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First it was acid rain, then the ozone hole.

Now,
CO2 in the air is supposed to bring on a climate
catastrophe. Is global warming really a threat, are
the polar ice caps in danger of melting and are
coastal areas of habitation under threat of a
deluge?
Do we therefore need an energy-CO2 tax?

The author explains in straight-forward language


what climatological research indicates about the
following questions:

• What is and how does the greenhouse effect


work? What does that mean for life on earth?

• Why is a rise in temperature feared?

• How and for what reasons has climate changed


over the centuries and what role was played by the
greenhouse effect?

• What do we really know about the effect of a


growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere and what do current computer
programs make of that ?

• How do plants and algae cope with increased


CO2 and temperature through photosynthesis?
Table of Contents

Introduction:
Global warming Fact and Fiction .......................................7

1. The Greenhouse Effect:


Welcome to Life on Earth..............................................9

2. A Look Ahead -
Is The Future Ours to See? ...........................................31

3. On The Threshold To Climate Modeling:

The Carbon Cycle.........................................................46

4. The Acid Test: Models vs. Reality. ..............................76

5. The Longer View:


Factors Other than Trace-Gases

that Affect Climate .................................................... 110

6. A Changing Perspective .............................................129

7. The Unreal Solutions -


Grappling with CO2 ...................................................139

8. The Real Solutions


the Premier Candidate ...............................................150
INTRODUCTION

Facts and fiction about global


warming
First it was acid rain, then the ozone hole and now the latest in
environmental disasters headed our way is the greenhouse effect
- or global warming as it is sometimes called. Rising tides,
scorching heat, melting ice caps: Hardly a day passes by when the
media does not administer us our daily dose of doom.
Yet, even though the greenhouse effect has been the subject of
intense scientific debate for quite some years, it did not capture
much public and media attention until the summer of 1988, when
the worst drought in decades hit the US. That prompted some
scientists to claim that this was the final proof that the greenhouse
effect had in fact arrived.
The drought could indeed not have come at a better time, since
congressional hearings on the greenhouse problem, and possible
legislation to counter it, had been previously moved out of the
winter session into the summer - to get better media attention in
the midst of a heat wave.
The gamble worked out well indeed. In fact, some of the people
involved concede that nature did more for them in 15 weeks than
they were able to achieve in 15 years.
Since then, the media barrage has continued unabated. By and
large, the public is convinced that some terrible things are coming
our way with the greenhouse effect; and the international green-
house conference carousel is turning ever faster, each one trying
to outdo the preceding one on suggestions for what to do, how to
contain global warming, and painting an ever gloomier picture of
the coming climatic change - global change.
Although the general public hardly noticed the fact, the scienti-
fic community is still deeply divided on most issues surrounding
the greenhouse problem.
Since the public policy issues which may emerge from a global
climate change - or from possible measures to avert such a change
- are of immense proportions, it seems appropriate for us to criti-
cally examine the envisioned climatic changes, their possible im-
pact on human activities, and especially the scientific basis from
which they were derived.
A number of scientists have expressed concern over possible
8 GLOBAL WARMING

future climate changes. In a problem of this potential magnitude,


one which affects almost every facet of our lives, concern is justi-
fied - but this concern alone is not enough to come to grips with
the issue. What is necessary is a sound scientific assessment of the
greenhouse effect, changes in the climate, and their possible im-
pact on our lives which are supposed to result, and a closer look
at some of the proposed countermeasures.
This book will provide the reader with the current state of
knowledge on all the issues related to the greenhouse effect and
the possible future direction of climate, and with an action plan to
cope with a possible climate change.
We will take a journey through the wonderland of science. We
will first look at the greenhouse effect and examine its meaning
and importance for life on earth; second, we will discuss why it is
increasing, and how this may be affecting the climate. Then we
will look at the climate itself, what it is, what might cause it to
change in general, how it has evolved through the centuries, and
we will determine whether we can already see some signs of the
greenhouse effect. We will also try to assess how life on earth will
change if the climate does change the way some people expect it.
And we will of course probe into the question of whether climate
will really change the way some people expect.
Finally, we will take stock of the situation and try to determine
where we are really headed with our climate by examining which
options we have to fight a global warming, if that is what we de-
cide to do.
The book is kept simple. Everyone interested in the problem can
digest it easily without fearing that he or she will be overwhelmed
by a mass of incomprehensible science or intricate math.
Anyone interested in digging deeper into the subject will find
an extensive list of references which is designed to back up every
factual statement made in the text.
You will come across a number of interesting items you proba-
bly never heard about from the media before, things stranger than
fiction, at times controversial, but always elucidating: In other
words, the rest of the story.
THE REST OF THE STORY 9

1.

The Greenhouse Effect:


Welcome To Life On Earth
When we hear about the greenhouse effect, our first reaction is:
rising tides, scorching heat, melting ice caps, impending disaster.
That is how we see it in the newspapers or on TV. But surprisingly
enough, it is the greenhouse effect which turned this planet from
an uninhabitable piece of ice into the (sometimes) hospitable
planet we know today. Since you have often heard the greenhouse
effect equated with disaster, you might ask: why is that?
Well, we have to differentiate between the naturally occurring
greenhouse effect which helped create the climatic conditions on
earth as we know them today, and the additional, man-made
greenhouse effect thought to result from man's various activities.
Before we analyze this additional greenhouse effect, which is
the one we are interested in because it is supposed to lead to all
those dire consequences, let us first take a look at the natural
greenhouse effect and what determines the temperature and
climate on earth as we know it today. That may put us in a better
position to understand how the greenhouse effect - natural and
man-made - really works.

Could Earth Have A Climate Like Venus?

Planetary science has determined a number of factors which


have a bearing on the exact history, evolution, and current state of
a planet's climate, from which we identify three major ones:

(1) The planet's astronomical properties, such as its distance


from the sun.
(2) The physical properties of the planet (i. e. its size, rate of ro-
tation).
(3) Its chemical properties, especially those of the atmosphere.
Everyone will agree that distance from the sun could easily be
the most important factor determining the climate of a planet: the
closer it is to the sun, the more solar radiation it will receive and
the warmer it will get.
10 GLOBAL WARMING

The next two important factors are size and chemical compo-
sition of the planet, and of its atmosphere in particular. Those two
factors are interrelated in a strange way in their importance to
climate: The planet's gravitational pull, i. e. its mass- attraction de-
pends on its size (or more precisely, mass). If a planet is so small
that its gravitational pull cannot hold an atmosphere, there would
not be any climate, because without an atmosphere there is no cli-
mate.
In fact, the ability of a planet to hold an atmosphere also de-
pends on its proximity to the sun, because even if a planet some
distance away from the sun is able to hold an atmosphere, it may
lose that ability closer to the sun since the increasing heat may
then cause the atmosphere to "evaporate" into space. On the other
hand, if that planet moved further away from the sun, its atmos-
phere might eventually freeze or condense onto the planet's sur-
face. All of this illustrates the importance of various astronomical
factors on the climate of a planet.
Mercury is an example of a planet too small and too hot
(because of its proximity to the sun) to hold an atmosphere. Venus,
about the size of the earth, but much closer to the sun, is much hot-
ter than the earth, partially because of its proximity to the sun and
partially because of the different chemical composition of its at-
mosphere.
Let us now assume that we have a planet Earth at its position in
the solar system with its given astronomical, physical and chemi-
cal properties. Science then gives us the tools to compute its temp-
erature simply from the solar energy-flux reaching it. The result is
that the average temperature of the planet would be a brisk 0° F,
certainly not enough to allow any life on earth the way we know it.
Now, the observed temperature on earth is about 60° F. That dif-
ference of 60°F is due to the fact that our planet has an atmos-
phere, and that this atmosphere has its current chemical com-
position. This ability of our atmosphere to warm up the climate is
due to the greenhouse effect.
The analogy to a greenhouse is drawn because, comparable to
the glass in a greenhouse, the atmosphere lets through the sun's
radiation, which warms up the earth's surface, and its atmosphere
inhibits the escape of this heat into space. This analogy is actually
not quite correct, and some scientists have qualms against using
it. But for our present discussion, it will serve in view of the fact
that it has gained such wide public recognition.
The actual magnitude of the greenhouse effect, i.e., the amount
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of warming, is due to the chemical composition of the earth's


atmosphere. If we take a closer look at the atmospheric constitu-
ents which play a role in this, we come across water vapor as the
most important greenhouse gas. It alone accounts for fully 40°-50°
of the total 60° F greenhouse warming. The rest is made up of
some other trace-gases which occur in the atmosphere, CO2 being
at the top of that list.

The All Important Trace-Gases

You may ask right away, how does it happen that only the trace
constituents contribute to the greenhouse effect? What about the
other the major constituents of the earth's atmosphere, namely
nitrogen and oxygen: do they play a bigger role? (Table 1, Atmo-
spheric constituents)
To explain this, we have to take a quick look at the molecular
structure of the various gases in our atmosphere and their rela-
tionship to the inner mechanism of the greenhouse effect.
Every object gives off thermal radiation. The spectrum of that
radiation, i.e., the radiative energy given off at a particular wave-
length, is intimately related to the temperature of that object. The
wavelength at which the peak of this radiation occurs varies in-
versely with temperature: the hotter the object, the shorter the
wavelength. The radiation we receive from the sun is at relatively
short wavelengths, because the surface of the sun is very hot com-
pared to the earth's temperature and therefore the radiation ema-
nating from earth is at relatively long wavelengths.
Now, the radiation we receive from the sun at the earth's surface
and the radiation an observer from space observes emanating
from the earth and its atmosphere is modified by the atmosphere:
the molecules of the various gases which make up the earth's
atmosphere are in perpetual motion; they vibrate and rotate in a
way which is inextricably linked to their molecular structure.
They take the energy necessary for that motion out of the back-
ground thermal radiation field. The key point now is that each
molecule, owing to its properties, can only use the radiative
energy of one or several small, well defined spectral regions for
that motion. Molecules of a greenhouse gas will not use - absorb -
(to any significant extent) thermal radiation from the solar spec-
trum which is at shorter wavelengths, but instead the radiation
from the longer wavelengths which are more characteristic of
earth's temperature. By absorbing and re-radiating the thermal
GLOBAL WARMING

Table 1: Composition of Earth's atmosphere

Gas Percentage Mixing Ratio


in ppm

Nitrogen (N2) 78.084


Oxygen (O2) 20.946
Argon (A) 0.934
Neon (Ne) 0.00182 18.2
Helium (He) 0.000524 5.24
Nethane (CH4) 0.00015 1.5
Rrypton (Rr) 0.000114 1.14
Hydrogen (H2) 0.00005 0.5
Variable constituents
Water vapor (H2O) 0-3
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 0.0353 353
Carbon monoxide (CO) <100
Sulphur dioxide (5O2) 0-1
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 0-0.2
Ozone (O3) 0-2

Source: After L. J. Battan, Weather, 1974.

energy from earth, the greenhouse gases prevent the energy from
escaping into space - thereby giving rise to the greenhouse effect.
Nitrogen and oxygen molecules, which make up the bulk of our
atmosphere, do not have any significant spectral regions in the
long wavelenths to absorb the earth's - or terrestrial - radiation,
and therefore, they are not major greenhouse gases. The terrestrial
spectrum and the regions where various trace-gases are active is
shown in Fig. 1. There we can identify the extent to which our
atmosphere is transparent and the extent to which it is opaque to
radiation emanating from our planet. This figure then shows the
regions within the terrestrial spectrum where the natural green-
house effect, which created our current, hospitable conditions on
earth, occurs.
Before we get into the additional, man-made greenhouse effect,
there is one more point to mention, one which has some impor-
tance when analyzing the individual contribution of any trace-gas
to the greenhouse effect, man-made or natural. Owing to the
molecular structure of the greenhouse gases, there may be regions
in the spectrum where the molecules of different trace-gases are
THE REST OF THE STORY
13

active at the same time, causing some overlap which makes it hard
to define the greenhouse contribution of each individual com-
ponent.
This is particularly the case with water vapor. The concentration
of water vapor, by far the most important and most abundant
greenhouse gas, varies widely from place to place, season to
season, and even with altitude in the atmosphere. This is in stark
contrast to most other greenhouse gases, which are fairly well
mixed in the atmosphere and show very little spatial and short-
term variation over time.
Therefore, the degree of overlap between various greenhouse
gases and the magnitude of the natural greenhouse effect itself
should vary strongly with the concentration of water vapor. The ar-
gument would therefore be that the natural greenhouse effect is
most pronounced where we find the most water vapor in the
atmosphere, and least pronounced where we find the least amount.
This is exactly the case. In order to identify those regions on
earth where the water vapor concentrations are highest, let us also
consider that the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold
without condensing increases strongly with temperature (see Fig
2). As a rule of thumb, for each 20° F temperature rise, the amount
of water vapor the atmosphere can hold without condensing
roughly doubles.

Figure 1. Wavelengths of thermal radiation and absorption regions of various


trace gases.

Source: After Ramanathan et al., 1987; U.S. Dept. of Energy Report DOE/FE -164
14 GLOBAL WARMING

Obviously then, the natural greenhouse effect should be strong


in the tropics and in those regions where we find a combination
of high temperatures and high water vapor content. Globally,
those areas are the tropical oceans, and in particular, the western
tropical Pacific.
In the US, those regions are the southern seaboard, including the
Southeast and Florida.
In the desert Southwest on the other hand, we do find high temp-
eratures, but only very little water vapor and we therefore do not
expect the natural greenhouse effect to be very pronounced there.
Furthermore, since temperatures decrease rapidly with altitude
in the atmosphere, the water vapor content, and with it the water
vapor related warming at the earth's surface, also decreases rap-
idly. In fact, most of the water-vapor related warming at the
earth's surface originates in the atmosphere's lowest mile.
The natural greenhouse effect is also relatively small in the cold
regions of the earth, such as the Arctic, where the air can hold only
very little water vapor (see Fig. 2). By the same token, the natural
greenhouse effect due to water vapor is less in winter than in sum-
mer at any given location. Therefore, increasing the amount of
water vapor in the air increases the natural greenhouse effect.
There are limits to that, however. We know that the air is already
so rich in water vapor in the lower atmosphere of the tropics that
the absorbtive regions in the spectrum are nearly saturated.
Neither an increase in water vapor nor an increase of those trace-
gases which overlap with water vapor will further enhance the
greenhouse effect, at least not to a significant degree. There will
therefore be no additional warming at the earth's surface.
We may already conclude that any effect we expect to see as a
result of increasing trace-gases should be smallest in the lower at-
mosphere of the tropics.
However, this short synopsis only considers the radiative effects
of various trace-gases, and does not consider the possible feed-
back mechanisms which may alter the simple conclusions drawn
here. More detail will be given on these later on in the section on
climate modeling.
To further illustrate the way the natural greenhouse effect
works, let us consider the following:
In diurnal temperature variations, the sun's radiation is of
course the major factor determining temperature. On a cloudy
day in summer, it is generally much cooler than on a sunny day,
everything else being equal. If we now assume equal amounts of
THE REST OF THE STORY 15

sunshine at two different locations, one being very dry, the other
being moist, we would notice a difference in the diurnal tempera-
ture variation. The dry location warms up about as much as the
moist one during the day, but during the night, the dry location
cools off much more than the moist one. The difference is due to
the greenhouse effect of water vapor, which, during the night, acts
as a "blanket" which is missing in the dry location. Therefore, ty-
pical day-to-night variations in temperature over Florida, for ex-
ample, are considerably less than over Arizona. The "blanket" of
the natural greenhouse effect prevents our planet from cooling off
too much and gives us our present climate.

Holes In The Greenhouse Blanket

But this blanket has a few holes in it, through which some ther-
mal radiation escapes from the earth - cooling it off in the process
and keeping its temperature at its present level. We can identify
those "holes" by the "gaps" in Fig. 1.
Enter the man-made greenhouse effect. Due to man's activities
(the famous line you may have heard before), certain trace-gases
are emitted into and build up in our atmosphere, which, as luck
would have it, and owing to their molecular properties, absorb
thermal radiation right in those areas of the blanket where the
holes are located. In other words, the trace-gases "plug those
holes" in the blanket and prevent radiation emanating from the
earth's surface and its atmosphere from escaping into space,
thereby causing it to remain with us instead. This leads to a
warming of the earth and its atmosphere. This, in a nutshell, is the
greenhouse theory.
The details, however, will become complicated. They depend on
the way the climatic system - the intertwined action of atmos-
phere, oceans, and icesphere - responds to an increase of down-
ward thermal radiation due to an enhanced greenhouse effect. We
will deal with the response of the climatic system to the increase
of the greenhouse effect at a later stage; suffice it to say at this
point that the increase in downward thermal radiation is subject
to considerable uncertainty itself, but it is still the best known var-
iable in the entire ball game.
The uncertainties arise mainly as a result of the overlap mentio-
ned above, which must obviously vary as a function of water
vapor concentration, and therefore as a function of geography,
season, and altitude in the atmosphere. But overlapping regions
16 GLOBAL WARMING

between various radiatively active trace-gases themselves are also


important, and insufficient knowledge of their precise absorption
characteristics can easily result in large errors in the calculated
greenhouse radiation.
So, while we can generally conclude that an increase in trace-gas
concentrations will lead to an increase in thermal radiation at the
earth's surface and in the atmosphere, it is very hard to estimate
the magnitude of that increase, and it is even more difficult to esti-
mate what exactly will happen to climate as a result of that in-
crease in thermal radiation, other than that it will probably lead to
a warming of the earth's atmospheric system - the magnitude of
that warming being again subject to considerable uncertainty.
We will now temporarily stop looking at climate, and turn our
attention to those trace-gases and human activities which are
thought to be responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect. We
do this now in order to determine how much of an additional
greenhouse forcing we can expect in coming decades and why we
should expect it. We will then return to the climate, using this in-
formation to assess the kind of climatic changes we might expect
to result from the additional greenhouse effect.

Players In The Greenhouse Act

Let us now look at those gases and human activities which con-
tribute to "plugging the holes" in our atmospheric blanket. We
will do this in several steps:

1. Identify the gases and human activities which contribute to


their emission.
2. Examine their past emission trends.
3. Examine their expected future emission trends.
4. Examine their individual contribution to the greenhouse ef-
fect - past, present, future

Table 2 identifies those trace-gases considered "radiatively


active", i.e. those which contribute to plugging the holes in the at-
mospheric blanket. Table 2 gives the estimated contribution of
each of those gases to the greenhouse effect at present emission
rates. Table 2 also introduces a concept called "Global Warming
Potential" (GWP), which gives the additional greenhouse effect of
a greenhouse gas over a specific time horizon relative to CO2. The
relative contribution of a particular greenhouse gas varies with
THE REST OF THE STORY I7

Table 2: Summary of Key Greenhouse Gases

CO2 CH4 N2O CFC-11 CFC-12

Pre-industrial 280 ppm 0.8 ppm 288 ppb 0 0


atmospheric
concentration
(1750 -1800)

Present 353 ppm 1.72 ppm 310 ppb 280ppt 484ppt


atmospheric
concentration (1990)

Present rate 1.8 ppm 0.015 ppm 0.8 ppb 9.5 ppt 17 ppt
of annual increase (0.5 %) (0.9 %) (0.25 %) (4%) (4%)

Specific Greenhouse 1 58 206 3970 5750


Potential
(per unit mass)

Global Warming 1 21 290 3500 7300


Potential (100 Years)
(per unit mass)

Source: After IPCC, 1990.

time because of differences in its atmospheric lifetime. If it is short,


its importance vis-a-vis the other trace-gases will decrease; if it is
long, it will remain important. It should be pointed out, however,
that a number of assumptions are made in this concept which may
not necessarily hold up to future scientific scrutiny. This is notably
the case with the assumed lifetime of CO2, 120 years. In the fol-
lowing we will therefore exclude the GWP from our deliberations
because of its speculative and highly uncertain character.
Generally, we can divide those gases into two subgroups:

1. Gases which are a natural part of our atmosphere, but which


increase due to various activities to be identified, and
2. Gases, which do not naturally occur in our atmosphere and
which are exclusively a product or by-product of man's var-
ious industrial activities.
18 GLOBAL WARMING

1. Naturally occurring trace-gases


Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The first trace-gas we wish to direct our attention to is carbon di-
oxide, a natural constituent of our atmosphere and by far the most
abundant of the trace-gases we are now considering. Table 2 gives
the atmospheric concentrations by volume, i.e., number of mole-
cules of the trace-gas per number of molecules of air. 1 ppm means
that there is one part of the particular trace-gas per 1 million parts
of air. Obviously, we are talking about small concentrations in-
deed. The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 350
ppm. It has increased since 1958, the first year modern and accu-
rate measurements were taken, by about 35 ppm. The total in-
crease since man began injecting CO2 into the atmosphere
through his various activities - mostly clearing forests and burn-
ing fossil fuels (i.e., wood, coal, oil, and gas) - has been estimated
to be around 70 ppm. Since CO2 contributes the largest part to the
man-made greenhouse effect, (see Tab. 4, present contribution to
the greenhouse effect) the current debate over the greenhouse
effect centers on, but is not restricted to, strategies to reduce CO2
emissions, i.e., reduce the burning of fossil fuels and biomass.
We will now analyze past and present patterns of CO2 release in
terms of type of fuel and geographical region.
Table 3 shows the present best estimate of the contributions of
each of the fossil fuel types, including biomass burning, to current
emissions. The total release of CO2 due to fossil fuel use can be
fairly well documented since the middle of last century, and this
is shown in fig. 3. The contribution thought to have been made by
biomass burning is considerably more uncertain and the line in
fig. 3 indicating biomass burning should be considered tentative
- but it still represents best current estimates. The share of biomass
burning in total emissions since the middle of last century may
then have been in the neighborhood of 40 percent, a sizable
amount indeed. In past decades, the amount released by biomass
burning and changes in land use may even have been approx-
imately 50 percent of the amount released by fossil fuel burning.
The generally rapid increase of fossil fuel related emissions has
experienced several small dents during the two major wars of this
century, and again during the great depression of the 1930s, and
once more following the energy crises of the 1970s. In recent years,
fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions have risen again and are pre-
sently (1991) at an all time high of about 6 billion tons of carbon
per year.
THE REST OF THE STORY

Table 3: Global CO2-emissions by fossil energy use including


the estimated biospheric emissions in the late 1980s
Billion Relative carbon
Tons of content per
carbon in % unit of energy
Coal 2.4 32 1.0

Oil 2.4 32 0.8

Gas 0.9 12 0.6

Cement production 0.2 3 -

Biosphere (De-fores-
tation/Land use
changes) 1.6 21 -
Sum 7.5 100

Source: After IEA, 1991.

Fossil fuel use is generally expressed in tons of carbon. This


number is always lower than, say, tons of coal or tons of oil, be-
cause the amount of carbon contained in those fuels is always less
than the actual weight. The difference is due to non-carbon com-
pounds in those fuels.
The annual rate of increase in carbon emissions has been rough-
ly 4 percent per year following WW II, and a little less than 2 per-
cent between 1973 and 1980. Following the second oil crisis in
1979-1981, there was actually a decrease in the early 1980s. Early
use of fossil fuels around the turn of this century was mostly re-
stricted to coal, which was at first slowly, then rapidly replaced by
oil after WW II. The use of gas has risen steadily, especially in re-
cent years. Following the first oil crisis in 1973 and notably after
the second one in 1979, the role of oil gradually decreased, while
coal steadily regained ground lost in earlier decades. Only after
the oil price collapse of 1986 did oil increase its share again.
If we now look at the contribution of individual countries to glo-
bal CO2 emissions (Fig. 4), the US emerges as the largest source at
a share of 24 percent, followed by the USSR with 19 percent,
Western Europe (Europea Community, EC 12) with 14 percent,
China 9 percent, and Japan 5 percent, for a total of about 70 per-
20 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 2. Temperature and saturation mixing ratio.


Source: After Anthes et al., 1978

Figure 3. CO2-emissions from fossil fuel use and from land use changes be-
tween 1860 and 1980.
Source World Resources Institute, 1991.
THE REST OF THE STORY 21

Figure 4. Trends of C02 emissions from fossil fuel use by major geographic
region (1 Gt = 1 billion metric tons).
Source: US: Department of Energy, Report DOE/FE-0164.

cent, or more than two thirds of total worldwide emissions. There-


fore, the industrialized countries contribute the lion's share of glo-
bal CO2 emissions due to fossil fuel use. The lesser developed coun-
tries (LDCs), on the other hand, contribute most of the emissions
due to biomass burning, currently estimated at 2 to 4 Gt per year.
The relative share of the industrialized countries of total fossil
fuel use (and CO2 emissions) has been continuously losing
ground to the newly industrializing (NICs) and lesser developed
countries. For example, between 1973 and 1988 the share of the
NICs and LDCs of total oil consumption increased from 15 to 28
percent.
There are several obvious reasons for this. First of all, fossil fuel
consumption in the highly industrialized countries of the West
has reached partial saturation, whereas in most of the NICs and
particularly in the LDCs, fossil fuel use is still in its nascent stages.
Example: If everybody drives an automobile - which burns fossil
fuel and emits CO2 - there cannot be an increase from additional
automobiles anymore, because one person cannot drive two cars
at the same time. A similar argument can be made for, say, air-con-
ditioners and other household appliances operated with electri-
city generated by a fossil-fuel fired power plant.
In short, in the industrialized countries, saturation of energy use
22 GLOBAL WARMING

Table 4: Sectoral contributions to the greenhouse effect.


Estimated percentages for global emissions in the late 1980s.
in%
CO2: Power generation 13
Transport 13
Industry 9
Residential / commercial 7
Remaining fossil energy use 1
De-forestation/land use changes 12

Sum CO2 55

Methane (CH4) 15
Nitrous oxide (N2O) 6
CFCs 24

Total 100

Source: After Warrick et al., 1990; JEA, 1991.

has been reached in many areas, which considerably limits the po-
tential of further increases in energy use and CO2 emissions.
This is certainly not the case in the NICs and LDCs, where per
capita use of (fossil) energy is only a small fraction of its counter-
part in the industrialized countries. But it is catching up rapidly.
Not only that, in contrast to the industrialized countries, where
population is fairly stable, population in the LDCs is growing at a
staggering rate. Those two factors combined, rapid population
growth and growth in energy use in the LDCs and newly in-
dustrialized countries, compared to relatively stable population
and saturation in energy use in the ICs, explain most of the
relative decline of the industrialized countries' share of fossil fuel
use and CO2 emissions in recent decades.
This trend is expected to continue in the future; and indeed,
since most of the concern about trace-gas emissions and climatic
changes is concern about future emission increases, energy use and
CO2 emission patterns in fast growing areas of the world will as-
sume a key role in coming decades. Furthermore, since energy use
is largely, but not completely, tied to economic activity, the CO2
emission pattern will behave in a way very similar to the changing
pattern of economic activity, which changed dramatically after
THE REST OF THE STORY 23

WW II. The once dominant economic powerhouse USA saw its rel-
ative share of world gross domestic product (GDP) slowly erode,
first at the expense of other industrialized countries which were
rebuilding their war torn economies, and now increasingly to the
NICs and LDCs, a trend which is likely to continue in the future.
The widespread stagnation of energy use in the industrialized
countries after the two oil shocks of the 70s can furthermore be
interpreted as a frantic attempt to lessen the dependence on
foreign oil. In the '70s, energy conservation measures were insti-
tuted in almost every industrialized country, and did indeed bear
some fruit. However, the turmoil initially suffered within the in-
dustrialized countries as their economies shifted to a more energy
efficient (and less oil dependant) mode was considerable: The two
severe recessions experienced in 1974 and 1980-1982 were largely
due to the drastic oil price hikes. Once oil consumption declined,
however, and especially after market share drifted away from the
OPEC countries, the full benefits of energy use reduction became
apparent. There are some inherent dangers in this very rosy pic-
ture which we are going to discuss in more detail in the section
dealing with future trends: First, due to increased consumption,
prices may rise again drastically, possibly leading to another sup-
ply shock, which may again bring us the deleterious economic
consequences we witnessed in the 70s; and secondly, the restorat-
ion of OPEC's power subsequent to Operation Desert Storm.
In addition to increasing energy efficiency and saturation in
energy use, there is one more fundamental factor responsible for
the slow rise in energy use in the industrialized countries over the
last 15 years: the structural shifts within our economies. The US
has been in the middle of a transformation from a manufacturing
economy, which is energy intensive, to a service economy, which
is decidedly less energy intensive. This industrial policy is expec-
ted to continue in coming decades.
Example: If one creates a certain amount of GDP by producing
steel, a lot more energy is used than by creating the same GDP
through financial services or the production of computers.
Let us now look at the various activities of mankind which con-
tribute to the emission of CO2 on a global scale. It should be noted
that large differences might exist from country to country and
from region to region (see table 4). For example, in the US, auto-
mobile driving contributes 29 percent to CO2 emissions, com-
pared to 13 percent globally. Obviously, there is no "prime", or
overriding worldwide activity which is the CO2 and greenhouse
24 GLOBAL WARING

source, a conclusion which becomes even more apparent when


we consider the greenhouse contribution of trace-gases other than
CO2. In fact, in this list of greenhouse activities, the largest single
contribution is made by the CFCs, which we will deal with later
on (see Tab. 4).

Methane
The next gas in our category of natural constituents is methane,
CH4, with an estimated greenhouse contribution of 15 percent.
Methane is emitted largely by natural sources such as swamps,
marshes, rice fields, termites and ruminants (see table 5). Its at-
mospheric concentration is much lower than that of CO2, but it is
growing at a much faster pace -1.0 percent per year - and in add-
ition is a much more powerful greenhouse gas. One kg of methane
has the greenhouse power of about 58 kg of CO2 (see Tab. 2).
Science is somewhat at a loss to explain methane's rapid rise

Table 5: Estimated sources and sinks of methane.


Annual Release (Tg CH4) Range (Tg CH4)

Source
Natural Wetlands
(bogs, swamps tundra, etc) 115 100-200
Rice Paddies 110 25-170
Enteric Fermentation (animals) 80 65-100
Gas Drilling,
Venting, Transmission 45 25-50
Biomass Burning 40 20-80
Termites 40 10-100
Landfills 40 20-70
Coal Mining 35 19-50
Oceans 10 5-20
Freshwaters 5 1-25
H4 Hydrate Destabilization S 0-100

Sink
Removal by soils 30 15-45
Reaction with OH in the atmosphere 500 400-600
Atmospheric Increase 44 40-48

Source: IPCC, 1990.


THE REST OF THE STORY 25

Table 6: Estimated sources and sinks of N2O.


Range
(TgN per year)
Source
Oceans 1.4-2.6
Soils (tropical forests) 2.2 - 3.7
(temperate forests) 0.7- 1
Combustion 0.1-0.3
Biomass burning 0.02 - 0.2
Fertilizer (including ground-water) 0.01-2.2
TOTAL: 4.4 -105

Sink
Removal by soils ?
Photolysis in the Stratosphere 7-13
Atmospheric Increase 3- 4

Source: IPCC, 1990.

since the beginning of the industrial revolution, because no indu-


strial activity other than the relatively small sources of coal mi-
ning and the exploration and production of oil and natural gas can
be related to its growth. It is therefore generally concluded that ac-
tivities related to food production, notably rice farming and cattle
raising, explain most of the rise. The close correspondence bet-
ween population and methane growth is often cited as supporting
evidence for the notion that the CH4 increase is associated with
food production - which should continue to increase along with
population growth.

N2O - Nitrous Oxide


The increased concentration of N2O is thought to contribute
another 6 percent - at current emission rates - to the enhanced
greenhouse effect. The reason for its rise in concentration, about
0.25 percent per year, is even more uncertain than in the case of
methane. It is generally thought that some contribution is made
by the application of nitrate fertilizer, fossil fuel combustion and
biomass burning (Table 6).

Ozone
The changing concentration of atmospheric ozone is further-
26 GLOBAL WARMING

more thought to make a contribution if not to the greenhouse


effect, then to global warming in the following two ways. Ozone
is thought to decrease in the stratosphere, the atmosphere's upper
level (roughly between 10 and 20 miles above sea level) due to the
action of CFCs, which we will briefly discuss in the following
paragraph. It is thought to increase in the atmosphere's lower
level, the troposphere, as a result of a general increase in nitrogen
oxide and hydrocarbon emissons, from which ozone may form in
a chain of complex chemical reactions. The decrease of stratospher-
ic ozone would let increased amounts of ultraviolet radiation pass
through to the earth's surface, leading to a small, additional
warming; whereas an increase of tropospheric ozone would
enhance the greenhouse effect, leading to further warming, the
total of which is comparatively small.
It may be noted that even though the increase in tropospheric
ozone may be thought to counteract the stratospheric decrease,
this would only be true to a small extent since the decrease in the
stratosphere is expected to be much larger than the tropospheric
increase. Because of uncertainties regarding the global ozone
increase, no numerical value can presently be attached to the
additional greenhouse effect of ozone.

2. Industrial trace-gases
CFCs

We now direct our attention to the last group of substances


which may alter the earth's radiative balance, and which are in-
deed heavyweights in their total contribution to the greenhouse
effect (see table 4): The chloro-fluoro-carbons, CFCs in short,
which do not naturally occur in the atmosphere, and are emitted
entirely as a result of man's industrial activities. CFCs are widely
used as aerosol can propellants, as refrigerants in mobile and stat-
ionary air-conditioning systems, but also as solvents and cleans-
ing agents. They were invented in the late 1920s and rapidly put
into use after WW II at double-digit growth rates until the mid
1970s, when their use was put under scrutiny for the first time be-
cause of their suspected role in stratospheric ozone depletion. The
US, adopting a cautious stance, banned their use in some areas al-
ready in the 1970s, the most important being aerosol can propell-
ants.
After the discovery of the ozone hole phenomenon, in which
they were implicated as playing a significant role, an international
THE REST OF THE STORY 27

push to sharply reduce their use, or to ban them altogether, gained


considerable momentum and resulted in the so-called "Montreal
protocol" of 1987, which mandated a 30 percent reduction of CFC
use by the year 2000.
Not satisfied with that, further reductions were deemed neces-
sary as the ozone hole over Antarctica seemed to grow ever lar-
ger. Those increasing concerns resulted in the "Helsinki Declara-
tion" in 1989, in which the signatory countries committed them-
selves to a complete ban of CFCs by the year 2000.

Not The Greenhouse Effect, But The Ozone Hole...


