Ecological Confabulation
How The Media Create Consensus With Lies


The Founders, being cheerful and optimistic by nature, had assumed that if they provided freedom of the press, a free press would naturally spring up to provide the required service. For a while this seemed to work. Small newspapers representing every conceivable variety of opinion thrived in an atmosphere of freedom. Indeed, there has never been much inclination to regulate the press in this country; the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 represented one of the few serious attempts to do so, but did not remain in force for long, and nobody has made such a brazen attempt to restrain the freedom of opinion since then.

Unfortunately, the Founders could not foresee a time when the press itself would become the major threat to freedom of opinion. Thanks to the moral cowardice, ideological bigotry and general duplicity of our institutions of higher "learning" (read indoctrination) the journalism schools are now turning out an endless stream of politically correct, cliche-prattling robots who are no more capable of independent thought than they are of programming a VCR. Indeed, there is reason to question whether they are capable of thinking at all, having been programmed in an environment where prating back the instructor's opinions is the recognized way of getting along in the world.

As the "independent" press gets gobbled up by the handful of huge media conglomerates, opinion becomes ever more standardized and stereotyped. The few intrepid journalists who attempt to maintain a principled position in the face of all this conformity are hectored and harassed by the rest of the pack. The typical mainstream journalist is a coward and a bully, too yellow to go against the pack, and all too often prepared to do its dirty work, such as helping to smear a colleague whose opinions are found to be "incorrect." In that way the mainstream media are able to skate along over the surface of the issues in rigid conformity to establishment norms, chanting in unison the litanies of the regnant liberal "elite" while piously pretending to be a free press. What we have developed in this country is a kinder, gentler, softer totalitarianism. While all the outward appearances of freedom continue to be scrupulously observed, meaningful diversity of opinion has been effectively stamped out.


For those who find all of this a bit ho-hum (politics can be so boring) perhaps it would be well to consider the practical consequences of having a controlled press. (It does have consequences, you know). This was made evident last week when the Washington Times, one of the few newspapers in the country that allows politically incorrect views to be aired, took note of the "dearth of in-depth reporting" of the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency is cracking the financial whip on nine of the country's smoggiest cities. (What's the matter with me? What have I got against fresh air? etc.) The cities will be required to come up with new plans for handling traffic or face withholding of federal funds.

What's wrong with this picture already? Why are cities so dependent on federal funds? Why don't they raise their own funds? Why has the federal government become the tax collector for the cities? Perhaps more to the point, how can we have genuine local control over our affairs when the federal government foots the bill? There is always a hook involved in this federal "assistance" -- acceptance of federal control over local affairs. (The pig-headed pygmies who run the federal bureaucracy know so much better how to run our affairs than we do). What we have here is an end run around the Constitution that was supposed to guarantee local control of local affairs. Once more the strutting balloon-heads in Washington have contrived to buy us with our own money.

The plot thickens. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The EPA's move came after it was sued by the Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental groups for failing to enforce the section of the Clean Air Act that requires plans for controlling transportation growth." Not mentioned in the Journal article is the fact that the EPA gave $650,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund during the past four years to promote "smart growth" programs. In other words, our government gave our money to a private lobbying group so that they could sue the government and thereby require it to do their bidding. The cover-story given to us doolies out here is that the government is responding to pressure from the "grass roots." Isn't that supposed to be us, folks?

What this means, in effect, is that the game is rigged. The government is using our money to promote one side in what is supposed to be a public debate. The Washington Times commented, "When the express purpose of the government's expenditure is to silence the other side of the debate, then that agency has made free speech its enemy and has targeted the foundation of a democratic society."

