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CO2 Does Not Pollute: But Kyoto's Demise Won't End Debate

A gas industry leader says Bush got it right, yet admits the worth of carbon abatement.
Fortnightly Magazine - May 15 2001

by human activities cause only about 3 percent of the greenhouse effect. Of this, roughly 2 percent is due to CO 2 and a total of 1 percent is due to methane, nitrous oxide, and various halogenated carbon compounds. Even much of this remaining 3 percent comes from natural sources. However, the literature and media reports about the supposedly disastrous enhancement of the greenhouse effect by human activities seldom note this dominant role of water vapor. Moreover, the alarmists also fail to mention that the greenhouse effect is benign, because it keeps the average global surface temperature at +15°C instead of -18°C. Without the greenhouse effect, our planet could support at most very primitive forms of life.

Global Warming: The Alarmist Predictions

Up to now the modest rise in global surface temperature has caused none of the predicted disasters (floods, droughts, hurricanes, etc.). To heighten these concerns, the alarmist predictions deliberately inflate future temperature increases. These predictions emanate primarily from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. body of scientists responsible for assessing the extent and impacts of anthropogenic climate change under the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change (the "Rio Treaty"). A total of 160 countries (including the United States) endorsed the treaty as signatories or "Parties." Since 1992, these countries have held six "Conferences of Parties," including the last one in The Hague, in November 2000, and the important one in Kyoto, in December 1997. That meeting produced the highly controversial "Kyoto Protocol" - the agreement that would force industrial countries to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while exempting developing countries. °

In anticipation of the Sixth Conference of Parties (COP-6) in The Hague, the IPCC released a "Policymakers Summary" of its yet-unpublished "Third Assessment Report." That report widened and raised the earlier range of projections given in the IPCC's "Second Assessment Report," published in 1996. The third report predicts an increase in average global surface temperature between 1990 and 2100 ranging from 1.4°C to 5.8°C - up from the increase given in the second report, of 0.8 to 4.5°C 1,4. The IPCC based this revision on questionable scenarios of energy consumption, economic and population growth, energy mix, and energy technology change, as well as the previously mentioned faulty data on actual temperature increases that occurred between 1860 and 1999.

Meanwhile, the press continues its efforts to create alarm over global warming caused by human activities. For its most widely reported figure of the increase in average global surface temperature from 1990 to 2100 the press has settled on a forecast represented by of the new IPCC projections, based on assumptions listed in the IPCC's Special Report on Emission Scenarios. To heighten the intended alarm over this new assessment, the press has generally reported this rise in temperature as 11 degrees Fahrenheit (actually 10.4°F). What was not reported, however, is that the entire range of increase in surface temperature projected from 1990 to 2100 and offered in the IPCC's third report (a range lying between 1.4°C and 5.8°C) was based on a simple model