NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Extreme Scenarios Global Warming

April 27, 2004

Many scientists support global climate models that predict an increase in average temperatures -- global warming -- from human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels. However, they warn -- in the April 8 issue of Nature -- that computer models are unreliable when applied to regional climate change.

Yet, notes Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute, a study in the same issue predicts the melting of the Greenland ice sheet within 1,000 years, applying extreme assumptions to a tiny slice of the globe.

  • Greenland covers 0.4 percent of the planet, and the consensus of scientists (reports Nature) is that climate models on a scale as small as the continental United States (2 percent of the earth's surface) are inappropriate for policy purposes.
  • However, according to the scenarios in an article in the same issue, Greenland ice-sheet would melt in 1,000 years if the annual average temperature in Greenland increases by 14 degrees F -- an extreme temperature change not predicted by accepted global climate models.
  • Given the way greenhouse warming splits between summer and winter, says Michaels, this implies an outlandish 30 degree F change in the winter, fueled by a world that would have to be producing carbon dioxide at a rate far beyond anything remotely possible.

However, the authors "conclude that the Greenland ice-sheet is likely to be eliminated by anthropogenic climate change unless much more substantial emission reductions are made than those envisaged by the IPCC [a U.N. panel]."

Such predictions, concludes Michaels, show that some scientists are willing to twist the data to fit the conclusions they seek.

Source: Patrick J. Michaels, "A Feverish Fate for Scientific Truth?" Washington Times, April 27, 2004.


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