The following article was originally published by Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
Is Global Warming Talk Based on Science?
By David Deming, Ph.D. I recently read an editorial column in an Oklahoma newspaper alleging that Senator Inhofe is "not the leader we deserve" because he refuses to toe the party line on global warming. That’s funny. I thought that the ability to think independently was the very definition of leadership.
Senator Inhofe is a skeptic on global warming because he knows the science. Here are a few of the facts on climate not often reported by the media.
Present-day temperatures are not anomalously warm. The best methods we have for estimating past temperatures are borehole temperatures and the elevation of tree lines. Both of these methods indicate that temperatures during the High Middle Ages were just as warm as today. Five to seven-thousand years ago, temperatures were significantly warmer.
Global warming implies sea level might rise a few inches by the end of this century. So what? Sea level has been rising for thousands of years. Since the end of the last Ice Age, it has risen by 350 feet.
Ninety percent of the greenhouse effect is due to water vapor. The warming response to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is logarithmic. That means if some global warming does occur, most of it will be at night, at winter, and at high latitudes where humidity is low. These are places and times where warmer temperatures would be beneficial, not detrimental.
Between 1960 and the year 2000, winter temperatures in North Polar Regions increased by half a degree Celsius. Summertime temperatures didn’t change at all. Between 1966 and the year 2000, Antarctica grew colder. Neither the Greenland nor the Antarctic Ice Sheets are undergoing any significant ablation or melting. The Polar Bear population is stable.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but a plant nutrient. It’s good for the environment. An increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuel will promote plant growth and reforestation, providing habitat for wild species. Increased agricultural yields from carbon dioxide fertilization implies fewer wild areas will need to be converted into farmland.
No one has ever died from global warming. What kills people is cold, not heat. For more than 150 years, it has been documented in the medical literature that human mortality rates are highest in the winter when temperatures are the coldest. Some elderly individuals are at risk during summer heat waves. What saves their lives is air conditioning powered by burning fossil fuels.
The weather is not getting worse or more severe. Over the last 50 years, there has been no increase in the number of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes in either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. For more than 100 years, there has been no increase in the number or severity of droughts in the U.S. The incidence of wildfires is decreasing. Because warmer air holds more moisture than colder air, any global warming that does occur will bring more precipitation to most areas.
Environmentalists want carbon dioxide emissions reduced. That means regressive carbon taxes and higher energy bills for the consumer. But even if we cripple our economy by reducing energy use, it won’t have any significant effect on climate. Full implementation of the Kyoto Treaty would yield a net global cooling of only half a degree Fahrenheit by the year 2100.
In summary, the problem is not one of skepticism, it’s one of ignorance. Global warming hysteria is based on ignorance fueled by speculation and alarmism. The average person is more likely to be struck by a meteorite from outer space than harmed by global warming.
David Deming is a geophysicist, an adjunct scholar with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), and an associate professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. Last month he testified on global warming before a full committee hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee of the United States Senate.