TCS Daily


April Fools

By Lawrence Weitzman - April 12, 2002 12:00 AM

April 1st is usually reserved for jokes, but what happened in the California Senate last week was no laughing matter.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, after just an hour of testimony and 30 minutes of discussion, made a scientific decision without one statement from a qualified scientist. The committee's five Democrats voted to approve the bill AB 1058 while its two Republican members opposed the measure.

AB1058 is a bill that would give the state the power to regulate CO2 emissions from passenger cars. Passenger cars generate CO2 emissions when they burn fossil fuel - gasoline. So this bill will likely result in a significant increase in car prices or gasoline prices or a reduction in auto safety.

It was introduced in the state Assembly of the California legislature by Fran Pavley, a former school teacher and city councilman. She is shepherding the bill for an environmental group called the Bluewater Network. It is the third attempt to get such a bill through the California Legislature and so far it looks to be a shoe-in as the legislature has a heavy Democratic majority. Whether Governor Davis would sign the bill remains to be seen.

The basis for this legislation is the belief that CO2 emissions are causing the climate to warm and the fear that increases of CO2 in the atmosphere will prompt catastrophic weather events. The analysis of the bill by Kip Lipper, the committee's legislative consultant, states that, "global warming is an international problem with potential for state and local impacts including: reductions in the state's water supply due to changes in the snow pack levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the timing of spring run-off adverse health impacts from increases in air pollution caused by higher temperatures; adverse impacts upon agriculture and food production as a result of projected changes in the amount and consistency of water supplies; potential damage to the state's extensive coastline and ocean ecosystems due to the increase in storms and rise in sea level."

The only trouble with this analysis is that the scientific evidence doesn't exist to back up the claims. For example, recent studies are now showing a possible link to increase surface temperatures as the result of increased solar radiation, not CO2 emissions. And the studies upon which the committee's assertions are based rely on climate computer models that have yet to prove accurate predicting future climate or even reproduce past weather.

There are three things that we know for sure. according the Richard Lindzen, the Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT:

  • Surface temperatures are about one degree F warmer than they were at the beginning of last century.

  • CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million (ppm) to a current 360 ppm.

  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas whose increase could possibly warm the earth, but it is only about 3.5 percent of all greenhouse gases. Water vapor and clouds make up over 95 percent of greenhouse gases.

But Lindzen also says: "I cannot stress this enough -- we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to CO2 or to forecast what the climate will be in the future."

Furthermore, present global and regional warming alarms are often based on misleading media accounts and images. Typical of this problem was a Time magazine photograph (4/09/01, page 28) of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse being moved away from the water 1,500 feet. The image purportedly demonstrated the problems caused by rising sea levels.

But according to John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, the Hatteras lighthouse move had nothing to do with rising sea levels but was the result of beach erosion which has been an ongoing natural process for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Dr. Christy has been taking the temperature of the atmosphere using satellites for more than two decades. The results show a relatively flat trend line and no warming of the mid-level atmosphere where global warming is supposed to start.
Instead of using sound science, the California legislature is using a belief system that ignores relevant facts for a decision that will directly harm the lives of 35 million people living in Golden State. Let's hope the entire state legislature or Governor Davis take heed of the relevant facts and data.
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