At last December's U.N. meeting in Kyoto, Japan, the U.S. agreed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases 7% below 1990 levels. At best, according to a climate model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and recently featured in Science magazine, this would reduce average planetary warming by 0.19 degree Celsius over the next 50 years.
Patrick J. Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, says it's doubtful that the current network of surface thermometers could measure such a minor change from normal year-to-year variations. Since 1986, the average temperature of the earth has shown no significant warming, despite incessant press ballyhoo. Three independent checks -- temperature measured at the earth's surface, temperature of the lower atmosphere measured by weather balloons and temperature of the lower atmosphere measured by satellite -- show no statistically significant change.
Some global climate models have predicted that the world's mean temperature should already have risen by 1.3-2.3 degrees Celsius because major greenhouse emissions began in the late 19th century. Such figures provided the basis for the Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in Rio in 1992. But the observed warming since the late 19th century is only 0.6 degrees Celsius.
Ten years ago, Michaels argued that forecasts of dramatic global warming were likely to be wrong because only minor climate changes had been observed until that time.
So, it doesn't look like global warming is going to fry us, but treaties to limit its anticipated effects may cook economic growth. If the U.S. complies fully with the Kyoto agreement, Michaels says the U.S. gross domestic product will decline 2.3% a year.
As hobos in the Great Depression used to say, "If we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs -- if we had some eggs."
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