Cliff Slater’s Second Opinion

The Honolulu Advertiser

Thursday, October 14, 1999



Much ado about hot air


Is global warming just hot air?

Local writers assure us that "among reputable scientists, responsible journalists and conscientious policy-makers" global warming is an accepted threat to our way of life. Thus, one would think from all such hullabaloo that "global warming" was a settled matter. The fact is that there is an astonishing lack of consensus among the world’s scientists on the issue.

Some months ago the Hawaii State Dept. of Planning, Economic Development and Tourism issued is Hawai’i Climate Change Action Plan.(1) This plan, calculated to frighten and stir the juices of our local populace into radical environmental action, is based on The Science of Climate Change, a publication of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This report concluded that, "the balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global climate." All very official and designed to convince.

However, this report has been mired in scandal from its beginning. Dr. Frederick Seitz, a Past President of the National Academy of Sciences, and President Emeritus of Rockefeller University wrote at the time that, "…this report is not what it appears to be—it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page. In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report." (2) Among other concerns, Dr. Seitz pointed out that the following three sentences were deleted from the peer-reviewed draft:

  • "None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases."
  • "No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes."
  • "Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced."

Professor Richard S. Lindzen, MIT’s Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, and one of the nation’s most respected scientists, testified before Congress how the Union of Concerned Scientists distorted the conclusions of the IPCC report. He concluded that, "The UCS proceeds to then associate climate change with forest depletion, water scarcity, food security, and species destruction. It concludes that scientists must endorse a strong climate treaty at Kyoto. The implication is that the so-called IPCC consensus extends to these claims as well. This is clearly a misrepresentation of the IPCC. I use the phrase `so-called' advisedly. The IPCC went to great lengths to include as many names as possible among its contributors. Against my expressed wishes, even my name was included. I can assure the committee that I (and the vast majority of contributors and reviewers) were never asked whether we even agreed with the small sections we commented on. Nevertheless, the usual comment is that 2500 scientists all agree with whatever it is that the environmental advocates are claiming." He added that, "It has been a remarkable example of semantic distortion that this weak and unsupportable statement has encouraged environmental advocates to claim that this report endorses various catastrophic scenarios." (3)

Dr. S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Program and chairman of the U.S. investigation into climate effects of the supersonic transport (SST), finds in his new book, Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, (4) that the science on global warming is neither settled, nor compelling, nor even convincing. Dr. William Happer, former Director of Energy Research, U.S. Department of Energy, and now Professor of Physics, Princeton University, in reviewing the book, concurred with that view.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once wisely observed, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts."

And the facts are, as Professor Lindzen points out, that we simply do not know enough about global warming at this time to know whether it will have any significant impact on the world’s climate.

That is why 2,388 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists have signed the Global Warming Petition, containing the following paragraph:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth." (5)

Cliff Slater is a local businessman who represents the Reason Foundation in Hawaii. His footnoted columns are at:


(1) Hawai’i Climate Change Action Plan. November 1998. State of Hawaii Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

(2) Seitz, Frederick. A Major Deception On Global Warming. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, Editorial Page. June 12, 1996.

(3) Testimony on Global Warming by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on June 10, 1997.

(4) The Science & Environmental Policy Project.

(5) Petition Project.