According to a recent paper, human actions may have caused Earth's climate to warm much earlier than previously expected. In an article to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, and widely reported in the media, around 15,000 years ago, early hunters were a major factor in driving mammoths to extinction. Supposedly, this die-off had the side effect of heating up the planet. This is an interesting conjecture, since a letter just published in Nature Geocience reaches the opposite conclusion regarding climate and the mammoths' decline. This mammoth confusion illustrates the uncertain and even contradictory evidence that abounds in climate science.
After nearly 50 years of acceptance, the theory that a great ocean “conveyor belt” continuously circulates water around the globe in an orderly fashion has been dismissed by a leading oceanographer. According to a review article in the journal Science, a number of studies conducted over the past few years have challenged this paradigm. Oceanographers have discovered the vital role of ocean eddy currents and the wind in establishing the structure and variability of the ocean’s overturning. In light of these new discoveries, the demise of the conveyor belt model has been become the new majority opinion among the world's oceanographers. According to M. Susan Lozier, of Duke University, “the conveyor-belt model no longer serves the community well.”
Around 3 million years ago, Earth's climate started growing colder. Glaciers began forming in high northern latitudes, while surface waters cooled in parts of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At the same time, climate sensitivity to variation in the tilt of Earth's axis—called obliquity—increased substantially. Since that time, changes in sunlight associated with obliquity have caused variation in global ice volume and equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST). Inexplicably, variations at the equator occurred a few thousand years before those in high latitudes and thus could not have been a direct consequence of the waxing and waning of glaciers. Two new papers in the June 18, 2010, issue of Science attempt to explain the true causes of climate change.
American politicians are falling over themselves to enact new energy legislation before the Gulf oil leak gets plugged. The sad fact is, the US is dragging its feet on the one proven source of reliable, emissions free power: nuclear energy. With some environmentalists likening the oil disaster to Three Mile Island—the nuclear accident that destroyed the US atomic energy industry—the Obama administration has given nuclear power little more than lip service in recent months. Now comes news that a New Mexico-based company that is doing pioneering work in miniature atomic power plants has signed a deal to manufacture small, modular nuclear reactors in China. Political indecision and agitation by green activists is once again conspiring to turn the US into a second rate technological nation.
Often a target for environmentalists and global warming alarmists alike, intensive modern agriculture has been demonized as the cause of many types of pollution, including those dreaded greenhouse gases. A study, soon to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reveals that highly productive modern agriculture actually reduces net greenhouse gas emissions when compared with using croplands less intensively. Furthermore, expansion of agriculture, needed to feed mankind's ever growing numbers, can help reduce future increases in CO2 emissions. Looks like the doomsayers got it backwards again, more intensive agricultural is a good thing for the environment. In fact, agriculture reduced total human carbon emissions from 1850 to 2005 by 34%.
In the midst of the clamor over global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and world energy supplies another, perhaps more immediate, environmental catastrophe is gathering momentum—the world wide shortage of fresh water. Though eclipsed in America by pictures of oil-soaked pelicans and fouled coastal wetlands, this potentially more disastrous and more permanent problem has been ignored by politicians and the public for decades. Experts are warning that by 2050 fully 45% of humanity may be chronically short of water. Unlike the eventual depletion of the world's oil supplies, there is no substitute for H2O.
Supposedly, human activity is responsible for the detected rise in atmospheric CO2 levels over the past century. But do we really know were gas emissions come from and how great they are? As it turns out, greenhouse gas emissions are measured using statistical data without testing the results against the actual increases of these gases in the atmosphere. Regardless, climate change alarmists insist that human emissions must be reduced. A revealing perspective article in the June 4, 2010, issue of Science states “this is like dieting without weighing oneself.” Currently, science is only guessing at where CO2 emissions come from.
Across the southeastern US, the nitrogen-fixing legume Pueraria montana, more commonly known as kudzu, has been an impossible to eradicate invader for decades. While its direct impact on native ecosystems is highly visible—a smothering green blanket that swallows up shrubs, trees and even houses—what is not as apparent is kudzu's effect on the atmosphere. Its spread has the potential to raise ozone levels by increasing nitric oxide (NO) emissions from soils by as much as 100%. Since NO is a potent greenhouse gas, the spread of the pesky vine could be a contributing factor to climate change. That's right: kudzu causes global warming!
