The Complex Realities Behind Global Warming

Global warming

Dr. Ray Bohlin says that global warming is over-hyped and not the danger that environmental alarmists would have us believe. We need to look carefully at what’s really going on.

Is the Earth Warming?

Global warming is a very controversial and complicated topic. A few years ago I addressed my growing concerns about how certain scientists and the media were only telling part of the story.{1} I have hesitated to go further with a critique with what has become a global warming scare campaign because I wanted to be sure before getting overly critical.

Unfortunately, because of controversies over origins, embryonic stem cell research, the lack of solid information about sexually transmitted diseases for young people, and other issues, the Christian community has been given a tag of being anti-science. We are somehow afraid of science because it has the potential of arguing against the idea of a truly supernatural God.

As one trained in the disciplines of science, this reputation grieves me. I love science and nature. I always have. I studied ecology as an undergraduate and early in my graduate studies. I was a member of SECS, Students for Environmental Concerns, at the University of Illinois. I recycle my newspapers, plastic, aluminum, and tin cans and glass. I have always driven a fuel efficient vehicle.

As I grew as a believer I read Francis Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology. In those pages, I saw that only a Christian environmental ethic could supply a real and workable framework for environmental action while still respecting man’s unique position as being made in the image of God and man’s place as God’s steward of Creation. One time I even represented evangelical Christians on a panel at a meeting of environmental journalists. They were genuinely cordial and very curious about how a conservative evangelical could even have concerns about the environment.

But I could still find many points of agreement with the more secular environmental movement. Therefore, I have hesitated to criticize what has become a primary issue for the environmental movement until I was more up to date on the facts. My basic point about global warming is that there is much more controversy about what the data is telling us than what is usually communicated to the public.

The one thing just about everybody agrees with is that the earth has warmed about one degree Fahrenheit or a half degree Celsius since 1900. The controversy revolves around what has caused that increase, what its effects will be, and whether the steep increase in global temperature, especially since the 1970s, will continue to escalate out of control.

But is it realistic to think such escalation will continue? Does the data really predict such an extreme? Can computer models be that accurate?

If the Earth Is Warming, Are Humans Responsible?

As I noted above, just about everyone is convinced the earth has warmed by about one degree Fahrenheit since the year 1900. That doesn’t sound particularly ominous. But some computer models suggest that global temperatures could increase by five to ten degrees Celsius or nine to eighteen degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100!

That sounds like a very unattractive possibility. But is it real? The engine that really drives the global warming freight train is not just the fact that the earth has warmed over the last century but the suspected cause. Those who support a radical view of global warming, such as former Vice President Al Gore, believe that the warming is due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The increase in carbon dioxide is caused by humans burning too many fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal.

So how much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is too much? In 1958, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were 315 parts per million (ppm). In 2008, fifty years later, carbon dioxide had risen to 385 ppm, about a twenty percent increase. Carbon dioxide is referred to as a greenhouse gas. That means that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbs energy from the sun and radiates it back out as heat. Therefore, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer it becomes.

That would seem to say that increased carbon dioxide means a warmer atmosphere. But how much heat carbon dioxide accounts for is hotly debated among scientists. Some say it’s the major cause of global warming; others say it probably has little effect. There has been a little reporting that the earth cooled slightly after 1998, and that the earth’s temperature has stabilized for the last ten years. In fact, from January 2007 to May 2008, the earth cooled by a full degree Fahrenheit.{2} Yet, CO2 levels have continued to rise! Something seems backwards.

Australian climate scientist David Evans used to solidly believe that there was a large role for carbon dioxide in the global warming scenario. But Evans then looked at the data independently. He summed up his research by saying, “There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None.”{3} The data has completely changed his mind.

Besides, the earth has warmed and cooled significantly in the last two thousand years without any human interference.{4} The Medieval Warming Period from AD 900 to AD 1300 was warmer than today (which, incidentally, was a period of great economic expansion, demonstrating that the alarmist claims that global warming will ruin the economy are groundless).

If the Earth Is Warming, What Will Be the Consequences?

