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Hot Air

from the magazine

Hot Air

Autumn 1999
Technology and Innovation
Infrastructure and energy

A new report by the Environmental Defense Fund claims that global warming would be a disaster for the New York metropolitan area. It predicts, among other dire consequences, that global warming will cause sea levels to rise, threatening New York with massive flooding, even during small storms, and possible saltwater contamination of city water supplies.


But though sea levels are rising and could cause these things to happen, there's scant evidence that global warming is the culprit. At a recent congressional briefing on sea-level change, David Malmquist, a respected scientist at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, explained that the rate of sea-level rise hasn't changed in a hundred years, long before the industrial revolution supposedly started warming the atmosphere.


Scientists aren't even sure whether global warming would increase or decrease the rate of sea-level change. Warming in Antarctica would increase snowfall, for example, causing the Antarctic ice sheet to expand. To what extent this would offset other factors that cause the sea to rise remains unclear, but it could be significant.


The EDF claims that its predictions derive from computer-based climate models. The problem with such models, though, is that their resolution is so coarse that one learns little about the regional effects of global warming. A U.N. panel on climate change recently noted that predicting regional effects is so difficult that "no information on future regional climate change is presented here." Nevertheless, EDF proceeded with its scary scenarios despite its ignorance.


It's unfortunate that green pressure groups such as EDF continue to use junk science as a political tool to promote their anti-energy agenda.

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