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Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years

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Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years

Dennis T. Avery and Fred Singer

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues, and S. Fred Singer is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and research professor at George Mason University. This article is an edited transcript of a book discussion sponsored by the Hudson Institute in November 2006; this discussion is reprinted with permission from the Hudson Institute. The full text of the discussion can be found at

This article is divided into two parts. The question and answer session will appear in the June issue.

Welcome. I am Ken Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute, and I'm delighted to welcome everyone to the Hudson Institute today for the book forum on the publication of Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, by S. Fred Singer and Dennis Avery. This is a unique and well-written book that challenges much that passes for serious science today on global warming. And the book makes a very powerful case that in fact the current climate trends we're seeing are part of a solar-linked cycle that creates harmless, naturally warmer conditions approximately every 1500 years.

The book is a fascinating read, and is really quite thoroughly documented, and will create quite a controversy when the mainstream press starts to review it. . . . So let me now have the honor of introducing the co-authors of this book. . . . S. Fred Singer, who is, as everyone knows, a distinguished climate physicist, and then . . . the no-less-distinguished Dennis Avery, who is a senior fellow here at Hudson.

S. Fred Singer . . . is a professor emeritus of environmental research at the University of Virginia, currently a distinguished research professor at George Mason University. He has had a long and distinguished career. He was the first director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service, and he is the author of a dozen books, and monographs, including, Global Climate Change, which he published first in 1989.

And Professor Singer will be speaking second. But first, it's now my distinct pleasure to introduce my colleague and friend, Dennis Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and director of Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. . . . Dennis joined Hudson Institute in 1989 after a very long and distinguished career as an agricultural economist, and at a number of federal departments, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Department of State. He was a senior analyst in the Department of State, and was awarded the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement in 1983 by then Secretary of State, George Schultz.

Dennis is well known as a columnist on science and environmental issues, and his articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Reader's Digest, and dozens of other publications. Dennis' first major book was, Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastics: The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming.

D.A.: Thank you, Ken. . . . A little over 20 years ago . . . Ken called me, and I had done a little writing on--well, quite a lot on--environmental issues, and a little bit on the medieval warming, and they asked me if the world needed another book on global warming. And I said, yeah, I think we need a book on the physical evidence of past warming.

And I'll tell you why I said that, because wine grapes are one of the most accurate and sensitive barometers of climate change that we have, and I knew that the Romans had grown wine grapes in Britain during the first century; that when William the Conqueror and his Normans took over the country in the 11th century, their tax records showed nearly 50 vineyards. And we know that it is not yet warm enough in the modern warming to grow wine grapes in Britain. They are up to two years out of 10 and hopeful.

But this does two things. It first of all introduces the concept of a cycle--1st century, 11th century, 21st century--and it tells us that today's temperatures are by no means unprecedented.

And so we decided to do the book. I am an agricultural economist. I would not have presumed to do it without prodding. And I certainly wouldn't have presumed to do it without the advice, council, and assistance of Fred Singer, who has been my favorite expert on the climate of the Earth for a number of years. And let me say that we cite in the book over a hundred peer-reviewed studies, none of which were paid for by Exxon. (Laughter.)

We did the British wine grape thing. Let's come closer now to the current day because it's really only within the last 25 years that we have had a handle on this moderate, natural, massive, but difficult-to-discern cycle, completely unrecognized by people who lack thermometers and written records. The people of Iceland lived through the medieval warming, the little ice age-in 1920, they were still arguing whether there had been any climate change on the climate frontier. And they decided, well, no, there had been no climate change; we just had a lot of bad weather.

They had had climate change, and we learned this in 1984 with the first analysis from the Greenland ice course--250,000 years of climate history, ice layers with varying ratios of oxygen--16 to 18 isotopes and oxygen. The lighter isotopes evaporate to a greater degree. And a guy named Hans--Willi Dansgaard and Hans Oescher, I believe Willi was a Dane, Hans was a Swiss--in 1984 came out with an absolutely fabulous report on this new ice core.

