GLOBAL WARMING (aka Climate Change)

An objective review of facts and fictions

Part II: Some Historic Climate Facts 

In Part I (Can be found posted following this) we looked at the more prevalent misconceptions that power the climate change alarm regularly sounded in most media articles about earth’s alleged rapidly warming atmosphere from increasing human-caused CO2. These same allegations are parroted by the UN, many individual world governments and assorted politicians as they make the case for immediate draconian government tax and control actions they claim imperative to save the human race from cooking itself in an overheated climate.

The Climate in Earth’s Geologic History

 A principal claim by those promoting rampant Climate Change (aka Global Warming) states modern day human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) are adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Since CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” (a name derived from its ability to trap some of the earth’s heat that otherwise would be radiated back out into space), has been labeled by some scientists as the cause of the earth’s alleged rapidly heating climate.

These scientists also make the claim that today’s alleged “soaring” climate temperatures are unprecedented in the earth’s history and therefore can only be accounted for by human impact and fossil fuel use. 

Given this alarming context, it becomes important to explore some facts about the history of the earth’s climate that scientists have documented.

The immediate questions that arise are, first, is the current climate change really “unprecedented”;  And, second, is warming caused solely by human activity in burning fossil fuels?

Or have there been previous similar climate changes in the CO2 content and/or temperature of the atmosphere over the course of the earth’s history that pre-dates humans?

Fortunately, paleo geologists, botanists, and climatologists have been able to determine and document the earth’s historic climate so that we can have objective insight into what both the earth’s temperatures and CO2 were like during the period of several hundred million years that predate modern times.          

And, we know that past natural history is often a window that shows us what can be expected in the future.  So by looking at the earth’s climate before there was any human presence, we can see what happened under purely natural influences. And, from a study of the scientific facts about what affected the earth’s “natural” past climate, we can begin to identify the factors that caused it to change, and thus better understand how those same factors may be influencing our climate today.

Some Basic Geological Facts

According to paleo scientists, there have been five ice ages identified in the Earth’s geologic history. An ice age is defined as an extended time of recurring glacial episodes during a specific named geological period. (For example, the present Ice Age is in the Quaternary Period)

Within each of these historic ice ages, there have been successive periods of substantial glaciation and intervening temperate conditions, each lasting many tens of thousands of years and known respectively as glacial and interglacial periods.

Glacial periods are characterized by a frigid global climate resulting in the formation of polar and continental ice sheets–some as much as a mile thick!–over extensive portions of the earth’s surface, particularly in polar and sub-polar regions. During interglacial periods the climate warms causing the glacial ice to retreat. 

Between the Ice Ages themselves, the global climate historically has warmed significantly, substantially reducing, if not eliminating, the glacial ice on the earth’s surface.

What all this means in layman’s terms is that we know from documented scientific evidence that there have been times when the earth was very cold with lots of ice, and times when the earth was very warm; warm enough to melt the ice from all, or almost all, of the earth. 

To obtain this historical data, scientists use surrogates, such as specific chemicals in ice and sediment core samples, the presence and amount of which provides a measure of the relative temperatures and atmospheric CO2 content for the historical time period of the sample. While the surrogate temperature values cannot be converted to precise equivalents of  F or C degrees, a reasonable approximation can be made for the purpose of relative temperature comparisons. 

The earth currently is in the fifth of its historic Ice Ages.  Climate scientists have designated this present one as the Quaternary IcAge, and our climate presently is consistent with the warming of an interglacial period.

Figure 1 displays the temperature of the earth’s climate over the past 1 million years.  (The present is on the left.)  The cyclic nature of the successive warming and cooling of the climate is readily apparent.

It is also relevant to note that the transition from a cold glacial period climate to a warm interglacial one typically occurs with little or no variation and over a shorter time-span than that when the warm climate changes to a cooling phase and enters a glacial period.

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Figure 1.  Graphic representation of the relative historical global climate temperature over the 1 million-year time period up to the present. (Ticks at the top and bottom margins are 100,000 years apart.) The red indicates warm climate temperatures of interglacial periods when glacial ice sheets retreated, the blue the glacial periods when the climate cooled to the point where precipitation resulted in extensive glaciation. Purple indicates a period of transition between the two.  (Note: the full extent of present warming (extreme left edge of the graph) is obscured slightly because of the graph’s time-scale.)  

Observe that while the duration and temperature extremes of the glacial/interglacial cold and warm climate periods vary, the successive cyclic conditions have reoccurred with regularity over the million years shown. This is a strong indication that the causation is the result of one or more natural repetitive factors that affect the amount of solar heating.

