NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

El Nino, Not Global Warming

February 8, 1999

Satellite data indicate that the record high temperatures in 1998 were not the continuation of a global warming trend, but an abnormal spike related to a strong El Nino.

Virtually every out-of-the-ordinary weather event in recent years has been linked by the Clinton administration to global warming. However, observed global warming remains far below the amount predicted by computer models that served as the basis for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Here is how the climate actually has changed over the past several decades:

  • The coldest wintertime air masses in Siberia and North America have warmed.
  • Despite anomalous weather events, there has been a statistically significant decline in year-to-year temperature variability worldwide.
  • There has been no statistically significant change in day- to-day temperature variations or increase in the number of record high or low temperatures.
  • Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere at a rate below that predicted because it is being increasingly captured by growing vegetation.
  • The rate of increase of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, began to decrease in 1981 and is not likely to increase appreciably in the next 100 years.

The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention would require developed nations to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. However, even if it were implemented at significant cost, it will have almost no discernible impact on global climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose assessment led to the convention and protocol, has forecast that the earth will warm 2.0 degrees Centigrade by 2100 -- a forecast challenged by many scientists. But even if the forecast is correct and even if every nation met its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, the earth's temperature in 2050 would be only 0.07 degrees Centigrade lower -- a change so small that it cannot be reliably measured by ground-based thermometers.

Source: Patrick J. Michaels, "Long Hot Year: Latest Science Debunks Global Warming Hysteria," Policy Analysis No. 329, December 31, 1998, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 842-0200.


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