“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who Do You Believe, This Man or Al Gore?

“Global Warming: Man-Made or Natural?”
S. Fred Singer
Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, a distinguished research professor at George Mason University, and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project. He performed his undergraduate studies at Ohio State University and earned his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University. He was the founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami, the founding director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service, and served for five years as vice chairman of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere. Dr. Singer has written or edited over a dozen books and mono-graphs, including, most recently, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on the Hillsdale College campus on June 30, 2007, during a seminar entitled “Economics and the Environment,” sponsored by the Charles R. and Kathleen K. Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence.

IN THE PAST few years there has been increasing concern about global climate change on the part of the media, politicians, and the public. It has been stimulated by the idea that human activities may influence global climate adversely and that therefore corrective action is required on the part of governments. Recent evidence suggests that this concern is misplaced. Human activities are not influencing the global climate in a perceptible way. Climate will continue to change, as it always has in the past, warming and cooling on different time scales and for different reasons, regardless of human action. I would also argue that—should it occur—a modest warming would be on the whole beneficial.

This is not to say that we don’t face a serious problem. But the problem is political. Because of the mistaken idea that governments can and must do something about climate, pressures are building that have the potential of distorting energy policies in a way that will severely damage national economies, decrease standards of living, and increase poverty. This misdirection of resources will adversely affect human health and welfare in industrialized nations, and even more in developing nations. Thus it could well lead to increased social tensions within nations and conflict between them.

If not for this economic and political damage, one might consider the present concern about climate change nothing more than just another environmentalist fad, like the Alar apple scare or the global cooling fears of the 1970s. Given that so much is at stake, however, it is essential that people better understand the issue.

Man-Made Warming?

The most fundamental question is scientific: Is the observed warming of the past 30 years due to natural causes or are human activities a main or even a contributing factor?

At first glance, it is quite plausible that humans could be responsible for warming the cli-mate. After all, the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The CO2 level has been increasing steadily since the beginning of the industrial revolution and is now 35 percent higher than it was 200 years ago. Also, we know from direct measurements that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” which strongly absorbs infrared (heat) radiation. So the idea that burning fossil fuels causes an enhanced “greenhouse effect” needs to be taken seriously.

But in seeking to understand recent warming, we also have to consider the natural factors that have regularly warmed the climate prior to the industrial revolution and, indeed, prior to any human presence on the earth. After all, the geological record shows a persistent 1,500-year cycle of warming and cooling extending back at least one million years.

In identifying the burning of fossil fuels as the chief cause of warming today, many politicians and environmental activists simply appeal to a so-called “scientific consensus.” There are two things wrong with this. First, there is no such consensus: An increasing number of climate scientists are raising serious questions about the political rush to judgment on this issue. For example, the widely touted “consensus” of 2,500 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an illusion: Most of the panelists have no scientific qualifications, and many of the others object to some part of the IPCC’s report. The As-sociated Press reported recently that only 52 climate scientists contributed to the report’s “Summary for Policymakers.”

Likewise, only about a dozen members of the governing board voted on the “consensus statement” on climate change by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Rank and file AMS scientists never had a say, which is why so many of them are now openly rebelling. Estimates of skepticism within the AMS regarding man-made global warming are well over 50 percent.

The second reason not to rely on a “scientific consensus” in these matters is that this is not how science works. After all, scientific advances customarily come from a minority of scientists who challenge the majority view—or even just a single person (think of Galileo or Einstein). Science proceeds by the scientific method and draws conclusions based on evidence, not on a show of hands.

But aren’t glaciers melting? Isn’t sea ice shrinking? Yes, but that’s not proof for human-caused warming. Any kind of warming, whether natural or human-caused, will melt ice. To assert that melting glaciers prove human causation is just bad logic.

What about the fact that carbon dioxide levels are increasing at the same time temperatures are rising? That’s an interesting correlation; but as every scientist knows, correlation is not causation. During much of the last century the climate was cooling while CO2 levels were rising. And we should note that the climate has not warmed in the past eight years, even though greenhouse gas levels have increased rapidly.

What about the fact—as cited by, among others, those who produced the IPCC report—that every major greenhouse computer model (there are two dozen or so) shows a large temperature increase due to human burning of fossil fuels? Fortunately, there is a scientific way of testing these models to see whether current warming is due to a man-made greenhouse effect. It involves comparing the actual or observed pattern of warming with the warming pattern predicted by or calculated from the models. Essentially, we try to see if the “finger-prints” match—“fingerprints” meaning the rates of warming at different latitudes and altitudes.