As I have said earlier, the earth has warmed slightly over the last century. Some have even pointed to 1998 as the warmest year on record. Although a re-analysis of the data questions that conclusion, the 1990s was still a very warm decade compared to any other decade in the century.

But what if the temperatures continue to rise? Perhaps the most common projection is of wildly rising sea levels. The 2001 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report suggested sea levels could rise as much as two to three feet by the year 2100. Many of our coastal cities and wetlands would be inundated.

But what does the data show? First, sea levels have been rising steadily since the last ice age over eleven thousand years ago. The melting of the vast continental glaciers caused significant sea level increases. Second, over the last hundred and fifty years, sea levels have increased by about six inches every one hundred years. Third, many scientists see no reason that this rate will change significantly this century or the next. Reports of Indian Ocean or Pacific Ocean islands being inundated by rising sea levels just don’t stand up to investigation.

Venice has been succumbing to rising sea levels for over a hundred years. But the problem is not just rising sea levels.{5} The land mass that the city of Venice rests on has also been sinking for decades due the weight of the city and the unstable ground underneath.

Many glaciers are retreating, and that could cause sea levels to rise. But some glaciers are growing and advancing. While one portion of Antarctica has warmed, most of the continent is cooling and the ice mass is growing. The realities are more complex that we are being told.

Another major projection is that storms will be increasing in frequency and intensity. This has usually been applied to hurricanes, especially after the destructive storms, Katrina and Rita, in 2005. But again something curious went underreported. Hurricane forecasters were predicting another harsh hurricane season in 2006 and 2007.

But neither of these years panned out that way. Both were relatively quiet with fewer and less intense storms. The peer reviewed journal Natural Hazards focused an entire issue on this question in 2003, and experts from across the climate fields found no reason to expect storms of any variety to increase in intensity or frequency.{6}

There are also positive benefits of warming and increased carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and increasing temperatures are good for plants. Vegetation has increased by six percent globally from 1982 to 1999. We forget that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a necessary fertilizer for plants.

If the Earth Is Warming, What Should We Do About It?

Because of all this, I conclude that, at the very least, the evidence for anything resembling a catastrophic global warming due the increase of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is remote at best. Certainly the earth is warming, but at a very slow rate. The warming is likely due to a well observed cycle of warming and cooling that occurs about every fifteen hundred years.{7} This cyclical trend is probably due to cycles in the sun’s intensity over this same period of time.

But those who are pushing a more alarming scenario of catastrophic global warming demand drastic action. Since many have concluded that the major component to the warming has been human produced carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, they unsurprisingly want to curtail the use of fossil fuel. The now infamous Kyoto Protocol has called on the major developed countries to curtail their carbon emissions due to fossil fuels to seven percent below 1990 levels by the year 2010, only two years away. But increasing levels of technology have increased our demand for electricity. This means we would need to reduce our emissions by twenty-three percent of today’s levels.{8} Needless to say, cutting our fossil fuel use by nearly one quarter would be catastrophic to our economy.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar should be a part of our energy future, but they will always be intermittent. Storing and transporting these energy sources will continue to be expensive. Current costs indicate these power sources are four to ten times as expensive as fossil fuels.

Economic forecasting groups estimate that Kyoto will cost the U.S. economy between 200 and 300 billion dollars per year. Over two million jobs will disappear and the average household will lose $2,700 each year.{9} These enormous economic costs will be hardly noticed in households making six figure salaries. The largest impact of increasing energy costs will be largely felt by low and middle income families. The combined costs of electricity and gasoline will drive even more below the poverty line and force small businesses into bankruptcy.

The worst part of this economic news is that the actual gain in lowered global temperatures will be hardly noticeable. The U.N. itself admits that even full compliance with Kyoto will only result in a 0.2 degree Centigrade slowing of global warming by 2047.

There are numerous other scientific, economic, and political problems with alarming scenarios of human caused global warming. Check the additional resources at the end of this article to get better informed about this crucial issue.

What Is a Christian Environmental Ethic?

