The Public Policy

Why the World Is Getting Warmer, Even Though It Is Getting Colder

By From the March 2009 issue

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The science does not support global warming. The data does not support global warming. Increasingly around the world, the voting public does not support global warming regulation, seeing no justification for throwing taxpayer money at a nonexistent problem.

The sharp temperature declines of 2008 have been disastrous for those determined to take over the world on the excuse of man-made global warming. Despite what these liars tell you, the tide of scientific opinion is now turning against the idea that mankind is making a significant contribution to changes in global temperature.

But for the people who rabidly embrace the doctrine of human-caused global warming, none of this matters. For them global warming was never really about science or data. It is about power. Man-made global warming is a powerful justification for a massive expansion of government controls over human activities. That is why the ruling classes, from Al Gore to the editorial writers at the New York Times, who know nothing about science, so heartily embrace it. The United Nations sees global warming as the ticket to attaining the power of a world government. That is why the UN doctors the reports of its science panels.

But what this massive increase in government power would mean is a dramatic loss of freedom and prosperity for average working people the world over. Global warming regulation, in fact, would involve a massive assault on the standard of living of the middle class, particularly in America. That is why this battle is so important.

The Temperature Record

THE THEORY OF GLOBAL WARMING is that human-created emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) cause that gas to build up in the atmosphere, trapping more heat from the sun as if in a greenhouse, which could drive global temperatures to potentially catastrophic levels. Humans cause CO2 emissions primarily by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, natural gas, and wood, which was the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. Emissions of other “greenhouse gases” can contribute to this as well. For global warming to exist, global temperatures have to be increasing. Christopher Monckton, a policy adviser to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, accurately summarizes the recent temperature record in saying, “Global warming stopped 10 years ago. It hasn’t gotten warmer since 1998….In fact in the last seven 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.” Indeed, 2008 was the coldest year of the decade, continuing the cooling trend.

Surface temperatures in the U.S. were warmer in the 1930s. From 1940 to the late 1970s, U.S. temperatures declined, despite all the increased burning of fossil fuels during that period, leaving no significant difference at that point from 1900. This decline is what prompted speculation at the time that a new ice age was coming. Temperatures then increased until about 1998, sponsoring the global warming hysteria power grab. If recent temperature declines continue, all the increases since 1900 will soon be offset.

But far more reliable and relevant is the satellite data on atmospheric temperatures, which is not distorted by the location, coverage, and surrounding activities of land-based weather stations (highly unreliable outside the U.S. and Europe). The satellite data starts in 1979 and shows no increase in global temperature trends until 1998, when the El Niño that year caused a sharp temperature spike. The most recent temperature declines have now apparently completely offset that 1998 increase, leaving the satellite record with no net increase in global temperature for the past 30 years—or maybe even a slight decline.

Global temperatures were also warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, a period of several hundred years around 1000 AD. Even higher temperatures prevailed during a period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum, which ran roughly from 8,000 years ago (6000 BC) to 4,000 years ago (2000 BC). In fact, temperatures were higher than today during most of the period from 9000 BC to the birth of Christ. Yet there was no significant human burning of fossil fuels during these periods.

None of the catastrophes ascribed to global warming occurred during these periods. Plant and animal life, including humans, flourished, while the polar ice caps did not melt and sea levels did not rise overwhelmingly. The Vikings farmed Greenland in the medieval era, until they were driven out by the returning ice cap during the period known as the Little Ice Age, from around 1300 AD until the early 1700s. During this later period, plant and animal life retreated, with widespread sickness, suffering, and starvation among humans.

This and other experience is why a panel of 23 scientists led by Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia, founder of the satellite division of the U.S. Weather Service, and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, conclude in their breakthrough report, Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate, “A warming of even 3 degrees [Celsius] in the next 100 years would, on balance, be beneficial to humans.” Such warming would reduce human disease on net, and leave vast stretches of land in northern Asia, North America, and Europe far more inhabitable and productive. It would also benefit the economy through longer growing seasons, lower heating bills, and reduced construction costs. Sadly, no such warming trend is currently in evidence.

