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Global Warming Cha-Cha

  

Activists in the global warming movement have always been eager to wrap themselves in the mantle of science.  "Science," after all, is unimpeachable.  It is rational, disinterested, and disciplined; it attempts to unlock the secrets of nature in pursuit of the truth.  It is non-partisan and above the fray.  It's goals are laudable and its achievements grand; science has advanced the human condition immeasurably.  To link one's movement with "science" is to elevate and ennoble it in the public mind.

And, yet, the global warming enterprise (through its proponents) has been anything but "disinterested" or dispassionate in its appeal and strategy; it has been less than measured or temperate in its forecasts and policy recommendations; it has also been reluctant to acknowledge reasonable criticism from respected sources; rather it has been zealous and draconian, in a way that belies its effort to cast itself as a purely scientific endeavor. 

Despite indignant protests to the contrary, it is more accurate to think of the global warming movement as a religious or political crusade (it has elements of both) rather than a strictly scientific process that seeks to ferret out facts regarding climate change and to offer unbiased projections and proposals. 

Indeed, as a faith system, the global warming movement provides many of the same features of a conventional religion.  These include a pagan God-figure (the earth), a prophet (Al Gore), a clergy (supporting voices in the scientific community), a flock (the multitude of lay believers), and a dogma that includes an end-time apocalyptic vision (global catastrophe brought on by man made global warming).  It also performs many of the same purposes, chief of which is to offer a transcendent vision and moral purpose and uplift for its disciples.  To adhere to global warming precepts is to believe that one is engaged in noble pursuits.    

As a political movement, it has skillfully shifted public opinion, persuading, perhaps, a majority of the country of the essential tenets of its canon, the most important of which is that the world grows perilously warmer because of the burning of fossil fuels; it has succeeded in infiltrating significant cultural and political organs, most especially the media, the academy, and the Democrat Party, and, to a lesser extent, even the GOP, convincing them of its doctrines, and affecting the public discourse. 

The political philosophy that undergirds the global warming movement is decidedly leftist: it casts a baleful eye at consumerism, industry, and the US; ultimately, it is a rebuke of capitalism.  Its methods involve global redistribution of wealth, high taxes, an intrusive new regulatory regime, a centralized economy, and the ceding of power to international bodies such as the United Nations.  These are goals and measures that would be difficult to achieve without the all-purpose justification that global warming alarmism provides.

The global warming hypothesis also remains remarkably immune to contradictory evidence (of which there is much); there is the habit of its apostles dismissing detractors as unserious, incompetent, or even immoral; they may label them as Luddites, Neanderthals, flat earthers, or, worse, "deniers," equating them semantically with Holocaust deniers. 

We are by now familiar with the expression, the "science is settled," as odd a phrase as ever to tumble from the lips of scientists, given its implicit skepticism of, well, skepticism, which is to say contrary or alternative evidence.  And, yet, science advances precisely because of skepticism, of confronting the status-quo.  Scientists who dispense with this essential feature of the scientific process are no longer in the business of science.  It is axiomatic that science must consider credible albeit dissimilar views.   

It remains to be seen whether the latest volleys from those resistant to its theological charms, specifically, those who have seized quite properly upon the opening provided by the now familiar "climate gate" scandal, will have any effect upon the global warming faithful in their efforts to steer the country and the world to a brave new carbon-neutral utopia.

And there had already been any number of chinks in the global warming armor.  

Let us consider its many gaps, flaws, and fissures before weighing in on the recent outrage.  For even without these revelations regarding fudged numbers, intimidation, and suppression of information, there were already ample reasons to challenge the towering but defective global warming edifice.

I present a sampling:

A Wall Street Journal Editorial, for starters, reported that 1998 was not the hottest year on record as told by NASA, but rather 1934.  Revised earlier data from NASA undermined another commonly quoted dictum, which is that six of the ten warmest years on record have occurred not since 1990 but in the 1930s and 40s, well before the larger impact of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions would have presented itself. Furthermore, climate models in the nineties predicted rising temperatures from 2000-2010, which has not occurred.  It was also found that NASA had overstated temperature changes from 2000-2006 in the US by .15 degrees Celsius; this seemingly "trivial" error, however, represents two thirds of the total increase in temperature (.21 degrees Celsius) stated by NASA to have occured since 1920. 

What is known is with relative certainty is that the surface temperature of the earth increased by .6 degrees Celsius over the last century, plus or minus about .15 degrees.  Atmospheric CO2 has increased from preindustrial levels of 250 parts per million (ppm) to current levels of 378 ppm (about 30%).  Whether the increased atmospheric CO2 is the cause of the slightly elevated temperature however is unknown.

For example, other data based on ice cores that allows scientists to extrapolate atmospheric CO2 and temperature over hundreds of thousands of years, show that there indeed is a correlation between CO2 levels and temperature but not the ones global warmists predict, in fact, just the opposite.  Global warmists hold that as atmospheric CO2 increases so does temperature, this based on the property of CO2 to absorb radiated heat reflected from the earth that would otherwise escape into space, the so called “green house” effect (the warming effect of CO2 and other green house gases such as water vapor make life on earth possible).  The data however shows that temperature increases actually precede rising CO2 levels, sometimes by thousands of years, and not the reverse, as global warmists argue.  The reason for this is unknown, but perhaps, global warming, whatever its cause, releases CO2 from the oceans and permafrost.

The earth is inundated by high energy solar radiation, which is shorter wavelength.  Some of that energy is converted into thermal energy or infrared radiation.  So called "greenhouse" gases, such as water vapor, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone are relatively transparent to incoming (shorter wavelength) solar radiation but tend to absorb the lower energy, longer wavelength infrared radiation or thermal energy that is reemitted by the planet.  Most of the thermal energy passes out through the atmosphere and into space, but some is retained by the greenhouse gas molecules thus warming the atmosphere, the so called "greenhouse" effect.  Without it, the temperature of the Earth's surface would be on average about 33 °C (59 °F) colder than at present.  Life would be cold, dark, and brutal, if it could exist in any meaningul way at all. 

Swedish Chemist, Svante Arrhenius, in 1896, first speculated on the possible role of atmospheric CO2 in influencing surface temperature and that the burning of fossil fuels could lead to a warmer planet.  "Anthropogenic Forcing" or "climate forcing" (the modern vernacular) refers to man-made substances released into the atmosphere that could disturb the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal energy resulting in global warming.

Often missing in the dialogue over global warming is the actual contribution of man-made "anthropogenic" substances relative to the total "greenhouse effect."  Water vapor, for example, virtually all of which is natural, accounts for 95% of warming (99.99% is natural).  Carbon Dioxide contributes 3.618% (.117% is manmade, the rest is natural).  Manmade contribution for methane is .066% and for nitrous oxide .047%.  Miscellaneous gases such as chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) account for .047% of warming. 

The total manmade contribution to the greenhouse effect then is .28%.  The total anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 contribution is .117%.  Water vapor is by far the dominant greenhouse gas, virtually all of which is natural.  This not-so-small factor, however, is customarily ignored or glossed over by global warmists.  Anthropogenic forcing, overall, is a minor influence and particularly manmade CO2 emissions.

There has been much ado about melting glaciers.  Time, which has been unabashedly promoting the global warming agenda, has warned of disappearing ice-caps and catastrophic rising sea levels.  But the data is up for grabs.  There are two major ice sheets, one blanketing Greenland, the other Antarctica.  Studies show that between 1992-2003, Antarctica actually gained 45 billion tons of ice per year enough to lower sea levels .12 millimeters annually.  Several studies showed that Greenland was losing ice around the edges but adding ice in the interior.  Total loss of ice between 1992-2002 for both Antarctica and Greenland, according to Jay Zwally of NASA, would create a sea-level rise of .05 millimeters per year.  At that rate it would take a thousand years to add five centimeters.  Not exactly the stuff of global catastrophe. 

Further, while in the past few years Greenland and Antarctica may have lost ice rather than gained, there are other explanations besides global warming.  Many climate scientists believe the increase temperatures observed in Greenland are caused by a naturally ocurring phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), a system of repeating temperature changes in the surface of the ocean; this is a process thought to have been ocurring for more than 1400 years.  Currently the AMO is in a positive phase, which would increase temperatures around Greenland as well as in the Caribbean (perhaps one of the causes, among others, for the increased Hurricane activity in recent years).

And while we're on the topic of glaciers, global warmists have also made much of polar bears, the poor, cuddly, defenseless creatures commonly depicted in photos floating helplessly on tiny ice-floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean; the implication is that man-made global warming is destroying their habitat and bringing ruin upon them.  And, yet, we come to find that the bear population has increased by 4-5 times  since 1970.   

It has also been generally acknowledged that there had been wide temperature fluctuations throughout human history and well before the industrial age.  There was the "Medieval Warming Period," from 900 AD to 1300 AD, during which time the Vikings explored, settled and grew crops in Greenland.  People prospered in this period, and there were surpluses of food.  This was followed by the Little Ice Age, around 1400-1850, when it became quite cold in Europe.  Harvests failed and people starved.  Such information was widely known and a graph depicting as much was published in the 1990 report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (not your typical Big Oil or right wing advocacy group).  Then came another warming period over the past century, with most of the warming occurring between 1900-1940, well before the greater impact of industrialization.  This was followed by a cooling of the climate from 1940-1975 (this was the time of the "global cooling" craze).  Then it warmed again; though, since 1998, the temperature has remained steady. 

In 1998, however, a landmark in the global warming crusade occurred when American geoscientist Micheal Mann published his famous "hockey stick" theory that questioned the historical data showing wide ranging temperature variations throughout human history.  He wrote that for the past 1000 years, the temperature had been steady until the twentieth century when a sudden upturn occurred (coinciding, of course, with the onset of mass fossil fuel consumption) - his graph taking the shape of a hockey stick.  Mann's work was embraced by global warmists with the now familiar calls for radical solutions for the impending disasters. 

In 2003, his data was challenged by mathematician Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick who demonstrated a host of errors, miscalculations, and general untidiness of methods.  Once corrected for, they were able to demonstrate that the Medieval warm period indeed returns.  Mann has never refuted the McIntyre-McKitrick analysis.  Of course, we will hear more about Mr. Mann in the now infamous Climate-gate scandal. 

The widespread acceptance by climate scientists of major temperature shifts for the past millenium was further corroborated by a review of more than 200 temperature studies published in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the journal Climate Research.  In other words, global warmists conveniently ignored the broad "consensus" of climate scientists regarding the pattern of wide temperature fluctuations over the past thousand years that had nothing to do with man-made CO2 emissions.

Reaching a peak after Hurricane Katrina, Global warming advocates have also long railed over what seemed to be an uptick in major Atlantic Hurricanes impacting the US since 1995, proclaiming man-made greenhouse gases as the culprit, none of which is demonstrated by long term observation of the data.  As atmosphere scientist, William Gray reports, in interpreting or analyzing the intensity of hurricanes hitting the US, the periods looked at must be long enough to establish long term trends.  While it is true there has been an increase in major land falling hurricanes in the last 12 years, there have actually been 22% less hurricanes making land fall during the recent 50 year period between 1957-2006 compared with the 50 year period between 1900-1949 including 15% less major hurricanes. 

In analyzing two other multi decade periods, the theory that higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere fails by an even greater margin.  There were 44% more major land falling hurricanes in the US between 1925-1965 than from 1966-2006.  Gray, who has been issuing Atlantic Basin hurricane forecasts for 24 years, informs us that the fluctuations in hurricane activity in the Atlantic have nothing to do with CO2 levels in the atmosphere but a system of ocean currents known as the thermohaline circulation.  He states further that global warming theorists tend to be “climate modelers” with little observational experience and, as a result, little understanding of how the atmosphere and ocean actually function, preferring to rely more on theory and uncertain computer models than observation.

