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Endangered Findings
The unsettled state of EPA's borrowed climate science.


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Patrick J. Michaels

Now that health care is done (for the time being), expect global warming to be high on the Obama administration’s “to do” list. But cap-and-trade legislation and its alternative, a direct tax on carbon-based fuels, can’t be passed via “reconciliation” and are far short of the needed 60 Senate votes.

As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is itching to step in and dictate how and how much we can drive, fly, consume, or make. This the agency made clear in its “endangerment finding,” a necessary precursor to regulation, released last December.

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Expect the administration to use 2010 global-temperature data as backup for the EPA’s regulatory power grab. Global temperatures shot upward around the beginning of this year thanks to El Niño, a warming of the tropical Pacific that takes place every few years. The average global temperature has a reasonable chance of beating the last high, set back in 1998 (also an El Niño year).

Meanwhile, a number of studies point to sources other than greenhouse gases as explanations for the modest warming trend of the late 20th century. This could doom the EPA’s finding. But do not expect it to go quietly.

The EPA did no scientific research of its own to buttress its endangerment finding, relying on the 2007 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a similar “Synthesis Report” from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program as the basis for its conclusions. According to these reports:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid–20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [greenhouse gas] concentrations.

“Most” means “more than one-half,” and the IPCC says “very likely” means a probability of between 90 and 99 percent. This claim may have constituted the “settled” science of climate change in 2007, but things have become greatly unsettled since then.

The rise in global surface temperatures as measured by the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (yes, the “Climategate” folks) is 0.70 degrees Celsius since 1950, or a little over a tenth of a degree per decade. But the most recent refereed science literature argues otherwise.



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