National Assessment of Climate Change released

National Assessment of Climate Change released
August 1, 2000

America's airwaves and newsrooms were abuzz in mid-June with dire warnings of an imminent global warming apocalypse. Average U.S. temperatures "will probably rise 5-10 degrees F." There will "probably" be widespread floods, droughts, diseases, and sea level changes. Alpine meadows, coastal wetlands, and Alaskan permafrost "may disappear altogether."

Those are just a few of the many dire warnings predicted in an overview of the National Assessment of Climate Change, released June 12 by the Global Climate Research Program (GCRP). The GCRP, reporting to the White House and office of Vice President Al Gore, coordinates the climate research and education efforts of roughly a dozen federal agencies.

Dr. S. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), called the GCRP overview "an over-hyped attempt to translate a flawed, unscientific report into a national scare."

Singer is not alone in his harsh assessment of the National Assessment and its overview.

Atmospheric scientist John Christy called the overview a "kind of joke." Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, dubbed it a "classic example of misuse and abuse of climate models." Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency complained of numerous "extreme or alarmist" statements, while the Centers for Disease Control cited oversimplifications and distortions.

David Wojick, a scientist, journalist, and energy policy analyst, considered the overview evidence that the country’s regulatory, public policy, and journalistic processes are being compromised. "The White House and Global Climate Research Program poured buckets of global warming chum into U.S. waters last week,” he said, “and the media sharks came swarming in.

"But there's about as much substance to their warming catastrophe claims, as there is to the chum used to haul in hungry, unsuspecting sharks of the great white variety."

"Now that the media feeding frenzy has subsided," suggested Singer, "we need to assess why the report and overview are being so roundly criticized by many scientists. We can't possibly cover everything that's wrong. But we need to point out some of the most egregious faults."

Wild predictions

Just ten years ago, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted the planet would warm by over 5 degrees F by 2100. Five years ago, it reduced its projection to 3.5 degrees F. In 1998, it dropped its forecast to less than 2 degrees F. Meanwhile, satellites and weather balloons have found virtually no warming, except in Alaska and Siberia, and that only at night in mid-winter.

The GCRP prediction, that U.S. temperatures will soar by 5 or 10 degrees F by 2100, seems to fly in the face of the recent trend by the scientific community toward more moderate predictions of warming and its likely consequences.

Hot models

The United States has spent billions of dollars developing climate models. Nevertheless, the models are at best crude simulations. They are not supported by actual temperature measurements, and they predict climate changes that growing numbers of scientists have begun to doubt.

But the U.S. models project temperature rises more conservative than most. The GCRP rejected those models and instead selected Canadian and British models that consistently yield higher temperatures, more extreme weather events, and worse environmental disasters than any of their counterparts.

One model used by the GCRP projects precipitation in the Colorado River Basin will increase by 150 percent over the next century; the other says there will be only a 5 percent increase. One predicts an 80 percent increase in precipitation for the Red River Valley; the other an 80 percent decrease. One even projects that most of the world's tropical forests will disappear within 50 years.

Faulty CO2 numbers

The GCRP claims atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising at 1 percent a year. But even the IPCC now recognizes that the actual increase is just 0.4 percent per year. By claiming a 1 percent annual increase, the GCRP gets 100-year temperature projections nearly twice as large as models would predict based on a lower, more accurate CO2 figure.

Solar radiation downplayed

In early June, one of largest solar flares of the past decade erupted with such strength that it shifted the Northern Lights southward. A scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Environment Center noted such a solar flare is "like all the energy we've ever used on Earth, released in just a few minutes."

Yet the GCRP downplays the key role the sun plays in determining climate. It also ignores evidence that the Earth's climate has changed significantly many times, even during the last 500, 1,000 and 15,000 years.

A stacked deck

The GCRP has spent nearly $15 billion over the past decade--enough money to give 5,000 scientists and administrators annual stipends and spending accounts of $300,000 each. According to the White House, the money has gone primarily to NASA and the National Science Foundation--but how these agencies spend the money GCRP officials are not saying.

The Synthesis Team that put the report and overview together was top-heavy with climate change activists and alarmists. By contrast, the team included no climate alarm skeptics, none of the scientists who say moderate warming is actually beneficial, no representatives of the fossil fuels industry, and no taxpayer or consumer groups--even though the costs of implementing the GCRP's global warming counter-measures would be very high.

The GCRP Web site, press releases, and printed materials reveal a similar absence of balance in perspective . . . and a disturbing tendency to issue propaganda thinly disguised as "education."

Nowhere in the National Assessment report or its overview is there an indication that the GCRP attempted to evaluate the models it used or verify them against observed temperature and climate records. The overview, in particular, is negative and pessimistic in tone. It makes no attempt to balance viewpoints, nor does it weigh the costs and benefits of climate change and climate change counter-measures.

“The overview presents worst-case scenarios with a certainty and alarmist tone not supported by science,” said SEPP president Singer. “It reflects a persistent appeal to emotions, selective use of data, and a claim of scientific certainty that does not exist at this time on climate and climate change.”

In March, the administration announced its climate change research agenda would focus on "creating a new partnership between science and public policy." Many feared that “partnership” would result in a politically motivated climate change agenda with little room for sound science.

"Those fears were certainly borne out by the GCRP's media blitz," noted Singer. "It's clear that what we really have here is a new federal propaganda partnership. That's bad news for sound public policy."


Paul K. Driessen conducts media relations for the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). More information about the group’s work is available on its Web site at www.sepp.org