To summarize: First, the likelihood that the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for this warming is very small and growing smaller. Second, the evidence is increasing that this period of warming is not unusual in the earth’s history. Third, the warming trend has stalled over the last decade as carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase. Fourth, even if the burning of fossil fuels has contributed significantly to this one-hundred-year warming trend, the proposed remedy of cutting back drastically on our use of fossil fuels would cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year and dramatically affect the worldwide economy and trap even more people in poverty for little or no reduction in the rate of warming.

And last but not least, over 30,000 scientists, 9,000 of them with Ph.D.s, have signed a statement rejecting the claim that “human release of greenhouse gases is damaging our climate.”{10} There is no consensus in the scientific community about human-caused global warming.

I have a growing suspicion that global warming alarmism is simply a tool to bring about a redistribution of wealth from rich to poor countries, gain higher levels of government regulation, energize and empower the extreme environmental movement, and to impose an unnecessary lifestyle designed to drastically reduce the impact of humanity on the earth.

What this perspective reveals is an environmental policy based on a naturalistic worldview. The earth is viewed as a place where all manner of species have evolved through natural process and no one species has preference over another. The earth “belongs” to all species. Humans, therefore, are just another species, whose negative impact on the earth far outweighs its presence or numbers. Correcting this imbalance vetoes any concerns about human welfare and prosperity.

But from a Christian worldview, we learn that the earth belongs to God as Creator, and by His decree we have been given stewardship of this creation. But as human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, human welfare arises as an equally valid priority. We can’t callously disregard the poor and human welfare in general to satisfy a politically motivated call for environmental action based on skewed science. Check the additional resources below to help you find your way through the minefield of conflicting evidence, rhetoric, and opinion.

Notes

1. Dr. Ray Bohlin, “Global Warming,” probe.org/global-warming/.
2. wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/uah-global-temperature-dives-in-may/ accessed September 12, 2008.
3. David Evans, www.theaustralian.news.com.aU/storv/Q.25197.24036736-7583.00.html accessed September 3, 2008.
4. On top of that, ice core data from various places around the world now confirm that carbon dioxide levels have risen as the temperature rises well before humans could have had any worldwide impact. More precise measurements indicate that the rise in carbon dioxide trails the rise in temperatures by several hundred years. Climate specialists speculate that as the atmosphere and oceans increase in temperature, the oceans release more of their dissolved carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So in the past, rising temperatures has caused the rise in carbon dioxide, not the other way around.
5. Ibid, p. 161-171.
6. Natural Hazards 29, No. 2 (June 2003).
7. S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008).
8. Ibid., 60.
9. Acton Institute, Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, Mich./Acton Institute, 2007), 92-93.
10. Melinda Zosh, “31,000 Signatures Prove ‘No Consensus’ About Global Warming,” Accuracy in Media,
www.aim.org/briefing/31000-signatures-prove-no-consensus-about-global-warming/. May 22, 2008.
Additional Resources

www.cornwallalliance.org/articles/read/an-open-letter-to-the-signers-of-climate-change-an-evangelical-call-to-action-and-others-concerned-about-global-warming/

www.cornwallalliance.org/docs/a-call-to-truth-prudence-and-protection-of-the-poor.pdf

www.we-get-it.org

Singer, S. Fred, and Dennis T. Avery. Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, New York, 2007, (especially page 260).

Acton Institute, Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Grand Rapids, Mich./Acton Institute, 2007, (especially page 119).

Driessen, Paul. Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death. Bellevue, Wash./ Free Enterprise Press, 2003-2004, (especially page 182)

Schaeffer, Francis A. Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology. Wheaton, Ill./ Tyndale House Publishers, 1970, (especially page 125)

© 2008 Probe Ministries


Global Warming: Cool the Hype

earth

Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award for best documentary. And Al Gore is being treated like a rock star at Hollywood parties and when he testified in front of Congress. But has Al Gore’s hype and hysteria gone too far?

That’s what many scientists and supporters are beginning to say. They are alarmed at his alarmism. “I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don Easterbrook (emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University) told hundred of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”{1}

Kevin Vranes (climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado) has praised Gore for “getting the message out” but also questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”{2}

Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans in recent decades. The argument made in many science journals and in Al Gore’s film is that most of the observed warming over the last fifty years is attributable to human activities. Political activists argue we must act now to prevent a global catastrophe.

