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Jewish World Review June 21, 2001 /30 Sivan, 5761

Thomas Sowell

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Global hot air -- A NEW political dogma is being spun in the media. "Science," they say, has now "proved" that global warming is a real danger and that human beings are responsible for it, so that we need to take drastic steps to reduce greenhouse gases. This has been the widespread response to a recent publication by the National Academy of Sciences, which many in the media have taken as proof that we need to follow the drastic requirements of the Kyoto accords, in order to reduce the threat of global warming.

There were some pretty heavy-weight scientists involved in the NAS discussions of the global warming issue. But, as the report itself stated clearly, these scientists not only did not write the report, they didn't even see it before it was published. They "were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendation nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release."

So much for "science" having "proved" global warming and its human causation. Scientists were used as window-dressing for a report made by government officials. Moreover, even that report was unable to claim unanimity among scientists on the global warming issue, though some in the media seem to think that it did.

The stampede toward draconian changes in our economy and in the whole American way of life required by the Kyoto accords is all too congenial to the mindset of the intelligentsia in general and the liberal media in particular. Anything that requires their superior wisdom and virtue to be imposed by government on the benighted masses has a favorable reception waiting in those quarters.

Back in the 1970s, the hysteria was about global cooling and the prospect of a new ice age. A National Academy of Sciences report back then led Science magazine to conclude in its March 1, 1975 issue that a long "ice age is a real possibility." According to the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek,"the earth's climate seems to be cooling down." A note of urgency was part of the global cooling hysteria then as much as it is part of today's global warming hysteria.

According to the February 1973 issue of Science Digest, "Once the freeze starts, it will be too late."

Nothing is easier than to come up with mathematical models and doomsday scenarios.

Politicians and government bureaucrats have been trying for well over a decade to sell a doomsday scenario of global warming, which would enhance the powers of -- you guessed it -- politicians and bureaucrats.

Among scientists specializing in the study of weather and climate, there are many differences of opinion, reflecting the complex and uncertain data. Among the prominent scientists who do not go along with the global warming hysteria are Richard S. Lindzen, who is professor of meteorology at MIT, and Dr. S. Fred Singer, who created the American weather satellite system and whose book "Hot Talk, Cold Science" is must reading for those who want scientific facts rather than a political stampede.

Although Professor Lindzen is one of the big names listed in the National Academy of Sciences report, he disagrees with the global warming hysteria. As Professor Lindzen notes, "the climate is always changing." Innumerable factors go into temperature changes and many of those factors, such as changing amounts of heat put out by the sun during different eras, are beyond the control of human beings.

Certain gasses, such as carbon dioxide, have the potential to affect temperature, but that is very different from saying that a particular rise in temperature during a particular era is necessarily due to "greenhouse gasses." A major part of the rising temperature over the past century took place before World War II -- which was also before the large increases in carbon dioxide emissions in our time.

The National Academy of Sciences report itself tiptoes around the fact that the timing of temperature increases does not coincide with the timing of increases in greenhouse gases. As the NAS report puts it: "The causes of these irregularities and the disparities in timing are not completely understood."

Even if we were to cripple our economy by carrying out the radical steps proposed in the Kyoto accords, this "would not result in a substantial reduction in global warming," according to Professor Lindzen. He laments the use of science "as a source of authority with which to bludgeon political opponents and propagandize uninformed citizens."

Unfortunately, many of these uninformed citizens are in the media.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate