Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Climate Change: It’s Not That Complicated

Written by  Ed Hiserodt and Rebecca Terrell

From the print edition of The New American:

Are you one of the millions of young Americans genuinely worried about the fate of this planet because of climate change? Have you been stirred by fresh-faced idealist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her demands for the United States to stop producing carbon dioxide? Do you believe that if drastic measures are not taken, mankind will destroy Mother Earth? If so, this article is for you. Because even though climate change may seem like a gargantuan problem, we believe there is a real and surprisingly simple solution. Let’s start by taking a look at some common beliefs.

Belief #1:

Most scientists agree that humans are causing catastrophic global warming.

You have probably heard talking heads on the news mentioning a “97-percent consensus” among scientists that human activity causes global warming. Plenty of movie stars and politicians agree. Anyone who doesn’t believe is basically a Neanderthal who shops at Walmart. “The science is settled,” they say.

But did you ever wonder where they get the number 97? The answer may surprise you.

At least six studies supposedly document the 97-percent consensus. We’ll use the two most referenced as examples. The first was in 2009, when Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman from the University of Illinois at Chicago sent a survey about global warming to more than 10,000 earth scientists from many backgrounds — geology, geochemistry, etc. Doran and Zimmerman heard back from only 3,146 of them. Out of the respondents, 77 identified themselves specifically as “climate scientists.” Seventy-five of those agreed humans are causing catastrophic global warming. Ask Siri what 75 divided by 77 is, and she’ll tell you 97.4 percent. And that, my friends, is where our “97-percent consensus” was born.

Feeling cheated? You’re not alone. But wait — there’s more!

Dr. John Cook of Australia’s University of Queensland led another review of nearly 12,000 scientific papers on climate change written between 1991 and 2011. Since that’s a lot of papers to review, Dr. Cook asked for help. He used his outrageously biased blog, Skeptical Scientist, to recruit what he called “citizen science volunteers,” who inspected the papers for him even though they were politically motivated activists who were not required to provide proof of scientific credentials. Cook actually wrote before the research began, “It’s essential that the public understands that there’s a scientific consensus on AGW [anthropogenic (man-made) global warming],” proving that he wasn’t out to discover truth but to promote a skewed agenda. Not surprisingly, the volunteer analysis found a 97.1-percent consensus that humans have caused at least half Earth’s warming since 1950.

After Cook published those findings, real scientists stepped up. They examined the same 11,944 papers and found only 41 of them explicitly blaming humans. Quite a jump from 97.1 to 0.3 percent! Not even one paper subscribed to an idea of man-made global-warming catastrophe. The researchers, led by Dr. David Legates, wrote in Science and Education, “It is astonishing that any journal could have published a paper claiming a 97% consensus when … the true consensus was well below 1%.”

Similar stories of deceit can be told of the other so-called research arriving at a 97-percent consensus. But if that isn’t the magic number sorting believers from unbelievers, is there anything more realistic?

Delegates at the 2014 American Meteorological Society convention (weathermen and climatologists) voted on the question “Is global warming caused mostly by human activity?” Fifty-two percent agreed it was — barely more than half and a far cry from 97 percent. And even that vote likely suffered from bias, considering most of the voters work for organizations that receive climate-change funding from government and media. Regardless, there were only 1,821 votes cast — hardly a representative sample of all scientists in the world.

A better sample is online at www.petitionproject.org, hosted by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. More than 31,000 scientists and engineers have signed on to this petition to Congress:

We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, and any other similar proposals. 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. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases 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.

Possibly the best point to remember about any scientific consensus was made by the late doctor, scientist, and best-selling author Michael Crichton: “Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is settled.”

Belief #2:

Earth is getting warmer at a dangerous rate that is accelerating out of control.

The tough thing about figuring out how warm Earth is getting is: Where do you stick the thermometer? The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) maintains a temperature record that goes back to 1880, the year Thomas Edison founded his electric company and five years before the world’s first skyscraper — a 10-story building in Chicago — was completed. Just as we have bigger and better skyscrapers now, and electricity even in the developing world, today we have better and more widespread methods of collecting temperature data. Orbiting satellites, technologically advanced ocean buoys, and highly sophisticated land-based monitoring stations weren’t around until our modern age. Monitoring in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere was virtually non-existent until recent years. And in 1880, you also would not have experienced the urban heat island effect (modern cities are always warmer than rural areas because the buildings and pavement radiate heat). But for the sake of argument, let’s just assume the NASA data is an apples-to-apples comparison of each of the past 140 years.

