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Don't Be Very Worried - The truth about "global warming" is much less dire than Al Gore wants you to think

The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, America's population has increased by 42%, the country's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product has grown 195%, the number of cars and trucks in the United States has more than doubled, and the total number of miles driven has increased by 178%.

But during these 35 years of growing population, employment, and industrial production, the Environmental Protection Agency reports, the environment has substantially improved. Emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by 53%. Carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 197 million tons per year to 89 million; nitrogen oxides from 27 million tons to 19 million, and sulfur dioxide from 31 million to 15 million. Particulates are down 80%, and lead emissions have declined by more than 98%.

When it comes to visible environmental improvements, America is also making substantial progress:

. The number of days the city of Los Angeles exceeded the one-hour ozone standard has declined from just under 200 a year in the late 1970s to 27 in 2004.

. The Pacific Research Institute's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that "U.S. forests expanded by 9.5 million acres between 1990 and 2000."

. While wetlands were declining at the rate of 500,000 acres a year at midcentury, they "have shown a net gain of about 26,000 acres per year in the past five years," according to the institute. . Also according to the institute, "bald eagles, down to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in 1965, are now estimated to number more than 7,500 nesting pairs."

Environmentally speaking, America has had a very good third of a century; the economy has grown and pollutants and their impacts upon society are substantially down.

But now comes the carbon dioxide alarm. CO2 is not a pollutant--indeed it is vital for plant growth--but the annual amount released into the atmosphere has increased 40% since 1970. This increase is blamed by global warming alarmists for a great many evil

things. The Web site for Al Gore's new film, "An Inconvenient Truth," claims that because of CO2's impact on our atmosphere, sea levels may rise by 20 feet, the Arctic and Antarctic ice will likely melt, heat waves will be "more frequent and more intense," and "deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years--to 300,000 people a year."

If it all sounds familiar, think back to the 1970s. After the first Earth Day the New York Times predicted "intolerable deterioration and possible extinction" for the human race as the result of pollution. Harvard biologist George Wald predicted that unless we took immediate action "civilization will end within 15 to 30 years," and environmental doomsayer Paul Ehrlich predicted that four billion people--including 65 million American--would perish from famine in the 1980s.

So what is the reality about global warming and its impact on the world? A new study released this week by the National Center for Policy Analysis, "Climate Science: Climate Change and Its Impacts" (www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st285 <http://www.opinionjournal.com/forms/%20http://www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st285/> ) looks at a wide variety of climate matters, from global warming and hurricanes to rain and drought, sea levels, arctic temperatures and solar radiation. It concludes that "the science does not support claims of drastic increases in global temperatures over the 21rst century, nor does it support claims of human influence on weather events and other secondary effects of climate change."

There are substantial differences in climate models--some 30 of them looked at by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--but the Climate Science study concludes that "computer models consistently project a rise in temperatures over the past century that is more than twice as high as the measured increase." The National Center for Atmospheric Research's prediction of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warming is more accurate. In short, the world is not warming as much as environmentalists think it is.

What warming there is turns out to be caused by solar radiation rather than human pollution. The Climate Change study concluded "half the observed 20th century warming occurred before 1940 and cannot be attributed to human causes," and changes in solar radiation can "account for 71 percent of the variation in global surface air temperature from 1880 to 1993."

As for hurricanes, 2005 saw several severe ones--Katrina and Rita both had winds of 150 knots--hitting New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and Florida. But there is little evidence linking them to global warming. A team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists concluded that the increased Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995 "is not related to greenhouse warming" but instead to natural tropical climate cycles.

Regarding Arctic temperature changes, the Study found the coastal stations in Greenland had actually experienced a cooling trend: The "average summer air temperatures at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, have decreased at the rate of 4 degrees F per decade since measurements began in 1987." Add in Russian and Alaskan temperature data and "Arctic air temperatures were warmest in the 1930s and near the coolest for the period of recorded observations (since at least 1920) in the late 1980s."

As for sea ice, it is not melting excessively. Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans concluded that "global warming appears to play a minor role in changes to Arctic sea ice." The U.N.'s IPCC Third Assessment Report concluded that the rate of sea level rise has not accelerated during the last century, which is supported by U.S. coastal sea level experience. In California sea levels have risen between zero and seven millimeters a year and between 2.1 and 2.8 millimeters a year in North and South Carolina.

Finally come the polar bears--a species thought by global warming proponents to be seriously at risk from the increasing temperature. According to the World Wildlife Fund, among the distinct polar bear populations, two are growing--and in areas where temperatures have risen; ten are stable; and two are decreasing. But those two are in areas such as Baffin Bay where air temperatures have actually fallen.

The Climate Science study concludes that projections of global warming over the next century "have decreased significantly since early modeling efforts," and that global air temperatures should increase by 2.5 degrees and the United States by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the next hundred years. The environmental pessimists tell us, as in Time magazine's recent global warming issue, to "Be Worried. Be Very Worried," but the truth is that our environmental progress has been substantially improving, and we should be very pleased.

Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis <http://ncpa.org> . His column appears once a month.

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