- It really happened.
- The NASA scientist who lit the bonfire
of the global warming vanities with his flamboyant congressional testimony
14 years ago, has turned the hose on its dying embers.
- There is now no reason for the Bush administration
to give an inch on climate change. Sure, energy efficient technologies
(like my Honda hybrid) are worth exploring. But there is absolutely no
scientific reason for any expensive policy like the Kyoto Protocol on global
warming. Mr. Bush led the world by being the first to walk away from Kyoto,
and science has proven him correct.
- NASA's James Hansen now predicts precisely
the same, small amount of warming in the next 50 years that the much-derided
"climate skeptics" predicted all along. According to both the
skeptics and Mr. Hansen, the planet is destined for a mere 0.7 degree Centigrade
(1.25 degree Fahrenheit) warming between now and 2050. It's a good thing
"W" listened to those skeptics before he decided on Kyoto. If
he had waited for NASA, he might have committed the United States down
the road to an unwarranted economic disaster for no good reason.
- How did Mr. Hansen, once the darling
of the green apocalyptics, come to adopt the scientific position they detest?
Nature compelled, and NASA disposed.
- The "skeptics" have argued,
beginning in congressional testimony in 1989, that warming was likely to
be the aforementioned low value because it had been so modest in previous
decades, despite major changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane,
the two principal "greenhouse" gases.
- The skeptics' (the strange name we give
to those who think the planet is OK) logic was simple: Nature had declared,
despite the protestations of climate modelers and other tax-consumers,
just how sensitive the Earth's surface temperature was to changes in global-
warming gases. The answer: not very.
- Climate models, such as those run by
NASA, initially assumed that the sensitivity was much larger than it was
in reality, and, consequently, those models predicted more warming than
had occurred in reality. When this became embarrassingly obvious even to
the non- "skeptics," my colleagues, ever-eager to keep the gravy
train rolling, argued that some other compound, called sulfate aerosol,
must be "hiding" the warming.
- That one didn't wash for several reasons,
not the least of which is that warming might even be the net effect of
those human dust emissions. This was first noted way back in 1980 by other
NASA scientists. But that finding was of little consequence until Mr. Hansen
resurrected it in a paper published in 1997.
- If nothing is "blocking" the
warming, then the climate isn't as sensitive as the climate modelers had
assumed. In addition, the climate modelers in general predicted that greenhouse
gases themselves were piling up in the atmosphere much faster than they
were. Atmospheric physics dictates that warming will damp off unless the
gases go into the atmosphere in ever-increasing, exponential fashion.
- Mr. Hansen slowly threw in the towel.
After noting in 1997 that sulfates might actually cause little (if any)
cooling (a position the "skeptics" had long held), he noted,
in a 1999 paper, that greenhouse gases weren't increasing so rapidly after
all (another fact the "skeptics" had been noting for years).
Finally, in two papers in 2000 and 2001, he argued that all of the uncertainty
about the planet's true sensitivity to warming dictated that we listen
to nature, after all.
- So, in his last paper in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Hansen and Makiko Sato wrote,
"We predict an additional warming in the next 50 years of 3/4 plus
or minus 1/4 degree Centigrade [1.35 plus or minus 0.5 degree Fahrenheit]"
, which sounds an awful lot like page 210 of "The Satanic Gases,"
which I authored two years earlier with Robert Balling: "The Earth's
average surface temperature will warm 0.65 to 0.75 degrees Centigrade (1.17
degrees to 1.35 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050." The only difference
is that we have been using virtually the same number since Mr. Hansen's
- Where are the reporters? Somewhere between
Enron and September 11, you would think that the death of global warming
would merit a feature or two unless, of course, it's the kind of news
that they don't want you to hear.
- We can only eagerly await the upcoming
congressional hearings on Mr. Bush's vs. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's
energy plans. The former wants oil from Alaska, and the latter wants to
restrict combustion because of global warming. Perhaps Mr. Hansen could
be called to testify alongside the skeptics.
- In all fairness, Mr. Hansen still calls
for emissions reductions. That position seems remarkably illogical, except
that it is likely to keep him from being stoned by the greens, who feel
increasingly betrayed by their once-apocalyptic hero, the man who hosed
down global warming. ___
- Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow
in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of "The