July 27, 2007

Ground-Level Ozone Trends: Facts vs. Fantasy

Guest Commentary

Joel Schwartz
Visiting Fellow
American Enterprise Institute

Growing plants absorb some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human burning of fossil fuels for energy. However, according to a new study in the journal Nature, ground-level ozone (AKA “smog”) will rise during the 21st Century and stunt plant growth. This will reduce CO2 uptake by vegetation, exacerbating CO2-induced greenhouse warming.

The study, which was performed by Stephen Sitch and colleagues from England’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change Research, is based on computer modeling of current and future ozone levels. To project future emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, Sitch et al. relied upon the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) A2 scenario. The scenario includes projections of population, economic activity, energy use, and other factors that determined future emissions.

Unfortunately, comparison of Sitch et al.’s model results with actual trends in ozone and ozone-forming pollutants show that their study has nothing to do with reality.


April 9, 2007

Canadian Heat Waves Declining?

Filed under: Heat Waves

No popular presentation of global warming is complete without images of people suffering from the effects of a heat wave. It seems so simple – the world is getting hotter, temperatures are rising everywhere, and therefore, heat waves will be longer, more frequent, and more severe. There are heat waves somewhere on the planet at any moment, so one would never run out of fresh material for such a story. Add in giant killer heat waves in Chicago and/or Europe, claim tens of thousands of deaths on those ever-increasing heat waves, and another scary global warming story emerges. Heat waves put a human face on suffering thanks to global warming, and if you include sweltering pets and animals at the zoo, the story is further embellished. Add in the familiar lines about the heat waves differentially impacting the elderly, the poor, and children, and the story is nearly complete. Obviously, blame the industrial nations (particularly the United States) for all the misery just for some icing on the cake.

We have covered heat waves many times in the past at World Climate Report, but another article has appeared in a recent issue of Theoretical and Applied Climatology that we must call to your attention. A team of scientists from various institutions in Quebec decided to examine trends in the number of summer-season heat spells and the number of summer-season hot days in southern Quebec over the past 60 years. Canada is in the mid-to-high latitudes where climate models predict enhanced warming compared to the rest of the planet, so one might logically expect to see an increase in the heat spells. The title of the article reveals that the focus is on observed changes in heat spells in southern Quebec, but the results may surprise the global warming advocates of that country.


March 14, 2007

Lower Mortality Thanks to Global Warming?

The release of the Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sent the media into a global warming frenzy. Headlines were literally predicting “climate chaos” in the coming decades, humanity and every specie on the planet are in deep peril, and according to an international group of celebrities (the “Global Cool” crowd), we have “10 years to save the planet.”

Among the usual claims, we learn that many humans will die as the temperature of the Earth increases, and that the elderly, the children, and the poorest among us are most at risk. Throw in a few pictures of Paris during the 2003 European heat wave, claim tens of thousands died in that event, and the icing is on the cake. A Google search of “Global Warming and Mortality” will lead you to 723,000 different sites – we sampled a dozen or so, and according to these sites, you will be lucky to survive much longer if temperatures continue to rise.


January 31, 2007

European Heat Wave 2003: A Global Perspective

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Heat Waves

Although the event occurred over three years ago, the summer heat wave of 2003 is still prominently featured in every popular presentation of the global warming issue. A web search of “Europe Heat Wave 2003” produces nearly 950,000 sites to choose from, and if you take that plunge, you will see estimates of 35,000 deaths directly attributed to that heat wave, although that number varies considerably from one site to the next. Although the number of deaths may vary, virtually every one of the sites mentions global warming as an underlying contributor, and statements like “even more extreme weather events lie ahead” are commonplace in the thousands of essays on the topic. Not surprisingly, many of these thousands of heat wave articles end with something like “the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.”

We have covered heat waves many times in the past at World Climate Report and shown that the link between extreme heat waves and global warming (or, at least, increasing death) is not nearly as strong as we are led to believe. An article in the recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters dares to ask the question “Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context?” We saw that title and new this was going to be good.


