September 11th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Battle lines drawn for October 9 Federal poll

EDITORIAL: Issues for the Federal Election

FAMILY: Better deal demanded for families

NOT SO DRY CONTINENT: Australia has water options

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Taiwan faces continuing threats from Beijing

POPULATION: Falling birth-rates stir action in Taiwan, Singapore

INDIA: The economic test for India's new government

PEACE-KEEPING: Sudan and the progressive mind

OPINION: The case for new states in Australia

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Howard versus New Class Labor / Tap Tap. Who's there?

CINEMA: Bus 174 - A jolting, two-hour masterpiece

CLIMATE: Global warming - the sceptics have won

DEMOCRACY: Lay your hammer down

Labor's foot-soldiers (letter)

Mondragon: a rejoinder (letter)

The West and Islam (letter)

BOOKS: The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French defeat in Vietnam

BOOKS: 7 Myths of Working Mothers, by Suzanne Venker

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Global warming - the sceptics have won

by Patrick Michaels

News Weekly, September 11, 2004
Recent scientific investigations into climate change have debunked the theory of anticipated global warming, according to three American climate scientists, Patrick J. Michaels, S. Fred Singer and David H. Douglass.

How many times have we heard from Al Gore and assorted European politicians that "the science is settled" on global warming? In other words, it's "time for action."

Climate change is, as recently stated by Hans Blix, former UN chief Weapons-Inspector in Iraq, the most important issue of our time - far more dangerous than people flying fuel-laden aircraft into skyscrapers or threatening to detonate backpack nukes in New York Harbor.

Blix echoes a similar claim by the UK's chief scientific adviser Sir David King who wrote that the threat of global warming trumps terrorism. Incredible!

Well, the science may now be settled, but not in the way Gore and Blix would have us believe. Three bombshell papers have just hit the refereed literature that knock the stuffing out of Blix's position and that of the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC states repeatedly that:

  • We have reliable temperature records showing how much the planet has warmed in the last century; and

  • Computer projections of future climate, while not perfect, simulate the observed behaviour of the past so well that they serve as a reliable guide for the coming centuries.

Therefore, they say, we need to limit carbon-dioxide emissions (i.e., energy use) right now, despite the expense and despite the fact that the cost of these restrictions will fall almost all on the United States, gravely harming the world's economic engine while exerting no detectable change on climate in the foreseeable future.


The IPCC claims to have carefully corrected the temperature records for the well-known problem of local ("urban", as opposed to global) warming. But this has always troubled serious scientists, because the way the UN checks for artificial warming makes it virtually impossible to detect changes in recent decades - the same period in which our cities have undergone the most growth and sprawl.

The surface temperature record shows a warming rate of about 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1979. However, there are two other records, one from satellites, and one from weather balloons, which tell a different story.

Neither the satellite nor balloon trends differ significantly from zero since the start of the satellite record in 1979. These records reflect temperatures in what is called the lower atmosphere, or the region between roughly 5,000 and 30,000 feet.

Four years ago, a distinguished panel of the US National Academy of Sciences concluded that a real disparity exists between the reported surface warming and the temperature trends measured in the atmosphere above.

Since then, many investigators have tried to explain the cause of the disparity while others have denied its existence.

So, which record is right, the UN surface record showing a warming or the other two? There's yet another record, from seven feet above the ground, derived from balloon data, which has recently been released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In two research papers in the July 9 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, two of us (Douglass and Singer) compared it for correspondence with the surface record and the lower atmosphere histories. The odd-record-out turns out to be the UN's hot surface history.

This is a double kill, both on the UN's temperature records and its vaunted climate models. That's because the models generally predict an increased warming rate with height (outside of local polar regions).

Neither the satellite nor the balloon records can find it. When this was noted in the first satellite paper published in 1990, some scientists objected that the record, which began in 1979, was too short.

Now we have a quarter-century of concurrent balloon and satellite data, both screaming that the UN's climate models have failed, as well as indicating that its surface record is simply too hot.

If the models are wrong as one goes up in the atmosphere, then any correspondence between them and surface temperatures is either pretty lucky or the product of some unspecified "adjustment." Getting the vertical distribution of temperature wrong means that everything dependent upon that - precipitation and cloudiness, as examples - must be wrong. Obviously, the amount of cloud in the air determines the day's high temperature as well as whether or not it rains.

As bad as things have gone for the IPCC and its ideologues, it gets worse, much, much worse.

After four years of one of the most rigorous peer reviews ever, Canadian Ross McKitrick and another of us (Michaels) published a paper searching for "economic" signals in the temperature record. McKitrick, an economist, was initially intrigued by what several climatologists had noted as a curiosity in both the UN and satellite records: statistically speaking, the greater the GDP of a nation, the more it warms.


The research showed that somewhere around one-half of the warming in the UN surface record was explained by economic factors, which can be changes in land use, quality of instrumentation, or upkeep of records.

This worldwide study added fuel to a fire started a year earlier by the University of Maryland's Eugenia Kalnay, who calculated a similar 50 per cent bias due to economic factors in the US records.

So, to all who worry about global warming, to all who think that terrorism threatening to blow up millions is no big deal by comparison, chill out. The science is settled.

The "sceptics" - the strange name applied to those whose work shows the planet isn't coming to an end - have won.

  • Patrick Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of the forthcoming book, Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Fred Singer is emeritus professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the US Weather Satellite Service. David Douglass is professor of physics at the University of Rochester.

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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