Warning to Sen. John Kerry to "Cool It"
Jude Wanniski
December 17, 1997


Memo To: Sen. John Kerry [D-MA]  
cc: Lynn Cheney, Bill Press
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Global Warming Science

On CNN’s "Crossfire" Sunday night, you argued that the science on global warming is decided. You threw out a number of statistics. I have to assure you that you know about 1% of what you need to know and that if you spent some serious time in exposing yourself to global warming arguments, you would not be saying the things you are saying now. I notice in today’s Wall Street Journal that Gerald Seib has a nice piece on your presidential ambitions, but asks the question: “If we have Al Gore, why do we need John Kerry?” There is nothing about Gore that is really out of the ballpark, excepting his religious commitment to global warming. I’m as much an environmentalist as the next person when it comes to protecting Mother Earth, but the science of global warming is hokum. Please also notice the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly, which is already switching gears to suggest we may face a one-two punch, of warming and cooling.

We have a big planet. The people on the planet cannot be seen from any satellite. They cannot be seen by an airplane flying at a few thousand feet, for goodness sakes. The amount of greenhouse gases that are thrown into the ecosphere year in and year out are so much greater than the amount that humans produce that the whole debate becomes ridiculous.

I recently converted the amount of greenhouse gases into a standard of measure that might make more sense to people who, like you and others in Congress, are vulnerable to scientific baloney. You told Crossfire that the United States contributes 25% to 30% of the emissions that are contributed by mankind. Well, okay. But what are the magnitudes?

If we convert greenhouse emissions by all sources into a linear measure -- one mile, or 5,280 ft. -- how much of that distance is contributed by these 6 billion ants on this giant planet? I ask people that question all the time, and the people who are opposed to doing anything say it might be as little as 100 feet, while those who support a global-warming treaty say it may be as high as two-thirds of a mile.

The answer, Senator, is not 3000 ft or 100 ft. The amount contributed by mankind is ˝ of an inch. I kid you not. When I ask physicists the question, here in the United States or in Europe, the answer they give me off the top of their head is more like 10 ft., but at least they are then in a position to say they can understand when I say the experts who do the estimating of the chemistry of the ecosphere tell me the right answer is more like ˝ of an inch. In other words, if you are correct in stating that the United States produces 25% of the greenhouse gases produced by mankind, we are producing c of an inch! And I am making the most conservative estimates here, giving the environmentalists the best of the arguments. If we consider that methane has 30 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, mankind’s contribution to the greenhouse effect is reduced to the tiniest fraction of an inch relative to one mile.

You will say: This can’t be right! But if  it is, you will eventually feel like a fool when the public begins to understand the dimensions of the problem. Let Al Gore ride this issue off into the sunset. I’ve warned him about this, but he is so up to his ears, he can’t backtrack. Ask one of your better staffers, one who has spent a few hours in college studying physics and chemistry, to dig into this without prejudice. You will be glad you did. Last June, I wrote Gore a long memo on this, called “Hot Air at the New York Times.” Here is one graph....

“First of all, carbon dioxide constitutes only 1% of the material that produces a "greenhouse effect" on Earth. Scientists agree that water vapor constitutes the other 99%, and if all water vapor were removed, the temperature on the earth's surface would be lower by some 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Of the carbon dioxide, 97% is produced naturally, by volcano activity, forest fires, plant decay, and the oceans. Only 3% is produced artificially, by mankind, driving cars, heating homes, and fueling industrial plants. The other primary source of greenhouse gas is methane, which is produced in lesser amounts than the 200 billion tons of CO2 that goes into the atmosphere each year, but by some estimates has 30 times the warming potency of CO2 Methane is generated by volcanic activity, wetlands, termites that chew wood and expel methane, flaring of gas at oil wells, and by cows, which expel methane through flatulence. Now if we take all sources of greenhouse gases and then identify the part that comes from mankind burning coal and oil, we get a much different picture than we do from the extremist who writes the New York Times editorials.  We must multiply 0.01 by 0.03 to find out how much artificial CO2 contributes to all greenhouse gas, including water vapor. We must then multiply this by at least 0.03 to factor in the methane contribution. The artificial contribution of CO2 is then only 0.000009 of the total. If we translate this into a number we can understand, we see that mankind is not that responsible for global warming, if there is such a thing. One mile is 5,280 feet. On that scale, the amount of artificial CO2 would be no more than half an inch.”