But hey, what's wrong with the government being on the side of the environment? asks Doofus Dymwittee, who has been brainwashed from early childhood to always side with furry creatures and fuzzy ideas promoted by the Green Goliath, the giant lobby created in this and other countries of the Western world by the political left as a substitute for the Vietnam War. It's difficult to make a career using war as a pretext -- wars are so ephemeral -- but ecology is forever. The problem is that Mr. Dymwittee, like others of his generation, hasn't the ghost of a clue what is actually involved in all this. He wasn't intended to have. That is why his inculcators are careful not to teach Doofus how to think. If he started having ideas of his own who knows where it might lead? Instead, Doofus was provided a complete set of conditioned reflexes, guaranteed to be politically correct in any circumstance that might be of interest to his programmers.

A study conducted by the Cato Institute found that the EPA is using our money in a massive propaganda campaign designed to browbeat us into believing that "smart growth" programs are good for us. Smart growth programs? The government looked upon the outward growth of suburbia and saw that it is bad, so in its infinite wisdom and beneficence, the Government (holy, holy) has decided to stop it. This means higher population density and fewer single family homes, but of course the Most High Government is not going to tell Doofus about that. Such a misstep might accidentally spur him into a spontaneous act of thinking -- he might even decide that he didn't like the idea. Especially when he learned that the government plans to create traffic jams -- they call it "calming" traffic -- so as to induce him to take the bus instead of driving. If the federal propagandists fail to trick local governments into believing that such forced resettlement programs enjoy massive public support they can always invoke a 1991 law that enables the feds to cut off highway funds to those who fail to knuckle under.

Whatever happened to the "Integrity in Government Act" that prohibited federal grants to private lobbying groups? It was quietly allowed to expire in 1995, that's what happened to it. Why, didn't your elected "representative" tell you about that? I guess he forgot. You know how much stress they are under these days, what with all those lobbyists -- supported by your tax dollars.

According to a report by the Associated Press last week, embattled governments meeting in Beijing heroically agreed Friday, a week ago, to refinance a program that would help developing countries "phase out harmful chemicals" (presumably chlorofluorocarbons) and set controls for "newer ozone-depleting chemicals." All of this is being done in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to stop the "erosion of the dwindling ozone layer," the AP told us with absolute scientific certainty.

Well now, it's true that the ozone layer is dwindling -- it happens every year about this time and gets breathlessly reported by "news" organizations such as the AP. The part they never seem to report is the replenishment of the ozone layer, which also occurs every year. It's seasonal, get it? If only the part reported by the mainstream press occurred the ozone layer would have disappeared long ago.

The plan is to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the year 2010. To that end a fund of $475 million has been pledged by 129 governments. The theory (usually reported as indisputable scientific fact by mainstream propagandists) is that widespread use of CFCs and other chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning are thinning out "the ozone, opening a hole two times the size of the European continent in the protective layer which shields the earth from ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer and contribute to global warming," as the AP story rather garishly put it. Okay, they did qualify it the slightest tad by saying that CFCs are "suspected" of thinning the ozone layer, but it takes a sharp eye to detect such grace notes and besides, where did they get that bit about causing global warming? Depletion of the ozone layer causes global warming? Says who? Never mind -- it's all science fiction anyway.

All of this is being done pursuant to the Montreal Protocol of 1989 on Substances that [are imagined to] Deplete the Ozone Layer. Since the signing of the protocol, substitutes for the proscribed chemicals have been said by ecological extremists to cause ozone depletion as well. Eco-nazis who gathered in Beijing to hector the delegates complained bitterly about their failure to immediately ban methyl bromide, used by farmers and packing plants for pest control. Of course, all of this is made somewhat hypothetical by the fact that China has refused to sign the Montreal Protocol, but no need to dwell on that -- we'll just allow that little factoid to drop down through the cracks. After all, there are only a billion or so Chinese -- no big deal. It's only a pretend issue anyway. The sky isn't really falling, nor is the ozone being permanently depleted. But by pretending that it is we provide beaucoup career opportunities for people who busy themselves with such pretenses and might otherwise have difficulty finding employment.

