This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Jan. 13, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY CLARKE, BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY: We have seen clear and unequivocal signals there is a change afoot. And that is worrying. We have grown up in an environment, I think, where we tend to think the world is stable. And it’s clear that we have done something to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: Reuters reports that experts believe the coastlines and coral reefs may become even more vulnerable to tsunamis and storms because of a "creeping rise in sea levels tied to global warming (search)." The study reports that scientists are saying global warming threatens to trigger more powerful storms.
Some think not, including Patrick Michaels of the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Virginia, whose recent book on global warming is called "Meltdown."
Welcome to you, sir, nice to have you here.
Nice to be here.
HUME: First, let me take the statement you saw in that sound bite there from the fellow up in the cold north, who said — who said we have done something to it, meaning the earth or climate or something. What about that?
PATRICK MICHAELS, AUTHOR, "MELTDOWN:" Well, that was an example of what a call a predictable distortion in my book. He was in Antarctica. He was with the British Antarctic Survey (search). It was well known that the net temperature changed over Antarctica, averaged over the continent for the last several decades, it is negative. It is cooling.
There’s one place where it is warming in the Antarctic Peninsula, but overall it’s cooling. That is a typical example that I cover in my book about repeated distortions on this issue.
HUME: When he says, "We have done something to it," what is "the it?"
MICHAELS: I guess ‘the it" is putting carbon dioxide in the air. Yes, we have done something to it. Global warming is real. The planet is warmer than it was. In the last few decades, you see a warming that tends to be in the very coldest air of Siberia in the dead of winter, and the northwestern North America. Greenhouse theory protects that’s what warms the most.
But having said that, you now know how much it’s going to warm in the future. Because our computer models, if you average them up and look at what we call their "central tendency," they say once it starts to warm, it warms at a constant rate. Not an increasing rate.
So nature has told us. And it works out to a very small number, about three-quarters of a degree in the next half century. That is a number that we’re clearly going to live with. It’s how much it warmed in the last century. In the U.S. life span doubled. Crop yields quintupled. Wealth was democratized. Global warming didn’t cause all of that, though it helped the crops. But it sure didn’t stop it.
HUME: Now, what about this notion that the increase in sea levels tied to global warming, as expressed in that Reuters story and attributed to experts, will make coastlines around the world more vulnerable to moments like tsunamis?
MICHAELS: Unbelievable, a remarkable and yet predictable distortion. Again, one of these things I talk about in the book. Sea level rise from global warming at best has been about three or four inches in the course of the 20-Century. The rate of sea level rise has not changed throughout the century. And it is the same as it has been for quite some time. Four inches, that this much, is what has been done over the 100 years with warming and natural changes.
What we have from a tsunami, 40 feet. That’s the difference between this finger and three stories of a building. That four inches means nothing. And when we think of some of the larger tsunamis that we’ve had, like Krakatoa (search) that was between 110 and 120 feet. If we extend the temperature curve out for the next 50 years, you get another three or four inches of sea level rise. Compare three inches to 100 feet and you have a distortion of the global warming issue. This issue is fraught with that. And that’s what I like to talk about.
HUME: Well, let me ask you then about the storms we are seeing in the West, these particularly devastating storms. People being — houses floating away and so forth. It has certainly been suggested that these intense storms, and in fact, scientists quoted in that news story suggest more intense storms may be on the way, a function of global warming.
MICHAELS: It’s very interesting. Even the United Nations Governmental Panel on Climate Change (search), which is clearly really very political, says there is no change in weather extremes and storminess that they can find.
What happens in Southern California, by the way, what caused by a persistent dip in the jet stream. Everybody who watches the weather show has seen this thing out there. It’s gone away now. The jet stream was further south than it would normally be.
Now, in global warming, the world becomes more summer like and jet stream tends to retreat to the north. So at first blush what’s happening down there in Southern California is in fact not what you would expect from global warming. And it’s happened before.
Nineteen thirty-one, 1932 it snowed all over the Los Angeles Basin, it snowed down to where Disneyland (search) is today. In the Eastern United States, one of these big troughs, again. Eastern United States was in the southwesterly flow aloft. It was extremely warm, 12 degrees above normal in January 1932, warmest year on record. We have not seen it that warm in a winter in the Eastern United States since.
HUME: And yet, it was frigid in the West.
MICHAELS: And it was frigid in the West. That is a typical pattern. It’s the way the jet stream sorts itself out, given the way that the continents and mountains and oceans are distributed around the world. Oftentimes when it’s very cold in Southern California, it is very, very warm on the U.S. East Coast. And that’s what we are seeing.
HUME: So you say, however, global warming is real.
MICHAELS: Yes, it is.
HUME: Your point seems to be it is real but very small.
MICHAELS: Yes, it’s exaggerated. You see, again, if you don’t — to get by my argument, you have to have somebody get in front of that camera and say that the central of all of those computer models, that billions and billions of dollars worth of research has been wasted, because it comes out to say once it starts to warm, it tends to warm at a constant rate. And boy, the rate has been amazingly constant. The deviations from the straight line are very small.
So you know the future. Why don’t we come out and say that in public? Why don’t we say that on television? Well, if we told you, look at the model, it looks like it’s going to be about three-quarters of a degree because you have to adjust them for reality. That would be the end of the issue. The issue would go away, and in Washington, issues compete with each other fore attention. You know that.
HUME: So what do you sense is the — I mean Michael Crichton, for example, the novelist has a book out, which is — which is "Global Warming Skeptic" in its attitude. And it’s based upon a lot of research that he says he personally did into the issue. He comes out more or less on the same side of the issue you do.
MICHAELS: That’s because he looked at the data. When you start looking at the numbers versus the assertions people make to try to get attention to this issue, you realize that it is real but dramatically overblown. And then that leads to a search for motive. Why do issues — it’s not just global warming. Many issues get overblown in this town because they are competing for the public’s largess. You know that as well as I.
HUME: Your view is that all of this global warming alarm is about environmental movement’s needs to keep people worried, so they’ll get money and pass their bill.
MICHAELS: And it’s the reward system. And you know, in the academy you are awarded, I hate to tell you, for how much outside funding. And if this issue goes away, a lot of that outside funding is out the window.
HUME: Professor, nice to have you.
MICHAELS: Thank you.
HUME: Thanks for coming in.
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