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This unprecedented accident for the American offshore drilling industry, the first significant spill in 40 years, will certainly have a calamitous impact on the Gulf marine environment and surrounding coastal areas. What is less certain, but potentially even more dangerous, is the effect that this spill will have on the US domestic oil industry. While environmentalists clamor for a shut down of all offshore drilling in the Gulf, realists know that this will make the threat to ocean life even greater. What has not being told to the public is that nature itself leaks more oil into the ocean each year than mankind, and has been doing so for millions of years. What is even less known is that offshore drilling can actually reduce the amount of crude released into the seas.
If a letter appearing in the May 7, 2010, issue of Science is any indication, it looks like climate science traditionalists are trying to stage a comeback. The article by P. H. Gleick and a cast of hundreds, entitled “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science,” states that “we are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular.” Decrying the attacks on climate scientists by “deniers,” the letter reiterates the signatories' support for dogmatic climate change theory. While admitting that the IPCC “quite unexpectedly and normally, made some mistakes,” they call for an end to “McCarthy-like threats” against themselves and their colleagues. Painting themselves as victims, they have gone on the offensive—like the evil Empire of Star Wars fame, climate science is striking back.
There is little doubt that the political forces promoting climate change hysteria are under attack and in retreat around the world. It has also become obvious that little global consensus exists among climate scientists regarding how to regain the public's trust. There is, however, ample evidence that the climate change alarmists have not learned their lesson. At a recent conference held in Washington, D.C., an eminent climate policy expert urged that scientists and policy leaders embrace the persuasive power of uncertainty. If you cannot convince the public with the facts, frighten them into going along anyway seems to be the message. This is not science, it is subterfuge justified by blind faith.
Since the Mid-Brunhes Event, around 430,000 years ago, interglacial periods have grown warmer and their CO2 levels higher. Research confirms that Croll and Milankovitch were right: Earth's orbital cycles seem to be the cause of these documented cases of true global warming, with CO2 playing a supporting role, not the lead. Many of the catastrophic events warned of by climate change alarmists turn out to be well within the range of natural variation. Moreover, new findings indicate that the effects of the cycle induced changes, through their impact on the environment in the Southern Hemisphere, are not correctly accounted for in the IPCC models.
Asking the somewhat obvious question, “are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity?” a group of scientists have announced that the answer is yes. While this may seem unsurprising, the finding is another indication that Earth's climate is not simply driven by greenhouse gas emissions. Even so, some scientists are only grudgingly accepting the finding, cautioning that this only applies in the central UK and refusing to admit that the Sun could affect global mean temperatures as well. Still, the researchers found that average solar activity has declined rapidly since 1985 and cosmogenic isotopes suggest a possible return to Maunder minimum conditions within the next 50 years. This could be a sign that climate science is starting to recover from its CO2 fixation.
March 20, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began erupting after slumbering for almost 190 years. The eruption also brought a threat of floods and earthquakes, while the resulting plume of volcanic ash shutdown the European airline industry, costing an estimated $200 million a day. In the short-term, the volcano has been bad for Northern Europe and given a boost to Iceland's tourist industry, but there are larger questions involved. With tedious predictability, a number of climate change alarmists quickly claimed that the volcano was caused by global warming. A more likely outcome is a cool Northern Hemisphere summer caused by airborne ash—which could give the alarmists an excuse for the continued lack of global temperature rise.
Climate scientists have decided that as much as half of the heat energy, believed to have built up on Earth in recent years, is hiding somewhere it can not be found. By measuring the radiative energy input at the top of Earth's atmosphere, scientists have a pretty good idea of how much energy is entering the planetary environment—the problem is figuring out where it goes. The most likely place is in the deep ocean, whose waters form a huge potential storage place for heat. Because energy is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, this heat can resurface at a later time to affect weather and climate on a global scale. It has been suggest that last year’s rapidly occurring El Niño may be one way the “missing” solar energy has reappeared—the implication being more sudden El Niño events may be on the way.