A Feb. 16 column in The Morning Sun, a Mt. Pleasant newspaper, declared that the scientific debate about global warming "is over." As proof of this assertion, columnist Eric Baerren cited the recently released summary of an upcoming report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The only skeptics, according to Baerren, are "raving lunatics."

In fact, surveys of climate scientists have documented sharp disagreements regarding the extent, causes and consequences of global climate change. Moreover, the accuracy of the summary report cited by Baerren is under challenge as misrepresenting the actual content of the U.N. report.

The Morning Sun is not alone in characterizing the climate change debate as settled. Headlines in newspapers big and small have trumpeted similar claims following the release of the summary. However, what many have failed to note is the fact that the summary was a product of political negotiation among various government appointees rather than the conclusions of the scientific community. Nor has it been widely reported that the summary of findings differs significantly from previous reports, indicating considerable uncertainty about the status of climate change.

A pre-publication review of the actual report by the Center for Science and Public Policy notes, for example, that the U.N. panel has cut by half its previous prediction of the rise in sea levels. Likewise, the new report indicates that an earlier assessment of human influence on climate change was dramatically overstated — in excess of 30 percent. Such revisions are a common feature of the "modeling" upon which most climate change theory is based.

The inherent uncertainty of climate models was underscored in a recent Wall Street Journal column by Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London. According to Stott, "The inconvenient truth remains that climate is the most complex, coupled, nonlinear, chaotic system known. Models that strive to incorporate everything, from aerosols to vegetation and volcanoes to ocean currents, may look convincing, but the error range associated with each additional factor results in near-total uncertainty."

With respect to the supposed "consensus" about climate change, German environmental scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch found none in their 1996 and 2003 surveys of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries. Only 2 percent of the climate scientists surveyed said they "strongly agree" that the models used to predict climate change are accurate, according to a report of the survey by James M. Taylor, editor of Environment & Climate News. A majority of respondents said they do not believe the current state of knowledge is adequate to provide reasonable predictions of climate variability over 100-year time periods, and more respondents "strongly disagree" than "strongly agree" that climate change is caused by humans, Taylor reported.

The Environment & Climate News analysis is available at www.heartland.org/article.cfm?artID=20732.

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THE THIRD DEGREE

Doing the math on corn-based ethanol

1. The energy content of one gallon of ethanol is equal to:

A. 1.25 gallons of gasoline.
B. 0.90 gallons of gasoline.
C. 0.75 gallons of gasoline.
D. 0.65 gallons of gasoline.

2. How much land area is needed to grow one bushel of corn?

A. 25 square feet.
B. 125 square feet.
C. 250 square feet.
D. 330 square feet.

3. How much ethanol can be produced from one bushel of corn?

A. 25 gallons.
B. 15.15 gallons.
C. 2.66 gallons.
D. 5.37 gallons.

4. How much water is needed to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol?

A. 5 to 10 gallons of water.
B. 15 to 20 gallons of water.
C. 25 to 30 gallons of water.
D. 30 to 37 gallons of water.

5. What was the energy equivalent of gasoline (GGE) required to yield the 1.38 billion gallons of ethanol produced in the United States in 2002?

A. 1.44 billion GGE.
B. 500,000 GGE.
C. 1.25 million GGE.
D. 575 million GGE.

Figures from professor Tadeusz W. Patzek, civil and environmental engineering, University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For more information go to http://pangea .stanford.edu/ESYS/Energy%20seminars/patzek_ethanol.pdf.


Answers: 1. D (0.65 gallons of gasoline); 2. D (330 square feet); 3. C. (2.66 gallons); 4. D (30 to 37 gallons of water); 5. A. (1.44 billion gallons GGE).