Reed Irvine
Chairman, Accuracy in Media

June 12, 2001

The global warming scare was played up by the media when the National Academy of Sciences issued a report on June 6 that said the earth’s temperature is rising, mainly because of human actions, and that this could cause drastic climatic changes. The news stories and the editorials they inspired cited no empirical evidence that would support the claim that the earth’s atmosphere is getting warmer and that this is likely to continue throughout this century. The New York Times’43-column-inch story included only one brief quote from the report of the 11-person panel of atmospheric scientists.

It read, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising." That gave the impression that even Dr. Richard Lindzen of M.I.T., a prominent global warming skeptic, had flipped and endorsed the theory that human activity is causing the earth to overheat. CNN said the panel agreed unanimously. Dr. Lindzen denied this in a column in the Wall Street Journal. He said the Academy had asked that the report present a range of views, and that there was no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what caused them.

That same day, the New York Times reported that the U.S. has fallen behind Europe and Japan "in its ability to simulate and predict long-term shifts in climate." It said that American researchers have to go abroad "to find computers capable of handling their most ambitious climate analyses." This had all the earmarks of a planted pitch by some of our computer modelers for more government money.

Eighteen months ago another panel of climatologists convened by the National Research Council had issued a report with mixed signals. It said that in the last two decades the rise in the earth’s temperature was greater than the average for the past 100 years. But it also said that the temperature of the atmosphere extending six to nine miles above the earth’s surface showed little if any warming. The global warming theory does not allow differences in the temperature trends on the surface and in the upper air. Both are supposed to heat up together.

The panel admitted that this was a serious problem for the believers in global warming. It said: "Major advances in the ability to interpret and model the subtle variations in the vertical temperature profile of the lower atmosphere" are needed. In other words, they need to figure out how the earth’s surface can be heating up while the middle layers of the atmosphere are not.

Scientists from ten of the foremost climate research centers in the world met in Hamburg, Germany to discuss this problem in 1999. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of December 15, 1999 reported, "Above all, the scientists sought to solve an old paradox. While data developed by weather stations, ships and measuring buoys show a clear warming of the lower atmosphere since the late 1970s, on average about 1.5 degrees, during the same period MSU satellite measurements show, in fact, a mild cooling of the middle air layers. Given the current climate models, one should expect, in step with the warming of the near-ground, a noticeable warming of the middle atmosphere. This contradiction cannot be explained away."

It said that the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg had developed a comprehensive climate model that included not only the usual greenhouse gases and sulfur aerosols from the burning of fossil fuels, but also the decrease in the ozone in the stratosphere, which is supposed to have a cooling effect. They could not find an explanation for the discrepancy between the surface temperature measurements and the satellite data. The paper said the situation is so bad "that realistic scenarios and estimates cannot be developed. All the models, which are engaged in climatic prediction and driven by an identification of anthropogenic signals, need to be improved."

It added that some modelers have concluded that, at best, their computer models simulate the natural fluctuation zones of the climate. The most comprehensive climate model of the Max Planck Institute could not explain the differences between surface and satellite data. This was not reported by our media at the time, and the Times story about the superiority of European climate research didn’t report that they had solved the problem. That would have been big news.

There is a very simple explanation for this. The satellite data are more comprehensive and more accurate than the surface data. They are telling us that claims that the earth is overheating are just hot air. If the global warming modelers admitted that, their gravy train would derail.

Reed Irvine can be reached at

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