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Commentary

EPA Tilt on Global Warming


     
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Ever since his election, President Bush has been under siege by supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty that calls for drastic cuts in the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. His opposition to Kyoto has led to attacks from many directions: by political opponents, European politicians, green groups and, of course, the New York Times.

Some of the worst have come from within. Just recently, an "embedded" EPA "climate policy adviser" (now seamlessly transferred to the National Wildlife Federation) published a scurrilous article in The Washington Post, accusing the White House of "attempts to suppress scientific information."

Such sniping can easily be stopped. However, the White House must educate the public and its own federal bureaucracy about certain climate facts, as endorsed by top scientists:

* The best available data, from weather satellites and weather balloons, do not detect any appreciable atmospheric warming. Nor did the 20th century show unusually high temperatures.

* Theoretical computer models that predict climate catastrophes have never been validated and therefore should not be relied on for policy.

* Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster. Economic analysis has demonstrated that more CO2 and a warmer climate will raise GNP and therefore average income.

* The Kyoto Protocol with its energy-rationing schemes is not only hugely expensive but also completely ineffective in influencing climate change. As Mr. Bush correctly stated during his campaign and since—Kyoto is "fatally flawed."

Why this obvious disagreement with what the media always refer to as the "scientific consensus"? The simplest answer is: One group of scientists believes that actual observations are all-important and that theoretical computer models cannot capture the full complexity of the real atmosphere. The other group of scientists puts its faith in climate models—no matter what the data show.

Nowhere is this faith in how climate should behave strongest than in the U.N. climate bureaucracy and in national bureaucracies that want to control any human activities they think might have a climate impact. Their chief targets are energy use and thereby economic growth.

Our own EPA has been most vocal in spreading fears about climate change. One can discern three driving forces behind the EPA's behavior: bureaucratic, ideological and eagerness to manipulate scientific facts.

It's axiomatic that bureaucracies always want to expand their scope of operations. This is especially true of EPA, which is primarily a regulatory agency. As air and water pollution disappear as prime issues, as acid rain and stratospheric-ozone depletion fade from public view, climate change seems like the best growth area for regulators. It has the additional glamour of being international and therefore appeals to those who favor world governance over national sovereignty. Therefore, labeling carbon dioxide, the product of fossil-fuel burning, as a pollutant has a high priority for EPA as a first step in that direction.

Even more important is the ideological drive to limit energy use. By thus throttling economic growth, zealots believe they can save nature from the impact of humans. This elitist view goes back to the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" mantra, so popular some 30 years ago. Its gurus, like Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown, regularly predict imminent famines, cancer epidemics and the complete exhaustion of natural resources, including oil. None of these scary forecasts ever came to pass. but this has not stopped their disciples, like former Vice President Al Gore, from promoting schemes of energy rationing to avoid the dreaded global warming. EPA is populated with Gore acolytes who fervently believe that the fate of Earth is "in the balance."

Finally, there is the misuse of science by the EPA bureaucracy. Let me illustrate this with one specific example. Shortly before the elections in 2000, the Clinton-Gore White House released the so-called National Assessment of Climate Change purporting to show the impact of a 21st-century warming on 18 regions of the United States. Needless to say, the outlook was gloomy—a tailor-made disaster for each region. I testified before Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, in July 2000, together with the three editors of the NACC Synthesis Report. I pointed to a strategic error by the planners of the study. In their eagerness to show the severity of future warming, they chose not one but two climate models that gave large temperature increases—one from Britain and the other Canadian. Big mistake. In nine of the 18 regions the two models gave directly opposite results for precipitation: For example, North Dakota would turn either into a swamp or into a desert, depending on which model one accepts.

Yet this discredited NACC study somehow found its way into a routine U.S. report to the United Nations. Prepared by EPA staff in 2001, it was sneaked past their top management and escaped a White House review. Mr. Bush blamed the resultant PR debacle on "the bureaucracy." Here then is an important lesson for the incoming EPA administrator: Do not to allow yourself to be captured by a holdover climate policy adviser.


Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and former founding Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. He is author of Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate (The Independent Institute).


  New from S. Fred Singer!
HOT TALK, COLD SCIENCE: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate
S. Fred Singer is a distinguished astrophysicist who has taken a hard, scientific look at the evidence. In this book, Dr. Singer explores the inaccuracies in historical climate data, the limitations of attempting to model climate on computers, solar variability and its impact on climate, the effects of clouds, ocean currents, and sea levels on global climate, and factors that could mitigate any human impacts on world climate.






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