Global Warming: Is it Real, are Humans the Cause, & can Anything be Done?

Tabular Iceberg Break
A massive, newly calved “tabular” iceberg breaks
loose into the Weddell Sea to meet its destiny

Editor’s Note: It’s hard to publish anything that might challenge theories of global warming – either the severity of it or the cause. We’ve published several essays with contrarian perspectives; DDT, Nuclear Power, GMO’s and Recycling, to name a few. And in those articles points were raised that we stand behind. We don’t believe these issues to be beyond debate.

Global warming is another story. This issue is so cataclysmic, so complex, and so intertwined with passionate political conflicts, that it almost seems best to leave it alone – go with the conventional wisdom.

There is a book entitled “Infinite In All Directions” published in 1988 by the visionary scientist and writer Freeman Dyson. In this book he has a chapter entitled “Nuclear Winter,” where he discusses what was then a highly publicized scientific theory describing the worldwide meteorlogical and ecological consequences of a nuclear war. In this chapter Dyson writes the following:

“As a scientist, I judge the nuclear winter theory to be a sloppy piece of work, full of gaps and unjustified assumptions. As a human being, I hope fervently it is right.”

Dyson wanted to believe in nuclear winter, because if enough people believed it, maybe humanity would avoid fighting a nuclear war. Unimpeachable motives. Bad science.

Is it possible that the political statement behind global warming theories – the worthy imperative for us to use energy more efficiently, to wean ourselves of petroleum, to achieve energy independence – has made these theories take on credibility beyond their scientific merit?

In this article the author takes a hard look at the theory of global warming, and concludes the cause is probably that the sun – which fluctuates in output – is simply entering a hotter phase. Perhaps we don’t agree politically with the rest of what global warming sceptics might believe. But that doesn’t absolve us of the need to always pursue the truth.

Ed “Redwood” Ring

The catch all term “global warming” (GW) has evolved to the point where true believers use the term to mean that not only is the earth rapidly warming, but that the warming is almost entirely due to human industrial activity and the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, especially in the United States and Europe.

It appears that a majority of climatologists, atmospheric scientists, and meteorologists (we will call them collectively “CAMs”) believe this. The term “climate change” is used by those who, while allowing that the earth is warming to some degree or other, do not necessarily believe that CO2 emissions from human power generation has much, if anything, to do with it.

World Temperature Increase Projection Map
NASA’s Global Climate Model predicts
the Earth’s temperature will increase by
up to 10 degrees centigrade by 2060

The earth has been warming for the last 10,000 years on average since the last ice age, when most of North America and Europe were covered with glaciers. Over hundreds of millions of years the earth has gone through periodic cycles of warming and cooling without the help of humans. Radiation from the sun is variable over eons. In 2001, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences issued a report suggesting that increased radiation from the sun (our very own thermonuclear fireball) may be responsible for much of the climate change in the last century. In other words, over the centuries, the sun flickers!

The average person who only gets his information from the mass media would never know that the GW concept is actually debatable, with many very heated (pun intended) debates going on at scientific meetings of CAMs. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. sponsored group of more than 2,000 scientists from over 100 countries, has concluded that human activity is a major factor in elevated atmospheric CO2 levels (probably true), and this will result in rising temperatures and sea levels that could prove catastrophic for multi-millions of coastal dwelling folk all over the world (very debateable).

The IPCC panel concluded that in the last century, earth’s average global surface temperature had risen between 0.4-0.8 °C. They also estimated (read “guessed”) that by 2100 the global average would rise by 1.4 to 5.8 °C., depending on a, very wide range of scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions. This was widely reported in the mass media. On the other hand, the “Oregon Petition” of 2001, signed by some 18,000 scientists from all disciplines, said there was no convincing evidence that human activity is responsible, or will be responsible, for any catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. That was not widely reported.

