Doug L. Hoffman's blog
Given the ongoing controversy over global warming the question of whether humans can change Earth's climate is a familiar one. Lost in the fight over anthropogenic global warming is a more subtle and possibly more important question—how has climate changed people. In recent decades, the fossil record of hominin evolution and behavior, though still incomplete, has improved greatly. Triggered by a recent National Research Council (NRC) report, a perspective article in the journal Science poses the question, “did climate change shape human evolution?”
Remember the 2010 BP Gulf Oil disaster? For 83 days it dominated news broadcasts in the US and was followed with interest around the world. Ecological activists wailed that the Gulf would never recover, alternative energy advocates demanded all off shore oil production be shut down, and the Obama administration quickly reversed its plans to open up more coastal areas for oil exploration. Now things have gone strangely silent regarding the worst ever US oil spill. A report commissioned by the reparations fund director pronounced Gulf fisheries mostly recovered and a number of scientific reports found that both oil and natural gas released by the spill had amazingly disappeared. Some environmentalists are still howling but the crisis seems to have passed much more quickly than even the most optimistic predictions.
For decades, climate change alarmists have generated a host of doomsday scenarios, all based on the theory of anthropogenic global warming: human CO2 emissions will force Earth's climate to warm uncontrollably causing all manner of unpleasantness. A new study, published by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, addresses the major predicted effects of global warming head on. Making extensive use of peer reviewed research papers, the dire predictions of climate alarmists are demolished point by point. In fact, the authors conclude that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with the development of the Industrial Revolution have actually been good for the planet.
Fluctuations in surface melting are known to affect the speed of glaciers and ice sheets, while the contribution of glaciers and ice caps to global sea-level rise is uncertain at best. Much has been made of the “accelerating” loss of ice from the Greenland glaciers. Over the past decade, Arctic sea ice retreated substantially during the summer months, and some predicted that the ice loss could be irreversible, a tipping point that would boost global warming. A number of new papers in Nature, Geophysical Research Letters and Nature Geoscience, shed new light on these subjects, and the answers are not the ones usually heard in the media.
Climate change activists have long warned of a bleak and impoverished future due to the ravages of global warming. But evaluating the effects of climate change in the long term is an extremely complex issue. There are no reliable, accurate predictions for future climate, demographic change, economic development, or technological progress. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that if the climate of the 2080s were to occur today, the annual loss in household welfare in the European Union (EU) would range between 0.2–1%. Furthermore, this minuscule change was derived using aggressive IPCC scenarios for temperature and sea-level rise. Regardless of the claims made by climate change doomsayers, the future is not going to suck after all.
Around 19,000 years ago, oceanic conditions underwent dramatic changes that coincided with a shift in global climate, marking the onset of the Holocene warming. In the North Atlantic, major changes in the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), which carries warm and highly saline surface water north to cooler regions, played a substantial role in regulating climate and levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists are now convinced that the ocean absorbed, stored, and released vast quantities of carbon in the past, playing a major role in the end of the last Pleistocene Ice Age glacial period. Understanding the ocean's role in the past is important to understanding how it may influence climate in the future. A new report in Science shows that the MOC experienced a series of abrupt changes that lasted from decades to centuries, and may have stored and released more CO2 than previously thought.
As public concern rises over the safety and ecological soundness of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the nuclear power industry is quietly ramping up to build new, smaller types of reactors that can be deployed as sealed power units. Russia is moving ahead with plans to locate floating nuclear power plants along its northern coast and a French company has designed a small offshore nuclear power plant called Flexblue. At the same time, efforts by the US Department of Energy's Savannah River Site to host a range of proof-of-concept units from several vendors has run afoul of bureaucratic infighting. Around the world, nuclear power is progressing, while former nuclear technology leader America founders.
With massive floods in Australia and Brazil, and bitter winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere, climate change alarmists have been quick to blame the severe weather on global warming. The fact that such weather is well within normal variation has not stopped the catastrophists from claiming vindication. No matter that those who study the Pacific and Atlantic decadal scale oscillations predicted a cold and snowy winter for Europe and North America, the recent blizzards are being offered up as “proof” that Earth's climate is changing for the worse. And what of the reports of widespread natural disaster from Rio, Brisbane and elsewhere? Even more global warming, of course. When it comes to wicked weather, the climate change cabal's misinformation machine is running at full tilt.