While stratospheric ozone depletion is a matter almost totally
unrelated to the greenhouse effect, except for some small inter-
actions we will shortly discuss, it is frequently dealt with con-
currently in public debate. Although we will not attempt to give
a full account of the complex scientific issues which surround the
problem of stratospheric ozone depletion and the ozone hole, a
brief digression into the major aspects appears to be useful at this
point.
The CFCs, due to their chemical properties, are chemically very
stable in the earth's lower atmosphere, and no major mechanisms
are known which could break them up. Over longer time spans,
however, they are supposed to rise from the troposphere into the
stratosphere, breaking through a strong barrier between the two
atmospheric levels, called the tropopause, which normally - to a
large extent - suppresses atmospheric exchange between the two.
Once in the stratosphere, the CFCs would be subjected to the
shorter wavelength ultraviolet rays from the sun, which are kept
away horn lower atmospheric layers by the ozone layer within the
stratosphere.
Those ultraviolet rays now break up the CFC molecules to re-
lease chlorine atoms, which in turn act to break up the ozone
molecules, without themselves being consumed to any significant
extent in the process. Therefore, even relatively minor amounts of
CFCs may lead to some ozone depletion. It has been estimated
that if present trends continue, - whatever that means - the on-
going release of CFCs may, over time spans of 50 to 100 years, re-
sult in a reduction of total atmospheric ozone content by roughly
10 to 15 percent. It should be pointed out that these estimates are
widely divergent, and have a history of changing erratically even
over short time periods of a few years, due to improvements (or
28 GLOBAL WARMING

apparent improvements) in the modeling schemes of the complex


atmospheric chemistry.
Be that as it may, once reports of the ozone hole came out, the
scientific community was largely confounded, because none of
their hitherto proposed mechanisms could explain the observed
rapid and temporary ozone depletion over Antarctica, which oc-
curred in the antarctic spring.
However, scientists smartened up quickly and proposed a
scheme which could explain the rapid and temporary ozone de-
pletion. It involves a combination of natural factors met only over
Antarctica with anthropogenic CFC release. The bottom line is
that the "ozone hole" is a phenomenon which can only occur over
Antarctica within the extremely cold stratosphere, which does not
otherwise occur anywhere else, and requires a spatial coherence
of those cold temperatures during the antarctic winter, combined
with the presence of some frozen particles, called polar strato-
spheric clouds (PSCs). Those PSCs then act as reaction partners
with the CFCs at the onset of antarctic spring, and cause the rapid
ozone depletion which results in the occurrence of the "hole", i.e.,
a region of drastically reduced ozone concentrations in the strato-
sphere. This "hole" disappears a few weeks later when the sun
climbs higher over Antarctica and promotes the normal process of
photochemical ozone production which takes place in the strato-
sphere.
Therefore, to stress that point again, the "ozone hole" is a temp-
orary phenomenon, which, due to natural factors, is confined to
Antarctica and may well re-appear or disappear in smaller or larg-
er extent depending on what the natural factors - mainly tempe-
ratures and PSCs - in the antarctic stratosphere are like.
Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest that the "ozone
hole" might not be an entirely new phenomenon at all, exclusively
caused by CFCs, since observations from the 1950s also indicated
occurrences of sudden, unexpected and substantial ozone losses
over the Antarctic in the spring.

The Ozone Depletion-Greenhouse Link

Temperature is the key word when we now consider links be-


tween ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect.
According to the greenhouse theory, we should expect temp-
eratures to rise as a result of a trace-gas increase in the tropo-
THE REST OF THE STORY 29

sphere, the atmosphere's lower level. But the theory also postula-
tes that temperatures in the stratosphere should then go down.
However, that would favor the formation of the PSCs, which form
only when temperatures are below a certain threshold value. Con-
sequently, if temperatures decline in the antarctic stratosphere as
a result of the greenhouse effect, we should expect more frequent
occurrences of ozone holes in the future if the CFC release con-
tinues.
Unfortunately, that is only one half of the story. To make matters
even more complicated, scientists have also found out that lower
temperatures in the stratosphere - as a result of the greenhouse-
effect - will slow down and ameliorate the process of long-term
ozone depletion (the one taking place on a 50 to 100 year time
scale). Therefore, the greenhouse effect may have a "healing"
effect on the long-term ozone depletion and may in fact be bene-
ficial in that sense - but detrimentral with respect to the short-term
"ozone holes".
There have been reports recently of "mini ozone holes" over the
Arctic. However, these are much smaller features of a decidedly
more transient nature and should not in any way be compared to
the massive and large-scale ozone destruction which has taken
place over Antarctica, other than that the underlying chemistry is
essentially the same. But there is no reason to think that those
small holes will grow larger, and one day even assume antarctic
proportions. The differences between arctic and antarctic atmo-
spheric circulation patterns are too substantial for that.
The implications of a longer term decline of a stratospheric
ozone decrease may involve an increase in ultraviolet radiation at
the earth's surface, which is thought to be harmful to the bios-
phere and to man. The current debate is over whether a decrease
of ozone has already taken place; but apart from high latitudes of
the Southern Hemisphere (SH), no significant decreases beyond
the level of natural variability appear to have taken place
anywhere else.
In addition, ultraviolet radiation measured at different sites in
the US over the last 15 years has, if anything, decreased - therefore
giving no hint in favor of the postulated ozone decrease and the
expected UV increase. Furthermore, some scientists question the
seriousness of the implications of a 10 to 20 percent UV increase
on the biosphere, since - as they argue - natural UV levels increase
by a factor of three or four as one moves from higher latitudes to-
wards the equator, and if there is a moderate ozone depletion, one
30 GLOBAL WARMING

would therefore only experience a UV increase comparable to mo-


ving a few hundred miles to the south, or closer to the equator.
To return to the CFC's role as greenhouse gases, we should first
note that they play such an important role despite their very small
concentration in the atmosphere. This is due to their molecular
structure and the unfortunate occurrence of a major absorption
band right smack in the hole of the atmospheric blanket, so that
one kg of CFCs has the greenhouse power of several thousands kg
of CO2 (see table 2). On top of this, there is their very rapid in-
crease in the atmosphere (3-5 percent per year) and the very long
lifetime of up to over 100 years.
Their contribution - at current emission rates - to the man-made
greenhouse effect is of the order of 20-25 percent and is likely to
grow.
2.
A Look Ahead -
Is The Future Ours To See?
So far we have only been concerned with past and present emis-
sion rates and patterns of various greenhouse gases. We have said
nothing about the future yet.
But, of course, the future is the key issue. No one would have
become upset about past emission rates if he did not expect future
emissions to somehow detrimentally affect climate and life.
But here is where life begins to become complicated. All the con-
cerns voiced about the future direction of climatic developments
assume, one way or another, that the build-up of greenhouse gases
will continue at the same rates as it has up to now, or at least in
some worrying way - soon enough and large enough to have a sig-
nificant adverse impact on climate, which again is thought to
occur soon enough, and to be large enough to be a cause of serious
concern - making it imperative to take countervailing action in the
form of reducing trace-gas emissions now.
So, in our ongoing quest to examine the scientific basis of the
greenhouse effect and of the claims about its adverse impact on
climate, let us investigate future trace-gas scenarios in an attempt
to not only determine whether or not a build-up serious enough
to adversely alter our climate will occur, but when it might occur.
The timetable of events has important consequences for the im-
pact of a possible climatic change on nature, and also for the time
we have to fight off that change, should we decide to do that.
Obviously, if we expect some detrimental change in, say, 20
years, there is no time to waste, but if that change will not occur for
another 100 years, we can afford to ponder its consequences and
take some time searching for the best possible way to counter it.

But now, pass the crystal ball please.

Let us first direct our attention to CO2, which plays a central role
in the greenhouse debate, and which has been the subject of a
large number of studies, all of them attempting to elucidate the
way in which CO2 emissions might relate to various future trends.
Since CO2 is released largely in energy generating ventures, the
debate in the past has been, and in the future will be centered on
32 GLOBAL WARMING

energy policy - the favorite playground of a great number of ac-


tivists from all political backgrounds. Here, for the first time, link-
ages become apparent, linkages between climate and energy,
which do not seem to have anything to do with each other at first
sight, but, as we will see, they are in fact closely related in a mult-
itude of ways.
Before we go into more detail, let us first of all realize that we
are skating on very thin ice indeed in everything we are now at-
tempting to do. Every projection into the future, and every as-
sumption about it, is speculation at best in most cases. Any
unforeseen future event, whether it is a war, an economic down-
turn, or a major technological breakthrough, may seriously dent,
if not altogether wreck any of the assumptions we will be talking
about.
For example, recall how Sheik Yamani, the former Saudi Arab-
ian oil minister, extended "present trends" of oil prices into the fu-
ture, and declared in 1981 that prices could only go up, but instead
they only went down from then on out. In 1986, after the almost
complete collapse of oil prices, Yamani was fired.
By the same token, just to show that economic forecasts, which
more or less form the basis of future energy use patterns, may be
even more unreliable than weather forecasts, most "experts" and
"analysts" were absolutely certain in the summer of 1987, and
publicly said so, that the stock market could only go up; and when
it crashed a short while later, again it was the "experts" and "ana-
lysts" who predicted a severe economic crisis similar to the one
following the 1929 stock market crash - only to witness a mirac-
ulous rebound of the Dow Jones in the year after the crash. Ap-
parently, even the experts can go wrong at times.
So where do we stand? We should take every projection into the
future on a round-trip basis, look for pitfalls, and be prepared to
see it peter out altogether if one or more of the assumptions it was
built on crumble: Predictions are difficult to make, especially cor-
rect ones.
Returning to CO2 emissions, we know that past - and future -
emission patterns depend on a roster of determinants. The most
important ones are:

• Population growth
• Economic growth
• Energy use growth
• Energy use patterns
THE REST OF THE STORY 33

Once more we begin to appreciate the scope and the possible


impact the climatic change debate has on our lives. Since the emis-
sion of CO2, the major greenhouse gas, is so closely related to our
most basic activities, it seems almost inconceivable to curtail, let
alone cease, any of those CO2 emitting activities.
The first of these factors, population growth, will be the decisive
one in the LDCs in coming decades - coupled with economic
growth.
Current CO2 emissions in the LDCs are about one fifth of what
they are in the industrialized countries (and per capita emissions
are much lower). If we assume that population will increase over
the next 50 years at an average annual rate of two percent, the
average of the last 20 years, and if we assume per capita emissi-
ons will remain constant, then total CO2 emissions from the LDCs
will more than double.
It is almost certainly foolish, however, to assume that per capita
emissions will be constant, since LDC economies can be expected
to be the fastest growing ones. Without nuclear energy this eco-
nomic growth will be based mainly on the use of fossil fuels. As-
suming then an average economic growth rate of three percent per
year, again a moderate figure, which would translate into a 1 per-
cent per year per capita growth rate, and furthermore assume that
the amount of CO2 released per unit of GDP remains constant,
CO2 emissions in 50 years would more than quadruple. Again,
this seems to be a moderate estimate: a simple extrapolation of
post WW II trends, 6.3 percent per year, would result in a stagger-
ing twentyfold increase. Even in that case, per capita emissions in
some LDCs would still be lower than what they are today in the
industrialized countries.
Perhaps we can now begin to appreciate the second issue inter-
mingled with the climatic change debate: the income inequalities
between North and South.
In order to overcome those inequalities, the South - the LDCs -
will have to grow its way out of backwardness, which requires the
expanded use of fossil fuels.
Population growth in the industrialized countries has been far
more moderate and has halted altogether in some countries. Thus
the future contribution to CO2 emissions from an increase in po-
pulation there will probably be quite small compared to what it
will be in the LDCs.
On the other hand, economic growth will continue in all like-
lihood. Let us assume an average economic growth of 2 percent
34 GLOBAL WARMING

per year. This is a very moderate figure, but a reasonable one, be-
cause it is less than the heady growth rates of the post war years,
but more than during the tough economic times of the 70s and
'80s. Under such assumptions, CO2 emissions will more than
double, also assuming no change in fuel use.
As we have already seen (page 19-21), however, economic
growth and energy use have begun to become decoupled in the
wake of the traumatic experiences of the energy crises of the '70s.
Today, less energy, notably fossil energy, is used to produce a unit
of GDP than was needed in the early 70s. This fact is aptly
demonstrated in Table 7, which shows the increase in levels of
efficiency of energy use in various countries, where — is it any
surprise? — Japan again takes the lead. But the other industrial-
ized countries did not fare so badly, either.
Despite the growth in the economies of the industrialized coun-
tries of 60 percent there was no corresponding increase in energy
consumption due to increased energy efficiency and the structural
changes toward the service economy, not only in the U.S.
In other words, we now emit only 20 percent more CO2 than in
the early 70s, although GDP has grown by roughly 60 percent. If
we now assume that the industrialized countries will be able to
maintain that pace in energy efficiency increase over the next 50
years, as difficult and as questionable as that may be, because we
are now in a less favorable position in the learning curve, CO2
emissions in our 2 percent economic growth scenario would in-
crease at approximately 0.7 percent per year and by a total of
about 40 percent, despite a concurrent two and a half fold increase
in GDP.
Let us now furthermore assume that some, but not all of that
energy efficiency increase will be implemented in the faster grow-
ing LDC economies, which should be given more latitude in
energy use because they are starting from a lower level. If we take
the fraction of efficiency increase to be one third of the economic
growth rate of 3 percent, i.e. 1.0 percent, CO2 emissions would
grow at 2.0 percent, and then go up two and a half fold in 50 years.
We thus partition the efficieny increase in the following crude
manner: there is no efficiency increase in the first 25 years, i.e.,
CO2 emissions would grow at the economic growth rate, which
makes some sense, because during the first stages of industria-
lization, there is a tendency to use more energy per unit of GDP
than during pre-industrialization. In the later stages of industrial-
ization, CO2 emissions are assumed to grow at one third the eco-
THE REST OF THE STORY 35

nomic growth rate, i.e., 1 percent.


Combining the emissions from the industrialized countries and
from the LDCs 50 years from now, we obtain an annual emission
rate of roughly 10 billion tons of carbon.
This is a very simple scenario, which is of course subject to all
the caveats and uncertainties mentioned at the beginning. Still it
may not be too far off the mark: it is in fact right in the middle of
a number of recent estimates, the bandwidth of which can be
gleaned from Fig 5.
These scenarios, and ours as well, which includes a fair amount
of energy efficiency increase, would indicate approximately
double today's emission rate. This is seriously at odds with recent
calls for a 20 or even 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, given
the fact that the use of fossil fuels, rightly or wrongly, assumes
such a central role in the economies around the world, and that no
suitable replacement is presently in sight.
Therefore, if the proposed 20 percent reductions were manda-
tory, it seems likely that the world would basically be confronted
with either one or both of two drastic consequences: First, in the
industrialized countries, a drastic reduction in living standards
through curbed economic growth; and second, a drastic reduction
in population growth in the LDCs, since a denial of economic
growth to the LDCs amounts to exactly that.
To what extent the industrialized countries can be forced to
sacrifice their living standard and the LDCs their population
growth in the name of a perceived threat to climate - the reality of
which is still to be assessed - remains to be seen.
We will not discuss the need to actually employ reduction meas-

Table 7: Trends of energy intensity in some OECD


countries between 1970 and 1987 (1970 = 100).
1970 1975 1980 1987 1970* 1985*
FRG 100 91 89 79 0.38 0.31

Japan 100 96 85 68 0.40 0.29


USA 100 95 89 73 0.76 0.57
OECD 100 94 89 77 0.55 0.43

* tons of oil equialent per 1.000 US$ (1980) GDP

Source: After OECD.


36 GLOBAL WARMING

ures along with possible ways to achieve this now, but leave the
discussion of that for a later chapter.
In any case, we have analyzed a possible scenario of future fos-
sil fuel use, which yielded future emission rates right in the
middle of a variety of diverse scenarios. This scenario may there-
fore be considered a middle-of-the-road-most-likely and non-ex-
treme projection. It leads us to a probable or most likely average
CO2 emission growth rate of 1 to 1.5 percent per year over the next
50 years.
It should be remembered that this estimate already incorporates
a good margin of increased efficiency of energy use, which was
forced upon us, at high social costs, by two energy crises in the
1970s, and which has essentially been extrapolated 50 years into
the future. This scenario may therefore be somewhat biased to-
wards the low end, since average growth rates in the 1970s and
1980s were somewhat higher, even if we include the "slow" per-
iod of the two energy crises. Even then, it only serves to empha-
size a point made above: even if we adopt a cautious scenario
about future economic and population growth, CO2 emissions -
barring some major unforeseen events - could easily double with-
in the next 50 years. This assessment is underlined by the fact that
CO2 emissions went up by 20 percent since the last world-wide
recession in 1982 alone.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) arri-
ved at a similar conclusion in their "Business as usual" (BaU)
scenarios, which assume a CO2 growth rate of about 1.8 per cent
per year (see Fig. 6). Our emissions estimate therefore falls about
halfway between the BaU and the increased energy efficiency "B"
scenario and might thus not be too unrealistic.

The Role Of The Biosphere In Future CO2 Emissions

There is one additional uncertainty we have not addressed so


far, and which could make a large difference in future CO2 emis-
sions and atmospheric concentrations, release of CO2 from bio-
mass burning, especially in the tropics. It currently adds another
2 - 4 Gt to the 6 Gt from fossil fuel use. The net emission from the
biosphere is shown in Fig. 3 and Tab. 3. The net emission is less
than the gross release from the tropics because of regrowth in
other regions of the world. If present rates of deforestation contin-
ue, there will not be much left of tropical forests in the not too dist-
ant future. That would be a significant addition to the atmos-
THE REST OF THE STORY

Figure 5. Scenarios of future trends in CO2 emissions. The lettering of indivi-


dual curves denotes the projections of various scientific groups.
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1984.

pheric CO2 load. If, on the other hand, attempts to curb defore-
station are succesful, atmospheric CO2 increases could certainly
be reduced.
This would particularly be true if some recent suggestions turn
out to be correct, that the tropical biospheric source might be of
the order of 4 Gt, and that a CO2 sink of similar magnitude exists
in mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In that case, cessa-
tion of biomass burning would reduce the emissions by 4 Gt. That
would enable the mid-latitude sink of 4 Gt and an additional sink
in the tropics, due to re-growth there, to act on fossil fuel CO2
emissions, thereby significantly reducing the speed of an atmos-
pheric CO2 increase. Even under a scenario of a smaller and pos-
sibly more realistic mid-latitude biospheric sink of about 2 Gt, and
less release in the tropics, cessation of biomass burning would in-
deed make a very significant contribution to lowering the rate of
atmospheric CO2 increase.

How Much Fuel Is There To Burn?

Looking even further ahead, as an afterthought we will now ad-


dress an assumption usually made without any questions in the
CO2 and climate debate, namely that there are sufficient amounts
38 GLOBAL WARMING

of fossil fuels to double atmospheric CO2.


A little later on we will analyze climate-model predictions
based on the hypothesis that the atmosphere contains twice the
present amount of CO2. Most of the climate projections use those
2-times-CO2 scenarios as a benchmark. Most of the dire predict-
ions we hear so much about are based exactly on those 2-times-
CO2 scenarios (or an increase of the other trace-gases to such an
extent that the effects are those of a CO2 doubling). It therefore
appears appropriate to analyze the circumstances under which
such a doubling might occur.
As a first step, we will determine whether there are in fact suf-
ficient fossil fuel reserves to bring about such a doubling. To the
surprise of no one, the estimates on fossil fuel resources are con-
stantly being revised, and mostly, to the relief of an energy hungry
world, upwards. For instance, there has been talk for about 20
years now that the world is going to run out of natural resources
very soon. The infamous "Club of Rome" made a name for itself
by scaring the world with doomsday scenarios back in 1972. Well,
in a finite system they are right: in such a system, nothing can
grow forever, least of all at an exponential rate, as the economy
and world population have in recent decades. Then again the "fi-
nite" resource base of the wood-burning economy of earlier
centuries was superceded by the introduction of coal, which was
superceded by oil and so on.
And their timetable appears to have been somehow out of line.
A good case in point is the extent to which our oil reserves were
supposed to last. Over the past few decades the estimates have
hovered around 40 years. In other words, despite the fact that we
have been using oil all this time, and in fact should have run out
by now, we still have 40 years to go, which is of course due to the
constant discoveries of new oil and improvements in extraction
technologies which have led to an upward revision in oil reserve
estimates.
Most of the oil companies and institutions, such as the Internat-
ional Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Energy Conference
(WEC), spend a lot of time and effort keeping track of the fossil
energy we may still have left to burn.
In terms of carbon, which is what we are interested in, the bot-
tom line is that there are approximately 750 billion tons in what is
generally referred to as "proven recoverable reserves". This
means that geologists and geophysicists have actually "seen" it on
their various devices used to "look" into the earth, and that pre-
THE REST OF THE STORY 39

Figure 6. Projected atmospheric concentrations of C02, CH4 and CFC-11 resul-


ting from the four IPCC emissions scenarios.
Source: IPCC, 1990.
40 GLOBAL WARMING

sent existing technology is able to extract the fuel from the earth.
In addition, there are those "resources" which geologists
"think", "expect" or somehow "estimate" to be there on the basis
of a variety of factors, such as geology similar to known deposits.
Those resources are obviously much more speculative in nature
and amount to 2000 billion tons or thereabouts. The geological de-
posits of fossil fuel are several times larger than even this figure,
but the trouble is that they cannot be extracted from the earth by
known technological means at a reasonable cost.
Now, the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide is 350ppm (see
table 1), which, in tons of carbon, is about 720 billion tons. So, at
first sight it looks easy to double the atmospheric content even if
only the proved recoverable reserves are used. But there is a dif-
ference between what we emit into the atmosphere and what re-
mains in it as atmospheric concentration.
This fraction, called the airborne fraction, has only been in the
neighborhood of 50 percent of the amount released by fossil fuel
burning over the last few decades. Since the clearing of forests
added another 1.5-2 billion tons of carbon to total emissions, the
actual airborne fraction is accordingly even lower than that. In
other words, less than half of what we put into the atmosphere
remains there. One way or the other, the rest is incorporated into
various compartments of the so-called global carbon cycle, which
plays a very important role for life on earth, and which we will
analyze in more detail later on. At this point, suffice it to say that
the "missing carbon" is taken up by (1) the oceans and (2) the ter-
restrial biosphere.
Therefore, even if we burned all the known "proven recoverable
reserves" of fossil fuels, we would not be able to double the at-
mospheric CO2 content, since one half of 750 is 375, which would
then only be enough to increase the atmospheric CO2 content by
50 percent or so.
Only if we resort to the "additional estimated resources" will we
be able to double the atmosphere's CO2 hands down. But again,
that assumption involves considerable uncertainty as to when
and under which economic and technological conditions the re-
covery of these additional estimated resources will be attempted.
If it is more expensive to dig that fuel out of the earth than to use
alternative energy sources, such as solar energy, nobody will at-
tempt to recover these fossil fuels anymore.
This may easily be the case in a few decades from now when the
recovery of the additional resources may become necessary to
THE REST OF THE STORY 41

meet the world's energy needs. Therefore, the prohibitive cost of


extracting fossil fuel from the earth may, sometime in the future,
cause a shift in energy use from fossil to solar or hydrogen, which
are too expensive at current prices and current technology. A tech-
nological breakthrough in cold fusion or hot fusion technology
might do the same much earlier - putting an end to the fossil age
and the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Those little examples show that we have to be careful when we
make assumptions about future energy use, in particular fossil
energy use, and the resulting CO2 emissions.
On the other hand, it also shows that there may indeed be limits
to fossil fuel supplies and that it is a good idea to use them rather
carefully: At the current rate of consumption, 6 billion tons per
year, the proven recoverable reserves will be exhausted in 120 to
130 years - and even faster if allowance is made for the increasing
fossil fuel use in coming decades.
Consequently, we do not conclude that it is impossible to double
the atmospheric CO2 content; we merely wish to point out where
the limits to such an increase might be.

The Crystal Ball:


Next Act, Methane

We next take a look at methane. The reasons for its increase are
somewhat obscure, as we pointed out above. Its increase appears
to show a fairly close correlation with the overall increase in world
population. For lack of a better estimate, most scientists continue
to link it to the growth in population, which has been and will
probably continue to be about 1.5 percent a year. In 50 years then,
the atmospheric concentration of methane would roughly double
and reach 3.2 ppm. This corresponds very closely to the the IPCC
BaU-scenario (see Fig. 6). Therefore, the relative importance of
methane as a greenhouse gas will continue to grow.

Next: N2O

The crystal ball becomes even hazier when it comes to N2O,


which luckily is not such an important greenhouse gas. For lack
of a better estimate, the past increase of 0.25 percent per year is
again extrapolated 50 years into the future, which results in an in-
crease of between 10 and 20 percent.
42 GLOBAL WARMING

No End In Sight: Ozone

The picture becomes even worse with ozone. As we pointed out


above, its contribution to global warming presumably is two-fold:
First, through an increase in short-wave solar radiation due to
stratospheric ozone depletion, and second, through an increase in
the greenhouse effect resulting from increasing tropospheric con-
centrations of ozone.
Obviously then, turning to the first point, if ozone depletion
does not progress at the rates feared by many, and if recent efforts
to ban CFCs (the depletion causing agent, see above) are indeed
successful, the increase in short-wave radiation would also not
occur - or not to the extent feared.
Turning to the second point, tropospheric ozone increase in the
last decade and a half has had a somewhat spotty and uneven pat-
tern, making it doubtful whether a global trend really exists.
One of the reasons for this is that almost all reliable ozone mea-
surements which show an increase are from either Europe or
North America - which casts serious doubts on the global validity
of any such trends because they are undoubtedly contaminated
by regional emissions of ozone pre-cursors not found in more re-
mote areas. In the US and Europe, except for some urban areas,
there is no significant trend in surface ozone over the last 10 to 15
years. There are some claims that global tropospheric ozone con-
centration has doubled over the last 100 years. But such claims
must be viewed with caution, since ozone concentrations in rela-
tively populated areas last century (from which we do have some
data) could not have been decisively lower than the concentrat-
ions in today's ultra clean areas for a variety of reasons related to
atmospheric chemistry. For the most part, ozone could not have
increased by very much in the last century. Therefore, claims that
ozone will go up by 50 percent or so over the next 50 years should
also be taken with a grain of salt.
Moreover, even if it were to increase, it would be difficult to
combat it - as local administrators of a number of large urban
areas in the US, particularly in southern California, have painfully
found out in recent years. There is no easy, clear-cut solution to the
problem of tropospheric ozone increase.
The problem is compounded by the quizzical fact that a reduct-
ion strategy which might work on a local and urban level might
not work at all on a regional or global scale - and vice versa. This
is due to the complex chemistry of tropospheric ozone formation,
THE REST OF THE STORY 43

which is not yet fully understood. All that we can say at present
is that, in all likelihood, a reduction of nitrous oxide emissions
from fossil fuel burning may curb a global ozone increase. But in
most of the industrialized countries, laws already exist to limit
nitrous oxide emissions from a variety of sources. It is therefore
rather difficult to assess future trends of ozone, only that it ap-
pears to be less than a suspected 50 percent increase over the next
50 years.
This assessment is supported by recent model calculations,
which arrive at a global tropospheric ozone increase of only 10-20
percent by 2020, making an increase of only 30 percent over a 50
year period more likely. We therefore tentatively assign an in-
crease of 30 percent to the next five decades, keeeping in mind that
no sufficiently sound scientific basis currently exists to justify eith-
er a number of 50 percent or, say, 10 percent; so we should tenta-
tively stick to model calculations which appear to be at least
somehwat reasonable.
Ozone essentially represents a riddle yet to be solved, and it
would not be surprising if those numbers changed drastically in
the years ahead.
This completes the first round of crystal ball gazing — on a
somewhat unsatisfactory final note.

Last Act: The CFCs

This brings us to the second round, in which we assess future


trends of the "industrial" substances, the CFCs. We will restrict
our deliberations largely to CFC-11 and CFC-12, the two main
ones. It may be noted in passing that other CFC compounds,
which occur in much smaller concentrations, may gain in impact
in coming decades.
At an estimated present contribution to the man-made green-
house effect of 20-25 percent, the CFCs are the second most im-
portant class of trace-gases thought to affect the climate. Underli-
ning their particular importance to the greenhouse debate is their
meteoric atmospheric growth rate of about 3-5 percent, compared
to 0.4-0.5 percent for CO2.
Were those growth rates to continue unchecked, the CFC con-
centrations would grow rapidly, and in only a few decades they
would become the most important greenhouse gas, eclipsing CO2
in importance.
Indeed, part of the recent concern over the trace-gas build-up,
44 GLOBAL WARMING

and the possibly ensuing changes in the climate, is due precisely


to the realization that not only does CO2 behave as a greenhouse
gas, but other gases do so as well, gases whose atmospheric abun-
dance is increasing much faster than CO2's. This moves up the
timetable: we see climatic warming approaching much faster than
had been expected. That is, the effects we expected to see due to
an increase in CO2 alone in, say, 2050, have now been moved up
to 2020-2030 or thereabouts.
However, as we saw a little while ago, the CFCs not only act as
a greenhouse gas; they may have a deleterious effect on strato-
spheric ozone as well.
To counter their role in the ozone depletion process, regulatory
action - pioneered by the US in the 1970s - has already been taken
in a number of countries - with the inadvertant, but most wel-
come, side-effect of also countering the man-made greenhouse ef-
fect.
Even more radical reductions are likely as a result of the "Mon-
treal Protocol", in which the signatory countries agreed upon a 30
percent reduction of CFC emissions, not to mention the "Helsinki
Declaration" in 1989, where some countries agreed on a complete
phase-out of CFCs by the year 2000. In fact, the phase-out club is
growing steadily, and the end of the "traditional" CFCs may be in
sight in the next 10-15 years. Clearly, much regulatory action is
still pending and may greatly influence future concentration of
CFCs, but it seems nevertheless likely that CFCs will not continue
to increase at past rates of 3-5 percent per year for the next five de-
cades; instead, those rates will continuously decline, may even be-
come negative, and the atmospheric concentration might actually
decline - possibly early next century. It may be pointed out that
the absolute concentration will continue to increase as long as the
source of those gases is stronger than their removal mechanism.
The problem is somewhat compounded by the fact that a large
amount of CFCs are still "slumbering" in appliances, i.e., refrige-
rators and air-conditioners currently still in use, which may even-
tually release their CFC into the atmosphere after the life of those
appliances has run out - and after there may have been a general,
world-wide ban on CFC use. Accordingly, even after taking var-
ious reduction plans into account, there still remains a wide scat-
ter in estimates on future CFC trends.
When considering various scenarios for the next 50 years, an
average growth rate of 1.5 percent may be a reasonable estimate
that straddles a higher growth rate of close to 3 percent in the early
THE REST OF THE STORY 45

decades and a growth rate of near zero - or less than zero - in the
later ones. This scenario would then be between "B" and "C,D" of
the IPCC (see Fig.6).
We are now in a position to give a tentative trace-gas scenario
for the next 50 years, which, like any other scenario, has to be
taken with a fair amount of caution; nonetheless, a good case can
be made that it represents a reasonable consensus view, which
avoids extremes in either direction:

CO2: 1.0 -1.5 (Emission rate)


CH4: 1.5
N9O: 0.25
O3: 0.5
CFCs: 1.5

We note that for CO2 the rate of increase is given for emissions,
while for the other trace-gases, it is given in actual atmospheric
concentration, for the following reason. As we shall see shortly,
the actual rate of atmospheric increase of CO2, the most important
greenhouse gas, depends on various interactions within the car-
bon cycle, which we will investigate prior to assigning a likely at-
mospheric rate of increase for CO2. We also note that the rate of
increase of the CFCs, the second most important greenhouse gas,
has been trimmed from 3-5 percent to 1.5 percent.
To get a feeling for the importance of that modification, let us
consider the total change in concentration after 50 years. In a 4
percent scenario, it would be over seven times of what it is today,
whereas in the 1.5 percent scenario it would roughly double.
Obviously, the regulatory action taken against the CFCs because
of their suspected role in ozone depletion will also have a pro-
nounced impact on their role as greenhouse gases, and therefore
constitutes a major move to thwart the greenhouse effect as well.
It appears then as if the time-table of all those dire predictions has
been moved farther into the future by quite a few years.
Is there some relief from the sweat box after all?
3.

On The Threshold To Climate


Modeling: The Carbon Cycle
So far in our quest to examine the scientific basis of the green-
house effect and the predictions of future global warming, we
have achieved the following:
1.We have found out what the greenhouse effect is - both natural
and man-made;
2. Found out which trace-gases and human activities contribute
to it; and
3. with a lot of if's, did some crystal-ball gazing and attempted to
find out what the future concentration of those gases might be.
Our next step now will be to assess in which way the climate
might change if the trace-gases do increase in the suggested man-
ner. The climatic changes we will be talking about are "what if"
scenarios. In other words, we will be considering changes which
might occur, if trace-gases increase in the manner and to the ex-
tent assumed by the climate-model predictions.
This is where the infamous "if present trends continue" enters
the game once again.
And we also draw closer to the central issues of the debate, i.e.,
climate predictions. No one would have become upset about
trace-gas increases as such, which is all we have discussed so far,
if it had not been for those dire climate predictions which stirred
up a storm. Consequently, one of our major endeavors will be to
examine those climate predictions: only if there is reason to be-
lieve that they are correct, is the concern about increases of trace-
gases justified.
Before we actually embark on a journey through the wonder-
land of climate prediction, there is still one job left to do from the
preceding chapter: We will examine what happens to CO2 once it
has been injected into the atmosphere by one or another carbon-
burning process.

The Carbon Cycle: Welcome To Life On Earth...


Many people may actually be very surprised to hear that car-
bon dioxide, which sounds so much like the air pollutant "sulfur
THE REST OF THE STORY 47

dioxide" or "nitrogen dioxide" is not a pollutant at all. Instead, it


is a substance without which life on earth as we know it would
not be possible. Carbon dioxide, and more generally, carbon, is
continuously cycled through nature and it is reflected in facet of
life on earth. In fact, it is the very building block of life. No plant
life, no animal life, including human life, would be possible were
it not for carbon dioxide. As you are sitting here reading this book,
you breathe, and as you breathe you exhale carbon dioxide, which
your body produces while oxidizing carbon compounds contain-
ed in the food you ate earlier in the day. And while humans beings
emit - breathe out - CO2 just as a motor vehicle does when it burns
gasoline, nature, - trees, flowers, corn fields - take it in through a
process called photosynthesis, in which plants breathe in CO2,
take the carbon out of the carbon dioxide, use it to build stems,
twigs, branches, leaves, blossoms; in turn they emit oxygen into
the environment and therefore give it back to us. But human
beings, in turn, use those plants, - tomatoes, apples, water melons
- they eat them and burn the carbon contained in them during the
metabolic process - breathing out CO2.
This is a very simple, but nevertheless illustrative example of a
carbon sub-cycle. There are many more of those cycles which link
up to what is called the "global carbon cycle".
Let us pause momentarily and consider this cycle one more
time. If the carbon dioxide we emit by breathing, driving to work
and heating our apartments is taken up by plants, in fact is neces-
sary for them to thrive, how can it be that carbon dioxide got such
a bad reputation recently? If it is that good for the biosphere,
shouldn't we be putting more of it into the atmosphere to make
plants grow better? Moreover, would that not possibly solve some
of the envisioned future food production problems in some parts
of the world? As we shall see in a little while, there is - as one of
the biggest ironies in the trace-gas/climatic change debate - an al-
most unconditional yes to those questions.
But the problem now at hand is that more CO2 enters the at-
mosphere than our biosphere can handle at the present time. In
addition, the biosphere is being continuously destroyed by defo-
restation and changing land use patterns, particularly in the tro-
pics, thereby reducing the base which can swallow excess CO2. On
the other hand, it has been suggested that the biosphere in mid-
latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere has been expanding in re-
cent decades - swallowing increasing amounts of CO2.
Moreover, what remains of the biosphere does respond to what
48 GLOBAL WARMING

is called CO2 fertilization, i.e., the increased production of bio-


mass through increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Some
scientists think that this process, which is easy to demonstrate in
experimental set-ups, has in fact already occurred in nature, and
can be deduced from the increasing amplitude in the wiggles in
the curve in Fig. 7, the curve showing the atmospheric carbon di-
oxide increase: Whenever the biosphere takes a deeper breath,
those wiggles grow larger.
However, much of the carbon taken up by plant tissue and fixed
to them in summer, is re-emitted into the atmosphere when leaves
fall off a tree, or when herbacious plants die and begin to rot. Rot-
ting means bacterial decay in which CO2 is produced and recycl-
ed into the atmosphere.
Some of the carbon is incorporated into the woody tissue of
trees and may stay there, not only for years and decades, but for
centuries and millenia, because that is how long some trees live.
Therefore, trees and other woody plants provide what is called a
"sink" in the carbon cycle as opposed to sources like burning of
fossil fuels and deforestation, microbial decay of leaves and other
organic matter.
But the relationship of the sink of CO2 fixation to woody tissues
is at present neither large enough to completely counterbalance
the source of fossil-fuel derived CO2, nor to even explain why
only half of it appears in the atmosphere. But if the biosphere does
not provide a sink large enough to account for the "missing car-
bon"- on the contrary, at present it is a source, and probably has
been for some decades - where does the carbon go?
Enter the oceans. They cover nearly three forths of the earth and
we may sometimes have the impression that it hardly matters
what happens on land, in terms of the carbon cycle and many
other geological and chemical cycles, but also with respect to cli-
mate, as we shall see.
The oceans play a key role in the global carbon cycle. They take
up CO2, put it into solution and make it available to a number of
physical, chemical, and biological processes.
Physically, carbon may be transported horizontally and verti-
cally by ocean currents. We know from observations and model-
ing studies that CO2 is primarily taken up by the oceans at high
latitudes and transported downwards and toward the equator.
Chemically, it interacts with calcium carbonate, the material sea-
shells are made of. Biologically, it is used to form plankton, which
eventually sinks to the sea floor, thereby removing carbon from
THE REST OF THE STORY 49

the ocean surface. All these processes combined remove carbon


from the atmosphere and provide the biggest sink for carbon. But
it still is not enough to balance the carbon budget, because, as we
know, atmospheric carbon is increasing.
Much the same as in the biosphere, but on a larger scale, the abil-
ity of the oceans to curb the increase of atmospheric carbon de-
pends on the rate - or speed - at which it is injected into the at-
mosphere and made available to the oceans. If the capability of the
oceans to swallow CO2 is less than the rate at which it is emitted
into the atmosphere, the oceans can not take it up and atmosph-
eric concentrations will increase at a rate dependent on the emis-
sion rate in a way illustrated in Fig. 8.
Fig. 8 presents results from model calculations incorporating
physical and chemical, but no biological processes in the oceans.
The interesting aspect of Fig. 8 is that the rate of atmospheric in-
crease slows dramatically as the input rate moves from 2 percent
to 0 percent, i.e. constant emissions, but changes only very little as
we move from a constant rate to a negative growth rate, in other
words a reduced emissions scenario.
Now, we recall from the previous chapter that our estimated
emissions growth rate for the next 50 years was between 1 and 1.5
percent, and we are therefore right in the middle of that territory
of fig. 8 where large variations in the atmospheric concentration
can be expected as a function of the input rate. Therefore, the fu-
ture atmospheric CO2 concentration will very critically depend on
whether emissions grow at, say, 1 or 2 percent.
If we then apply our 1-1.5 percent scenario to Fig. 8, a doubling
of CO2 would not occur in the foreseeable future, but sometime in
the early 22nd century. In a constant emission (no growth scen-
ario), doubling would occur around the year 2300 and in a 2.3 per-
cent scenario, near the middle of next century, as many assume.
Interestingly though, the 1-1.5 percent scenario would then ap-
proximately translate into a 0.5 percent atmospheric growth rate
- approximately a continuation of "present trends" - present mea-
ning the last 20 years. Referring once again to the IPCC scenarios,
we would not be somewhere in the middle between scenarios "A"
and "B" after 50 years, but closer to "B" than envisioned before
(see Fig. 6). It should be recalled, however, that the ocean's bio-
logy, which may further dampen and slow down, is not yet inclu-
ded in these calculations. Likewise, the terrestrial biosphere is also
not accounted for - which might act as a considerable sink. We
may therefore conclude that even though CO2 emissions from fos-
50 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 7. Historic CO2 concentrations observed at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.


