Jewish World Review June 7, 2002 / 27 Sivan, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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Global lying

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The campaign to stampede the federal government into drastic action to counter "global warming" has never let honesty cramp its style. The most recent ploy has been the release of a study from the Environmental Protection Agency which concluded that human actions were responsible for rising temperatures and that government restrictions on those actions were necessary to prevent various disastrous scenarios from unfolding.

The problem is that all this hysteria was based on a computer model which had been shown to be incompatible with factual data. Patrick Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, had already exposed the inability of that computer model to account for existing temperature changes before its release to the public was allowed to suggest that it was able to predict future temperature changes.

This is by no means the first time that a supposedly "scientific" report turned out to be a political report wrapping itself in the mantle of science. Last year, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report, garnished with the names of numerous eminent scientists, which was widely hailed in the media as proving the dangers of global warming. The problem with that particular report was that the scientists whose names were put on display had not written the report nor even seen it before it was released.

One of those eminent scientists, MIT professor Richard S. Lindzen, publicly repudiated the conclusions of the study on which his name had been displayed. As Professor Lindzen, a meteorologist, pointed out, "the climate is always changing. Innumerable factors go into temperature changes and many of these factors, such as the changing amounts of heat put out by the sun during different eras, are beyond the control of human beings."

The same kind of ploy was used by a United Nations report on climate in 1996. After the scientists had reviewed the report, the following sentence was added, without their knowledge -- "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." But that is not what the scientists said.

What are all these ploys about? There are people in the environmental cult and in the media who are hell-bent to have the United States and other countries sign the Kyoto treaty that would drastically restrict how our economy works and what kind of lives the average American could lead.

Anything that allows them to impose their superior wisdom and virtue on the rest of us gets a sympathetic hearing. Moral melodrama also has great appeal to some. As Eric Hoffer said, "Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature."

Every record hot day is trumpeted in the media as showing global warming. But record cold days are mentioned only as isolated curiosities, if they are mentioned at all. Environmental cults have already stampeded us into recycling programs that studies have shown to be counterproductive -- except for appeasing shrill zealots and allowing them to feel like they are saving the planet.

In the 1970s, the big scare was global cooling -- a "new ice age." And of course drastic government action was needed to head it off. There has to be moral melodrama.

The real question is not whether human beings have any effect on temperature. The question is: How much? And how much can we change the temperature -- and at what price? And what if we do nothing? What will happen? And how dire will it be?

Professor Michaels estimates that most of the global warming over the past century has been due to the sun's getting hotter. If we do everything the Kyoto treaty calls for, it would not lower the average temperature in the world by half a degree over the next 50 years. But it could wreck some economies.

And what if we do nothing? Actually there are benefits to global warming, such as a longer growing season, but we are not likely to see a lot of those benefits because there is not likely to be a lot of warming. Moreover, it is mostly the very cold places that are getting warmer. As Professor Michaels points out, "Siberia has warmed from minus 40 to minus 28 in January." Is anyone complaining -- other than professional complainers and professional doomsayers?

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.

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