Magazine article Insight on the News

A Case Study in Shaky Science

Magazine article Insight on the News

A Case Study in Shaky Science

Article excerpt

People often wonder why I devote so much time and attention to the ozone issue. After all, they say, isn't it a "done deal"? The Montreal Protocol of 1987 and subsequent amendments have succeeded in stopping the production of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and other chemicals by the end of 1995. What's the point, they ask, of exposing the shaky science used to arrive at current policies?

I have always been stumped to come up with a cogent answer - until tuning into ABC's Nightline one night last year. Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund was complaining: "If they [skeptical scientists] can get the public to believe that ozone wasn't worth acting on ... then there is no reason for the public to believe anything about any environmental issue." Quite true! The real reason for attacking the present CFC policy is not just to demonstrate how science has been ignored, perverted, misused and otherwise manhandled, but to avoid having this sad episode repeated on other issues on the international eco-activists' agenda.

The leading issue now is the specter of a calamitous greenhouse effect. It drove President Bush in an election year to sign the Global Climate Treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Goaded into demonstrating environmental leadership, the United States became the fourth nation to ratify the treaty, right after Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Marshall Islands.

The Clinton administration followed suit in October 1993 with its Climate Change Action Plan to keep carbon dioxide emissions for the year 2000 at the 1990 level - knowing full well that this public-relations exercise could only slow the increase of atmospheric C[O.sub.2] and delay any putative warming by a few years. But more reprehensible than the cynicism of the White House is the politically driven distortion of scientific information in the current push to reduce C[O.sub.2] emissions further - up to 60 percent! - to achieve activists' goals.

A recent example is a Sept. 15 press release, issued by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which not only misrepresents the underlying scientific report but invents conclusions that are not even in the report. By exaggerating the risk of climate change and raising public fears about hypothetical disasters, the authors of the press release betray the integrity of the many honest scientists who contributed to the IPCC climate studies, but who do not share such apocalyptic visions.

The sole reason for the distortion, I suspect, is to satisfy ideological objectives of constraining energy use - thereby stopping economic growth. The cost of such actions, in terms of human misery throughout the world, is beyond measure. But this matter seems of little concern to the activist elites who are demanding drastic reductions in energy development.

For many zealots, the CFC-ozone issue is simply a blueprint for the global warming issue. David Doniger was lead attorney of the Natural Resources Defense Council (the folks that shamelessly promoted the Alar scare in 1989) and is now the global environmental pooh-bah in the Clinton administration. Back in spring 1988, in Issues in Science and Technology, he strategized about building on the CFC experience as a precedent for future international controls on carbon dioxide, methane and other trace gases. …

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