They expected to find the big ice ages and the warm inter-glacials, like our own. They had not expected to find this moderate, abrupt 1500-year cycle running all the way through both the warmings and the ice ages. And they said the way that the Carbon 14 and the Beryllium 10 isotopes in the ice correlate with sunspot numbers shows that there's a linkage with the sun. And that's all proven to be true.

And four years later, down in the Antarctic, at the other end of the Earth, scientists dug up an even longer ice core, 400,000 years-a Russian team, led by a Frenchman--and here was the 1500-year cycle running all the way through it.

And since then, scientists have found the 1500-year cycle in the seabed of six oceans, including the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arabian Sea; tiny, little one-celled fossils from the phytoplankton that thrive in the oceans. Their varieties and their number vary with temperature, and our scientists have learned to turn their electron microscopes on these tiny, little one-celled organisms and read the temperatures in the layers. And we now have one seabed core that goes back a million years, from near Iceland--Maureen Raymo of Boston University--and the 1500-year cycle runs through the whole million years, roughly 600 of these moderate natural cycles.

Tree rings from around the Northern Hemisphere. Some of the trees are very old. Some of our trees go back 4,000 years, still alive, bristle cone pines in the Sierra Nevada of California among them. Some of the trees are dead. They've been buried in peat bogs or submerged under lakes. And the scientists have been very creative at finding these old pieces of wood and tracing the tree rings, which demonstrate temperature by their summer widths, although you have to be careful about insect attacks and drier or wetter--but these tree rings are important clues.

None of these proxies by themselves would be adequate, but there are dozens of proxies sought out in thousands of places. We have, as I say, over a hundred peer-reviewed studies in the book. We could have done 300, probably 500, all of them showing physical evidence that this cycle is real and has been with us, and there's no reason to believe that it has stopped with the modern world.

Cave stalagmites--layered history, annual layers. Some of them are nicely light and dark, depending summer or winter, and they can be read like the ice layers and the tree rings. We have them showing the 1500-year cycle from every continent plus New Zealand.

There's been some talk, even in the scientific community, that the medieval warming and the Little Ice Age were Europe-only events. No. No. We have found lots of evidence, lots of physical proxies in the Southern Hemisphere: cave stalagmites from both South Africa and New Zealand; 130 glaciers in New Zealand advanced and retreated with the medieval warming and the Little Ice Age at roughly the same times as the glaciers in Europe advanced and retreated; archaeological evidence of prehistoric village locations which marched upslope in the Andes during the medieval warming at the same time they were marching upslope in the Alps in Europe, and then in both cases retreated back down again when the cold, unstable Ice Age came along.

Fossil pollen--pollen is very tiny, but our microscopes now can seek it out and identify it, and each plant's pollen is unique. And the North American Pollen Database shows nine complete reorganizations of our trees and plants in the last 14,000 years. That's one every 1,650, for you who are challenged without a calculator like I am.

In Ontario, Environment Canada says what that meant was during the medieval warming, beech trees were the predominant trees in the forest. As the Little Ice Age set in, the oaks took over; in the depths of the Little Ice Age, pines were predominant. We're now 150 years into the modern warming; the oak trees are coming back and the beech trees are waiting their next turn.

Some people say, gee, I don't like to think of the polar bears having to go through 600 global warmings in the last million years. The polar bears may not prefer it, but they have obviously survived it. We'll talk about that a little bit more later on.

It's not my favorite, but it's kind of kinky. In the tooth enamel of dead Vikings scientists have examined the oxygen isotope ratios in the corpses buried in the Greenland Viking colonies early in the life of the colony, and 400 years later, when it was near its expiration-there was one and a half degrees Celsius change in average temperature during that period. If any of those Vikings had lasted until 1700, there would have been a more extreme temperature change, perhaps three degrees Celsius, but we ran out of Vikings.