SOURCE: U.S. Department of Energy, Report DOE/FE-0164.

sil fuel burning will continue to grow, the likelihood of a rapid and
dramatic CO2 build-up is smaller than previously thought, parti-
cularly if biomass burning has been a relatively large source in the
past and will be curbed in the future: a conclusion, which has ob-
vious ramifications concerning the time frame and the magnitude
of a possible greenhouse warming. We recall that the magnitude
and time frame of a greenhouse warming had to be altered once
before by the less than expected rate of increase of the second most
important greenhouse gases, the CFCs. Recalling the IPCC scenar-
ios, where we would now be closer to "B" on CO2, between "B"
and "C, D" on the CFCs and on "A" with Methane plus a small
contribution from Ozone, we might expect to end up closer to "B"
than to "A" as a rough estimate (see Fig. 6).
This is because CO2 will remain the predominent greenhouse
gas and large increases of methane will be balanced somewhat by
smaller increases of the CFCs, which are potentially more power-
ful greenhouse gases.
We may then ask again: Could it be that all those horrific im-
pacts on climate which we still have to assess, if they really occur
at all, would not occur as soon as a lot of people claim, but much
THE REST OF THE STORY 51

farther down the line, possibly giving us much more time to eith-
er combat them or adjust to them, and thereby take the tone of ur-
gency out of the voiced concerns? According to everything we
have heard so far, the answer can only be yes.
Let us now return to CO2 and analyze one aspect of an atmo-
spheric CO2 increase which is frequently overlooked altogether or
only dealt with in passing, but which we have briefly touched on
a little earlier, namely the impact on the biosphere.
CO2 does assume a special role indeed, since, in contrast to all
other trace-gases emitted from fossil fuel burning, it is not a pol-
lutant with potential detrimental effects on the biosphere such as
SO2 or acid rain, or photochemical oxidants, but a gas essential
and beneficial to the thriving of our biosphere.
Therefore, by emitting CO2 into the environment, man is not
harming it, but rather benefitting it, certainly over any CO2 range
that might possibly occur as a result of continuing fossil fuel bur-
ning.
This is a fact which many people have a hard time grappling
with, especially since it has been engrained in people's minds that
man's actions could only harm the environment. This one-sided
doomsday view of the world is particularly prevalent among
those who, because of their ideological position, maintain that any
change, as long as it is man induced, is bad per se and ought to be
resisted. Surely, this is a philosophical point and has nothing
whatsoever to do with the relevant science. Since we are concern-
ed with the scientific basis of the greenhouse effect and matters
related to it, we will not dwell on those philosophical aspects but
rather return to science and present an image of the biosphere the
way it may evolve under increasing CO2 concentrations.
There are in fact a large number of studies which have attemp-
ted to evaluate the possible impact of an enhanced CO2 level on a
variety of plants, both natural and cultivated.
The general conclusion of those studies is overwhelmingly pos-
itive on CO2 and may be summarized as follows:
Increasing CO2 levels lead to increases in photosynthesis, plant
weight, plant branch numbers, fruit numbers, fruit size, plant tol-
erance of atmospheric pollution and plant water use efficiency.
While the first factors simply reflect CO2's role as a fertilizer, the
last two factors are related to the way a plant operates. It breathes
through tiny openings in its leaves, called the stomatae, which
may open or close depending on the environmental conditions.
Increased CO2 acts as an anti-transpirant, causing the stomata
52 GLOBAL WARMING

openings to close partly and take in less air pollutants and lose
less water through transpiration, factors which may be important
under drier, but CO2 enriched conditions.
Those positive effects may not be as large though, if other nu-
trients such as nitrogen or phosphorous are in insufficient supply.
But curiously enough, nitrogen has not been a limiting factor in
recent decades - at least not in the more industralized regions of
the Northern Hemisphere. This is because nitrogen emissions are
another by-product of fossil fuel burning; and even though nitro-
gen emissions are considered air pollutants, they do have a ferti-
lizing effect on plants, and therefore add to the general stimulus
given to plants by the increasing level of CO2.
Some scientists claim that weeds may grow better under a high
CO2 scenario at the expense of agricultural plants, thereby nullify-
ing - at least partly - the expected positive impact on plant growth.
The final vote on this has not yet been cast, but as far as trees are
concerned, there is growing evidence that they tend to reap a par-
ticularly rich CO2-bonus, since they accumulate carbon and grow
bigger year after year - which weeds do not do, since they are
mostly annuals.
Furthermore, when the additional impact of higher tempera-
tures is taken into account, which is expected to occur as a result
of an increase in the greenhouse effect, it is sometimes claimed
that plant diseases may increase and adversely affect any
potential gain from a CO2 enriched atmosphere.
Here, another factor comes on stage, namely the impact of hig-
her temperatures on plant growth. We are not yet in a position to
determine exactly what higher temperatures may result from the
additional greenhouse effect, but we may take a quick glance at
existing experimental work that has been conducted to investi-
gate relationships between plant growth at high CO2 scenarios as
a function of temperature (see Fig. 9). Does it really come as a sur-
prise that the higher the temperatures, the higher the growth ben-
efits, at least over the range of temperatures observed on earth.
Remarkably, this is even true for tropical temperatures and it part-
ially reflects the fact that the species variety of the biosphere in-
creases as temperature and moisture increase. This point will be
taken up later on, when we assess the possible impact of a climate
change on nature, the environment, and human activities.
After examining possible future trace-gas scenarios and various
ways carbon dioxide may interact with our natural chemical and
biological cycles, and trying to determine how soon a dramatic
THE REST OF THE STORY 53

Figure 8. Growth of atmospheric C02 concentration as a function of the emis-


sions growth rate.
Source: Maier-Reimer and Hasselmann, Climate Dynamics, 1987.

build-up of greenhouse gas may occur in the atmosphere, we have


found out that the very rapid build-up feared not so long ago may
not materialize, because we now know that the main greenhouse
gases, CO2 and the CFCs will in all likelihood grow much slower
than was projected so far. In the case of CO2, this is due to a re-
analysis of future energy use scenarios, but also to newer model-
ing work which explains the absorbing role of the oceans under
different CO2 emission scenarios and, in the case of CFCs, it is the
regulatory action taken against them because of their role in strat-
ospheric ozone depletion. This action has the double benefit of
also containing the greenhouse effect. Looking again at the IPCC
scenarios, our "BaU" scenario would then be lower than theirs.

Computer Wonderland:
Welcome To The World Of Climate Modeling

We have now found out how trace-gas concentrations may


evolve in the atmosphere, and have therefore laid the ground-
work to address the central issue of the current greenhouse de-
bate: What will happen to climate if the greenhouse gas build-up
continues? Do we already see some effects due to the greenhouse
gas build-up which has already taken place?
54 GLOBAL WARMING

In this debate, the ability of computer climate models to predict


future climate changes resulting from increased trace-gas levels
takes center stage.
Everything we have heard so far in the media about detrimental
climate changes thought to occur from increased trace-gas levels is
based on computer model calculations which currently provide
the best possible means to estimate future climate changes.
Those computer models were developed over the past few de-
cades to varying degrees of sophistication.
To give you a little bit of detail, there are three major types of
models: First, the so-called energy balance models, EBMs, which
only consider surface energy fluxes; then second, RCMs, radiative
convective models, which also take account of convective air
exchange with the atmosphere above a surface point; and finally,
the GCMs, general circulation models, which are the ultimate in
sophistication and include everything from air currents at various
levels in the atmosphere to moisture flow, cloud formation, rain,
snow, evaporation, sometimes even the oceans and seasonal and
diurnal cycles, in short, the whole works. All of the research we
will be considering here, and which is of any relevance to the de-
bate, is based on GCM results. Those models are in fact very si-
milar to the ones used by the Weather Service to compute fore-
casts for the next weekend, but are extended to include processes
which do not have a bearing on tomorrow's weather, but are cri-
tically important to climate. Those processes are, of course, the
changing composition of the atmosphere and the resultant change
in radiative energy, but also exchanges with the surface, such as
evaporation.
To make one thing clear, however: no matter how good those
models are, they are still only models, incomplete approximations
of the multitude of physical, chemical, and even biological pro-
cesses which take place on earth, and they are currently far from
including all processes which may be important to climate. For
one thing, we do not even know what they are, and some of the
ones we do know about are not yet incorporated into the models
because of a variety of computational constraints.
On a forecasting level, we learn to appreciate this every once in
a while when a weather forecast, based on computer models, goes
bust and instead of sunshine, we have rain on a weekend.
Clearly then, in all types of computer-based weather and cli-
mate forecasts there is considerable room for improvement.
Now, a climate "forecast" is achieved by letting the model run
THE REST OF THE STORY 55

not only for the next weekend but straight out for the next 30 or
50 years.
Let us digress for a moment and define what "climate" is. Cli-
mate is the average state of the atmosphere and of such parameters
as temperature or precipitation, but also the variability and the
range of those parameters over an extended period of time. It can
be defined for any given location or larger geographical areas. The
time period chosen for defining those averages is usually 30 years,
but no less than 20 years. When using the term "climate", it is im-
plicitly assumed that climate does not change very much from one
30-year-period to the next, in other words, climate is somewhat of
a constant. This in itself is an assumption of limited validity, as we
will see later on, because climate thus defined is indeed conti-
nuously changing at time scales ranging from several decades to
centuries and millenia.

Figure 9. The influence of ambient air temperature on plants growing in a


C02 enriched atmosphere (300 ppm higher than present levels, corresponding
to a C02 doubling). The growth modification factor indicates how growth
rates vary compared to the present C02 concentration at a given temperature.
Source: Idso et al., 1989; in CDIAC Communications.
56 GLOBAL WARMING

A change of climate would be a permanent change in a climate


parameter from one 30-year-period - or an average over a number
of such periods - to the following 30-year periods, where the
change is of sufficient magnitude to be characterized as such.
This magnitude depends on the natural variability of the para-
meter. Therefore, if there is a run of seasons or years much short-
er than 30 years, which is colder or warmer, rainier or drier than
the 30 year average, we do not speak of a climate change yet, but
rather of short-term climatic fluctuations.
Consequently, the occurrence of a run of extremely cold winters
in the late 70s constituted a climate change as little as the string
of extremely hot and dry summers in the '30s, because climate did
subsequently return to its long-term norms. The droughts of the
'30s and the cold winters of the late '70s are true examples of
short-term climatic variations.
The climate models and the greenhouse debate then are not con-
cerned with those short-term climate variations, but rather with
long-term, lasting changes which occur on time scales of a num-
ber of decades and even centuries.
Running a climate model takes a lot of time even on the fastest
and best super-computers, which are very expensive, and there
are therefore only a handful of research institutions around the
world sufficiently funded and staffed to perform those calculat-
ions. Each group of researchers models the atmosphere a little dif-
ferently, or characterizes the atmospheric physics in a somewhat
different manner, and hence the results are somewhat different
too, especially when they deal with regional detail - and regional
means anything under a thousand miles.
Nonetheless, no matter which model result we consider - after
it has been run to simulate about 30 years worth of a doubled CO2
climate - one basic result is the same from all models: It will get
warmer.
Let us now consider what we can expect, according to those
model calculations, if we double the atmospheric CO2 content - or
increase the concentration of all trace-gases to such an extent that
it will be the equivalent of a CO2 doubling.
We will do this by looking at the modeling results of the three
largest US institutions involved in climate modeling, namely the
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), NASA's God-
dard Institute of Space Sudies (GISS) and the National Center of
Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which all run state of the art, so-
phisticated GCMs, whose results are the very heart and soul of the
THE REST OF THE STORY 57

current climate debate and which are similar to those arrived at


by other modeling groups around the world.
At this point we will not go into any detail of the modeling and
computational procedures applied in those GCMs, because they
are very complex and are somewhat beside the point here for most
purposes. There are a few items, however, which are of sufficient
importance and to which we will return later on.
We are now going to present the image of a future climate at
twice today's atmospheric CO2 level, and do this by giving a con-
sensus view from the models, first on a global basis, and then in a
little more regional detail as far as this is warranted by the hori-
zontal resolution of the models.
In a 2-times-CO2 climate, the best available model calculations
expect:
1. Global temperatures will be 6-8° F higher than before we emit-
ted trace-gases into the atmosphere.
2. At higher latitudes, this temperature increase would be 2-3
times as large as the global average, and in low latitudes, it
would be less than the global average.
3. The temperature increase would be larger in winter than in
summer.
4. Precipitation is expected to increase by about 10 percent on a
global average, but is expected to increase more in mid- and
high latitudes, remain the same in the subtropics and increase
some in the tropics.
5. Furthermore, because of thermal expansion of the oceans, the
sea level is expected to rise by 1-3 feet.
Those general results are shown in Fig. 10 and Fig. 11. The In-
tergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body in-
stituted to probe into the greenhouse effect, arrived at conclusions
which are broadly comparable. Some of their results and as-
sumptions are shown in Fig. 12. According to them, the equiva-
lent CO2 doubling may occur by the year 2030. Temperatures may
have increased by 3-6° F by then. Additional warming is expect-
ed in the following decades until "equilibrium warming" is
reached.
The "eqilibrium warming" is the temperature increase calcula-
ted by climate models after all feedback mechanisms have acted
and after all delaying processes have ended.
One major example for such a feedback mechanism is the water-
vapor feedback loop. It works like this: an initial increase of green-
house forcing due to a trace-gas increase evaporates water vapor
58 GLOBAL WARMING

from the oceans. However, water vapor itself is also a greenhouse


gas, and therefore the additional water vapor in the atmosphere
causes more water vapor to evaporate (because if ocean tempera-
tures rise, evaporation rises) and so on until a new equilibrium of
the energy fluxes is established. This feedback alone is important
enough to account for roughly two thirds of the additional green-
house effect. In other words, without this feedback, temperatures
according to model predictions would only increase by one third
of the value after feedbacks. This will be important to remember,
because it means that the full effect will only become apparent
after the oceans have warmed up and have provided the atmo-
sphere with additional water vapor. Therefore, ocean tempera-
tures and atmospheric water vapor content should provide
valuable monitors of greenhouse induced climate changes.
The envisioned temperature increases would indeed be very
large, were they to occur, and put earth into a climate it has not
seen in over 100,000 years, eclipsing by a large margin tempera-
ture variations of the last few thousand years, which in all like-
lihood have only been between ± 4° F.
Before we get into some of the possible drastic consequences
this might have on nature and human activities in general, we will
first consider the impact of such a climatic change on the U.S.
We do this by looking at the expected changes in temperature
and precipitation at eight major US cities, each representing a dif-
ferent climatological region. Those data are shown separately for
summer and winter in Table 8.
The values given here have been interpolated from published
results of the three major GCMs described above. To give you an
idea of the degree of variation from model to model on a regional
scale, both an average of all three models and the results from the
individual model are given.
The variability among models is too large at present to put
much confidence in any individual forecast for a given location.
Therefore, we will consider the consensus or average forecast of
the three main U.S. GCMs for the eight cities chosen.
Surprisingly, the average warming at all cities is nearly the same
in winter as in summer, namely 6.8 and 7.0° F respectively. Even
the geographical variations are comparatively small with a some-
what larger warming expected north within the continental inter-
ior, in Minneapolis and Chicago. It may be noted in passing that
those temperature increases would be considered significant
within the framework of the models, since the average error of the
THE REST OF THE STORY 59

modeled and currently observed climate is in the neighborhood


of 5° F. Therefore, the modeled temperature increases for a CO2
doubling are much larger than the expected error margin. Accord-
ing to those model calculations, Chicago would enter into a cli-
mate - as far as temperature is concerned - which is presently ob-
served in central Tennessee. This may be a welcome change for
Chicagoans, who occasionally suffer from atrocious winter weat-
her, but the summer swelter, now confined to the Deep South may
extend all the way up to Chicago. New Orleans may then be in for
even worse news as winters get milder, but the entire summer half
year would get incredibly hot and sultry, turning New
Orleans' climate into today's Miami.
In those two examples, we only considered temperature chan-
ges and no precipitation changes. But of course, it is of utmost im-
portance in the climatic change debate not only to consider one
parameter such as temperature, but other important parameters
as well, the main one being precipitation. No analysis of climate
change can be complete without considering precipitation. For in-
stance, it would be foolish to state outright: "The climate of Chi-
cago will be that of Nashville, Tennessee" by only considering
temperature. If precipitation decreased drastically under a warm-
ing scenario, Chicago's climate would not be like Nashville's but
rather like the one of Dallas or Amarillo, Texas.
Let us therefore consider the modeled precipitation changes. As
we did before, we will look at an average of three GCM forecasts
for the eight cities in Table 8, and we first do this for the summer
months of June, July, and August. Those months are in the middle
of the growing season, a time particularly susceptible to precipi-
tation changes.
We notice at the very beginning that there is a remarkable scat-
ter from model to model in the predicted precipitation changes. In
Chicago, for instance, one model predicts a decrease of almost
8/10 of an inch per month, while the remaining two forecast an
increase of 4/10 of an inch per month.
The consensus forecast for all stations calls for a decrease of
monthly precipitation by less than 1/10 of an inch. The average
monthly precipitation of the stations used here is approximately
3-4 inches. Therefore, the forecast precipitation change is only a
very small fraction of today's observed precipitation.
If we furthermore consider the margins of error of the modeled
present-day-precipitation, we realize that they are many times
higher than the modeled precipitation changes resulting from a
60 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 10. Climate model projections for a CO2 doubling. Shown is the geo-
graphic distribution of temperature changes computed by three leading cli-
mate modeling groups (GFDL, GISS, and NCAR, see text for further details).
(in °C;1°C = 1.8° F).

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Report DOE/ER-0237.


THE REST OF THE STORY 61

doubling of CO2.
From this we can only conclude that, on the basis of current
model forecasts for the locations considered here, there will be no
significant precipitation changes during the summer months.
Looking at winter precipitation, the situation is somewhat diffe-
62 GLOBAL WARMING

rent, insofar as there is a slight to moderate increase in modeled


precipitation, particularly at those locations where there was a
decrease in summer. In general, precipitation seems to increase
over the northern half of the country (see Table 8). The increase in
winter precipitation appears to be larger than the occasional
decrease in summer. Since winter precipitation is decisive for
water management (most aquifers get recharged in winter) it is
hard to construe a worsening water supply situation on the basis
of current model forecasts; the available evidence rather points to
an improvement in most areas. This appears to be the case even in
those areas which already are under water stress today, namely
the desert southwest (see Table 8).

If You Stuck Your Head Out The Window,


Would You Not Feel it or Sense It?

Since we are now in the middle of "what if " wonderland, i.e.,


what happens if climate model forecasts are right, we will now
consider - in passing - how humans beings might perceive such a
drastic temperature increase.
The field in meteorology concerned with the impact of weather
and climate on man and his health is called biometeorology. In
biometeorology, several indexes have been developed which at-
tempt, one way or another, to measure "climatic stress" on hu-
mans beings. Usually this is done by selecting a base temperature
at which most people appear to be comfortable (there may be
some argument as to what such a temperature might be) and then,
for a given location, adding up the departures from that tempera-
ture in terms of either hourly, daily or monthly values. One ex-
ample for this procedure is the heating/cooling degree-day-
index. Here, a base temperature of 65° F is chosen and the sums of
the fluctuations of daily average temperatures above 65° are cool-
ing degree days and those below 65° are heating degree days.
In addition, human beings usually do not respond to tempera-
ture stress in a linear fashion, but rather feel disproportionally
stressed the more the actual temperature moves away from the
temperature they feel most comfortable at. This phenomenon is
often accounted for by letting temperature-stress increase with
the square of the temperature difference to the "comfortable tem-
perature."
THE REST OF THE STORY 63

Table 8: Climate model predictions for eight American cities


in case of an atmospheric CO2-doubling

Projected temperature changes (in ° C) (1° C = 1.8° F)

W inter Sum mer


GPDL GISS NCAR Mean GFDL GISS NCAR Mean

Minneapolis 7.0 5.0 2.0 4.7 8.0 3.0 2.5 4.5


Chicago 6.0 5.0 2.0 4.3 7.0 3.0 2.0 4.0
Denver 5.0 5.0 2.0 4.0 7.0 3.5 2.5 4.3
New York 6.0 4.0 3.0 4.3 6.0 3.0 2.0 3.7
Los Angeles 4.0 4.5 2.0 3.5 4.0 4.0 2.5 3.5
Phoenix 4.0 5.0 2.0 3.7 5.0 4.0 2.5 3.8
New Orleans 4.0 4.0 2.5 3.5 4.0 3.5 2.5 3.3
Miami 4.0 3.5 2.5 3.3 4.0 3.0 2.5 3.2

Projected precipitation changes (in mm/day) (1 mm = .04 in)

W inter Summer
GPDL GISS NCAR Mean GFDL GISS NCAR Mean

Minneapolis 0.5 0.4 0.7 0.5 -1.0 0.2 -0.1 -0.3

Chicago 0.4 0.3 1.0 0.6 -0.7 0.4 0.4 0.03


Denver 0.2 0.3 1.0 0.5 -1.0 -0.1 -0.1 -0.4
New York 0.4 0.3 1.1 0.6 -0.5 0.0 0.2 -0.1
Los Angeles 0.1 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.16
Phoenix 0.1 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.1
New Orleans -0.1 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 -0.2 0.4 0.0 0.06
Miami -0.2 -0.2 -1.0 -0.5 -0.4 0.3 0.0 -0.03

Source. After data from U.S Department of Energy, Report DOE/ER-0237.

Example:

Let us assume you feel comfortable at 70° F. Then at 50°, 20°


lower, you would get somewhat uncomfortable, but at 30°, an-
other 20° lower, you would not simply be twice as uncomfortable,
but four times as uncomfortable and freeze tremendously if you
were unprotected, not to mention what would happen at 10° F,
wind-chill factor excluded.
One such example of a comfort-index is presented in Fig 13. It
64 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 11. Climate model projections for a CO2 doubling. Shown is the geo-
graphic distribution of precipitation changes computed by three leading cli-
mate modeling groups. (GFDL, GISS and NCAR, see text for further details).
(in mm per day; 1mm = .04in).

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Report DOE/ER-0237.


THE REST OF THE STORY 65

shows, in relative units, the level of comfort you - or an average


person - would experience under the presently observed climate
at any given location on the map.
The scaling is such that the higher the numerical value, the more
comfortable you feel.
If we now take up the examples we used before, and let Chicago
66 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 12. Simulation of global warming between 1850 and 1990 thought to
have resulted from the observed trace gas increase and projection to the year
2100 using the IPCC "BaU" trace gas scenario.
Source: IPCC, 1990.

have the climate of Nashville, that would result in an overall in-


crease in comfort almost entirely due to the milder winters.
If, on the other hand, we let New Orleans have the climate of
Miami, we would decrease the comfort there almost entirely due
to the hotter, unbearable summers.
We realize, then, that climate change, if it progresses the way the
models predict, is a mixed bag indeed, since it appears that peo-
ple in the southern states will on average suffer under this change,
whereas people in the northern states will actually feel more com-
fortable in the warmer climate of the future.
It may be noted that no allowance for humidity has yet been
made here. If this is done, as it should be, the pattern is liable to
change somewhat.
Similar exercises could be carried out on the impact of higher
temperatures on a number of human activities, but we will not
further pursue that here, since we are still in "what if" land and it
would be counterproductive to spend a lot of time and effort as-
sessing the impact of a change we do not even know is coming or
not.

Is It Only On TV Or Do The Models Show It?

Let us instead direct our attention to four specific items related


THE REST OF THE STORY 67

to the climate change issue which frequently come up in public


debate, and which are most commonly cited when it comes to de-
scribing the negative impacts of global warming:
1. The shifting of climatic zones
2. The melting of polar ice caps
3. Rising sea levels and inundation of coastal low lands
4. Increasing frequency and severity of droughts in the Ameri-
can corn belt
At this point we will only be concerned with the question of
whether or not these impacts can be deduced from current best
available model predictions, but we will not be concerned (yet)
with the question of whether we can already see any such effects
or really have to expect them. What we are trying to do, then, at
this point is determine whether there is any basis in model pre-
dictions for the horror stories one hears so much about in the
media, or if some of the model results got lost or altered in the pro-
cess of transmission from scientific community to the media.

1. The shifting of climatic zones

Life on earth is adapted to the way climatic zones are arranged.


The position of those climatic zones is determined by the large
scale atmospheric circulation: The tropical zones along and wit-
hin some distance of the equator with their frequent and abun-
dant rainfall, the trade wind region, the subtropical high pressure
belt with hyperarid regions, such as the Sahara desert, at a di-
stance of roughly 30° latitude, followed, towards the poles, by the
prevailing westerlies, in which most of the U.S. is located, and in
which low pressure systems track eastward, guided by the polar
jet stream at about 50°.
The position of the main features of the general circulation is de-
termined first of all by earth's rate of rotation; second, by the tem-
perature contrast between equator and pole; and third, by the dis-
tribution of land and sea on earth.
Notably the location of the subtropical jet stream, which go-
verns the position of the subtropical high pressure belts and there-
fore the arid zones, but also the location of the polar jet, which is
much more variable, and determines which way the rain bearing
storm systems move, depend on the temperature gradient
between the equator and pole in the following manner: If the
gradient (or contrast) decreases, the jet streams move toward the
poles; if it increases, the jet streams move towards the equator.
68 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 13. Geographical distribution of a climate stress index over the U.S.
The index is defined such that high values indicate low stress whereas low va-
lues indicate high stress. Low values over the northern U.S. are a result of cold
winter weather and low values over the southern U.S. are caused by hot sum-
mer weather.
Source: R.E. Munn, Biometeorological Methods, 1970.

Therefore, a changing position of the jet stream as a result of a


change of the equator-to-pole temperature gradient would result
in an alteration of the circulation regime, either turning a dry re-
gion into a wet one or vice versa. It may again be noted that it is
not so much the impact of the changing temperature itself which
has an adverse effect, but rather the changing pattern of water
availability, since so much of our life depends on water.
As we saw before, and according to model predictions, in a cli-
mate warmed up by trace-gases, surface regions near the poles
would warm up much more than regions near the equator, the-
reby reducing the temperature gradient between equator and pole
- which would then result in a poleward shift of the jet streams by
a few degrees latitude. Hence, regions at the poleward boundary
of the subtropical dry areas would experience less frequent incur-
sions of the polar jet stream with its rain-yielding storm systems.
The climate zones would shift - with particularly detrimental ef-
fects at the equatorward margins of the westerlies, which would
then turn into arid zones.
So far so good. Turning again to the models, there is one small
item someone must have overlooked: It is not the temperature
gradient of the surface layers which is important for the position
THE REST OF THE STORY 69

of climatic zones, but the temperature gradient of the entire tro-


posphere. And here the models almost unanimously come up
with a very surprising result: Even though there is a large warm-
ing of the surface layers of high latitudes, and small warming at
low latitudes, there is large warming in the upper troposphere at
low latitudes and only small warming at high latitudes. As a re-
sult, the warming averaged through the entire troposphere is fai-
rly uniform, so that the gradient does not change very much, even
though there is warming everywhere.
Consequently, none of the models expects a shift in the position
of the major jet streams and of the way the climatic zones are de-
lineated by the circulation regimes. The warming itself does not
constitute a shift in a climatic zone the way it is often portrayed
by the media. This misconception probably arises from the simple
notion that if it gets warmer at any given point, the climate there
will be replaced by a climate that is normally observed some di-
stance closer to the equator. But to repeat this point, the climatic
zones are defined not only by temperature, but also, and in some
cases more importantly so, by precipitation or water availability
in general, which is tied not so much to temperature alone but to
the position of a geographic area within the general circulation of
the atmosphere.
To elucidate this point, think of two places in the US which are
roughly at the same latitude and which have approximately the
same average annual temperature, namely Los Angeles, Califor-
nia and Savannah, Georgia. As anyone knows, "It never rains in
Southern California", whereas there are lots of "Rainy nights in
Georgia". In bare numbers, L.A. receives about 15 inches of
precipitation and Savannah close to 50 inches, resulting in rather
sparse vegetation in Southern California and a lush biosphere rich
in species abundance in Georgia. The obvious difference in cli-
mate, despite similar temperatures, is entirely due to the different
position of the two cities within the general circulation.

2. The melting of polar ice caps

Almost nothing in the global warming debate heats up the public


like "the melting of the polar ice caps" and the ensuing negative im-
pacts of rising sea levels, inundation of coastal low-lands and so on.
It sounds so horrific and truly threatening, and it is still one of
the biggest misconceptions about the impact of the greenhouse ef-
fect. Why? Well, here it goes:
70 GLOBAL WARMING

Let us first differentiate between the two polar ice caps on earth,
i.e., the one in the Arctic and the one in the Antarctic.
The arctic "ice-cap" is an ocean which is frozen over and which
is surrounded by the land masses of the North American and Eu-
rasian continents. The northpolar ice-cap is sea ice which is float-
ing on the ocean.
The GCM model results, in a 2-times-CO2 scenario, expect this
sea ice to melt somewhat and to retreat polewards by about 200
miles, but never to melt substantially or even completely.
What would the implications of that melting be then for the sea
level? Exactly none.
This is simply because, as the floating ice melts, it only takes back
the sea water volume it displaced when it was floating on the
water as ice. You don't believe it?
Pour yourself two fingers of sour mash, on the rocks, fill it up
with soda until the ice cubes completely float, (For the ladies: It
works on Daiquiries too) and then, even though it breaks your
heart, don't drink it, but let it sit until the ice has completely melt-
ed, and watch the waterline in the glass over time.
You will notice that even though you had a substantial amount
of ice in your highball glass, the water level after the ice has melt-
ed remains the same.
Now you may enjoy your drink, if you can stand it stale.
In principle, the same thing would happen to the floating sea ice
and sea levels in a global warming scenario.
The situation would be somewhat different, however, in the
Southern Hemisphere, because there the ice cap sits on a continent
which is surrounded by the oceans. The waters surrounding Ant-
arctica also freeze over and, as in the Northern Hemisphere, the
models expect some melting of that sea ice as well, pushing the ice
line back towards Antarctica. In terms of sea level rise, we know
by now what is (not) going to happen.
You may ask, why is there no more melting? Simply because the
warming envisioned by the models to result from a CO2 doubling
is not large enough to melt more.
Let us assume the wintertime greenhouse warming over an area
of Arctic and Antarctic ice is 20°F. During the winter, the actual
temperature over most iced-up areas is substantially below 0° F.
In other words, even if the temperature rose by as much as 20° F,
we would still be very much below the melting point of 32° F.
Furthermore, the large warming expected by most models in
high latitudes must not be viewed as the cause of the ice melt but
THE REST OF THE STORY 71

rather as the result of it - for the following reason. As we saw be-


fore, all GCMs compute their climate parameters on a net of grid
points, which are spaced, depending on the model, 500 to 1000 km
(300 to 600 mi) apart. We also saw that a sea-ice melt is expected
to extend about 200 miles toward the poles. Over these areas,
which would then be ice-free - 200 miles - temperatures would be
in the mid-30s, typical values for the open arctic ocean, whereas
before, over the ice, they were sustantially below 0° F. It thus fol-
lows that the warming which occurs in the narrow de-iced strip is
possibly of the order of 40° F. This very large warming now is, by
the averaging procedures applied in the models, drawn out to the
neighboring grid points, spaced 300 to 600 miles or 5°-10° latitude
apart, giving the impression that a large area between latitudes
60° and 80° is warming up — not by 40° F but possibly by a still
substantial 20° F.
Therefore, because of the internal workings of the GCMs, a war-
ming is predicted which would never exist in reality, even if the
general warming projected by the models were to occur.
The actual retreat of the sea-ice would result from the more mo-
derate warming of high latitude oceans, which might be in the
neighborhood of 5° F.
However, there is still more to come in the land of counter-in-
tuitive phenomena.
We mentioned earlier that the Antarctic is a block of ice sitting
on a continent. In fact, more than 90 percent of all the ice anywhere
on earth is located there. (Greenland accounts for only 5 percent,
the rest is in various glaciers around the world.)
Given the alarm over global warming, which is supposed to be
particularly large at high latitudes, scientists have tried to esti-
mate what would happen to the antarctic ice shield in a 2-times-
CO2 scenario.
As we have just seen, there would be no significant melting of
that shield itself, but only some melting of the sea-ice surrounding
Antarctica. If the Antarctic ice shield itself melted completely,
which could only happen under much higher temperatures than
expected from a CO2 doubling, and which would take thousands
of years because of the slowness of response of that large an ice
mass to changed conditions, sea levels would rise by 150', a figure
sometimes seen in the media. But clearly, this is not one of the con-
cerns of the current debate and may only underscore the fact that
things sometimes appear about the greenhouse effect in the media
which have a questionable scientific basis at best.
72 GLOBAL WARMING

Back to the antarctic ice shield. Scientists analyzing its response


to a temperature increase which GCMs expect from a CO2 doub-
ling found out - perhaps to the disgruntlement of many dooms-
day preachers - that it would grow and not melt.
Now, why is that?
First, as we have seen, since Antarctica is quite cold, even a sub-
stantial warming would not result in any significant ice melt.
But second, and more important, since the air over and around
Antarctica is supposed to warm up so much, it can hold much
more water vapor than it can now. The capability of air to hold
water vapor roughly doubles with each temperature increase of
20° F (see Fig. 2). Some of that water vapor would be converted to
precipitation and fall out - at the prevailing temperatures in the
Antarctic - as snow. That snow would simply stay there and ac-
cumulate - eventually thickening the ice pack.
Yet this is in essence a net transfer of water from the oceans to
the Antarctic, where it may remain for thousands of years - taken
away from the oceans - and actually lowering the sea level by
about a foot.
Although this seems completely surprising to many people, cli-
matologists have known about it for quite some time. In fact, there
is some research which indicates that, over geologic times, there
were periods when the sea level was much lower during warm
than during colder episodes. This obviously runs counter to the
expected sea level rise thought to result from global warming. You
might then ask, since the polar ice caps are not going to melt, and
in fact may even grow (not in extent but in thickness), why is the
sea level expected to rise?
There are two reasons. One, sea water expands as it warms, as
all things do. Most of the expected rise in sea level is related to the
envisioned warming of the oceans.
Two, because of the expected general warming in the interior of
the continents, some melting of glaciers is thought to occur which
would also add to the sea level rise. How much rise from melting
of inland glaciers is highly debatable, but definitely less than the
rise from ocean warming. But this is minimal with respect to the
rise expected due to ocean warming.

3. Rising sea levels and inundation of coastal low lands

One of the most serious impacts of a global warming must be


seen - if correct - in the rising sea level.
THE REST OF THE STORY 73

In the preceding paragraph we have already seen that outland-


ish claims of a sea level rise of the order of 150' are not supported
by modeling results of any possible climate change which might
occur from rising trace-gas levels in the next 100-300 years. Such
a rise would require a melting of the whole antarctic ice sheet,
which no one expects to happen even from a severalfold increase
of CO2. Even a melting of the so-called West Antarctic ice shield,
which rests on a sloping rock plateau below sea-level is not
expected from any warming of the magnitude envisioned for the
next few centuries.
If it melted, sea levels may rise by about 15'.
What is expected then is a rise of 1 to 3', mainly as a result of
thermal expansion of the ocean waters and some glacial melt in
the continental interiors.
But even a rise of only 3' would pose almost insurmountable
problems to many nations, including the US. It has been estima-
ted that the damage of this seemingly small rise to a city such as
San Francisco alone would be in the billions of dollars.
The picture becomes even gloomier if we consider countries like
Bangla Desh, which might be flooded to a considerable extent,
without having the technological and financial clout to do any-
thing about it.
At this point we will not go too much deeper into the gloomy
details; suffice it to say that if the model predictions of 6-8° F tem-
perature rise were correct, there is a possibility of an ensuing sea
level rise of the order of 1-3' resulting from thermal expansion of
ocean waters and glacial melt in continental interiors.
Recently, scientists seem to have more closely considered the
real impact of higher temperatures on polar ice shields, and have
consequently lowered their estimates on greenhouse related sea
level rise to about a foot or so for a CO2-doubling. Indeed, obser-
vations indicate that ice shields in Greenland and the Antarctic
have been growing in recent years. Newer model calculations
have lowered estimates of future sea level rise even more. Accord-
ing to the calculations presented in Fig. 31, the sea level would
only rise by an insignificant 1-2" over the next 50 years. Less
gloom by the day.

4. Increasing frequency and severity of droughts


in the American corn belt

The American corn belt is not only the bread basket of America,
74 GLOBAL WARMING

but also of a substantial portion of the entire world. If some ad-


verse climate changes were to occur there, the ramifications
would not be confined to the farming district, but would have re-
percussions on the economy and prosperity of the entire nation as
well. For that reason, a thorough examination of possible future
changes appears to be fully justified.
For present purposes let us define a drought as an extended pe-
riod of hot weather combined with a lack of precipitation. Since
hot weather occurs mostly in the summer half of the year, which
is also the growing season, when an adequate supply of water is
quintessential and substantial negative impacts on plant growth
might result from either a reduction of precipitation or an increase
in evaporation, or a combination of both, we can limit the present
discussion to the summer months.
A little earlier, we examined model-predicted temperature and
precipitation for a few selected American cities in summer. We
concluded that temperatures increase by about 7° F in cities close
to the corn belt (Chicago), while precipitation would not change
significantly.
However, an increase in temperature will then in general lead,
other things being equal, to additional evaporation and therefore
additional drying of the surface soil. Therefore, if the model pre-
dictions are correct, we can indeed expect, if not an increasing fre-
quency of droughts, an increasing severity of droughts. The im-
pact of additional drying would be particularly detrimental in
those areas which receive marginal precipitation to begin with,
namely the Southwest and also the western parts of Oklahoma,
Kansas and Nebraska.
There are two silver linings in this generally gloomy cloud, ho-
wever, which is fortunately still a "what if" scenario. For one
thing, because of increasing precipitation in the winter half of the
year which the models expect in their two-times-CO2 version of
tomorrow's corn belt, there might be some way to store the water
and use it during the summer (in an irrigation system such as that
proposed by NAWAPA - North American Water And Power As-
sociation) and second, land in more northern regions, which has
not been suitable for agricultural use up to now because of cold
temperatures, might become suitable in a warmer world.
Furthermore, some of the adverse effects of high temperatures
on agriculture could be avoided by planting earlier in the season,
which would still be moist and cool enough. The length of the
growing season is expected to increase in a warming climate. But
THE REST OF THE STORY 75

before we indulge too much in the doom and gloom, let us


remember that we are still only considering model forecasts —
which may be far removed from any reality. Our next task will
accordingly be to determine to what extent we can trust those
forecasts.
4.

The Acid Test:


Models Vs. Reality

W ell, now it's finally curtain time! Now we can finally find
out whether we have been in the land of make-believe
or in the land of reality, whether our method was
science or science-fiction, whether we should really head for high
ground, move north, sell land in the corn belt, or whether it all was
a figment of our imagination, a gigantic ooops!, in other words,
the real rest of the story. Back to the bare facts. We have just been
on a journey through computer wonderland. We have taken a
look into the future and tried to get an idea of what our climatic
future might be like if trace-gases built up as rapidly as some peo-
ple believe, and if the climate really changed the way our best
available computer models see it changing.
We already had to modify the first if — i.e., we could see some
promising signs that the trace-gas build-up might not progress as
rapidly as some people fear.
Furthermore, our look at the computer-generated future cli-
mate was a mixed bag at worst, and certainly no doomsday tale
in the balance. Contrary to many public declarations that there
would only be losers in a trace-gas induced climate change — al-
though politically quite understandable - it is quite obvious that
areas in the mid- and higher latitudes only stand to gain from a
climate change as projected by the models; this is particularly true
when the beneficial effects of an increased CO2 level on the bios-
phere are factored in.
However, there can be no doubt that the possible adverse im-
pacts in other areas of the world warrant serious consideration of
remedial and/or preventive measures against such a change — if
it will really occur.
The scope of the envisioned changes, but also the scope of the
remedial measures are horrendous. It would in fact change the
basic frameworks of our societies either if those climate changes
really occurred, or some of the proposed measures had to be ad-
opted. It is absolutely necessary at this point to critically examine
those model forecasts before a decision can be made on any course
THE REST OF THE STORY 77

of action to counter a possible threat to the climate.


The usual way to check a forecast is to wait and then compare
predictions with observations.
Obviously, we cannot do that, because no one wants to wait
until the year 2030 or later to see whether climate model predict-
ions are correct - when any possible damage might have already
been done.
Another way would be to wait for maybe 10 or 20 years, and
then see if temperatures have really risen to an extent compatible
with model predictions, but still small enough not to have caused
any of the expected damage. This is an approach which might not
seem the worst of all strategies if we consider, as we will a little
later on, that those eras in the history of climate which were war-
mer than today by about 2 to 4° F were called "climate optima" -
and for good reasons as we will see. This approach simply ass-
umes that we can afford to wait, because the worst that can hap-
pen in coming decades is a slight warming moving us into ano-
ther climate optimum but giving us more time to devise the best
countervailing measures.
But we can do better than that. We know that trace-gases have
already risen for more than 100 years: CO2 has gone up from about
280 ppm to 350, roughly 25 percent, other trace-gases, mainly met-
hane and, after WW II, the CFCs have risen much more (see pre-
ceding sections) in percentage terms, so that we now have about
50 percent of the additional man made greenhouse effect from all
trace-gases combined (or radiative forcing) thought to occur from
a doubling of CO2 alone. It may be noted at this point that the
greenhouse effect does not increase linearly with trace-gas
concentrations, but at a progressively lesser rate. That means that
the emission of a fixed amount of a trace-gas between, say, 1950
and 1980 enhances the greenhouse effect much more than the
emission of that same amount between 1980 and 2010, because the
earlier emission has - to some extent - saturated the absorptive re-
gions in the spectrum (see also Chapter 1).
The obvious question then is: If the models are right, should it
not be possible to already see a warming due to the trace-gas
build-up which has already occurred?
Simple question, simple answer: Yes! Then let us examine how
much global temperatures should have risen if the model predict-
ions were correct.
To do this, models could be run not only in a 2-times-CO2 mode,
but in a 1.25 times CO2 mode, or in a slightly higher mode, to ac-
78 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 14. Simulation of global mean temperature rise between 1850 and 1990
thought to have resulted from the observed trace gas increase.
After IPCC, 1990.

count for the additional trace-gases which have built up in our at-
mosphere - or they could also be run in a mode where trace gases
are continuously added to the atmosphere - thereby simulating
real life events. Those models are called "transient response"
models.
After carrying out those calculations, the result is that there
should have been an "equilibrium warming" of more than 2° F.
We remember that the equilibrium warming is the warming
reached after the greenhouse effect has worked its way through
all compartments of the - modeled - climate system and after all
feedback mechanisms have acted.
Enter the oceans one more time. As we saw before, the oceans
have a very important function as a sink for atmospheric carbon
dioxide and may act as a retardant large enough to delay a doub-
ling of CO2 into the 22nd or even 23rd century. But not only do
they act as a sink for carbon dioxide - they are also a sink for heat.
Some of the heat generated in the atmosphere by the green-
THE REST OF THE STORY 79

house effect is transferred into the oceans and stored there. As a


matter of fact, the complete and final atmospheric warming will
only be achieved after heat transfer equilibrium between oceans
and atmosphere has been reached.
And this may take a lot of time, as we have seen with CO2.
Moreover, it is very tricky business to model.
The current state of the art of modeling would predict that, due
to the oceanic slow-down of atmospheric warming, we should
now (in the early 1990s) see a warming of close to 2° F due to the
build-up of all trace-gases. This assumes that the climate would
warm by 6.5° F in the case oi a CO2 doubling. Fig. 14 shows the
manner in which trace-gas related warming should have
progressed since the latter half of last century. The warming of
nearly 2° F will be the yard stick against which to compare the ob-
served temperature trend in the real atmosphere.
To do this, we will first have to settle the issue of what tempe-
rature the modeled temperature rise has to be pegged against.
Everyone would agree that it should be the average, long-term
state of the atmosphere, unperturbed by the anthropogenic influ-
ences we are trying to see.
Going back to the section where we defined climate, we realize
that it has to be at least a 30 year period; to eliminate "climatic
fluctuations", which are characterized by variations in tempera-
ture from one 30 year period to another, an average over several
30 year periods would be better yet.
This might then characterize an unperturbed, long-term clima-
tic state against which we wish to assess the impact of a trace-gas
related warming.
Since trace-gases are not the only factor which has a bearing on
climate, we may face very long-term natural climate variations ac-
ting on the same time scale as the ones presumed to occur from a
trace-gas build-up, and which may act to confuse a trace-gas rela-
ted temperature trend with one due to natural causes. We post-
pone that aspect for the time being and only wish to ensure at this
point that trace-gas related temperature changes are not confused
with short-term temperature fluctuations due to different causes.
A reasonably reliable temperature trend for the earth as a whole
has only been compiled for about the last 140 years. Moreover, we
can not even speak of a truly global trend, because most tempera-
ture measurements were only taken over land, and so most of the
global Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere trends
talked about in public, and the ones we will be concerned with,
80 GLOBAL WARMING

are in fact "land-based" temperatures. Let us pause for a moment


and consider the implications of that. You may ask: What signifi-
cance does a land-based temperature trend have if nearly 3/4 of
the earth's surface is covered by oceans? And are we not compa-
ring apples to oranges when we compare an observed land-based
temperature trend with a modelled temperature trend which in-
cludes the oceans? Might it not be that we see a trend over land,
which is nullified or at least tempered by a countervailing trend
over the oceans?
Quite right, and we will therefore return to those questions in a
moment.

The Three Claims

The greenhouse/global warming debate would not have grown


to such proportions had it not been for the fact that temperatures
did indeed increase over the past 100 years, and not only that, six
of the warmest years occurred within the last decade, namely
1990,1988,1987,1983,1989, and 1981 in that order.
Some scientists have gone so far as to claim that this is the final
proof that the greenhouse effect is indeed with us, and further-
more that the warming we have seen over the last 100 years,
which, according to the land-based records, is 1.3° F, is right where
it should be according to the models. As a result, they say, we had
better be prepared for the full treatment of the model-predicted 6-
7° F temperature rise for a doubling of CO2 and act immediately
to stave it off.
Those claims are at the very heart of the current debate. The en-
tire international greenhouse conference circus, hasty statements
by politicians, and reports by every imaginable organization,
panel, study group and so on, revolves around them, and we will
therefore examine them in full detail.

Of Dips And Spikes

Let us start out by considering the land-based temperature


trend of the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere and
the earth as a whole for the last 140 years.
Those temperature trends are shown in Figs. 15 and 16. They
have been compiled by a climatic research group in the UK. Their
work is generally perceived to be the most reliable, which is why
it is shown and used here.
THE REST OF THE STORY 81

Figure 15. Observed temperature trends in the Northern Hemisphere since


1850: a) over the continents, b) over the oceans, c) of sea surface temperatures.
The smoothed curve shows 10-year averages
Source: Jones et al., Journ. Clim. Appl. Met., 1986a.

The temperature curve in this diagram is a so-called filtered


curve, designed to suppress the short-term variations we are not
interested in. It shows temperature departures from a base period.
If we now look at where this line was in 1880, we find it at -0.9 °F
and if we look again at 1980, we find it at 0.4°. The difference is
1.3° F - Bingo! Just what the models ordered, and there is your
"proof".
But let us now recall how we have defined climate. For the pur-
pose of detecting a trace-gas related warming, we have to com-
pare the current climatic average to an earlier, unperturbed, long-
82 GLOBAL WARMING

term climatic average, because without that comparison we run


into the danger of relating shorter term fluctuations, which may
occur on time scales of 10 to 30 years, to a presumed trace-gas re-
lated warming.
Hence, we should compare the current, 30 year average to an
earlier, unperturbed one.
We now have to determine a span of time in which the climate
may be considered to be unpertubed, even if we assume that the
modeled temperature increases did in fact take place.
For most practical purposes, we may assume that climate re-
mained undisturbed as long as the modeled temperature increase
due to trace-gases remained below about 0.2° F, because 0.2°
would be below the limit of detectability and well within the
range of natural variability.
We can now look that time up in Fig. 14, and we find it to be
about 1900.

Figure 16. Observed temperature trends in the Southern Hemisphere since


1850: a) over the continents, b) over the oceans, c) of sea surface temperatures.
The smoothed curve shows 10-year averages.
Source: Jones et al., Joum. Clim. Appl. Met., 1986b.
THE REST OF THE STORY 83

If we now - in this Fig. - take an average of the temperature bet-


ween 1850 and 1900, a climatically relevant time scale suitable for
our purposes, we find the temperature to be not -0.9° anymore,
but -0.5° F.
If we apply the same kind of averaging procedure to the period
between 1960 to 1985, for example, we arrive at 0.2°.
If we did the same for the Southern Hemisphere temperature
trend (Fig. 16), the result would be approximately the same - with-
in the limits of measurability and detectability.
Therefore, if we attempt to estimate the true, i.e., climatically re-
levant, temperature change over the land masses of both the
Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere between the
latter half of the 19th century and the latter half of this century, we
arrive at 0.7° F as opposed to 1.3°. The larger figure of 1.3° is then
due to the impermissable gauging from a temporary dip in the
temperature curve to a temporary spike.
But those dips and spikes have nothing to do with what is
called "climate", let alone climatic change, which is what we are
interested in.
You may notice that we have determined the actual, climati-
cally relevant temperature increase over the continents to be only
about one half of what it should have been - according to best
available model calculations (see Fig. 14) - on the average from
1860 to 1985.
However, we are not really concerned with the temperature
trend over the land masses alone, since a "global" trend obviously
cannot ignore 70 percent of the earth's surface, and must encom-
pass the trend over the oceans as well.
Therefore, if we really want to compare observed "global"
trends to the model-calculated "global" trends, it is also necessary
to consider the temperature trends over the oceans, because all
model-predicted temperature changes include the oceans as well.
The problem here is that data coverage is much worse than for
land areas, and the problem becomes really dramatic the further
back in time we go - especially in the Southern Hemisphere.
Scientists have attempted nonetheless to reconstruct a temp-
erature trend over the oceans back to about the middle of last cen-
tury. Needless to say, extreme caution should be exercised when
interpreting the early portion of the data. This is particularly the
case in the Southern Hemisphere, where an oceanic temperature
trend for the areas between 45° and 65° S can not essentially be de-
termined for the second half of last century.
84 GLOBAL WARMING

Consequently, any temperature trend for the Southern Hemi-


sphere oceans should be viewed with a considerable amount of
caution. Temperature trends over the oceans can be determined in
two different ways: First, by directly measuring the sea surface
temperature (SST) (to which we would have no objection, since
according to the models, the SST's are supposed to warm up by
an amount comparable to the warming of the lower atmosphere
directly above them), and secondly, by measuring air temperature
directly above the water. To reduce unwanted interferences from
direct solar radiation and heat trapped onboard the observing
platforms, usually ships, of course, which are much worse in the
daytime, night time temperature records (NTMAT) are used in
long-term temperature analyses over the oceans.
Both sets of records are shown separately for the Northern He-
misphere and the Southern Hemisphere in Figs. 15 and 16. You
will notice that in both hemispheres, the SSTs and the NTMATs,
which are also filtered in the same way the land-based temper-
atures shown above them are, run very much parallel, as one
would expect them to, since, in a long-term average, trends of
SSTs and the air temperatures directly above the sea surface
should not differ to any great extent.
If we compare the marine temperatures with the land-based
ones, we notice a remarkable difference between the two before
and around 1900:
While there is an almost continuous warming over land bet-
ween 1880 and 1980, the marine trends show rapid cooling up to
the early part of this century, and then warming from then on until
about 1960, followed by cooling in the Northern Hemisphere and
continued warming in the Southern Hemisphere. In other words,
there are some considerable differences between hemispheres,
and between land and marine trends - particularly in the early
portion of the data. There is no reason to doubt the reality of those
differences, although we might raise questions about their ma-
gnitudes. Let us now progress the same way we did before with
land-based temperatures, and define the unpertubed temperature
as the average 1850-1900; again, we take the period from 1960-
1985 as the recent, trace-gas tainted period. In the Northern He-
misphere, the average for 1850-1900 would be about
-0.4° and the 1960-1985 value would be -0.2°, yielding an in-
crease of 0.2°; the corresponding figures for the Southern Hemi-
sphere would be -0.2° last century and 0.2° this century, yielding
an increase of 0.4° F.
THE REST OF THE STORY 85

Thus, the temperatures over water and the SSTs have increased
by about half the amount for temperatures over land. Other re-
search groups have even concluded that there has been no warm-
ing at all over the oceans since the middle of last century, and in-
stead a very slight cooling (see Fig. 17). If their estimates are cor-
rect, there has been no global warming at all if oceans and conti-
nents are considered together.
But let us stick to the former estimates, which are probably
more widely accepted - rightly or wrongly we cannot decide. If we
now appropriately weigh those figures according to the fraction
of the earth covered by land and sea in both hemispheres, and cal-
culate a "true global" temperature change which is climatically
meaningful and takes account of the trend over land and sea, and
which we can therefore compare with the modeled trend, we ar-
rive at a value of about 0.5°-0.6° F.

Figure 17. Temperature trends over the oceans of the Northern and Southern
Hemisphere since 1870 according to a study by Oort et al. (1987).
Source: Oort et al., Climate Dymamics, 1987.
86 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 18. Global temperature trend since 1850 according to IPCC (averaged
over oceans and continents).
Source: After IPCC, 1990.

This figure is indeed very close to the one arrived at by the


IPCC. Their global temperature curve is shown in Fig. 18. It im-
plies - as our figure does - that previous estimates of global war-
ming over the last 140 years or so have to be slashed in half. We
now look again at Fig. 14 to recall the modeled temperature
change for the average 1860 to 1985 and we arrive at a little better
than 2° F. We now realize that the modeled temperature change is
larger than the observed one by a factor of nearly three.
This realization may make life harder for greenhouse activists!
On the basis of what we have found out so far, we may well be ju-
stified in seriously questioning not only the correctness of the
model projections, but also the demands advanced under the as-
sumption that those projections were correct.
Let us reiterate why the contention "We see the warming the
models are predicting" is untenable:
1. Climatic averages predicted by the models have been compar-
ed with non-climatic "dips" and "spikes" in the temperature
curve.
2. A global warming predicted by the models has been compared
with a land-based temperature trend only, whereas a "true
global" trend - comprising oceans and continents - should ha-
vebeen used.
THE REST OF THE STORY 87

3. The actual, climatically relevant warming of the atmosphere


over oceans and continents has only been about one third of
what the models calculate.
Even if the entire observed warming over the last 140 years
were attributed to the greenhouse effect, which is highly debat-
able, as we will see later on, we would still have to seriously que-
stion the relevance of the model calculations, because they have
us in for close to three times the observed temperature rise. The
implications of that realization are immediately apparent: If a cal-
culated temperature rise of about 2° for the trace-gas increase al-
ready observed is too large by a factor of three, the predicted
temperature rise for a doubling of CO2, 6-7°, may also be too large
by a factor of three, which is a fair assumption, since temperatures
are expected to rise smoothly and continuously as trace-gas con-
centrations go up. The IPCC draws a different conclusion from
this discrepancy. They think the observed temperatures are at the
lower end of model predictions, and the difference could be due
to natural variations. In the following we will analyze some of the
factors which might be related to the temperature rise of the last
century in more detail and see if there is some evidence for or
against the greenhouse hypothesis.

Wrong Timing

We are not yet satisfied with our analysis of the temperature


trend of the last 140 years; we want to present the temperature his-
tory from a slightly different, but possibly even more revealing
angle.
Let us imagine we are travellers in time, and we embark on a
journey beginning in the year 1850. As knowledgeable people, we
know about the greenhouse theory and we expect the climate to
warm up the way it is depicted in Fig. 14.
As we travel through time, we notice that it is generally getting
warmer. Especially between 1910 and 1940, there is a whopping
temperature increase - not only over the continents, but also over
the oceans - and by the time we reach the 1940s, temperatures over
land are almost 1.3° higher, in the filtered 10 year average, than at
the outset of our journey (see Figs 15 and 16).
If we now look the other way to the greenhouse curve (Fig. 14),
vve notice that temperatures should only have risen by a paltry
0.4°. Now what?
Greenhouse theory or not, at this point we can only conclude
88 GLOBAL WARMING

that the very largest part of the increase of 1.3° must have been
caused by natural fluctuations in the climate system, the causes of
which we do not know yet, but which we will try to analyze later
on.
The temperature increase in the first part of this century, which
was as large as the one predicted to occur from the trace-gas in-
crease up into the 1980s, could therefore not have been caused by
a trace-gas build-up, because that build-up did not occur until
after WW II. And everyone would probably agree that we cannot
explain a temperature rise before 1940 by a trace-gas increase after
1940: that would be sheer nonsense.
We now continue our journey through time and must bedaz-
zledly realize that as trace-gases build up in the atmosphere and
the greenhouse curve (Fig. 14) goes up as well, observed tempe-
ratures go down (Figs. 15 and 16). 'Well, why shouldn't they?', we
ask, because they went up before 1940, obviously due to natural
causes, why shouldn't they go down - also due to natural causes.
Temperatures went down about 0.4° until the mid-1970s, whereas
the greenhouse should have warmed us by about 0.9° during that
time.
The first symptoms of an attenuated greenhouse theory appear.
If we wanted to explain the observations in terms of the green-
house theory, there should have been a natural cooling - without
the greenhouse effect - on the order of 0.4 + 0.9° = 1.3°F.
This cooling, due to natural factors over only 30 years, would
have been quite large by historical standards, particularly since,
as we will see a little later, we can not identify any natural factors
which might have caused it.
You will notice that it is somewhat difficult to analyze how the
greenhouse effect may have acted and is now acting, since we can-
not assess how the natural climatic system would behave without
trace-gases being present. Clearly, greenhouse proponents could
always respond to claims that the warming observed over the last
decades is significantly less than predicted by making the coun-
terclaim that there was a natural cooling present in the climatic sy-
stem - veiling the greenhouse effect. While this is theoretically
possible, it is nonetheless highly speculative reasoning, and it also
seems to contradict what we know about other factors influencing
the climatic system over the last 140 years: Most of those factors
point to a warming and not to a cooling. Moreover, the hypothe-
tical cooling invoked is slowly but surely becoming improbably
large.
THE REST OF THE STORY 89

We may therefore be justified in rebuffing the contention "We


see the warming the models are predicting" on the basis of the fol-
lowing additional points:
1. The bulk of the warming of the last 100 years occurred before
it could have been caused by the greenhouse effect.
2. The greenhouse theory could only be maintained if a hypo-
thetical, large natural cooling did occur since 1940 which vei-
led the greenhouse effect.
Let us now continue our journey through time. As we enter the
1980s, the greenhouse proponents get their biggest break yet: The
climate warms up rapidly, mostly over the continents, but also
over the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. The '80s, it turns out,
are the warmest decade we have seen on our journey which began
in the middle of last century, with 1990,1988,1987,1983,1989 and
1981 being the warmest years. Now we finally have it, the irre-
futable evidence that the greenhouse has arrived. Or so they claim.
Now, after dissecting the first claim, i.e., that the warming seen
between 1880 and 1980 is compatible with climatic model predic-
tions, we will take a closer look at the second major claim, that the
warmth of the 1980s must be seen, if not as the final proof of the
greenhouse effect, then as a very strong piece of circumstantial
evidence in its favor.
We start out by going back to our definition of climate and cli-
mate change.
Climate is defined as a long-term average. Dips and spikes in
the temperature record do not constitute a climatic change. This
point will be further illustrated later on when we take a look at
historic and ancient temperature records dating back to the days
before 1850. In general, every climatologist knows that it is not
permissable to extrapolate a short-term trend from a portion of
the temperature record into a long-term trend. One would have to
see a number of years like 1987 and 1988 to call that warmth a
long-term trend and speak of.

Warming In The Wrong Places?

Let us now take a closer look at those last 10 to 15 years which


have brought us that warmth and which were, climatically spea-
king, quite remarkable.
If we took a close enough look at the temperature record to see
individual years, we would notice that some spectacular changes
must have taken place between the years 1976 and 1977, because
90 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 19. Temperature departures in the troposphere (between altitudes 0-9


km above sea level) of the Northern Hemisphere averaged between 1977-1986
as a function of latitude and separated by continents and oceans. The base pe-
riod is 1951 - 1960.
Source: After Weber, Int. Journ. Climat, 1990.

temperatures jumped upward by 0.6° F, reversing the downward


trend of earlier decades, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.
Subsequently, temperatures stayed up and rose even further. If we
now attempt to track down the sudden appearance of renewed
"global" warming, it does not take long to find the culprit: The
tropical Pacific.
Here we find the famous El Nino events. In an El Nino, large
amounts of warm water (82-84° F), normally stored in the western
Pacific, flow eastward and may even reach the west coast of South
America, where they very often arrive right around Christmas
time — thus the name El Nino, Spanish for the child (of God)—
displacing waters which are normally cool (about 76° F). Above
THE REST OF THE STORY 91

that warm water, intense flows of heat and moisture into the at-
mosphere set in, causing rains in the wrong places and shifts in
wind patterns almost everywhere around the world. One partic-
ular phenomenon is the spread of warmth around the tropical
belt; that means not only that an El Nino year is a warm year over
the tropical Pacific, but also over the entire tropics. The tropics
themselves, however, if counted out to latitude 30°, comprise fully
half of the surface area of the world. In other words, if it gets warm
in the tropics, the rest of the world may stay normal, or even col-
der than normal, but it may still be warmer than normal on a-
"global" average. This is precisely what happened the last 10 to 15
years.
It is no surprise anymore to learn that the "unusually warm
years" of 1983,1987, and 1988 were years in which the El Nino was
in effect. If we now look at the temperature distribution in the
Northern Hemisphere between 1976 and 1990, differentiated by
tropics (0°-30°) and extratropics (30°-90°), and if we consider a
composite temperature trend over land and oceans, we find that
the extratropics have been below normal almost every year. This is
particularly visible in 1987, one of the record warm years (see
Table 9). This is not as visible if we only consider land-based tem-
peratures. Here there was warming even in mid-latitudes (see Fig.
19) - counterbalanced by cooling over the oceans. Once again we
realize how important it is to look at the entire temperature re-
cord, land and oceans, if we wish to arrive at an observational re-
cord which can be used for comparisons with greenhouse predic-
ted temperature changes. In the Southern Hemisphere however,
there has been a more uniform warming, so that in reality we have

Table 9: Northern hemispheric surface temperature departures


between 1976 and 1989 separated into tropical (0 - 30° N) and
extra-tropical (30 - 90° N) regions. The base period is 1951-1960.
1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982

0-30° N -0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2


30-90° N -0.4 0.0 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 0.5 -0.2

1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989

0-30° N 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.6 0.4 0.1


30-90° N 0.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.2 0.2

Source: Institute of Meteorology, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


92 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 20. Climate simulation using a transient, coupled ocean-atmosphere cli-


mate model employing "realistic" trace gas increases since 1958. Shown is the
modeled temperature increase since 1958 as a function of time and latitude.
Source: Stouffer et al., Nature, 1989.

to speak of a divergent trend between the Southern Hemisphere


and the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the 30 years before
the mid-'70s. On the other hand, if we consider land-based trends
over the Southern Hemisphere for a moment, a look at the globe
tells us that most of the land mass of the Southern Hemisphere is
within 30-35° of the equator, so that we may count almost the ent-
irety of the Southern Hemisphere land mass as low latitude or
tropical. Scientists have now found out, very much in line with
what we said above, that warmth over the Southern Hemisphere
land mass is very highly correlated with warmth in the tropics,
and therefore warmth in the Southern Hemisphere (landmass) is
to a very large extent a reflection of warmth in the tropics.
Nonetheless, there has been significant warming even over the
Southern Hemisphere oceans in recent decades (see Fig. 16), but
not too much can be said about temperatures there in mid-latitu-
des. It remains doubtful, however, whether the Southern Hemi-
sphere temperature rise can be explained in terms of the green-
house theory, because the oceans, due to their thermal inertia, are
least expected to manifest a greenhouse effect.
Some scientists think that sulfur emissions from fossil fuel
burning, which occurs mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, might
be responsible for the relative cooling of the Northern Hemi-
THE REST OF THE STORY 93

sphere. Indeed, sulfur, which provides for cloud condensation


nuclei (CCN), might have been responsible for some of the cool-
ing over the oceans, but it probably has to be ruled out as a cause
for cooling over the continents.
Furthermore, sulfate aerosol, which forms from sulfur dioxide
emitted into the atmosphere, may also have contributed to a coo-
ling, at least partially off-setting the greenhouse effect.
However, sulfur emissions in the ICs increased only relatively
slowly after WW II, peaked in the 1960s, and have been declining
ever since, even though global emissions went up. Most of the in-
crease occurred over Asia. Since sulfur compounds have an at-
mospheric residence time limited to only a few days (contrary to
greenhouse gases), any cooling effects should essentially have
been confined to the source regions and some distance down-
wind. In addition, if the sulfur argument holds, sulfur emissions
should have caused a pronounced cooling in the industrialized re-
gions of the Northern Hemisphere during the first half of the cen-
tury, when they went up from close to zero to half their present
value. Since we know that a large warming did in fact occur - in-
stead of a cooling - the sulfur-climate relationship remains some-
what speculative at this point.
In any event, if we now pause and reflect for a moment, we real-
ize that the pattern of the most recent warming is certainly not the
one we would expect from climate model predictions: i.e., large
warming at high latitudes and small warming at low latitudes.
The recently observed pattern is the contrary (see Table 9 again).
At high latitudes, there is even some continued regional cooling,
which runs completely counter to model predictions.
However, just to show you how complicated things are, we there-
by implicitly assume that the so-called transient response, i.e., the
way climate evolves as trace-gases slowly build-up in the atmos-
phere, is the same as the equilibrium response, but at a smaller
amplitude. As some recent modeling results suggest, this may not
be the case. Due to complex feedback mechanisms between the
oceans and the atmosphere, the geographical pattern of the war-
ming may be different from the eqilibrium warming over decades,
and in fact it may even cool at high latitudes in the Northern
Hemisphere, and therefore create a warming pattern resembling
the observed one. One example of such a calculation is shown in
Fig. 20.
At this point it is too early to view the results of the more ad-
vanced transient models with any confidence. We could ade-
94 GLOBAL WARMING

quately account for the recent warm spells as a lawful result of the
El Nino phenomenon without resorting to them, and there is cur-
rently no theory which could relate an increase in occurence of the
El Nino to a greenhouse effect.
Moreover, we recall from Chapter 1 that the additional, man-
made greenhouse effect should be least effective in the tropics be-
cause of the large overlap between water vapor and carbon dio-
xide there, which is why we expect the smallest warming in the
tropics - at least in lower atmospheric layers. This might not be the
case with other greenhouse gases, however, which are active in
different spectral regions, and in upper tropospheric regions in
the tropics.
Therefore, summing up, unless we are prepared to believe that
the most recent warming is a greenhouse warming essentially re-
stricted to the tropics, which appears to be in clear contradiction
to the model predictions, we must reject the claim that the warmth
of the 1980s is a proof of the greenhouse theory, or at best a strong
piece of circumstantial evidence in its favor, for the following reas-
ons:
1. On a formal basis, a spike in the temperature curve is no proof
of a climatic change.
2. The pattern of the warming is completely different from that
predicted by the models, unless the warming pattern of the
transient response is very much different from the eqilibrium
response.
3. More fundamentally, the warming must very likely be attribu-
ted to causes other than the greenhouse effect.

Summer Recess For The Greenhouse Effect

So far we have only looked at the trend of annual average temp-


eratures, but we have not yet paid any attention to the intra-an-
nual pattern of the warming of the past 140 years; in other words,
we have not analyzed the question of whether the warming oc-
curred more or less uniformly, distributed throughout the year, or
whether it was concentrated in one or several particular seasons.
We remember from page 59 that over the US, the warming ex-
pected for the summer months was almost as large as for winter,
whereas in the global average, wintertime warming is supposed
to be noticeably larger than summertime warming.
The seasonal distribution of the warming is of particular rele-
vance, since almost all of the envisioned negative impacts thought
THE REST OF THE STORY 95

Figure 21. Temperature trends over the continents of the Northern Hemis-
phere since 1850, differentiated by season. The smoothed line shows 10-year
averaged values.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Report DOE/ER-0235,1985.

to be associated with global warming are tied to summertime warm-


ing. Clearly, one might expect the increase of an average sum-
mertime maximum temperature, from 85° F to 92° F, to have some
kind of an adverse impact on agriculture and human comfort. On
the other hand, it is not likely that many people in Minnesota
96 GLOBAL WARMING

would complain if the average wintertime minimum went up


from -10° F to -3° F.
Let us therefore take a look at the seasonal pattern of the warm-
ing of the last 140 years (Fig. 21).
Much to our surprise, we see that almost all the warming in the
land-based record is concentrated in the winter months and no
warming whatsoever has occurred in summer. This is true not
only on a global (or Northern Hemisphere) average, but also over
the US, where we must in fact acknowledge that it has been cool-
ing over the last 60 years. The same is true for other areas of the
mid-latitudes, for instance Europe. In Europe, a decrease in sum-
mer temperatures can be deduced even from long-term thermo-
meter records reaching back to the middle of the 18th century.
This is all the more surprising since the greenhouse community is
quite sure that a greenhouse warming should first be detectable
in mid-latitudes in summer. But the warming we did observe has
largely been a specific winter warming, whereas summer tempe-
ratures did not rise at all. This obviously raises questions as to the
underlying causes of that warming, restricted to the winter half of
the year: the greenhouse effect does not take a summer recess.

Everybody's Favorite: The Drought Of 1988

Now let us direct our attention to the third claim, the one that
really had a big impact on public debate in the US: The drought of
1988. There have been a number of claims that the drought of '88
was, if not the final proof, then a very strong piece of circumstan-
tial evidence in favor of the greenhouse theory, much like the
warming of the '80s. To make one thing clear right away: to every-
body who could read a climatological data table, let alone clima-
tologists themselves, this was a hair-raising statement, and clima-
tologists did not know whether to laugh or to disbelievingly bury
their faces in their hands - but the public and media alike loved it
anyway.
Now let us find out why this was probably the climatological
"Edsel" of '88. First of all, we return to our central hypothesis of
what climate is: Namely the long-term average of a climatic para-
meter, and climatic change is the long-term, lasting change of a cli-
matic parameter. A run of cold years, hot years, dry years is a
short-term climate variation, and not a long-term climatic change.
This alone would almost be sufficient to refute the claim that the
drought of '88 was due to the greenhouse effect.
THE REST OF THE STORY 97

However, as we have seen, the frequency and severity of


droughts is expected to increase in a greenhouse scenario - which
is the basis of the claims regarding the 1988 drought. Let us then
analyze the drought from two different angles:
1. The historical climatological perspective and,
2. The causal perspective

Figure 22. Climate trends over the USA since 1895. The figure shows mean an-
nual values of temperature and precipitation.
Source: Karl, Climate Change, 1988.
98 GLOBAL WARMING

1. The historical climatological perpective


Believe it or not, bad droughts are a normal part of US climate
in general, and of the Great Plains in particular. This is amply il-
lustrated in Fig. 22 and Fig. 23, which show annual and seasonal
temperature and precipitation trends over the US since 1895.
Here, we see droughts as humps in the temperature and dips in
the precipitation curve, because, as we have seen, droughts are -
for most practical purposes - periods of hot summer weather
with little or no precipitaion.
The big droughts occurred in the 1930s (the infamous Dust
Bowl years, remember The Grapes of Wrath?) and the 1950s, or
more precisely, 1934-1936 and 1952-1954.
The period following 1954 was conspicuously devoid of any
major droughts and notably the '70s and '80s were characterized
by a long string of predominantly cool and moist summers, inter-
rupted only by a drought over the southern plains in 1980 and a
drought in 1983, but there have been mainly cool and moist sum-
mers for decades, particularly over the nation's mid-west and the
corn-belt. Nobody was yelling "greenhouse!" then.
But when 1988 arrived, and the country's mid-west was hit by
the first major drought in 34 years, it had to be the greenhouse eff-
ect. It is hard to imagine that even a dyed-in-the-wool greenhouse
proponent seriously believed that!
Obviously, from the climatic history of the US, there is no indi-
cation whatsoever that climatic changes of the type predicted by
the models have occurred in summer over the past decades, and
that the drought of '88, however extreme it was, can be seen as
anything but a fluke of natural variability in the workings of the
climatic system.
Midwesterners may indeed have second thoughts about those
claims now that they have had to suffer through, or possibly enjoy,
a predominantly cool and cloudy summer in 1989 and 1990, very
much unlike the one of 1988.
It only goes to show that one should not extrapolate a short-
term up-trend into a future long-term trend - a particularly sus-
pect venture, when the existing longer term trend points down-
wards (see Fig. 22 and 23).
2.The causal perspective.
According to model calculations, droughts should increase as a
result of the general rise in summer temperatures under a scena-
rio of relatively constant precipitation, which has not materialized
over the US so far.
THE REST OF THE STORY 99

Hence, there should have been (and should be in the future) an


increasing frequency of those situations, where, due to increasing
evaporation, soil dryness increases simply as a result of higher
temperatures, but not because of concurrent changes in the at-
mospheric circulation pattern.
However, scientists have been able to show that the drought of
'88 was not due to a general rise of global temperatures, but instead
to an unusual change in atmospheric circulation patterns over and
around the North American continent, which was temporary in
nature and has since been reversed. The major feature of that
change was the very persistent recurrence of high pressure areas
over the central US and the hot, dry and sunny weather commonly
associated with high pressure areas in the summertime.
Any greenhouse effect, if it was (hypothetically) present, may
only have caused an additional warming, increase a high from 90°
to maybe 91°, if that much, but it was certainly not a fundamental
or even minor cause of the drought.
We must therefore reject the contention that the occurrence of
the 1988 drought was in any way related to the model-computed
greenhouse effect for the following reasons:
1. The drought was due to a temporary, anomalous change in at-
mospheric circulation patterns over North America
2. Climatic history shows that droughts are part of normal climate
variations in the US. The first major drought in 34 years cannot
be taken as a sign of the greenhouse effect if the preceding 34
years were conspicuously devoid of any major droughts.
3. Moreover, long term trends of US summer temperatures show
no indication whatsoever of the warming that the models pre-
dict. Instead, there appears to be a cooling over the past six de-
cades, which clearly contradicts model predictions.
We may add here that, while the US was hit by one of the worst
droughts ever, other regions of the world, e.g., Britain, recorded
one of the wettest summers on record, and in northern Japan there
was widespread failure of the rice crop - caused by an unusually
cool and rainy summer: Facts, which are preferentially overlook-
ed by the greenhouse proponents.

Looking For Clues

We have now analyzed the global temperature record, differen-


tiated by annual and seasonal averages, and we have concluded
that, in the global record, we only see a fraction of the modeled
100 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 23. Climate trends over the USA since 1895. The figure shows mean
seasonal values of temperature and precipitation.
Source: Karl, Climate Change, 1988.

temperature rise since the middle of last century, and furthermore


that there has been no temperature increase at all in the summer,
the season a greenhouse effect should be first detectable. More su-
prisingly, in the US, there has actually been cooling over the last
60 years.
Before we now look at other climate parameters on a global
scale, for the sake of completeness we will see if there has been a
THE REST OF THE STORY 101

temperature increase over the US in the remaining seasons which


is compatible with model predictions.
The temperature trends for the US are shown in Fig. 23. In this
set of data, which begins in 1895, no appreciable temperature
change compatible with model predictions can be discerned. If
one considers only the last 60 years, temperatures have actually
decreased quite noticeably, particularly over the country's mid-
west and in winter. The relative coldness of the US during the last
decades, compared to earlier decades, reflects the general cooling
trend of middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere,
which has already been shown in Table 9. Neither of these obser-
vations lend much credence to model predictions of a general and
widespread warming over the US.
Let us now search the climatic record for further clues for - or
against - the greenhouse effect on a worldwide basis. We will do
this by looking at some of the major changes thought to have been
caused by a greenhouse warming and comparing predictions
with observations.
In doing this, we assume that the pattern of the transient response
of climate to increasing trace-gases is similar to the equilibrium re-
sponse, but at a lesser magnitude, as is done in almost every major
study devoted to the subject. However, as we cautioned on page 93
that may not be correct, and the transient response may be different
from the eqilibrium response; therefore some of the clues identified
in favor of the greenhouse effect may turn out to be no clues, and
conversely, some of the clues rejected may turn out to be evidence
in favor of the greenhouse theory after all. It appears as if we are
treading on treacherous, highly speculative ground.
On page 57, we already identified some of those expected major
changes and we will now direct our attention to them. Let us then
look at:
1. The precipitation record
2. The sea level record
3. Extreme weather and climate events

1. The precipitation record


According to climate model predictions, precipitation world-
wide should increase under a scenario of rising trace-gas levels
and the warming caused by it, basically as a result of increased
evaporation from water and land surfaces and the attendent in-
crease of atmospheric water vapor content. Those increases
should be most pronounced poleward of 35° of latitude, while in
102 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 24. Trends of precipitation in lower and mid-latitudes of the Northern


Hemisphere since 1850. Shown is the relative variation where values below .5
indicate precipitation amounts below long-term means and values above .5 in-
dicate amounts above long-term means.
Source: After Bradley et al., 1987.

the subtropical belt, no major changes are expected.


Clearly then, even if one observed an increase of precipitation,
it would not be an independent proof of the greenhouse effect,
since, in the model calculations, such an increase would princi-
pally be tied to a warming of the oceans, which had to occur be-
fore or simultaneously with the increase in precipitation.
Other than increasing atmospheric water vapor, an increase in
precipitation could also be brought about by an intensification of
precipitation generating processes, as for instance the strength
and frequency of rain-bearing storm systems in mid-latitudes.
Looking at the precipitation record, (see Fig. 24) we realize that
precipitation in mid-latitudes has indeed increased during the last
four decades, just as the models ordered. Could this be a proof of
the greenhouse effect then?
Well, certainly not, because even if the increase were tied to
temperature, it would only be an echo-effect of the temperature
record, which we have already shown to be only marginally rela-
ted to the greenhouse effect.
But there is more. Since the 1950s, the oceans in mid-latitudes
have been going through a cooling phase, which covers the Paci-
fic north of about 25° and the Atlantic north of about 40° latitude.
Hence, the increased precipitation in mid-latitudes cannot be the
THE REST OF THE STORY \ 03

Figure 25. Northern limit of the West African monsoon between the early
1950's and the early 1970's.
Source: After Bryson, 1974, and Lamb, 1988.

result of increased evaporation from warmer mid-latitude oceans,


but must be attributed to different factors.
One of those factors may indeed be the increased frequency and
intensity of storm systems alluded to above, which would be ac-
companied by intensified precipitation-generating mechanisms.
Why? Because the intensity and frequency of storm systems in
mid-latitudes is generally related to the temperature contrast be-
tween the equator and the pole: The stronger the contrast (or gra-
dient), the more intense the storm systems become. Now, this
temperature contrast has intensified in recent decades, partic-
ularly over the oceans, the main playground of most major storm
systems. The intensification is a result of the lop-sided warming
we have witnessed in recent decades (see Fig. 19): warming in low
latitudes and cooling in high latitudes. As a result, storm systems
grew more intense on the average and may have yielded more
precipitation. It may be noted in addition that no major change in
the equator-to-pole temperature gradient was expected according
to the models, and that the observed intensification of the gradi-
ent - in conjunction with the pattern of the most recent warming
itself - runs counter to climate model predictions. We may there-
fore conclude that an increase of observed precipitation in mid-lat-
itudes of the Northern Hemisphere can not be explained in terms
of the greenhouse effect, and that the actual, underlying causes of
the increase in precipitation point against the greenhouse effect as
a causal factor. Despite the fact that, according to the models, no
decrease of precipitation is expected in the subtropical belt, it has
104 GLOBAL WARMING

frequently been argued that a decrease observed there (see Fig.


24), which is particularly prominent over the Sahel region of Af-
rica, is due to the greenhouse effect. But much to the chagrin of
greenhouse proponents, the beginning of drying in that region is
coincident with the general global cooling, which began in the
1950s and which was most pronounced in the Northern Hemi-
sphere.
Along with that cooling, there was a general slight shift of the
atmospheric circulation belts to the south, which caused the Sahel
(about 20° N) to be more frequently under the influence of the sub-
tropical high pressure belt and dry northerly flow, instead of
moist southerly flow from equatorial Africa. The northern limit of
the moist southerly flow has receded steadily (see Fig. 25).
That shift to the south may partially be a reflection of the sout-
hward shift of the "thermal center of gravity" towards the
Southern Hemisphere we mentioned earlier, and which can
hardly be explained in terms of the greenhouse theory, because
the Southern Hemisphere is mostly covered by water, where we
would least expect to see a greenhouse effect.

2. Rising Sea Levels


Rising sea levels are one of the major causes of concern associa-
ted with the greenhouse effect. Indeed, some increase in sea level
has been observed during this century and has been interpreted
as a piece of evidence in favor of the greenhouse theory.
We first of all recall that rising sea levels are thought to result
mainly from a warming and thermal expansion of the oceans, and
even if observed, cannot be viewed as an independent piece of
evidence, since in that case they would be an echo-effect of the
rising temperature, much the same as with precipitation.
We then recall, secondly, that the oceans in mid-latitudes of the
Northern Hemisphere, where most of the sea level gauges are lo-
cated, have cooled in recent decades, so that, on the face of it, it is
hard to imagine how cooling oceans may be associated with rising
sea levels in terms of the greenhouse theory.
Furthermore, and most importantly, much of the sea level in-
crease has been deduced for a time period when SSTs did increase,
namely from about 1910 to 1970.
However, we recall from Fig. 15 and 16 that SSTs did decrease
drastically between 1890 and 1905, so that it is somewhat suspect
to restrict an analysis only to that time interval where one might
expect to arrive at the desired result: Namely a parallel course be-
THE REST OF THE STORY 105

tween rising SSTs and rising sea


levels. What kind of sea level
trends one would deduce if the
analysis were extended back to
the time before 1890, when SSTs
were about as warm as they are
today, is an open question.
Furthermore, since most of
the SST rise (and possibly the
associated sea level rise) occur-
red in the first half of this cen-
tury, it cannot be blamed on the
greenhouse effect anyway for
reasons stated earlier.
In addition, the spatial distri-
bution and accuracy of sea level
gauges is severely limited prior
to 1900; in essence, very few
data from the North East Atlan-
tic and the Baltic Sea are consid-
ered accurate.
After making allowance for
tectonic movements of the
earth's crust, i.e., the natural ris-
ing and sinking of the earth's
surface, which may falsely sug- Figure 26. Glacial advances and
gest either a rising or sinking retreats in the Swiss Alps between
sea level, some researchers re- 1890 and 1984. Between 1950 and 1980
cently concluded that the ob- the number of glacial advances in-
creaseeed.
served sea level rise can be at- Source: After Schuepp and Gensler, 1986, and Lamb,
tributed only in a small part to 1988.

oceanic warming and should


rather be viewed largely as a re-
sult of glacial melt.
However, we know that at least in high latitudes of the North-
ern Hemisphere such a melt-off was highly unlikely in recent de-
cades, because it was cooling there (see Fig. 19).
There has been some warming at high latitudes of the Southern
Hemisphere in recent decades, which may have caused some gla-
cial melt there. Yet we know from page 71 that the net effect of a
small warming around Antarctica is not a loss of ice, but a gain. It
is therefore difficult to imagine that even the observed warming
106 GLOBAL WARMING

at high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere did make a contri-


bution to a sea level rise.
Furthermore, at least over the Alps, there has been, if anything,
an advance of glaciers since the mid 1960s (see Fig. 26) and not a
retreat, which would be required for an increase in melt water
made available to the oceans.
Again, the bulk of the observed glacial melt did occur in the first
half of this century, and as we have repeatedly pointed out before,
all those processes - be they warming seas, retreating glaciers,
rising sea levels, or the warming in general - as far as they occur-
red in the first half of this century, cannot be ascribed to the green-
house effect because they occurred before trace-gas concentrations
went up so rapidly.
We must therefore conclude that the sea-level record is no more
of a factor supporting the greenhouse theory than the temperature
record itself.

3. Extreme Events
One favorite sport of the media and greenhouse proponents
alike is to link the occurrence of extreme weather and climate
events to the greenhouse effect.
In fact, it appears to be standard procedure now-a-days, that
whenever some extraordinary event occurs, it is immediately
blamed on the greenhouse effect.
In doing so, a screening procedure is usually applied, which
picks out only those extremes which fit the greenhouse bill, while
the others are left out.
The same goes, by the way, for a number of scientific publicati-
ons, all designed to "prove" the greenhouse effect, thereby falling
victim to what is called "scenario fulfillment"; i.e. "the inadver-
tant distortion of data flow in a subconscious attempt to make
them fit a preconceived scenario".
Needless to say, this is highly unscientific. But obviously, some
researchers fail to realize that the point at issue is not whether data
can be explained by - or is not contradictory to - the greenhouse
theory, but rather to ask if that is the only and the best possible ex-
planation, because we are justified in speaking of a relationship
between some observed phenomenon and the greenhouse effect
only if other explanations can be excluded, or rendered unlikely.
Here is an area where an upgrading of proper and defensible
scientific attitude is badly needed, not to mention the media's at-
titude.
THE REST OF THE STORY 107

We have already dealt with one such example of extreme


events, i.e., the American drought of '88, which we have accoun-
ted for, as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned.
And we could do the same thing with all the remaining claims.
Just for the sake of completeness, and not to bore you to death, we
will again mention our guideline for climate: The long-term aver-
age of a climate parameter, and a climatic change, a long-term
lasting change of any such parameter.
If we take as examples for such extreme events the number of
days with temperatures above 90° F, the number of days with
rainfall above 5", or the number of hurricanes in a hurricane sea-
son and so forth, we must obviously apply the same criteria to the
extreme events which we have applied to temperature or precipi-
tation alone. In other words, we must ask whether the frequency
and/or severity of those events changed over a climatically rele-
vant time scale, which is about 30 years. We cannot, as we have
shown above, draw the conclusion that one particularly heavy
rainfall, drought, storm or severe winter constitutes a climate
change if it is only an isolated event; or even if it occurs in a run
of years, if that run of years is short compared to a climatic base
period, or is replaced by a run of years of countervailing charac-
ter. Nothing in climatology is more nonsensical than the extrapo-
lation of a short-term trend into a long-term trend.
In the summer of 1987, Chicago (and other areas of the great
Plains) were hit by several intense rainstorms, which produced
close to 10 inches of precipitation within 24 hours and caused se-
vere flooding. If anyone had then concluded that we are now
headed for rainy summers, the drought of '88 should have taught
him a lesson. If any one had concluded in the summer of '88 that
we are now headed for hot summers, the cool summer of 1989
would again have taught him the same lesson: Never extrapolate
a short-term trend into the future.
As far as extreme events are concerned, we must conclude that
we can speak of a climate change only if they occur in an increas-
ed frequency over a climatically relevant time scale. If they do not,
they are climatically, and in terms of the greenhouse theory, mean-
ingless - particularly, if they are accompanied by climatic events
of opposite character in other parts of the world, which would be
contradictory to the greenhouse theory anyway.
There are no indications that the warming climate of the last 100
years has been accompanied by an increase in extreme events; the
opposite seems much more likely. From all we know, it appears as
108 GLOBAL WARMING

if the colder episodes in former centuries were the ones with many
more extremes in climate, while the relatively warm climate of the
20th century has been mostly benign.

Time Out I

In our analysis of the greenhouse theory, we have contested a


number of claims made in public debate about global warming
and the greenhouse effect.
We were able to separate spurious claims from those supported
by climate-model predictions, and we were further able to test
some of the model predictions against reality. We had to conclude
that all we can say at this point is that there has been some warm-
ing over the past 100 years, a warming which is considerably less
than the model-predicted warming. In particular we refuted the
two major claims that the most recent "global" warming and the
occurrence of the '88 drought is related to the greenhouse effect,
since both could quite clearly be attributed to causes other than
the greenhouse effect.
The question which obviously needs to be answered is: There
has been warming over the last 100 years, although much smaller
than could be expected from model predictions, but is that warm-
ing due to the greenhouse effect, or is it due to different causes?
We will analyze this problem shortly.
Even now we have to concede that many concerns about the fu-
ture direction of climate may be put into an entirely different per-
spective by the realization that we may be dealing with only one
half to one third of the projected temperature increase thought to
result from a CO2 doubling, which, as we have seen in our future
trace-gas scenarios, may not even occur until well into the 22nd
century. At this point we might ask what all the fuss is about?
Greenhouse proponents have argued that, even if the observa-
tional data do not fully support - even contradict - their claims,
they still believe the large warming predicted by the models will
occur, since we have only been within the range of natural varia-
bility of climate so far, where neither a warming nor a cooling
would be a proof or counterproof of the greenhouse theory. For
example, as we pointed out before, even the fact that the warming
in this century fell drastically short of greenhouse expectations, it
could still be "explained away" by assuming that a large natural
cooling occurred, which counteracted the greenhouse induced
warming.
THE REST OF THE STORY 109

The line of argument then continues with the claim that we can-
not afford to wait long enough to see evidence of the greenhouse
effect, because when we finally have proof, it would be too late.
Therefore, we have to act now.
Before we go into an analysis of this proposition, let us examine
the role natural factors might have played in causing the warming
- or the proposed hypothetical cooling - of the last 100 years. We
will also see whether there were warm climatic periods in earlier
centuries and millenia - obviously due to natural causes at those
times. In addition, we will also attempt to estimate what a warm-
er or a colder climate than today meant then to nature and human
activities. The historic precedent may give us some clues for what
to expect from a warmer climate. Will it be "better" or "worse"?
5.

The Longer View:


Factors Other
Than Trace-Gases
That Affect Climate

I n the preceding sections, we analyzed trends and patterns of


climate parameters and attempted to relate them to the po-
stulated man-made increase of the greenhouse effect due to
the emission of various trace-gases. In doing so, we acted as if
trace-gas increases were the only factor that could have affected
climate, and deliberately neglected other parameters which might
also have had a bearing on climate over the last century. Now we
are going to identify some of those other factors which also affect
climate and which may indeed explain some, if not all of the ob-
served warming of the last century.
Implicitly, we have already come to the conclusion that natural
factors must be important when we realized that most of the
warming this century occurred at a time when it could not have
been caused by trace-gas increases - i.e., before WW II, when
trace-gas emissions were comparatively small, but the observed
temperature increase was much too large to be explained by that
trace-gas increase. Hence, natural factors must have been at work
causing the earlier temperature increase. We will now attempt to
identify some of those factors.

The Urban Heat Island

Once more we will first look at the land-based temperature re-


cord of the last 100 years, which we have accepted so far at face
value, and briefly discuss the possibility that some of that tempe-
rature increase of the 20th century is caused by a phenomenon
called the "urban heat island".
The urban heat island phenomenon is due to the fact that built-
up areas such as cities are always somewhat warmer than the sur-
rounding countryside, because the concrete-asphalt-brick jungle
attracts and stores more heat and evaporates less water in sum-
THE REST OF THE STORY 111

mer than the surrounding countryside, and in winter additional


warming is produced by waste heat from various human activi-
ties.
Now, weather observing stations, which were located at the
outskirts of towns around 1900, gradually became located right in
the middle of towns as the cities grew out around them over the
following decades, storing and producing the urban heat and
thereby warming up the neighborhood of the weather observing
stations. Rising temperatures at those stations may be a reflection
of the growing cities around them, but it is no indication of gene-
rally climbing temperatures, because that warming was restricted
to the cities themselves. If that "urban heat island" effect is ac-
counted for, rising temperatures may then not indicate a warming
climate but only growing cities. It is generally believed that this
effect has been factored out of the temperature record, but some
controversy is still smoldering over whether it has been suffi-
ciently accounted for. For example, scientists have been able to
show that the urban heat island is not only confined to bigger ci-
ties, but can also be observed in small towns - a fact a number of
studies overlooked.

Watch Out For The Volcanoes!

While scientists certainly do not know all of the factors which


might have a bearing on climate, several factors thought to have
an impact on climate variations on the time scales of concern to us
are known.
We will discuss them now and begin with the one which is
probably least important - on the time scales relevant to the
greenhouse problem.
This is volcanic activity, which is important on time scales of 1-
10 years, but possibly even longer if there is an extended lull or in-
crease in volcanic activity.
The direct impact on climate of a volcanic eruption is difficult
to estimate, since much depends on the severity of the eruption,
on how high up into the atmosphere volcanic material is blown,
and on the chemical and physical properties of the material
injected into the atmosphere by the eruption.
By and large, however, the impact will be a tropospheric and
surface-cooling of the earth in the 1-3 years following a major vol-
canic eruption. The magnitude of global average cooling is mostly
in the neighborhood of 0.2-0.5° F. Any protracted periods of volca-
112 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 27. Observed changes in the transparency of the atmosphere since 1882.
Two recent major volcanic eruptions - Mount Agung in 1963 and El Chichon in
1982 - can be identified as marked peaks in this curve. Previously, volcanic ac-
tivity was suppressed since about 1920.
Source: George C. Marhall Institute, Washington D.C., 1990.

nic activity will therefore be generally cool, whereas any prolong-


ed periods characterized by a notable absence of volcanic activity
will therefore be generally warm, everything else being equal.
For instance, the relative coldness of the 1880s is partially blam-
ed on the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 and the coldness of the 1810s,
particularly "the year without summer", 1816, when freezes
occurred in New England in July, on the Tambora eruption in
1815.
The 20th century, on the other hand, was characterized by a re-
markable reduction of volcanic activity in the years following
WW I, interrupted only by the Mt. Agung eruption in 1963 and
the El Chichon eruption in 1982. The Mount St. Helens eruption
in 1980 does not appear to have had a major global impact.
We therefore realize that most of the warming in the first half of
the 20th century was accompanied by a marked reduction of vol-
canic activity, which basically persists to this very day (see Fig.
27). Only the recent eruption of Mt. Pinatubo is considered to be
severe enough to have had some impact on global climate.
An obvious conclusion we can draw from this is that part of the
observed warming during the last 100 years may be related to a
protracted lull in volcanic activity - which would then reduce the
share we could ascribe to the trace-gas increase and the green-
house effect. However, it would be quite difficult to quantify the
amount by which reduced volcanic activity may have contributed
to the warming.
THE REST OF THE STORY 113

What Heats The Earth? The Sun Of Course!

The most important factor, and unfortunately the least under-


stood, is related to changes in solar brightness.
It has been known for quite some time that regular variations
occur in the number of sunspots on the sun's surface, which have
an average period of 11 years. In addition, large variations were
observed in the amplitude, or number of sunspots, at peak years.
Earlier this century, a number of attempts were made to relate
those sunspot cycles to short-term climate variations - with almost
no success at all.
Only a few years ago, a possible relationship between the 11-
year solar cycle and another phenomenon which affects primarily
the stratosphere, the so-called quasi bi-annual oscillation (QBO),
has been discovered.
Although there are some quite interesting effects associated
with solar-QBO processes which may explain some of the obser-
ved short-term climate variations and may indeed even have

Figure 28a. Scatter diagram of mean annual temperatures in Central Europe


and sunspot numbers. Long-term averages between 1761 ans 1989. Standard
zed values.
The coefficient of correlation between the two variables is r =.71.
Source: After data from Linke and Baur 1962 (and addenda)
114 GLOBAL WARMING

some merit in short-term climate forecasting, we are not concern-


ed with short-term climate variations, and so we re-direct our at-
tention to longer-term variations in the solar energy output - still
short compared to the age of the sun - but within the time scales
we are interested in: a few decades to a few hundred years.
Those variations have to do with differences in peak amplitude
at different maxima of the 11-year solar sunspot cycle.
Researchers have noted that a very pronounced minimum of
those peak amplitudes, the so-called "Maunder minimum", coin-
cided with the coldest observed temperatures of the little ice age
in the second half of the 17th century. Furthermore, another mini-
mum early in the 19th century, the "Spoerer minimum", was also
accompanied by significantly lower temperatures than in preced-
ing decades (see the temperature and solar cycle record in Fig.
28a). Other researchers who analyzed various kinds of so-called
proxy data, i.e., data indicative of climate variations, noted that a
quasi 200 year cycle seems to exist in both solar activity and tem-
perature on earth. This 200 year cycle has been confirmed by a
number of other sources; some scientists relate it to gravitational
variations between the sun and the solar system's largest planets,
Jupiter and Saturn.
Whatever the reasons, if we compare the long-term trend of
land-based temperature over the last 100 years to that of the sun-
spot numbers, some striking similarities appear (see Fig. 29), and
the correspondence becomes even better when one considers SSTs
alone.
In fact, if one attempts to statistically relate regional tempera-
ture records to the various factors we have been dealing with so
far over the entire length of available record, which is about back
to 1750, the long-term average of sunspot numbers has a close re-
lationship to temperature (see regression estimate in Fig. 28a)
Even though the physical mechanisms through which solar ac-
tivity may influence climate are unknown (the variations in solar
energy output are extremely small, which is why many scientists
are skeptical about solar-climate relationships), it is no surprise to
learn that some scientists conclude that the warming we have
seen this century may to a large extent have been caused by solar
variations alone, and that the postulated greenhouse effect may
only have played a minor role, or at least not a significantly great-
er role than solar variations. We did implicitly arrive at a similar
conclusion earlier when we found out that the very largest part of
the observed temperature increase of the last 100 years occurred
THE REST OF THE STORY 115

Figure 28b. Variation of yearly averages of sunspot numbers and tropospheric


temperatures over mid-latitude oceans of the Northern Hemisphere, between
1966-1990. The coefficient of correlation between the two data sets is r=.76.

during the first half of this century - at a time when it could not
have been caused by a trace-gas increase.
This conclusion comes on top of our earlier realization that the
temperature increase this century was also accompanied by a lull
in volcanic activity, which further reduces the possible role the
greenhouse effect might have had.
Clearly then, it now appears foolish to believe (and to claim)
that the warming we have experienced over the last 100 years has
largely or even entirely been caused by the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse activists may take some additional (cold) comfort
from the fact that the years 1989 and 1990 were years with some
of the highest sunspot numbers ever (and the period 1950-1989
was the 40 year period with the largest number ever since records
began) - putting a further damper on their claims that the 1980s
were the decade when we finally saw the greenhouse effect. When
considering annual averages of tropospheric temperatures, as we
did before in Fig. 19, temperatures in the mid-latitudes of the
Northern Hemisphere seem to have closely followed solar
activity since the 1960s, which is when this data-set began (see Fig.
28b). Therefore, possible solar-climate-relationships should not be
so easily dismissed.
116 GLOBAL WARMING

Was There Climate In The World Before 1880?

Next, we wish to put climatic events of this century into a larg-


er perspective, because climate did not begin in 1880 or 1850 after
all, as one might have been led to believe by the greenhouse de-
bate, which likes to restrict discussion climate to those last 100-140
years.
It would be interesting and possibly instructive to find out how
climate behaved in earlier centuries. That might enable us to draw
some conclusions about climatic variations in the present century.
Let us take a look then at historical temperature records dating
back to the days before 1850, the time before relatively reliable glo-

Figure 29. Comparison of long-term averages of sunspot numbers and average


global temperatures from 1885 to 1985.
Source: George C Marshall Institute, Washington D.C, 1990.
THE REST OF THE STORY 117

bal, or at least land-based temperature records became available.


The first and foremost problem we face here is that temperature
records from those early days are few and far between.
Nevertheless, some fairly reliable "thermometer" records do
exist back to about the middle of the 18th century, and in a few
cases even to 1700 and a little earlier. Those records are mostly
from various parts of Europe and from the eastern U.S. Unfortu-
nately it is difficult to ascribe a global representativeness to them
with any amount of certainty, because, as we found out a little
earlier, a tropical or global trend may run counter to a mid-lati-
tude or any other regional trend (see page 91, Fig. 19., and Tab. 9).
The oldest thermometer record is the "Central England Re-
cord", which begins in 1660 and is shown in Fig. 30.
One of the interesting aspects of the Central England Record is
that it ran fairly parallel to the global trend between 1880 and
1970, and it is tempting to use it as a surrogate for the global trend
prior to 1880. However, because of the likely unrepresentativen-
ess of regional trends over the long haul this will not be done here.
But it may still be surprising to see wild swings in this tempe-
rature record in the days before 1850. There were in fact periods
when it was considerably warmer than today - despite claims that
the current warmth is due to the greenhouse effect. Those warmer
periods can also be detected in temperature records from other
parts of the world.
Obviously, it can become warm on earth even without the ad-
ditional man-made greenhouse effect - which once again empha-
sizes our argument that there are other factors which have a
warming effect on climate and which have so far not been consi-
dered in climate model forecasts.
Let us briefly raise one point again which we have repeatedly
hammered on throughout this book. This is the nonsensical ex-
trapolation of a short-term trend into a long-term trend. We can
pick out several portions of the Central England Record when
temperatures rose almost continuously for decades. Any observer
back then who had simply extended that trend into the future,
would invariably have woken up one day to a bad surprise. It did
not become any warmer; instead, the trend reversed and it be-
came colder.
What we learn from this is: Through the centuries, the climate
changes and fluctuates continuously. There may be decades
which are predominantly warm while others are predominatly
cool, but over the long haul - and here we are talking about hun-
118 GLOBAL WARMING

dreds of years - it appears to


fluctuate around a center of
gravity, which is the very long-
term climatic average. And all
this happens because of the
combined, intertwined action
of natural parameters. We may
now have a feeling that it is not
so easy to separate natural fac-
tors from those due to man's ac-
tivities when we try to explain
the observed temperature trend
of this century, because we do
not know all of those natural
factors. To deepen our appre-
ciation of natural climatic var-
iations of the past, we will at-
tempt to look back even further
to the days before direct ther-
mometer measurements were
available.
One might ask how it is pos-
sible to obtain data on tempera-
ture and climatic fluctuations
without direct measurements.
Well, it is difficult and becomes
increasingly tenuous the farth-
er back one looks.
There are a number of sourc-
es from which indirect inferen-
ces about climate can be made:
One such source is old histori-
cal records of items as diverse
as descriptions of extreme cli-
mate events, river levels, har- Figure 30. Temperature trend in Cen-
vest yields (including taxes and tral England since 1668, 10-year run-
ning means.
prices), which date back to the Source: After Manley, 1974.
Middle Ages in parts of Eu-
rope. It has proven possible to
relate data as bizarre as a wine quality index from the wine-grow-
ing provinces of Southwest Germany to the average summer - or
growing season - temperature with fairly good success, and tern-
THE REST OF THE STORY 119

perature and the general character of the summer seasons has


been reconstructed back to the Middle Ages.
Some very old records from ancient Egypt permit conclusions
about the water level of the Nile as far back as 2000 B.C., which is
of utmost economic importance for that country. Some very inte-
resting aspects of climatology revolve around those indirect me-
thods of probing into climates of the past.
Even direct historical records, fairly abundant from medieval
Europe, allow some conclusions about the climate back then. On
the basis of historical records, it has been possible to reconstruct a
climatic history of Switzerland back to the early Middle Ages.
Needless to say, there were periods, decades, when the climate
was much warmer than at present, and some of the most graphic
examples include the year 1540, when people were bathing in the
Rhine river at Christmas, or one year when the grape harvest
began in July instead of September. If the same extremes occurred
in our time there would be a deafening chorus of Greenhouse!
Greenhouse! resounding through the land.
Furthermore, and more importantly, it is possible to reconstruct
climate from so-called proxy data, that is, data indicative of cli-
mate variations. Some of the most widely used sources of proxy
data are tree-ring records, lake sediments, (and lake levels), and
pollen concentrations.
Large amounts of data have been collected from around the
world; and while the margin of error is quite substantial, when
this data is aggregated to emulate a "global" temperature trend,
certain inferences can still be made about the climate of earlier
centuries and even millenia:
1. There was a period from about the late Middle Ages, 1600 A.D.,
to the middle of last century, when climate in the middle and
high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere was generally 1-2°
F colder than today. This period is often referred to as "The lit-
tle ice age".
2. Between 1000 and 1200 A.D. there was a period when climate
was close to 2° F warmer than today. It is called the "Medieval
climate optimum".
3. Around 4000 B.C. there was a period when climate was 2-4° F
warmer than today. That period is called the "Altithermal",
"Holocene" or simply "Climate optimum".
Climate during those periods was profoundly different from
today's. Historically, it is well established that the cold periods of
the little ice age - which was not cold throughout, but occasionally
120 GLOBAL WARMING

interrupted by rather warm decades, as in the second half of the


18th century - caused substantial problems to most human endea-
vors: Agriculture, a livelihood for a much higher percentage of the
population than today, was severely hit, since food was almost
entirely locally grown and consumed. Wars were fought over the
supply of grain. In one instance, in 1771, Frederick the Great mili-
tarily occupied territories in neighboring Poland and confiscated
the Polish grain harvest to secure the grain supply of Prussia after
all remaining options to peacefully make up for the Prussian crop
failure turned out to be of no avail.
During the medieval climatic optimum, the Vikings set out to
discover and settle Greenland, which was, at that time, as the
name suggests, green - at least in coastal areas. Most of the settle-
ments had to be abandoned one or two centuries later when cli-
matic conditions worsened, signaling the advent of the little ice
age.
It appears to be fairly well established that during the climatic
optimum 4000 B.C. summer temperatures in Europe were at least
4° F higher than today. At the same time, today's hyperarid regi-
ons of the Middle East and Northern Africa were substantially
wetter than today, a situation which must have lasted long
enough to turn Cyrenaika into the bread basket of the Roman Em-
pire, and which provided a climate sufficiently moist to support
large forested areas in Palestine until the Romans used that wood
for ship-building, much in the same way the Spaniards did a mil-
lenium and a half later in the Iberian Peninsula. The results of that
deforestation have not been overcome to this day, which provides
a graphic example of the way man alters his natural surroun-
dings, and the climate along with it, at least on a regional scale.
Obviously, there are long-term factors at work other than the
greenhouse effect which have a bearing on climate and that can
cause swings in climatic conditions as large or larger than we have
witnessed over the past 100 years.
We do not consider factors here which may have caused the ice
ages, when earth's temperature was 7-9° F lower than today, and
which have been related to variations in earth's orbital parame-
ters, and which only enter the game at time scales from several
thousand to 100,000s of years. And we will also not consider even
more ancient climate variations covering geological times.
The causes of these very long-term climate variations do not
have a bearing on the present debate, because we are only con-
cerned with climate variations on time scales of a few decades to
THE REST OF THE STORY 121

a few hundred years - the time scale on which greenhouse gases


are supposed to make their impact felt.
Summing up, we should realize at this point that cold periods
in climatic history are equated with the ones causing immense
problems - at least within the cultures located in the mid-latitudes
of the Northern Hemisphere, while warm periods are generally
thought of as more benign, element, and favorable to nature and
almost all human endeavours, which is why they are named "cli-
matic optima". Even subtropical regions enjoyed a more favora-
ble, i.e., cooler and wetter, climate then.
On the basis of those historic precedents, it appears difficult to
accept claims that a warmer climate means catastrophic change
for Earth. From what we know about climate history we can only
conclude that a warmer climate - warmer by up to 3-4° F - has been
beneficial and not detrimental. This sheds a different light on the
impact of a warmer climatic future. It may not be so terrible after
all, even if as large a warming occurs as predicted. But will it?

