Britain’s Daily Mail made headlines by quoting the country’s “Met Office” as confessing that the world’s temperature hasn’t increased in 16 years. This was met with consternation by the “climate establishment,” led by the granddaddy of climate alarmists, James Hansen of NASA.
Interpretation of a trend, of course, depends on when you begin the temperature analysis. So, if we start the graph in 1960, by golly, that temperature plateau just disappears into statistical insignificance! Just about everyone agrees, however, that our planet warmed just 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century and none, so far, in the 21st. Was the rise in temperature just part of a natural cycle?
The intensity of the response of our political “progressives” betrays a nervousness, many believe, that the science behind “climate change” is shaky. Billions in grant support and political influence are at stake. Even the Economist — long a subscriber to climate alarm — has published recently its confusion as to the validity of the climate models that have been predicting ever-increasing world temperature for the last 30 years. It appears that the models’ much higher temperature projections are all far above the straight line of the actual temperatures.
The contention between the “mainstream” climate establishment and the skeptics has changed little since the revelations of data manipulation, “closed-circuit” peer review and other unscientific behavior exposed in the “Climategate” of 1999. Since then, there have been two more “Climategate” series of leaked emails exposing questionable scientific conduct that appear genuine.
The alarmists now act as if under siege, understandably.
Central to the present confusion are several unknowns: How much of the present increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is due to mankind’s emissions? It could be measured, presumably, but hasn’t been. Much of it is “natural,” such as from decaying vegetation. Carbon dioxide levels have been much higher in geologic history, without humanity’s contribution, at times when all kinds of plants and animals flourished. It’s still disputed, but most evidence favors warming preceding increased carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around. And how much “greenhouse effect” does carbon dioxide have, especially contrasted to that of water vapor? The answer is probably very little.
Hundreds of qualified scientists have doubted for years the idea of man-made global warming. Recently a group of more than 20 retired NASA astronauts and engineers signed a statement summarizing their conclusions, including this: “There is no convincing physical evidence to support the man-made climate change hypothesis.”
It is politics as well as science. Group-think boils over into mass hysteria, fed by those dependent on your tax dollars and by sensationalist media. Our schoolchildren are marinated in this new religion. The inquisitive and skeptical essence of science, shamefully, is not being demonstrated or taught.
The history of science is full of false assumptions and strange discoveries. The world’s climate system remains imperfectly understood. Important influences include changing ocean currents, volcanism, variability in the behavior of the sun and more.
Consider sunspots: These dark dots on the sun’s surface have been observed for centuries. They wax and wane in number in regular cycles. They represent magnetic storms in our parent star. Active sunspot cycles correlate nicely with warm climates over the centuries, inactive with cold, such as the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) where the “Little Ice Age” found Londoners having winter festivals on the frozen Thames, and there were disastrous crop failures. Sunspots now appear to be headed to another minimum after years of high activity.
And when we look at the intervals between advances and retreats of great ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 100,000 years, they’ve come at intervals of about 10,000 to 30,000 years. The last cyclic glacial advance ended about 11,000 years ago.
Within the interglacial periods there are cold intervals, or “little ice ages”, which arrive with clockwork regularity. It would seem that we are due for one of these or even a major ice age in the not distant future. If the present interglacial holiday should be longer — let’s hope — a little humility among our warming alarmists would seem appropriate before our economy is crippled by over-reacting to the present warm spell, which is similar to (or even cooler than) the well-documented Roman and Medieval warm periods. History tells us that warm periods are far kinder to civilization than are cold.
The U.S. Government Accounting Office reports the federal government has spent $106.7 billion on “climate change” since 2003 — at a time when we have trillion dollar deficits. It is time to stop squandering our resources, and limiting our energy supplies, in the illusion that we humans can control everything. “Climate change” is, of course, the history of our planet. Remember what Yogi Berra said: “What gets you into trouble is not what you don’t know, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Alan Boone is a retired physician living in Bangor.