In the early 1970s, the populace at-large was warned about “Global Cooling,” the threat of a new ice age burying the temperate latitudes in snow and ice, freezing crops and starving hundreds of millions of people. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Malthusian nightmare changed from cooling to warming. Now the planet would heat up and desiccate its landmasses, flooding coastlines and causing plants to wither, starving billions. This time the changes also had a principal cause: Man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately for the Chicken Little crowd, the crude computer models that predicted an increasingly alarming rise in temperatures were shown to be exaggerated. So in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were treated to a new threat with the same cause: Climate Change™. Now, every bit of severe weather, every extreme in temperature whether hot or cold can be blamed on the emissions of factories and automobiles, because we human beings arechanging our climate.
This, of course, ignores the fact that the makeup of Earth’s atmosphere and its global climate has been changing constantly for the planet’s entire existence. Indeed, the term “Climate Change™” is incorrect. What these individuals are actually proposing is “anthropogenic climate change,” since our climate is already constantly evolving. Simply calling the process Climate Change™ insinuates to the uninformed that our climate has always been and will always be the same except for the influence of man, which is preposterously fallacious.
About 225 million years ago, in the Carboniferous Period, the Earth’s atmosphere had much warmer and had more oxygen than today. The plants and animals that lived and died at that time have since become the coal and petroleum deposits that now fuel our power plants and automobiles. Just 12,000 years ago, our planet was just coming out of a cold snap that had lasted many thousands of years, a period we call the “Ice Age.” Some 2,000 years ago, during the “Roman Climate Optimum,” the temperature was warmer than it is today. Just 200 years ago our climate was a fair bit cooler, a period referred to as the “Little Ice Age.” Clearly, our planet’s climate is constantly changing.
Despite this, the sophistical proponents of Climate Change™ want us to believe that every snow storm, every hurricane, every heat wave is more proof of their darkest predictions of the future of the planet. Whether touting Hurricane Katrina as “unprecedented” (it wasn’t) or suggesting that significant snowfall in January and February in Washington, D.C. is “unusual” (it isn’t), every infrequent event from strong El Niño to strong Aurora Borealis to the Indian Ocean Tsunami is blamed on human carbon emissions affecting our atmosphere.
At some level, we human beings are modifying the Earth’s atmosphere. We intake oxygen and exhaust carbon dioxide and some other gases. The majority of our energy comes from carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The animals we eat produce greenhouse-effecting methane gas and the plants we farm require land changes that significantly affect the local atmospheric processes. We are doing something. The problem has been and continues to be that we don’t know by how much we are affecting our environment.
This is because very little actual scientific study has been done, and the validity of much of the study that has been done is suspect. Further, both the proponents of Climate Change™ and its detractors often see events unfold that seem to support their position and, without actually checking to see the real cause, pounce upon it as “proof” that Climate Change™ is or is not happening. The glacier at the top of Kilimanjaro is an excellent example:
The peak of Kilimanjaro was once covered in ice and snow, despite being located in a relatively tropical region. Several decades ago, scientists noticed that the glacier had begun to recede, and eventually it disappeared entirely, with snow covering the peak just a few days or weeks each year. Proponents of Climate Change™ pounced on this occurrence as “proof positive” that the Earth’s temperature was increasing. However, a short analysis of land use at the base of Kilimanjaro quickly debunks this idea. Kilimanjaro was once surrounded by lush tropical rain forest. The moisture from this rain forest climbed up the mountain on the air currents, condensed and fell as snow and sleet, which eventually compacted into the glacier. However human beings have cut down the rain forest surrounding Kilimanjaro to use the land for agriculture. The moisture of the rain forest, now many miles away, no longer reaches the peak as regularly, and much less snow and ice falls. The ice is not replenished and the glacier eventually melts and evaporates away under the sunshine. Indeed, we know from historical accounts that the peak had been bare of ice at least once previously, even before the rain forest was cut away.
The deserts of the Sahara showcases how the Earth’s environment is constantly and naturally changing, sometimes to extremes. Just a few thousand years ago (scientists debate exactly when, but possibly as late as 6,000 to 12,000 years), the Sahara had lush forests, lakes and rivers. Natural climate processes caused the regular annual rains in the southern Sahara to shift just a few hundred miles south, leaving the desert without the water needed to sustain its local ecosystems. The existing desert areas expanded rapidly, leaving only the faintest geological traces of the Sahara’s once bounteous appearance. In the space of probably a few hundred years, the Sahara changed from a mix of desert, forest and grassland similar to much of the United States to a dessicated waste. All without the intervention of man.
It is wrong to assume that we human beings are not affecting our planet’s climate. To say that because the pseudo-science of Climate Change™ is “a hoax” or is “not science” does not settle the matter. The fact is, we have spent billions of dollars on bad research and so we do not know what effects we are causing. Until and unless we have double-blind, peer-reviewed research that presents repeatable results that stand the test of time, we will never know for certain what is going on, and any actions we take are simply a waste.
Cross-posted at The Minority Report Blog.