Media Advisory: Still Dodging the Truth About Global Warming

Published May 4, 2006

A draft report from a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was inadvertently made available on the Internet by a U.S. government committee.

The following comments about that draft can be attributed to James M. Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News and senior fellow for The Heartland Institute, a 22-year-old nonprofit research organization based in Chicago. Permission is hereby granted to reprint Taylor’s remarks in their entirety as an oped, or to quote from these remarks in news coverage. Taylor can be contacted for further information by telephone at 941/776-5690 or by email at [email protected].

Global warming alarmism is in the air once again, complete with claims of “overwhelming evidence” showing human activity is responsible for global warming. Or maybe not.

A draft report from a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was inadvertently made available on the Internet by a U.S. government committee. The IPCC–a political body created by the United Nations, not a scientific body–has been the source of false alarms before. Its new report appears to be no different.

The report claims Arctic Sea ice has shrunk 2.7 percent per decade since 1978. That would seem to be clear evidence of global warming … but it isn’t. The year 1978 is a favorite of climate alarmists because it marked the end of a decades-long cooling period that had alarmists proclaiming the advent of a new ice age. It’s no surprise that temperatures today are higher … and sea ice less extensive … than in one of the coldest years in recent history.

Second, the focus on Arctic Sea ice conveniently ignores the facts that Antarctic temperatures have cooled substantially, even from the 1978 baseline, and Antarctic ice cover continues to grow. The net global polar ice cover is essentially a wash, with Arctic ice shrinking slightly and Antarctic ice growing substantially.

The report claims five of the six warmest years since the end of the Little Ice Age a century ago have occurred in the past five years. This claim relies on ground-based temperature readings, which do not provide an accurate measure of the entire globe’s temperatures, and which are biased upward by the so-called urban heat island effect–the tendency of cities to create and retain heat. Satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature show very little warming.

The report claims sea levels rose about 2 millimeters per year during the past 40 years. That assertion, once again, cherry-picks an abnormally cool year as the baseline. It also obscures the fact that sea levels were rising long before human activity could have caused that to happen. Finally, the current rate of increase, if it continues, would amount to less than a foot per century. Plenty of time for people to adapt.

The report claims mountain glaciers and polar land ice have in general melted faster than they formed during the past 40 years. But once again, this is a trend that didn’t start 40 years ago, when human activities might have been the cause, but has been going for thousands of years … since the last Ice Age. Even so, this assertion conveniently leaves out the Antarctic ice sheet–the largest ice sheet on Earth–which continues to grow to this day.

It also fails to acknowledge some mountain glaciers, such as the glacier atop Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, are shrinking due to land-use changes at the base of the mountain instead of due to temperature changes. Indeed, temperatures have been falling at Mount Kilimanjaro for decades.

The report claims permafrost temperatures have been warming, and that 7 percent less land is seasonally frozen than was the case 50 years ago. This assertion once again uses an abnormally cool year as the temperature baseline. Moreover, even less is known about permafrost than is known about obviously more direct measures of climate change, such as air temperature.

The claim that permafrost is warming or shrinking serves as a good example of one of the biggest problems with global warming alarmism. Many of the “crises” alarmists point to are not, in fact, bad for humanity, plants, or wildlife. Shrinking glaciers and permafrost mean an expanding biosphere. During the climate optimum 1,000 years ago, when temperatures were warmer than today, Vikings grew vineyards in eastern Canada.

The gradual warming shown by surface temperature stations coincides with longer growing seasons for agriculture, greater crop yields, an overall greening of the planet, and an expansion of the Earth’s biosphere. Is any of this bad?

The global warming alarmists are still dodging the truth about climate change. This latest report is just one more example of government science–whereby inconvenient facts disappear down memory holes and politics, rather than the pursuit of truth, dictates what findings are made public and shape public policy.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow – environment policy for The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago, and managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a monthly newspaper addressing sound science and common-sense environmentalism. For more information, call Michael Van Winkle, media affairs assistant, 312/377-4000, or email him at [email protected].