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Wrecking economies for no good reason

December 22, 2007|By JAMES WARNER

Following Al Gore's Academy Award and Nobel Prize, the popular culture is consumed with concern over global warming and any contribution to the same by human emissions of carbon dioxide. How realistic are these fears? The answer is "not very."

Solar activity is the primary factor in creating the cycles of warming and cooling. During the "Little Ice Age," 1250-1850 A.D., there was a period from 1645-1715 during which there were no recorded observations of sunspot activity. We know that solar activity is cyclical. The most prominent is the 11-year sunspot cycle, but there are longer cycles as well.

Studies done using ice cores from the Antarctic ice pack reveal that there have been several warming and cooling cycles during the last 450,000 years. Each warming period was accompanied by an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2).

In most warming periods, the increase in CO2 lagged behind the increase in temperatures. This is to be expected. Most of the CO2 on earth is trapped in the oceans. As solar activity increases, the seas become warmer. As water becomes warmer, its ability to hold a gas in solution is decreased, so more CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Thus, the CO2 increases revealed by the ice cores did not cause the warming periods. The warming caused the CO2 increases.

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The fact is we are now overdue for a warming cycle. However, most of the observed increase in average temperature seen in the last century came about in the first 50 years. That is, it came before the increase in human caused CO2 emissions.

Even if there were global warming and "greenhouse gases" were contributing to it, the focus on CO2 is misplaced. There are four main "greenhouse gases": water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3). These gases absorb heat radiated during the day from the sun-warmed earth.

This heat excites the molecules of the gases. At a certain rate for each gas, this heat is released and radiated in all directions, including back down to earth. CO2 is not the most important of these gases. Water has somewhere between five and seven times as much heating effect as CO2.

In fact, if the Kyoto Treaty were to be adhered to, by the year 2050, according to the alarmists' own models, the net effect would be to slow the increase in average temperature by less than seven-one-hundredths of a degree Celsius, a number too small to measure.

If water is five times more important than CO2 in warming, shouldn't the conference in Bali have concentrated on reducing water emissions? This is assuming, of course, that one believes that human action actually can make a difference. There is certainly not a consensus on that, despite what the mainstream media says.

The reality is, there is nothing which humans can do to reduce water, the main greenhouse gas . If we risk destroying our economies to meet Kyoto expectations, the best we can do to limit a minor greenhouse gas, CO2, and that would have an undetectable result. In fact, as the sun warms in the current cycle, the warming seas would release more CO2 than we could take away by our feeble efforts. Further, it does not appear that any of the models on which Kyoto is based take into account an increase in water vapor that would accompany an increase in solar activity.

There is an element of the population which seeks to keep itself perpetually alarmed and frightened.

This is a problem, because the remedy proposed for the menace of the moment almost always has unanticipated consequences that might be worse than the supposed menace itself.

Does the term "prohibition" help make this point? Adherence to Kyoto, or any successor to the Kyoto Treaty, would have no measurable consequence for the problem it is supposed to address, but would leave the human race in hunger, squalor and, inevitably as economies melt down, ignorance. That is too high a price to pay to make the perpetually alarmed feel righteous.

James H. Warner is a retired attorney. He served as a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan from 1985 until 1989.

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