Group Raps Agency Misuse in Global Warming Debate

“The use of ostensibly neutral federal agencies to promote the Clinton administration’s pet policy agendas hit a new low yesterday,” said Paul Beckner, President of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

According to claims made yesterday by a team of scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, 1997 was the hottest year since 1880. The center’s senior scientist, Tom Karl, further claimed, “[I]t is likely that the sustained trend toward increasingly warmer global temperatures is related to anthropogenic [man-made] increases in greenhouse gases.”

Argues Beckner, “The statement is a thinly veiled attempt on the part of an agency of the federal government to marshal support for the highly unpopular and potentially economically devastating treaty U.S. negotiators brought back from December’s U.N. conference on global warming in Kyoto, Japan.”

“The economic, political, and social implications of the global warming treaty are staggering,” says Beckner. “The President is facing a long, difficult struggle for ratification — so he’s activating everyone he can possibly think of to get the ’98 spin machine rolling. NOAA, the agency that Americans are supposedly able to count on for accurate scientific data concerning the state of earth’s climate, is simply a means to a political end.” Members of Congress, industry representatives and agricultural and defense interests are among those who have signaled their opposition to the treaty.

The Kyoto Protocol, as the global warming treaty is known, would require the United States to cut its overall emissions of six greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three halocarbons used as substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons) by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Since energy production and transportation are among the principle greenhouse gas emitters, such a reduction would require the average American to curb his or her energy use by between 20 to 30 percent, according to conservative estimates.

Beckner scoffed at President Clinton’s assurances that U.S. energy consumption can be cut by 30 percent “painlessly.” Beckner counters that leading economic forecasters place the cumulative loss to gross domestic product (GDP) at $1 to $3 trillion in the 15- to 20-year period following implementation of the protocol. The average household can expect annual expenses rise by over $2,000 per year, mostly in the form of increased electricity and gasoline costs, Beckner states.

Administration claims of a “scientific consensus” on the matter of human-induced global warming notwithstanding, Beckner noted that world climatologists are still “light years” from agreeing on whether or not man-made greenhouse gas emissions are affecting climate. “Global warming is still a hypothesis. Yesterday’s event demonstrates just how quickly those who should be most incorruptible can be made to serve political ends.”

NOAA’s announcement has much broader implications than “simple agency manipulation,” Beckner holds. “What we’re seeing is the blatant twisting of science for political ends.”

Speaking to the science, Patrick Burns, an environmental policy analyst at CSE, countered NOAA’s claim saying that it was based on data gathered from relatively few land and ocean surface monitoring stations, and should be understood in that context. “Any scientist should be embarrassed to defend such claims about global weather patterns with such miniscule samples of data,” said Burns. “If this is truly a global problem, then why not examine the global record.”

The reason is obvious, according to Burns. He cites that the global record — as garnered from microwave sounding units aboard NOAA satellites, the most accurate measuring instruments currently available — indicates that 1997 ranks exactly number seven out of the last 19 years, with one being the coldest. “Ironically, the NOAA scientists are ignoring what their own satellites are telling them. This fact, coupled with the recent adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, is beginning to raise some eyebrows.”

Concluded Beckner, “We’re coming to point in the global warming debate where the objectivity of the federal scientists who inform public policy can no longer be relied upon.”