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Foggy Science In London

Tomorrow, May 24, the G-8 environment ministers will be in Japan to commence their annual meeting. Back in London, though, the world’s oldest science academy, the Royal Society of London, recently has become a vocal advocate of climate alarmism. RS fellows have included Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

But, under the previous leadership of Lord Robert May, the Society seems to have taken a wrong turn. They even tried to enlist other science academies into joining them in an alarmist manifesto. However, the U.S. National Academy, though sharing some of these views, decided not to sign up, and the Russian Academy of Sciences has taken an opposing position.

In June 2007, the Royal Society published a pamphlet, titled “Climate Change Controversies: a simple guide,” designed to undermine the scientific case of climate skeptics. They presented what they called “misleading arguments” on global warming and then tried to shoot them down.

In countering the RS pamphlet, I have prepared a response that is being published tomorrow by the London-based Centre for Policy Studies under the title “Not so simple? A scientific response to the Royal Society’s paper.”

Throughout, the Royal Society has relied heavily on the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which used to be regarded as a reliable source of scientific information. The RS thus adopts the IPCC claim that current warming is almost certainly anthropogenic (human-caused) but presents no independent evidence to support such a claim.

In its pamphlet, the Royal Society purports to speak on behalf of a consensus of scientists. But no such consensus exists. Direct polling of climate scientists has shown that about 30% are “skeptical” of anthropogenic global warming. More than 31,000 American scientists recently signed the Oregon Petition, which expresses doubt about the major conclusions of the IPCC, and opposes the drastic mitigation demands of the Kyoto Protocol and the proposed “cap-and-trade” legislation of the U.S. Congress.

My response to the RS is based on the work of some two dozen independent climate scientists from 16 nations who contributed to the report of the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC, titled “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate.” NIPCC corrects many of the errors and misstatements made in the IPCC report, discusses evidence ignored by the IPCC, and cites evidence available since May 2006, the cut-off date for the latest IPCC Report of May 2007.

The science-based arguments for a more rational approach to global warming and climate change can be summarized as follows:

  • The Earth’s climate always has changed, with cycles of both warming and cooling, long before humans were a factor. The cycle lengths range from decades, to the 1,500-year cycle discovered in Greenland ice cores, to the 17 ice ages that dominated the past 2 million years.

  • The NIPCC report presents solid evidence that any man-made global warming to date has been insignificant in comparison with these natural climate cycles. By contrast, the IPCC has no real evidence to support their claim of anthropogenic global warming.

  • While recent man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide may, in principle, make some contribution to temperature rise, the linkages assumed in order to predict significant future global warming are not proven.

  • Contrary to the computer simulations of climate models, temperatures have not risen over the last decade—despite a continuing rise in CO2 levels.

  • Other factors, such as variable solar activity, solar wind, and cosmic rays, all seem to have a more significant impact on the earth’s climate.

  • Panicky reactions to exaggerated scenarios of global warming are bound to be costly and do great damage to world economic development.

  • Adaptation, not mitigation, is a more appropriate response to climate change—particularly for poorer countries.

Fear of global warming is distorting energy policy. Urgent action is needed to secure future energy supplies: the closure of existing coal-powered stations and old nuclear stations over the next 10 to 20 years risks causing a serious energy shortage until new nuclear power can be brought on stream. Yet resistance by anti-fossil fuel protesters already is retarding the development of much needed conventional generating capacity.

The choices that are being made now about the use of resources and the costs imposed on global development will have a huge impact on both current and future prosperity. It is imperative, for the sake of rational policy development worldwide, that the debate on the true nature of global warming and its causes move from being a matter of assertion and exaggerated scaremongering to a more reasoned debate based on the scientific facts.

It is a pity that the Royal Society, rather than facilitate debate, has tried to misrepresent the honest views of those who are skeptical of what has become climate change orthodoxy.

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).

From S. Fred Singer
HOT TALK, COLD SCIENCE: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate
Distinguished astrophysicist S. Fred Singer explores the inaccuracies in historical climate data, the limitations of attempting to computer climate models, solar variability, 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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