But who cares about facts when we have wild-eyed pseudo-scientific fantasies with which to scare ourselves witless? These invariably get the widest possible coverage by the mainstream media, and just as inevitably spread mindless panic among True Believers. Worse still, the repetition of such tales gradually builds a national consensus, a sort of uncertain certainty. Policymakers and legislators know no more about the issue than the man in the street, but they are in a position to do something about their uninformed fear. In years past claims about ozone depletion have been strongly contested by leading authorities on atmospheric research within the scientific community, but the mainstream media have largely ignored this.

Fred Singer, one of the most respected professors of environmental sciences is one of those who challenged the ozone depletion claims early on. The University of Virginia professor maintains that, "The ozone hype suggests that the issue of CFC control is now based on politics rather than science." Another highly regarded authority, Melvyn Shapiro, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has spent more than twenty years studying the effects of weather on ozone. Shapiro complains that the controversy has been heavily influenced by chemists who are "not presenting the whole picture." He criticizes what he refers to as "Chicken Little research" as being influenced by political considerations, the media, and greed.

"If you have a doomsday scenario, you get a lot of money" according to Shapiro. "Research organizations are in great competition with each other to get the politicians' ears and obtain the necessary resources."

But such statements by recognized authorities have had little effect. When scientists disagree, how are those with non-technical backgrounds to reach a reasonable conclusion about scientific issues?

A Concise History of Ozone Obfuscation

Actually, like most seemingly difficult challenges, things are simpler than they seem at first glance. The key to understanding the ozone depletion theory is a simple chemical reaction that has been demonstrated to occur in the laboratory, if not in nature. When large, heavy CFC molecules mix with the atmosphere and are carried up into the stratosphere, as the outer layer of rarefied atmosphere above the earth is called, they can break down when ultraviolet (UV) radiation bangs into them, a process that can knock loose one or more chlorine atoms. If this free chlorine atom then strikes an ozone molecule (consisting of three oxygen atoms bonded together), a chemical reaction occurs which produces an ordinary oxygen molecule (two oxygen atoms) plus a molecule of chlorine monoxide (one chlorine, one oxygen).

The cycle is completed if the chlorine monoxide molecule combines with a free oxygen atom and gives up its oxygen atom to form an ordinary oxygen molecule. This frees the chlorine atom which can then destroy another ozone molecule. This cycle is repeated in an ozone destroying chain reaction until the chlorine atom is captured in some other chemical reaction. That's the theory, anyway. This chemical reaction has been made to occur in the laboratory, but has yet to be observed in the atmosphere.

This theory was first put to the test in January 1992, when a research team, led by James Anderson, announced that an ER-2 aircraft had obtained evidence of extremely high concentrations of chlorine monoxide in air samples gathered over eastern Canada and northern New England. Anderson immediately held a news conference to announce that the formation of an ozone hole over the Northern Hemisphere was "increasingly likely." The total loss of ozone within the polar vortex was predicted to be as high as 30 percent.

Algore to the rescue

Without waiting for any corroboration, then-Sen. Al Gore immediately announced on the floor of the Senate the existence of "an immediate, acute, emergency threat." He reproached President Bush for ignoring the "ozone hole over Kennebunkport", where Bush maintained a summer home. The mainstream media blasted the White House, demanding an accelerated phaseout of ozone destroying chemicals. The Senate rammed through on a 96-0 vote, legislation calling on the president to accelerate the phaseout of CFCs. On Feb. 11, 1993 the White House announced that production of the chemical would be ended in this country by December 1995. Dupont, whose patent on freon is running out had been enthusiastically curtailing its production, quite willing to manufacture alternatives costing up to thirty times more, compounds with brand new patents whose clock has just begun to tick.

One thing got lost in the rush for profits, headlines, donations and grants to environmental groups: the facts. However, the media rarely allow facts to get in the way of a good story. After all the hullabaloo, the incident intended to justify all the breast beating and hair pulling ended in an anticlimactic fizzle. In a press release dated April 30, 1993, NASA announced that "this winter did not result in severe ozone depletion..." According to NASA, a rise in stratospheric temperature in late January was "thought to have" eliminated polar stratospheric clouds. (Such clouds are believed to enhance the supposed ozone destroying chemical reaction by as much as a factor of ten on their surfaces. These clouds occur every year over Antarctica, but only rarely over the Arctic regions.) It is suggested that they sustain high levels of chlorine monoxide that "could have destroyed" 10 to 20 percent of the Arctic ozone had they persisted into February and March.

