This began as a response to a post over at The Malcontent, but it got so long and convoluted I thought I’d post it here for some responses. If I get any. lol
First, let’s give Al Gore credit where it was due. While he may not have “invented” the internet, the idea for electronic information sharing initially came to fruition largely due to Gore’s influence and contributions. The man’s not all bad, and harping on him tends to grate on my nerves a bit.
However, the controversy over “Global Warming” has been, to my estimation, far too narrowly defined by both sides, with folks resorting to buzzwords and bullet points in order to avoid critical examination of the facts. And I mean everyone, from the Al Gore, to various Scientists, to Sean Hannity.
They all have it wrong. The climate is changing, but no one can say for sure if we are responsible for it.
Yes, we have just had one of the warmest years on record. Yes, polar caps are shrinking, and that means more water in the oceans and higher ocean levels.
On the other hand, yes, the measurable difference in temperature change has only been in 10ths of a degree, not as drastic as one might surmise from watching An Inconvenient Truth.
What all of these folks need to do, however, is actually take a look at the hard data. That, and a little common sense, tells you all you need to know. Stop talking about “save the planet” and start talking about “save the humans.” More or less.
Take a look at this article from Discover Magazine, November 11, 2006:
The Earth we know generally moves in nonmysterious ways, but the latest evidence from an international team of geoscientists shows that about 800 million years ago, our planet executed a tricky balancing act that changed the course of the continents. Princeton geologist Adam Maloof says that over the course of 2 million to 10 million years, the North Pole appeared to shift a staggering 55 degrees—roughly the distance from the current north pole to San Francisco. This phenomenon, confusingly called true polar wander, is known to happen on Mars, where huge volcanic eruptions change the planet’s weight distribution, but it is controversial whether that could happen on Earth.
In reality, it is not the poles that wander on Mars or on Earth; rather, all the continents shift their positions relative to the poles. “Any spinning object wants to adjust itself until it’s rotating around its shortest axis, and all the extra weight is around the equator,” Maloof says. “The Earth is no different—it is constantly adjusting itself to be in equilibrium.” For example, if a large mass suddenly appeared near the pole, the continents would shift to move the extra weight toward the equator. (Perhaps like a meteor impact?–Jamie)
Maloof’s team isn’t sure why Earth’s surface shifted so significantly, but they conclude that it did from an abrupt change in the orientation of the magnetic field preserved in sedimentary rocks in Svalbard, Norway. Now they are analyzing similar data from Australia. “Of all the possible hypotheses, the seemingly simplest is true polar wander,” Maloof says. “Plus, it’s imminently testable. All we have to do is go to another continent that has sediments of the same age.”
Gee, a testable theory that shows that Earth is a self-correcting mechanism. Interesting.
Now let’s look at this article, shall we (which should be mandatory reading for anyone who ever opens their mouth about global warming):
In the 1970s concerned environmentalists like Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado feared a return to another ice age due to manmade atmospheric pollution blocking out the sun.
Since about 1940 the global climate did in fact appear to be cooling. Then a funny thing happened– sometime in the late 1970s temperature declines slowed to a halt and ground-based recording stations during the 1980s and 1990s began reading small but steady increases in near-surface temperatures. Fears of “global cooling” then changed suddenly to “global warming,”– the cited cause:
manmade atmospheric pollution causing a runaway greenhouse effect.
Periods of Earth warming and cooling occur in cycles. This is well understood, as is the fact that small-scale cycles of about 40 years exist within larger-scale cycles of 400 years, which in turn exist inside still larger scale cycles of 20,000 years, and so on. . .
“Greenhouse gases” in Earth’s atmosphere also influence Earth’s temperature, but in a much smaller way. Human additions to total greenhouse gases play a still smaller role, contributing about 0.2% – 0.3% to Earth’s greenhouse effect.
Hmmm. Still more evidence that global warming is a FACT, but attribution to human factors is negligible. But note that sentence, “Periods of Earth warming and cooling occur in cycles.” The article goes on to postulate that we are in fact in a warming period between cooling cycles. Which not only makes sense; it explains quite a lot. Sediment and fossil records–hell, Darwin’s theory of evolution itself–portray and assume an ever-changing environment. That life responds to in kind.
Here’s how I see it: humans have a definite, if finite, effect on the environment. Global warming is a natural part of a natural cycle, which we probably contribute to, but less than the catostrophic levels often attributed to us. Pollution definitely has an effect that is hard to measure but can reasonably be extrapolated using events such as the explosion of Krakatoa in the 1800’s. That eruption caused “the year with no summer,” as most of the planet was blanketed by a cloud of ash. Wiki:
The 1883 eruption ejected more than 25 cubic kilometres of rock, ash, and pumice, and generated the loudest sound historically reported — the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away as Perth in Australia (approx. 1930 miles or 3100 km), and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius (approx. 3000 miles or 4800 km). Atmospheric shock waves reverberated around the world seven times and were detectable for five days. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis which followed the explosion.
In the year following the eruption, average global temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius. Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888. The eruption injected an unusually large amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas high into the stratosphere that was subsequently transported by high-level winds all over the planet. This led to a global increase in sulfuric acid (H2SO4) concentration in high-level cirrus cloud. The resulting increase in cloud reflectivity (or albedo) would reflect more incoming light from the sun than usual, and cool the entire planet until the suspended sulfur fell to the ground as acid precipitation.
We know the approximate levels of, and effects of, the atmospheric pollution caused by Krakatoa’s eruption, and surely while the chemical composition is different, we can make an estimation of the effects of today’s pollution levels. There is a lot we can calculate.
Think about this, too: after a catastrophic worldwide event, the Earth recovered without our help. Such is the ego of mankind to think we are more powerful than Mother Nature. Mother Nature, all the while is laughing at us, saying, “bring it on, big boy, bring it on.”
This is not to say that we should continue to blithely spend our resources as if they are inexhaustible. They are not, and we have future generations to think about. It just makes plain good sense to try and be good caretakers of our planet: preserve and extend our resources, switch to renewable sources of energy such as wind power, lower our air pollution, recycle (even if it is a pain in the ass), everyone plants a tree once in a while . . .to me, that’s just good management. To use an old cliché, “let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Simply because global warming isn’t necessarily attributable to human beings is no reason to disengage from ecological conservation. Left-wing alarmists would have us retreat to pre-industrial revolution technology, while right-wing naysayers would have us continue forward blindly ignoring nature’s warning signs.
Increases in Tsunamis. Stronger earthquakes. A general warming trend. These are nature’s purge valves. Mother nature isn’t trying to tell us something, she’s doing something all on her own. And we should learn from it. How is the Earth really changing, and what is the right thing to do to accommodate ourselves to the ongoing and upcoming changes? How do we adapt? That’s the underlying lesson that I think the catastrophists are really trying to point out, even if they don’t yet realize it.
We may well indeed make the planet extremely uncomfortable for humans to live on, either through direct action simply through our own inaction. Humans are capable of marvelously stupid things. If we manage through some catastrophic disaster to raise the temp of the planet by however many degrees, the Earth will shrug us off, we’ll be gone, and then, as George Carlin said, it will be the cockroaches’ turn.
Maybe they can be better caretakers.