January 23, 2007

Summer Heat History

We are sure by now you’ve heard the news that global warming is causing heat waves to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration around the world, humans are suffering and dying at alarming rates in the ever-increasing summer heat, and it could all be prevented if we seriously addressed the greenhouse issue. Just go on-line and look up heat waves and global warming. Within seconds we found global warming advocacy sites claiming that “Heat-waves in Europe are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. A preliminary analysis of the 2003 heat-wave in Europe estimated that it caused 14,802 excess deaths in France, 2045 excess deaths in the United Kingdom, 2099 in Portugal.” Or, try “An estimated 15,000 people died as a result of the heatwave in France last August. Chicago’s heatwave of July 1995 killed about 739.” If you’ve not seen enough, you will quickly find headlines like “Consequence: deadly heat waves and the spread of disease” in which you learn that “More frequent and more intensive heat waves could result in more heat-related deaths. These conditions could also aggravate local air quality problems, already afflicting more than 80 million Americans. Global warming is expected to increase the potential geographic range and virulence of tropical diseases as well.”

We have addressed the heat wave story many times at World Climate Report, and we have shown research results demonstrating that the American public is far less susceptible to heat waves than at any time in the past thanks to good old technology. The last we checked, two of the fastest growing cities in North America are Phoenix and Las Vegas where temperatures routinely exceed 110°F in the summer months. These cities seem stuck for months in what the rest of the world would call heat waves, and they have clearly engineered their way around uncomfortable conditions outdoors. A normal summer day in Phoenix or Las Vegas would certainly be a disaster in many other cities worldwide (of course, one inch of snow in Phoenix would be a disaster as well). And given the apparent fact, from the internet at least, that the buildup of greenhouses is causing heat waves to increase, it is tempting to blame all recent heat waves on the dreaded global warming phenomenon.


August 8, 2006

A Hot Urban Legend

According to news reports, the recent heat wave in California was responsible for about 150 fatalities. Many people including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believe this can only get worse with global warming, predicting a doubling or a tripling of heat-related deaths in North American cities in the next decade.

Global warming or not, our cities have been warming, and will continue to do so. Sprawling masonry and blacktop retain heat and impede the flow of ventilating winds. (Here in DC, there’s an additional warming: waste heat from all the money changing hands). So, this makes the notion of increasing heat-related deaths, as cities warm, a very testable hypothesis.

The United Nations is dead wrong.


November 22, 2005

Overstating Health Impacts of Global Warming

Filed under: Health Effects

The best way to garner headlines in the global warming game is to generate scary scenarios about how many people will die in its wake. While many people view global warming as some esoteric concern of environmentalists, it does at least raise one’s eyebrows when you hear a phrase like “global warming deaths.”

It’s little surprise then that a “Review” article that just appeared in Nature magazine has caught so much attention. The review by Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin and three colleagues essentially is a selective culling of the scientific literature—some recent, some not—on climate change and possible health impacts across the planet. And it should also be little surprise to the readers of this column that prospects are bad.

In an effort to provide balance, we’ll briefly review key portions of the paper and provide a much-needed perspective that was unfortunately missing.

July 28, 2005

Giving Fossil Fuels Their Due

Filed under: Health Effects, Heat Waves

When it comes to the weather, it’s time to stop global whining.

Surely it is an international pastime to complain about the weather, but making global implications out of a local hot spell is a bit much. Consider the editorial in the July 26, 2005 New York Times, headlined “A Few Degrees.” The idea is that the recent heatwave that started in the American Southwest and that has been slowly spreading eastward across the rest of the country is an example of how anthropogenic global warming, although it may only raise temperatures “a few degrees,” subtly makes life miserable for everyone.

April 29, 2005

Global Warming: Something to sneeze at?

Filed under: Health Effects

The April 28, 2005 issue of Nature magazine contains a “News” story headlined “Climate change blamed for rise in hay fever.” It seems that a record number of Japanese are plagued with itchy eyes, runny noses, and annoying sneezes this spring.

Somehow, in yet another “predictable distortion” of global warming, Nature managed to conflate all this snottiness with global warming: “Spare a thought for Japan’s hay-fever sufferers as they endure the highest pollen levels on record this spring. Global warming seems at least partly to blame and most experts agree the worst is yet to come.”

Add 20 more million people to the list of climate change victims? Not so fast. Here is a story that that Nature left behind, from the New York Times.

August 10, 2004

NRDC Cooks Up a Recipe For Disaster

Filed under: Health Effects, Ozone

One particularly favorite recipe for disaster that global warming alarmists concoct goes like this: Assume the status quo, add a pinch of (usually dramatic) climate change, agitate thoroughly, and voila, you’ve whipped up a great calamity—animals go extinct, forests die back, human mortality increases, and so on. Primary among the many problems with this ill-advised technique is the assumption that no adaptations take place.

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