Although the media gave scant coverage to the failure of the ozone hole to materialize -- when does the press ever trumpet its own mistakes? -- this incident was nonetheless a turning point in the controversy. The incident showed clearly that at the very least the issue was more complicated than the public had been led to believe.

Subsequent articles on the subject acknowledged the existence of counter arguments -- for a while -- although they invariably understated them. For example, an article which appeared in the December 13, 1993 U. S. News and World Report conceded that ". . . environmental activists have overstated the proven consequences of man-made CFCs." The same article quotes Jim Anderson as saying, "It's very poor science to assume that ozone is dropping based on circumstantial evidence of increased chlorine. People who say we have not established a cause-and-effect link in the Northern Hemisphere are correct." This article did help counterbalance the knee-jerk panic response, but even so, it failed to mention a critical factor: ozone depletion had been detected and measured in the Northern Hemisphere long before CFCs were in general use. If CFC's are the dread culprits explaining ozone depletion, what in the world was causing ozone depletion before CFCs were invented?

A 1950 scientific paper by R. Penndorf that appeared in the Jan. - March Annales de Geophysique, using data collected from 1926 through 1942, documented the annual variation in the ozone layer over Northern Norway. The ozone concentration was found to reach a minimum during the polar night from December till mid-January, then rapidly increase. This variation is explained by natural causes, and certainly could not be caused by CFCs which were not used in large quantities until the late 1950s.

Huge natural variations in global ozone make the determination of minuscule long-term trends quite problematical. Seasonal variations of 10 to 50 percent are common. In addition, an 11-year variation of up to 5 percent can be attributed to the sunspot cycle of the same length. Since any long-term trend is measured in tenths of a percent per year, the short term variations are often 100 times larger, it's very difficult to be certain whether any long-term trends exists. Add to the difficulty of spotting a mouse in a buffalo stampede the fact that each sunspot cycle is different, and it's clear that the identification of so small a trend as the environmentalists are talking about is highly questionable.

That's why two highly respected Norwegian scientists who have studied the ozone layer over Scandinavia for the past 30 years said in a letter to Nature (January 11, 1990), ". . . no particular trend can be claimed for the past ten years. The 'winter data' indicate a small negative trend over the past 20 years and a similar, but a positive trend for the past 30 years. These data indicate that anthropogenic (man made) gases such as CFCs have, up to the summer of 1989, had negligible influence on the Arctic ozone layer."

Do you see what has been going on here? The scare stories have been based on secular variations in ozone concentration which swing wildly in either direction on a seasonal basis, however the long-term trend appears to be negligible. But the people who pretend to represent us in Washington still haven't figured this out. Or perhaps, at this point, they would just as soon not know about it, having caused so much disruption on the basis of their profound ignorance. As for the mainstream journalists who hype these stories, most of them are such technical dumbbells they are simply not capable of understanding the issue. But even if they could understand it they would likely lie about it as they do about most everything else.

By the same token, researchers, cheerfully intent on getting the data they want, persist in their attempts to demonstrate that the ozone layer is being depleted over the Northern Hemisphere with a consequent increase in UV levels, and that CFCs are the cause of the problem. For example, Kerr and McElroy reported in a November, 1993 issue of Science that during the period covering 1989 to 1993, UV-B measurements taken in Canada increased by 35 percent per year in winter and 7 percent per year in summer. Their paper presents a pair of graphs, one showing a decreasing trend in ozone concentration, and the other depicting an increasing trend in UV-B radiation. What is missing is a graph of ozone vs. UV radiation, i.e., a fair and straightforward side by side comparison. Dr. Arthur Robinson, research professor at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, stated the reason for this rather bluntly, "There is no trend. . . During the first four years, ozone and UV light rise and fall together in confirmation of the earlier American studies and opposite to the 'trend' claimed by the authors. They could not show an appropriate graph, because this would negate their conclusion."

It seems that Kerr and McElroy's entire argument is based on measurements taken in 1993, the fifth year of the study, when worldwide ozone levels reached unusual lows due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991. Robinson explains that since the ozone decrease was not caused by reduced solar activity, as in previous years, the intensity of the UV radiation increased with the decrease in ozone. (Ozone is created by the action of UV radiation on oxygen. Thus when the UV radiation becomes more intense due to a reduction in the thickness of the ozone layer, the effect is to produce more ozone. This feedback mechanism which helps to maintain the ozone layer is often glossed over or omitted in mainstream media stories on the subject). Robinson notes that the two researchers, "obtained their entire 'trend' from a single event, ignored the correlations in previous years, and wrote their paper in such a way as to obscure the politically incorrect items they wished to ignore."

So much for the "Chicken Little research" alluded to by Dr. Shapiro. It would seem that the sky isn't falling in the Northern Hemisphere, at least. But what about that massive Antarctic ozone hole that looms so ominously? Guess what? That Antarctic ozone hole shows up regularly every winter, then disappears every spring. Due to the extreme cold in this region, the ozone is usually diminished by more than the 50 percent which, by scientific convention, defines a "hole" in the ozone layer.

It has yet to be demonstrated, however, that the ozone depletion is caused by CFCs, or has other than natural causes. Many researchers assume CFCs to be the cause, but this leaves unexplained the observation by Dobson, the pioneering scientist whose name provides the unit of ozone measurement, of a 50 percent reduction in that region as early as 1956, before CFCs were widely used.

When the Antarctic ozone hole breaks up at the end of the winter, areas of depleted ozone supposedly drift northward, resulting in strong doses of UV radiation for those who live at extreme latitudes. According to one story, sheep living in Patagonia, at the southern tip of South America, developed cataracts from the intense radiation, and were observed wandering around blind.

Patrick J. Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, points out that Patagonia is at a latitude comparable to that of Sweden, hence the UV radiation, with or without ozone depletion, is weak compared to that experienced near the equator. (UV radiation is 5,000 percent more intense at the equator than it is at the poles). Unlike Newsweek, which printed the story without checking it, KGO-TV, in San Francisco, dispatched its science editor, Brian Hackney, to Patagonia to determine the facts. When he arrived on the scene, Hackney found the place overrun with blind sheep. He proceeded to obtain specimens of the sheep's eyeballs which he sent to the Veterinary School at the University of California in Davis for examination. The diagnosis: pinkeye, a common disease among cattle. No cataracts were found. But the greenie weenies continued to run around telling the heart-rending story of those pitiful, visually impaired, Patagonian sheep.

Fear of cancer is another favorite frequently exploited by environmentalists. In April, 1991 William Reilly, who was the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time, predicted that an ozone depletion of 4 or 5 percent would result in an increased exposure to UV radiation with the result that "over the next 50 years about 12 million Americans will develop skin cancer and 200,000 of them will die." As we have already seen, the assumption that UV radiation increases as the ozone concentration in the stratosphere decreases is simply not supported by the available data. The amount of UV radiation reaching the earth has been monitored in the U.S. since 1974 by the National Cancer Institute and has been decreasing at an average rate of 0.7 percent per year since the monitoring began. Because ozone is produced by solar radiation in the UV part of the spectrum, it decreases with decreasing solar activity.

It is important to differentiate between two types of ultraviolet radiation: UV-A and UV-B. Sunburn and the more common forms of skin cancer are caused by UV-B which ranges from 320 to 286 nm in the frequency spectrum. This type of cancer is curable in 99 percent of the cases.

A rarer form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, does not appear to be caused by UV-B. This form of skin cancer is usually fatal, and has been shown to occur more frequently among people living close to the Equator. (As you approach the Equator, UV radiation intensity increases by 1 percent every 6 miles). Evidence available at the present time indicates that malignant melanoma is linked not to UV-B, but to UV-A, which has the longest wavelength and is not absorbed by ozone. In other words, the kind of ultraviolet radiation which is truly dangerous would be just as deadly if the ozone concentration were a hundred times greater, and no more lethal if the ozone layer disappeared entirely.

The failure of an international group of scientists who support the claims made by environmental groups to demonstrate the validity of any of the major issues they have raised seems to have made little difference.

There is no convincing evidence that the ozone layer is thinning. The "trend" claimed by some researchers is dwarfed by the natural fluctuations and may be an artifact of the analysis. Arctic ozone holes have been announced with monotonous regularity in recent years, yet no evidence has been presented that the increasing concentration of CFCs in the atmosphere has increased the amount of chlorine in the stratosphere. Although some scientists accept this as a contributing factor to the Antarctic ozone hole, no explanation has been given for the fact that similar levels of ozone depletion were measured in that region long before CFCs were in common use. Recent reports of ozone depletion in the Northern Hemisphere were shown to be the result of a volcanic eruption. Increases in the occurrence of skin cancer can hardly be explained by ozone depletion, since the level of UV radiation has decreased concurrently.

Why then, does the impression persist that the extravagant claims made by environmentalists represent the consensus of the scientific community? Fred Singer explained this as a consequence of the presentation of scientific conclusions that have major policy consequences without publishing the data or the underlying analysis which forms the basis of the conclusions. Since reputable scientific journals refuse to publish criticism unless the data and analysis have already been published in the scientific literature, "junk science" can be used to create the illusion of scientific consensus. Singer summed it up as follows, ". . . the press releases go out, the media consultants hype scare stories to a corps of dutiful and unquestioning environmental reporters, and governments are pressured into making far-reaching decisions based on shaky scientific assertions."

Although some environmentalists accept all or many of the arguments presented here, they persist, pointing out, somewhat shrewdly, that it has yet to be demonstrated that CFCs do not cause ozone depletion. This is correct, and will probably continue to be for some time, given the difficulty of proving a negative. The problem with this "better safe than sorry" approach is the exorbitant cost to society. The capital investment involved in CFC use amounts to about $500 billion. Conversion to freon substitutes will require the replacement of most of the refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment presently in use. Is our society so affluent that we can afford to write off a half trillion dollar investment on the basis of unverified assumptions? Clearly we require a more rational basis for making public policy decisions that depend on the merit of scientific argument.

The Sea Level Scare

It's only a matter of time now before the entire Eastern Seaboard is under water, what with global warming melting the icecap at such an alarming rate, right? This is but another of the Art Bell scenarios that have been elevated by our mainstream media to the status of Revealed Truth, to be venerated by lab-coated acolytes swinging incense pots. Professional doom-criers circulate amongst us, shrieking that the sea levels have never been higher.

Not so says Dr Robert Baker of the University of New England, in the New South Wales, Australia. According to a Reuters report released last week, Australian scientists have uncovered evidence of a dramatic rise and fall in world sea levels within "geologically recent times," that is to say within the last 3,000 to 5,000 years. That would be since the end of the last great ice age whose glacial period ended about 11,000 years ago.

Dr. Baker bases his conclusion on height measurements of worm coatings on rocks that are now well above sea level. The age of the samples was established with carbon-14 dating methods. Thus it appears that the sea levels have fluctuated since the last ice age, contrary to commonly held belief. Evidence points to a sudden drop in sea level about 3,500 years ago. The drop was rapid, with the oceans receding about a meter in depth during an interval of 10 to 50 years.