CO2 Is Not Pollution

CARBON DIOXIDE IS a naturally occurring substance in the Earth’s atmosphere essential to life. Plants need to take in CO2 to live and emit oxygen, which is essential to animal life. Animals breathe in oxygen and emit CO2. 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 these concentrations have actually been in sharp decline since then. From roughly 50 million to 350 million years ago, fluctuating CO2 concentrations were generally three to 15 times current levels.

These much higher concentrations did not cause any catastrophic effects. Quite the contrary, more atmospheric CO2 causes plants to grow far more rapidly. Moreover, the record shows that instead of temperature increases following CO2 increases, as in the global warming theory, just the opposite has occurred: temperature increases have preceded CO2 increases by hundreds of years.

CO2 concentrations have begun slowly rising again, due in part to the Industrial Revolution and increased burning of fossil fuels. And this is already causing more rapid growth of plant life. But humans and their activities currently account for only 3 percent of CO2 emissions each year. Moreover, as Singer et al. write, “Less than half of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning remains in the atmosphere; the rest is absorbed by the ocean or incorporated by the terrestrial biosphere….” This is why policies to reduce human CO2 emissions, such as the Kyoto treaty, even if fully implemented, would have negligible effects on future temperatures.

Polar Ice Caps and Sea Levels

A BASIC SCIENTIFIC FACT: water expands when it solidifies into ice. That means the melting of ice in the seas would reduce water volume and reduce sea levels. The North Pole’s Arctic ice cap is primarily over water. So if it melted completely, sea levels would decline, not rise.

However, the melting of ice and glaciers over land leads the resulting water to run into the oceans, producing increased sea levels. The South Pole’s Antarctic ice cap is primarily over land. But recent trends have been for the Antarctic ice cap to expand, while it is the Arctic ice cap over water that has been reported as receding due to slight melting. That slight Arctic melting was due to temporarily warm ocean currents. In the past couple of years, that slight melting has been reversed, and the Arctic ice cap has been restored to 1979 levels.

The melting of glaciers, which is still going on due to the end of the last ice age, and, therefore, not due to global warming, has caused sea levels to rise by roughly 400 feet over the last 18,000 years! That rise has been decelerating over the past 5,000 years, settling into a stable rate of increase over the last century of about 1.8 mm per year, regardless of global temperature fluctuations. That would result in a sea level rise over the next 100 years of less than 9 inches.

Man-Made Global Warming Proved Wrong

ALL SCIENTISTS AGRE that if man-made global warming is real, it would leave a fingerprint in the form of temperatures increasing with altitude in the tropical troposphere portion of the atmosphere up to a hotspot about 10 kilometers above the surface, reflecting the pattern of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Warming due to solar variations or other natural causes would not leave such a fingerprint pattern. Recently, higherquality temperature data from balloons and satellites now enables us to settle the man-made global warming debate definitively.

The data from weather balloons shows the opposite pattern: no increasing warming with altitude, but rather a slight cooling, with no hotspot. The satellite data shows the same result: no increasing temperature with altitude, no hotspot, no fingerprint, maybe again a slight cooling with altitude. Game over. QED. The global warming empire is rattling around but has not and cannot come up with an effective response. The data is the data. The science is the science. Man-made global warming is a hoax developed to serve powerful special interests.

Here Comes the Sun

STUDIES BY REAL scientists, not those trying to support a pre-determined political outcome, have been accumulating over the past 20 years showing an increasingly close correlation between, on the one hand, temperatures and climate on Earth, and, on the other, solar activity, such as solar cycle length, solar wind, galactic cosmic rays, and sunspots. Indeed, some studies correlate these solar effects with temperature or climate variables on almost a year to year basis, providing a much better explanation for winding temperature changes in the 20th century than greenhouse gases. We are now experiencing an extended period of severely reduced sunspot activity, which in the past has been followed by rapid cooling, such as the Little Ice Age.

Imagine that: climate and temperatures on Earth are overwhelmingly determined by the sun. Who would’ve thunk it?  

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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.