warming in the Antarctic, showing evidence that temperatures were warmer in the Arctic during the 1930s and the vast majority of Antarctica is cooling.

He also demonstrated that the most realistic forecast for future warming was a linear increase of about 0.17º F per decade, well below even the most conservative estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Warming Reports Criticized

The conference resumed at 7:00 the next morning with presentations by Dr. Robert Balling, professor of climatology at Arizona State University, and Dr. Ross McKitrick, associate professor of economics at the University of Guelph (Ontario). Both speakers vigorously critiqued the temperature records that purport to show unprecedented warming in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The presentations documented a dramatic drop in the number of temperature stations, changes in temperature recording technologies, and apparent bias in adjustments to the data made by proponents of global warming alarmism.

The breakfast speakers also began what would become a running debate over Michaels’ statements in the opening address the evening before, that a mild warming trend could be discerned from recent temperature data and that it was probably of anthropogenic origin.

This doubly confirmed an expected theme of the conference, that there is no consensus on the extent or causes of global warming. The “skeptics” not only disagree with the so-called “consensus,” but they also disagree among themselves, showing a healthy scientific habit of attempting to disprove all hypotheses, including one’s own.

Full Day of Presentations

Sixty expert speakers presented papers over the course of the day. People in the hallways buzzed about presentations by Christopher Monckton, a former policy advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Willie Soon of the Science and Public Policy Institute and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Dr. George Taylor, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists; and Roy Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Lunch presentations by Dr. Tim Ball, former professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg, and Dr. S. Fred Singer, distinguished research professor at George Mason University, rocked the crowd. Singer announced the release of the Summary for Policymakers of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), a systematic and authoritative rebuttal of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report.

There was a moment of sadness when the death of Dr. Frederick Seitz, on Sunday, was announced at the end of lunch. Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences and president emeritus of Rockefeller University in New York, was one of the most distinguished scientists of his generation and a noted global warming skeptic. He had contributed a preface to Singer’s NIPCC report.

Extensive Media Coverage

A steady stream of reporters and camera crews flowed through the registration and reception areas and utilized the three media suites for interviews.

By the end of the second conference day, more than a few speakers were hoarse from their repeated encounters with reporters, but all were delighted they were getting their messages out.

There is no question but that the media took note of this meeting, the largest gathering of global warming skeptics ever held. The truth was simply too big to remain hidden: There is no consensus on global warming.

Klaus Addresses Economics

The final day of the conference began with a keynote presentation by the Hon. Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, who received a thunderous standing ovation from the attendees. (His remarks are reprinted on page 8.)

Klaus–who won reelection just two weeks before the conference–explained his strong opposition to claims that global warming is a “crisis” requiring rapid reductions in human greenhouse gas emissions.

An economist by training and author of a new book on environmentalism, Klaus pointed out the impossibility of meeting the ambitious emission reduction goals being endorsed by European countries, saying they would require lowering populations or widespread poverty.

Scientists Continue Discussions

Klaus was followed by Dr. William Gray, one of the country’s most preeminent hurricane forecasters and a pioneer in tropical meteorological research. Gray described what he called huge errors in the treatment of water vapor by computer models used to forecast future weather conditions. He also pointed out evidence showing the warming predicted by the models was not occurring at the altitudes and latitudes the models indicate they should.

The audience then split up to attend concurrent sessions on climatology, the impacts of climate change, and the economics and politics of the global warming debate. Eight panels took place featuring such noted experts as Richard S. Courtney, technical advisor to several UK MPs and one of 15 scientists invited to brief the U.S. Congress on climate change in 2000; Andreas Prokoph, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Ottawa; and Paul Waggoner, a distinguished scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.

The group reconvened for a final lunch and plenary session featuring Dr. Roy Spencer, principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader on NASA’s Aqua satellite, and John Stossel, an ABC News correspondent and co-anchor of 20/20.

Spencer reported on his latest research documenting how background “noise” in climate systems creates temperature variations that are not random and tend to falsely predict warming, the size of which exceeds all of the warming attributed to human activity by the models. He further documented a major error in the way climate models deal with cloud cover and convection in the tropics.

Stossel Blasts Media

Stossel delivered a withering critique of the way the news media cover science and health issues.

While confessing to having been duped into covering alleged “crises” in the past, Stossel said he now recognizes that advocacy groups take advantage of the scientific illiteracy of journalists and their natural interest in stories of lurking or invisible threats that only government can protect people from.

Harriette Johnson ([email protected]) is media relations manager for The Heartland Institute. Joseph L. Bast ([email protected]) is president of The Heartland Institute.