Shifting rainfall. Near the equator, we don't get a temperature change, we get a rainfall change as the tropical rain belts move north with the climate cycle. This is why during the Holocene warming 5,000 years ago, the Sahara had rhinoceros, giraffes, hunters, cattle and sheep pasture. They hunted and raised Barbary sheep. The Nile Valley was too wet and wild. Nobody lived there. And then by 3,000 years ago, the cycle had shifted, the Sahara had dried out, and people were raising wheat in the Nile Valley. Not disaster, but change.

Sun/climate connection, how can this happen? There's a new book coming out next March by a Danish scientist named Svensmark, and it'll be called the Chilling Stars, and it will be on his experiments duplicating the impact of additional cosmic rays on the Earth's atmosphere and its temperature. Suffice it to say, that when the sun is weak, we get hit by more cosmic rays, they ionize the water vapor in the air and create more low, wet clouds which deflect heat back into space and cool the Earth. And a tiny change in the irradiance of the sun, a tenth of a percentage point, is enough to drive a significant temperature change here on Earth. I won't belabor that point more than that, particularly since I'm not qualified to do so.

Why the climate models can't forecast. Interesting question. And we know they can't. First of all, they can't model clouds, and apparently clouds are the key factor in our climate changes. Secondly, nobody has ever figured out the proper X factor for CO2. Early on, the models predicted far more warming for today than we've had. The Hadley Center has gotten recently an approximation of the actual temperature observations by cutting their X factor by two-thirds. Apparently, these zoomy numbers about how much the Earth is going to warm have been based on a radical overestimate of how much CO2 changes the temperatures.

Why the models can't cope? Because we have a massive, cloud-controlled heat vent over the warm pool of the Pacific. This was discovered by NASA in collaboration with Richard Lindzen at MIT, published in 2003 in Science Magazine. When the sea surface hits 28 degrees Celsius, rainfall becomes more efficient. The number of high-ceilinged cirrus clouds, full of ice, radically reduced; the number of low, wet reflecting clouds radically increased. The Earth's temperature cools back down until the sea surface temperature is comfortable for the planet . . .

Why the models can't forecast? Chapter Four: "Sudden Ocean Cooling." I don't know how many of you have noticed recently a report by John Lyman of NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) who says that between 2003 and 2005, the oceans had thousand times more heat than the atmosphere, lost 21 percent of the heat they gained in the previous 50 years. No cycle, no prediction. We don't know where the heat went; we just know that it's not anywhere on Earth that can be found. The folks at NASA say it didn't go out through their heat vent. But we had a massive, sudden ocean cooling. And the data that documented it came from 2500 new smart floats that are scattered around the oceans today, and have been out there for just a few years. Previously our ocean temperature data was very sketchy and unreliable. And this new data allows NOAA to say that a sudden ocean cooling occurred earlier, between 1980 and 1983, with a similar massive heat reduction in the waters.

The models can't forecast this. Their forecasts are built up year on year based on trends. There is no reason to expect the models will ever be able to forecast this unless we identify some sort of cycle. It looks pretty unlikely at the moment.

Why Mr. Gore can't cope? I had the dubious pleasure of sitting through his movie--two big problems with it for me, aside from the fact that he doesn't understand the 1500-year cycle.

First of all, he showed us a graph with temperature and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere at the Antarctic with the ice cores tracking closely together through 400,000 years and four ice ages. And that was a good graph to show. But he didn't show the second graph that shows the CO2 changes occurring about 800 years after the temperature changes. In other words, higher temperatures produced more CO2 in the atmosphere, not the other way around. And that's entirely logical because the oceans hold 75 times as much CO2 as the air, and cold water holds more gas, so when the oceans warm, they have to release CO2 to the air. There should be nothing surprising about it, and nothing intimidating.