These claims bring us back to the hype that many see in Al Gore’s film. He argues “Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb” and that “we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.”{3}

Throughout the film, Al Gore invariably will pick the most extreme estimate to prove that we are on the edge of a catastrophe. For example, if global warming really is taking place, how much will the sea level rise? Gore says 20 feet, and then shows a dramatic animation of what it would look like if various locations on earth were flooded by a sea level rise of 20 feet.

Yet the most recent summary of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change doesn’t say anything like this.{4} Even though this panel is full of policy makers who believe in global warming and argue for major policy changes, they conclude that sea levels might rise 7 to 17 inches over the course of a century. There is a vast difference between sea levels rising about one foot versus 20 feet!

Add to this the number of factual errors in many of the presentations heralding a looming catastrophe from global warming. Iain Murray documents “25 inconvenient truths for Al Gore” in his column that analyzes the scientific statements in “An Inconvenient Truth.”{5} Bjorn Lomborg, author of the Skeptical Environmentalist, shows how the report on climate change by Nicholas Stern and the U.K. government makes sloppy errors and cherry-picks statistics.{6}

We should also mention that many scientists believe that the current warming is due to factors other than human activity. Sami Solanki (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany) has quantitatively reconstructed the sun’s activity since the last Ice Age and says the sun “is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently.”{7} Scientists have observed that the ice caps on Mars are melting, and Jupiter is developing a second giant red spot due to the sudden warming of our solar system’s largest planet.{8}

Those who dare to criticize the global warming scenario are often compared to being the moral equivalent of a holocaust denier.{9} In the film, Al Gore compares scientists who criticize his theory to scientists at the tobacco companies who tried to tell us that smoking was not harmful. Gore and others also say that many who are skeptical about global warming are being paid by the oil companies they say are running a disinformation campaign.

This last charge infuriated Dr. Easterbrook who told the geologists, “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company.” He went on to add, “And I’m not a Republican.”

Al Gore argues that the global warming issue isn’t a political issue but rather a moral issue. Yet in his film, Al Gore argues we need the political will to confront and solve the issue. It doesn’t take much insight to realize there is a political agenda here.

The first step, say the activists, is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This treaty calls for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. When Al Gore was Vice President, it was brought before the U.S. Senate and defeated 95-0. It won’t pass if put up for a vote once again.

But even if it did pass, it would only be a start. Estimates are that it would cost $200 billion to $1 trillion every year. But other Kyotos treaties would have to be ratified by the developing countries. After all, there are a billion people in China and a billion people in India, and China plans on building an additional 2,200 coal plants by 2030.{10} One scientist speculated that “it might take another 30 Kyotos” to deal with global warming.{11} And what would be the impact? Critics say that even if adhered to by every signatory, it would only reduce surface temperature by 0.13° F.{12}

Even if we assume that global warming is occurring and assume that it is due only to human activity, the cost-benefit is enormous. Bjorn Lomborg established a program known as the Copenhagen Consensus.{13} This panel (that included three Nobel Laureates in economics) evaluated strategies to deal with major problems facing humanity. When they listed these alternatives in descending order of effectiveness, things like treating communicable disease and hunger were at the top of the list while dealing with climate change were at the bottom of the list.

This suggests that adaptation to climate change will be more effective and less costly than mitigation. We need to cool the hype and let cooler heads make wise decisions.

