So, Chandra Levy and Gary Condit are not the only talk of the town (and nation). Bring up the subject of global warming and watch the comments (and e-mails) fly.

A quick sampling:

Reader 1: “Glad you addressed the issue but ‘many’ scientists don’t agree with humans causing global warming — only a few and probably because of a political agenda. Humankind does have an adverse effect on local environmental conditions — i.e., depleted aquifers, pollution, deforestation, etc. — but that doesn’t seem to keep it from breeding like rodents.”

Reader 2: “I love reading what Thomas Sowell writes. There are so many ‘facts’ and statistics that are put out as the truth that I seriously question. Good editorial.”

Reader 3: “By chance I received the following attachment regarding what you talked about in your [July 9] column. Thought you might find it interesting.” To answer Reader 3, I did.


The attachment sent this way was a commentary from Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT, who also was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel on climate change. In this editorial space two weeks ago, I touched upon the findings of NAS, as reported by syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA. In a nutshell, Sowell noted the NAS report, which was released last month, states clearly that the scientists involved in the discussion of global warming not only did not write the report, they didn’t even see it before it was published. Lindzen’s commentary, published a week after the release of the NAS report, backs Sowell’s zingers. Writes Lindzen:

“The National Academy of Sciences released a report on climate change, prepared in response to a request from the White House, that was depicted in the press as an implicit endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol. CNN’s Michelle Mitchell was typical of the coverage when she declared that the report represented ‘a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room.’

“As one of the 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asks that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represents the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them. “As usual, far too much public attention was paid to the hastily prepared summary rather than to the body of the report. The summary began with a zinger — that greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise, etc., before following with the necessary qualifications. For example, the full text noted that 20 years was too short a period for estimating long-term trends, but the summary forgot to mention this.

“Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds). “But — and I cannot stress this enough — we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions.”


Now, before anyone accuses me of believing that mankind should not be concerned about the environment, Mother Earth, or her atmosphere — or that I sound just as disconcerting as Rush Limbaugh (heaven forbid) — that’s not what I’m saying, nor is that my belief. I do believe we, as a people and as a nation, should be proactive in preventing global warming. Based on scientists’ disclosures, there are, apparently, ways to avoid this environmental phenomenon from forming and/or worsening.

My point? Let’s just be cautious as to what we decide to do as individuals, as a people, and as a nation to curb global warming. Of course, you can argue if the problem even exists, if you want. After all, that’s what the scientists — the “experts” in this entire picture — are doing.

As Lindzen concludes in his commentary, “Science, in the public arena, is commonly used as a source of authority with which to bludgeon political opponents and propagandize uninformed citizens. This is what has been done with both reports of the [United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and the NAS. It is a reprehensible practice that corrodes our ability to make rational decisions. A fairer view of the science will show that there is still a vast amount of uncertainty — far more than advocates of Kyoto would like to acknowledge — and that the NAS report has hardly ended the debate. Nor was it meant to.”

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/23/2001