HuffingtonPost.com | Harold Ambler | Jan. 3, 2009
You are probably wondering whether President-elect Obama owes the world an apology for his actions regarding global warming. The answer is, not yet. There is one person, however, who does. You have probably guessed his name: Al Gore.
Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that “the science is in.” Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.
What is wrong with the statement? A brief list:
1. First, the expression “climate change” itself is a redundancy, and contains a lie. Climate has always changed, and always will. There has been no stable period of climate during the Holocene, our own climatic era, which began with the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. During the Holocene there have been numerous sub-periods with dramatically varied climate, such as the warm Holocene Optimum (7,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C., during which humanity began to flourish, and advance technologically), the warm Roman Optimum (200 B.C. to 400 A.D., a time of abundant crops that promoted the empire), the cold Dark Ages (400 A.D. to 900 A.D., during which the Nile River froze, major cities were abandoned, the Roman Empire fell apart, and pestilence and famine were widespread), the Medieval Warm Period (900 A.D. to 1300 A.D., during which agriculture flourished, wealth increased, and dozens of lavish examples of Gothic architecture were created), the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850, during much of which plague, crop failures, witch burnings, food riots — and even revolutions, including the French Revolution — were the rule of thumb), followed by our own time of relative warmth (1850 to present, during which population has increased, technology and medical advances have been astonishing, and agriculture has flourished).
So, no one needs to say the words “climate” and “change” in the same breath — it is assumed, by anyone with any level of knowledge, that climate changes. That is the redundancy to which I alluded. The lie is the suggestion that climate has ever been stable. Mr. Gore has used a famously inaccurate graph, known as the “Mann Hockey Stick,” created by the scientist Michael Mann, showing that the modern rise in temperatures is unprecedented, and that the dramatic changes in climate just described did not take place. They did. One last thought on the expression “climate change”: It is a retreat from the earlier expression used by alarmists, “manmade global warming,” which was more easily debunked. There are people in Mr. Gore’s camp who now use instances of cold temperatures to prove the existence of “climate change,” which is absurd, obscene, even.
2. Mr. Gore has gone so far to discourage debate on climate as to refer to those who question his simplistic view of the atmosphere as “flat-Earthers.” This, too, is right on target, except for one tiny detail. It is exactly the opposite of the truth.
Indeed, it is Mr. Gore and his brethren who are flat-Earthers. Mr. Gore states, ad nauseum, that carbon dioxide rules climate in frightening and unpredictable, and new, ways. When he shows the hockey stick graph of temperature and plots it against reconstructed C02 levels in An Inconvenient Truth, he says that the two clearly have an obvious correlation. “Their relationship is actually very complicated,” he says, “but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this: When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” The word “complicated” here is among the most significant Mr. Gore has uttered on the subject of climate and is, at best, a deliberate act of obfuscation. Why? Because it turns out that there is an 800-year lag between temperature and carbon dioxide, unlike the sense conveyed by Mr. Gore’s graph. You are probably wondering by now — and if you are not, you should be — which rises first, carbon dioxide or temperature. The answer? Temperature. In every case, the ice-core data shows that temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide by, on average, 800 years. In fact, the relationship is not “complicated.” When the ocean-atmosphere system warms, the oceans discharge vast quantities of carbon dioxide in a process known as de-gassing. For this reason, warm and cold years show up on the Mauna Loa C02 measurements even in the short term. For instance, the post-Pinatubo-eruption year of 1993 shows the lowest C02 increase since measurements have been kept. When did the highest C02 increase take place? During the super El Niño year of 1998.
3. What the alarmists now state is that past episodes of warming were not caused by C02 but amplified by it, which is debatable, for many reasons, but, more important, is a far cry from the version of events sold to the public by Mr. Gore.
Meanwhile, the theory that carbon dioxide “drives” climate in any meaningful way is simply wrong and, again, evidence of a “flat-Earth” mentality. Carbon dioxide cannot absorb an unlimited amount of infrared radiation. Why not? Because it only absorbs heat along limited bandwidths, and is already absorbing just about everything it can. That is why plotted on a graph, C02′s ability to capture heat follows a logarithmic curve. We are already very near the maximum absorption level. Further, the IPCC Fourth Assessment, like all the ones before it, is based on computer models that presume a positive feedback of atmospheric warming via increased water vapor.
