Friday, March 14, 2008

Anthropogenic Global Warming? Sorry!

As many of you know, I have always had a passion for the weather and to some extent, historical climate change. Actually climate change is a bit redundant as history shows us that climate is all about change. I wrote the following on the evening of May 7, 2007 out of a growing concern that public policy may embrace a position that at the very least is based on insufficient and in some cases inaccurate information.

There are serious and legitimate concerns about the state of our planet. The current population explosion is unprecedented in the history of mankind. The consumption of the numerous but finite resources, the use and over use of the land, the ever increasing threat of disease and the wide spread pollution from all sources top the list of legitimate and present concerns that we face today. Though, somehow, the recognition that our planet is getting warmer and our belief that humans are causing it has become more important.

Please understand that my goal is not to intentionally discredit work that has been done that shows a correlation between increase CO2 and global warming. Armed with the same data regarding the relationship between CO2 and temperature, scientists have two separate hypotheses. “Increases in CO2 causes increased surface temperature” is one and “Increased temperature causes increases in CO2” is the other. Both are plausible. It appears that the ice core data suggests the latter to be true. There is a correlation but probably not causation.

Before one gets to sidetracked with the above reference, a better understanding of our historical climate change is necessary. Through written records and other scientific observations, it can be said with certainty that our climate has changed rather dramatically in the past. We all recognize that evidence exists to confirm this. Glaciers have covered places that once supported warm weather species. A silver mine with tools has been discovered in the Alps as the ice melts away revealing a time that was warmer that today. The Vikings farmed Greenland for about 400 years but today that land is covered in ice. This is evidence, yet again, of a period warmer that today. There was no significant human influence on those climactic changes.

I return again to mention the CO2 correlation. How might the level of CO2 gas have increased in the past? The understanding of the relationship between both the temperature of the earth as it relates to CO2 solubility in ocean water and the impact on biological processes helps to understand the cause and effect. As the ocean warms, the ability to absorb CO2 diminishes. As glaciers melt and permafrost is lost, CO2 is released. Warmer temperatures support faster plant decay and greater CO2 production. These examples all help to explain the correlation and confirm that CO2 is a lagging indicator of recent temperature increases. Temperatures warm and CO2 increases as a result. Obviously today, CO2 is primarily increasing because we are producing it.

The fact that CO2 can also come from volcanic activity helps to support the former theory that perhaps the increase in CO2 comes first and the warmer temperatures follow. This theory has to be examined a bit more closely in my estimation as it leads to the question of the effectiveness of CO2 as a “greenhouse gas”. The one thing that is clear and undisputed is that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas. Estimates vary but about 90% of the heat that is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere is caused by water vapor. The remaining heat that is trapped is done so by trace gases. One of these is carbon dioxide.

As you start to understand that there may be some disagreement between scientists about many aspects of global warming, you realize how little we really know about what is going on with the earth’s climate.

Even the data that is relied on has many flaws. There are comparisons with historical data that is derived from ice core samples, tree rings, and coral growth. All of which is very unreliable. Current satellite data is very accurate but available over the last 30 years only. You can point to temperature readings from locations that have been substantially impacted by land use. Buildings and pavement hold tremendous amounts of heat and therefore influence temperature by several degrees and render the historical data at certain locations tainted at best, irrelevant at worst. This is not to discredit the observation that the earth is warming. The warming seems pretty certain. This is simply to point out that the way we measure “average global temperature” has changed and can be inconsistent and potentially unreliable.

Remember the sun? It is a massive reaction producing enormous amounts of heat, light and radiation and is always changing. Solar activity, I would argue, is the source of our climate change, period.

In a legitimate experiment, you must first identify all variables in the equation and look to isolate them in an effort to prove the impact of the one variable that you may be studying. Because this is virtually impossible, the entire debate begins on a shaky foundation.

The effectiveness of water vapor in retaining heat however is the most compelling argument against the CO2 warming theory. It has been shown that on average, within the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, 80% of the trapped heat is done so by water vapor. Only 8/100ths of 1% is absorbed by CO2. This has been proven. Now my natural assumption was that this information is not right because it all but disproves that theory of CO2 induced global warming. Surely no one would be able to make the argument with evidence like this available. But amazingly this information is true and yet the focus remains on this gas.

The very computer models that have been used to predict dramatic climate changes have been challenged. But no one will tell you that. By imputing the data as if it were 1997 and asking the computer to predict what the climate will be in the year 2007 we end up with results that are so far off, that there is not even the least bit of reliability to be had with these models. It is a joke! Don’t we already know about computer model problems? Just look at the 5 day forecast.

There are many that believe that a warmer earth can be devastating. There are many that believe that global warming is caused by CO2 that is produced by humans. There are many people that want to stop the process if it can cause the devastation that has been described. There are some that are so vested in the conclusion that there is no easy way to change their position. There are some that are misguided and think that reducing CO2 is tantamount to stopping pollution. There are people that are politically motivated as it fosters international cooperation and a step closer to global unification. Whatever the reason, this scientific hypothesis has turned into a political reality, an almost hysterical media, and an international agreement that has far reaching consequences, none of which include a slowdown of the increasing global temperatures.

It is an absolute outrage that we are focused on an issue that may not be an issue after all. Destruction of the rain forest, untreated raw sewerage, toxic waste, heavy metals, farmland runoff, AIDS, famine, genocide, nuclear waste, bird flu, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, dictators. And we are focused on the temperature. It would be nice if humans could have some control of it. But we really don’t. Climate = change. It always has, it always will. That is about the only thing that is for sure.

Don’t take my thoughts as truth, look this stuff up. Then, try to disprove it. The more you read, the more you will know about how much we don’t know. But you will also find that a lot of what is known is not being told. I just can’t believe it! Well, actually I can. It is a sad reality.

The climate is always changing. Shouldn’t we be preparing for it?

No comments: