Bait And Switch?
Pares Down the Consensus
The authors of the much-ballyhooed United Nations report from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)the one claiming the consensus of
scientists across the globe is that human-induced climate change is hereare up to
their old tricks. The IPCC has been a
frequent target of criticism, in both the World
Climate Report regarding the lack of proper scientific peer review (WCR, Vol. 1, No. 3) and in Congressional
testimony relating to the IPCCs bias toward omitting studies that provide balance to
the impending climate disaster viewpoint (testimony before the full House Science
Committee, March 6, 1996).
Another concerned group has joined
the fray. The Global Climate Coalition (GCC)
issued a memorandum May 17 regarding illegal (based on IPCC rules) revisions to the
previously-approved and purported final
version of the IPCC text. This memo focused
on revisions made to the critical Chapter 8, Detection of Climate Change and
Attribution of Causes authored by B. D. Santer, T.M.L. Wigley, T.P. Barnett and E.
Anyamba. States the GCC:
The changes include the addition of new material that had not
undergone scientific peer-review or been presented to governments for their consideration
and the wholesale deletion of previously accepted text.
They go beyond mere editorial improvements and actually alter the
information and intent of the original document. The
overall impact is to increase the appearance of scientific support for attribution of
changes in climate to human activities and to eliminate or diminish what had been clearly
stated caveats and uncertainties bearing on this issue.
These revisions raise very serious questions about whether the
IPCC has compromised, or even lost, its scientific integrity....First, the changes were
made after [our italics] formal acceptance of
the reports by the relevant IPCC bodies. Second,
the changes quite clearly have the obvious political purpose of cleansing the underlying
scientific report of important information and scientific analysis that would lead
policymakers and the public to be very cautious, if not skeptical, about blaming human
activities for climate change over the past century.
Here we provide a few examples of
The Concluding Summary of
the accepted version was removed in the revision. Not surprisingly, this summary contained some of
the more cautious statements in the chapter:
of an observed climate change to a particular mechanism can be established only by testing
competing hypotheses. Thus unique attribution
of a significant observed change requires specifying the signals of all likely
alternative explanations, and statistical determination that none of these mechanisms is a
satisfactory explanation for the observed change. This
is a difficult task, and one that detection studies to date have not addressed in a
rigorous statistical way.
some of the pattern-based studies discussed here have claimed detection of a significant
climate change, no study to date has positively attributed all or part of that change to
anthropogenic causes. Nor has any study
quantified the magnitude of a greenhouse-gas effect or aerosol effect in the observed
dataan issue that is of primary relevance to policymakers.
claims of positive detection and attribution of significant climate change are likely to
remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of [the] climate
system are reduced.
The obvious net impact of removing
all statements of caution in interpreting the IPCC conclusions is to leave the reader with
the impression that the so-called consensus is confident that human-induced
climate change is here.
Similarly, regarding efforts to
detect a CO2-only signal in historic temperature records, the statement
None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the
observed changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases was deleted.
The original approved
report was skeptical of the ability of scientists to attribute any portion of global-mean surface temperature trends to human
influences. While none of these studies
has specifically considered the attribution issue, they often draw some
attribution-related conclusions, for which there is little justification. This sentence was also deleted.
Furthermore, the original report
contained other statements of caution on the attribution question. While such studies [comparing the ability of
models to reproduce observed temperature changes] help to build confidence in the
reliability of the model...there are still serious concerns about the [validation of the]
longer time scale variability.... Unless
paleoclimatic data can help us to constrain the century time scale natural
variability estimates obtained from [Coupled General Circulation Models], it will be
difficult to make a convincing case for the detection and attribution of an anthropogenic
climate change signal. Deleted.
But most important, making this type
of change to the text after the report was
accepted violates not only common-sense principles but the rules under which the IPCC
operates. According to the GCC:
When important scientific information is deleted from the
underlying report prepared by scientists, and when new material is added, in order to
conform that report to the political views of those anxious to attribute climate change to
human activities, the resulting document is neither comprehensive, nor balanced, nor
objective....[The requirement of a balanced presentation in the IPCC] embodies the simple,
ethical concept that scientific certainty should tell both sides of the story in a
straightforward manner, rather than obscuring views for the sake of political expediency.
These alterations lend further
credence to the contention that, when all is said and done, only a handful of the hundreds
of IPCC authors constitute the so-called consensus and that these chosen few
wield disproportionate editorial control over the final report.
The IPCC: Institutionalized Scientific
Cleansing, Global Climate Coalition, Global Climate Coalition memorandum, Donald
Rheem, May 17, 1996.
Panel on Climate Change (1996). Climate Change 1995
The Science of Climate Change, Cambridge University Press.
Here is a comparison of approved text
from the IPCC report and the subsequent published revision.
Compare the two excerpts and decide which is more balanced.
come to the most difficult question of all: When
will the detection and unambiguous attribution of human-induced climate change occur? In light of the very large...uncertainties...it is
not surprising that the best answer to this question is, We do not know. Some would have claimed...that detection of a
significant climate change has already occurred. Few
if any would be willing to argue that unambiguous attribution
[our italics] of this change to anthropogenic effects has already occurred, or was
likely to happen in the next several years.
REVISIONISTFinally, we come to
the difficult question of when the detection and attribution of human-induced climate
change is likely to occur. The answer to
this question must be subjective
scientists maintain that these uncertainties currently preclude any answer to the question
posed above. Other scientists would and have
that confident detection of a significant anthropogenic climate change has
The World Health Organization (WHO) released the results of its
annual planetary health assessment May 21. The
prognosis? Not good. Although the checkup found some favorable news,
the report was full of foreboding, mentioning in particular that climate change may
allow some disease to spread. The good
news was all in the past; the bad news reflected the future, especially if the patient
refused to follow the prescriptions of WHO. Since
the devastating impacts of climate change on global health have become the latest clarion
call of environmental apocalysts, this issue requires scrutiny.
In a recent New York City conference,
less cautious environmentalists claimed that global warming and a decline in the
quality of the worlds ecosystems are increasing illnesses from water-borne organisms
and from diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease. Don Melnick, professor of anthropology and
biological sciences at Columbia University and organizer of the conference, pointed to an
increase in Lyme disease in the northeastern United States, caused by a decrease in the
number of predators who stalk deer (he must have been referring to hunters since nonhuman
predators of deer have not flourished in the Northeast for over a hundred years) with the
result that contact between deer and humans is more common than in the past. The connection between a growth in the deer and
human populations in the Northeast and climate change was left unexplained. Perhaps he
meant that both thrived under warmer conditions!
In reality, the health of the
worlds people is improving. Over the last 35 years, the worlds death rate has
been cut in half. Life expectancy continues
to grow to unprecedented levels (Figure 1), and each year infant mortality falls to record
lows (Figure 2). Today 86 percent of the
worlds population lives in a country where newborns enjoy a life expectancy greater
than 60 years, compared with six out of 10 in 1980 (Figure 3). If your parents or grandparents were born in
America before the early 1930s, they were not expected to make it to their sixth decade, a
rarely reported fact that President Roosevelt leaned on to insure the solvency of Social
Figure 1. The worlds population is living longer than
ever. The average life expectancy at birth
has increased from 61 years in 1980 to 65 years in 1995.
Figure 2. Each year the worlds infant mortality rate
(deaths per 1000 births) reaches record low levels.
Figure 3. The number of countries that have a population
with an average life expectancy of at least 60 years has risen from 86 in 1980 to 120 in
Smallpox, a major scourge prior to
the 19th century, has been completely eliminated from the world. The last of the virus is
slated for execution in 1999. WHO predicts
that polio, which killed millions annually before the development of a vaccine and claimed
just over 100,000 worldwide in 1990, can be wiped out by the end of the century. The prevalence of leprosythe AIDS of the
Middle Ageswas cut in half in the decade of the 1980s, as was tetanus in infants. River blindness and guinea-worm disease should be
eliminated in the next few years. The number
of malaria deaths worldwide has dropped since 1990.