There is also much debate over the accuracy of the greenhouse computer models known as Global Climate Models or GCMs, upon which so much of the global warming doomsday projections are based.  They are basically rigged to overestimate global warming.  For example, one common assumption for GCMs, is that atmospheric CO2 concentrations will increase by 1% per year, which is double the observed rate.  In the past decade, the rate of CO2 increase averaged .49%; the decade before it was .42%.  But scientists continue entering 1% into the models.  This may be one of the reasons that GCMs predicted rising temperatures from 2000-2010, when, in fact, it has leveled off with no observable increase since 1998 (despite rising CO2 levels, albeit less than what is fed to the GCMs).  The climate models also figure in a positive feedback from water vapor (the dominant greenhouse gas) in response to rising CO2 levels, which, as Fred Singer has discussed, would augment the warming impact of CO2 by a factor of 2 or 3.  However, it is entirely possible that feedback from water vapor is negative rather than positive, thus lessening the effect of rising CO2.  For example, if elevated CO2 increases ocean temperatures, greater evaporation could cause more cloud formation, which would reflect solar radiation back into space thereby cooling the planet.  Richard Lindzen also believes that there is much uncertainty over whether water vapor and clouds have positive or negative feedbacks.  Yet climate scientists continue to input a positive feedback for water vapor despite reasonable questions raised by other experts in the field.

Computerized models are also notoriously inaccurate in simulating changes in cloud cover, precipitation, and landcover, deficiencies acknowledged even by global warming proponents.  In general, computerized models simulate the effects of both natural forcing (volcanic eruptions and solar radiation) and anthropogenic forcing such as green house gases and aerosols, none of which, though, is understood. 

There remains much uncertainty over the role of cloud cover.  Attempts to include all possible causes for climate change, both man-made and natural, such as aerosols, vegetation, ocean currents, volcanic and solar activity, and so on, are completely unreliable because of the uncertainty surrounding each of these highly variable and unpredictable phenomena and their impact on global climate.  A multitude of factors that may be ignored to reduce complexity or the number of calculations performed by the GCMs can modify outcomes significantly. 

Some studies, for example, have demonstrated that increased CO2 levels augment plant productivity and enhance fertility thus overcoming any negative effects from rising temperature, the so called "plant food effect."  Rather than devastating tropical rainforests, as many environmentalists predict (another of the many breathless warnings), rising CO2 levels may actually result in more verdant growth.  For a host of reasons, computerized models are exceedingly suspect at accurately anticipating global weather changes such that, considering the current state of the art, it is a wonder that anyone gets overly excited about them.  Yet, it is precisely such flawed models that global warming activists rely on for their dire predictions and their costly policy reforms.

And what about the Kyoto Protocol? Enacted in 1997 in the city of Kyoto, Japan, and signed by 178 nations, it sought to legally bind "developed" nations to reductions in CO2 emissions, the final reduction set at 1.8% below 1990 levels by 2012.  One of the major flaws of Kyoto was that it exempted more than half of the world's population and nine of the twenty top CO2 producers, including India and China (second largest emitter at the time, now the largest).  It also provided financial aid for developing countries and represented a burden predominantly for US citizens in the form of lost jobs, higher costs, taxes, and regulatory burdens.  Estimates showed that ratifying Kyoto would have cost the US 2.4 million jobs and a loss of annual GDP of 3.2%.  Each American family would have had a loss of income equal to $3000-$4000.  While the US was losing, much of the rest of the world, especially developing nations, including competitors in the world economy (such as India and China), were gaining.  The US Energy Information Administration estimated that Kyoto would have cost the American economy $300 billion - $400 billion per year.  Kyoto indeed (had we signed on), would have been a boondoggle for the US and a stimulus program for almost everyone else. 

Yet, despite the high cost of Kyoto, there would have been virtually no significant climate benefit.  It was estimated, for example, that if Kyoto were fully implemented worldwide, without breaks, carve-outs, special deals and the like (very unlikely), it would have prevented .07 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2050, basically undetectable.  And at a cost of trillions. 

One researcher, however, called Kyoto a "first step" and that "thirty Kyotos" would be needed: the cost here would be total economic collapse or a return to life circa 1870.  No cars, trucks, jets, electricity, lights, heat, cell phones, refrigerators, computers, air conditioning, modern hospitals, agriculture, universities, etc.  Wonderful.  And yet, current proposals by the Obama Administration and many of the attendees at Copenhagen would indeed be of the order of "thirty Kyotos."  The Clinton administration agreed to Kyoto, but it was rejected 95-0 by the Senate in 1997.  Indeed, the US Congress only a little more then ten years ago showed a pragmatism all but absent in the current political class.