Examples abound of media hyperbole that convinces the average person that the world is in deep trouble (aside from movies like “Day After Tomorrow”). Tom Costello of NBC says, “From tsunamis to catastrophic hurricanes, famine in Africa and wildfires in California, the evidence of human induced GW, they say, is overwhelming”. CBS’s “60 Minutes”, recently featured a CAM who is warning of the worst case scenario (let’s all get really scared), that the earth is warming due to human generated CO2 emission, sea levels will rise by three feet (a few inches or more is the mainstream CAM thinking) in another hundred years, and there is nothing we can do about it now so get used to it!

After hurricane Katrina, famed environmentalist (and CAM?) Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., blamed president Bush for the damage from the hurricane because Bush didn’t endorse the Kyoto Protocols of 1997 in which many countries vowed to limit their CO2 emissions in the future to fight GW. It seems he was implying that if Al Gore had won the election in 2000, Katrina would not have happened because Gore would have seen to it that the U.S. would comply with the protocols. Never mind that the U.S. senate voted 95 to 0 not to ratify it because of the huge hit on the U.S. economy compliance would entail. And Bill Clinton never even brought it up for a vote. In fact, even many true believer CAMs, including Al Gore, realize that the agreement was so flawed that signing it would only have symbolic value. China and India (nearly half the world’s population) were exempt, and there were no means of enforcement. Anybody could sign and then ignore, which they have done. Several European countries that signed on are now emitting MORE CO2 than before.

State of Fear Book Cover
State of Fear
by Michael Crichton

Here are two diametrically opposed views on this subject: In, “State of Fear”, Michael Crichton’s recent best selling novel about eco-terrorists, he advances a very well researched contrarian viewpoint. Although a fiction novel, he presents real scientific data arguing against greenhouse gas induced warming. A book by Ross Gelbspan, a former Boston Globe reporter, entitled “Boiling Point” is a disaster scenario book about GW, in which he predicts mega-droughts and huge sea level increases, refugees, a Northern hemisphere deep freeze, malaria, etc. etc. He calls anyone who doesn’t agree with him “criminals against humanity”. But even he believes that if the U.S. did ratify the Kyoto treaty, it wouldn’t make any difference; the CO2 level in the atmosphere would continue to rise, as would the earth’s temperature. The IPCC, in the same report cited above, estimates that the global temperature will rise by about 1 deg. C by 2050. They go on to say that if the Kyoto agreement were to be fully complied with, including the U.S., global temperature would still rise by 0.94 degrees. That’s a difference of 0.06 degrees!! Obviously Kyoto is nothing more than politically correct symbolism.

Boiling Point Book Cover
Boiling Point
by Ross Gelbspan

It is no wonder, however, that average folks think the GW theology is absolutely true. A (small?) majority of CAMs are true believers. A CAM wrote in a recent issue of Scientific American magazine, “Scientists know that carbon dioxide is warming the atmosphere, which in turn is causing sea level to rise, and that the CO2 absorbed by the oceans is acidifying the water”. This is the kind of CAM that the media always quotes, not the infidel CAMs. He then goes on to say, quite rightly, that no one knows what the long term effects of this “fact” on the earth’s ecological systems might be. The real fact is his statement is not true in the first place. NOBODY knows for sure whether climate change is natural or human induced, or possibly both; if and how much overall global temperature may be rising; and whether CO2 generated by human activities has anything to do with it.

Few would argue that the various greenhouse gases (discussed below) present in the atmosphere don’t have a significant effect on global climate; it’s just that their effect is virtually impossible to quantify. In fact, a theory has been put forward that the earth would be entering a new ice age if not for the various greenhouse gases. Atmospheric science is even more inexact than economics. Are your local weather forecasts always right, even more than one or two days ahead of time? The climate is so complex and poorly understood that elaborate computer models are used to make all those doomsday predictions you read about. A computer model, however, is only as good as the assumptions that the programmers put into it. The enormous number of variables affecting the earth’s climate, some probably we are not even aware of, and feedback from one variable that affects another cannot be modeled realistically. Weather forecasting is, at best, problematic even over a period of days; so why do we think we can predict the weather/climate 50-100 years from now?

