The surface temperature of the earth may be getting warmer -- or, it may not -- but humans and cars and factories have nothing to do with it. This is the side of the global warming argument that seems to get less prominence in the daily press, yet it is a point of view that may be building momentum in the scientific community.
Since former Vice President and "global warming" activist Al Gore's award-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," the thousands of scientists who refute anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW) theory have been hard-pressed to get a word in edgewise. The many in government and media who warn us of dire consequences that could result from inaction have declared human-caused global warming a "fact," claim the debate has been "settled" by near-unanimous scientific "consensus" and refuse to debate it.
Viewing the much-praised film "An Inconvenient Truth" has caused many to join the cause to halt global warming in its tracks, but one wonders what their reaction would be to the revelation that many of the "facts" presented in the documentary were, at best, opinions and at worst simply not true. One British judge in October 2007 ruled that students forced to watch the film as part of their studies must be warned of its many factual errors. Among them, he said, are claimed AGW links to hurricanes, receding glaciers, ice-cap melting, coral reef bleaching, dried-up lakes, catastrophic sea level rises and drowning polar bears.
The U.S. Senate, the New York Times and many others have skewered the film's inaccuracies. "An Inconvenient Truth" warned of sea levels rising 20 feet if nothing is done, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) says the potential rise could be somewhere between seven and 23 inches over the next 100 years. The documentary cited the hottest year on record as 2005. But NASA data shows 1934 as the hottest on record in the U.S., with 2005 not cracking the top 10. And fret not for "endangered" polar bears: their numbers have grown from about 10,000 to 25,000 in the last 50 years.
ABC News' John Stossel tackled AGW hysteria with an October 2007 20/20 "Give Me a Break" report. Among other things, he refuted a frequently cited graph purporting to show that global temperatures have followed CO2 levels for 600,000 years. When viewed in the proper scale, it shows something quite different: that CO2 increases have actually trailed temperature rises, usually by hundreds of years. That trend fits with the fact that most of the CO2 that is naturally generated (96 percent of it) comes from sunlight on sea water and decaying plant and animal life. More sun, more heat in the atmosphere, more CO2.
Stossel interviewed three prominent dissenting scientists, who pointed out that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- which is working hard to pressure developed nations into dramatically reducing their CO2 outputs in order to "save the planet" -- consists of a relatively small core of scientists and a much larger number of environmental activists appointed by their governments...hardly the 2,000 or 2,500 scientists it claims. And when its report came out, some of those who were involved strongly disagreed and resigned.
Some on the AGW "pro" side are now admitting that the planet actually hasn't warmed for a decade and, according to new studies, may not for nearly another. A March 2008 analysis by MIT climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen found that the earth has seen "no significant warming since 1995." (http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/03/11/a-note-from-richard-lindzen-on-statistically-significant-warming/) Australian climate scientist Dr. Bob Carter says that "the accepted global average temperature statistics used by the [IPCC] show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998." (http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,21920043-27197,00.html).
This contradicts AGW alarmists and their media amplifiers, who tell us daily that man-made CO2 is cooking the planet, and we must dramatically reduce it at any cost. But carbon dioxide (CO2), unlike carbon monoxide (CO) is not a pollutant, at least in the sense we have always labeled substances as pollutants. All air-breathing creatures exhale it, while plants "breathe" it in and "exhale" oxygen. It is the fizz in our carbonated drinks and less than four percent of the layer of "greenhouse" gas that moderates our temperatures and makes this planet livable. (Ninety-five percent of that greenhouse layer is water vapor, by the way.)
CO2 feeds the forests, makes plants more water-efficient (helping to beat back encroaching deserts in Africa and Asia) and generally increases bio-productivity. But CO2 also is emitted as carbon-based fuels are burned, and healthy economies produce increasing amounts of it in proportion to their populations and economic growth. For any nation to substantially reduce its CO2 emissions, it will need a lot fewer humans and animals, a dramatically smaller economy and/or a wholesale shift to much more expensive non-carbon energy sources (among them solar, wind, hydropower). Nuclear energy, which can be as inexpensive as the most inexpensive carbon-based energy sources and produces virtually no carbon dioxide, has been pushed to a standstill in the United States by environmentalist thinking that pre-dates the call to reduce carbon dioxide production.
