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An earth 4.5 billion years old, having slowly cooled from a molten mass. Cyclical climate trends measuring 10s to 100s to 1000s of years. Reliably accurate measurements for only the past 150 years.
My first mulling is on the subject of climate change, the centerpiece of this blog series. I won’t disagree that the climate is changing, but I believe the human contribution is negligible. I’m also not advocating that we do nothing about it; but to a limited degree. We’re always trying to control things, sometimes with negative consequences. If we were to swing into another ice age, we might be happy that we warmed the earth a little.
It seems, everywhere you turn these days, there’s a new study, verifying that the earth is warming, that the ozone hole is getting larger, that carbon dioxide levels are increasing, that polar ice is melting, that sea level is rising, and that ocean currents are being altered. And it’s all because of human degradation and destruction.
“It’s the worst it’s been in recorded history” has become the mantra for the media to apply the label “man-made.” In all the sensationalistic news however is there never an explanation that “recorded history” is infinitesimal compared to the history of the earth, and the history of climate change.
In geological studies we learned that the earth started as a molten mass approximately 4.5 billion years ago, cooled to a habitable climate, and has gone through periods of cooling and warming up to the present time. It took approximately 0.5 billion years for the earth to cool down from about 18,000 ºF to less than 100 ºF, on average, considering the earth as a whole. Since then it has gone through several periods of cooling and warming within the habitable range. At least one long cycle causes changes over millions of years. The cool periods included several ice ages. Warmer periods have tended to last longer. The most recent glacial period of the current ice age occurred approximately 25,000 years ago, and the earth has been in a period of warming ever since. The periods of cooling and warming are believed to be caused by changes in the earth’s orbit that take place every 75,000 years or so. There are other cycles, caused by changes in the tilt and wobble of the earth, that take place over shorter time periods of 40,000 years and 20,000 years. There are also shorter cycles that we have been able to actually measure-an 11-year sunspot cycle, a 19-year lunar cycle, the 60-year Atlantic and Pacific Oscillations, El Nino, and periodic non-cyclic events caused by volcanic activity.
The shorter cycles we have actually been able to measure, by taking actual reliable measurements, for only about 150 years. In other words, we had thermometers at weather stations across the globe and were able to measure temperatures simultaneously or at least on a daily basis. The longer measurements show up in the geologic record, in sediment, rock, ice layers, and tree rings. Keep in mind that there is always some error applied to measurements we take using the geologic record or tree rings; dating a span of time using these methods usually gives you a measurement plus or minus hundreds or thousands of years.
We do not know exactly when the next swing toward a cooler or warmer period of a cycle will take place or even if one may be occurring now. In other words, we know that the earth has been warming since the last ice age, but don’t know when the earth may start cooling again, or even if our current period of warming may be within one of the longer cycles.
So, given that we have only about 150 years of reliably accurate measurements and that the earth is estimated to be approximately 4.5 billion years old, apparently we only know for sure how the climate has changed for approximately 0.000003 percent of the earth’s history. That’s like looking at the weather for approximately 2/1000 of a second and determining what the weather’s going to be like for the next 24 hours; and we know how much the weather can change in a day.
Even if we had 6,000 years of reliable data (the amount of time since the first civilization), that would be only about 0.0002 percent of the earth’s history. Or if we take the biblical world view that the earth is only approximately 6,000 years old, we know only what the weather is like over 1/10 of a second compared to a day.
Why is it then that the man-made climate-change (MMCC) enthusiasts insist on crediting human capitalism with our current warming climate? Could it be that everything we do burns up oxygen and turns it into carbon dioxide? But that’s not unusual. Every species of animal does that. In fact, man’s total contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere by his industriousness is estimated to be approximately 3% by volume. The natural contribution to atmospheric CO2 is approximately 24% by volume. See the reference here. If we weren’t so industrious, we’d probably contribute only a small percentage (say about 3%) to this. So, as a species, we contribute about 6% to the total. To be totally honest, I don’t know how much of the 6% is due to our farming and agricultural practices and other wastes we generate that would be present no matter how industrious we were. Unless we were to stop producing and harvesting in addition to discontinuing the manufacture of plastics, for example.
The percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 0.04. So when a climate scientist argues that it is increasing, it is from a very small amount to a very small amount. CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased previously, as measured in sediments and ice cores, to levels that we are seeing now. Remembering that historical levels are measured within some level of accuracy and error, they could have been somewhat higher or lower. Supposedly, however, CO2 levels are increasing at a faster rate than they would naturally, due to our extra contributions. The natural rate of increase again, however, is subject to measurement error.
What are the author’s qualifications for presenting this argument? The author is a practicing geoscientist for 35 years. One of the basic tenets of this science is that the history of the earth, including previous climates, is stored in the sediments, rocks, ice, and water. Remember again that this gives us a picture of how conditions may have changed over the 4.5 billion years of the earth’s history, although somewhat incomplete and estimated.
So just how accurate is the science of MMCC? According to the IPCC, the warming earth, spreading ozone hole, increasing carbon dioxide levels, melting polar ice, rising sea level, and shifting ocean currents coincide with changes to the levels of gases being contributed to the atmosphere by man. Funny thing is we’ve only had the ability to measure temperature, sea level, ice and currents about as long as we’ve been able to measure the concentrations of the gases. This doesn’t mean that the gases have caused the warming and other changes, only that we’ve been measuring them at the same time.
Correlation does not imply causality. The earth has been warming naturally since the last glacial maximum and, more significantly, since the little ice age. Although the warming and changes in ice and sea level may be related, the relationship between human-made gases and warming is only coincidental at best. The gases that are considered to be greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and miscellaneous other gases. The miscellaneous gases include CFCs and the like, which are the only gases that are not also produced naturally, but account for only a fraction of a percentage of the atmospheric gases. The concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that are produced by human industry account for approximately 4% of the total atmospheric concentrations of these gases. Natural sources account for approximately 23%, and the remaining 73% were present in the atmosphere prior to industrial development, and had also to have built up naturally.
The earth is warming, and it will cool again, naturally, as it has already done many times. It may coincide with changes in atmospheric gases. It has already done this too. Whether there is a cause and effect between climate change and the gases, the natural contribution far exceeds that extra part contributed by man’s industriousness. And insomuch as man is a part of nature, what part of his industriousness is not also natural?
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Based on the blog series.
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