Photo credit: jcrosemann/Getty Images Plus

This article appears in the April 22, 2019, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.

If so, temperatures were an average of 0.99° Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) lower in 1880 than they are now. So, yes, Earth has warmed. But here’s something you might be asking: Is 0.99°C (1.8°F) over almost 140 years that big a deal? Great question!

We need a practical example to answer it. Washington, D.C., is about 200 miles southwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and averages 1.5°C (2.7°F) higher than the City of Brotherly Love. So the rise in temps since 1880 doesn’t have nearly the effect of moving from Philly to D.C. Ironically, the climate-change arm of the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that if temps continue to rise to 1.5°C post-1880, it will be the end of life as we know it.

The odd thing is there have been many times in Earth’s history that we’ve been much warmer than we are now, and much colder, too. The Roman Optimum happened about 2,000 years ago, when Jesus walked the Earth. We know from both historical records and scientific analysis of sediments and ice cores that conditions then were significantly warmer, making it possible for all those Caesars to spread the Roman Empire across Europe and the Middle East. Next came the bitter cold of the Dark Ages, rife with famine and pestilence. What a relief when the Medieval Warm Period entered the scene about 1,000 years ago. Though not as warm as the Roman Optimum, people still basked in temps a full 1.1°C (2°F) higher than today. It was a time when the alpine tree line was much higher than it is today, Vikings thrived on corn and barley in Greenland, and wheat and oat crops flourished in latitudes of Norway much farther north than can sustain those crops today, which can’t happen now because of colder temperatures.

By the mid-1400s, all the green in Greenland was gone, and the Vikings fled south. The Little Ice Age had gripped the globe with frigid fingers, causing regular crop failures and ensuing famine. Things got so cold that Londoners had fairs on the frozen River Thames, and during one winter even paraded an elephant across the solid sheet of ice!

Around the end of the American Civil War, we began to thaw. No longer would the Arkansas River freeze to the point that horse-drawn carriages could cross in winter. Up north glaciers began melting, but would you believe what’s popping up from underneath these retreating ice rivers? Remains of forests, abandoned settlements, weapons, and artifacts — all evidence of once-prosperous civilizations in areas completely uninhabitable today.

If we do warm now, it is likely a good thing for which we should be eternally grateful. Regardless, the warming certainly would not be outside the limits of natural fluctuations in temperature and climate.

Belief #3:

Rising sea levels are threatening destruction of coastlines and starvation/displacement of millions of people.

Walk school hallways and you will find art with a consistent theme: Go Green and Save the Planet. A common picture is the Statue of Liberty with water up to her armpits and a little tear in her eye because evil humans have left her with soggy feet. Consistent with the propaganda, fear of sea-level rise is a great concern of many students.

Is sea level rising? There are so many variables at play when it comes to measuring sea level, the most accurate answer is “probably.” If that sounds frustratingly obscure, consider that in some places it is rising while in others it is falling. For example, tidal gauges on Japan’s eastern shore record a drop in mean sea level, while those on the west log an increase. The varying sea levels are likely due to subduction, where one tectonic plate on the ocean floor overlaps another. Subduction causes the land to rise in certain places and fall in others, giving the appearance of sea level change.

Subsidence is another sea-level confounder. A sinkhole is a small and extreme example. But usually it happens gradually — an underground aquifer (water-bearing rock) caves in or sinks. A portion of New Zealand’s eastern coastline had been gradually sinking by a few millimeters per year — making it appear that sea level was rising — until a 2016 earthquake raised the area by nearly five feet.

That is an example of displacement, when earthquakes and underwater volcanoes push land upward. That’s how we got Hawaii. Water is simply displaced, causing sea-level decline at the site and sea-level rise elsewhere. Isostasy also causes an apparent decrease in sea level. It relates to the rebound in a land mass after loss of its glacial burden, a common phenomenon since the last ice age.

