Global Warming Not a WMD

Get the butterfly net before you read this column. You won’t want to waste any time afterward.

“I have no hesitation in describing global warming (search) as a weapon of mass destruction,” said a British climate scientist this week.

John Houghton, a former member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (search), wrote in a July 28 commentary in the British newspaper The Guardian that human-induced climate change is at least as dangerous as “chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism.”

Likening global warming to terrorism, Houghton wrote “this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere in any form -- a heat wave in one place, a drought or a storm surge in another.

“Nor is this a problem for the future. The 1990s were probably the warmest decade in the last 1,000 years … The U.S. mainland was struck by 562 tornadoes in May,” Houghton continued (no doubt hyperventilating).

“Pre-monsoon temperatures this year in India reached a blistering 120 degrees, 9 degrees above normal. Once this killer heat wave began to abate, 1,500 people lay dead -- half the number killed outright in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center,” he added.

Houghton appeared to come up for a breath of sanity with the phrase, “While no one can ascribe a single weather event to climate change with any degree of certainty,” he quickly submerged back into the depths of bizarre hyperbole, “the parallels between global climate change and global terrorism are becoming increasingly obvious.”

Well, the only obvious parallel is that global terrorists and the global-warming pushers both seek to accomplish their agendas by scaring the public.

Houghton’s assertion that the 1990s was the warmest decade in the last 1,000 years (search) draws out the question, “Why was it so warm 1,000 years ago?”

Since there were no power plants, factories or automobiles back then, that warm period was obviously natural climate change (search). So why should we leap to the conclusion that any 1990s warming is definitely manmade?

Of course, it’s not even clear that any measurable “global warming” has really occurred, much less that it’s human-induced.

Satellite and weather balloon measurements of atmospheric temperatures since the 1970s actually indicate slight cooling to no change. To the extent any significant warming may have occurred during the 20th century, most occurred before 1940, while most greenhouse gas emissions (search) occurred after 1940 -- so there’s no apparent cause-and-effect relationship.

While it’s possible that some human-induced warming may be occurring, Virginia state climatologist Pat Michaels (search) once pointed out in a television debate with Clinton administration eco-czarina Carol Browner (search): “The fact of the matter is if you look at those temperature records that you keep on citing, you will see that almost all of the warming takes place in the absolute coldest, most miserable air masses in Siberia and northwestern North America … Great. We've warmed Siberia from minus 40 to minus 38. Big deal.”

If the 1990s were unusually warm, we don’t know why. Neither do the global-warming pushers.

There is no doubt that May was a big month for tornadoes -- 562 versus the prior monthly record of 399 reported for June 1992.

But just because May 2003 was a record month for tornadoes does not mean that global warming was the cause.

Houghton offered no explanation why it took more than a decade to break the previous record or why that record was broken by a whopping 41 percent. Surely the incremental nature of gradual climate change is not the explanation.

Moreover, the number of tornadoes has been rising for the past 50 years -- because of technology, not climate change. “As storm spotter and Doppler-radar (search) networks improve and public awareness increases, the number of tornadoes is also rising,” says the National Center for Atmospheric Research (search), a research program managed by more than 60 universities.

“From 1953 to 1991, an average of 768 tornadoes were reported per year, but since 1990, records list over 1,000 tornadoes each year … Spring is tornado season, with about 50 percent for all reported tornadoes (search) occurring from April through June,” adds NCAR.

Five hundred-plus tornadoes may be a record for a single month, but it’s not so unusual after all.

As to India’s killer heat wave, it sounds like the Indians need more economic development so that they can afford better living conditions and better medical care.

In contrast to India, temperatures hit 127 degrees in Palm Springs, Calif., this year with no reported heat-related deaths. You figure out what the difference is.

If there is a “weapon of mass destruction” associated with global warming, it’s the global warmers themselves. Their preferred policy of energy regulation and restriction would reduce economic progress and development, especially in the third world.

Since “wealth is health,” it’s easy to see who and what the real threat is.

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

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