U.S. National Temperature Record Chart from 1900 to 2000
NOAA’s U.S. National Temperature
record from 1900 to 2000
(Red line = average weighted temperature)

Let us consider some of the actual debate about scientific evidence involved in the GW debate among CAMs. Believers point to temperature records over the last 100 years or so that show a definite increase. Infidels say this is due to the fact that 100 years ago temperatures were measured in rural environments, while later in the last century urbanization of our society led to temperature measurements influenced by the heat generated by the concrete and steel of the city. Some evidence seems to show that the Antarctic ice is melting away, threatening future rise in earth’s sea level.

Some evidence points to the likelihood that the southern icecap is actually thickening. On the other hand, glaciers are melting all over the world and the Arctic ice is melting, but maybe that’s just what you would expect in a normal interglacial period over thousands of years. A greater frequency of hurricanes is evident due to GW? Maybe, but it also could be a normal hurricane cycle similar to what we had from 1950-1970. Increased ocean temperature due to the greenhouse effect may be causing the hurricanes to be more intense than before?

Perhaps not, El Nino and La Nina cycles may be major influences also. Then again, maybe last year’s hurricane season was an aberration. These are questions being debated by CAMs under the mass media radar. What are we non-theological people to believe?

Here’s the crux of the whole debate. Before 1998, CAMs generally accepted that the earth had undergone large temperature fluctuations over eons. The Vikings named it “Greenland” probably because it was discovered in a global warm period in the tenth century. There were lush pastures for raising cattle, which they did. The idea that they named it “Greenland” to lure unsuspecting settlers is probably just a myth. During the “little ice age” from about 1500 to 1800 A.D., Greenland froze over and George Washington’s troops practically froze to death at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777. It never gets that cold in New Jersey anymore. The perceived global warming since then was attributed to natural rebound, especially since most of the warming occurred before 1940. Whoops, most of the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels occurred after 1940. Think about it.

Nasa Logo

Then came the now famous “hockey stick” study by Michael Mann, an American CAM, published in the prestigious journal “Nature” in 1998. The alarmist IPCC report cited above based its assessment of climate change almost solely on Mann’s study. In essence, he said all the historical temperature data was wrong. He claimed his data showed that there has been only a gradual global temperature change over the last millennium, but that there has been a very sharp rise in the last 100 years, i.e., his temperature graph looked like a hockey stick.

Industrial emissions of CO2 now became the bad guy because its concentration in the atmosphere increased from 315 ppm (parts per million) in 1957 to 370 ppm in 2002. Hotter temperatures, greenhouse gas CO2 increase; ergo GW is due to emissions from human use of fossil fuels, which when burned, emit CO2. It’s a theory that has not been proven scientifically. A scientist can perform a laboratory experiment to determine how strong a greenhouse gas CO2 is and what its affect is in some laboratory model system. But to extrapolate laboratory results to predict what is actually happening in the earth’s atmosphere is impossible. It’s all assumptions and imperfect computer models.

Here’s how scientific research is, in general, supposed to work. Some researchers conduct some laboratory experiment or statistical study and get results that appear to support some hypothesis or theory. After peer review, the results are published in a scientific journal. The Mann paper is an example. In this case, it was a sensational paper that rattled the conventional wisdom of CAMs, thus it attracted lots of media attention. The next step is for fellow scientists from around the world to either criticize or support that data by trying to reproduce those reported results. If the original research is confirmed by other scientists from around the world, it becomes generally accepted as true.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Logoee

In the case of Mann’s influential study predicting a “hockey stick” increase in global temperatures due to increased CO2 emissions, however, Mann’s results have not been reproduced. In fact, Mann’s results have been called into serious question by two scientists, Canadian mathematician Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick. They revisited Mann’s own data and concluded, in 2003, that his results were riddled with “collation errors, unjustifiable truncations or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, and incorrect calculations of principal components.” In other words, Mann’s study is in their eyes, deeply flawed. When they corrected Mann’s results for these errors, they contend, the hockey stick model disappeared! Mann has not responded except to say he’s a victim of intimidation. We shall see, but this calls into BIG question the whole CO2 induced GW paradigm. Other CAMs must now step up to do research that might either support or not support these opposite views of data.

