White House defends U-turn on global warming

By George Archibald
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

June 4, 2002


The White House yesterday defended the about-face on global warming contained in its report to the United Nations on climate change.

The report marked the first Bush administration agreement with environmental activists that recent global warming is caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human use of fossil fuels.


"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise," the administration said in its U.S. Climate Action Report 2002.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday defended the report, issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency, by pointing to its language reiterating the administration's stance that, Mr. McClellan said, there remains "considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how climate varies naturally."
The administration says such uncertainty backs its opposition to the Kyoto treaty's goal of cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent from their 1990 levels between 2008 to 2012.


Mr. McClellan said the report endorses the president's plan for voluntary measures by U.S. companies as the best way to "significantly reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions," while investing in new science and technology to curb them. President Bush has proposed $4.5 billion for such spending.


The report, which was revealed yesterday by the New York Times, brought praise from the co-chairman of a Clinton administration assessment, but sharp rebukes from scientists friendly to administration environmental and energy policies.


Anthony C. Janetos, co-chairman of President Clinton's 1998 National Assessment on Impacts of Climate Change, called the report "a good and cautious summary of our national assessment."


Mr. Janetos, a Harvard-trained ecologist, said the administration report and the earlier Clinton assessment "have not claimed that the regional analysis is exactly what is going to happen," but rather postulate "reasonably plausible futures."


Scientists and others normally friendly to Bush administration policies attacked the report.


Patrick Michaels, Virginia state climatologist in Charlottesville, said the regional analysis in the Bush report, taken from the earlier Clinton administration assessment, "was based on two climate models that performed worse than a table of random numbers when applied to U.S. temperatures over the past 100 years."


The Hadley Centre in England, which provided the Clinton assessment's computer modeling, warned beforehand that its models were unreliable.


General circulation models "can provide scenarios of changes in climate down to scales of 1,000 kilometers or so at best," Hadley cautioned. "But in areas where coasts and mountains have a significant effect of weather (and this will be true in most parts of the world), scenarios based on global models will fail to capture the regional detail needed for vulnerability assessments at a national level."


Unreliability of the computer data shows that regional analysis in both reports "is the worst sort of junk science," said Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.


The Hadley Centre "was willing to take the stupid American government's money, but they knew that the product they were getting was phony, no good."


Mr. Michaels said people adapted to effects of global warming in the past and would continue to do so.
"Over the last century, life span has doubled and crop yields have quintupled. We've had unprecedented democratization of wealth. So how important is this issue really?" he asked.


Sallie Baliunas, deputy director of Mount Wilson Observatory and an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said there was "no scientific basis" for the claim that human actions caused global warming.


"The key layers of air, from one to five miles high, show no human-made global warming trend," she said. "Global warming at the surface is largely, if not entirely, natural."


The new assessment says the United States faces further substantial changes and threats related to global warming over the next several decades, with some regions of the country "very likely" reaping greater impact from rising temperatures.


The report predicted that average temperatures would rise 5 to 9 degrees in the continental United States during this century causing highly sensitive ecosystems such as Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal barrier islands to disappear altogether.


Forest regions in the southeastern United States could see "major species shifts" or major changes in growth patterns. Droughts caused by disruptions of snow-fed water systems in the West, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska also were predicted. Among beneficial effects, warmer and longer growing seasons are expected to raise crop productivity and forest growth.

 

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