New UN Global Warming Report


DATE: January 23, 2001

BACKGROUND: Today Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environmental Programme, issued a report saying the earth was warming much faster than previously predicted and at the current rate temperature would increase by 10.4 degrees by the year 2100. He said there is "new and stronger evidence that human activity has caused the warming of the globe in the last 50 years" and that the last 100 years are "likely" to have seen more warming than any other period in the last 1,000 years.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: In fact, Mr. Toepfer and the UN report are wrong. NASA satellite data show no warming in the last 50 years. Tree ring and ice core data show that what warming did occur in this century was before 1940.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Not only does NASA satellite data show that there has been no atmospheric warming in the last half of this century, studies of tree rings and polar ice cores show that what warming did occur - just one-half degree Celsius - occurred prior to 1940. This was at a time when we were using little fossil fuel by today's standards and emitting few of the supposed greenhouse gases. While protecting the environment is important, we must be careful not to limit the availability of energy, lest our entire nation find itself with the power shortages California is now experiencing.

DISCUSSION: The international discussion of global warming has, from its beginning, been about economics, not the environment. It is no coincidence that Mr. Toepfer is not a climatologist, or even a scientist. He is an economist who spent most of his career working for the German government. A brief bio of Klaus Toepfer can be found at:

Mr. Toepfer does, undoubtedly understand the economics of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. The European Union nations, with their socialist economies, have been unable to keep pace with the United States since World War II and their economic problems have been increasing in recent years. The Kyoto Protocol is set in a way that would cripple the U.S. economy while leaving Europe virtually untouched. The keys are the requirement to reduce "greenhouse" gases to seven percent below 1990 levels by the year 2010 and the treatment of the EU as one entity rather than separate countries.

Reaching a level of seven percent below 1990 would require a reduction of over one-third in projected U.S. energy use, forcing the closing many businesses and perhaps whole industries. However, in Europe, which has historically polluted more heavily than the U.S., since 1990 Great Britain has switched from almost exclusive use of coal to almost exclusive use of clean-burning natural gas from the North Sea. Also, Germany has closed down the heavily-polluting, inefficient East German factories. This puts the EU very near the 2010 goal without major energy cuts.

(Sound information on climate change and its causes can be found at or at, where you can click on Environment News on the left side of the page - all recent issues have numerous article on the subject.)

It should be noted that this same UN organization has been revising its warming estimates down in recent years to come closer to actual data. This new report comes after the latest round of climate change talks collapsed in disagreement.

by Tom Randall, Director
John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or
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