4. This mechanism has never been shown to exist. Indeed, increased temperature leads to increased evaporation of the oceans, which leads to increased cloud cover (one cooling effect) and increased precipitation (a bigger cooling effect). Within certain bounds, in other words, the ocean-atmosphere system has a very effective self-regulating tendency. By the way, water vapor is far more prevalent, and relevant, in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide — a trace gas. Water vapor’s absorption spectrum also overlays that of carbon dioxide. They cannot both absorb the same energy! The relative might of water vapor and relative weakness of carbon dioxide is exemplified by the extraordinary cooling experienced each night in desert regions, where water in the atmosphere is nearly non-existent.
If not carbon dioxide, what does “drive” climate? I am glad you are wondering about that. In the short term, it is ocean cycles, principally the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the “super cycle” of which cooling La Niñas and warming El Niños are parts. Having been in its warm phase, in which El Niños predominate, for the 30 years ending in late 2006, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation switched to its cool phase, in which La Niñas predominate.
Since that time, already, a number of interesting things have taken place. One La Niña lowered temperatures around the globe for about half of the year just ended, and another La Niña shows evidence of beginning in the equatorial Pacific waters. During the last twelve months, many interesting cold-weather events happened to occur: record snow in the European Alps, China, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Rockies, the upper Midwest, Las Vegas, Houston, and New Orleans. There was also, for the first time in at least 100 years, snow in Baghdad.
Concurrent with the switchover of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to its cool phase the Sun has entered a period of deep slumber. The number of sunspots for 2008 was the second lowest of any year since 1901. That matters less because of fluctuations in the amount of heat generated by the massive star in our near proximity (although there are some fluctuations that may have some measurable effect on global temperatures) and more because of a process best described by the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark in his complex, but elegant, work The Chilling Stars. In the book, the modern Galileo, for he is nothing less, establishes that cosmic rays from deep space seed clouds over Earth’s oceans. Regulating the number of cosmic rays reaching Earth’s atmosphere is the solar wind; when it is strong, we get fewer cosmic rays. When it is weak, we get more. As NASA has corroborated, the number of cosmic rays passing through our atmosphere is at the maximum level since measurements have been taken, and show no signs of diminishing. The result: the seeding of what some have taken to calling “Svensmark clouds,” low dense clouds, principally over the oceans, that reflect sunlight back to space before it can have its warming effect on whatever is below.
Svensmark has proven, in the minds of most who have given his work a full hearing, that it is this very process that produced the episodes of cooling (and, inversely, warming) of our own era and past eras. The clearest instance of the process, by far, is that of the Maunder Minimum, which refers to a period from 1650 to 1700, during which the Sun had not a single spot on its face. Temperatures around the globe plummeted, with quite adverse effects: crop failures (remember the witch burnings in Europe and Massachusetts?), famine, and societal stress.
Many solar physicists anticipate that the slumbering Sun of early 2009 is likely to continue for at least two solar cycles, or about the next 25 years. Whether the Grand Solar Minimum, if it comes to pass, is as serious as the Maunder Minimum is not knowable, at present. Major solar minima (and maxima, such as the one during the second half of the 20th century) have also been shown to correlate with significant volcanic eruptions. These are likely the result of solar magnetic flux affecting geomagnetic flux, which affects the distribution of magma in Earth’s molten iron core and under its thin mantle. So, let us say, just for the sake of argument, that such an eruption takes place over the course of the next two decades. Like all major eruptions, this one will have a temporary cooling effect on global temperatures, perhaps a large one. The larger the eruption, the greater the effect. History shows that periods of cold are far more stressful to humanity than periods of warm. Would the eruption and consequent cooling be a climate-modifier that exists outside of nature, somehow? Who is the “flat-Earther” now?
What about heat escaping from volcanic vents in the ocean floor? What about the destruction of warming, upper-atmosphere ozone by cosmic rays? I could go on, but space is short. Again, who is the “flat-Earther” here?
The ocean-atmosphere system is not a simple one that can be “ruled” by a trace atmospheric gas. It is a complex, chaotic system, largely modulated by solar effects (both direct and indirect), as shown by the Little Ice Age.
To be told, as I have been, by Mr. Gore, again and again, that carbon dioxide is a grave threat to humankind is not just annoying, by the way, although it is that! To re-tool our economies in an effort to suppress carbon dioxide and its imaginary effect on climate, when other, graver problems exist is, simply put, wrong. Particulate pollution, such as that causing the Asian brown cloud, is a real problem. Two billion people on Earth living without electricity, in darkened huts and hovels polluted by charcoal smoke, is a real problem.
So, let us indeed start a Manhattan Project-like mission to create alternative sources of energy. And, in the meantime, let us neither cripple our own economy by mislabeling carbon dioxide a pollutant nor discourage development in the Third World, where suffering continues unabated, day after day.
Again, Mr. Gore, I accept your apology.
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