Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Damned, Evil Scientists

Okay, I’m not really back. Not that I’m really away, either, but just that the busy hasn’t really appreciably slowed down and the urge to write has declined tremendously. But surfing and reading earlier lead me to an article that needs to be spread far and wide to take the global warming debate somewhere with a little less insanity.

Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, “There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth’s temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years.” Patterson asked the committee, “On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century’s modest warming?”

Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and “hundreds of other studies” reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth’s temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun.
Dr. Wibjörn Karlén, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden, admits, “Some small areas in the Antarctic Peninsula have broken up recently, just like it has done back in time. The temperature in this part of Antarctica has increased recently, probably because of a small change in the position of the low pressure systems.”

But Karlén clarifies that the ‘mass balance’ of Antarctica is positive - more snow is accumulating than melting off. As a result, Ball explains, there is an increase in the ‘calving’ of icebergs as the ice dome of Antarctica is growing and flowing to the oceans. When Greenland and Antarctica are assessed together, “their mass balance is considered to possibly increase the sea level by 0.03 mm/year - not much of an effect,” Karlén concludes.

The Antarctica has survived warm and cold events over millions of years. A meltdown is simply not a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future.

I happily concede that it is possible that human activities have had a powerful effect on the planet’s climate; what I don’t concede is that the neo-luddites and professional scaremongers have the correct solution to what may or may not be a problem.

The sum of my beliefs is pretty simple, in fact:

  1. We do not have a good understanding of why the planet has warmed somewhat in recent decades. We do not know whether it is related to human activity or can simply be attributed to normal variations in Earth’s climate.
  2. We do not know how to solve the “problem.” If warming is attributable to changes in the Sun, then even the most drastic, economy-killing reduction in “greenhouse emissions” will not bring about the desired cooling or stabilization of temperatures.
  3. We do not know that it actually is a problem. Relating global warming to natural disasters, an angry Mother Earth, and my own personal crankiness may all be emotionally satisfying, but hardly makes for good science. The debate is far from over about the causes and a race to predict effects is more like religious prophesy than reliable forecasting. 
  4. We do know that the planet has been both significantly hotter and colder in the past and that the expectation that the climate will not warm or cool over extended periods of time is infantile.

I won’t say that the scaremongers are liars: these people utterly believe the scary stuff that they are selling. But their passionate convictions shouldn’t be mistaken as a good reason to believe their stories, assumptions, or predictions.

Read the whole story.


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