Special Report

You’ve Got to Have Heartland

Man-made global warming proved wrong -- a report from the Heartland Institute's New York conference.

By 3.18.09

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The chief source of hysteria over possible man-made global warming has been the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel's own climate models project that if man's emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases were causing global warming, there would be a particular pattern of temperature distribution in the atmosphere, which scientists call "the fingerprint." Temperatures in the troposphere portion of the atmosphere above the tropics would increase with altitude, producing a "hotspot" near the top of the troposphere, about 6 miles above the earth's surface. Above that, in the stratosphere, there would be cooling.

All scientists, both the alarmist warm-mongers and the pacifist cooler heads, agree that this temperature pattern would result if man were causing global warming, reflecting the pattern of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that would prevail in the atmosphere. Warming due to solar variations or other natural causes would not leave such a fingerprint pattern. Higher quality temperature data from weather balloons and satellites now enable us to settle the man-made global warming debate definitively.

The observed result is just the opposite of the modeled global warming fingerprint pattern. The data from weather balloons shows no increasing warming with altitude, but rather a slight cooling, with no hotspot. The satellite data confirms this result, no increasing temperature with altitude, no hotspot, no fingerprint.

Top Scientists

This was the most important point made by the brilliant scientists from around the world who attended the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute in New York City last week. Those scientists included, among many others who deserve to be household names: S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, and the founder and first director of the National Weather Satellite Service: Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, formerly a professor of dynamic meteorology and director of the Center for Earth and Planetary Physics at Harvard; Roy Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, and U.S. Science Team Leader for the AMSR-E instrument flying on NASA's Aqua satellite; Patrick Michaels, research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, and past president of the American Association of State Climatologists; David Douglass, professor of physics at the University of Rochester, and winner of numerous prestigious Science awards, and Syun-ichi Akasofu, professor of physics and former director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, winner of awards from the Royal Astronomy Society of London, Japan Academy of Sciences, American Geophysical Union, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

There is no collection of scientists in the world smarter and better than these and the others who spoke at and attended the conference. Several argued further that the entire temperature pattern of the 20th century follows normal climate variations, rather than CO2 emissions. Temperatures in the U.S., which has the most thorough and consistent temperature record and historically the most CO2 emissions, were stable until 1920, increased some in the 1920s, and then soared to produce the hottest decade of the century during the 1930s. The climate then cooled during most of the period from 1940 until about 1977, except for a brief spike from about 1949 to 1953. Temperatures climbed upward from 1977 until 1998, except for a sharp downturn from about 1988 until about 1995. Temperatures are down over the past decade.

Yet CO2 increased continuously throughout the century, which should have produced a trend of consistent temperature increases if it were causing global warming. Several presenters at the conference argued that the more complex actual temperature variations were fully explained by natural, long-term temperature patterns. The temperature increases until 1940 reflected mostly the continuing recovery from the Little Ice Age, which ran roughly from the early 1400s to the late 1800s. The pattern since then is consistent with the variations of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a 20 to 30 year up and down variation in sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean produced by deep sea ocean currents.

Global Cooling

Moreover, several presenters argued that due to these natural variations we have already entered a period of long-term cooling that will last at least another 20 years, and maybe more. Indeed, satellite measured temperatures show that the global atmosphere has cooled over the last 10 years, with the decline in temperatures accelerating over the last two years. As Lord Christopher Monckton, who also spoke at the conference, has said, "Global warming stopped 10 years ago. It hasn't gotten warmer since 1998….In fact in the last 7 years, there has been a downturn in global temperatures equivalent on average to about…one degree Fahrenheit per decade. We're actually in a period…of global cooling."

What portends longer-term cooling is that Pacific temperatures have now turned cold, which is likely to continue for another 15-20 years given past trends. Moreover, we have now experienced an extended period of minimal sun spot activity. If that continues, we may suffer an even longer cooling period, perhaps even a return to the Little Ice Age, as has happened in the past when sunspots declined for an extended period.

Just a couple of days ago, a separate, independent, peer reviewed study appeared in Geophysical Research Letters from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It concluded as well that the temperature variations of the 20th century were all explained by natural causes rather than human CO2 emissions. The study also concluded that the warming period of the late 20th century is over and an extended cooling period lasting another 20 years or so has begun.


Climate Science

Several other presenters at the Heartland conference went on to explain in detail why the models used by the UN to predict global warming and associated catastrophes are so wrong. As one explained, slight exaggerations in each of several variables when multiplied together add up to huge final errors. Another explained that the models assume that heat resulting from increased CO2 reduces clouds, further increasing temperatures, but satellite data now show that the clouds sharply reduce heat produced by CO2, resulting in a strong negative feedback, which leaves increased CO2 too weak to produce significant global warming. Other variables expected to produce strong positive feedback effects increasing global warming resulting from CO2 were shown to have little or no effect, or even a negative effect.

