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Global Warming Denial

by Rudy M. Baum, Editor-in-chief
February 12, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 7

The juxtaposition could not have been sharper. The headline on the front page of the Feb. 3 Washington Post read, "Humans Faulted For Global Warming: International Panel of Climate Scientists Sounds Dire Alarm." The story covered the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes that it is 90% certain that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are responsible for the rise in global temperatures that has occurred in the past half-century.

A letter on the editorial page of the same edition of the Post from Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, attacked "Al Gore's tireless efforts to promote global warming alarmism." Ebell was taking issue with an op-ed essay by Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby that wasn't really about Gore at all. The major point of Mallaby's column was the growing disconnect between the Bush Administration's attitude toward global warming and just about everybody else's in the world.

No matter, Gore is a convenient punching bag for climate-change deniers who, Ebell maintains, "have looked at the scientific evidence and the economic and technological realities of global energy use" and who "are casually maligned as being untruthful because we base our case on the best science available." Ebell argues that global warming alarmists are "promoting a powerful political agenda" and are "willing to defame anyone who stands in the way."

My, my. There's more than a whiff of desperation emanating from the anti-global warming camp these days. It's not just scientists and environmentalists they are up against anymore. In January, 10 major companies—including Alcoa, BP, DuPont, Caterpillar, and General Electric—joined four environmental groups to form a coalition that is asking Congress to pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Foresighted business leaders are coming to understand that sustainability can be both good for Earth and profitable.

The science, however, is the real driver, and on the science the IPCC report is clear (see page 17). The report states: "Since the TAR [Third Assessment Report], progress in understanding how climate is changing in space and time has been gained through improvements and extensions of numerous datasets and data analyses, broader geographical coverage, better understanding of uncertainties, and a wider variety of measurements." It goes on to state: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evidenced from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level."

The report notes that 11 of the past 12 years (1995-2006) "rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental surface record of global surface temperature (since 1850)." It states that, while urban heat island effects are real, they have a negligible effect on these values. It also states, "New analyses of balloon-borne and satellite measurements of lower- and mid-tropospheric temperature show warming rates that are similar to those of the surface temperature record ... largely reconciling a discrepancy noted in the TAR."

IPCC has also suffered numerous ad hominem attacks from global warming skeptics. Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, IPCC's role is "to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open, and transparent basis the best available scientific, technical, and socio-economic information on climate change from around the world. The assessments are based on information contained in peer-reviewed literature. ... They draw on the work of hundreds of experts from all regions of the world."

According to IPCC, its reports "pass through a rigorous two-stage scientific and technical review process." Drafts are first circulated to specialists with significant expertise and publications in the field. Revised drafts are circulated to governments and all authors and expert reviewers.

In other words, IPCC conducts a review of the best science available and reports on it.

Thanks for reading.

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