   

There is also the matter of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, a panel composed of government officials many of whom happen not to be scientists.  The IPCC has issued four massive "Assessment Reports" on the matter of climate change, which are taken by many as authoritative and often form the basis for government policy.  The reports will run into the thousands of pages and involve the work of a network of 2500 experts. 

Professor David Henderson (former chief economist at OECD) reports, however, that while the IPCC system is felt to be professionally unimpeachable because of the expert network, the network is only one of three components in the IPCC.  There is the "panel" itself, at the core of the organization, which is detached from the expert network.  Then there are the national level departments, the ones that determine national policies, that the panel interacts with and reports to. 

While, officially, the IPCC is expected to be unbiased or "neutral" in its recommendations, this refers chiefly to the work of its expert network.  Panel members and those who select them are, of course, government officials and beholden to their respective government's policies. 

As Henderson writes, "...virtually all governments are formally committed, within the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to the 'stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.' Since 1992, the risks arising from human-induced global warming have been officially taken as proven. Policies have been framed accordingly." 

With such a starting point, the IPCC clearly favors a particular view; under such circumstances, the process could not help but be biased, its reporting mechanisms and influential "Assessment Reports" less than rigorous and objective.  There are expectations to be met; assumptions to be legitimized; agendas to be pursued.  Panel members, aides, assistants, advisors, various appointees, departments, agencies, and so forth, are selected and formed based on their committment to the principle of man-made global warming. 

As Henderson adds, "...from the outset, leading figures within the IPCC process have shared the conviction that anthropogenic global warming presents a threat which demands prompt and far-reaching action.  Indeed, had they not held this belief, they would not have been appointed to their positions of influence."

Phillip Stott (professor emeritus of biogeography) has written that the IPCC "represents science by supercommittee, as rule 10 of its procedures states:'In taking decisions, and approving, adopting and accepting reports, the Panel, its Working Groups and any Task Forces shall use all best endeavors to reach consensus.'" 

It is remarkable to hear those who profess a great love and admiration of "science" speak so often of "consensus," since science has nothing to do with consensus, but rather evidence gathering, testing, and analysis.  The word "consensus" really has no place in any discussion of scientific matters and yet within the global warming movement, "consensus" takes front and center stage. 

So, too, the expression, "the science is settled," also favored by global warmists.  But in truth, science is never "settled," but endlessly evolving as new insights and developments occur.  Progress in science is based not on accepting the status quo but on healthy doses of skepticism, painstaking research, new insights, and paradigm shifts.  What would Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, or Einstein have thought of the notion of "consensus"?  To speak of "consensus" or to say that the "science is settled" is not to make a scientific statement but a political one.  

That the IPCC process is quite political is rather openly professed by Rule 3, which states that "documents should involve both peer review by experts and review by governments." (my italics) In its fourth Assessment Report (AR4), released in 2007 (there have been three others, in 1990, 1995, and 2001), we learn that the best estimate for global temperature in 2100 (it is often difficult to predict accurately the weather the next day) is an increase of 3 degrees Celsius (up from 2.5 degrees in 2001) with a probable rise of between 1.8-4 degrees and possible rise of between 1.1-6.4 degrees.  It is your guess. 

There have also been revisions regarding rising sea levels.  In 2001, the IPCC high level estimate was 3 feet.  In 2007, it was 17 inches or half the initial calculation (this more favorable projection, by the way, was greeted with dismay and consternation by environmentalists who perhaps prefer apocalypse now).  This reversal is actually reassuring since prior IPCC reports, in 1990, 1995, and 2001, have grown consistently more dire in tone. 

It is again recognized that many of the policymakers involved in crafting these reports work for governments that have embraced global warming as a reality justifying agressive carbon neutral strategies. 

