Science and Technology
Global Warming – Redux
“Earth warmest in at least 400 years, panel finds.” So says a June 22, 2006 report from the National Research Council. Is global warming really happening? Although the evidence of global warming is not conclusive, the evidence is at least suggestive that it is happening. The second question, though, is this - if it is happening, why? People like Al Gore say with great conviction that we are the problem, that pollution is making it all happen, completely ignoring the cyclical nature of the earth’s climate.
1000 years ago the Northern Hemisphere was in the middle of the Great Medieval Warming Period, a time when temperatures were significantly warmer than average. This was when the Vikings settled Greenland, a time when parts of Greenland were actually green. The summers during this period were long and warm, the glaciers were melting and the population of Europe grew significantly. Then around 1300, there was a climate shift; the Little Ice Age started. For 500 years, the temperatures were lower, the summers were shorter and the population of Europe began to starve. The Viking settlements in Greenland were abandoned; it was just too cold for them to live there. In some places, the oceans froze, causing massive fish kills. Around 1800, there was another climate shift and it began to warm up. If the apparent 500 year climate cycle is true, then we are now in the middle of a 500 year warming cycle that cannot be stopped by anything we do or stop doing. While human activity undoubtedly has an effect on the earth, the earth is bigger than the bunch of us.
The third question in all of this is what effect global warming will have upon the earth. While it is widely reported that the edges of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets are melting, what gets little mention are the record snowfalls in the interiors of both places. Warmer air can cause melting, but it can also lead to much more precipitation. While the melting of the edges of the icecaps can lead to a rise in the sea level, the increased snowfall in the interior of the icecaps could lead to a lowering of the sea level. So which one will prevail? Nobody really knows.
Despite the pontifications of those with a political agenda, such as Al Gore and his ilk, no one really knows what will happen or what, if anything, can be done about it. In response to the showing of Gore’s film “The Inconvenient Truth” in Toronto, Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia, gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention.” Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing significant global climate change. What is known is that climate and its effect on the earth is an extremely complex subject and shouldn’t be handled in the comic book fashion, as so many in the environmentalist movement do. The issue of global warming is a serious one and should not be used to deceive people by those who are simply using it to push their political agendas.