Global Warming: Imminent Peril or the Greatest Hoax of All Time?
Did the Gulf Stream “falter” in December?
There’s been some interesting weather this winter, and not in the good sense of the word interesting. Much of the US has suffered unusually severe weather, much of Europe has been unseasonably warm and/or is also suffering terrible storms. I also came across a curious report that the Gulf Stream has both weakened in the past twelve years, and faltered for ten days in December (above.) Some people connect these events all together some sort of unfolding calamity, though that point of view seems extreme. On the other hand, scientists are reporting that global warming will be faster and more devastating than previously predicted. What the heck does it all mean? Is global warming to blame?
No one really knows. The news about the Gulf Stream appears to be alarmist and unsubstantiated. The theory that it has weakened in recent years doesn’t seem to be borne out by further analysis, and faltering like occurred in December does not appear to be unusual. A good thing too, if the Gulf Stream were to fail or even substantially weaken, northern Europe would go into a deep freeze. For the most part though, it’s best to assume that regional and seasonal weather events are unrelated to global warming and don’t provide evidence pro or con. That’s certainly the mainstream view, global warming is a forest issue, the individual trees don’t mean anything.
Regional fun aside, it is now unequivocal that global warming is a reality. All over the world glaciers are in retreat, ice shelves are collapsing, and ice caps are shrinking. Even the few areas where this is not occurring are still consistent with overall global warming. The only real issue at this point is how much human activity is contributing to this problem. And while there is still debate, the scientific consensus is stronger than ever that human activity is likely a large part of the problem. What do I think? I tend to agree with majority view. And as a general rule, most of the arguments proposed by the “global warming is a hoax” crowd are pretty unconvincing…
I’ve heard the theory that scientists made up global warming as a way to get research grants. Um, since when do people who will do anything to get money choose science as a career? Not to mention that the oil and gas industry has almost infinite amounts of money to pass out to fund anti global warming studies, what special interest group has piles of money to fund global warming research? I hate to be rude, but the idea that scientists made it all up to get research grants shows how intellectually bankrupt the anti global warming crowd is.
The other silly idea one hears is the “ice age scare” of the seventies. Anti global warming proponents claim that scientists falsely claimed in the seventies that an ice age was imminent, since this didn’t pan out global warming must be the same. The problem with this argument is that the “ice age scare” of the seventies was two scientists giving a press conference where they said that preliminary data from Greenland ice cores indicated that an ice age might be starting. The media picked it up and had a brief field day, within a year follow up research showed that the whole idea was wrong. To put it mildly, this in no way shape or form is an analogy for the current global warming situation, which involves tens of thousands of scientists and numerous studies over a period of decades.
And speaking of false arguments, another that is raised is that humans simply are not producing enough CO2 in the greater scheme of things to affect the climate. This argument is backed up by the fact that humans only contribute a few percent of the CO2 in to the atmosphere that is produced every year. Superficially this is a very persuasive argument. The problem is that while the human contribution to global warming may be small, that’s all it takes. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is kept remarkably constant by natural influences, a small push one way or other can throw it out of balance. At this point in the interglacial period the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere should be dropping as more and more CO2 is tied up in organic matter. Instead, it’s rising as humans add ever increasing amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. We should be nearing the end of the interglacial period, instead the globe is warming? The fact that CO2 is at a higher concentration in the atmosphere than any time in the preceding half million years makes it seem like a no brainer that adding even more CO2 is a bad idea.
Personally, I’ve decided not to worry much about the issue. Humans haven’t been able to get together to solve far more simple and obvious problems, I don’t see this as being any different. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the rich and powerful will continue to pursue their own self interests no matter what the cost to society at large. That’s why there have been about seven thousand civilizations in Earth’s history. We may be the largest and greatest civilization ever, but all that means is that our rich and powerful are the richest and most powerful of all.
This also means that when our civilization finally does fall, it will be the greatest fall ever. Hopefully it won’t happen in my lifetime, something like that would be really annoying and could conceivably interfere with the writing of this blog.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post.)