I heard a sweet, sweet sound today: the anguished whine of climate change skeptics who simply can't stand it that U.S. politicians are finally, albeit grudgingly, realizing it might just be time to do something about global warming. An e-mail from Richard Morrison, the director of media relations at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is distraught that "reasonable input from skeptics of an emissions trading scheme" will not be heard at next week's Senate hearings on a plan to institute mandatory greenhouse gas emissions limits in the United States.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is nothing if not consistent. The virulently right-wing think tank has never met an environmental regulation it didn't hate, and it's hard to imagine anybody familiar with its political stance taking seriously any of the so-called science it quotes to explain why A) global warming isn't happening, B) even if it is, it isn't caused by humans, and C) even if it is happening and is caused by humans, that still doesn't mean that rising temperatures would be bad.
(No joke, in their comments to a white paper released by Sens. Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingamon (D) asking for input on how to construct an emissions cap-and-trade system, Myron Ebell, director of global warming for CEI, notes that "Given that the negative impacts of climate change are expected to hit developing countries first, this suggests that for the United States, at least, net impacts might be positive for a greater amount of temperature change." Woo hoo -- while they're drowning from rising sea levels in Bangladesh, we'll be skinny-dipping in Minnesota in January!)
Some 29 parties will be heard from at the April 4 hearings, but not CEI. How could this be? Do you suppose it's because whoever was in charge of compiling the guest list read the comments that CEI submitted in response to the white paper and started laughing so hard they forgot to write down Ebell's name?
Where to start? Oh, let's try Greenland. CEI goes to great lengths to try and tell us that, despite everything you think you might have read in the popular press, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are not really melting. By selectively quoting a couple of papers published in 2005, CEI concludes that some sheets are melting a little, some are thickening, and the overall likely impact on sea level is not likely to pose "substantial risks."
The lead author of those papers was Jay Zwally, a scientist at NASA. I thought it might be interesting to see if there was any record of his having an opinion on this. Guess what: Just two weeks ago, he was widely quoted, while commenting on a recent satellite survey of Greenland that revealed much faster melting than had previously been reported, as saying, "If the trends we're seeing continue and climate warming continues as predicted, the polar ice sheets could change dramatically ... We're seeing the early signs of changes in the ice sheets ... The climate warming from greenhouse gases has really just started."
And that's not all, in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Glaciology a team led by Zwally "found that about 20 billion net tons of water are added to oceans each year from Greenland's ice sheet, which retains some 11 billion tons of water annually, while Antarctica loses about 31 billion tons per year." Meanwhile, another study, published in the Feb. 17 issue of Science, reported that Greenland glaciers are melting twice as fast as researchers had previously believed.
Poor CEI, being denied the chance to appear before two senators and distort, obfuscate and misrepresent climate change science. Such a shame -- normally, our government is more than willing to bend over backward for shameless demagoguery. But, really, they shouldn't be worrying too much. No legislation is likely to be generated this year from these hearings, and anything that might eventually come down the line will no doubt be so weak and watered down that it won't have a snowball's chance in a global-warming-baked developing nation at hurting the profits of any of CEI's corporate backers.