A View From the Cheap Seats

May 16, 2007

The Other Side of Global Warming – Part 3

Filed under: Environment,Global Warming — trzupek @ 2:37 am


The Othe Side of Global Warming
Part 3: The Climate Record – Fact and Fiction

By: Rich Trzupek
In Part One, of this series, we pondered the question: why do people who support the proposition that human activity causes global warming try so hard to discuss any discussion of the issue? Why is this vitally important question “off limits” among many politicians and members of the mainstream media?

In Part Two, we started to examine the “evidence” that’s supposed to show that humans cause global warming. Part of the argument is based on computer modeling. Yet, a close look at modeling shows that this tool is woefully inadequate. The other half involves looking at history, which should give us a glimpse at the way CO2 has affected the climate in the past.

Fortunately, we have a clear record readily available, one that goes back hundreds of thousands of years.

As ice builds up on the earth’s surface over the millennia, it provides a snapshot of climate conditions and CO2 concentrations when it was formed. The vast majority of ice on the planet is contained in sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland. Together, these ice sheets store about 95% of earth’s ice. (And ice continues to build up – not melt – in those two places, by the by).

Scientists drill deep into the ice, pulling out what we call “ice cores”. Those cores provide a historical record that shows – quite clearly – how CO2 and global temperatures fit together.

So what about the historical record? Well, human industrial activity (and with it CO2 emissions) really began to take off in the mid-1940’s, with the post-war boom. Global temperatures actually dropped over the 35 years following that point, and only began a new upward march around 1975.

How about going back further – tens, even hundreds of thousands of years, as the Goracle does in “An Inconvenient Truth”? As Al points out, there is a clear correlation between global temperature and CO2 concentration, a correlation that spans millennia.

But here Gore makes the most fundamental mistake in statistics: he misses the fact that when two things happen together, it does not mean that one caused the other. Yet, in the world of Al Gore science, every time it rains, when you see a bunch of people with umbrellas, it must be the people opening those umbrellas who are causing the rain.

Because what Al doesn’t tell you is that if you look at a graph of temperature and a graph of CO2, on the same time scale, you find that the CO2 follows temperature by almost a thousand years. In other words, first it gets hot, then CO2 goes up – not the other way around.

There’s a very good reason for this observation. Most of the CO2 in the world is trapped in the oceans, dissolved in water. When the planet heats up, that CO2 is released. When the planet cools down, the oceans are able to absorb more of it.

Confronted with the fact that CO2 has always followed (not led) warming trends at a congressional hearing, Al admitted that’s the way it’s been for hundreds of thousands of years … but that’s not what’s been going on for the last 35 years. OK Al. Whatever.

Why climate science suddenly changed in the 20th century is not something Al explains. But then again, if you look for scientific explanations from a guy who flunked out of divinity school, you shouldn’t expect too much.

Let’s pause to say that it seems pretty clear that the planet is getting warmer at this particular moment in time. That is not unusual. It has done so in the past. In medieval times, for example, global temperatures were much higher than they are now, without any industrial activity to blame.

Likewise, if we look at the history of this planet over thousands of years, it’s clear that the planet is typically much colder than it is today. Ice ages are the norm, not the exception. In a thousand years, we might be praying for global warming – although I doubt that we could ever produce enough CO2 to stop a determined glacier creeping down from Canada.

If CO2 never led to significant global warming in the past, it’s very unlikely that (relatively) small amounts of man-made CO2 are doing so now. So what’s likely going on here? We’ll need another column to do the topic justice, but in short, the activity of the sun correlates to global temperature much more closely than does the amount of man-made CO2. And Al, that’s a fact.

Sorry if it’s inconvenient.


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