Other well-known facts further support the careful, logical, soft-spoken scientists at the Heartland conference, whose presentations should soon be available on video at www.heartland.org. Global temperatures were warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, a span of several hundred years around 1000 A.D. Even higher temperatures prevailed during a period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum, which ran roughly from 8,000 years ago (6000 B.C.) to 4,000 years ago (2000 B.C.). In fact, temperatures were higher than today during most of the period from 9000 B.C. to the birth of Christ.

Yet, there was no significant human burning of fossil fuels during these periods to cause these higher temperatures, and none of the catastrophes ascribed to global warming occurred during these periods.

Moreover, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were much higher in the past than today. For hundreds of millions of years prior to 400 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were well over 30 times greater than today. But CO2 concentrations have actually been in sharp decline since then. From roughly 50 million to 350 million years ago, fluctuating CO2 concentrations were generally 3 to 15 times current levels. These much higher CO2 concentrations did not cause any catastrophic effects. Quite to the contrary, more atmospheric CO2 causes plants to grow far more rapidly, as plants need to take in CO2 to live. Indeed, a recent report raises a concern that we are in a period of "CO2 famine," involving the lowest CO2 concentrations in history, and mankind and plant and animal life would all be greatly benefited by increased CO2.

These and other basic scientific facts relating to global warming are discussed in detail in my article in the March issue of The American Spectator ("Why the World is Getting Warmer, Even Though It Is Getting Colder").

Brown Shirt Tactics

Environmentalists just respond to the arguments of these careful, logical, soft-spoken scientists with ridicule and derision, claiming quite wrongly that the scientific debate is over, and these "deniers" should just shut up, or be shut out. Quite to the contrary, what the scientists at the Heartland conference have demonstrated beyond dispute is that at a minimum the scientific debate is just warming up, so to speak. I think they have demonstrated quite clearly already that the alarmist warm-mongers are just wrong. No wonder the environmentalists don't want to debate.

These are brown shirt tactics effectively just shouting down any opponents and preempting debate. What our congressional representatives of both parties and all ideologies owe the American people is a thorough demonstration in public hearings and floor debates as to why a trillion dollars or more in additional costs on our economy to fight global warming, as well as a sharp decline in the American standard of living, and losses of several million jobs and trillions in lost economic growth, are justified. If they can't do that, and they vote for such global warming regulation anyway, then they are betraying the American people.

Al Gore himself recently provided another example of these brown shirt tactics. When Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg, at the World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland, publicly challenged Gore to a debate on global warming a few days ago, Gore said,

"I want to be polite to you. But, no….[T]he scientific community has gone through this chapter and verse. We have long since passed the time when we as a civilization…should pretend that this is an on-the-one hand/on-the-other hand situation. It is not a matter of theory or conjecture, for goodness sake."

To think after inventing the Internet, all these years later, Gore would show up in a completely different profession, as a Drama Queen in his own performance of George Orwell's classic, 1984. I say Drama Queen because even this self-deluded fool knows that his answer is just an act, he is just pretending that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus, to preempt any debate, so he can go straight to GO and collect his $200. His response to the scientists at the Heartland Institute conference is effectively, you don't exist, and nothing was said here over the last 3 days. It is all down the memory hole. He effectively provides the same response to the over 31,000 American scientists who signed a petition opposing the Kyoto accords because "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will…cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere…."

The same is true of everyone else who claims that the debate over global warming is over because of an overwhelming scientific consensus in its favor. They are all dishonorably engaged in an act, a game of pretend, effectively to shout down opponents and preempt any debate.

Even some of those associated with the UN global warming panel who purport to be real climate scientists, such as Michael Mann, just respond with ridicule and derision to those scientists who disagree with their fevered global warming fantasies. Mann himself produced a paper arguing that the historic temperature record follows the pattern of a hockey stick, with no significant change for centuries, and then a sudden upward spurt in the 20th century. That paper has been discredited by many because it denied the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, which are as firmly supported in the historical record as dinosaurs, maybe even more so.

The UN can't be trusted on global warming any more than the oil companies, because it has an enormous institutional interest in showing the theory to be true, thereby justifying enormous increases in its institutional powers. The same is true for environmental extremists, who are trying to take over the world based on this theory, with huge reserves of funds stored up to do it. Now several business groups believe they can use global warming to make fortunes as well, including some associated with Al Gore.

So global warming is not really a debate about science. It is a battle over money and power, as several at the Heartland Conference explicitly recognized. That is why the argument has been so dishonest until now. If you want to keep up with the true story, sign up at www.sepp.org for regular weekly reports from Fred Singer updating the battle.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.