Scientists Continue to Assail Climate Treaty

A live report from The Hague by CEI’s Chris Horner at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Treaty on Global Warming

A live report from The Hague by CEI’s Chris Horner at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Treaty on Global Warming


The Hague, Netherlands, November 22, 2000 – In the midst of international negotiations on how to significantly reduce emissions from energy use, “dissident” scientists are vocally objecting to the underlying premise that individual and industrial human activities influence Nature's dynamic processes, and the absence of a critical debate.


This Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations' treaty on the theory of “global warming,” called the “Kyoto Protocol” after the city where the broad parameters were established in 1997, are now well along in their second and final week.  Debate, however, has been exclusively focused on how to implement mandated emission reductions.  Whether there is a scientific basis upon which to mandate such reductions is deemed unworthy of discussion.  The reports constituting the official science, that is purportedly “settled,” is called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which is actually a series of reports on several related subjects.


Many prominent scientists attending this conference are rejecting that science is not a topic in discussions of what certainly appears to be an inherently scientific subject.  That approach came under siege during two briefings here by researchers from the United States and several European countries, three of them “expert peer reviewers” of the IPCC product.  They criticized not the science purportedly supporting the summaries of IPCC documents, in particular the Summary for Policymakers, but the differences between the underlying science and the summary of that science.


Led by Dr. Fred Singer, of the University of Virginia and the Science and Environment Policy Project, these scientists came from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to air their grievances.  They addressed the measured temperatures, and the flaws in temperature projections that are based on computer climate models.  The focus of their indignation, however, was the content of the recently leaked and anonymously authored summaries for the latest round of IPCC studies.  These researchers drew attention to the fact that the science has specific, identified authors and peer reviewers.  The summaries are anonymously authored, and were not subjected to any critique prior.


Dr. Richard Courtney, also an IPCC “expert reviewer” who is with the European Science and Environment Forum (UK), passionately argued a lack of measured “global” warming.  He demonstrated that nearly all measured increases in temperatures have occurred in regions, for example Siberia, where data are sparse and not continuous, and are therefore doubtful.  Dr. Singer speculated that the urban heat island effect (large cities holding on to heat) is likely responsible for the differential in the less rural measurements.


Singer admitted this was speculation, as a “best effort” to reconcile the difference between surface measurements, showing regional warming, and satellite and weather balloon measurements, which affirm each other and do not show any warming.  The US National Academy of Sciences affirmed the satellite and balloon tools just this year.  All participants agreed upon the impact of the effect of developed areas holding radiated heat, and speculated that the remote stations may merely be less well-maintained than the regularly checked stations in the US and Western Europe.


    Also, those IPCC summaries all operate on what Dr. Courtney calls an at-best strange presumption, that being that there is a difference between “climate variability” and “climate change.”  Variability, according to the summaries, is natural, while “change” is man-made.  These summaries consider all fluctuations occurring before the industrial revolution to be variability; all that occurring after is “climate change.”  “Whatever that is, it is not science,” said Dr. Courtney.


Courtney, an avowed socialist, stressed that the scientists were of varied political philosophies and thus were not joined or motivated by politics.  Indeed, he asserted the opposite, saying “chickens do come home to roost; given time, these scientific flaws will come out but, it seems, that only after an agreement which harms the poor is underway.”  He stated that, at that time, “[journalists] won't blame the politicians who rammed this through, but the scientists.  And that's me.  And I object.”


Earlier, other IPCC reviewers briefed interested parties earlier in the process, also expressing concern over the inconsistencies between the underlying work and the summary proclamations.  While being careful to avoid citing any specific document not available to participating parties for such purposes, they cited how the Summary for Policymakers provides headline conclusions with underlying paragraphs that support the headlines.  Some underlying statements, they explained, do include judgments of uncertainty or likelihood, which helps convey the confidence that should be assigned to the conclusions.


However, they continued, there are many instances where facts and analyses that do not support the conclusions are not mentioned.  Because of this, these reviewing scientists claim, the conclusions appear more conservative than they are.  They offered specific, detailed comments providing suggestions, that they had already submitted to the US negotiators, whereby “balance could be added by including both statements that do and do not support the overall conclusions.”


Participating scientists in today's briefing, sponsored by the “Cooler Heads Coalition” of public policy organizations focused on fostering debate over the science and economics surrounding Kyoto, also included a geophysicist and an expert on severe weather events.  They addressed a packed room liberally peppered with well-pierced youths who initially expressed displeasure with this dissenting opinion.  The audience, however, generally settled down and in fact stayed in large numbers for extended sidebar discussions with the scientists, afterward in the hallways.



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