Spring offensive, Summer campaign

Published May 1, 2000

It’s an election year. So perhaps the American public should expect to be subjected to relentless environmentalist machinations designed to prompt them to act—and vote—based on their fear that the climate is going haywire because of pernicious economic activity. Consider this time line:

Starting January 10, CBS News began a series of six—count ’em, six—separate global warming scare stories.

On January 27, in his final State of the Union address, President Clinton called global warming “the greatest environmental challenge of the new century.”

On February 1, Roger Ballentine, Clinton’s Deputy Assistant for Environmental Initiatives, sent a “Dear Interested Party” letter elaborating the President’s position.

On February 9, Bill Stevens, the New York Times greenhouse reporter (and advocate for Clinton/Gore policies; see his new book, The Change in the Weather), tells us he’s writing a new, comprehensive update of the issue.

And on April 22, Earth Day, Presidential candidate Al Gore released a new edition of his 1992 bestseller, Earth in the Balance.

Is there a pattern here?

After avoiding the issue like the political plague that it is, the Gore campaign has decided to go into high dudgeon over climate change.

The Gore team is banking on some type of national weather disaster this summer, which it will hype to call attention to global climate change and point out that uncaring Republicans refuse to pass the Kyoto Protocol on global warming—a U.N. document that will cost the country a fortune and assign an unbelievable percentage of our land to their watchful eyes. (More on that bombshell, and what the U.N. calls “Kyoto Lands”—this means your woodlot—as the warming campaign unfolds.)

Having said that, it might be a good idea to examine what is coming out of the White House as we ramp up the weather horror machine.

In his February 1 missive, Deputy Assistant Ballentine wrote, “You may have noticed the steady stream of new scientific studies suggesting that global warming is . . . occurring more rapidly than previously thought.”

Fact: Not a single paper in the refereed scientific literature in the past six months says warming is occurring at a faster rate than predicted by the consensus of climate models. Not one. I challenge Ballentine to produce these refereed papers. I don’t mean an editorial or something from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Let’s try an article in Nature, Science, or Climate Research, for starters.

It can’t be done. Rather, the balance of scientific evidence is to the contrary, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In its last comprehensive report, the IPCC stated, “When increases in greenhouse gases only are taken into account, most [climate prediction models] produce a greater mean warming than has been observed.” In other words, the computer models that served as the basis for the initial concern predicted too much warming.

Ballentine: “Reports by . . . the National Climatic Data Center . . . found that since 1976 the planet has been warming at a rate of 0.35 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.”

Fact: Integrated over the troposphere—the Earth’s active weather zone—the planetary warming since 1976 has been a mere 0.07ºF per decade, or far beneath the natural variation or “noise” in this overall region.

According to NASA scientist John Christy, writing in Nature magazine, the originally forecast tropospheric warming rate was around 0.70ºF per decade—10 times what has been observed. Because those models, in the U.N.’s words, “produce[d] a greater mean warming than has been observed,” the integrated tropospheric warming forecast was lowered, by 1997, to 0.4ºF per decade. That is still an egregious error, and in a new report, the National Research Council has finally admitted that the error casts serious doubt on our confidence about current computer forecasts of global warming.

More Facts: It is seriously misleading to report the temperature of “the planet” while disregarding the spatial distribution of observed surface warming. Had Ballentine consulted the latest issue of the aforementioned journal Climate Research, he would have seen that, by far, the largest proportion of warming is taking place in the coldest winter air masses of Siberia and northwestern North America. Northern Hemisphere cold-season warming outside these regions averages one-tenth of what is being observed within them, which is ecologically irrelevant.

Still More Facts: In almost every year that surface temperatures have warmed, global food production has risen. This results from improved technology, benign weather, and the same carbon dioxide that makes the coldest air of winter less deadly. Finally, as surface temperatures have warmed, we have witnessed the greatest democratization of wealth and expansion of longevity in human history.

But none of this matters, because the hype is on, and Gore knows a lot about American weather. Surely, Gore’s advisors have told him that conditions in the industrial midwest, Texas, and Southern California are fairly dry, predisposing the region to a very mediagenic drought, just in time for the Conventions.

And his advisors must have informed him that the way the federal government measures moisture status means that an average of (please be sitting down) 20 percent of the Electoral College are considered to be in drought each summer. This year, thanks to where the dry conditions are, it will be closer to one-third—a mere New York + Florida away from the presidency.