U.S. House Committee on Resources
Kyoto Global Warming Treaty’s Impact on Ohio’s Coal Dependent Communities
13 May 2003
John R. Christy, Verbal remarks.
Thank you Chairman Pombo and congressman Ney. I am John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I am also Alabama’s state climatologist, and recently served as a lead author of the 2001 report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I am pleased to speak to you today about the Kyoto Protocol.
First, there seems to be a misconception that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant. Life on Earth depends on three things: sunlight, water,and carbon dioxide. The plant world and all life that depends on it would end without CO2.
Millions of years ago in concentrations several times higher than today, CO2 promoted development of the biosphere which now surrounds us. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.
Based on output from climate models, the Kyoto Protocol assumes that increasing CO2 will cause dangerous climate change. Real data, however, suggest otherwise.
A common feature of climate model forecasts is that as CO2 increases, the global surface temperature should rise along with an even more rapid warming in the troposphere, the atmosphere up to about 30,000 feet. This additional atmospheric warming would further promote more warming of the surface if models are correct.
Over the past 24+ years various calculations of surface temperature do show a rise of about seven tenths of a degree Fahrenheit. This is roughly half of the total temperature change observed since the end of the 19th century.
In the troposphere, however, various data, including the satellite dataset that Dr. Roy Spencer of UAH and I produce, show much less warming, about three tenths of a degree or less than half of the warming observed at the surface. The models predict more warming in the atmosphere. The real world shows less.
A new version of the microwave satellite data has been produced, but not yet published, by Remote Sensing Systems or RSS of California. Ten days ago the results of a curious comparison of UAH against RSS data appeared in Science magazine's electronic edition. The article's authors observed that climate models agree more closely with the RSS dataset. The article's strong implication was that since the RSS data more closely matched the model output, it is likely more accurate than ours.
That same week OUR latest test of the satellite dataset appeared, with much less fanfare, in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, (not exactly coffee table material). Instead of using forecasts and projections from mathematical models, we performed rigorous tests using real observations from balloon datasets created by independent organizations. Our satellite data and the balloon data corroborate each other with remarkable consistency, showing only a slow warming in the bulk of the atmosphere. Climate models that forecast significant warming in the troposphere apparently do not match the real world.
The IPCC’s 2001 conclusion that human-induced global warming is clearly evident was based partly on a depiction of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the last thousand years. This depiction showed little temperature change until about 1850, followed by a sharp upward rise, suggesting that recent warming was dramatic and linked to human effects.
Since 2001, however, two important research projects have shown something very different. Using a wider range of information from new sources these studies indicate large temperature swings have been common in the past 1,000 years, and that temperatures warmer than today’s were common in 50-year periods about 1,000 years ago. These studies suggest that the climate we see today isn’t unusual at all. Even so, some people still think something should be done about CO2 as soon as possible.
There have been many proposals to limit energy use. A fundamental point that our nation needs to understand is that if any of these proposals (including the Kyoto protocol) are implemented, they will have an effect on the climate so small that it cannot be detected. It is my business to monitor the climate with the highest precision possible, so I can say with confidence that none of these proposals will change what the climate is going to do enough to notice. Raising the cost of energy without any perceivable benefit is what Kyoto amounts to.
The U.S. is often criticized for producing 25 percent of the world’s anthropogenic CO2. We are rarely applauded for producing with that CO2 31 percent of what the world wants and needs; it’s food, technology, medical advances, the defense of freedom, and so on. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and the energy that comes from carbon-based fuels allows people to live better lives.
In the mid ‘70s I was a missionary in Africa. I lived with people who didn’t have access to energy. During the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s I saw clearly that the people affected most by rising energy costs were the poor, both around the world and in my own state.
In closing, let me note that at other hearings such as this I have been asked, “If you were a congressman for a day, what would you do on this issue?” Three things. First, I would do no harm. I wouldn’t artificially force up energy prices, thereby hurting the poor. I wouldn’t undo the good things that have been done to clean the air and water. I noted earlier that CO2 isn’t a pollutant. Other emissions, such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and mercury, are potentially harmful. The apparent absence of global warming shouldn’t be used as an excuse to overlook other types of pollution.
Second, I would help America do what the innovative people of this nation do best: I would help scientists and engineers discover new sources of low carbon energy. And thirdly, I would work to enhance our national infrastructure so it would be more resilient to floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes and other weather events that we know are going to continue whether the climate changes or not.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be glad to answer any questions at the appropriate time.