Notes

1. William J. Broad, “From a rapt audience, a call to cool the hype,” The New York Times, 13 March 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2rbtvw.
2. Ibid.
3. Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth,” www.climatecrisis.net/aboutthefilm/.
4. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 4th Assessment summary, www.ipcc.ch.
5. Iain Murray, “Gorey truths: 25 inconvenient truths for Al Gore,” National Review, 22 June 2006, http://tinyurl.com/e623o.
6. Bjorn Lomborg, Stern review, Wall Street Journal, 2 November 2006, www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110009182.
7. Lawrence Solomon, “The heat’s in the sun,” 9 March 2007, Financial Post, http://tinyurl.com/2tf6qm.
8. Lorne Gunter, “Brighter sun, warm earth. Coincidence?” 12 March 2007, National Post, http://tinyurl.com/ysnwb5
9. Dennis Prager, “On comparing global warming denial to holocaust denial,” 13 February 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2wdpee
10. Jonah Goldberg, “Global cooling costs too much,” 9 February 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2obh59.
11. David Malakoff, “Thirty Kyotos needed to control warming,” Science, 19 December 1997, 2048.
13. Bjorn Lomborg, “Copenhagen Consensus 2006,” www.copenhagenconsensus.com/Default.aspx?ID=770.

March 22, 2007

© 2007 Probe Ministries International


Global Warming

Climate change

Fossil fuel emissions are unfairly being blamed for global warming. The Kyoto Protocol is based on questionable science, and will cause unnecesssary economic hardship.

What is Global Warming?

Over the last few months, dating back to the 2000 election, we have been bombarded with the news of global warming. Unfortunately, this issue has become highly polarized politically. Some scientists and politicians believe the warming has been fully documented as being caused by human interference and drastic measures are necessary to bring it under control, while others just as strenuously maintain that nothing has been proven and drastic measures will only ruin our economy for no reason. What are we to think?

First, let me say at the start of this article that I have been what some would call an environmentalist since high school. I cooperate fully with the recycling program offered by my city: collecting all newspaper, glass, aluminum cans, and certain plastics for pick-up every other week. I don’t buy Styrofoam plates or cups since it is not reusable or biodegradable.

I have long been a nature enthusiast, previously as an avid bird-watcher and feeder. Zoos have always been an attraction for me, but even better are opportunities to see God’s creatures in their natural habitat. A jog in the woods is more preferable to a run down the street, even with no traffic.

I drive a small fuel-efficient car and as soon as it is practicable for my family financially, I intend to purchase one of those new cars run by both battery and gasoline, which gets close to 60 miles to the gallon.

I think stewardship of God’s creation is a good thing and I think we (meaning humans) have often sought our own needs to the unnecessary detriment of the rest of creation. So with this as a background, what do I think of global warming? I’m afraid that my position will not totally satisfy either of the extremes mentioned earlier. For I don’t think global warming requires the drastic action being required by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But neither do I believe that the signs of global warming can be totally ignored, as some economists and political conservatives would have us think.

For instance, it does seem that there is credible evidence that both Arctic and Antarctic ice is receding, most glaciers worldwide appear to be in retreat, and sea levels are rising. The important question, however, is whether global warming is responsible for these events. And perhaps even more importantly, what can we realistically do about it even if rising global temperatures are even partly responsible for these disturbing trends?

In this article I will be examining the evidence for a human component to the increasing temperatures and whether the proposed remedies offered by the IPCC are the best means of effecting real change for the future.

Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol

The issue of global warming has become a lightning rod issue the world over. When President Bush recently indicated that he would hold back on setting carbon dioxide limits for U.S. power plants, environmentalist groups around the world immediately demonized him. A campaign was put in motion to flood the White House with e-mails condemning his action.

To help understand this issue let’s investigate the basics of the greenhouse effect on our planet and see what the fuss is all about. The greenhouse effect simply refers to the ability of some gases in our atmosphere to absorb and hold heat better than others. This creates a warming blanket around the earth without which life would be much more difficult for all life forms on earth.

It’s similar to the effect produced by actual greenhouses with walls and ceilings of glass. Glass allows certain wavelengths of light and radiation in, but traps certain others from getting out. Leave your car in the full sun, even on a pleasant day, and you can later enter the car to blast furnace temperatures. That’s a greenhouse effect.

Of great concern today is the fact that some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are increasing in the atmosphere and the average temperature of the earth at ground level has increased by about a full degree Fahrenheit since 1900 (0.5 degrees Celsius). Many have become convinced that the increase in carbon dioxide and the increase in temperature are cause and effect respectively.

