Kyoto’s Chilling Effects
The former head of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), which bills itself as the “consensus of scientists,”
has finally made it official: If your research indicates global warming isn’t
such a big deal, maybe you shouldn’t pu blish it.
Initially charged by the U.N. General Assembly with “initiat[ing] action
leading as soon as possible [toward identifying] elements for inclusion in
a possible future international convention on climate,” the IPCC came to
describe itself as “an intergovernmental mechanism aimed at providing
the basis for the development of a realistic and effective internationally
accepted strategy for addressing climate change.”
Now, more than 10 years after the panel’s inception, the compelling
science of our greening planet is becoming an impediment to the IPCC’s
Some background: Last May, the University of Illinois’ Evan DeLucia and
10 colleagues placed a landmark study in the journal Science
demonstrating that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide makes loblolly
pine, perhaps the most important commercially grown tree species in the
world, grow like topsy. Specifically, they found that the amount of annual
growth will increase by a whopping 25 percent per year by 2050,
compared with today, as we continue to put more and more carbon
dioxide in the air.
DeLucia’s study was doubly important because it also found that this
“carbon dioxide fertilization effect” was more than twice what computer
models said it should be. These are the same models that predict
climate gloom and doom if we don’t dramatically restrict our use of fossil
fuels, and the same beasts that provide the scientific cover for the
onerous Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Climate Treaty. (The Kyoto
Protocol, you will recall, requires that the United States reduce its
emissions of carbon dioxide—the main human greenhouse gas—by
around 40 percent below the level we would achieve in 2010 if we just
continued upon our merry Dow-11,000 economic way.)
The Kyoto Protocol currently enjoys the support of 11 senators.
Sixty-seven are required for ratification. Why is it unpopular? Because it
will wreck our economy, according to just about every credible study that
uses realistic policy assumptions.
Delucia’s study further implies that the overall scientific hypothesis of
skyrocketing atmospheric carbon is wrong because plants are so good
at absorbing it and turning the earth greener. If the findings extend
globally, then by 2050, the world’s forests will eat up fully half of the CO2
emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels. Kyoto becomes irrelevant,
and SUVs could be even bigger!
Delucia’s study followed hard on the heels of another, by S. Fan and
several others, late in 1998, showing that the forests of North America
are growing so rapidly that they are actually taking a bit more carbon
dioxide out of the air every year than we put in! Which is to say, despite
our humongous economic engine, our continent is a net “sink” for
dreaded greenhouse gases, rather than a source.
A bit before that, NASA global warming firebrand James Hansen, writing
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, speculated
that the reason carbon dioxide’s growth rate in the atmosphere has
slowed in recent decades is, in his words, because “apparently the rate
of uptake by CO2 sinks, either the ocean, or more likely, forests and soils,
Enough of this! said Bert Bolin, who as the first head of the IPCC, is
perhaps more responsible than anyone else for the KyotoProtocol.
Recently, Bolin penned a letter to Science stating that, “In the current,
post-Kyoto international political climate, scientific statements about the
behavior of the terrestrial carbon cycle must be made with care…” That
letter was also signed by four other very big wigs in global environmental
science. In other words, scientists had better consider not publishing
results that might undermine support for Kyoto—Signed, The Boss.
The head of the International Council of Scientific Unions (which itself
largely cheerleads for Kyoto), Mihkel Arber, shot back:
Your letter on the need to temper scientific findings with
political considerations, published in Science today, is a
chilling testimonial to the current trend to limit objective
reason in deference to political ambitions...The open
rebuke of a scientific, peer-reviewed paper on political
grounds…is unacceptable to the scientific community and
serves only to tarnish the scientific reputation [of those who
signed the letter]. Your letter confirms…the observation that
a disturbing amount of politically correct research is being
done with little care for scientific accuracy.
Sadly, Bolin’s attempt to intimidate objective scientists is not without
precedent. In 1996, the IPCC’s longtime chief scientist, England’s Sir
John Houghton, wrote that climate change is a “moral issue.” Before an
important 1996 U.N. conference in Geneva, a gathering that greased the
skids for the Kyoto Protocol, Houghton wrote of his agreement with the
World Council of Churches, “which calls upon the Government to adopt
firm, clear policies and targets [read: Kyoto], and the public to accept the
necessary consequences.” He further stated that reducing greenhouse
gas emissions will “contribute powerfully to the material salvation of the
planet from mankind’s greed and indifference.”
This is the chilled environment in which the secular scientist now works.
Leaders of the world’s premier scientific organizations on climate change
publicly call for the suppression of research findings and invoke religion,
and not science, as the basis for policy.
But the truth of the matter is that those pine trees keep growing, and our
continent continues to become greener.
No force in the world—not even the former head of the United Nations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—can stop that. Trees don’t
care who or what is politically correct (even if wooden presidential
Bolin, B., et al., 1999, On the biosphere of elevated atmospheric CO2, Science, 285,
How 'scientific' is environmental science if those who are qualified to speak on the matter do not agree? And more importantly, what is the WCC role in science?