Many scientists point to the cyclic variations of the Earth’s orbit around the sun as a primary contributor to these cyclic variations in climate temperatures. Known as Milankovitch cycles, these fluctuations in the earth’s orbit occur with regularity every 20,000, 40,000, and 100,000 years, and appear to generally coincide with the onset and end of historic glacial periods.

Also, it is important to note that the warming of our current global interglacial climate temperature is less than the warming of the climate that has occurred in many of the past interglacial periods in our current Ice Age.

Based on this data, the earth’s current climate warming is clearly not “unprecedented” in either occurrence, the rate of warming, or the temperature,  contrary to what has been claimed by “Alarmist” scientists!

And, as we shall explore further, the obvious cyclic nature of climate warming and cooling essentially rules out CO2 as the cause.

A more detailed timescale graphic picture of the relative global climate temperatures for that portion of the figure 1 graph for just the past 150,000 years is displayed in figure 2.

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Figure 2. Graphic representation of earth’s relative climate temperatures for the past 150,000 years. Blue shows glacial periods, red interglacial periods. Purple indicates a time of transition between the two. 

The most recent glacial period (leftmost blue portion of the graph)  lasted about 60,000 years, reaching its maximum glaciation about 22,000 years ago, and it ended (and the current warm interglacial period began) approximately 11,700 years ago, with the climate temperature warming rapidly (on a geological timescale) to its modern-day range. The extreme left red portion of the graph line indicates the relative average global climate temperature which we are currently experiencing. 

Notice that our current average climate temperature is exceeded by the maximum climate warming that the earth experienced about 120,000 years ago during the last interglacial period

Turning to the issue of the role (if any) of CO2 in driving the  temperature of the earth’s climate, Figure 3 provides us with a graphic picture of the results of research by paleoscientists that documents both the carbon dioxide content and temperature of the earth’s atmosphere relative to that of the present for the past 4.6 billion years. Because of that timescale, both graphed lines appear smooth because they necessarily can depict only longer-term variations.  [To put Figures 1 and 2 in perspective with this graph,  both of those provide a higher resolution timescale detail for their respective portions of the present Quaternary Period (extreme right side of this graph)].


Figure 3. Shown are the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (purple line) and the temperatures (green line) for the past 4.6 billion years. (The Present is on the right) Left arrows show temperature ranges.

The noteworthy point of these related graphs is that, contrary to the claims that CO2 is “the sole” or principal driver of Climate temperature, our planet’s geological history as displayed here shows that there is no continuous direct relationship between the two on a longer-term timescale, with temperatures largely indepedent of CO2.

It is also important to note that the present climate temperature (right edge of the graph) is near a geologically historical minimum range, and the earth’s climate has been naturally considerably warmer for literally billions of years in the past. Yet “Alarmists” claim with certainty that the only human activity is responsible for the current very small warming trend that started at the last glacial maximum 22,000 years ago, well before human activity began burning fossil fuels!

A Quick Summary

The point of the above has been to provide information that is readily available, yet clearly ignored by those scientists who obviously have to be aware of it, but by self-serving choice, promote the “CO2 is the only scientific explanation” reason for global warming. The very existence of the above research belies their contention that the CO2 cause is “settled science” and shines a spotlight on the deliberate disingenuous nature of  their position.  There clearly is a need for unbiased, open discussion,  with science-based issues on both sides to discuss. 

The media also must share in the deliberate coverup, for any cub reporter with an interest in exploring the Climate Change issue would quickly find that there are two sides to its probable cause.  Arbitrary editorial  policies have apparently decided otherwise.

In Part III which will be posted in the “near” future, we will look at the nature and basis of the ubiquitous “sky is falling” warnings that now regularly pervade political rhetoric and the mainstream media.

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GLOBAL WARMING (aka Climate Change)

An objective review of facts and fictions

Part I: The Issues

Background 

“Global Warming”, rechristened as “Climate Change” after 19 months of unexplainable atmospheric temperature stability, with many months of global cooling, was observed around the recent turn of the century, has become an almost daily cause célèbre for the last 40 years for politicians and the mainstream media both in the U.S. and Europe.

The period of the mid-1960s through the ’70s had been marked by a frenzy over a scientifically promoted major global cooling scare replete with warnings of imminent worldwide food shortages as agriculture succumbed to a predicted frigid climate. But by the early 1980s, these forecasts of a potential frigid future disappeared, to be replaced by new scientific predictions as some scientists now forecast as front page news a long period of alleged unprecedented, and inevitably devastating, global warming

It is perhaps ironic that these new warnings of a complete reversal in future world-wide climate temperatures were by many of the same scientists who had just been forecasting the certainty of significant global cooling that would devastate most of the world’s population.

