9 Ariz. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 53 (1992)
The Failure of the Popular Vision of Global Warming

handle is hein.journals/ajicl9 and id is 65 raw text is: THE FAILURE OF THE POPULAR VISION OF
GLOBAL WARMING
Patrick J. Michaels*
David E. Stooksbury**
I. INTRODUCTION
Virtually all scientists directly involved in research on climatic change
believe that the earth will undergo some warming as a result of the increase
in anthropogenerated emissions that absorb infrared radiation or enhance the
greenhouse effect. However, within certain broad limits, how much the
world warms is irrelevant. Rather, the critical policy question is how will
the world warm because the real effect will be expressed by the world's
regionality, seasonality and distribution within the day-night cycle. Viewed
in light of these factors, several compelling lines of evidence now indicate
that the chance of an ecologically or economically disastrous global warming
is becoming more remote. These findings vary considerably from what
might be referred to as one vision of apocalyptic wanning: global tempera-
ture change of approximately 4C for a climate equilibrated after a doubling
of C02, pronounced sea level rise because of the melting of major areas of
land ice and thermal expansion of water, all resulting in starvation and civil
strife from ecological chaos.t
While that vision is accommodated by more lurid interpretations of the
recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Policymakers
Summary (1990),2 it is not even characteristic of the median range of climate
impacts suggested in that report. Rather, that vision became prominent
because of two synergistic events. The first was the publication of a genera-
tion of general circulation model (GCM) climate simulations in the mid to
late 1980s: These predicted a mean global warming of 4.2'C with winter
warming of as much as 18°C for the north polar regions.3
* Professor, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia.
** Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia.
1. D. Rind et al., Potential Evapotranspiration and the Likelihood of Future Drought, 95
J. Geophysical Res. 9983 (1990) (projecting a 1000% in the frequency of severe drought (as
defined by the Palmer Index) by the year 2050).
2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, WMO/U.N. Environment Program,
Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change xxii (J.T. Houghton, G.J.
Jenkins and JJ. Ephraums eds., 1990) [hereinafter IPCC Scientific Assessment].
3. See generally Syukuro Manabe & Richard T. Wetherald, On the Distribution of Climate
Change Resulting from an Increase in the C02 Content of the Atmosphere, 37 J. Atmospheric
Sci. 99 (1980); J.E. Hansen et al., Climate Processes & Climate Sensitivity: Analysis of Feedback
Mechanisms, 29 Geophysics Monograph Series 130 (1984); Michael E. Schlesinger, Climate
Model Simulation of C02 Induced Climatic Change, 26 Advances in Geophysics 141 (1984);
J.F. Mitchell, The Seasonal Response of a General Circulation Model to Changes in C02 and

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