There have been other reversals.  For example:  Temperatures have been flat the last decade.  Ocean temperatures have cooled since 2003.  Hurricane activity has diminished.  UN (and other) scientists base their projections on computer models, which are famously inaccurate and unable to give a full account for something so complex as climate.  Hence the frequent reversals, adjustments, caveats.  Fine.  No problem there.  But should we be recommending bold, costly, and damaging government policies based on a politicized "science" that is uncertain?   

The IPCC Assessment Reports generally consist of more than a thousand pages.  The summary for policy makers is 20 pages.  A thousand pages cannot be accurately condensed into 20 pages without glossing over or omitting any number of disputes, reservations, and distinctions regarding key issues.  Also, the so called "consensus" of 2500 scientists of the expert panel is a chimera; many have no scientific qualifications and there are many further still who disagree with key aspects of the report.  The IPCC does no original research, nor does it analyze ongoing climate data, relying instead on hand-picked (cherry-picked?) secondary sources.  It has been reported that only 52 members of the expert panel contributed to the "Summary for Policymakers." 

Fred Singer also writes that only about a dozen members of the governing board of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) voted on its "consensus statement."  Yet many members of the AMS disagree with its board and a majority regard man-made global warming with skepticism. 

Why, again, we must ask, is there such urgency for "consensus?"  This overbearing drive to insist on fealty to a particular premise?  There really is nothing like it in any other scientific endeavor or field.  It would be unheard of in medicine, for example.  Particularly, in the presence of countervailing evidence.  It must obviously raise concerns that there is something at work here other than the dispassionate pursuit of scientific understanding.  That "something" must of course be outside the realm of science, must, in fact, be political. 

Considering the significant areas of contention between many experts in the field, what could possibly be wrong with stating the obvious: that the causes of climate change are a matter of debate with no single, irrefutable explanation? 

As the late Micheal Crichton said at a speech delivered before the California Institute of Technology in 2003, "There is no such thing as consensus science.  If it's consensus, it isn't science.  If its science, it isn't consensus.  Period." 

[He also went on to decry the overreliance of "models" by global warmists, as if they were presenting actual data samples taken from nature, as if they were themselves reality.  When making projections regarding something so complex as climate for the year 2100 (once again, considering the difficulty in predicting weather the next day), there is no data other than the "data" provided by the models, which is to say - there is no data.  Only model projections.  With built in biases and assumptions.  And unable to account for the natural internal variablility of climate or adequately deal with naturally ocurring cyclical events such as El Nino, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, etc.  It is, again, hardly something to base multitrillion dollar decisions on.]

There are also questions regarding the reliability of temperature data itself.  Patrick Michaels reports that while surface thermometers showed a warming trend since the 1970s, satellite and balloon readings did not.  The IPCC then did six revisions on the temperature records, each demonstrating increased warming.  Michaels does not disregard all of the revisions, but believes that the odds of all six demonstrating increased warming is quite small.  Weather balloon data from poor nations are not maintained properly and can result in higher temperature readings than actually existed. 

Michaels and economist Ross McKitrick found that after adjusting for such effects, "as much as half of the warming in the UN's land-based record vanishes", which reduce by 15% the global warming trend. 

They also found that when some of the more inaccurate surface temperature readings were properly corrected, there were fewer very warm months, matching the more accurate satellite data. 

All of this is to suggest that there are significant problems with some of the surface data (the one showing more of a warming trend since the 1970s).  Yet none of their findings were included in the IPCC report. 

Michaels also mentions that with the ruckus being made over the putative loss of ice from Greenland, it is well known that the temperature of Greenland the last decade was no higher than in the early and mid 20th century.  He reports that the period from 1970-1995 was the coldest since the late 19th century, which means that the Greenland ice-shelf had expanded at precisely the time many environmentalists began looking at it (when there may have begun a naturally ocurring loss of ice). 

He states further that for thousands of years after the last ice age, the temperature of the Eurasian Arctic was several degrees higher than today.  This is known because buried trees have been found in regions too cold to allow such growth today.  In fact, forests then extended up to the arctic circle, in what is today frozen tundra, yet, despite this, Greenland did not lose its ice.

What is often missing in global warmists claims is an appreciation of the complexity of global climate and a recognition that atmospheric conditions, and specifically, greenhouse gases are only one small piece of the puzzle.  But there are many more influences than this, most of far greater significance. 