Time Out II

If we recall our earlier conclusion that the climatically relevant


warming of the last 100 years was only of the order of 0.6° F, aver-
aged over continents and the oceans, to stress the point again, the
role we may finally assign to the greenhouse effect in causing that
warming may be reduced to a fraction of that - and to a very small
fraction of the model-predicted 2° F, because we could not find
any convincing evidence of a hypothetical natural cooling. On the
contrary: the available evidence points to a natural warming.
Extending that conclusion to the model-predicted 5-7° F in-
crease for a CO2 doubling means we should only expect a fraction
of those 5-7° - possibly something in the neighborhood of, or even
less than 2° F.
This is a very important conclusion which seriously questions
the validity of the doomsday scenarios from the greenhouse ac-
tivists.
However, their biggest headache is yet to come. Scientists have
found out that a minimum in the 180-200 year solar cycle might
occur sometime next century - possibly bringing a cooling of 1-2°F
to our earth, thereby cancelling entirely any expected greenhouse
warming, if it occurred at all.
They conclude, greenhouse effect or not, that the temperature
of the earth next century could be very close to what it is now:
122 GLOBAL WARMING

Somewhat cooler, if the natural, solar induced cooling prevails,


somewhat warmer, if the man-induced greenhouse effect prevails.
Before we analyze the implications of those conclusions for the
greenhouse and trace-gas reduction debate, let us first repeat and
digest those results, and recall again briefly how we arrived at
them:
1. We defined a temperature trend for the last 140 years which is
compatible with any meaningful definition of climate, compri-
sing continents and oceans, and which can therefore be used for
comparisons with model-predicted temperatures.
2. We determined temperatures increased by about 0.6° F, less
than one third of what the best available climate models predict.
3. We analyzed long-term (as long as is relevant to the present dis-
cussion) temperature records, and found that there were peri-
ods as warm or warmer than today, which must have had caus-
es other than the greenhouse effect.
4. From ancient climatic data we conclude that warmer periods
were more benign to nature and human activities, which is why
they are called "climate optima".
5. The warming of the 20th century occurred mostly in the first
half, at a time when it could not have been caused by a trace-
gas increase, but at a time of increasing solar and decreasing
volcanic activity. Both factors would lead to a warming of cli-
mate.
6. The total contribution of the postulated greenhouse effect to the
observed warming, which to begin with is only one third of the
predicted greenhouse warming, must in all likelihood be even
less than that one-third because additional natural factors are as
likely or more likely to have caused the warming.
7. Any future warming thought to occur from rising trace-gas con-
centrations should then likewise be significantly less than ex-
pected.
8. Looking ahead 100 years into the future, any slight warming
due to the greenhouse effect may very easily be counterbalanc-
ed by a possible natural cooling due to solar variations.
We are now left with a situation where we cannot but realize
that the actual climatic warming is much smaller than the one
predicted by the models. We find it hard to believe that a possible
greenhouse warming this century has been cancelled by a natural
cooling. We could not find any convincing evidence of a natural
cooling. One way to reconcile the discrepancy between climate si-
mulations and climate observations - other than assuming that the
THE REST OF THE STORY 123

models are right but the observations are "wrong" - is to assume


that the models are overpredicting. They may be right about the
effect as such - that is simple physics - but not about the magnitude.
Strangely enough, when one follows the statements of most gre-
enhouse activists, there is a steadfast refusal to even admit that
such a possibility exists. They tend to argue that it is irrelevant
with respect to the measures we should adopt to stave off global
warming. Not quite: The measures to thwart a warming of 2° F in
2100 are of a decidedly different nature than those to fight a war-
ming of 5°F in 2020. One can not help but think that it really is ir-
relevant to them whether a greenhouse warming already has oc-
curred or how large the expected greenhouse warming will be, be-
cause the motivation behind initiating those measures is almost
entirely unrelated to the greenhouse effect.
We will not go into this any further at this point; we will do so
in depth later on. At this point, we will probe into the possible rea-
sons for why the model predicted warming is so much larger than
the observed one.
After all, those models are run by the world's best scientists in
their respective fields; they employ the world's fastest and most
expensive computers: why shouldn't they be right, after all? Well,
they might be if they included all of the processes important to cli-
mate in their models.
Let us recall again what we said at the beginning: A model is
only an approximation of a reality which is much more complex;
and if there are significant processes in real climate not dealt with,
or dealt with incorrectly in climate models, the model results
might be incorrect.
Most scientists agree that there are two major areas where the
model predictions might founder, and which we will therefore
analyze in some detail:
1. The way the oceans are treated in the models.
2. The way clouds are treated in the models.

1. The oceans
We saw earlier that the oceans assume a key role in both the car-
bon cycle affecting the atmospheric concentration of the most im-
portant greenhouse gas, CO2, and climate by acting as a sink and
transfer medium for heat.
A significant part of the poleward heat transfer from equatorial
regions is carried out by ocean currents. In the Northern Hemis-
phere, those currents have been estimated to effect up to 40 per-
124 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 31. Model calculations of globally averaged surface air temperature em-
ploying the IPCC scenarios "A" (business as usual), - A (LSG) and "D" (CO"
reduction to 50% of 1985 level by 2050) - D (LSG) and instantaneous CO"
doubling (2 x C02 (LSG)) in the Max Planck - Institute of Meteorology, transi-
ent coupled ocean atmosphere GCM. According to this model, temperatures in
coming decades will rise significantly less than projected by the IPCC calcula-
tions.
Source: Max-Planck -Institute of Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, 1991.

cent of that poleward heat transport. Any misrepresentation of


those currents, which, to make matters worse, have a complex
three-dimensional structure which is difficult to model, could
very easily result in distorted climate model predictions.
However, there have been some encouraging attempts to grap-
ple with the issue of vertical heat transfer in the oceans, and in-
deed, our earlier conclusion that temperatures should thus far
have risen by approximately 2° F as a result of the greenhouse ef-
fect alone included some modeled "swallowing" of heat by the
oceans. But was it enough? It is generally agreed that a number of
issues, in addition to correctly placing the crucial ocean currents,
are yet to be resolved in vertical heat transfer processes in the oce-
ans. Quite obviously, it is of paramount importance to know how
deep into the ocean heat will penetrate from the surface, and no
less important, how fast that penetration takes place. One piece of
evidence for why climate model-predictions have been so high in-
tersects the heat penetration issue. Scientists employing physi-
THE REST OF THE STORY 125

cally more realistic heat transfer processes in the ocean's surface


layers found that oceanic warming between 1880 and 1980 should
only have been approximately one third of what standard GCMs
predict - therefore considerably closer to the actually observed
oceanic warming since the 1850s - if there has been any warming
at all. Nonetheless, incorporating realistic ocean modeling into
standard GCMs remains a tricky issue for a variety of physical,
mathematical and, primarily, computational reasons. It is gen-
erally agreed that a substantial increase in computing power is so-
rely needed soon to make any significant progress in modeling the
impact of the oceans on climate and climate change.
There have been some encouraging signs recently of succesfully
grappling with the oceanic issue in climate modeling by develo-
ping so-called coupled models; some of them do in fact point to
considerably less warming, and one of them shows that the so-cal-
led transient response of climate to a trace-gas forcing, i.e, the way
climate evolves as trace-gas concentrations slowly build up in the
atmosphere, does indeed somewhat resemble the pattern obser-
ved in recent decades. Other calculations dramatically slow down
the amount and rate of warming expected in coming decades. In-
terestingly enough, it is of no consequence in those model calcu-
lations whether the IPCC "BaU" scenario is applied or the strin-
gent-measures-scenario, which might have important policy im-
plications (see Fig. 31). In any event, it seems as if a more realistic
modelling of the oceans may go a long way toward explaining the
discrepancies between the observed temperature trend and the
one modelled thus far. Unfortunately, other models of the same
type show completely different warming patterns (see Fig. 20). It
is clear to all modelers in any case that a lot of work remains to be
done - and could be done in the near future - to more realistically
model the role of the oceans in climate.

2. The clouds
The same can certainly also be said when considering the im-
pact of modeling clouds in climate model forcasts. Here, climate
modelers have to cope with a variety of factors which can either
increase or decrease cloudiness, change cloud physical properties
and cloud type, which, in turn, can lead either to a decrease or in-
crease in global temperatures in response to a trace-gas increase.
Why clouds are cloudy business indeed is shown by an estimate
that an error of about 2 percent in model-predicted cloud cover
may cause an error in temperature as large as the envisioned
126 GLOBAL WARMING

greenhouse related temperature increase itself, thereby either can-


celling it out entirely or enhancing it by a factor of two. The pic-
ture turns even bleaker when we consider how large an impact
the type of cloud cover has on modeled climate change: Low
clouds tend to counteract the greenhouse effect and high clouds
tend to enhance it. But when we take account of the seasons and
geographical locations involved, even that is not true anymore.
The very simplest example to illustrate this is the observation
that it does not become as cold during a cloudy winter night as it
does during a clear one; therefore, clouds, particularly low clouds,
act as a blanket; whereas on a summer day, it does not become
nearly as warm when it is cloudy as when it is sunny. Thus, clouds
have a shielding effect.
Which of those effects will prevail on a global average, let alone
on a regional level in a scenario of increasing trace gases, must be
considered an open question, even though most of the models
favor the enhancing effect at present.
This is due to the fact that they perceive the shielding effect of
current cloudiness to prevail over the blanketing effect on a glo-
bal average. They model a decrease in global cloudiness as a re-
sult of a trace-gas increase, leading to more solar radiation reach-
ing the earth's surface, thereby adding to the warming.
There have been attempts to clarify the role of cloudiness by
means of satellite observations, which, unlike observations from
traditional weather stations, provide global coverage, particularly
badly needed over the vast expanse of the oceans. The prelimi-
nary results indicate that large regional differences exist regarding
the impact of clouds on climate.
Whereas in the tropics, the shielding and blanketing effects of
cloudiness very nearly cancel each other out, in mid-latitudes,
particularly over the oceans, increasing cloudiness would cause
general cooling and in high latitudes, an increase in cloudiness
will lead to a warming. In the subtropics, there are some areas
where an increase of high cloudiness would also cause a warming.
This, however, only addresses the question of how clouds impact
on climate once they are there, but not the question which con-
cerns us, i.e., how clouds behave in response to rising trace-gas le-
vels and the envisioned increased temperature levels. One factor
which has hardly been considered in the GCMs is the way cloud-
physical properties behave in a generally warming climate.
Some experimental and theoretical results indicate that low and
middle-high clouds become optically thicker as they warm under
THE REST OF THE STORY
127

a trace-gas induced warming, therefore increasing the shielding


effect and counteracting the trace-gas induced warming. On the
other hand, some scientists claim that on balance, high clouds will
be most affected, leading to an overall warming contribution of
clouds in a warming scenario.
However, the latest news on this is that the inclusion of those
cloud-physical processes may indeed slash the hitherto envision-
ed warming in half - even when considering the high clouds. It
may in fact turn out that cloud physical processes alone are quite
important and may also go a long way explaining why the model
predictions have so far been unrealistically high.
Other researchers note the importance of deep cumulus con-
vection - especially in the tropics - to the response of the climate
system to increasing trace-gases. They point out that, depending
on the modeling scheme employed, global warming may easily be
slashed in half. In the tropics, big cirrus cloud shields generated
by towering cumulunimbus clouds may act as a thermostat by
cutting off the flow of solar radiation to the earth's surface.
A further point of interest which may be recalled here is that
mid-latitude oceans in the Northern Hemisphere have been cool-
ing over the past 30 years. It may not be too speculative to think
that increasing cloudiness may have something to do with that. If
that is the case, then how this might be related to the greenhouse
effect is a totally different question; but, as we saw on page 90,
cooling of mid-latitude oceans and the concomitant warming at
low latitudes has led to an increase of the equator to pole tempe-
rature contrast and to an intensification of the storm systems
which produce more clouds - and more cooling, thereby inten-
sifying the temperature contrast between mid- and low-latitudes.
This is a perfect example of a positive feedback loop and of a
chicken and egg problem: no one knows which came first. Was it
mid-latitude cooling or low-latitude warming which kicked in the
sequence of stronger storms - more cloudiness - cooler tempera-
tures. It certainly works both ways.
Even sulfur dioxide emissions may have been a factor in caus-
ing increasing cloudiness and cooling over the oceans. Scientists
have discovered that increasing atmospheric SO2 levels provide
increasing condensation nuclei on which cloud droplets may
form. This may have been particularly prevalent downwind from
continental areas of SO2 emissions in North America and Asia -
right over the oceans.
To make a long story short, clouds only add to the general co-
128 GLOBAL WARMING

nundrum in which climate modeling finds itself: Here, as with the


oceans, we can only hope to find some clarity in coming years by
substantially increased computing power.
But, as most recent model results show, it is indeed more than
conceivable that the more realistic modeling of oceans and clouds
leads to a substantial reduction of the temperature increases mod-
eled thus far, which would then provide at least a partial and sens-
ible explanation - rather than speculatively hedging on a "natural
cooling", which hid the greenhouse signal - for the divergent
trends between modeled and observed temperatures during the
last century.
We must therefore conclude that it is our foremost task at this
time to concentrate all our efforts on climate modeling and to ar-
rive at a more reliable and more dependable vision of what the fu-
ture climate might be in the 21st century - taking into account all
factors which may have a bearing on climate and not just trace-
gas increases alone. This is in fact a view widely held throughout
the scientific community.
6.

A Changing Perspective

W ith this in mind, let us now return to the question of


"impacts" of a climatic change through man's addition
of trace-gases to the atmosphere.
Skimming through the scientific literature, it is hard to believe
the enormous number of studies, reports, books and so on about
"impacts" of a changing climate on health, agriculture, fishing,
sea-level, you name it, all assuming and none of them questioning
the model-predicted temperature increase and the ensuing clim-
atic change.
One hesitates for a moment and then asks if all the money spent
on those studies is money well spent, since we have just seen how
unsound it is to assume that this tremendous temperature rise will
occur. We might wonder whether the money would not have been
better spent on climate research and, more specifically, climate
modeling, because this is the number one source of concern about
climate changes and the number one source of uncertainty.
Since it is obvious to everyone by now that, if the projected
temperature increase does not materialize, all the envisioned ne-
gative impacts will not occur either. There will not be an increase
in the frequency and severity of droughts, sea levels will not rise,
sea ice and glaciers will not melt, there will be no inundation of sea
ports and coastal low lands, in fact, there will be no foundation
whatsoever for all the concerns about climate and "the most se-
rious threat to mankind".
But even if we assume, as we should, that there is some green-
house warming, albeit significantly less than predicted by the
models, the lessons we have learned from climate history are quite
clear: A slight warming of up of, say, 2 or 3° F is not at all to be con-
sidered a serious threat to the climate. On the contrary, it has been
equated to a "climate optimum" throughout climatic history, and
it were the periods colder than today which were considered dang-
erous and detrimental to nature and human endeavors.
A similar opinion was voiced, assuming even a warming as
large as current GCM simulations expect, by the Soviet climatolo-
gist M. Budyko to a stunned audience at a climate conference in
130 GLOBAL WARMING

Hamburg, Germany in 1988. He asserted during the conference


that the warmer climate of the future would be so much the bet-
ter, because it would also be much more moist (and not just in Si-
beria, as critics were quick to suggest); growing conditions for
plants would also be greatly improved by the increasing level of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There would certainly be no
reason to think that "detrimental climate changes" or even a "cli-
mate catastrophy" would occur. The audience, which had conven-
ed to be harrangued about the menaces the greenhouse effect
"would certainly bring upon us", reacted to Budyko as if the
scientist had been "swearing in a church".
We do not wish to dwell on the condition of Mr. Budyko's soul.
We only wish to point out that some difference of opinion does in
fact exist on the greenhouse issue, contrary to the impression one
might get from media accounts.
But quite clearly, according to everything we have found out so
far, the point made by Budyko must be accepted, i.e., that a warm-
er climate is a better one, particularly if viewed in conjunction
with a increased level of atmospheric CO2. The FAO, the agricul-
tural sub-organization of the United Nations, came to this con-
clusion at the Second World Climate Conference (SWCC) in Ge-
neva in November 1990 - but was not very warmly welcomed.
It is easy to take issue with the contention that a warming of the
magnitude expected by the models would still be "good", since a
warming of that magnitude is untested by human experience and
may indeed entail some adverse consequences, as we found out
above; particularly, as many have suggested, because of the rate of
climatic change which might occur.
But this is not the temperature level and rate of climatic change
we can reasonably expect to result from an increase in the green-
house effect alone; rather, as we have shown, we should probably
expect a warming of the order of only 2°-3° F in the case of a CO2
doubling - which, judging from past experience, would still be in
the "beneficial" range.
We are therefore facing the very odd situation that, as a result
of our various industrial activities, we are not adversely changing
our environment, we are benefitting it — a point made before
when we were addressing the impact of a raised CO2 level on the
biosphere alone. This is in fact the major issue which distinguis-
hes the greenhouse debate from most other environmental issues
such as air-pollution, acid rain, and the ozone depletion debate. In
all those areas, we are dealing with proven adverse effects: air-
THE REST OF THE STORY 131

pollution does pose a health hazard; acid rain is detrimental, not


only to vegetation but also to material surfaces; ozone depletion
must be viewed as adverse, because an increased level of UV ra-
diation is deleterious; the debate here is restricted to how dange-
rous it is and whether the costs of combatting it are justified by the
benefits of a cleaner environment. The public's answer clearly is
yes to most of these questions. In the greenhouse debate, howe-
ver, we are dealing with a situation where hundreds of billions of
dollars are proposed to be spent worldwide to avert a change for
the better. How sensible is that? How will those measures affect
the average citizen if they are implemented? These are the quest-
ions we will take up later.
When the two factors are viewed in conjunction, i.e., an increas-
ed level of CO2 and a global temperature maybe 2° F higher than
today's, our planet could easily be turned into a garden of Eden,
and not, as many claim, or at least fear, into a disaster area. As be-
fore, when we were considering the CO2 increase alone, we have
reached a philosophical, but not a scientific point: Shall we resist
change just because it is a change, even if it is a change for the bet-
ter?
Now, as we have established, even a temperature increase of 2°
F due to the greenhouse effect in the next century might be very
speculative, since we know with some confidence that a natural
cooling, related to the quasi 200 year solar cycle may occur next
century (see page 114). That would bring temperatures down
from today's level by one or two degrees F or so. A greenhouse
warming of 2° F may only balance that cooling, leading to tempe-
ratures 100 years from now which might not be very different
from today's.
But we are still left within the realm of speculation and may at
this point only be able to say, greenhouse effect or not, maybe it
will be 2° warmer than today, but it may also be somewhat cooler
if the solar induced cooling is greater than the greenhouse induc-
ed warming.
In any case, this perspective is vastly different from the cata-
strophic warming projected by climate models, and in all like-
lihood it renders a few truckloads worth of "impact" studies use-
less. This only underlines a point made at the beginning, i.e., that
it is penny wise to spend a lot of money on developing climate
models and pound foolish to spend much at all on "impact" stu-
dies of corrective measures. As anywhere else in life, it is always
better to take step one first and step two second. Impact studies,
132 GLOBAL WARMING

especially regional impact studies which have been worked on fe-


verishly, ought to be postponed until higher resolution, reliable
model predictions become available.
A good case in point is a conference in late 1989 which conclu-
ded, after going through considerations similar to those we dis-
cussed earlier, that sea levels would only rise by about a foot or so
instead of three feet as assumed before.
Studies like "The impact of a raised sea-level on Ocean City,
Md." or "The impact of the greenhouse effect on water resources
in Southern California" are absolutely nonsensical at this time,
particularly if they are based on just one GCM forecast, because
completely different results may very easily be obtained in those
regional scale studies by using a different GCM.

Taking Stock

We have now examined the scientific basis of the greenhouse ef-


fect in some detail; we have analyzed the reasons behind the
temperature rise of the last 100 years, and we have addressed the
question of whether we can really expect temperatures to rise the
way current climate model projections envision them.
Our answer has been: No, we really cannot expect temperatu-
res to rise the way climate models predict it, particularly if we take
factors other than trace-gases into account, which also have a bea-
ring on climate.
Now that we have concluded our scientific assessment, we will
direct our attention to the public debate on the greenhouse effect.
If you have read this far - and once you have heard the rest of
the story, Part I - the public debate appears in an entirely different
light. You might ask yourself: What is going on here? Either this
book is full of nonsense, or the author has not read the papers re-
cently! Why, everyone knows about rising tides, scorching heat,
and melting ice caps. No doubt about it, that seems to be green-
house reality.
Some of the more "advanced" greenhouse thinkers do not want
to be caught up in the more intricate scientific issues surrounding
the greenhouse problem, i.e., do we already see the greenhouse, is
the observed warming caused by the greenhouse in effect or not,
how large will future global warming be etc.? They simply cir-
cumnavigate those issues by declaring them irrelevant to the case.
Instead they now build their case on the following two proposi-
tions:
THE REST OF THE STORY
133

1. Climate models predict a large warming for the coming deca-


des.
2.We cannot afford to doubt those predictions for any reason be-
cause if they are right, it will mean disaster for the world. We
therefore have to take countervailing action now.
The problem is therefore elevated from a mere scientific issue to
a public policy issue. According to these greenhouse proponents,
the world finds itself in the position an airline might be in when
it receives a bomb threat: It might be a serious threat, but it might
also be a crank caller. What do you do in this situation? Evacuate
the airport and fall victim to a prank? Or do nothing? Let a bomb
explode and masses of people die? Greenhouse proponents say:
Evacuate the airport at all costs, no questions allowed - without
considering the costs of overreaction, which in the airline exam-
ple is justified.
Our investigation has cast serious doubt on the first proposi-
tion. But we must also doubt the second one, since a moderate
warming of climate will not mean disaster, as an exploding bomb
would, but rather an amelioration of climate. Therefore, the disa-
ster proposition is an inappropriate one which cannot be used
here. Even if it could, the question would then be how much coun-
tervailing action shall we take? Clearly, the greenhouse debate has
permuted into a political issue leaving scientific criteria far be-
hind.

Viva The Media

In any case, there is one lesson we had better learn quickly:


What appears in the media is one thing; the scientific basis for it
may be an entirely different matter.
The scientific account given here so far accurately reflects the
way it is perceived by large segments of the scientific community,
and it is certainly defensible point by point - as you can find out
yourself by looking up the references.
But then how is it possible for there to be such incredible noise
about the greenhouse effect: Conference after conference, news-
paper story after newspaper story - it all must come from some-
where.
Yes, it does. Brace yourself for the rest of the story Part II. The
scientific community is divided on the greenhouse issue. A vocal
group of scientists seriously believes that there are going to be de-
leterious climatic changes because of the greenhouse effect, and
134 GLOBAL WARMING

they are quite active making their opinion known to Congress, and
to the public.
However, it is more the bark of their opinion than the bite of
scientific evidence that has the public's ear, because, as we have
seen, their views can be refuted, which is why their opinion is not
shared by large segments of the scientific community, which takes
a more cautious stance, such as we have expressed it here. Still
other members of the scientific community think - although very
few dare to say so publicly - that even a warming as large as that
predicted by the models is good for all of us, a position pointed
out here to show the range of opinion within the scientific com-
munity.
Most of this debate remains hidden from the public view and
the majority of scientists remain quiet. The stage then belongs to
those who are sometimes called the "greenhouse alarmists".
And the media are always up for it: Sci-fi and horror stories are
good box office, bad news is always better than good news, the
audience loves it and it's not the media's task to inform the public,
but to make money and secure a market share. So there is certainly
no reason for the media not to push the greenhouse effect, because
here they have a sure-fire winner for some time to come, and the
worse the horror stories get, the better.
However, one day the party will be over; at the very latest,
when demands are presented to the public to contain a greenhouse
effect we have seen will not occur in the predicted manner; when
demands which cut so deeply into the American way of life, into
the prosperity Americans worked so hard to achieve are presen-
ted to combat in essence a figment of the imagination, then, at the
very latest, the public will start asking questions in the same way we
have asked them here. And scientists and politicians alike had
better be prepared to answer them.

The Real Issues

Scientists have a right to be concerned. Concern of scientists has


led us to ban CFCs from spray cans, get rid of DDT and install cat-
alytic converters in our automobiles, all of which presumably
turned our world into a better place to live. Do the demands to
curtail trace-gas emissions in order to combat global warming
turn our world into a better place?
The "concerned" scientists have said yes, and we will analyze
this concern shortly.
THE REST OF THE STORY \ 35

Before we do this, we should realize - the rest of the story Part


III - that links exist between the climate change issue and other ap-
parently unrelated ones, which we will also examine in some de-
tail. Those links have led to an unfortunate intermingling of other
issues with the climate change debate. One of our goals will now
be to re-separate the issues and to relegate them to their appro-
priate places.
We will start out by presenting and examining the demands ad-
vanced by some of the concerned scientists and by recent green-
house conferences.
One of the more commonly cited recipes to combat greenhouse
warming was presented at the Toronto conference on "The Chan-
ging Atmosphere" in June of 1988, in the middle of the American
drought - a propitious - time to come out with such demands:
Reduce global CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2005.
Ultimately reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent.
Phase out CFCs by the year 2000.
Since then, those demands have taken center stage in the inter-
national trace-gas reduction debate. Those numbers are widely
accepted in international fora and have even been adopted as gui-
delines by some individual countries. But is that what it takes to
save global climate?
Now, we must first of all remember that those demands were
advanced - if there is any basis to them at all, and if they were not,
as one observer put it, "plucked right out of thin air" - on the back
of model forecasts which had us in for a 5-7° F temperature rise
for a CO2 doubling - which we know by now cannot be quite true.
They were made to avert the negative impacts thought to be caus-
ed by that temperature rise; rising sea-levels, droughts, and so on.
But if the temperature rise does not occur, the negative impacts
will not occur either, thereby nullifying the basis of those demands
from the start.
More generally, as new scientific evidence emerges about the
magnitude of an expected climate change, the impacts assessed
change as well, and so do appropriate response strategies. The
scientific evidence that became available between 1988 and 1991
points to less warming, less sea level rise than was thought before.
Consequently, the impacts and the response strategies should
change as well, in the direction of less stringent measures. This
lesson seems to have been lost on the IPCC (Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change) and the Second World Climate Confe-
rence (SWCC), where the "Impact" and "Response" group chose
136 GLOBAL WARMING

to ignore the results of the climate change group in its assessment,


leading one analyst to speak of "mind-sets" within the impact and
response groups. However, who would now be surprised that the
greenhouse debate has largely taken on a life of its own, or that
any hint pointing toward less catastrophic climate changes is
frowned upon by those who use it to push their particular agenda
to save the world?

Take Out Insurance Against


Coming Changes For The Better? Sure-
Greenhouse activists have argued - caveats about the reality of
global warming aside - that we are operating in a realm of uncer-
tainty and that we have to take out some kind of insurance against
possible adverse climate changes in case those model predictions
turn out to be right after all, as unlikely as that might seem at this
point. At first sight, they seem to have a good point, because after
all, it is good practice to always count on the worst and be prep-
ared for it. That is why you take out insurance - auto, life, home,
health. You do not plan to cause an accident, get sick, have your
home blown away by a tornado, but you want to be covered if any
of those unforeseen, unpredictable, catastrophic events does
occur. The insurance premium you pay - or the kind of coverage
you take out - is assessed according to the damage that might
occur and according to the probability that it might occur: The
higher the possible damage and probability of occurrence, the
higher the premium, which is why you can not apply this simple
insurance concept to the climate change issue.
First of all, we are not dealing with "unforeseen, unpredictable
events of a catastrophic nature" if climate indeed slowly evolves
over decades in a way the models predict. It is a slow process vis-
ible to everyone, one which can be stopped at any time - with
some lags - if one chooses to do so; it is not some disaster that can
strike at any moment without prior notice as the insurance con-
cept assumes. Second, and more important, we know by now that
a warmer climate is a better one, most certainly during the early
stages which we might observe during the next decades. There-
fore, the most likely outcome of an ongoing trace-gas build-up is
not a catastrophic event but a beneficial one. Taking out insurance
and paying premiums against coming changes for the better
seems to be the height of folly. Third, who is to decide what type
of "coverage" we should take out if one really thought one had to
THE REST OF THE STORY 137

prepare against changes for the better? No one would be able to


assess, in dollars and cents, the extent of the "damage". Luckily
we know that there is not going to be any damage to prepare for
at this time. But nonetheless, the debate in coming years will cen-
ter exactly on the question of how much insurance we should take
out in order to fend off global warming.
But now we come to an additional point of overriding impor-
tance. We begin intermingling climate change with other issues.
The proposal to reduce CO2 emissions to ward off the greenhouse
effect - from the start or in an insurance type of approach - not only
means reducing the greenhouse effect, but also reducing energy
use along with it, as we have seen on pages 30-36. Therefore, not
only would a reduction in energy use, and in particular, fossil fuel
use, potentially reduce the greenhouse effect, it would also mean
several other things as well:

1. Taking it easy with our energy resources


2. Generally reducing air pollution due to fossil fuel burning
3. By saving fossil fuel in the ICs, making more of it available to
the LDCs, thereby reducing global income inequalities
4. Reducing dependence on potentially insecure foreign energy
supplies
We now begin to realize that the climate change issue fits right
into a much larger agenda, one we are quite familiar with by now,
at least since the first version of the "Club of Rome" predictions
of limits to growth and the general "Save energy" agenda ham-
mered into us since the first oil crisis in 1973, and the plans of some
of the environmentalists, who are against anything that has to do
with industrialization and the comfort provided by technological
progress.
In other words, various groups have added the climate change
issue to their agenda, partially because they are really concerned
about climate, partially because it fits their purposes; in any case,
it seems as if their ulterior motive is not concern about climate as
such, but concern over a number of other issues, in which climate
may conveniently be used as an attention-getter, like a propeller
on a beanie.
These groups are obviously not very interested in questioning
the scientific basis of the global warming/greenhouse hypothesis,
because that would be self-defeating to advancing their ulterior
goals, so in order to add weight to their demands, they make the
whole matter look as bleak as possible, regardless of the scientific
138 GLOBAL WARMING

soundness. To be sure, those groups get the most publicity and


they fit wonderfully into the only-bad-news-is-good-news world
cherished so much by the media.
But let us be fair: Most of the goals advocated by those groups
- some of which are listed above - are noble ones and are to be
commended in their own right, but we should make absolutely
clear that they must be viewed separately from the climate change
issue; because if we do not, we run into the danger of mixing
scientific issues with ideological and political ones, and only use
science as an expedient to further those political or ideological
goals.
This does not help science; nor, in the long run, does it help
those political or ideological ideas, because a willful or careless
neglect of the scientific basis of the greenhouse problem - just be-
cause it is expedient - will sooner or later backfire in their faces.
Undaunted by simple fact, let alone susceptible to reason, the
modern politician has borrowed a page from the text of alchemy
and learned to transmute the political dross of energy policy into
the precious metal of concern for the environment. With the aid of
the smoke and mirrors of the electronic media, the modern politi-
cian has telescoped an issue which is many, many legislative pe-
riods down the road onto the bottom line of his or her campaign
contributors' list. To paraphrase a well-known advertisement for
American Express: The Climate Card, Don't Campaign Without
It!
But the climate card, as we have found, is overdrawn.
Nonetheless, this is the world we live in. Let us therefore ex-
amine some of the proposals made to counter a trace-gas build up,
and see if they will be sufficient to meet the 20 per cent reduction
target presented above in the case of CO2. Whether they will be
feaseable at all is still another question. We also have to realize
that we are back in computer-model wonderland. In other words,
we are talking about measures which might have to be taken if we
really expect the climate to change the way current GCMs predict.
We will do this for the simple reason that these proposed stra-
tegies might have some benefits aside from combatting the green-
house effect; they may therefore be desirable in their own right.
7.

