NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Warming Occurs

April 12, 2001

According to a recent report on global warming, three scientists agreed, "...what matters is how the earth is warming, not just that it is." Their findings concluded that the lion's share of warming is taking place in Siberia and northwestern North America, and that less than one-third of the observed warming during the second half of the twentieth century occurred in the warm half-year, while two-thirds occurred in the cold half-year.

Furthermore, according to the study, the effects of postwar warming have been benign or beneficial:

  • The growing season has lengthened by about three days at U.S. latitudes and by a week at more northern locations.
  • Warming of the coldest winter air masses has reduced overall temperature variability.
  • Streamflow records indicate decreased drought and no change in floods.
  • Heat-related deaths at high effective temperatures declined in northern cities.

Finally, no known mechanism can stop or even significantly reduce global warming in the foreseeable future. Even with full compliance, international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, would have no detectable effect on average temperature within a reasonable time frame of 50 years.

Beyond 50 years, we have little, if any, idea what the energy infrastructure of our society will be. But we can assess the facts on global warming and ask the question the facts provoke: Because of the way the planet warms, is global warming something that we should even try to stop?

Source: Patrick J. Michaels, Paul C. Knappenberger, and Robert E. Davies, "The Way of Warming," Regulation, No. 3, 2000, Cato Institute.


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