My other problem is with the melting of the Antarctic, which is supposed to raise sea levels suddenly by 20 feet. Ladies and gentlemen, the Antarctic is the coldest place on Earth. It's 30 degrees from melting. The ice there does not melt, first of all, because it aggressively deflects heat; and secondly, with the very low temperatures, we may see a tiny bit of surface melting at the height of the summer in a warm period, but it will not actually melt. If we look at an aerial photograph of the Antarctic surface, we will see huge blocks of ice flowing downhill. And that's why when the ice gets to the edge of the Antarctic it fall off in big blocks, some of them as big as the state of Rhode Island, because they haven't melted. And we have this peer-reviewed study that says the ice has been flowing at about the same rate for the last 7,000 years, and that rate is changed with a lag time only by the ice ages themselves.

Will we lose a million species to extinction with the warming? A high-level biologist from Stanford University told us that the Edith's Checkerspot Butterfly is going locally extinct in Baja, California. Well, if you look at the habitat map of the Edith's Checkerspot Butterfly, it covers the entire Western quarter of the United States from Baja, California, to the Canadian border. As the temperatures warm, that whole habitat map is shifting slightly north. And this is true of birds in England, insects in Europe, and species all over the planet. They are colonizing newly warmer areas, mostly without leaving behind the temperatures where they flourished before, because trees and plants are coldlimited but rarely heat-limited. And we can expect this warming to create a greater biodiversity in our forests.

I will tell you that they somehow caught a fish from the Antarctic, and they put it in a tank and they warmed the tank, thinking that this poor Antarctic fish, which was adapted to virtually freezing temperatures for maybe a million years--it swam cheerfully in waters nine degrees Celsius warmer. We may not understand how the species cope, but any species on the planet today has coped, believe me.

Malaria--well, the biggest outbreak of malaria in history was in Russia in the 1920s. And malaria was eradicated here not by colder temperatures but by DDT and window screens.

As a closing note, let me point out that three-fourths of our modern warming occurred before 1940, which was before much human-emitted CO2. If we give industrial CO2 emissions credit for half of the warming since 1940, that's .75 to .15 to .075--a teeny bit. From that amount of warming, you cannot construct 5 degrees or 11 degrees warming. It just does not compute.

I would point out also that we've had no warming now since 1998. The last time that we saw a pattern like this in the Earth's temperature was 1940--strong run-up, high peak and then a 35-year decline. I'm not predicting that, but I'm saying that it could happen . . .

S. FRED SINGER: Dennis has given a great overview. All I have to do is add a few short remarks.

It's been a very eventful year. You know that we've had Al Gore's science fiction movie, which I've seen, and we've just had a report in Britain by Sir Nicholas Stern--in which he does the economics, strange economics, which no one really accepts; in which he argues strongly for heroic measures to stop global warming and stabilize the planet.

What they have in common is, of course, that they assume the science is settled. They don't assume it; they actually explicitly say so in the case of Al Gore. And nothing could be further from the truth. And our book, I think, is living proof, as it were, that the science is quite different from what they imagine.

What we maintain is that there are natural cycles of cooling and warming going back at least a million years. These are small excursions of temperature, global temperature, much smaller than the ice ages, which is why they haven't been noticed until the last 25 years or so. . . . So what's the problem? The problem is that many people would like to believe that the current warming is caused by human activities, specifically by the release of carbon dioxide in fossil fuel burning.

And this raises a very interesting question. How can you decide whether the current warming is human-caused, anthropogenic, or whether it is natural?

It's a very difficult question to answer. How would you do that? Think for a moment. You can go up and ask the thermometers. If you ask them, they won't talk back. They won't tell you. So that's useless.

You can do as Al Gore did. Al Gore simply says, well, there's a scientific consensus. He's wrong. There isn't a scientific consensus. That should be obvious by just looking at the literature, published papers. Of course he quotes an article in Science Magazine, which was written by an incompetent so-called authority, and Science has refused to publish a correction. So he can't work that.

The other thing he does is to say look at all the glaciers; they're melting. In the first place, they're not all melting; some are growing. And secondly, that's what you would expect if the climate is warming, you'd expect places to melt, and you'd expect them to grow where the climate is cooling. These are consequences of climate change; they don't tell you anything about the cause. There's a logical error here that these people make, which they don't seem to recognize: Consequences don't tell you anything about the cause.