The reason for this apparent 180-degree switch in the long-range forecast for the world’s climate temperature appears to have been triggered solely by the fact that global climate temperatures had abruptly switched from cool to warm, rather than by any sudden new scientifically generated revelation.

In their search for an explanation for this new warning of global warming, scientists turned to one that had been first proposed back in 1896 by a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius. What Arrhenius had postulated was that there was a direct relationship between the percentage of the “greenhouse” gas carbon dioxide (CO2,), in the atmosphere and the atmospheric temperature. Given this relationship, he suggested that the continuing burning of fossil fuels (coal at the time), of which carbon dioxide is a chief byproduct, would result in eventually warming the world’s climate, but made no forecast of calamity.

But to add importance to their new “discovery” a block of scientists added their own caveat to Arrhenius’ hypothesis: If the current level of the burning of fossil fuels is allowed to continue unabated, the further increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will soon cause it to warm to the irreversible point of no return where environmental damage from the heated climate will peril human existence.

Many scientists, most world governments, and the United Nations each saw the opportunities that could accrue for them by raising this possible warming of the climate to a level of a global crisis, and quickly embraced the wisdom of Winston Churchill’s observation that one should “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The lure of opportunities for governments to impose new regulations and taxes, and for lucrative research grants for scientists beckoned.

Also, in order to add a clear targetable focus to both warming predictions and any proposed mitigation, these scientists unilaterally declared carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be the sole cause of climate warming. Protests from numerous climate scientists around the world who disagreed, asserting contrary scientific theory and evidence mandated that the science was not at all clear and the subject required more research, were summarily dismissed with the pronouncement that “the science was settled”.

The Question

A principal issue is what is the scientific proof that atmospheric CO2 is the sole (or dominant) regulator of the global climate, and that increases in its concentration are responsible for an alleged long-term irreversible and dangerous increase in climate warming that was presently being claimed?

And if increasing CO2 is the cause of global warming as alleged, then what is the scientific explanation for the apparently abrupt change about 1980 from a decade of global atmospheric cooling to a condition now of now proclaimed alarming warming; a change which occurred without any concurrent change in either the atmospheric concentration or the rate of emissions of CO2 from human or other sources? Or the 19 months of no warming and some cooling at the turn of the century?

This begs the corollary question: Is there precedent in either recorded or scientifically determined geologic history for apparent longer-term changes (warming or cooling) in the earth’s climate that appear to have occurred “naturally”, i.e., where there is no indication that a change in atmospheric CO2 was the likely responsible factor?

In summary, do we really understand the science behind what is causing the earth’s climate to warm and cool?

To embark upon a global program, one with huge cultural and economic impacts to the world population, to significantly reduce carbon emissions from human activities will be an ineffective fool’s errand if natural forces other than atmospheric CO2 are involved in our ever-changing global climate. Dismissing that very real possibility without further investigation—as is currently the case—is irrational and irresponsible.

(A possible response to the above is that to do nothing in the face of impending disaster also can be foolish. True, but prudence still requires a rational reason for whatever it is that you do. Otherwise, you merely replicate Brownian motion in (often vain) hope just doing “something” is better than nothing. The wise course is to first spend some effort into analyzing alternatives, and not to discard anything “out of hand”.)

The Problems confronting a solution

Finding answers (even if it’s just “we cannot determine”—which in itself is important to realize) to the above essential questions is common sense. Science has available both the established procedures and the ability to address them.

But for reasons too personal, political, and not entirely rational enough to dissect here, two ‘camps’ each composed mainly of scientists and politicians, but diametrically opposed in their approach to global warming issues and in their responses to the above questions, quickly emerged.

To easily identify the two, the larger group is called “Alarmists” by the other, which in turn has been labeled “Deniers” by their opponents.

The “Alarmists” are those who dogmatically maintain that:

(a) significant global warming is real and ongoing;

(b) the warming is caused solely by steadily increasing CO2 in both the atmosphere and the oceans as a  result of uncontrolled use of fossil fuels; and

(c) if strict measures to substantially reduce CO2 emissions are not immediately imposed by all developed nations, irreversible environmental consequences detrimental to human existence will soon occur worldwide.

The mainstream media quickly adopted a policy of solid support of this group and its warnings, giving prominent positive publicity to its every press release and public declaration.

