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Black Lamb


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Do inquiring minds want to know?

What one curious person discovered about global warming

February 1st, 2010


When I was in my early teens I used to read — devour, really — the magazine Scientific American. There was no doubt in my mind that I would one day become a scientist. Along with four or five like-minded classmates, I even got to be on a TV panel show discussing science with a science teacher. No one saw the show except our families, because it was on the educational station, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

churchofglobalwarming.pngNone of the kids who were on that show became scientists. Somewhere along the line I shifted my allegiance to the humanities and let science make its way without me, but over the past few years I’ve re-subscribed to Scientific American, and each month I dutifully try to plow through the articles. Cosmology always attracts me, even when I bump up against my mind’s inability to imagine, for example, a curved universe. I can follow some of the medical stuff, and I do my best with everything else.

This is all by way of prelude to my saying that if I’m not a scientist in any sense of the word, I am still interested in things scientific. Which has led me recently to the subject of global warming. I’ve done my best to read up on the subject, in hopes of discovering whether the predictions of virtually imminent catastrophe are something I should be worrying about, and I’ve made a few discoveries.

The first thing you run into when you look into global warming is that the entire issue, at least to most people, seems inseparable from the issue of man’s despoilation of his environment. Global warming as generally understood by the mainstream media and most environmental activists is not simply global warming but man-induced global warming, specifically warming created by increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere due to man-made causes. So I looked into the whole CO2 thing first, and I was in for a surprise.

While climatologists and other sorts of scientists — oceanographers, biologists, physicists — seem to uniformly concede that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could, under certain circumstances, raise terrestrial temperatures, these same scientists are far from uniformly agreed that CO2 levels actually do cause warming. The seminal report on the issue, the Summary for Policymakers of 2007, was done by a group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 2,500 scientists. The fact is — and it is a fact, not anti-environmentalist rhetoric — that of these 2,500 scientists, only 1,190 wrote the scientific part of the report, and of those 1,190, more than half were not scientists at all but political and environmental activists.

You see what I mean when I say that the specific issue of global warming and the more general issue of man’s destruction of the environment are, whether rightly or wrongly, connected.

Although scientists generally endorse the concept of the so-called Greenhouse Effect, they are by no means certain that is has ever operated while human beings have been on earth. Man-caused global warming adherents in any case have to face the fact that the globe has in fact been cooling for the past four or five years despite increases in atmospheric CO2.

In my research I found unequivocal answers to several questions:

• Are the speed and amount of global climate change unprecedented in human experience? No.

• Is the temperature range in the twentieth century outside the range of normal variability? No.

• Do human emissions of CO2 cause the sea level to rise? No.

• Does a rising sea level kill coral atolls? No.

• Will the seas become acidic? No.

• Do satellite and balloon temperature readings show that the planet is warming? No.

• Is atmospheric CO2 of human origin increasing? Possibly.

• Does deforest-ation contribute significantly to higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere? Yes.

• Is Arctic ice disappearing? Yes.

• Is it warmer in the Arctic than at any other recent time? No. The period 1920-1940, for example, was significantly warmer.

• Do warmer air temperatures cause Arctic melting? No, this is caused by warmer water temperatures, which in turn are caused by El Niño effects and other oceanic changes.
• Do humans cause or influence El Niño effects or other changes in ocean currents? No.

• Is Antarctic ice receding? No, it’s growing.

• Is Antarctic sea ice melting? No, it’s increasing, except in two small areas where El Niño affects it.

• Are causes of human origin signifcantly contributing to so-called global warming? No.

Item: The Russians discovered some years ago that Arctic temperature levels vary in roughly seventy-year cycles. In the 1850s Arctic ice all but disappeared and a thriving fishery bloomed on the north Siberian coast. In the 1920s, as mentioned above, Arctic temperatures were higher than they are now. Seventy years later, we are now in a third cycle.

Item: Geothermal activity — volcanos, subterranean gas emissions — in, around, and below Greenland and Iceland are not taken into account in descriptions of global warming. Yet they, and even moreso solar activity, including sunspots, are the real drivers of any terrestrial or oceanic temperature changes.

I found that man-caused global warming is being used as a propaganda stick to beat countries into environnmental awareness. An example of this, among thousands, is the fuss over polar bears, which over the next few decades are supposedly going to disappear. In fact, although some polar bear populations have dwindled, others are holding their own, and these beasts are currently not on the list of endangered species.

Environmental activists may argue privately that any issue, even a bogus one, that gets the world’s attention and encourages environmental protection is fine: the ends justify the means. But the use of science, supposedly unfettered, verifiable, and free, to advance political agendas, however well-meaning, cannot be a good thing. Telling lies and fudging scientific data are not sound — or renewable — strategies for making public policy. Rather, we must continuously keep science separate from emotional issues and trust that it will prove useful if we are wise enough to take its messages to heart. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry


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