Sea level is obviously a tricky subject. Let’s look at the most likely scenario of the next 80 years, a period in which doomsayers predict a possible rise of 23 feet — slightly taller than the average giraffe. Regardless of cause, actual readings from about 1,200 tide gauges in U.S. coastal cities predict a rise of between 4.7 and 11 inches in the next century. Moreover, since 1830, when tide gauges first came into use, they have recorded no acceleration in the rate of rise, meaning this estimate is likely very accurate. By 2100, we’re looking at seas rising less than one foot — nothing close to 23 feet.

However, scientists believe sea levels were likely much higher in ages past. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen discovered remains of a boreal forest in Greenland under more than a mile of ice. They told LiveScience: “The global ocean was probably between three and six feet higher during that time compared to current levels.” Though many variables may have been in play to cause that, we can be certain it had nothing to do with the Industrial Age.

Belief #4:

A very small amount of warming will cause the polar ice caps to melt, flooding much of the world.

It is certainly frightening to read this, from the U.S. Weather Bureau’s consul at Norway:

Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen [an island 12 degrees south of the North Pole — ed.] and the eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climate conditions, and hitherto unheard-of high temperatures. In fact, so little ice has never before been noted…. Many old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognizable. Where formerly great masses of ice were found, there are now often accumulations of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers formerly extended far into the sea they have entirely disappeared.

Two things make that quote less frightening. First, it was written in November 1922. Second, the government official who wrote it was elated with the changes. He raved that the area’s flora and fauna were thriving as never before and that “the warmth of the waters makes it probable that the favorable ice conditions will continue for some time.”

You may be wondering what all that melted ice did to sea levels. As to the polar ice, North Pole ice is sea ice, and when that melts, it doesn’t change sea level at all, any more than does ice floating in a glass of water cause overflow as it melts. As to land ice, keep in mind that scientists have estimated that a melted land ice sheet measuring 2,500 square miles and 1,000 feet thick would raise sea levels up to one-quarter inch. (Glacier National Park is only 1,583 square miles.) The South Pole is mostly land ice, but the highest recorded temperature in Antarctica’s summer is -7.8°C (18°F). Raise that by two or even 10 degrees, and it’s still frozen. When you see huge chunks of it dramatically cracking and crashing into the ocean — a process known as calving — it is not melting. It calves because the ice gets so thick it can’t support its own weight.

Belief #5:

Polar bears are dangerously close to extinction because of melting Arctic ice.

This scare began in 2006, when Department of Interior (DOI) biologists reported an alarming number of polar bears drowned because global warming melted all their ice. Their study landed the fuzzy fur ball on the Endangered Species list in 2008. But four years later the DOI charged lead researcher Charles Monnett with multiple counts of wrongdoing, including intentional omission and use of false data to conclude that polar bears are endangered. Regardless, the media darling kept its endangered status, to the delight of tree-hugging activists.

By the way, ever wonder why they’re called “tree huggers” and not “bear huggers”? Here’s the reason: Polar bears are some of the most ferocious animals on Earth and one of the few that hunt other animals, including humans, for sport. The people who have to live with them are genuinely frightened by their rising numbers. “Since early December, a group of 52 polar bears have terrorized the Russian village of Belushaya Guba,” notes the Polar Bear Science blog. “The aggressiveness of some of the bears, their boldness in entering local buildings and fearlessness in the face of the usual deterrents has caused the local government to call a state of emergency.” Environmentalists claim the bears’ dwindling habitat is forcing them to forage for food in towns, but the Financial Post reports the recent spate of polar bear invasions and attacks across the Arctic involves fat, well-fed animals who are experiencing a “bear baby boom.”

“We as Inuit have always been aware of the high number of polar bears,” Elisapee Aglukka told CBC News. Her grandson was mauled to death last year by a polar bear near their home in Nunavut, Canada. “Some of them won’t even run away when people shoot to scare them off.” She blames government interference for the skyrocketing populations. “It’s still very difficult for me to talk about losing loved ones this way,” she said through tears. “It hurts when animal rights activists try to protect polar bears from being hunted, rather than protecting human safety.”