The Unreal Solutions -


Grappling With CO2
Let us first turn to CO2 and the energy side of the coin. Accor-
ding to greenhouse reports and suggestions on how to deal with
warming, one has the impression that the only greenhouse gas is
CO2, and the only human activity responsible for its emission is
fossil energy use. We know, of course, that this is not the case, but
most strategies aimed at fighting the greenhouse effect naturally
enough somehow center on our old acquaintance "saving
energy". Consequently, but maybe surprisingly, most greenhouse
"experts" are energy experts, and greenhouse conferences lately
pay only minor tribute to climate and deal more with the question
of how to scale down energy use or how to finance technology
transfer to third world countries. The entire greenhouse business
is presently in the hands of people who are as far removed from
climate as imaginable. Actually, many of those people have been
around for close to 20 years and are now coming out of the wood-
works, basing their "save energy" sermon on the greenhouse ef-
fect for a change. The new 1991 report of the "Club of Rome" is a
good case in point. However, let us be fair: Saving energy has ob-
vious benefits aside from fighting the greenhouse effect which
should clearly be recognized. The main ones are:
1. Reducing dependence on foreign and potentially insecure
energy supplies.
2. A dollar saved on the energy bill is a dollar earned.
3. Limits on energy resources.

1. Reducing dependence on foreign energy


The oil crises of the 70s have tought a very harsh lesson to the
ICs and forced them to reduce their dependence on insecure sup-
plies of foreign energy. Since then, use of oil has again increased
and prices have risen along with the increased use; and unfortu-
nately, if present trends continue, we may ultimately increase our
dependance on foreign oil to the point where we once again be-
come vulnerable to the same supply shocks which battered us in
140 GLOBAL WARMING

the '70s. The geographical distribution of oil resources paints a


very clear, but somewhat somber picture: almost all the world's
oil is in the Middle East. And people may remember what hap-
pened to oil prices in the '70s when OPEC was in control: they cer-
tainly did not go down. Therefore, we draw a very simple con-
clusion: we must increase energy use efficiency to protect our nat-
ional economical and security interests in the face of unfortunate
future shifts in the geopolitical supply pattern of oil. Indeed, in the
fall of 1990, sooner than anyone expected, Saddam Hussein de-
monstrated again how critically dependent Western economies
are on Middle East oil. This experience alone should be a strong
catalyst to lessen the West's dependence on insecure oil supplies
from the Middle East.

2. A dollar saved on the energy bill is a dollar earned


There are good reasons to save energy not only on a macro-eco-
nomic level but also on a personal economic level. Energy costs
money. If you save energy, you also save money. And nobody
likes to spend money if he does not have to. However, we have to
spend money on energy, because we do not want to freeze in win-
ter, and we do not want to swelter in summer. So, we heat and air-
condition our homes to be comfortable. We would prefer to spend
that money on something else, on something we would like to
spend it on, instead of something we have to spend it on. There-
fore, any possible way to reduce the energy bill is most welcome
to us, because it puts money back into our hands - to be spent ac-
cording to our wishes, not our needs. Hence, there is a strong in-
centive to save energy, for the simple reason of saving money.

3. Limits of fossil fuel resources


As we saw on page 36-40, there may be limits to the supply of
fossil fuels after all. It somehow creates an sad feeling to burn all
the fossil fuels, which took nature millions of years to create, in the
time span of a few hundred years. Furthermore, one quarter of the
world's population uses three quarters of the total energy - at pre-
sent rates. Questions are posed as to whether this is equitable. A
relaxation of the pressure on our global resource-base for that rea-
son alone would be a commendable endeavor, particularly when
we realize that fossil fuels may be too precious to simply burn
them - since they may be used more sensibly as a feed stock in the
chemical industry, as they are in products from plastics to phar-
maceuticals, all of it is derived from oil - but which could also be
THE REST OF THE STORY 141

derived from coal. But at present, there does not seem to be a via-
ble alternative to fossil fuels in many areas, and unless we want to
go back to a 17th century lifestyle, or spend half of our pay-check
on so-called alternative energy, all we can do to lessen the pres-
sure on the global resource base is to save energy.

Playing The Reducing Game

Let us now consider what could be done to reduce CO2 emiss-


ions from fossil fuel use.
First of all, let us recall from page 22 and Table 4 that fossil fuel
related CO2 emissions make up approximately 50 per cent of the
man-made greenhouse effect at present emission rates. The
human activities which contribute to those 50 per cent, and are
possible target areas for reduction measures, are identified in
Table 4.
From that table, it is quite obvious that there is no panacea or a
"prime target" for regulatory action; even closing down all trans-
portation worldwide would only lead to a 13 per cent reduction
of the greenhouse effect, considerably less than a complete phase
out of CFCs. The same would be true for electricity generation
from fossil fuels.

Go Nuke!

This ought to be remembered when claims emerge to switch to


nuclear electricity generation as a means to fight the greenhouse
effect. This is not to say nuclear energy can not make any contri-
bution in reducing CO2 emissions and the greenhouse effect, only
that it can not make a very significant contribution which can not
be achieved in other, simpler and first of all cheaper ways, not to
mention the present regulatory quagmire a shift to nuclear energy
of that scale would entail. It might be remembered that at present
nuclear energy provides only 5 per cent of the world's total energy
needs.
In addition, not only might we run out of fossil fuels, but also
out of nuclear fuels. As a matter of fact, the resource situation of
nuclear fuels - uranium - looks considerably worse than for fossil
fuels. At current rates of usage, without accounting for a massive
shift to nuclear power generation, supplies will only last a few de-
cades. Some countries have sought to remedy this situation by the
development of a controversial breeder technology. It is therefore
142 GLOBAL WARMING

widely acknowledged that nuclear energy can either provide only


temporary pain relief from the greenhouse headache. For more
than that, a broad scale breeder technology would have to be ad-
opted. Even nuclear experts hate to think about the costs this
would entail - not to mention the proliferation potential of high
grade nuclear fuel. To be sure, the greenhouse effect is not the best
of all excuses to push nuclear power.

Burn Now, Pay Later

A somewhat more viable strategy to reduce fossil fuel CO2


emissions might be fuel switching, i.e., the shift from high carbon
content fuel to low carbon content fuel. We may recall from Table
3 that the amount of carbon contained in natural gas per unit of
energy is only 60 percent of that in coal and 75 percent of that in
oil. Consequently, if one used gas instead of coal, there would be
an immediate CO2 reduction of 40 percent. Therefore, fuel switch-
ing has taken a front seat in the CO2 reduction debate. Added
advantages of using natural gas include low emissions of sulfur
and other pollutants. Natural gas may be used to replace coal and
oil in the power generating and home heating sectors, but also in
industrial processes. Compared to a shift to nuclear power, rela-
tively small capital investments would be needed to switch burn-
ers from coal or oil to gas. Hence, fuel switching might be the ideal
solution to our real and perceived greenhouse problems, were it
not for the limits in natural gas reserves. At present, natural gas
reserves are supposed to last roughly 50 years. If we step up usage
now, we may accordingly run out at a far earlier date, maybe after
20 or 30 years, just at the point in time when the greenhouse effect
might begin to become a problem, assuming the doomsday pre-
dictions are right - leaving us empty-handed then. Because then,
with nothing else left, we have to use higher carbon content fuels
to meet the world's energy needs.
Furthermore, in some countries, security of supply problems
argue against a too heavy reliance on natural gas, since they are
not blessed enough to have command over large resources of gas
and they have to be content with coal instead - if they have that.
Leakages from natural gas supply systems - although small -
may enhance the greenhouse effect because of the much greater
greenhouse power of unburnt natural gas, which is essentially
methane. Those leakages might then argue, from a greenhouse
perspective, against an over reliance on natural gas.
THE REST OF THE STORY 143

Renewable Energy:
Welcome To Alice's Wonderland

The best way to fight the greenhouse effect - and solve the
world's energy supply problems - is a shift of the world's energy
base to so-called renewables or alternative energies: wind, solar,
hydropower.
Of those three, hydropower is indeed a proven resource of elec-
tricity generation, and, where available, a widely used source of
energy.
But the other two candidates, wind and solar, largely represent
a pipe dream when it comes to large scale generation of power
necessary to fullfill the world's energy needs. Why? Even though
they are technologically possible, they are more expensive by a
factor of five to ten than power generation by means of either a
fossil or a nuclear power plant. Energy experts are therefore quite
certain that in the foreseeable future, meaning the next decades,
the role of renewables will remain quite small and restricted to a
few, special applications. Nonetheless, research in those areas is
being intensified, and who knows, maybe ten or 20 years from
now, some smart scientist might come up with a way to manu-
facture solar cells at a fraction of today's costs and, all of a sudden,
our greenhouse and energy worries will be over once and for all.
But as of now, the potential of "alternative fuels" can be summed
up briefly: Technologically: Yes, in some respects. Economically:
No, in almost all respects.

The Ugly T - Word

One option which should not be pursued - even though it is the


darling of nearly the entire environmentalist and ecotopian
league - is the tax option.
So what if Wall Street hates the ugly T - word, we hate it too. The
ugly T - word is introduced by the ecotopian league as a virtual
panacea to all of our environmental, greenhouse and limits to glo-
bal resource problems. The story behind it goes something like
this: We put a stiff tax on fossil fuel use, which discourages the use
of fossil fuels (thereby reducing CO2 emissions, slowing down the
use of our limited resources, reducing fossil fuel related air pollu-
tion - and, probably most importantly, generating revenue). Some
of that revenue may then be used to develop energy saving tech-
nology, or help third world countries on their path to "sustaina-
144 GLOBAL WARMING

ble" development, which they're entitled to at the expense of the


"bad" rich ICs, who "robbed" them of their resources in the first
place. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
But as always, if something sounds too good to be true, it
usually is.
First of all, the imposition of a consumption tax (which is what
a tax on fossil fuel use would be) always exacerbates social in-
equalities, because it hits the poor harder than the well to do.
If you increase the money spent on fossil fuels by a fixed amo-
unt, as a percentage, the increase is higher in a small budget than
a large one.
Furthermore, tax increases enacted to pay for a certain purpose
have a long and consistent history of not being used for the inten-
ded purpose very long, but rather being thrown into the general
revenue bag, which the government loves to use so inefficiently.
A good example for this is a tax which the Imperial German
government chose to impose on Champagne in order finance the
build-up of its Navy prior to WW I - and to no one's surprise, that
tax is still being levied today, 70 years after the downfall of Im-
perial Germany.
Worse yet - as economists know - revenue transferred by means
of a tax increase from the efficient (private) sector of the economy
becomes inefficient in the hands of government bureaucrats,
thereby reducing the overall strength of our national economy.
However, the worst is yet to come: The tax will in all likelihood
not even achieve the intended purpose of reducing fossil fuel use
unless it is so rigorous that it causes economic disruption as
severe or much worse than the oil crises of the 1970s did.
Trigger a recession or even depression to prevent a climate
change for the better?
The reason why it probably will not work is that there is a con-
siderable amount of what economists call inelasticity in fossil fuel
use, in other words, the demand for fossil fuels is to some extent
price-insensitive. Why is that?
It has to do with the fact that you use energy not because you
want to but because you have to. Here is an example:
If there is a gasoline price hike, you can not decide to walk 10 miles
to work or spend 5 hours on the public transportation network in
order to save energy - or money; you will grudgingly pay the high-
er gasoline price and drive anyway, because, even if you have to
pay more, driving is still the most efficient way to get around.
A similar argument can be made for home heating: If there is a
THE REST OF THE STORY 145

heating fuel price hike, you decide not to freeze or run around
your home in a blanket; you pay the higher price for fuel instead.
In both cases, it is obvious that the poor suffer the most under
such tax'em-to-death proposals, because they lack the financial
muscle to either pay the higher price or make up for the additio-
nal money spent on fuel by reduced spending in other areas. To
them, and to most of us, the need to use energy assumes a central
role in life.
Consider an example where such a taxing strategy might work
and why it might work:
If the price of such non-essential commodities such as sugar or
coffee goes up, you might indeed decide to forego sugar or coffee
for a while in order to dodge the price hike. You can do that, be-
cause sugar and coffee are not as essential to our lives as the use
of energy.
Therefore, there is a much higher elasticity in the price-demand
relationship of those non-essential commodities; and taxation, in
other words steering demand through the price, will probably
work.
But as far as the more essential use of fuel is concerned, your
more likely reaction to higher prices will be to grudgingly pay
them and to make up for the money thus lost by spending less in
non-essential areas - such as travel, restaurants, reading material,
luxury goods. Therefore, the additional money spent on energy
will be subtracted from money spent in other sectors of the econ-
omy judged to be less essential, which may lead, or contribute, to
an economic downturn such as the ones we have witnessed in the
1970s and early 1980s. But fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions will
not be reduced in the process.
One good example why a "quasi tax hike" did not result in
decreased consumption of energy comes from Germany again.
Between 1973 and 1981, gasoline prices, as a result of two oil cri-
ses, went up two and a half fold, mimicking as stiff a tax increase
as is imaginable.
Yet, and this must be a surprise to all ecologists and tax hike
proponents, total gasoline consumption went up 30 percent and
CO2 emissions with them, mostly as a result of an ever increasing
number of automobiles.
But that is not all. One would have thought that at least speci-
fic gas consumption went down (gas milage increased), but no, it
even went up slightly (gas milage decreased) (see Fig. 32).
Conventional wisdom has it that at least gas milage should
146 GLOBAL WARMING

have improved under the impact of so steep a gas price hike. But
this did not happen either. Apparently, the response to higher gas
prices has been to continue to drive - and to drive relatively large
cars. The higher cost of driving must then have been compensa-
ted for by reduced spending in other areas. Obviously, no CO2
emissions were reduced despite the dramatically higher prices.
And to finally give the the tax fanatics something to think about,
let us look at the absolute gasoline price level in the US and in Ger-
many. A gallon of gasoline in Germany goes for $2.40 and in the
US for about $1.10. Out of those $2.40, total taxes amount to $1.60,
substantially in excess of US taxes and even substantially in excess
of what dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists are proposing in the
US.
But now, fleet average gas milage in the US stands at 20 and in
Germany at 23 mpg (see Fig. 33). In other words, despite the hor-
rendous tax level in Germany, there is about the same efficiency
there as in the US. More remarkably, efficiency in the US has in-
creased by about 50 per cent between 1974 and 1988 - despite the
drastically lower price level in the US (see Fig. 33). The new-car-
fleet gas mileage moreover is quite comparable in both countries
and stands at about 28 mpg. Do you still believe in higher taxes as
a means to increase energy efficiency? There are better ways.
This exercise could be carried out for other sectors of the econ-
omy as well. Data from the manufacturing sector of the German
economy do not show any convincing relationship between the
energy price level and energy efficiency (see Fig. 34). In fact, the
largest efficiency gains were achieved in the 1950s and 1960s
when energy prices adjusted for inflation were falling. Even in
percentage terms, the efficiency gains were not larger under the
high energy prices of the '70s and '80s. However, there are nota-
ble differences from one country to an other, and in the US econ-
omy, significant improvements in energy efficiency did not set in
until after the first oil crisis in 1973.
In any case, there are substantial pitfalls in an "energy must be
more expensive to reflect its real costs" and the resulting tax'em-
to-death approach, which must be known to the people advoca-
ting it; but apparently, the opinion "if it feels bad, do it" prevails
as the leitmotif among those who are promulgating those strate-
gies and one wonders if they really are designed to counter the
greenhouse effect or more to fullfill some sadistic desire to inflict
pain.
Moreover, the notion of "environmental costs of fossil fuel use"
THE REST OF THE STORY 147

Figure 32. Trends of gasoline prices and specific gasoline consumption in Ger-
many since 1966 (adjusted for inflation). The figure plots fuel consumption of
the passenger car fleet in Germany (Liters/100 km) and fuel prices (in constant
1980 DM per liter).
1.00 DM per liter corresponds to US$ 2.10 per US gallon (in 1980 US$).
Source: The German Federal Ministry of Transport; BP, various years.

is increasingly contested by some scientists who - rightfully as we


have seen - mark down the beneficial effects of an atmospheric CO2
increase on the other side of the book-keeping ledger.
For those of you who are less sadistically inclined, there are in-
deed much better ways to counter the greenhouse effect than "if
it ain't hurting, it ain't no good".
A final note on taxing strategies concerns using tax money le-
vied in the ICs to supply it to the LDCs in order to further "sust-
ainable development" or "environmentally compatible develop-
ment" there.
As good as it sounds in theory, we are again talking inefficiency
of scale.
Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) have long stories to tell about the quagmire that opened up
when they tried to straighten out the economies of some of the
LDCs which have, for various reasons, been pushed to the brink,
or into the state of virtual bankruptcy.
As almost every major American bank found out the hard way,
a dollar plunked into the economy of an LDC, especially in Latin
148 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 33. Trends of energy prices and energy efficiency within the manufac-
turing sector of the German economy between 1950 and 1988 in Kg of ce per
1000 DM of goods produced with crude oil prices in DM per ton at constant
1980 prices (adjusted for inflation).
Source: Data after Vereinigung Industrielle Krafrwirtschaft, various years; BP, 1990.

Figure 34. Trends of enery efficiency of the transportation sector in the


U.S.and the FRG since the mid I960's. Fuel efficiency of passenger car fleets in
the US and in Germany show different impacts from pricing and regulatory
policies.
Source: After Annual Energy Review, 1989; German Federal Ministry of Transportation, various years.
THE REST OF THE STORY

America, was a dollar lost.


Even if the ICs did supply funds to the LDCs by means of a
"World Climate Fund" or a similar instrument, it is virtually im-
possible to ensure that money invested there is used in the inten-
ded way and are not simply snapped up by the upper crust to in-
crease their fleet of Rolls-Royces or hillside estates or simply
make a round trip to the NY stock exchange - the general public
going away empty handed - and worst of all, getting stuck with
the bill when the day of debt re-payment arrives.
Considering the difficulties encountered solving the much
more pressing basic economic problems of those countries, it is
hard to imagine, but it may not be entirely impossible, that envi-
ronmental concerns will be given such a high priority.
8.

The Real Solutions


The Premier Candidate

Before we get into the CO2 and energy side of the coin, let us first
take a quick look at the second most important greenhouse gas,
the CFCs, of which the Toronto conference demanded a complete
phase out because of their role in ozone destruction.
As we saw on page 27, a phase out of CFCs would not only be
a measure against the greenhouse effect, but also against stratos-
pheric ozone depletion, and may therefore not only be a prudent,
but very cost-effective strategy as well, in view of the fact that
CFCs contribute between 20 and 25 per cent to the greenhouse ef-
fect at present emission rates, comparable to the entire, world-
wide contribution of fossil fuel use in transportation and residen-
tial heating.
It may be considerably easier and less disruptive of human ac-
tivities to think of some ways to replace CFCs than to think of new
ways to heat homes or propel automobiles.
Therefore, any sensible strategy to counter the greenhouse ef-
fect would, for reasons of cost effectiveness and in order to disrupt
human activities as little as possible, first and foremost address
the CFCs.
We recall, however, that this is already being done; at present,
out of concern over the ozone layer, but with the side benefit of
also warding off the greenhouse effect.
We already considered this in our conclusion that any possible
future warming due to the greenhouse effect would not proceed as
rapidly as has been thought; therefore, one key element in staving off
the greenhouse effect has already been implemented - though
some would like to see the CFC phase out much sooner. No-
netheless, it appears as if the importance of the CFC phase-out in
scaling down the greenhouse effect in coming decades has not yet
fully permeated the minds of most greenhouse thinkers who con-
tinue to hammer on CO2 and energy use as the one and only
greenhouse gas and greenhouse activity. They give their secret
away too easily: the name of the game is not concern about
climate, but concern about energy use.
THE REST OF THE STORY 151

Try Technology

Now that we have spent so much time showing how not to do


it, let us now show how to do it.
It appears as if energy might be saved - and CO2 emissions avoi-
ded - much better by continuously advancing and implementing
new technology designed to use less and less energy in any ima-
ginable field of application, be it in the automotive sector by
designing ever more energy efficient engines, in the residential
sector, through more efficient burners and better home insulation,
and likewise in industry and the utilities through advanced
process technology
In the automotive sector, the US has taken a commendable lead
by requiring, as early as the 1970s, the auto industry to conti-
nuously increase gas milage; and the auto industry has shown
that it can do that and increase profitability at the same time.
The way to achieve a reduction in energy consumption - and
CO2 emissions - is mandating energy efficiency improvements by law
in a way similar to how it has been done in the US auto industry
through the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) scheme
(see also Fig. 33). To repeat, the industry has been able to signifi-
cantly increase fleet average gas milage over the past 10-15 years
and has increased profitability at the same time - and gas prices
have fallen at least since 1981. It looks as if everybody came out a
winner, and nobody was hurt, least of all the consumer. It ought
to be possible then to set energy efficiency standards - according
to what is technologically possible and economically sensible - on,
say, home insulation standards, furnaces, utility and industrial
burners and automobile engines.
It bears repeating that those measures should be taken not to
avert a climate catastrophe, because, as we have seen, no such risk
of any significance exists, but for reasons completely unrelated:
common sensical and economical ones.
Indeed, we may expect that some of these efficiency improve-
ments will be implemented in various sectors of the economy. The
assumption that they will be has already been incorporated in our
future CO2 scenario (pages 31-37) which led us to tentatively con-
clude that CO2 emissions in the ICs would remain roughly stable
despite an ongoing, moderate economic growth. The additional
factor we had identified, next to efficiency improvements, was
structural change in the economy.
We have implicitly assumed, very importantly, that the effi-
152 GLOBAL WARMING

ciency improvements would be possible without causing "harm"


to the economy, that is, the costs of energy saving investments
would not be greater than the energy savings themselves, thereby
rendering them economically sensible. They are therefore cost-
neutral or "cost negative", i.e. they save costs. We should realize
though, and maybe some of the greenhouse activists ought to as
well, that we have been embarked on a course of continuously im-
proving energy efficiency ever since the first oil crisis in 1973. In
the ICs, there may be some areas where the potential for energy
savings has already been exhausted or can only be reached when
making excessively large investments - investments that will
never be recouped by the energy saved. In that case, we would be
doing harm to the economy because the costs of energy saving in-
vestments would be greater than the energy savings themselves,
as well as the "harm" to climate, if that could be quantified some-
how.
However, as we have seen, we can discount the "harm" to cli-
mate, because a slight warming, which is all we can reasonably ex-
pect in the next decades is beneficial, if anything; so we may con-
centrate, for the time being, on the energy savings alone.
If we now tried to achieve the 20 per cent reduction target by
the year 2005 in the ICs - which we have dismissed on the basis
that we do not expect a climate change significant enough to ren-
der this reduction necessary, but keep it just for the sake of argu-
ment - we would probably have to rebuff it again on a second
count, namely that we - nobody can be precise about that - would
in all likelihood be harming our economy tremendously by re-
quiring a pace in energy efficiency increase that would cost us
more than the energy saved.
We recall that we were able to keep CO2 emissions constant
only in the wake - and at the cost - of two major recessions and the
ensuing high social burden on society. We also recall that crude oil
prices (in inflation adjusted dollars) approximately quadrupled
between 1973 and 1981 and that this quadrupling only led to zero
growth of CO2 emissions but not to an actual reduction. Restruct-
uring the economy to achieve a 20 per cent reduction of CO2
emissions and energy use over a relatively short time, notably
through the pricing of energy, would in all likelihood wreak havoc
on the economy.
This would particularly be true when applied to the 50 per cent
reduction demands voiced by some for the subsequent decades,
which at this time appears outright quixotic: it requires either an
THE REST OF THE STORY 153

unforeseeable technological revolution or a change of lifestyle


back to the way of the Colonial New England. Maybe this is what
some enviros are dreaming of.
Obviously, both of these reduction targets would certainly di-
vert funds from other, more productive areas of the economy, and
lower our living standards.
We therefore come back to a suspicion voiced at the very be-
ginning of this chapter: Meeting those proposed reduction targets
would undermine our prosperity and deeply alter our way of life
- for no reason at all, because the justification given for those de-
mands, an impending adverse climate change, is null and void.
But it should also be remembered that even if we had to expect
adverse climate changes, the rationale given for those specific re-
duction targets is marginal at best and could not even be justified
by an insurance type of approach; in fact it is basically non-ex-
istent, which has led some observers to suspect that the Toronto
figures were "plucked right out of the air". For one thing, we only
have to recall from page 53, Fig. 8 that keeping CO2 emissions
constant or at the rate of increase of 1 per cent would alone be suf-
ficient to significantly slow the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase
and push the doubling date for atmospheric CO2 far into the fu-
ture. One only wishes that greenhouse conferences did their
homework as conscientiously as they forge alliances with the
major TV networks. But then again, the point is of course presen-
ting the greenhouse effect in the direst terms possible.
In any case, energy savings and efficiency improvements indi-
cated by economic considerations should be pursued as long as
there is a net economic gain by doing so. This itself may provide
quite significant reductions of CO2 emissions at no net costs and
avoid punitive strategies by artificially raising the price of energy.
Clearly, even if we did expect deleterious climate changes, we
would first of all have to exhaust all existing possibilities of redu-
cing CO2 emissions by cost-neutral or even cost-saving measures
before proposing strategies which would hurt everyone, be soci-
ally inequitable, and create a public furor - such as a dollar-a-gal-
lon gasoline tax.
Additional strategies have been proposed to counter a CO2
build-up in the atmosphere, because energy savings alone would
not achieve the proposed reduction targets. Some of those involve
retaining CO2 at the source. Those strategies would be practicable
only where CO2 is emitted in large quantities, as for instance in
electricity generation and in large industrial burners. And indeed,
154 GLOBAL WARMING

a number of technological gizmos have been thought up to some-


how get the CO2 out of the effluent, particularly of fossil fuel fired
power plants. Most of these strategies would at least double the
price of electricity, and in fact use more energy, leading to a more
rapid exhaustion of worldwide fossil fuel reserves and clearly vio-
late our first rule, i.e., that the costs of averting a change should
never be larger than the costs caused by the change itself. Clearly,
the costs would never be recovered by the energy saved, and they
would place a considerable burden on all of us. Those strategies
would only be justified if one really had to count on severe, detri-
mental climate changes as a result of an ongoing trace-gas build-
up.
Some of those schemes are quite bizarre and involve deep free-
zing CO2 into solid blocks and depositing it on the ocean floor,
which is undersaturated with respect to CO2, or to direct effluent
CO2 into the deep sea by means of pipelines. Serious considera-
tion of those strategies does not appear to be warranted at this
point. Recently, a different way to reduce the atmospheric CO2
burden has been proposed. It has to do with the oceanic bios-
phere. We learned on pages 49-51 that the oceanic biosphere
might represent a sink for atmospheric CO2, but that too little was
known about its possible magnitude. Ocean biologists found out
that algae, which use CO2 which enters the ocean from the at-
mosphere, grow much better when iron is supplied as a nutrient.
In fact, some scientists suggest that relatively small amounts of
iron would be sufficient to drastically reduce the atmosphere's
CO2 load via enhanced algae growth. As one proponent put it:
"You give me half a tanker full of iron, and I'll give you another
ice age." Algae form the basis of the ocean's food chain and en-
hanced algae growth may in fact lead to a growth stimulus for the
entire marine biosphere. Time will tell how realistic those propo-
sals are and whether they really present a feaseable option to
counter an atmospheric CO2 build-up.
So far we have only been concerned with the ICs and have con-
cluded that even here, the demanded 20 per cent reduction is too
much of a good thing; but when it comes to the LDCs, the real
quagmire and hopelessness of the 20 per cent reduction target
opens up.
As we have seen on page 31, given the moderate assumptions
of a 2 per cent population and a 3 per cent economic growth rate
and a moderate energy efficiency increase, CO2 emissions would
grow at 2 per cent there - and would still grow globally even if the
THE REST OF THE STORY 155

ICs were to achieve a 20 per cent reduction.


Realizing that, greenhouse activists have concluded that the ICs
would have to reduce their CO2 emissions not just by 20 per cent,
but by an additional amount to make up for the additional emis-
sions expected from the LDCs.
In view of what we have just said regarding the 20 per cent re-
duction target in the ICs, no further comment is offered on those
even larger reduction demands.
This point becomes even clearer when one considers it a world-
wide social issue to reduce global income inequalities, which will
not reasonably be achieved by making the rich countries poorer,
but by making the poor countries richer - through robust econo-
mic growth in the poor countries. Limiting CO2 emissions is the
last of their concerns; they must instead be helped to grow their
way out of their misery, even at the price of increasing CO2 emis-
sions.
At any rate, if we take the very different concerns and positions
of the LDCs into account, it is quite hard to see how anyone can
reasonably expect to be meeting a global 20 per cent reduction tar-
get by the year 2005. Just remember that CO2 emissions due to fos-
sil fuel burning have increased by 20 per cent between the end of
the last recession in the early '80s and the late 1980s alone.
We realize at this point that CO2 emissions, along with a host of
other environmental problems, are most directly related to the
population increase we have experienced and probably will con-
tinue to experience. Can we condemn the LDCs for doing some-
thing that all developed countries have done as well through the
centuries, namely clearing forests and destroying natural habitat
for the sake of economic development? How important is it to
save a piece of natural habitat, if you can escape dying of hunger
by destroying it?
Already the attempt by international agencies to declare forest
areas off limits to development have led to protest in Malaysia
where the issue is not whether or not to use the natural resource,
but whether the Malaysians will be compelled to export it as un-
finished raw lumber or as semi-finished products such as
plywood. From that standpoint the enviros are serving neither the
environment nor the Malaysians but the system of debt repay-
ment that condemns LDC's to a perpetual status as raw materials
exporter. And in that way the contradiction is no longer between
population growth and developement compatible with maintain-
ing and replenishing the environment, but between the system of
156 GLOBAL WARMING

debt repayment (and the enviros) and developement compatible


with maintaining and replenishing the environment, and popul-
ation growth.
If Malaysia is an example too far away from home take the spot-
ted owl controversy in California. With the stroke of a green pen,
thousands of acres of public land were declared off limits to log-
ging, thereby depriving hundreds of small and medium sized
lumber companies of a livelihood. And thereby depriving one
particular forest-products company with thousands of privately
held acres of forest exempt from the stroke of the green pen, of ef-
fective competition. Perhaps the problems of the LDC's are not so
very different from those facing many small and medium sized
buisnesses in the IC's.

2. Let The Trees Grow

Let us now return to the question of reducing CO2 emissions —


or an atmospheric CO2 buildup. As we have shown, economically
sensible energy saving measures provide the currently best form
of reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions - or at least limiting their in-
crease while also being beneficial to the economy as well as our
personal finances.
Let us first of all highlight the contribution an end to defore-
station in the tropics might make in global CO2 reduction strate-
gies as we move into the second major field of possible options to
slow down an atmospheric CO2 increase.
A look at the bare CO2 emission figures tells us that "land use
changes" do account for about an extra 30 per cent of CO2 emiss-
ions on top of the ones related to fossil fuel use. Clearly then, an
end to deforestation directly translates into a 25 per cent cut in
total emissions. Ending deforestation is therefore desirable not
only to preserve nature, but may also make a very significant con-
tribution to slow a CO2 increase. It appears then as if "preserva-
tion of nature" in those regions where it currently is being dest-
royed should be high on any agenda that attempts to fight the
greenhouse effect - and not only there.
We now consider the second major option to reduce or at least
slow down an atmospheric CO2 increase. It is clean, cheap and ef-
ficient: Using the CO2 contained in the atmosphere to rebuild our
natural biosphere.
Back on page 47 we went into a detailed explanation of how
central a role CO2 assumes in our life and in the carbon cycle: The
THE REST OF THE STORY 157

CO2 we breathe out - or which comes out of a smokestack - is in-


corporated by plants in flower beds, and by the twigs, stems and
branches of trees. Our entire biosphere depends and thrives on
CO2 in the atmosphere. It is only a logical conclusion to enlarge the
biosphere so that it is able to take up some of the excess CO2.
The option to counter or to slow an atmospheric CO2 increase
by means of an expanded biosphere would have so many advan-
tages that it almost appears mandatory to go ahead with it.
Currently, the biosphere is a net source of CO2, mainly because
of land use practices in the LDCs. On the other hand it has been
suggested that the biosphere has become a net sink again in mid-
latitudes in recent decades, a conclusion which seems almost cer-
tain over parts of eastern North America. Obviously, the potential
exists, but how can it be put to work?
It has been estimated that old mature forest stands are in vir-
tual equilibrium with their atmospheric environment, that is,
while some trees grow anew, taking up increasing amounts of
CO2, other trees, old ones, die down while the carbon contained
in their stems and branches is gradually released.
Scientists have suggested that mature stands of forests be sel-
ectively logged, i.e., to take older trees out and use the wood - car-
bon - commercially, e.g., in the production of furniture. That
would take at least a few decades and thereby prevent the wood
from rotting and escaping into the atmosphere as CO2.
New trees would then be able to grow in the place of the log-
ged ones, growing rapidly and acting as a sink for CO2.
It would also be possible to reforest areas which have been
cleared in earlier decades and centuries. Clearly, that strategy
would require substantial amounts of real estate. Estimates have
been made on the area required to act as a sink large enough to re-
capture all of the CO2 released by fossil fuel burning. They vary,
depending on the types of trees used and the climatic zone in
which the re-planting takes place. In one case, assuming that only
50 per cent of the carbon released by fossil fuel burning is fixed to
trees, the required real estate amounts to about 3 million square
kilometers, about one third the size of the US. Reforestation on
that scale might be unrealistic. Yet smaller scale options are not
therefore to be shunned.
The "capture rates" for carbon of various types of trees in tons
of carbon per hectare and year are shown in Table 10.
The highest growth potential per unit area does exist in the sub-
tropics and tropics, and it may even be possible to reclaim areas
158 GLOBAL WARMING

thought to be lost to any agricultural or forestry use. According to


one estimate, combining all reasonable ways to increase forest
growth, one arrives at a potential of possibly 1- 2 Gt per year of
carbon fixation to trees, about the rate at which carbon is currently
thought to be released from the biosphere. However, the degree of
uncertainty is quite substantial here, and it could well be that the
biospheric capture potential for CO2 is much larger than thought
so far. Estimates run up to 4 Gt of current carbon fixation to tem-
perate and boreal forests - compared to 4 Gt of tropical release.
This would once again make tropical forest destruction a major re-
duction target. If it ceased altogether, carbon fixation to temperate
forests and regrowth in the tropics might be able to better balance
the global carbon budget - not even counting the oceanic sink,
which might in fact also be enlarged by iron fertilization of algae
growth.
The potential role of the biosphere in reducing atmospheric
CO2 levels would almost certainly make life tougher for those
who are pressing ahead with economically disruptive trace-gas
reduction strategies, because a more efficient slow down of an at-
mospheric CO2 build-up could be achieved by simply halting de-
forestation.
Therefore, even if re-greening of the earth might not be capable
of capturing all of the CO2 released by fossil fuel burning and not
swallowed by the oceans (about 2 Gt plus or minus some uncer-
tainties), it could still re-cycle a substantial portion of it.
Reforestation may consequently assume a significant role in
slowing an atmospheric CO2 increase even if it cannot halt it alto-
gether.
Afforestation would be one of the cheapest, cleanest, and best
ways to combat a rising CO2 level, by far outdistancing proposals
of "freezing CO2 and depositing it on the ocean floor", which is
economically counterproductive anyway. In addition, everybody
could very easily participate in afforestation by simply planting
trees in his own back yard. Not only would one be making a con-
tribution to fighting a CO2 increase, but they also add to the bea-
uty of one's home; trees are a beauty to behold. They also provide
shade to one's home, cut air-conditioning bills in the summer, and
they provide wind breaks, possibly also cutting heating bills in the
winter. According to estimates, the shading effect of additional
trees around homes could slash air-conditioning bills by several
billion dollars nationwide each year.
We will now consider an added factor which makes the tree op-
THE REST OF THE STORY

Table 10: Forests as a potential sink for carbon dioxide (in t


of carbon per ha and year).