Baker's conclusions, which are about to be published in the authoritative journal Marine Biology, were rejected when he first expounded them 20 years ago. It doesn't conform too well to current ecological dogma, either. All changes in sea level are supposed to be attributable to global warming brought about by an increase in the level of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, you see. The culprit of choice among greenhouse gases is CO2, because increases measured in the concentration of this gas are said to be due to industrial processes, the consequence of wicked industrialization and sinful technology. However, it is far from clear that this is a significant source of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. Levels of carbon dioxide, both historical and prehistorical, have shifted significantly in the past without human intervention. Although increases in CO2 level are accompanied by increased mean temperatures, scrutiny of the data shows that the temperature increase typically precedes the heightened CO2 level, suggesting that it is the cause, not the effect of the higher CO2 concentration. More recently, between 1940 and 1980, when the CO2 level increased rapidly, the temperature actually dropped a bit.

In actual fact, carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas. The most significant one, water vapor, accounts for 98 percent of all greenhouse warming. Nor is it entirely clear that industrial activity results in a net warming effect. Industrial processes also emit such substances as sulfur dioxide which imparts sulfur oxides to the clouds, possibly causing a cooling effect due to increased reflectivity.

In any event, who is to say that a bit of global warming would not be beneficial? There have been periods in the distant past when the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was more than ten times its present level. It was during these periods that most land and plant animals emerged. Carbon dioxide (taken in moderation) is good for plants and other living things. They thrive on it.

Most of the current hysteria over global warming is based on highly dubious computer simulations devised by scientists whose grant money gives them an incentive to conclude that greenhouse gases affect global temperature. The problem with most such simulations is that they cannot "predict" the past, much less the future. The buildup of greenhouse gases since the beginning of the industrial age should have caused a temperature increase of 2 to 4 degrees Centigrade over the past century, according to recent greenhouse warming theory. But temperature records for the past 100 years show an increase of no more than half a degree Centigrade, most of it due to warmer nighttime temperatures. This just doesn't add up to an Art Bell quality catastrophe.

Tiros II temperature-measuring satellite measurements, by far the most accurate data available, show no significant trend in either direction. The 0.065 degree Centigrade increase in nighttime temperatures, considered to fall within the expected range of natural variation, occurred only in the winter months.

So what's the big deal? The small warming trend during the past century mostly occurred prior to the period when CO2 was rapidly increasing (at which time temperatures actually dropped slightly). Even if global warming should occur over the next century it is not expected to exceed temperatures experienced during the "Medieval Optimum" (900-1100 A.D.) and that period was very good for the grape harvest.

The modest half degree of warming over the past century could very well be the tail end of the recovery from the Little Ice Age of 1450 to 1850, who knows? Such temperature fluctuations occur all the time. For example, there was a slight cooling trend of 0.5 to 1.0 deg Centigrade between 1800 and 1880 that resulted from a decade or two of cooling followed always by a like period of warming. So what if we do have a period of global warming? In the past 10 million years the earth has experienced 17 ice ages, each lasting several thousand years. Each was followed by an interval of temperate climate that lasted 10,000 to 12,000 years. Let's face it, we are due another ice age any time now. Global warming? We should be so lucky.

If the $500 billion price tag for alleviating the make-believe ozone problem seemed a bit steep the UN-sponsored treaties to stop the insignificant global warming could cost the industrialized nations from 3 to 5 trillion dollars according to "Environmental Overkill" by Ray and Guzzo. Junk science doesn't come cheap these days.

Anyone who is really curious to know what is causing the temperature fluctuations should look up a paper by Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen in Science 254:698, 1991, at their local library. These two Danish climatologists did a study of the correlation between global temperature and sunspot activity for the years 1880 to 1989. The two curves, plotted on the same graph, fit like a hand in a glove. The few mainstream journalists who have bothered to mention this study have typically garbled the account so that the general reader will be unable to understand its significance: global temperature variation during the past century is virtually all due to variation in solar activity. But don't tell anybody -- Art Bell and the ecology movement are counting on your discretion in this matter.

Published in the Dec. 13, 1999 issue of The Washington Weekly. Copyright 1999
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