Baying at the Earth

by Patrick Michaels
Copyright 1998 The Washington Times
March 24, 1998

Vice President Al Gore has proposed that taxpayers fund a brand new satellite to take pictures of the earth and then broadcast them on a dedicated cable channel. "With global warming a growing concern, and with problems like El Nino causing growing concern, this will be of tremendous value," he told The Washington Post.

Mr. Gore, so proud of his accomplishments in "reinventing government" and rooting out government waste and inefficiency, is apparently unaware that there are at least eight satellites that currently orbit the Earth and continually relay weather photos. Here is a guy who takes credit for rewriting the nation's cable television policy but is apparently unaware of The Weather Channel (TWC).

Many people watch TWC to cure insomnia. It shows frequently updated pictures from our weather satellites every few minutes, between Michelin commercials. Admittedly, it's not a continuous feed of the Earth's face. Some might think it's a bit boring, so TWC spices things up with some very good weather people, many of whom demonstrate that there's clearly sex discrimination in favor of good-looking female meteorologists, at least in the evening.

But Mr. Gore wasn't napping after all. According to the paper, "Gore almost literally dreamed up the idea in his sleep about a month ago, waking at 3 a.m. one night, according to a White House official." Then he did "20 minutes worth of research" and called up the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Dan Goldin. Mr. Goldin said he "hoped" to keep the cost "definitely below $50,000,000."

Anyone who now fails to understand how Mr. Gore's presence is distorting environmental science is asleep. Within hours of his suggestion that NASA launch a perfectly worthless satellite to do something that eight other machines are already doing, he's handed the bill. If NASA wouldn't stand up to him on this one, do you expect the other 1,000 scientists who spend the $2.1 billion annual federal outlay on global climate change research to say no? Or to admit climate change may not be a serious problem?

Just what is Mr. Gore's satellite supposed to accomplish? It isn't a weather satellite; it's a propaganda satellite. Given that people are eventually going to get tired of looking at the Earth, perhaps we can expect that down in the right corner of the screen - where the CBS eye or the Peacock typically appears - will be a faint image of you know who's visage. And, to keep interest up, the disinformation packet of the day will crawl across the bottom of the screen.

Cynical? Just last September the veep hiked up to Grinell Glacier in Glacier National Park to announce to all the puffing reporters (who clearly weren't as fit as Mr. Gore), "This glacier is melting." If it weren't melting rapidly in September, which is at the end of summer and before the first fall snows, we'd be in the middle of an ice age. The (easily checked) fact is that summer daytime temperatures in Western Montana - the ones required to accelerate glacial melt - haven't warmed a lick in the last 100 years. Last May Mr. Gore blamed the Grand Forks flood on global warming, when it was actually caused by excessive snowpack. Surely his bevy of federal climatologists could have told him that the warmer the winter in North Dakota, the less it snows. Or maybe they were afraid to.

Some people might note that the constant intrusion of the Veep into our living rooms is vaguely reminiscent of Big Brother. That would be truly unfair. Last year Mr. Gore said the proper role of government was to be a grandparent.

Anyway, all of what Mr. Gore wants is already available. If you want to bay at the Earth, go to http:/ / on the Web and you'll get the latest image (no more than 30 minutes old) from our weather satellites. Those images are specifically designed to show the moisture streaming northward from El Nino as well. And if you need to monitor global temperatures, you can get the anonymous ftp site from NASA. Of course, you'll find no warming trend at all in the entire record, which is now approaching 20 years in length.

Come to think of it, maybe that's why Mr. Gore thinks we need a new satellite!

Patrick J. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute

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