The report of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NRC-NAS) claims that the climate is warming and the cause is human. The first claim of this federally funded $6 million exercise is meaningless and trivial; the second claim is almost surely wrong ("Tax dollars perpetuate global-warming fiction," Comment & Analysis, Wednesday).
The report's recommendation is for the United States to put a price on carbon to staunch emissions of carbon dioxide, which is pointless, counterproductive and very costly.
The climate certainly has warmed considerably in the past 10,000 years (when the last Ice Age ended), but much less since 1850 (the end of the Little Ice Age). No one disputes these facts. But the climate has not warmed during the past decade, in spite of the steady rise in human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. According to Phil Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, there has been no warming trend since 1995.
The 2007 report of the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) furnished no credible evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The NRC-NAS panel did not add any new relevant information - nor did it have the expertise to do so.
The IPCC panel was made up of many qualified atmospheric scientists who are active in research. The NAS panel was politically chosen and listed among its "climate science experts" a sociology professor and a professor of "sustainable development," whatever that means. That certainly doesn't inspire much confidence in the NAS conclusions.
"This is our most comprehensive report ever on climate change," said Ralph Cicerone, president of the NAS, at a briefing to discuss the effort. It "analyzes the reality of climate change and how should the nation respond. ... It emphasizes why the United States should act now."
Looking back, this may well have been a low point for the NAS, one that inevitably will discredit all other NAS activities. But it will provide a useful lesson to other scientific organizations that have uncritically jumped on the AGW bandwagon.
S. FRED SINGER
Professor emeritus of environmental sciences,
University of Virginia