Further, many believe that the increased carbon dioxide is due to the burning of fossil fuels. Some global climate computer models predict that this is only the beginning of the rise of global temperatures and that by the end of the 21st century, average global temperatures could rise by as much as seven degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius). As a result, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, based on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued the Kyoto Protocol in December of 1997.

Simply put, the Kyoto protocol calls on all agreeing nations to reduce their fossil fuel emission by at least five percent below their estimated 1990 levels by around 2010. Most nations were actually assigned reductions of 7-8 percent, including the United States. Now that doesn’t sound like much at first glance. However, it is widely recognized, that with the growth in the U.S. economy since 1990, this would amount to as much as a 30 percent actual reduction in fossil fuel use by 2010. To achieve such a drastic reduction would require major shifts in U.S. energy policy and the economy. We’d better make sure it’s worth it.

Next we’ll look at the science of global warming.

Scientific Problems with Global Warming

Now I want to discuss some of the problems with the scientific evidence that purports to show that human produced carbon dioxide is responsible for global warming.{1} As I mentioned earlier, levels of carbon dioxide are increasing in the atmosphere and ground stations have reported a slight warming in this century. Many believe that the increase in carbon dioxide has caused the slight rise in temperature, and they fear this is only the modest beginning of more significant temperature increases in the 21st century. I think there are several reasons to strongly doubt this conclusion.

First, we need to consider the influence of long-term trends. The last ice age ended about 11,000 years ago by most estimates, and the planet has been warming ever since. Sea levels have been rising at the rate of 7-8 inches every 100 years. Therefore, the fact that sea levels are rising is not necessarily due to humanly caused global warming. There was a significant warming trend from around 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Greenland was actually green on its coasts at one time. This was followed by what is referred to as the “Little Ice Age” from about 1450 to 1850. Both of these trends occurred without human influence and the current warming trend could just be stabilization from this last Little Ice Age.

I have mentioned that the warming trend has been measured from ground stations. This distinction has been added because there is conflicting data from weather balloon and satellite data. The most significant warming has been measured in the last two decades. However the temperature of the atmosphere has remained constant over the last twenty years.

How can the ground temperatures increase and the atmospheric temperatures stay the same? To be honest, nobody really knows for sure, but there is evidence that the ground based temperatures are in error. This could be due to what is called the heat island effect. It has been noticed that urban measured temperatures have increased faster than rural temperatures. The concrete, asphalt, factories, motor vehicles, and population density of large cities may be biasing these readings and giving a false warming trend.

If the warming trend is real, there may be another significant factor involved that has nothing to do with human interference: the sun. A measurement of solar activity in terms of the sunspot cycle length shows a strong correlation with global temperatures over the last 100 years: including the rise from 1920-1940, the dip from 1940 to 1980, and the rise over the last twenty years.

All these data seem to indicate that global warming, if it exists, is not likely to be due to human action.

The Economic Effects of the Kyoto Protocol

Knowing that the science is highly questionable raises severe concerns about the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for at least a 30 percent reduction in U.S. fossil fuel use by 2010. Not only is this drastic reduction unnecessary to combat global warming, but also its effects on the U.S. economy could be catastrophic.

First, let me point out that some warming is not such a bad thing. It is widely recognized that increased carbon dioxide is good for plants. They grow faster and require less water. A slightly longer growing season is not a negative either. It is simply not factual to suggest that global warming is responsible for increases in severe weather, including hurricanes, tornados, floods, and droughts. Storms, in particular, have not shown any real increase in frequency or intensity.

John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama and one of the lead authors of the IPCC report, said, “Hurricanes are not increasing. Tornados are not increasing. Storms and droughts do not show any pattern of increasing or decreasing . . . . Variations of climate have always occurred, even when humans could not have had any impact.”{2}

Beyond these observations is the realization that the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would have severe economic consequences. Our own U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says Kyoto could drain more than $340 billion a year from the U.S. economy ($1,500 per person), double electricity prices, and cause the price per gallon to soar 65 cents for gasoline, 88 cents for diesel, and 90 cents for home heating oil. What is most significant about these rises in energy prices is that they would affect low-income families most severely. Upper and middle-income families can better shift resources to meet rising energy costs than the poor or the elderly on fixed incomes. Yet no one has talked about this.