There are astronomical factors such as changes in energy released by the sun, often in the form of solar storms or “sunspots.”  Solar variability may, in fact, be the most important unknown. 

There may be variability of the ultra-violet portion of the solar spectrum, which can reduce the ozone layer; variations in the solar wind can affect cosmic rays, which can change cloud cover and thereby climate.  Cosmic rays create ions or molecular clusters in the atmosphere that result in water condensation, thereby boosting cloud formation and reducing temperature. 

Studies of heavy oxygen isotopes (oxygen-18, which is a marker for cosmic ray activity and temperature) trapped in rocks formed by ancient marine fossils and in stalagmites in caves in Oman, and then comparing with iron isotopes in meteors (also a marker for cosmic ray activity) show that temperature variation is much more closely related to solar activity and cosmic rays than CO2.  Carbon 14 (another cosmic ray marker) studies also support the role of cosmic rays in influencing weather patterns. In contrast, there has been almost no correlation between CO2 variations in the atmosphere and temperature change. 

There are the Milankovitch cycles, which pertain to cyclical changes in Earth’s spin axis, tilt angle, and eccentricity in orbit patterns.  These natural cycles in the movement of the earth probably account for the cyclical pattern of polar ice sheet advances (“global cooling”) and retreats (“global warming”).  Geologic data including glacial features, deep sea cores, and sea level records corroborate the timing of cyclical global climate change (cooling and warming) anticipated by Milankovitch over the last two million years. 

Geological factors, such as the movement of earth’s land masses, have had a profound impact on climate change.  Continental drift, mountain formation, and volcanic activity can be very significant.  The Cretaceous period, occurring more than 100 million years ago was the warmest period in earth’s history with no evidence of polar ice caps, shallow seas covering the interiors of many continents, and tropical plants and animals lived on all continents.  The formation of the Himalayan Mountain range with the collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia 40 million years ago, a tectonic event, had significant impact on climate.  The Himalayas block equatorial winds and ocean currents, affecting important weather events including the monsoons and El Nino. 

Ocean currents and other oceanographic phenomena, such as the thermohaline circulation can influence weather.  Naturally occurring cyclical events such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, the Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation, or El Nino will have effects. 

And there are atmospheric factors.  It is the greenhouse effect of atmospheric gases such as CO2 and water vapor that absorb reflected heat from the earth that would otherwise go out into space, keeping the earth warm, driving atmospheric and oceanographic circulations, and making the earth habitable. 

In the last century with industrialization, fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas have been used to run factories, produce electricity, and drive automobiles.  Carbon dioxide is generated during the combustion of carbon based fuel, increasing green house gas levels in the atmosphere.  But as pointed out above, water vapor, virtually all of which is natural, accounts for 95% of the greenhouse effect (often conveniently overlooked by global warmists), while CO2 accounts for less than 4%, most of which is natural. Minor anthropogenic (man-made) substances, such as CO2, even if doubled, would change the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation by at most 2% ("climate forcing").

Yet, global warmists, based on suspect models, claim rising CO2 levels will have grim consequences such as the melting of the ice caps, flooding of coastal cities, changes in ocean currents, wind patterns, and climate zones with devastating effects on agriculture, rainfall, animal and aquatic life, and habitats.  Droughts, deluge, famine, disease, and other natural calamities are prophesied.  But, as we have seen, the complexity of weather and the various systems and forces affecting it are such that making accurate predictions based on rising atmospheric CO2 levels is ticklish to say the least.  Whether man-made CO2 is even causing global warming is itself moot.  Furthermore the changes called for in energy policy such as the Kyoto protocols, let alone at Copenhagen, would have insignificant effect on CO2 levels and global temperature but at great economic cost and dislocation. 

Even assuming that global warmists are correct that current warming trends are caused by increasing CO2 levels, and thus far there is no firm evidence establishing that, the anticipated increase in temperature as a result of doubling CO2 would be about 2 degrees.  This entirely debatable argument is simply not the stuff of a world-wide apocalypse.  There is also the question of whether there is such a thing as an "ideal" temperature and whether some warming is necessarily a bad thing.  As Danish economist, Bjorn Lomborg points out in his book, Cool It, there may be advantages such as longer growing seasons, more rain, and fewer cold related deaths.  While certain species may be adversely affected, others may benefit. 