What about the other factor he quotes, the correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature? It's already been mentioned by Dennis--first of all, a correlation is not causation. We should all recognize that. And secondly, the correlation is imperfect. In the ice cores, for example, we've seen that the temperature increases before the increase in carbon dioxide. And in the last century, we've had cooling between 1940 and 1975--continuous cooling of the climate while carbon dioxide was growing. So that doesn't work either.

What's the final recourse these people have? They say the models predict warming; therefore, this must be man-made. That's not a good argument. Model results are not evidence.

So what evidence can you use? The only evidence that we have been able to think of--and when I say "we" I'm speaking about the whole scientific community--is to compare the pattern of warming--there's a geographic pattern and an altitude pattern of warming--with what greenhouse models calculate. And the IPCC tried to do that, that is the U.N. science group, and they published their results, and they're clearly wrong. They haven't republished them. They published them in 1995, and they haven't republished them since then, recognizing that they were wrong.

However, we're lucky. The U.S. government, after spending $18 billion on climate research, at the rate of roughly $2 billion a year, came up with its first report last May. You can look it up; it's called the Climate Change Science Program [CCSP] Report 1.1. It's their first report, and really the only one that one needs to look at because it's important. It compares the pattern of warming with greenhouse models. And guess what? They don't agree. They diverge strongly. Of course, they don't draw the right conclusion from this, but the data are evident. You just have to look at the graphs in the report.

I've written about this in several places and pointed out that this report exists, that these graphs show the discrepancy between data and models. And the believers pay no attention.

There is a blog called You might have heard of it. It was started by people who wanted to defend the so-called hockey stick graph. It's now degenerated into a general attack on skeptics, written by the same people. It's really a funny, funny blog. I call it the or the

They'll quote, for example, the article I've written on the CCSP report that shows a discrepancy, but they won't quote the discrepancy. In the last iteration they mention unstoppable global warming, but they won't reference our book. It's sort of funny.

And then they claim that there was no 1500-year cycle during the Holocene, during our present interglacial period, which is clearly wrong. They do this in order to preserve the fiction that the 20th century is the warmest in 1,000 years or 5,000 years, give or take. It's all wrong; it isn't even as warm as it was during the medieval warming when the Vikings were able to grow crops in Greenland.

What are we up against? We're up against, then, Al Gore, Nicholas Stern, and now the elections, which will bring, I'm afraid, a lot of people into the Congress who are believers in global warming, and what's even worse, who are believers in strong action. These actions will probably consist of greater subsidies to uneconomic boondoggles that were started during the Bush administration, but they will continue and grow bigger.

My advice to you all is invest in ethanol, wind farms and anything else that you can think of that won't work. (Laughter). Because you'll be making a lot of money off the other guys who pay taxes.

Our only hope is the Supreme Court, which has agreed to examine the question as to whether carbon dioxide should be classified as a pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act. It's a legal point. The petitioner (that is the plaintiff) is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the defendant is the EPA (that is, the U.S. government). It's an interesting case. The Commonwealth lost in the appeals court, so they've taken it to the Supreme Court.

I've studied the scientific brief produced by the plaintiffs, or for the plaintiffs. It's full of holes. It's very weak, easily taken care of. Unfortunately, the response brief doesn't take advantage fully of the weak points in the initial brief. But oral arguments will take place, I think, on November 29, and we will get some kind of a decision probably by early next year.

This is important because when the Supreme Court says that CO2 is not a pollutant, it will be much more difficult for any future administration or for any future EPA to try to regulate carbon dioxide.

So there you are. We have Al Gore, Nicholas Stern on the one hand, and the political establishment. We have unstoppable politics against unstoppable global warming science. Let's hope we win.

Thank you. (Applause.) *

"Well, the election campaign in the country is picking up speed. . . . All the candidates are talking about health care now. Don't they realize that it's their campaign speeches that makes us sick?" --Bob Hope

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