There is, of course, much scope for
improvement. In the poorest countries, well
over a hundred of every thousand babies die by the end of their first year, while in the
advanced countries, less than 7 per thousand fail to celebrate their first birthday. Nearly one-third of the children under 5 in the
developing countries were underweight. Although
80 percent of the worlds children have received vaccines for diphtheria, measles,
whooping cough, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis, in some African countries less than half
have been immunized.
These problems, which are serious,
are related not to climate change but to poverty. Blaming
global warming for an increase in malaria and dengue fever in Southeast Asia, as Melnick
did, is baseless. A warm climate like that
enjoyed in Southeast Asia is a necessary condition for the mosquitoes that can carry
malaria to flourish; but it is not a sufficient condition for malaria to become endemic. Singapore, which is located just 2 degrees from
the Equator, reported no deaths from malaria in 1994.
Malaysia, just next door, suffers from endemic malaria and dengue fever. The difference is not the climate but the wealth
of the two areas.
Before 1940, malaria was widespread
in the southern portions of the United States. Although sporadic cases are still diagnosed
north of the Mexican border, brought mostly by travelers from abroad, the likelihood that
malaria will again secure a firm foothold in this country is negligible. For a disease spread by mosquitoes to become
endemic, a large number of hosts, that is, humans, must carry the parasite. Simple precautions can prevent the spawning of a
resident-affected population. If people
protect themselves from mosquitoes by using screens on their windows and doors, wearing
long-sleeved clothing when outdoors, and applying insect repellents containing DEET, the
virus cannot secure a foothold.
Environmentalists such as Melnick
believe the world should take action now to head off further warming of the worlds
climate, at least partly to slow or stop the spread of these diseases. The cost of attempting to slow the production of
greenhouse gases, which is rarely discussed, would be high.
Estimates by pro-environmental advocates have ranged from 2.5 to 3.5 percent
of world GDP or roughly $500 billion to $750
billion annually (Cline, 1992).
Yet, just a fraction of this
sumspent to improve health conditionswould do more to eliminate sickness in
poor countries than any amount of industry restriction could. Levying a carbon tax to quell a nonthreatening
climate change would stifle global productivity without significantly changing the
worlds contagious disease picture. For
example, the WHO estimates the cost of immunizing children against six major killers at
$14.60 per childa total cost of around $400 million annually to treat the 20 percent
of the worlds children who now go without immunization. This modest expenditure could save millions of
childrens lives immediatelyfor less than one-tenth of one percent of the cost of slowing warming.
Organization. World Health Report, 1995 and 1996.
Global Warming linked to Disease Increase, Reuters, May 9, 1996.
Cline, W. 1992. The
Economics of Global Warming. Washington
D.C., Institute for International Economics, p. 8.
The BIG Rumor
Since global temperatures through the first several months of
1996 have not been behaving according to classical global warming theory (i.e. have been
fairly cool; see Planet Watch),
environmental apocalysts must surely find a scapegoat.
Mount Pinatubo just cant take the blame any longer. It blew its top almost five years agowhich
is a long time for stratospheric aerosols to remain in placeand the warming it
sidetracked since 1990 has supposedly once again begun (1995: Warmest Year on
what other household environmental phenomenon could be fingered? The ozone hole would probably have to shrink to
cool the earthand we cant have that. How
about El Niņo/La Niņa? There has been an
extended El Niņo eventno doubt due to global warmingwhich is now starting to
break down and be replaced by a weak La Niņa event.
This must be the ticket. The
year 1996 has been cool so far. Cherchez La Niņa!
if a La Niņa event of such diminutive proportions as the current one actually had such a
large impact on global temperatures, the world would suffer through wild climatic