[Lomborg, a climate statistician, who is a former activist with Greenpeace and actually believes in the science of global warming, still argues that the cost of the "Gore approach" of cutting carbon emissions is prohibitive and unrealistic.  He informs us that $800 billion spent on reducing carbon emissions over the next ninety years (to 2100) will prevent .3 degrees of warming, which is negligible and not worth the cost (elsewhere, he has estimated the cost of Kyoto to be greater than $180 billion per year).  He (and his "Copenhagen Consensus Center") calculates that given inefficiencies in implementing carbon cutting policies globally, there may be as little as 4 cents of "good" on the dollar spent and, again, for a trivial effect on temperature.  He points out that global warmists agonize over future problems that global warming will cause, say, by 2100 (famine, disease, etc.), yet argues that the money spent on reducing carbon emissions will divert funding from those very same problems and concerns affecting billions of people today, such as malaria, AIDS, malnutrition, diarrheal and other infectious diseases, habitat loss, soil erosion, access to clean drinking water, education, health care, basic sanitation, sustainable agricultural practices, and others, that can be ameliorated at a fraction of the cost.  Rather than arbitrarily taxing or capping fossil fuels, which provide tremendous benefits (cars, jets, heat, AC, computers, cell phones, plentiful food, refrigeration, modern medicine, in other words, our entire economy and standard of living) and at relatively low cost, since there is no suitable alternative currently, he advises trying to solve some of the pressing maladies (disease, famine, sanitation, etc.) now and investing in research in new carbon-neutral energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and wave (which he acknowledges are currently inefficient and commercially non-viable), as well as nuclear, cellulosic fuels, carbon capture and storage.  Lomborg has been an important and insightful voice in this whole debate.  He believes that man-made global warming is real but disagrees with the global warmist methods to control it.  He believes cutting carbon emissions is a very low priority and that there are other more urgent concerns.  My disagreement with him is that I do not believe in the "science" of global warming, but the hoax of global warming.]     

The point is that there are a host of major influences on our weather, virtually all of which are more significant than CO2.  These include astronomical, oceanographic, geological, and other atmospheric factors.  Solar activity, cosmic rays, the earth's tilt or orbit, volcanic activity, cloud cover, ocean currents all have important effects on weather. 

Climate change is an immensely complex, non-linear, unpredictable and somewhat chaotic phenomenon that cannot be reduced to simplistic, monocausal, politically motivated explanations.  Climate change is also not an anomaly, but an ongoing, natural, and somewhat cyclical process.  There is also no single, "ideal" global climate.  The pursuit of one is not just quixotic and unrealistic; it is costly and probably destructive.     

Are rising CO2 levels contributing to global warming?  Perhaps.  But its precise impact is not known and its overall influence relative to the many other factors influencing the weather is probably quite small.  It hardly merits the vast media attention it has recieved and certainly not the economy crushing and disruptive measures that are being called for.

Which is why the recent "Climate-gate" scandal is so risible.  The global warming cause was already suspect.  Now we know its "science" was as well. 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  • David Drake

    January 7, 2010

    Dr. Moss, your article is well written. While I do not know to what extent the global warming movement is fact or fiction, I believe your comments should be heard and published. I do hope some newspapers pick up your article and that people will become a bit more sceptical of this whole issue. Personnaly, I initially bought into the perceived science as published in the media. However, after some further reading I have become a serious sceptic. I have many friends in the Amateur Radio community that share my feelings. Many of us are also students of history and we do understand the variations of temperature that has occured in the last several thousand years. We also understand the solar cycle very well, and its effects on radio propagation. Many of us also believe these cycles effect the global climate as well. Lastly, yes, your comments regarding the envrionmental "religion" are very much to the point. I do believe this issue is at the core of a social revolution of sorts. And not the sort of revolution we will come to embrace as "good".
    Thank you,

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