Scientists Debate Global Warming

Enviro-Watch: "Climate Change 1995" Scandals Charged
by Judy Franklin On Wings Dec 1996 Vol 2:12

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in an effort to assess the scientific, environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change, so-called 'global warming', and to develop methodology to address the problem. The IPCC seeks to evaluate the influence of human activities on the world climate.

The UN sponsored panel is made up of government scientists, but also includes several hundred academic researchers and scientists from around the globe. The panel has published reports on the state of climate change in 1990, 1992, 1994, and a 1995 IPCC report, which was published in 1996. Not all the scientists on the panel share the same views; a number of `scientific skeptics', global warming as the 'empirical equivalent of the Easter Bunny', are represented in the group. The numbers of these skeptics have increased markedly in recent years.

Even as far back as the 1992 Earth Summit, when a group of several hundred scientists released the "Heidelberg Appeal", there has been controversy about global warming. The Heidelberg Appeal, which warned Earth Summit participants not to be stampeded by hyped stories of impending global disaster, has now been signed by over 4,000 scientists worldwide, among them some seventy Nobel Prize winners.

More recently, the Leipzig Declaration on Global Climate Change has been signed by over one hundred scientists from all over the world. It reads as follows:

     "As scientists, we - along with our fellow citizens - are intensely interested in the possibility that human activities may affect the global climate; indeed, land clearing and urban growth have been changing local climates for centuries. Historically, climate has always been a factor in human affairs - with warmer periods, such as the medieval "climate optimum, playing an important role in economic expansion and in the welfare of nations that depend primarily on agriculture. For these reasons we must always remain sensitive to activities that could affect future climate.

    Attention has recently been focused on the increasing emission of "greenhouse" gases into the atmosphere. International discussions by political leaders are currently underway that could con-strain energy use and mandate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Although we understand the motivation to eliminate what are perceived to be the driving forces behind a potential climate change, we believe this approach may be dangerously simplistic. Based on the evidence available to us, we cannot subscribe to the so-called "scientific consensus" that envisages climate catastrophes and advocates hasty actions.

    As the debate unfolds, it has become increasingly clear that - contrary to conventional wisdom 'there does not exist today a general scientific consensus about the importance of greenhouse warming from rising levels of carbon dioxide. On the contrary, most scientists now accept the fact that actual observations from earth satellites show no climate warming whatsoever. And to match this fact, the mathematical models are becoming more realistic and are forecasting temperature increases that are only thirty per cent of what was considered the "best" value just four years ago.
    We consider the Global Climate Treaty concluded in Rio de Janiero at the 1992 "Earth Summit" to be unrealistic; its goal is stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which requires that fuel use be cut by 60-80 per cent worldwide! Energy is essential for all economic growth, and fossil fuels provide today's' principal global energy source. In a world in which poverty is the greatest social pollutant, any restriction on energy use that inhibits economic growth should be viewed with caution. For this reason, we consider "carbon taxes" and other drastic control policies - lacking credible support from the underlying science - to be ill-advised, premature, wrought with economic danger, and likely to be counterproductive. This statement is based on the International Symposium on the Greenhouse Controversy, held in Leipzig, Germany on November 9- 10, 1995, under the sponsorship of the Prime Minister of the State of Saxony. For further information, contact Europaeische Akademie fuer Umwelragen (fax +49-7071- 72939) or the Science and Environmental Policy Project in Fairfax, Virginia (fax 703-352- 7535)."

Now the 1995 report has become the center of controversy and scandal within the scientific community recently, as lack of scientific consensus has given way to allegations of a lack of correspondence between the IPCC's Summary for Policymakers (relied upon for the facts by government representatives, and essentially a political document) and the scientific report upon which it is based. Even more shocking are assertions that certain unauthorized alterations had been made in the 1995 report after it had been accepted by the members in peer review, and prior to its printing in 1996. More than 15 sections in Chapter Eight, the chapter setting forth scientific evidence for and against accepted global warming theory, were changed or deleted— after scientists had signed off on the final text.

Three important clauses that had been in the final draft of Chapter Eight of the document, and had been approved by the authors, contributors and reviewers as representative of the panel's best scientific judgment on global warming, were deleted. The changes in the document were not minor; they served to remove any indication of the 'skepticism' which many of the scientists feel regarding the effect of human activities on climate change. The clauses read as follows:

  "None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed (climate) changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases."

  "No study to date has positively attributed all or part (of the climate change observed to date) to anthropogenic (man-made) causes."

 "Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced."

Frederick Seitz, in a June 12, 1996 Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal is highly critical of the alleged intellectual tampering. "In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report."

Many scientists believe the deleted clauses not only should have remained in the IPCC report, but should have been included in the summary as reflecting current best scientific judgment. They point out that at least two-thirds of the global warming this century has occurred before 1940 — that is, before the great perceived increase in greenhouse gases.
Second, the period spanning the years 1940 through 1975 was a period of cooling, not warming. And finally, satellite data for the last eighteen years have shown no warming whatsoever.