A new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, by Dr. Susan Crockford, anthropologist at Canada’s University of Victoria, tells the full story. Years of research conclude: “Polar bear numbers could easily exceed 40,000, up from a low point of 10,000 or fewer in the 1960s,” when overhunting — not global warming — was the culprit.

Belief #6:

Scientists agree the sun has no effect on global warming.

It is true that some scientists agree the sun plays no role — particularly those with a political agenda. They base their reasoning on solid fact: The sun’s insolation (fancy word for sunshine) doesn’t vary much in intensity. Small deviations in the amount of solar radiation that reaches Earth are certainly not going to affect global temperature.

However, not all solar emissions behave the same way. In recent years, scientists have investigated the fascinating link between global temperatures and sunspots. It seems that the more sunspots we have, the warmer Earth gets.

Henrick Svensmark, a physicist with the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen, first put all the pieces together. He observed that Earth is constantly bombarded by cosmic rays from outside our solar system, which help form clouds in our atmosphere. The clouds reflect sunlight back into space, leading to cooler surface temperatures.

But that only happens when there are few or no sunspots. An active sun causes a solar wind that blocks the cosmic rays from entering Earth’s atmosphere. (If you’d like to observe the effect of solar wind, view a comet through your handy telescope. Solar wind is what keeps the tail of the comet pointing away from the sun.) Fewer cosmic rays mean fewer clouds and higher temperatures.

While climate alarmists quibble with Svensmark’s conclusions, the effect of sunspots is based on a long observational record. Astronomers discovered sunspots around 800 B.C., and we’ve known for a long time about the sun’s cycle, when its magnetic poles flip and its activity fluctuates from quiet to turbulent. Typically, between 40,000 to 50,000 sunspots occur in a 25-year period. However, in the late 1600s there were fewer than 50 in a 27-year stretch. This dearth of sunspots occurred during the Maunder Minimum — named after 19th-century husband and wife astronomers Edward and Annie Maunder. Interestingly, the Maunder Minimum coincides with the height of the Little Ice Age. Other periods of low sunspot activity — the Sporer Minimum, the Dalton Minimum, and the Homeric Minimum — each correspond with similar periods of lower-than-average temperatures. Conversely, the years 1100 to 1250 A.D. are called the Medieval Maximum, a period of high solar activity that relates to the Medieval Warm Period.

Another phenomenon regarding cosmic ray activity may be of interest. As our solar system passes through the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy, cosmic radiation increases as we approach other stars. Under the cosmic-ray theory, this would cause more cloud formation on Earth and thus cooler temperatures. Notably, passage through the spiral arms occurs on 145,000-year cycles, coinciding with our planet’s onset of ice ages.

Those who claim the sun has no effect on climate are ignoring the obvious. Interestingly, this February there were zero sunspots, and last summer lacked a single sunspot for 32 of 33 days. Many climate physicists predict that the sun’s current inactivity is likely to cause a decrease in temperature for the next few years.

Belief #7:

Forecasts predict a major increase in global temperatures by the year 2100.

That is absolutely true. Computer models on which UN’s IPCC bases its dire predictions and climate policies do indeed forecast certain doom. But as physicist and Nobel prize winner Niels Bohr once quipped: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” And temperature predictions have proved notoriously inaccurate. 

Poor IPCC! Mother Nature hasn’t managed to keep pace with its computer models. Every year, what she dishes out is far below what UN bureaucrats predicted.

Drs. Roy Spencer and John Christy, professors of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, handle the data from NASA’s temperature monitoring satellites and regularly report their findings to Congress. The graph on page 16 compares the drastically high predictions of 102 “climate models” to the actual temperature data as observed by satellites and weather balloons. The blue line is satellite measurements, and the green is weather balloon data. Interestingly, the latter three are completely independent but in close agreement.

Keep in mind, too, that in terms of climate, the 40-year period from 1979 (when satellite measuring began, which is why the graph begins that year) until 2019 is a mere blip on the radar of thousand-year fluctuations in temperature, weather, and all the other variables that make up climate.

The happy ending to this story is that even climate modelers admitted, “We Were Wrong.” They conceded in Nature Geoscience in 2017 that their computer models were “on the hot side” in predicting more rapid temperature increases than had actually occurred. Fancy that. Isn’t it wonderful when the truth actually “outs”?