As a scientist myself (a chemist, not a CAM), I find it very difficult to believe that such a tiny amount of CO2 (370 ppm) in the atmosphere could be responsible for GW. That is only 0.036% of the earth’s atmosphere. Let’s consider another greenhouse gas, methane, which is ignored in all GW discussions in the media and the Kyoto protocols. Methane is over 20 times stronger a greenhouse gas than CO2, although it is present in the atmosphere at a 100 times lower concentration. But, it is still significant in the whole story. Methane is, of course, the main constituent of natural gas. So when we drill for natural gas, we release lots of methane, which contributes to greenhouse warming even before we burn it to form all that CO2. It is also generated in all bacterial fermentations, which includes landfills, rice paddies, wetlands, termite farts, waste treatment plants, burps from ruminant animals, and most important the brewing of beer (I would never agree to limit my beer intake just to save the planet). I wonder how much methane is exhaled by the billions of cows, sheep, goats, buffalos, etc., which are domesticated by the 4 billion humans on this planet? Of course all that livestock also exhales CO2 with every breath they take, just like us humans do.

Anyway, it is estimated that about 60% of methane in the air is from human activity, and its concentration in the air is increasing twice as fast as is CO2! Kyoto didn’t even consider methane! We won’t even discuss nitrous oxide (released during forest fires and use of nitrogen fertilizers), 300 times more effective a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Now let’s discuss the most potent contributor to the greenhouse effect, by far, i.e., water vapor. There are various estimates, but the best estimate is that about 95% of the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere is due to water vapor, good old H2O, and it’s virtually all natural. Nearly three fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and water evaporates into the air. Apparently, few if any of the computer models invented to try and predict future climatic conditions take water vapor into account, and there is absolutely nothing we humans could do to limit levels of water vapor in the atmosphere anyway; nothing, nada, zero and nichts. The bottom line is that human activities contribute less than 1% to the greenhouse warming effect, probably less than 0.5%.

In April 1911, an iceberg like this sank the mighty Titanic.
Will global warming really melt the icecaps and inundate
the world? And if so, is there anything we can do?

Given the uncertainty in climate models, my guess is as good as anyone’s, so I’ll give it. The sun is in a hot period, raising earth’s average temperature. This in turn causes more water from the oceans to evaporate and raise water vapor concentration in the atmosphere, which in turn accelerates warming. Increases in atmospheric CO2 and methane may also be contributing to the warming, but it can’t be quantified.

So what to do? Humans have lived through warm and cold periods for hundreds of thousands of years and always adapted. So just don’t live to close to what is now the sea level, and maybe think about buying property in Norway or Canada to plant orange trees. Oh, yeah, don’t buy stock in companies selling ski equipment and parkas. And, if you are still worried about human induced CO2 emission and want to do something, even if only symbolic, you should stop lighting fires (emitting CO2 AND water), using your furnace, water heater and anything electrical, driving cars and SUVs, and breathing (however, if you stop breathing, you will emit lots of methane as your body decomposes). Also, lobby for less stringent air pollution rules to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Air pollution, as is commonly found in great profusion in places like Mexico City, Los Angeles, Rome, and New York promotes global cooling because all that dirty particulate matter blocks the sun’s rays from hitting the ground. It’s an anti-greenhouse effect. Also, pray for another volcanic eruption like Krakatoa in 1883, which resulted in severe winters all over the globe due to the millions of tons of particulate matter spewed into the atmosphere.

One final thought: Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal, a favorite of my liberal friends, had this to say about global warming “the problems associated with climate change (whether manmade or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms, and droughts. Money spent directly on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process that we don’t understand.”

EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

2 Responses to “Global Warming: Is it Real, are Humans the Cause, & can Anything be Done?”
  1. john says:

    You are so right. Thank you for further exposing the hoax which is a crime against humanity. You gracefully ignored the blatant scientific cheating that has occurred by the proponents of GW.

    The earth has warmed and cooled for hundreds of millions of years. It wasn’t called the carboniferous period for nothing.

    The average temperature of the earth over time has been 6 degrees F higher than the current temperature.

    The CO2 levels have averaged at least 250% higher than the 387 ppm that they are now. And have been 4-500% higher — 1500 ppm.


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