Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Global warming

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 27 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1269

Rapid Response:

Whatever happened to global cooling?

About 30 years ago I recall being vaguely worried about the then
current bugaboo of global cooling. The reasoning seemed plausible: human
caused air pollution was increasing the earth's albedo (percentage of
light from the sun reflected back into space) promising a catastrophic
cooling, high and dry port cities, an ice shield down to the tropics, etc.
Amazingly, the special interests then were the same as now:the anti
internal combustion engine/technology ideologues, university "scientists"
in their never ending search for funding, and just the average Joe, eager
to be somewhat scared and desperate for passion in life. What a
difference 30 years makes, not in the players, but in the bugaboo.

I find it interesting that the principle reasoned arguments against
human caused global warming come from emeritus professors in relevant
fields. My supposition is that they can afford to put "science" above
money and ideology.

Is global warming occurring? Well, certainly from the last mini-ice
age it has, and I'm grateful. How about recently? This is difficult to
say since there is evidence which supports this and evidence which
doesn't. When you think about it, taking the actual "temperature of the
earth" and comparing it to the temperature of the earth 100 years ago is
fraught with procedural difficulties: where were the thermometers placed,
over how many years were measurements taken, what about city effects, and
the list goes on. Global heat measurement by satellite telemetry, which
seems to me to be one of the best ways to measure the temperature of the
entire earth has shown no changes in the past 18 years, a time frame one
would expect to show substantial increases in temperature due to human
activity. I see in the (left leaning) mass media in the US that certain
glaciers are receding. What they don't say is that the antarctic ice cap
(over land) is increasing, and this ice cap is the major determinant of
sea level. Last year here was a major media hoo-hah over a chunk of the
(floating) antarctic ice cap ("the size of Rhode Island!)breaking off
("due to global warming". Reaching for the World Book encyclopedia when I
heard this I read that in the 50's a chuck broke off four times larger!
Perhaps this just happens every now and then without human caused climate
change. I notice in the same media that even cold spells are attributed
to global warming. Any dramatic weather event is now attributed to global fact, global warming cannot be falsified (a hallmark of
religious belief.)

Yes, human activity puts CO2 in the atmosphere, but is that
necessarily bad? Since the carbon atoms in every organic compound
synthesized by plants, and by extension what we eventually eat comes from
carbon dioxide, the more carbon in the air as CO2, the more plant life.
Since most of the warming alleged is occurring in the winter, this allows
for a longer growing season, less need for supplemental heating, etc.
Carbon dioxide enrichment in greenhouses despite its expense has been
practiced for years because of the substantial increase of biomass even a
modest increase in CO2 allows.

Ultimately, what places global warming on a religious or ideologic
rather than a scientific plane is the lack of matched controls: there is
no absolutely identical but uninhabited by humans parallel universe to see
climate change without human activity. What we do have are mathematical
models of climate change. We have a lot of them because none accurately
predicts all prior climate changes, CO2 levels, etc., (a polite way of
saying they are all wrong). One who is absolutely definite that global
warming is occurring AND due to human activity will be absolutely definite
that any remedy when applied will cure the common cold in 7 to 10 days.

What is obvious to me is that in a primarily urban population such as
the United States and Europe health and longevity are dependent primarily
not on the medical community but on the availability of abundant and
nutritious food, protection from the extremes of weather, and removal of
waste ..all requiring tremendous amounts of energy.

American journalist H.L. Mencken described modern life as an endless
promulgation of bugaboos, all of them bogus, their express purpose being
scaring the ignorant citizenry into changing their behaviors or opening
their wallets to the benefit of the bugaboo promoters. Global warming,
formerly global cooling, seems to be yet another confirmation of his

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 June 2004
Robert A. Da Prato
Medical Officer
Military Entrance Processing Station, 7545 NE Ambassador Place, Portland OR 97229