For instance, theoretically, greenhouse warming in the tropics should register at increasingly high rates as one moves from the surface of the earth up into the atmosphere, peaking at about six miles above the earth’s surface. At that point, the level should be greater than at the surface by about a factor of three and quite pronounced, according to all the computer models. In reality, however, there is no increase at all. In fact, the data from balloon-borne radiosondes show the very opposite: a slight decrease in warming over the equator.

The fact that the observed and predicted patterns of warming don’t match indicates that the man-made greenhouse contribution to current temperature change is insignificant. This fact emerges from data and graphs collected in the Climate Change Science Program Report 1.1, published by the federal government in April 2006 . It is remarkable and puzzling that few have noticed this disparity between observed and predicted patterns of warming and drawn the obvious scientific conclusion.

What explains why greenhouse computer models predict temperature trends that are so much larger than those observed? The answer lies in the proper evaluation of feedback within the models. Remember that in addition to carbon dioxide, the real atmosphere contains water vapor, the most powerful greenhouse gas. Every one of the climate models calculates a significant positive feedback from water vapor—i.e., a feedback that amplifies the warming effect of the CO2 increase by an average factor of two or three. But it is quite possible that the water vapor feedback is negative rather than positive and thereby reduces the effect of increased CO2.

There are several ways this might occur. For example, when increased CO2 produces a warming of the ocean, a higher rate of evaporation might lead to more humidity and cloudiness (provided the atmosphere contains a sufficient number of cloud condensation nuclei). These low clouds reflect incoming solar radiation back into space and thereby cool the earth. Climate researchers have discovered other possible feedbacks and are busy evaluating which ones enhance and which diminish the effect of increasing CO2.

Natural Causes of Warming

A quite different question, but scientifically interesting, has to do with the natural factors influencing climate. This is a big topic about which much has been written. Natural factors include continental drift and mountain-building, changes in the Earth’s orbit, volcanic eruptions, and solar variability. Different factors operate on different time scales. But on a time scale important for human experience—a scale of decades, let’s say—solar variability may be the most important.

Solar influence can manifest itself in different ways: fluctuations of solar irradiance (total energy), which has been measured in satellites and related to the sunspot cycle; variability of the ultraviolet portion of the solar spectrum, which in turn affects the amount of ozone in the stratosphere; and variations in the solar wind that modulate the intensity of cosmic rays (which, upon impact into the earth’s atmosphere, produce cloud condensation nuclei, affecting cloudiness and thus climate).

Scientists have been able to trace the impact of the sun on past climate using proxy data (since thermometers are relatively modern). A conventional proxy for temperature is the ratio of the heavy isotope of oxygen, Oxygen-18, to the most common form, Oxygen-16.

A paper published in Nature in 2001 describes the Oxygen-18 data (reflecting temperature) from a stalagmite in a cave in Oman, covering a period of over 3,000 years. It also shows corresponding Carbon-14 data, which are directly related to the intensity of cosmic rays striking the earth’s atmosphere. One sees there a remarkably detailed correlation, almost on a year-by-year basis. While such research cannot establish the detailed mechanism of climate change, the causal connection is quite clear: Since the stalagmite temperature cannot affect the sun, it is the sun that affects climate.

Policy Consequences

If this line of reasoning is correct, human-caused increases in the CO2 level are quite insignificant to climate change. Natural causes of climate change, for their part, cannot be controlled by man. They are unstoppable. Several policy consequences would follow from this simple fact:
  • Regulation of CO2 emissions is pointless and even counterproductive, in that no matter what kind of mitigation scheme is used, such regulation is hugely expensive.
  • The development of non-fossil fuel energy sources, like ethanol and hydrogen, might be counterproductive, given that they have to be manufactured, often with the investment of great amounts of ordinary energy. Nor do they offer much reduction in oil imports.
  • Wind power and solar power become less attractive, being uneconomic and requiring huge subsidies.
  • Substituting natural gas for coal in electricity generation makes less sense for the same reasons.

None of this is intended to argue against energy conservation. On the contrary, conserving energy reduces waste, saves money, and lowers energy prices—irrespective of what one may believe about global warming.

Science vs. Hysteria

You will note that this has been a rational discussion. We asked the important question of whether there is appreciable man-made warming today. We presented evidence that indicates there is not, thereby suggesting that attempts by governments to control green-house-gas emissions are pointless and unwise. Nevertheless, we have state governors calling for CO2 emissions limits on cars; we have city mayors calling for mandatory CO2 controls; we have the Supreme Court declaring CO2 a pollutant that may have to be regulated; we have every industrialized nation (with the exception of the U.S. and Australia) signed on to the Kyoto Protocol; and we have ongoing international demands for even more stringent controls when Kyoto expires in 2012. What’s going on here?

To begin, perhaps even some of the advocates of these anti-warming policies are not so serious about them, as seen in a feature of the Kyoto Protocol called the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows a CO2 emitter—i.e., an energy user—to support a fanciful CO2 reduction scheme in developing nations in exchange for the right to keep on emitting CO2 unabated. “Emission trading” among those countries that have ratified Kyoto allows for the sale of certificates of unused emission quotas. In many cases, the initial quota was simply given away by governments to power companies and other entities, which in turn collect a windfall fee from consumers. All of this has become a huge financial racket that could someday make the UN’s “Oil for Food” scandal in Iraq seem minor by comparison. Even more fraudulent, these schemes do not reduce total CO2 emissions—not even in theory.

It is also worth noting that tens of thousands of interested persons benefit directly from the global warming scare—at the expense of the ordinary consumer. Environmental organizations globally, such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Environmental Defense Fund, have raked in billions of dollars. Multi-billion-dollar government subsidies for useless mitigation schemes are large and growing. Emission trading programs will soon reach the $100 billion a year level, with large fees paid to brokers and those who operate the scams. In other words, many people have discovered they can benefit from climate scares and have formed an entrenched interest. Of course, there are also many sincere believers in an impending global warming catastrophe, spurred on in their fears by the growing number of one-sided books, movies, and media coverage.

The irony is that a slightly warmer climate with more carbon dioxide is in many ways beneficial rather than damaging. Economic studies have demonstrated that a modest warming and higher CO2 levels will increase GNP and raise standards of living, primarily by improving agriculture and forestry. It’s a well-known fact that CO2 is plant food and essential to the growth of crops and trees—and ultimately to the well-being of animals and humans.

You wouldn’t know it from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but there are many upsides to global warming: Northern homes could save on heating fuel. Canadian farmers could harvest bumper crops. Greenland may become awash in cod and oil riches. Shippers could count on an Arctic shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific. Forests may expand. Mongolia could become an economic superpower. This is all speculative, even a little facetious.

But still, might there be a silver lining for the frigid regions of Canada and Russia? “It’s not that there won’t be bad things happening in those countries,” economics professor Robert O. Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies says. “But the idea is that they will get such large gains, especially in agriculture, that they will be bigger than the losses.” Mendelsohn has looked at how gross domestic product around the world would be affected under different warming scenarios through 2100. Canada and Russia tend to come out as clear gainers, as does much of northern Europe and Mongolia, largely because of projected increases in agricultural production.

To repeat a point made at the beginning: Climate has been changing cyclically for at least a million years and has shown huge variations over geological time. Human beings have adapted well, and will continue to do so.

The nations of the world face many difficult problems. Many have societal problems like poverty, disease, lack of sanitation, and shortage of clean water. There are grave security problems arising from global terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Any of these problems are vastly more important than the imaginary problem of man-made global warming. It is a great shame that so many of our resources are being diverted from real problems to this non-problem. Perhaps in ten or 20 years this will become apparent to everyone, particularly if the climate should stop warming (as it has for eight years now) or even begin to cool.

We can only trust that reason will prevail in the face of an onslaught of propaganda like Al Gore’s movie and despite the incessant misinformation generated by the media. To-day, the imposed costs are still modest, and mostly hidden in taxes and in charges for electricity and motor fuels. If the scaremongers have their way, these costs will become enormous. But I believe that sound science and good sense will prevail in the face of irrational and scientifically baseless climate fears.
* * *
Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

Who do you believe? This man or Al Gore?


  1. Neither, Algore is a Buffoon, this dude takes too long to read.
    Mammoth dung, prehistoric goo may speed warming

  2. If You're Looking for the Most Insulting Oped Piece of the Day
    Check out Michael Gerson .
    Law enforcement? Security?
    Conservatives who are not with the president on immigration are politically short-sighted bigots.Nothing like opening old wounds and insulting your friends — ones you know not to be harsh haters — all over again.

  3. "We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."
    Kemp Rant
    Yeah, well Jack Kemps love-fest performance with Algore in a "debate" was the most disgusting performance I have ever witnessed.
    Too many Sacks soften the brain.

  4. I side with Singer: Environmental policy is a racket no matter how you cut it.

    David Brooks has a good piece today on Robert Gates (over at RCP). I'll add that Gates is likely to be the only cabinet holdover for the next administration. If he still wants the job.

  5. WaPo:

    The U.S. military has introduced "religious enlightenment" and other education programs for Iraqi detainees, some of whom are as young as 11, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, said yesterday.

    Stone said such efforts, aimed mainly at Iraqis who have been held for more than a year, are intended to "bend them back to our will" and are part of waging war in what he called "the battlefield of the mind." Most of the younger detainees are held in a facility that the military calls the "House of Wisdom."

    The religious courses are led by Muslim clerics who "teach out of a moderate doctrine," Stone said, according to the transcript of a conference call he held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers. Such schooling "tears apart" the arguments of al-Qaeda, such as "Let's kill innocents," and helps to "bring some of the edge off" the detainees, he said.


    Stone said his staff conducts polygraph tests for detainees who promise to change after undergoing the religious training program. "We were trying to figure out if they're messing with us. . . . You're not talking about radicals going to choirboys." But he also added that they're succeeding in countering extremists in the facilities. "We're busting them down, we're making whole moderate compounds that didn't exist before."


    Stone described a sort of religious insurgency that occurred at one detention facility on Sept. 2. "We had a compound of moderates for the first time overtake . . . extremists. It's never happened before. Found them, identified them, threw them up against the fence and shaved their frickin' beards off of them. . . . I mean, that is historic."

    House of Wisdom.

    I bet the Iraqi Interior Ministry has a few of those, too.

  6. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida in the NY Sun:


    As a means to address the Syrian threat and capitalize on its vulnerabilities, I have introduced the Syria Accountability and Liberation Act. This legislation requires the immediate imposition of all possible American sanctions and requires that they remain in place until Syria ceases its support for terrorism, unconventional weapons development, and other destructive policies. It mandates a number of additional sanctions to curtail Syria's proliferation efforts and imposes new sanctions on entities that invest or conduct business in Syria's energy sector. Without foreign capital and development, Syria will be deprived of the energy profits it desperately needs to buy weapons and sponsor terrorist activities.

    In short, it seeks to ensure Syria will finally face its day of reckoning. We missed a golden opportunity a decade ago to prevent an escalation of the Iranian threat. Let us heed this lesson and take the necessary steps now to increase the pressure on Damascus to compel Syria to cease its policies and activities that threaten America and global security.

    Behave. Or the House Foreign Affairs Committee will come on over there and liberate your sorry asses. On behalf of The Eternally Helpless Regional Security Dependent With All The Nukes.

    Never Again.

  7. With the US Federal employees locked down in Iraq, no movement allowed, I think of the carbon emissions that are being averted.

    Three Cheers for conservation!

    The brown cloud hangs over China and India, easily viewed from space.

    Does not look good for the Blackwater boys, but regardless of cupability, the Authority that the mercenaries work under is being renegotiated. It'll be part of that 31Dec reAthorization negotiation, or maybe "Stand alone".

    Dick Morris provides a litney of Mr Thompson's lack of preparedness for the coming campaign.
    Lack of organization and focus of the campaign so far begins the list.
    Followed quickly by K Street inconsistentcies. The folks that Mr Thompson has represented, could leave a Social Conservative's faith shaken.

    Hillary is probably the next president anyway. But there is only one way to defeat her -- to nominate a candidate whose anti-terrorism credentials are so deep that if Americans return to their senses and grasp the nature of the dire and continuing threat we face, he can prevail in November. There are two candidates who fill that bill: Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Neither Thompson nor Romney approach it.

    But beneath his casual, disorganized and ill-informed way of running for president, one suspects an arrogance lingers -- a sense of not needing to prepare and a lethargy in the face of challenges that perhaps indicates a failure to appreciate how daunting a task running for president really is. Whatever the cause, the opening weeks of Thompson's candidacy are, perhaps, the least auspicious of any candidate's in recent history, and certainly the worst of the 2007-2008 electoral season.

    Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of ““Outrage.”

  8. Does not Rudy strike you as a little too...hmm....Mussolini?

  9. If he could make the buerocrats of DC run on time, there'd be reason to appauld a little application of Mussolini style efficencies.

    There are not many options available, in the end it becomes either one or the other ...

    Mr Hsu entertains and holds court at one candidate's club.
    The Saudi Prince and his check, both bounced from the other.

    Perhaps just stagecraft, but that is certainly a skill we've been lacking in the White House.

    28 years of consecutive Bush/Clinton Administrations.
    I'd vote against that reality on principle. Even if Mr Greenspan was right, that Clinton44 would not be similar to Clinton42.