Tropics ca. 61 in African Savannahs


ca 8 t in tropical hardwoods

Subtropics ca. 6 t (Australia, Argentina, Mexico)


up to 15 t in Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil;
potential up to 25 t

Temperate zone 0.7 to 31 in the USA and Europe;


potential in managed plantations 10 to 15 t
ca. 3 t in temperate zones of China

Boreal zone 0.11 in the northern USSR

Source: After data from EPRI, 1989.

tion look even better. We know from (page 48-49) that the oceans
would be capable of swallowing a substantial portion of the emit-
ted CO2 if the emissions growth rate is relatively small. However,
we must realize that once the CO2 is in the oceans, it is basically
lost to any future use. Since we have now found out we can use
CO2 to grow trees, which are themselves a resource, would it not
be a waste to let the CO2 disappear in the oceans? Wouldn't it be
better to consider atmospheric CO2 a resource instead of a waste
product, and transform this resource into usable carbon - putting
trees to work? If we made it available to the biosphere by growing
trees, we make it available for future generations. In other words,
if we grew enough trees so they can capture CO2 before it is ab-
sorbed up by the oceans, not only would we be fighting a hypo-
thetical greenhouse effect, but we would recover a waste product
- CO2 - and use it to rebuild our stock of natural resources - es-
sentially free of charge: Because for all practical purposes, trees
grow by themselves. Furthermore, we would be beautifying our
natural surroundings - reversing the trend of tearing up our land.
Therefore, re-greening the earth is a formula for solving a
plethora of problems all at once - and essentially free of charge:
1. Combating a hypothetical greenhouse effect
2. Using a waste product to rebuild our stock of natural resources
free of charge
3. Beautify our natural environment
160 GLOBAL WARMING

This would be a true, ecological, "environmentally compatible"


solution to a possible greenhouse and/or global warming prob-
lem, and hence our method of choice to combat it. It would in-
volve a perfect re-cycling of burnt fossil fuel carbon into new na-
tural resources available to us in the future. We therefore propose
not to retain unavoidable CO2 emissions at the source, nor to con-
vert them into a different, but useless product, employing costly
methods, but let them out into the environment so that nature,
trees, can use them to grow - if we cannot save energy and avoid
the emissions in the first place.
Re-greening the earth then is our number 2 strategy, next to sav-
ing energy in an economically sensible framework ("no-regret
measures"), and it might even be the number 1 strategy in view of
the many advantages associated with it, the main one being re-
building our stock of natural resources.
The first one, saving energy, might require large initial invest-
ments, but it saves us money in the end, as long as the investment
in energy saving equipment is less than the energy saved; the se-
cond one, reforestation, requires a relatively small initial invest-
ment, but might pay off tremendously by providing natural re-
sources to our children and grand-children, while being a source
of beauty for our own enjoyment.
Those two avenues would provide a solid, economical basis for
future management of our natural resources, which not only
saves us money in the end, but is also compatible with our natu-
ral environment; indeed, improves it and builds it up to a splen-
dor not seen before.
In this context, the lowering of the atmospheric CO2 level free
of charge and the attendant slashing of the greenhouse effect may
only be viewed as somewhat of a side-benefit - if warming ever
becomes a problem.
We therefore reject all "if it ain't hurting, it ain't no good" pro-
posals of limiting or reducing the atmospheric CO2 level - because
it can be done better in a socially equitable, money saving, environ-
mentally compatible fashion, which does not work against nature
but with it. But strangely enough, there are complaints from the
greenhouse front about suggestions that the CO2 load can be low-
ered naturally and that increasing CO2 levels are beneficial to the
biosphere on the grounds that any suggestions about positive ef-
fects of increasing CO2 would "send the wrong signal to policy
makers". But those complaints unwittingly send the right signal
about the true nature of the concerns of greenhouse activists: The
THE REST OF THE STORY 161

name of the game is not climate, it's living standards in the ICs
and their attempts to change those life-styles.
We now conclude the section devoted to "CO2 reduction stra-
tegies" and focus our attention on the remaining major three gre-
enhouse gases namely CH4, N2O and O3.

Drain Up The Rice Paddies?

Reducing methane emissions to avert a risk to climate presents


even tougher problems than the ones we had to deal with so far:
With CFC and CO2 emissions, we at least knew which human ac-
tivities were responsible for the observed increase and what - at
least in theory - could be done to curtail emissions. With methane,
we face an intractable situation on several counts:
1. Sources and magnitudes of emissions are only vaguely known
2.No practicable methods are known to curtail emissions
3. Even a complete cessation of many methane emitting activities
would not be possible, since they are largely related to food pro-
duction.
From page 24 and Table 5 we know that the atmospheric con-
centration of methane is increasing at about 1 per cent per year;
and most of that increase is probably due to increasing food pro-
duction since CH4 is mainly given off by cattle herds and rice pad-
dies. Coal mining, oil, and natural gas exploration and handling
are only minor contributors (see Table 5).
Turning our attention first to food production, the only open
road to substantially lower methane emissions from cattle herds
is to decrease cattle population, i.e. to lower meat consumption,
because meat production is what cattle are used for. Vegetarians
might like it, but it may be hard to convince the public to skip
steak next Sunday - to help avert a climate change for the better.
Similarly, a call for substantial reductions of CH4 emissions
from rice paddies is also completely off the mark, because reduc-
tions could only be achieved by a reduction of rice growing areas
and therefore of rice consumption - a mission impossible in the
face of rapidly growing population in LDCs, many of which de-
pend on rice in their diet, and which will then tend to increase rice
growing areas instead of decreasing them. It may be possible to
reduce methane emissions somewhat by reverting to fertilization
practices different from those of today.
CH4 emissions from coal mining operations and natural gas ex-
ploration, handling and distribution each contribute approxima-
162 GLOBAL WARMING

tely 8-10 per cent each to average annual emissions (see Table 5).
CH4 emissions from coal mining operations can be - and are -
partially used for energy generation: They are burned. In terms of
the greenhouse problem, burning of CH4 has obvious benefits, be-
cause burning of one molecule of methane produces one molecule
of CO2. Since one Kg of methane has the greenhouse power of 58
Kg of carbon dioxide, burning off CH4 would reduce the green-
house effectiveness of methane to 1/58th of its original value.
In coal mining operations, there are certain technical and oper-
ational limits to the use of methane which may restrict the amount
of methane used - and not given off to the atmosphere - to roughly
20 per cent.
In other words, there may be some, but not very much merit in
using methane emitted from coal mining operations. In any case,
the more pertinent question would probably be whether it is eco-
nomically viable to invest in some methane retaining technology,
assuming it existed or could be developed, if the investment does
not pay for itself, i.e., saving other types of energy by burning met-
hane.
If this is not the case, we would clearly be violating our rule one
again, namely that the costs of an investment should always be re-
covered by the energy saved.
A similar case can be made for natural gas: The costs to avert
the leakages that currently occur may be so astronomical that they
will never be recovered by the re-captured natural gas (=met-
hane).
We must therefore conclude that methane probably is the most
intractable of the greenhouse gases, and that the prospects to re-
duce future increases look fairly bleak. Like it or not, there does
not seem to be much we can do about it at present. On a less lu-
gubrious note however, we should always remember that we are
talking about hypothetical options which we might have at our dis-
posal should there be a dramatic warm up. But luckily, we know
by now that this is very unlikely to happen, which is why we
should not lose too much sleep over it. We should keep the rice
paddies wet.

Greenhouse Dwarf N2O

N2O, at a presumed 6 per cent contribution to the greenhouse


effect, is the smallest of our greenhouse candidates (except for the
somewhat controversial ozone).
THE REST OF THE STORY 163

We know from chapter 2 that the main anthropogenic sources


are nitrogen fertilization, fossil fuel burning and biomass burning.
Clearly then, a reduction of either of those activities would reduce
the anthropogenic contribution to an N2O increase.
In a food starved world, it does not appear very likely that there
will be a reduction in the application of artificial fertilizer aimed
at increasing agricultural production. Therefore, reducing the use
of nitrogen fertilizer hampers the ability to supply increasing
amounts of food to a ceaselessly growing world population, es-
pecially in the LDCs.
Biomass burning, a point repeatedly made, should be curtailed
for a variety of reasons, of which the emission of N2O is the least
important.
Finally, our remaining target is the emission of N2O from fossil
fuel burning.
It may be possible to reduce these emissions through changes
in burner technology, but here, as before, it must be assured that
our number one rule, namely the cost-benefit ratio, is not violated.
And that may well be an open question since the greenhouse con-
tribution of those emissions are ever so small to seriously question
the meaningfulness of major capital investments in a small field
just to avert a climate change for the better.

Ozone

That brings us to the last and most quizzical greenhouse candi-


date, namely tropospheric ozone. We have already discussed the
potential role of decreasing stratospheric ozone in the greenhouse
debate and refer the reader back to page 27.
Increasing levels of tropospheric ozone may increase the green-
house effect, but we must view claims that it will increase by 50
per cent over the next few decades as a result of human activities
with caution (see also page 42).
Ozone has not increased over some regions of the Northern He-
misphere in the last 10-15 years - at least not in layers close to
earth's surface. Those observations, and modeling results which
put the ozone increase over the next 30-50 years at only 10 to 20
per cent, have resulted in our reluctance to assign a greenhouse
contribution at current - or past - rates of increase to ozone. In any
event, let's take a look at what could be done in theory to reduce
the tropospheric ozone load.
Since ozone is not directly emitted into the atmosphere, but
164 GLOBAL WARMING

forms as a result of a complex chain of chemical reactions from so-


called precursor emissions, our attention has to be directed to
those precursor emissions. Those are mainly hydrocarbons, nitro-
gen oxides and carbon monoxide. The latter two compounds are
emitted primarily from fossil fuel burning, while hydrocarbons
are released into the atmosphere by a variety of other human ac-
tivities as well. In addition, there is a sizable biospheric source of
hydrocarbons which may be contributing to ozone formation.
In essence, however, it seems to be certain that curbing NOx
emissions offers one of the most promising routes to reduce or at
least limit an ozone increase in the free and remote troposphere.
NOX emissions have been one of the main targets in our past and
present efforts to control air pollution on local and regional levels.
The introduction of the catalytic converter in the mid-seventies
was specifically aimed at reducing NOx emissions from automo-
biles, the major source category then and now. Most of the indu-
strialized countries have followed suit since then and some have
extended the NOx clean up to fossil fired power plants as well.
This trend is likely to continue in the future - at least in the ICs.
Biomass burning in the LDCs is also thought to make notable
contributions to ozone precursor emissions, and that is one more
reason for it to be banned.
In any event, it appears likely at this point that some of the pre-
cursor reduction strategies will bear some fruit and limit future
ozone increases in the free troposphere.
It may be pointed out in passing that those strategies which
might work on a global level might not work at all on a regional
and local level - and vice versa (see page 42), thanks to the com-
plex chemistry of ozone formation.
We now conclude our section devoted to possible future trace-
gas trends and options to reduce trace-gas emissions, or more gen-
erally, a trace-gas build-up.

All Nations Unite To Thwart


The Big Greenhouse Menace?

We have now looked at theoretically and technologically feasa-


ble options to reduce or limit a trace-gas build-up. But we have
not looked at the prospects for implementing those options in the
real world. This is our next task.
We should always remember that we were back in model-won-
derland when we were considering strategies to slow down a
THE REST OF THE STORY 165

trace-gas build-up, in the case we thought that climate would


really change the way climate models predict it. Now we have to
realize that the prescribed measures would have to be taken in glo-
bal concert if they were to succeed.
Why is that? Well, as we saw from Fig. 4, even the mighty US
contributes only 23 per cent to global CO2 emissions, so that even
if the US completely ceased to emit CO2 tomorrow, world wide
emissions would soon continue to grow again, after a short recess,
if the rest of the world were allowed to continue emitting CO2 at
present rates of increase.
Therefore, if we really aim at reducing global trace-gas emiss-
ions we would have to devise a scheme according to which all na-
tions, or at least the major trace-gas emitters, agreed to slow the
trace-gas build-up in an equitable and, most importantly, verifiable
manner.
While this may turn out to be possible with CFC emissions,
(time will tell) all the problems encountered during the negotia-
tion of a CFC agreement will be raised by a power of ten, at the
least when it comes to agreeing on reducing or even slowing
down CO2 emissions because fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions
are interwoven with the very fabric of not just the industrialized
societies but of every society on this planet, and any attempt to so-
mehow reduce them will tear asunder the warp and the woof of
human life itself.
We have encouraged the reduction of fossil fuel use because of
the obvious macroeconomic and personal economic benefits
within economically sensible bounds - not to mention the favora-
ble aspects of reducing the pressure on our global resource base.
Consequently, those measures should be taken in accordance with
the economic guidelines laid down above.
But calls ring out for drastic reduction measures which go far
beyond those which are economically sensible, and require either
implementation of technologies whose costs will never be reco-
vered by the energy saved, or drastic reductions in fossil fuel use,
both resulting in a substantial lowering of our living standards.
How realistic is it to demand that nations agree to lower their
standards of living, or to reduce fossil fuel use beyond the point
which is economically justifiable, only to thwart a climate change
we know will not occur? Which, even if it did occur, would be an
improvement in climate for all practical purposes. For, as we have
learned, periods somewhat warmer than today are called climate
optima and not periods of adverse climatic conditions.
166 GLOBAL WARMING

This is the backdrop against which we have to examine the


stance individual countries might take about reducing their ex-
posure to fossil fuel use.
In any event, the trend towards restraining - if not reducing -
CO2 emissions already is in full swing. Hardly a week goes by
without a new country bowing to environmentalist's pressure
and jumping on the band-wagon. Most countries joining the club
have agreed to a stabilization at present levels until the year 2000
or 2005 instead of to a right-out reduction. This, however, could
be achievable within a frame-work of no-regret measures and
could even entail a net economic gain. It therefore reflects our
view presented in the second chapter, where we laid out possible
future CO2 emission scenarios, and where we concluded that in
the ICs, CO2 emissions would remain roughly stable at present le-
vels over the next decades. We concluded that this could be achiev-
ed through the continuous application of new, energy efficient
technology. It more or less means continuing along a path we have
been on since the first oil crisis in 1973. It is therefore understan-
dable that those countries which made stabilization commitments
did not have too many qualms doing it. Only those countries
which committed themselves to a more or less drastic reduction
may be in for a rough ride, and it remains to be seen whether they
are going to stick with it. Especially when they realize that they
are ruining their economy to fend-off global warming - even if
warming is good for them - and that global CO2 emissions are re-
lentlessly increasing, no matter what they do on a national level.
Furthermore, the impact of those reduction efforts on the amount
of expected warming is quite small. This point is illustrated in Fig.
35 and also in Fig. 31.
There are a number of countries whose present, and particu-
larly future, economic well being depends to a large extent on
their reliance upon domestic fossil fuel resources which are a cor-
nerstone of their economic power.
As a matter of fact, the three largest CO2 emitters, which make
up over 50 per cent of worldwide fossil fuel emissions, fall into
that category. They are the US, the former USSR and the PRC (see
Chapter 1, Fig. 4). All of those countries have extensive resources
of fossil fuels and energy experts are quite sure that at least the for-
mer USSR and the PRC will make extensive use of them to furth-
er economic development. It may therefore be exceedingly diffi-
cult to convince them to drastically reduce fossil fuel use, even if
one expected the detrimental climate changes the computer mod-
THE REST OF THE STORY 167

els predict, let alone the more realistic view presented here.
Assuming there was some way to enforce global implementa-
tion, which at this point appears somewhat questionable, the we-
stern ICs are technologically and financially in a much better po-
sition to implement them than the former USSR and China, not to
mention the LDCs.
Any international debate about "restricting fossil fuel use" will
become a war of each against all of the countries involved, either
with respect to their degree of dependence on fossil fuels, their
technological and financial ability to implement energy saving
technology, or simply with respect to their level of economic de-
velopment. Some countries will have to use more fossil fuel in the
future than in the past to further their economic development - to
which they are as entitled as any of the developed countries be-
fore them. The most pressing problems are supplying their popu-
lation with sufficient amounts of energy at the lowest possible
cost.
One of those countries is China. The PRC will probably defy
any calls to reduce the use of fossil fuel, simply because its main
concern is to hurry along economic growth; it does not have any
resources to squander, either technologically or financially, on
state of the art environmental technology imported from the West,
let alone developing it domestically. Laying emphasis both on in-
creasing energy production and energy conservation is seen as a
means to meet the country's energy needs. China's main energy
source is coal. The country is very richly endowed with coal - and
it will make use of it. Over the past 40 years China's coal product-
ion grew by a staggering rate of close to nine per cent per year, and
presently stands at over one billion tons. Even if that growth rate
was slashed in half over the next 15 years, China's coal produc-
tion would still double, sending up worldwide CO2 emissions by
12 per cent from 1990 levels. So much for the Toronto demands.
China's main concern is to supply sufficient energy to a relent-
lessly growing population. To economize on energy consumption
is a means for the Chinese to provide more energy to more peo-
ple. A possible climate change may not be very high on their list
of concerns.
The same goes for the former USSR. Any future economic de-
velopment, sorely needed, will be heavily dependent on the do-
mestic resource base of fossil fuels. Energy experts from the repu-
blics quite openly admit that they cannot at all follow western
concerns about the greenhouse effect. It may not be too unrealistic
168 GLOBAL WARMING

Figure 35 A: Impact of C02 reduction measures announced in some OECD


countries on the modeled temperature trend in coming decades.
Source: After Global Environmental Change Report, 1990.

to assume that the former USSR will put its main emphasis on eco-
nomic development and only in the second place on environ-
mental compatibility, although the environment in general is gai-
ning ground in Moscow and in other republics as it already has in
the former East Germany. Like China, the first concern is with pro-
viding sufficient energy. Advancing technology is seen as a means
to increase energy efficiency needed to meet growing energy re-
quirements in the face of a growing world population. The green-
house effect is not seen as a problem. As far as climate is concern-
ed, it is fair to assume that the USSR would only stand to gain
from a global warming, even if it were as large as climate models
expect, a view openly expressed by M. Budyko, and in all like-
lihood shared in leading circles not just of the former USSR, but of
other East European countries as well. In the wake of the political
THE REST OF THE STORY
169

changes in Eastern Europe, economizing on energy will be a way


of cutting dependencies on foreign energy, which, from now on,
has to be paid for in hard western currency. The economies are not
yet strong enough to sustain a heavy reliance on western imports;
but they eventually will be. Once living standards begin to rise in
Eastern Europe, with everybody driving an automobile, owning
a freezer and all the other indispensible household goods we are
so used to, energy consumption in Eastern Europe will move in
only one direction: up. Hard times ahead for greenhouse propo-
nents.
In any case, the republics of the former USSR would act doubly
against their own interests if they implemented costly strategies
to slow or prevent a trace-gas build-up in the atmosphere.
A similar argument can be made for the US. The only fossil fuel
base left to the US, after supplies of oil and gas have run out in
several decades time, will be coal; and it is hard to imagine that
the US will renounce the use of the only major fossil fuel left to it-
170 GLOBAL WARMING

self on the basis of an imaginary climate change, which, if it oc-


curs at all, will be mostly beneficial.
In short, as this brief review of the position of the three major
CO2 emitters shows, the coming debate over possible climate
changes and CO2 reduction strategies will be one of economic in-
terests and preservation of national power, as well as the prosp-
erity of nations and individuals vs. possible climate changes. Re-
ductions of prosperity in the developed world (and delays in
achieving higher prosperity in the lesser developed world) will be
weighed against possible detrimental effects of a changing cli-
mate.
Of course, the irony, as we have found out, is that a mildly warm-
ing climate of, say, 2° F warmer than today must be viewed in the
light of all the evidence available from climatic history, not as de-
trimental to nature and human activities, but as beneficial. It is al-
most tempting to conclude that we should not be thinking about
averting such a change, but instead about how to hurry it along.
But even if we do not take an extreme position, we are pressed
to ask whether it makes very much sense to fight such a climate
change at a high cost to society, which is what a variety of pres-
sure groups are advocating.
Furthermore, even if the democratic societies of the West, or any
country by itself, decided to go ahead and reduces trace-gas emis-
sions at whatever cost, differing economic interests in other parts
of the world, removed from the control of western democracies
could, and in all likelihood will, very easily make up for the trace-
gas emissions saved here. This is exactly the way things are shap-
ing up in the early 1990s: Some western ICs have committed
themselves either to a stabilization or reduction of CO2 emissions
while others, most of the LDCs, have said no, and their emissions
will more than make up for the emissions saved in the ICs in the
future, as they already have over the past 10-15 years.
Predictably, taxation of fossil fuel use is the main vehicle pro-
posed to achieve a reduction in the ICs, because it is the easiest to
implement administratively. As we have said before, this is fine to
raise revenue, but completely inept to reduce CO2 emissions, un-
less the tax is so strangulating that it ruins the economy (see pages
145-151). Some countries have chosen to impose a "token" carbon
tax, i.e., a tax which is smaller than the regular price swings of fos-
sil fuels, and which has therefore an insignificant effect on fuel
consumption, but has the double advantage of raising revenue
and providing governments with an environmental fig leaf:
THE REST OF THE STORY 171

"Look, we have done something for the environment!" Strangely


enough, this political expediency may nonetheless be the best
way of getting rid of the problem in the least annoying and least
harmful way: the public pays an extra dime on gas (half the Gulf
War-induced gasoline sur-charge), the budget deficit is reduced,
and the enviros can not scream as loudly any more. The only
hitch, of course, is that CO2 emissions will not go down, but it will
take a few years until people notice that, and then it will be up to
the next president or congress, whoever can get the most mileage
out of this low octane issue.
But if people decide to really slap a big tax on fossil fuel use, a
potentially recessive or even depressive one, entire segments of
industry might move a la NAFTA from "CO2 restrictive" coun-
tries to "CO2 lax" countries - taking with them jobs and economic
growth. Again, the public would be the big loser, because lost
growth and lost jobs will directly translate into reduced public
prosperity, but not necessarily into lower profits for industry.
The big misunderstanding unfortunately peddled by enviros
and greenhouse activists is the notion that industry wants to stall
action on staving off global warming in order to protect profits at
the expense of the environment. Well, think again. If taking action
from the environmentalists' point of view means taxing the heck
out of fossil fuel use - the bottom line of most of their strategies to
fight global warming - who will be stuck with the bill? Your local
utility, which generates electricity from coal? Or your gas com-
pany? Or Exxon? Take a wild guess: it's you, the average citizen
and consumer. Because any tax on fossil fuels will simply be "roll-
ed over" to the consumer: the proverbial man on the street gets
stuck with the bill. Most of those measures do not cost the energy
industry a penny, because any costs they incur will be reflected in
the price of the product they sell, so why should they oppose mea-
sures to curb global warming and risk a stink in public with the
enviros? This is the big danger in this debate. Any effective lob-
bying by industry is essentially precluded. Industry is cautious by
and large these days, and tends to assume a low profile concer-
ning environmental issues in general. Instead, they begin to prac-
tice "Corporate environmentalism" image and make it a selling
point. That is all right for them, because as long as the public buys
it, they rake in a double gain: Being pro-enviro and making an
extra profit. Even in this scenario the public gets the short end of
the stick because it has to pay the higher price for a product, re-
gardless of whether it results from a justified environmental con-
172 GLOBAL WARMING

cern or not. Not having a lobby or politicians to represent its inte-


rests, the public is a defenseless victim of manipulation by various
interests of the biggest shell game ever pulled on it: The Green-
house Threat. Be alerted to the dangers lying dead ahead. We
know by now that the cure proposed by greenhouse activists is
much worse than the hypothetical greenhouse ills.
Clearly, it is very hard to imagine that concern over climate, if it
were really justified, prevails over economic interests - unless it be-
comes apparent to all that climate is changing and is changing for
the worse.
Luckily, we know that this will not be the case, because, to run
that point into the ground, a slightly warmer climate is a better cli-
mate. Finally, we should recall that even a slight warming expec-
ted from the greenhouse effect may not materialize within the
next century after all, because of the countervailing effects of solar
induced cooling, to which the greenhouse effect may be a desira-
ble counterweight. And any attempt to ward off the greenhouse
effect - under considerable economic sacrifices - would then really
be harmful to us: Because this much is sure: A cooler climate is a
worse climate.
Hence, by hastily enacting drastic reduction measures, we will
be harming ourselves twofold: First, by diverting valuable econo-
mic resources to reduction strategies, and second, by promoting a
cooling of climate that will be harmful for sure.
Consequently, to be on the safe side in all respects, it is wise at
this point to adopt those measures which are not harmful either
way, namely save energy to the extent that is economically sensi-
ble: the so-called no-regret measures. Further, promote research
into all areas related to the greenhouse effect to clarify those un-
certainties which need to be overcome to arrive at an understan-
ding of climate which is scientifically sound and comprehensive
enough to serve as a basis for decision makers.
A similar conclusion has been drawn recently by a Washington,
D.C. think-tank which expressed a view widely held throughout
large segments of the scientific community in the US. Those ideas
also form the basis of the position which has been taken by the US
at the SWCC in Geneva in November 1990 in an unlikely coalition
with the USSR and several other countries - against an
overwhelmingly pro-greenhouse international community, parti-
cularly in Western Europe. It remains to be seen whether, in the
US, common sense continues to prevail over the ideologues. In
Western Europe at least, they have hit in a few runs....
9.

Now You Know


The Rest Of The Story....
We are now drawing closer to the end of our investigation of the
greenhouse effect and the problem of global warming; a problem
which has been widely misrepresented to the general public due
to an unfortunate admixture of the science involved with partisan
concerns of those scientists who attempt to promote those con-
cerns, with the media and political pressure groups. We have at-
tempted to separate the scientific issues surrounding the green-
house problem from other issues, by and large unrelated to
science.
In all our endeavors, we should base our decisions on how to
deal with the greenhouse effect not on concerns, fears, beliefs,
hopes, assumptions and expectations but rather on firm scientific
ground. We should also recognize those who are trying to create
fear and concern among the public in order to further their politi-
cal or ideological goals. Let's call their bluff and act accordingly.
After all, we live at the edge of the 21st century and we've come
a long way since the dark days of the Middle Ages when our lives
were built around fears and atavistic beliefs. Our modern age is
characterized hopefully more by logic and rational thinking and
not so much by those fears - which some love to nourish, be it to
further their ideological goals or to simply make money, as in the
media's case.

Media 1, Science 0

In the current public debate about the greenhouse effect those


fears have (deliberately?) been fanned by an alliance of "concern-
ed" scientists, the media, special interest groups and politicians
alike, all of whom stood to gain massively by doing so:
The "concerned" scientists finally got out of their boring lab
jobs into the limelight of national attention; the media makes more
money by printing horror stories; and it all fits nicely into the
agenda of various special interest groups. Meanwhile, calls for ac-
tion ring out, smart politicians swiftly realize they can earn easy
174 GLOBAL WARMING

votes by being "concerned" as well, and political careers are built


around the global warming issue. Why, it would be downright
discouraging for the careers of the people involved if the green-
house effect proved to be anything less than catastrophic.
In this climate, it is difficult to arrive at a scientific assessment
of the day of the week. Reports are drafted, research money allo-
cated, and it all flows back to the beginning in a positive feedback
loop in which everybody comes out a winner: The scientists get
more research money, the media write better horror stories, the
politicians get their votes, by "acting". The danger is quite high
that this "acting" will be taxation of fossil fuel use, a mere pallia-
tive in terms of slowing the greenhouse effect, particularly when
it is imposed only in individual states and countries (see page 145-
154). But it will go down well with the enviros anyhow, and it may
be used after all to cut the budget deficit. At any rate, nobody has
the slightest interest in stopping this beautiful merry-go-round.
Unfortunately, not even the scientists involved do: why should
they kill the goose that lays golden eggs? As long as the fears are
kept alive, the research money keeps flowing in. But they should
be careful. If they carry their message too far, politicians will ask
them: why more research money if we know for sure that global
warming is coming? Clearly, what we need here is a more inde-
pendent view of those environmental matters which are of great
concern to society. But as of now, too many are gaining in too many
ways to call a halt to the environmental porkbarrel.
This is not to say that the groups referred to are doing so out of
malice; on the contrary, most are probably sincere; they just do not
have any interest in halting it, because to them the benefits are
greater if the debate built on fear and concern continues.
The time will have long since run out when, out of this cuckoo's
nest of pseudo-science, media spectacle, ideology and politics, an
attempt is made to formulate policy to cope with environmental
problems - in defiance of real science. It were wise at this juncture
that matters be taken out of the hands of special interest groups
and returned to science to arrive at a sound assessment of the
greenhouse/global warming issue which can provide a solid
foundation on which men and women of good will may base their
decisions.
So far, science, next to the public, which has been kept disin-
formed, has been the only big loser in this debate. And every de-
cision that an educated, democratic and enlightened society of the
late 20th century takes should be based on a scientifically sound,
THE REST OF THE STORY 175

and defensible foundation, and not on "fears" and "concerns"


whipped up by the media and special interest groups alone.
Otherwise we would be throwing hundreds of years of scientific
progress and culture right out the window and be moving back to
the dark days of the Middle Ages. A strong case is made to to
move science back into the greenhouse/global warming debate
and ideology and special interests out.
We therefore arrive at the following greenhouse summary and
greenhouse action plan (GAP).

Greenhouse Summary

• An increase in atmospheric trace-gas concentrations, partially if


not largely related to the ceaselessly growing world population,
leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect.
• An increased greenhouse effect - viewed in isolation - ler ds to
an increase in global temperatures, the magnitude of which is
unknown, but very likely considerably less than the 6-8°F fore-
cast by current GCMs for a CO2 doubling. It may possibly be in
the neighborhood of 2°F.
• When other, natural, factors are considered, pointing to a cool-
ing next century, the expected greenhouse warming may be
partially balanced out, leaving temperatures where they are
today or only slightly higher.
• The timing of any greenhouse gas induced temperature increase
depends on future trace-gas emission scenarios. Based on prob-
able emission scenarios for CO2, the major greenhouse gas, the
point of doubling current CO2 concentrations and the associa-
ted increase of radiative forcing will, not occur until late next
century or later. When other greenhouse gases are considered,
the warming will occur sooner.
• A warming in the neighborhood of 2° F, which might result from
a CO2-doubling, must be considered largely beneficial for na-
ture and human activities.
• An increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration must be consid-
ered beneficial for the biosphere.
• An increase of atmospheric CO2 in conjunction with slightly rai-
sed temperatures is even more beneficial for the biosphere.
176 GLOBAL WARMING

Close The Gap?

It is hard to press for a greenhouse action plan (GAP) after rea-


ding this greenhouse summary. There does not appear to be any
need for taking action against coming changes for the better. But
what if we are wrong, however slim the chances might be?
Let us do the things we should do anyway and which benefit
us regardless of whether there is some greenhouse warming or
not, and whether it is beneficial or not. We therefore pay our res-
pects to the greenhouse advocates, but do not share their ulterior
motivation in advocating the notion that the climate changes we
are in for will be adverse. We have realized that there is no reason
to fear climate changes in coming decades as a result of green-
house warming and we do not have to resort to questionable me-
thods to whip up public support to institute energy saving mea-
sures, because that seems to be the real motive behind fooling the
public into believing that we are in for adverse climate changes.
Let's call a spade a spade: it's a bluff.
We then propose the following greenhouse action plan (GAP):

The Greenhouse Action Plan (GAP)

• To resolve uncertainties associated with future climate chan-


ges, a sufficiently funded research program should be initiated
to arrive at a scientifically tenable assessment of the global
warming/greenhouse issue to provide a basis for decisions
that go beyond the ones that will be outlined below.
• The social conditions and living standards in the third world
must be improved such that population growth can proceed in
a reasonable fashion, thereby lessening pressure on the envi-
ronment and global raw materials.
• To protect our national economies and the global energy re-
source base only, those energy saving measures should be con-
sidered which are economically sensible.
• Taxes on fossil fuel use to reduce CO2 emissions are generally
rejected.
• Biomass burning should be halted to preserve natural habitats
and stop the process of species extinction which is proceeding
at a rate unprecedented in earth's history.
• The biosphere should be used to re-capture atmospheric CO2
THE REST OF THE STORY 177

in order to rebuild the stock of natural resources by means of a


global afforestation program.
• As an insurance policy against global warming, a reduction of
CFC emissions provides the most cost effective means of com-
bating the greenhouse effect.

You will notice that in this plan none of the points - other than
the last - is specifically designed to counter a perceived threat to
the climate - for the reasons you know by now. However, they do
have the added benefit of reducing a trace-gas build-up in the at-
mosphere and thereby countering the greenhouse effect up to the
point at which those measures can be implemented at no net cost;
in other words, the economic benefits of energy saving measures
or afforestation programs should be larger than the costs they
incur.
And this is exactly where this plan differs from omnibus re-
duction demands, which were based on untenable model project-
ions in the first place.
If we briefly review the points, we see the necessity to intensify
climate research to develope a causal, physical explanation of
what makes the climate system tick - considering all factors and
not just trace-gases.
In the field of climate modeling, the primary task is an upgrad-
ing of existing computer modeling, for which increased number
crunching power is sorely needed, plus a full-fledged attempt to
better understand the underlying physics of the atmosphere.
Some experts feel that a research program over a 5 year period
should be capable of producing tangible results that would pro-
vide a firmer footing for decision makers to rely on. That is a time
frame we could certainly afford, in view of the fact that a warmer
climate would be the better one, even if a warming occurred dur-
ing those 5-10 years as large as current models predict. But we
know by now that this is very unlikely. The costs of such a rese-
arch program would be small compared to those incurred by
needlessly embarking on a large scale trace-gas reduction scheme.
The option to achieve CO2 reductions by a tax should be reject-
ed for the following reasons:
• Social inequalities will be exacerbated
• Harm will be done to the national economy by shifting funds
away from the efficient to the inefficient sector of the economy.
• CO2 emissions will not be reduced in the end because of inelas-
ticities in the energy price-demand relationship.
178 GLOBAL WARMING

The real environmental disasters of our time are taking place in


those areas where man destroys his natural surroundings on a
scale unprecedented in history. This concerns particularly the for-
ests which are being irrevocably destroyed by large scale use of
slash and burn technique and mechanical methods.
Regardless of any CO2 contribution of biomass burning and a
possible impact on the greenhouse effect, that destruction must
stop.
In most questions that arise in connection with global warming
it is clear that political and economic groups have become invol-
ved with this issue which have little or nothing to do with the mat-
ter at hand. One does not need to invoke the Greenhouse Effect in
order to propose useful change. That goes for our suggestions
which are useful in and of themselves, as well as being effective
against a build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. The public has a
right to know why a bebate on climate has mushroomed into an
international mania.
Time is running out on the greenhouse alarmists. If they cannot
cast their proposals in legislative form, their bluff will be called
sooner or later. At that point, science in the quest for truth will pre-
vail against unfounded, pseudo-scientific assertions, and the per-
sonal and ideological convictions which sustain them.
THE REST OF THE STORY 179

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GERD WEBER was born in Braunschweig, Germany
in 1952. He studied meteorology and climatology at
the Free University of Berlin and Indiana University at
Bloomington. He received his MS at the University of
Michigan at Ann Arbor in meteorology and did his
doctorate work at the Max Planck Institute for Aero-
nom, receiving his PhD from the University of Berlin in
1985. Since then he has worked as a consultant and re-
searcher at the Hard Coal Association in Essen, Ger-
many. His interest in nature goes back to boyhood
when he helped out on the family orchard, where he
continues to assist in his spare time in the care of two
hundred stately old apple trees.