There is no doubt that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing. From a pre-industrial concentration of 280 parts per million (ppm), atmospheric CO2 has grown to 380 ppm today, and the current 1.9 ppm-per-year rate of increase predicts nearly 400 ppm in 10 years and 550 by the end of this century. But that is still a tiny amount -- 550 ppm is 0.055 percent, or 55 molecules out of 100,000 -- and the potential warming from even that level of atmospheric CO2 is estimated at around one degree C or 1.8 degree F.
NCDC says global surface temperatures have increased about 0.74 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) since the late 19th century. But even while CO2 was increasing dramatically between 1945 and 1977, the Earth was cooling. In the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek, alarmists were hysterical over "global cooling" and predicting a new ice age.
A potential problem with AGW alarmists' climate predictions is that they are based on computer models. Scientists model relatively recent temperature data (humans have been trying to measure the Earth's temperature for only about 130 years), make multiple assumptions about its causes and project 20th-Century trend lines far into the future.
By contrast, those whose careers don't depend on this theory look at the very long term picture of climate changes and trends. Geologists see evidence (in isotope measurements of long ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica) of hundreds of cooling and warming cycles going back hundreds of thousands of years. A known "medieval warm period," for example, was much warmer than any period of time since the industrial revolution, and the period was characterized by increased economic activity, population growth and discovery. Some glaciers have been retreating for the past 30 years but were advancing for 30 years before 1977. They also advanced from 1890 to about 1920, then retreated from the 1920s to the late 1940s. There is an increasing belief among many, including prominent meteorologists, that the primary cause of the warming and cooling cycles in the planet's history is changes in solar activity.
In December, 2007, 100 scientists signed an open letter to the U.N. Secretary General debunking the "often-repeated assertion that the science of climate change is 'settled.'" (http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/851) A week later came a U.S. Senate report: "Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007" (http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=f80a6386-802a-23ad-40c8-3c63dc2d02cb). It lists the dissenters by name, country and affiliations and features their words, biographies and links to their peer-reviewed studies and sources.
Typical among them is Dr. Richard Courtney, a UK-based climate and atmospheric scientist and an IPCC expert reviewer, who said: "To date, no convincing evidence for AGW (anthropogenic global warming) has been discovered. And recent global climate behavior is not consistent with AGW model predictions." Dr. David Wojick, another IPCC expert reviewer who co-founded Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, added: "The public is not well served by this constant drumbeat of false alarms fed by computer models manipulated by advocates." These 400 credible dissenting scientists overwhelm the 52 who actually participated in the IPCC Summary, and many state that many of their colleagues share their views but will not speak out for fear of retribution.
To sum this all up:
• Over history, CO2 increases have followed temperature rises, not vice versa
• Global warming is unrelated to air pollution because CO2 is not a pollutant; it is produced naturally, exhaled by humans and animals and is life sustaining for plants
• Atmospheric CO2 has increased from 280 to 380 parts per million (ppm) -- 0.038 percent, or 38 molecules out of 100,000 -- since the industrial revolution but is less than four percent of the greenhouse gases that moderate our temperatures
• Recent scientific evidence suggests that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998
• Many prominent experts postulate that the Earth's cooling and warming cycles are caused by solar activity
A small research organization called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine says it has accumulated more than 31,000 signatures of American scientists who are "opposed, on scientific grounds, to the hypothesis of 'human-caused global warming'" on a petition. It states: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
It urges the U.S. government "to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, and any other similar proposals [because] the proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind." (http://www.oism.org/pproject/)
To learn a lot more about global climate science and its history, try this quick quiz: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/start.html
That's half the story. Here's the other:
Ready to talk about it? Visit the forum: