Fishy Tales About Frogs and Fanatical Global-Warmers

While global-warmers celebrate the signing of a new international agreement to control emissions of greenhouse gases, researchers are reporting that global warming is causing lovelorn frogs to croak earlier in the spring. 

The two events are symbolically related, believe it or not. 

Researchers from the State University of New York and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation examined data on the earliest croaking dates of six species of frogs in the Ithaca, N.Y. area. The data were collected during two time periods, 1900-1912 and 1990-1999. 

The researchers compared the croaking and local temperature data for the two time periods and reported in the August issue of Conservation Biology that four of the frog species (spring peeper, wood frog, gray tree frog, and bullfrog) are croaking earlier, while two species (green frog and American toad) have not changed their earliest croaking dates. 

The researchers ominously concluded, "This is the strongest evidence of a biological response to climate change in eastern North America." 

If this is the strongest evidence, then there really is no evidence of a biological response. 

First, the croaking data is suspect. The 1900-1912 data were collected by a Cornell University biologist whose stated goal was to detect the earliest events in the breeding cycles of frogs. But the 1990-1999 data were collected by volunteers who were not similarly motivated and only incidentally collected croaking data. There's a good chance the volunteers missed the earliest croaking, rendering comparison of the two data sets invalid. 

The temperature data is also a problem. Croaking begins in March. But the researchers did not report a statistically significant increase in temperature between 1900 and 1999 for March. 

Has global warming hastened croaking? I'm more convinced that frogs turn into princes after being kissed by princesses. 

Across the big pond meanwhile, Europeans croaking about global warming — led by French president Jacques Chirac — convinced 178 countries to sign a new global-warming agreement. The U.S., in the spirit of the American toads in the croaking study, refused to hop along blindly. 

The new treaty — "Kyoto lite" — is more evidence that the world isn't genuinely worried about man-made greenhouse-gas emissions. 

The Kyoto agreement negotiated in 1997 would have required that developed nations reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Developing countries were exempted from emissions reductions. 

European governments were so worried about global warming that only Romania ratified the 1997 Kyoto agreement. 

The new agreement once again exempts from the greenhouse-gas limitations developing countries such as China, India and Brazil, which produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. If global warming is a real problem, shouldn't everyone reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions? 

Japan, Canada and Russia will have reduced burdens as they will get credit for their forests. The idea is that trees and plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and "sequester" the carbon. The forest credits amount to inaction as Japan, for example, is excused from two-thirds of its commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. 

But what country will care about the emissions limits anyway, as there is no mechanism for enforcing the agreement? Japan balked at making the agreement legally enforceable, so those provisions were dropped. 

If the world's not worried about global warming, what's behind the new agreement? It's simply a political means to an economic goal. 

Global warming is a European strategy for gaining economic advantage over the U.S. Reduced energy use and higher energy costs would constrain the U.S. economy in favor of Europe's. France, in particular, relies greatly on expensive nuclear energy and would like the U.S. penalized for burning cheaper coal, oil and gas. 

The Europeans would rely on the American greens — activist groups such as Environmental Defense, Pew Center for Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists — to enforce greenhouse gas limits on American consumers and businesses by means of politicians, lawyers and even corporate shareholder resolutions. 

Meanwhile, emissions limits would be enforced among European countries much like the restaurant smoking ban in France — not at all. 

The Europeans hope the new agreement will add to the political pressure on President Bush to surrender on global warming. But President Bush should remember the American toad and not become a toady to the Europeans. 

Without the U.S., the global warming conspiracy will do the only thing it can — croak. 

Steven Milloy is the publisher of, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of the upcoming book Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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