Dr. Klaus P. Heiss
Three Sigma Group
2126 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington DC 20008-1729

June 21, 2001

Mr. James D. Wolfensohn
The World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington DC 20433

Subject: Comments on Remarks by Dr. Robert Watson to the Conference by the World Bank on "Climate Change: A Challenge for the 21st Century"

Thursday June 14, 2001, Washington DC

Last Thursday, June 14th, I attended the conference held at the World Bank on issues of Global Warming: after a "cooling off" period of one week I still am impelled to make the following observations as to the uncalled for, disparaging and denigrating remarks Dr. Watson repeatedly made throughout his presentation about President George W. Bush. Dr. Watson made President Bush look like an ingénue out of the boondocks of Texas, or worse, compared to the enlightened insights of the IPCC, the UN affiliated group Dr. Watson is now chairing – in addition of being paid as "Chief Scientist" of the Word Bank on Climate Change.

This in direct contrast to remarks made by Robert O. Mendelsohn of Yale University, author of "The Greening of Global Warming", AEI 1999). Mr. Mendelsohn correctly observed that any posited Global Warming over the next century of around 2.5 degree Celsius has mostly beneficial effects worldwide and the Northern latitude countries in particular, with manageable impacts on countries in tropical areas IFF indeed Global Warming occurs as predicted by the computer simulations.

The contrasting professional qualities of the two presentations prompted me to ask Dr. Watson the following specific questions as to actual measured data of the temperatures of the atmosphere (as against simulations and speculations):

  1. How can increased CO2 levels be harmful to the environment of the Earth when the evidence over geologic times (past 600 Million years (Dr. Berner, Yale University, 1996) and past 300 Million Years (Mr. Retallack, Nature vol. 411, p.287, May 2001) indicate wide fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 and Average levels about ten times HIGHER, than today’s levels - an all-time historic LOW reached only two or three times before in eons past? All available evidence indicates exactly the opposite, based on the geologic record or - for briefer periods – Dr. Mendelsohn’s results?
  2. Why is it that - given the dire predictions of most Climate Simulations over the next 100 Years MOST of the warming will predominantly occur in Northern ant Southern-most latitudes (the cold regions) with only about half that amount of warming in the tropical zones – the atmosphere has not warmed over the past 21 years as measured by satellite data (graph)and why have Arctic and Antarctic zone regions and northern and southernmost latitudes shown NO warming over the past 60 (sixty) years as evidenced by ground station data in those regions, exactly where the predictions of Dr. Watson’s preferred computer simulations "predict" the most dramatic increases (Data Graphs attached).: are the measurements wrong or the simulations, now that we have accurate measurements unbiased by heat island effects on the ground.
  3. The question I was not able to ask, because of time constraints: why is it that glaciers and the Arctic and Antarctic have been melting for the past 20,000 years or so and will continue to so for the next 3,000 or 5,000 years irrespective of any human activity (at least before the past 200 years)? As graphically shown in a recent Scientific American Issue ("Earth from the Inside Out"), large tracts of Florida and the Indonesian Archipelago already have disappeared and will continue to do so for the next millennia: what gives Dr. Watson and the IPCC the idea that we can or should or can afford to stop Climate Change and "freeze" today’s conditions?

To question 1 Dr. Watson, the "chief scientist", remarked that CO2 levels of 600 million years ago were of no concern to him. The next 100 years mattered to him while indeed 5 to 10,000 years from now a new "Glaciation" period may play havoc with mankind.

To question 2 Dr. Watson responded that satellite data "only" measure temperatures at 6,000 m altitude and hence surface data where much more relevant "as the National Academy of Sciences" also just stated.

Again these responses or non responses were in my opinion - to the vast lay audience at the conference at least - willfully misleading:

Observation 1: in addition to the satellite data certainly Dr. Watson must know that radio sond data also confirm the satellite record and disagree with the "surface" data measurements (see attached graph). Withholding this information from the audience was quite a tour de distortion.

Observation 2: surface data measurements in the regions supposedly MOST affected by "Global Warming" - the northern and southern most regions – show no increase, indeed rather a decrease over the past 60 years (see attached data from stations) – stations least affected by the "heat island" distortions occurring at many meteorological stations in "civilized" regions.

Observation 3: "sea surface" data measurements are NOT measurements of the temperature of the atmosphere BUT of the subsurface water temperatures near the ships and other measurement stations of widely varying quality and consistency. By what discontinuities in logic one can reject actual measurements of the temperature of the atmosphere by satellites and at the same time gladly accept underwater measurements around 70% of the Earth escapes me.

Observation 4: whereas today’s temperatures may or may not be higher than in decades or centuries past in any case today’s temperatures are about average over the past 10,000 years or so and whenever temperatures where above this average in historical times mankind flourished and whenever temperatures were substantially below this average – globally or regionally – it led to disasters, pests, migrations and wars (the Germanic migrations, the Mongol invasions, the Huns…) (se also the exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History here in Washington on Climate Change – the Dangers of Global Winter, apparently assembled in the 1970s and which documents the cooling since the 1940s!).

The World Bank should find somebody seriously interested in the data and measurement issues supporting or denying evidence of global warming and in presenting a balanced view of all the – often contradictory – evidence, not just the select few data points that happen to agree with one’s preconceived opinions that conveniently also advance one’s political agenda. The World Bank deserves better – for example a Mr. Mendelsohn, who can talk professionally to the subject matter most at hand for the Bank: the economic consequences – if any – from such hypothetical events currently simulated on computers. Dr. Watson, in my opinion, has once more shown that he is unqualified to talk to these issues, either by training or by the substance of his remarks so far evidenced.

Be this as it may, the unwarranted snide side remarks by Dr. Watson on President Bush denigrate, in my opinion, the institution.

Respectfully yours

Dr. Klaus P. Heiss

(former) Member, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, National Academy of Engineering


  1. Satellite Data Record of the Atmosphere, past 21 years
  2. CO2 levels and temperatures of the atmosphere, past 300 million years
  3. Glaciation and Sea Level rises, past 20,000 years and next 5,000 years
  4. Arctic and some Antarctic Surface measurement Data, showing no warming over the past 60 years