Belief #8: 

Gargantuan human outputs of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing catastrophic climate change.

If you’ve ever seen Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, you probably remember him on a man-lift beside a huge graph showing fluctuations in CO2 and temperature over the past 600,000 years. The lines of the graph track Earth’s historic temperature and CO2 levels. The lines move together with frightening similarity and appear to indicate that CO2 plays a major role in driving temperatures — until you notice that the red CO2 line consistently lags behind the blue temperature line, by about 800 years. The graph actually illustrates the opposite of Gore’s doomsday interpretation: CO2 levels in the atmosphere follow temperature changes; they don’t cause temperature changes.

In fact, many scientists agree that rising temperatures drive up levels of greenhouse gases (GHG), not the other way around. And history supports that theory. Remember the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods? They were hotter than our modern age but had lower-than-modern levels of atmospheric CO2.

Adding to that major hole in global-warming theory is the fact that CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas — in both quantity and effect. 

Catastrophic climate-change theory states that greenhouse gases such as CO2 cause Earth’s surface to be warmer than it would be without them and — ignoring evidence to the contrary, as we’ll see — assumes that increasing GHGs will cause temperatures to skyrocket. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency therefore classifies some of them as pollutants. Carbon dioxide is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after water vapor, which incidentally is not labeled a pollutant.

Carbon dioxide makes up 0.04 percent of our atmosphere, and is a small fraction of the atmosphere compared to water vapor. But most CO2 is from natural sources such as respiration, volcanic eruptions, and decomposition. A very small amount — only 3.5 percent of the 0.04 percent total — comes from human sources. So even if we humans doubled our contribution to seven percent, CO2 as a whole in the atmosphere would only rise from .04 to .041 percent, a statistically insignificant increase.

Here’s another twist: The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the weaker its marginal ability to trap heat. Geologist and New York Times best-selling author H. Leighton Steward explains on his blog, PlantsNeedCO2.org, “At low concentrations, CO2 does exert a significant warming of the lower atmosphere. But as the absorption bands in which CO2 captures this rising heat begin to get saturated, CO2 can capture less and less heat.” In other words, CO2 absorbs solar energy from only certain segments of the radiation/light spectrum. Since almost all the radiation in those bands is already absorbed by the CO2 in the atmosphere, additional CO2 has very little effect on global warming. The effect of additional CO2 is like putting on blankets when the temperature is cool: Having one good blanket does a lot to keep you toasty warm, but additional blankets contribute very meager warming benefits. In fact, historic data reveals much higher-than-current levels of atmospheric CO2 during both ice ages and warm periods, leading Steward to point out, “These real world observations lead us to believe that Earth is not very sensitive to CO2 and that many other factors have a stronger influence in climate.”

Let’s not forget what we all learned in fifth-grade science class about the importance of CO2 to plant growth. Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore stated in 2015: “We are witnessing the greening of the earth as higher levels of CO2 … promote increased growth of plants around the world. What could be wrong with that, as forests and agricultural crops become more productive?” 

The Solution:

Spread the truth.

Not only has Representative Ocasio-Cortez claimed that we are headed for climate-change catastrophe if the United States doesn’t stop producing CO2 within 10 years, but every Democrat running for the 2020 presidential nomination is onboard with her. Reasonable estimates say the “Green New Deal” they back will cost more than all the money existing in the world today. This poses an important question: Are these people responding to real dangers, or are they merely political opportunists cashing in on unfounded fears of global warming? You now know the answer.

With the knowledge that CO2 is decidedly not pollution, that there is no evidence of an impending climate catastrophe, and that Americans have real problems that need solving, we also know we need to stop the opportunists from exploiting ignorance. The solution is simple. We need clear-headed, honest people such as you to spread the word that man-made climate change is quite possibly the biggest hoax in history. Don’t shrink from defending the truth; don’t be afraid of being unpopular or ridiculed. Educate yourself and others, engage in debates, and write letters to the editor and your representatives in Congress. In the end, the truth will out — whether before national financial catastrophe or after.

Photo credit: jcrosemann/Getty Images Plus

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