The EIA also calculates that the Kyoto treaty could cost 3.2 million American jobs. An exhaustive study commissioned by a coalition of minority business groups concluded that 1.4 million of those lost jobs would be in our Black and Hispanic communities. And average annual family incomes in those communities would decline by between $2,000 and $3,000 under Kyoto.{3}

What is most disconcerting is that all this economic impact would be essentially for nothing, because not only is the science of human caused global warming suspect, but even if the Kyoto Protocol is followed, it would result in less than one-half of one degree reduction in global temperature by 2050. It hardly seems worth it.

So What Do We Do?

After exploring the question of global warming, we’ve found the science behind it to be questionable at best and the economic impact unnecessarily severe, particularly for minority families and businesses. This may raise a question in some people’s minds as to why this is being pushed so uncritically by other world governments and by the media.

Well, the first clue comes from a quick perusal down the list of nations from the Kyoto Protocol itself. Some countries like the Russian Federation are simply asked to hold their emissions at 1990 levels with no reduction. Countries from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Polynesia, including China and India aren’t even on the list (except Japan)! The reason is that these countries are still developing their economies and will need unrestricted energy use. However, as these populous nations grow economically, they may well exceed the emissions output of western nations altogether.

Implicitly, this affirms the necessity of fossil fuel energy for healthy economies. This treaty may be little more than a tax on western nations, not a policy for climate change. The late Aaron Wildavsky, professor of political science at UC Berkeley, wrote, “Warming (and warming alone), through its primary antidote of withdrawing carbon from production and consumption, is capable of realizing the environmentalist’s dream of an egalitarian society based on the rejection of economic growth in favor of smaller population’s eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally.”{4}

Now I don’t think all those things are bad in and of themselves. But I don’t like the idea of being forced into it in the name of avoiding climate change. A recent Time cover story, apart from a wholly typical and irresponsible scare article promoting the myth of human induced global warming, actually provided some common sense activities for responsible environmental activities that save resources and money.{5}

Among them were: running your dishwasher only when it’s full, replacing air-conditioning and furnace air filters regularly, and adjusting your thermostat to a little warmer in summer and a little cooler in winter. You can also set your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees (F); it saves money and is safer. Try low-flow showerheads to use less hot water and wash clothes in warm or cold water. Most detergents today clean just as well in cooler temperatures. Use energy efficient light bulbs. Improve your home insulation. And seal up all the cracks.

Since all of these save electricity, they save not only resources, but also money for you. It just makes sense.

Increased energy prices, which should occur as demand for oil and gas increases and supply remains steady temporarily but begins to drop in 20 to 40 years, will spur development for more renewal energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. Also, research is progressing in stimulating the ocean to be more biologically productive through seeding with iron to act as a sink for carbon dioxide, if levels are shown to be affecting the general climate.

But where is the voice of the church? For too long we have been silent on environmental issues. As Christians we should lead the way in care for the environment, since we claim to be rightly related to its Creator in the first place.

Notes

1. S. Fred Singer, 1997, 1999, “The Scientific Case Against the Global Climate Treaty,” http://www.sepp.org/GWbooklet/withfigures.html. All of the scientific evidences in this section can be found in this fair and reasoned report. Singer is a retired climatologist from the University of
Virginia and has formed The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) to help educate the public on global warming. This website is a great resource for up-to-date information on the global warming controversy. The report above is available with and without figures, but I reference and recommend the version with the figures copied with permission from peer-reviewed science journals for the full effect.
2. Quoted by James K. Glassman, in “Administration in the Balance,” March 8, 2001, Wall Street Journal.
3. Paul Driessen, 2000, “Navigating the Treacherous ‘Seven Cees’ of Climate Care,” The Issue Archive of CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) at http://www.cfact.org/Issues.htm.
4. Quoted by James K. Glassman, in “Administration in the Balance,” March 8, 2001, Wall Street Journal.
5. “What Can You Do?” Time, April 9, 2001, p. 39.

©2001 Probe Ministries