    Interesting, Presidents needing numbers to identify the tenures of the various family members, like Emperors or Popes, aye?
    Adams2 - Abams6
    Roosevelt26 - Roosevelt32
    Bush41 - Bush43
    Clinton42 - Clinton44

    41,42,43,44 in a family tree,
    that's to much for me

  10. Desert Rat:

    41,42,43,44 in a family tree,
    that's to much for me

    And that's just before we get Jeb Bush and Chelsea Clinton in the White House!

  11. "28 years of consecutive Bush/Clinton Administrations.
    I'd vote against that reality on principle."

    What principle would that be?

  12. Don't get me wrong. I'm not shilling for Clinton.

    I won't vote for either of them.

  13. If he could make the buerocrats of DC run on time, there'd be reason to appauld a little application of Mussolini style efficencies.

    - Rat

    Brings to mind Goldwater: We ought to be thankful we don't get all the government we pay for.

  14. Some truth to that, too, trish

    More than a little, but what government you do get, should be on time and target.

    NYCity pre Rudy or post.
    Most all agree, postRudy NYC is better than preRudy NYC.
    Many of them disliked how he managed that transition, but that NYCity is better off for his being Mayor, little arguement, statisticaly.

  15. My dislike of Emporers, regardless of the selection process. The nepotism becomes so obvious that it becomes inexcusable.

    One of my basic prinicles, extended nepotism, when the beneficiary is unproven, is not a "good thing". In my experience.

    A violation of the spirit, but not the letter, of the 22nd Amendment.
    Both the Bush43 2nd term and any of the proposed Clinton44 Presidency.

    But, hey, it's all good.
    Vote or don't.
    Vote for someone else, Mr Nader for instance, first go a round Bush/Gore.
    Could have made a difference, how those Nader votes could have gone, or Perot in '92.

    But each can chosse to manipulate the system, as they see fit.
    Marginalizing a majority, from time to time.

  16. I've made up my mind to vote for the best man.

    Jesse Jackson says Obama is 'acting like he is white'. I say Obama is acting like he is half white.

    If you are a fish you are likely to believe the world is made out of water.

    If you believe in Bigfoot you are likely to think Grover Krantz a great man.

    Whatever you think about global warming you are likely to find a PhD that agrees with you.

    If you're white you likely think OJ is guilty. If you are black you likely think he is not guilty.

    Deep down I think Paris Hilton is disgraceful, and am glad she's not my daughter.

    Mussolini has (had?) a nice looking grand daughter in the Italian parliament.

    The permafrost isn't permanent.

    And if you are a farmer you likely think farm subsidies a good thing.

  17. That leaves us rather without compass, bob.


    BOGOTA, Columbia AP--Columbia's interior minister slammed a U.S. judge's approval of a $25 million fine for Chiquita Brands International Inc., saying Tuesday the company was able to get off cheap for making payments to a militia responsible for killing thousands of Colombians.

    Rights groups said Chiquita should be barred from ever doing business in Colombia.

    A U.S. federal court on Monday imposed the fine on Chiquita as part of a plea agreement in which the company acknowledged paying about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to Colombian paramilitary groups.

    The ruling sparked outrage within the staunchly pro-
    American government, as well as among victims of paramilitary violence.

    ....Cincinnnati based Chiquita had sales in 2006 totaling $4.5 billion.

    The compass points to the magnetic pole, Trish.

  19. OK, bob.

    And I can have nothing to say.

  20. The Good News is you can't fool all the people all the time. Only 11% of the American people remain buffaloed by Congress.

  21. Some folks, bob, by hard work and just a small percentage of "swingers" can have a vast effect upon an election.

    Bush won Florida by 537 votes and won the election after a 5-4 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court settled a protracted dispute over the Florida vote.
    Mr Nader recieved 97,421.

    Now if Mr Nader had not participated in the 2000 Election, at very low cost, the Nader vote would have gone Demovratic, mostly. Possibily stayed home, but there are other votes for activists to cast, not one issue voters. So would the 97,421 votes have broken to Mr Gore by more than a spread of 537.

    Bet they would have.
    So a man and some pocket change can have a disproportionate effect.
    Much more than one vote's worth.

    Ask Mr Perot or Mr Bush41, even Clinton42, they all know.

  22. That's certainly true. Spoilers, or king makers, these third parties, depending on whose donkey or elephant is gored. We have our electoral system, and I quess we could conceivably change it, but would a parliament and a prime minister serve us better? I don't know.

  23. Back to the original question, I only believe Al Gore when his lips arent moving........