An increase in tropical storm activity has long been predicted as a harmful side-effect of human induced global warming. Hurricanes are to become more frequent and more deadly. All of this is predicated on the notion that a hotter climate will result in more moisture in the atmosphere and more frequent tropical storms. As it turns out, this is only half true. There may be more precipitation in the temperate zone, but an increase in tropical storms is not predicted—even by the IPCC models.
Climate alarmists have been slow to learn that their over-reliance on computer models and unproven theories has harmed their public credibility. In an attempt to counter the richly deserved bad press that climate science has been garnering these days, a number of global warming true believers are trying a different, more fact based approach to scaring the public. One such attempt recently appeared in the journal Science—not as a paper describing original research but as a perspective article. In it, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, attempts to “weave together” some carefully selected “threads in the discussion of climate” to arrive at a very familiar and unconvincing conclusion.
Scientists believe that carbon released from the ocean floor played a key role in past episodes of climate change. Around 55 million years ago, the break-up of the northeast Atlantic continents was associated with the injection of large amounts of molten magma into seafloor sediments. Formation of the North Atlantic basalts heated the carbon-rich sediments, triggering the release of large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide into the ocean and atmosphere. It has been suggested that this release of previously sequestered carbon was responsible for a 100,000 year period of rapid temperature rise known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM. Three letters published in Nature Geoscience suggest that carbon trapped beneath the seabed continues to influence carbon dynamics, at least in the deep ocean.
After coming to the realization that the doom & gloom approach to fighting global warming has become counterproductive, many global warming promoters are now taking a more upbeat “we can fix it” approach. This has riled some of the old guard climate alarmists and led to a backlash. An indication of this can be found in a recent Nature Geoscience editorial that represents a new kind of skepticism—not skepticism of global warming but skepticism that it can be stopped or even blunted. Dismissing the notion that a range of available methods—such as efficiency gains, replacing fossil fuels by nuclear power or renewable energy, land-use changes, etc—can make fighting climate change more tractable, the editorial basically says that the world is going to hell and there is no way around it. If that is true, perhaps we should simply ignore the climate cranks and go on a petrochemical burning binge until the stuff runs out.
Time after time, the public has been harangued by climate change “experts” predicting all form of devastation due to anthropogenic global warming. The Greenland and Antarctic glaciers will melt, as will the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. Temperatures will rise by 2-6°C, perhaps more in higher latitudes. Weather patterns will shift, there will be droughts and torrential monsoon rains, cyclones will increase in intensity—where will it all end? Here's a thought, we might find the world a nicer place after a bit of global warming. In fact, given the general cooling trend seen over the Holocene (the period since the last glacial period ended around 14,000 years ago) and the Cenozoic (the time since the dinosaurs died, around 65 million years ago) human CO2 may be, in some small way, the only thing delaying another devastating ice age.
Carbon monoxide, CO, is a trace gas that is important in atmospheric chemistry. It indirectly influences climate and has significant effects on methane and ozone levels. CO is a byproduct of combustion—particularly the incomplete burning of fossil fuels and biomass—and conventional wisdom says that humans, with their tendency to set things on fire, should be responsible for releasing much of the gas into the atmosphere. Little is known about the abundance and sources of CO prior to the industrial age, or about the importance of anthropogenic activities have had. A new study in the journal Science presents a 650-year-long record of CO atmospheric concentration using samples from Antarctic ice cores. Reconstructed past CO variability and its causes have come up with a shocking fact: CO levels are at a 2,000 year low. Apparently, humans actually prevent wildfire, reducing the release of carbon monoxide and, consequently, CO2.
To ring in the new year, The Resilient Earth presents a collection of recent journal and news articles regarding climate science. Some are about actual science and others are more in the way of commentary on the state of global warming. New discoveries continue to be made, though the climate change faithful stubbornly refuse to abandon the party line: Earth's temperature is going to rise dangerously and humanity is to blame. Perhaps the most interesting development is that a number of green advocates have given up on avoiding global warming, deciding instead to stress the unfair social impacts that climate change will supposedly cause. At the end of 2010, here is a snapshot of the state of the climate change debate.