TCS Daily

Tech Central Co-Host Praises Bush's Science-Based Approach to Global Warming

By Sallie Baliunas - June 11, 2001 12:00 AM

Statement of Harvard Astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas

"I applaud President Bush for continuing to reject rash measures such as the Kyoto Protocol ostensibly to combat human-made global warming.

"The president is absolutely correct in his assessment that what we need to do on the issue of climate change is find answers based on science, rather than to found policy based on untested or failed assumptions. That is how - and the only way how -- to treat the issue "seriously."

"We need to answer the question: What are the causes of natural climate change, i.e., non-human-made? Understanding natural climate change is key to subtracting the natural changes, which are the backdrop against which the human signal must be assessed.

"In my and my research team's studies, most of the changes that we see in global temperature over the last several centuries line up with changes in the sun's energy output. But there is uncertainty. A human signal from the production of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), may remain. Better climate observing systems and added research funding that remains stable over several years are essential.

"Proceeding in scientific ignorance, as many in Europe and some environmental organizations demand, to mitigation measures that would force a drastic cutback by advanced nations in their fossil fuel use will harm more than help the environment.

"Measures such as those required by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol would cause American economic havoc. As the president correctly noted, the technology is not in place either to cut dramatically or capture CO2 emissions without severely curtailing economic activity. Too, the cuts could reverse a greening effect observed in higher crop yields as a result of higher concentrations of CO2 in the air - which is beneficial to plant growth and human life.

"Finally, as the president said, China, India and other major emitters of greenhouse gases are not constrained by the Kyoto Protocol. If the U.S. cuts its CO2 emissions by at least 30% by 2012, as the protocol demands, the global warming averted by the economic hardship would be, according to the computer-generated climate scenarios, less than about 0.06 degrees C by the year 2050. That means that the sacrifices by the United States and other industrial nations would be economically, environmentally and climatically futile.

"To date, the human climate signal - if present at all - is so faint that it fades beneath the observed natural variations in climate. Even if the case of exaggerated human-caused warming forecast by the computer scenarios were true it is estimated to take decades to appear. That leaves open a window of opportunity as wide as three decades to advance basic climate knowledge and cost-effective technology should precision monitoring of the climate reveal a significant human-caused warming, while incurring no significant added temperature penalty by the year 2100.

"The right approach is as the president outlined: to work with developing nations to encourage use of available environmentally friendly technology; to continue work here to develop technologies that make environmental and economic sense; and to study the climate to answer the key questions about the causes and effects of climate change. Harming the economy of the U.S. will impede all those goals.

In short, the president proposes treating the issue seriously by dealing with it on its proper foundation - science."

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