In 1992, the "Earth Summit" was held in Rio. There, world leaders including George Bush were pressed to sign the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, the so-called Global Climate Treaty, which was ratified by the US Senate in 1993. The treaty groups member countries into industrialized, or Annex I countries, and developing countries, or non-annex I countries. Annex I countries such as the United States are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

The controversial and oft-criticized Berlin mandate was agreed to by the parties in 1995. That agreement allowed non-Annex countries, after the year 2000, to avoid binding new commitments, while committing Annex I countries to legally binding, time constrained, emissions limitation programs. That is, emissions limitations must be met by industrialized countries only.

Senator Jesse Helms criticized the U.S. support of the Mandate on economic grounds: "The U.S. position turns basic principles of sound economic policy on its head since it directs industrialized countries to subsidize developing countries by polluting less while incurring higher costs so that developing countries can pollute more without incurring costs."

Furthermore, an Australian Government study, "Global Climate Change: Economic Dimensions of a Cooperative International Policy Response Beyond 2000" noted that stabilizing carbon dioxide levels to 1990 1evels in industrialized countries only "would lead to minimal reductions in global emissions and would have higher costs for most countries than alternative abatement strategies."

Meetings were held this past July in Geneva, where delegates discussed the implementation of Article 2 of the Global Climate Treaty, and timetables for reducing the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Most delegates there had had access only to the Policy Maker's Summary of "Climate Change 1995", and could not have been expected to be aware of the controversy surrounding its predictions. Neither could delegates have been expected to recognize that the report's alterations would have a profound effect on prescriptions for policy changes in the future. No exception was the United States' Tim Worth, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs.

Worth had previously assured scientists that the United States had no intention of adopting a policy of legally binding goals and timetables for the control of greenhouse emissions, to replace the current and voluntary Climate Action Plan in place since 1994. They were surprised then, when the July 25 issue of Nature quoted Worth as saying that "the administration has been working on this policy for more than a year." At the Geneva meeting, he declared, perhaps based on the arguably flawed Policymaker's Summary.  The science calls on us to take urgent action."

A group of scientists have signed a letter to Worth, chastising him for this abrupt shift. "We are naturally dismayed to find that you have changed your position in spite of your previous assurances -- and without giving a considered hearing to opposing views from scientists or from consumer and industry groups likely to be affected by such policies. We hope the Congress will provide such a forum before far-reaching and eco¬nomically disastrous policies, like energy taxes or rationing, are imposed on the American public," read the letter signed by Henry Linden, Ph.D., of Illinois Institute of Technology; William' Nierenberg, Ph.D., director emeritus of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography; Frederick Seitz, Ph.D.; S. Fred Singer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of environmental sciences, University of Virginia, and Chauncey Starr, Ph.D., of the Electrical Power Research Institute.

Comments Roger Bate, director of the IEA Environment Unit and a member of Wolfson College, Cambridge, "Policy can-not be made on science alone; the world cannot be run as a rational machine. But if policy is to be based upon science at all, then this science must be sound.... The way in which the normal procedural rules governing the publishing of scientific documents were flouted by the editors of the IPCC report leads one to suspect that the science upon which the report is based is not sound science, and hence, that its policy recommendation would not constitute sound policy."

Senator Bennett Johnston of Louisiana defended the IPCC, however, claiming that "there is not a shred of evidence of misconduct by any of the scientists involved."

The Congress has for years attempted to deal with environmental issues by throwing more and money at perceived problems. According to a GAO study, in the period from 1993 to 1995, Federal Agencies of the United States have spent almost $700 million on global climate change related spending. This amounts to almost 70 per cent of all US spending for environmental treaties

Congressman Clifford Stearns of Florida has called for a more common sense approach: Eco-Sanity. Comments Congressman Stearns, "Spending on environmental protection in the United States is greater both in dollar terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product than it has ever been before, also considerably higher than spending in many other countries. Our biggest problem is that it is in the politics . . . What then is the biggest barrier to improving environmental protection? Mr. Speaker, I think it is the environmental movement itself. More specifically, I believe that the lack of understanding and critical thinking on the part of most environmentalists has compromised the movement's ability to be an effective force for real true environmental protection."

During hearings of the Senate Energy Committee in September, Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski raised serious questions about the administration's support of global climate change negotiations in general, and on the possibility or advisability of a 'carbon tax' in particular. Such 'green taxes' are already in effect in certain areas around the world. Taxes are imposed on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxides in Sweden; the Netherlands imposes taxes on water pollution.

Because no economic analyses of any proposed protocols have yet been provided to the Congress, the Senator stressed the need to ensure that U.S. jobs are protected and that businesses in this country are not subject to unfair competition abroad due to any provisions in a legally binding treaty.

But, even now the US is negotiating new protocols dealing with global climate change, the details of which are not expected to be announced until December, after the elections. The possibility of a `carbon tax' in the United States has already been raised.