On the other side is a group of world scientists and some politicians that the “Alarmists” label as “Deniers”, although this group actually does not deny that some warming of the global climate is real. This group basically maintains that:

(a) Global atmospheric warming and cooling has occurred  throughout the earth’s history, and is provably a natural phenomenon that has occurred with no dependent connection to CO2, and

(b) CO2, while a known “greenhouse gas”, is no more than a “trace” gas constituting less than 0.04% (four hundredths of one percent) of the atmosphere, and has not scientifically proven to be a dominant (let alone, the sole) cause of the present apparent climate warming temperature trend; but, on the other hand,

(c) Water vapor, a variable greenhouse gas,, which can constitute a percentage of the atmospheric gases 100 times greater than CO2, has been confirmed by recent satellite monitoring of humidity in the lower atmosphere to have a major effect on its temperature, and is a major player in our changing climate through both humidity and clouds.  Therefore:

(d) regulatory controls imposed to reduce CO2 emissions will have little effect in stopping a warming climate, while, the other hand, the ineffective mandated reductions in the use of fossil fuels will have a substantial adverse consequence for the world’s economy and standard of living. In addition, developing nations will be unnecessarily denied the opportunity to rise out of their ‘third world’ status and “catch up” with the more developed nations of the world.

The Next Step?

Undertaking the research needed to get answers to the questions posed in the “Question” section above is, unfortunately, severely constrained, if not totally prevented, by the dogmatic position taken by the “Alarmist” scientists.

Further complicating the chance of needed research being done before acting, is that the Alarmist scientists’ position has been adopted as “fact” by their political allies and the compliant media. The “official” position is now essentially:  The singular or dominating cause of  Climate Change is carbon dioxide, which has been increasing steadily in our atmosphere for well over a century as a result of increasing industrial and public use of fossil fuels. If immediate action is not taken by world governments to drastically reduce this use, the climate will warm over the next decades to the point where human existence is threatened.  Period. End of discussion.

And–worse yet–they further maintain that the science behind that position is “settled”, and no further research or discussion is needed.

In summary, the Alarmist’s singular solution to the Climate Change problem is simple: Reduce carbon emissions through regulatory and economically motivated restrictions on the use of fossil fuels, such use to be replaced by solar and wind “green energy” electricity wherever possible, without particular regard for the economics of the switch. Those who continue to use fossil fuels will be subject to penalizing energy taxes.

In support of their position on CO2 as the singular cause of the rapidly warming climate, and that no further research is required, the “Alarmist” scientists maintain that a “consensus” of 97% of the world’s scientists agree with it. This alleged “fact” is quoted at every opportunity by the media and politicians and has become anchored in the minds of much of the public as a cast-in-concrete truth.

Discussion

We will discuss the principal science-related issues in a following post, but there is a major problem with the two of the concepts state just above that are of immediate concern because they present major stumbling blocks to obtaining a factual basis for resolving the global warming issue.

First, by science’s own “rules”, no scientific finding is ever “settled”, for one never knows if the results of the next related experiment will be the results that prove previous conclusions to have been based on an error. As Albert Einstein said in regard to the issue of settled science: “No amount of experimentation can prove me right; [but] a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Valid science must always be “open” to father testing and confirmation.

Second, again by science’s own rules, a scientific theory is never developed,  proven, or affirmed by group “consensus”. Rather, a theory must be the result of an independently formulated understanding of the problem and the phenomena involved; Based on this, subsequent independent peer review and experimentation is required to confirm the validity of the initial experimentation and results.

No legitimate scientific fact can be claimed as a result of an individual or group just “agreeing” with a  conclusion (consensus) because it meets their expectations. Confirmation requires independent verification through the scientific process that a conclusion is valid.

This has never been done by the alleged 97% of scientists who are allegedly in “consensus”

Third, and of prime importance, through all this each scientist is mandated by professional scientific standards to always have an open mind, ready to, without bias, acknowledge and act on (reject or confirm through scientific methodology) new information, especially if it conflicts with previous concepts, research results or beliefs.

And, fourth, with regard to the alleged “97% of all scientist worldwide” who are alleged to agree with the “Alarmist” position, there never has been any formal or informal survey of “the world’s scientists” to record their individual positions with respect to the existence or cause(s) of global warming /climate change. The all too readily quoted “97% consensus figure is, in fact, a bogus, fictional number. It was created by a purely self-serving subjective process that lacks any statistical or sampling merit and has no legitimate basis. It is pure “Alarmist” propaganda.

The tragedy is, these bogus claims of “settled science” and near world-wide scientist agreement (“consensus”) are accepted as gospel proof of the validity of the “Alarmist” argument by the media, and most politicians. This has cut off any possibility of open, honest discussion by scientists from both “sides” to mutually review the complex scientific issues involved.

In Part II we will explore some of the facts (real and alleged) that bear on the Climate Change issue and its resolution.

NOTE: Constructive comments (pro or con) that add to the discussion, and questions are welcomed.

Pejoratives and ad hominem are not. (Hide behind your pseudonym and feed your ego on some other blog.)

















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