Oct. 26, 2019 — The Biosphere is extremely resilient. There have been numerous, major shifts in worldwide weather patterns over the millennia and there will always be climate changes on Earth. Nature has the ability to recover from degradation and adapting to the consequences of human life on Earth.
Then again it may not.
The geologic record clearly indicates there have been multiple ice ages and also extended periods of much warmer-than-average temperatures during the last 50,000 years and longer, going back a million years in some estimations. The fossil record is replete with examples encased in the plants, rocks and earth of changes in the quantity and percentages of Co2 and methane in the atmosphere.
This resource can be studied to determine the biological make-up of the Earth’s land and water during previous geologic eras and also in shorter time frames. Data gathered by scientists that work to understand the changes in the climate, and how it has impacted the planet, is for the most part aligned with the interpretation that man is having a direct negative impact on the viability of Earth.
Many scientists believe mankind has so dramatically impacted the planet that it has entered a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene — or, the era of human planetary control.
They also point out what, in a geological sense, is an abrupt spike in extreme weather conditions as proof that a change has taken place.
However, there are those who don’t support the notion of what some are calling a climate “crisis.” Among them is Florence resident Ian Eales, who disagrees with the positions expressed by local environmental activist Mike Allen in Part I of this series.
“What is ‘abrupt?’ There is no abrupt climate change,” said Eales. “As recently as the 1920 and 3M’s, we had much steeper and greater magnitude increases than from 1990-2005. ‘Abrupt’ climate changes in the past have always been rises from much colder to warm, with slow decay to colder.”
Eales added that, in all cases, CO2 lagged the changes by about 800 years.
“The current warm period is cooler than any in 500,000 years in spite of greatly increased C02,” Eales said. “Running projections forward and reverse from projected values and arriving at historical conditions over 500,000 years would be pretty convincing — but as yet it’s not happened.”
The level to which human impact and the subsequent dangers created by the release of toxic waste into the air and oceans, over centuries, is the remaining question.
In this era of human control of the planet, humans have seen huge swaths of land go from undeveloped forests and fields to cities covered in concrete and asphalt. This change has altered the manner in which natural processes deal with excess heat retention and biomass transpiration.
The thousands of facilities that produce steel or burn coal to fire electrical plants have launched hundreds of millions of tons of toxic waste into the atmosphere for decades, changing the way natural planetary mechanisms absorb and recirculate air and water.
The vast majority of the established, academically based scientific community has used data from decades of observation and testing as the basis for the argument that human activity has negatively impacted the biosphere.
In 1859, Joseph Fourier, a respected Irish physicist, found that water vapor blocked the movement of hydrocarbons like methane and carbon dioxide, effectively trapping them in glass tubes during his experiments. This simple experiment is the basis for the Greenhouse Theory.
The implications of Fourier’s experiments suggest that solar radiation received on Earth is absorbed by the Co2 in the atmosphere rather radiating back into space. The buildup of both the gases and the heat is one of the primary causes of concern for Climate Crisis activists.
Many of the arguments that are in opposition to the idea that man is the primary cause of climate change are postulated by less than 5 percent of the scientific community.
The points most often cited to deny the argument that the planet is in a climate “crisis” include the following:
• The climate has changed before and will always change.
• The climate change models cited to support theories of a climate crisis are unreliable.
• Co2 increase is natural and not a serious issue.
• Ocean acidification and air pollution are not as serious to planetary health as suggested by the traditional scientific community.
• Ocean level rise is exaggerated.
“Climate is always changing. We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen,” said American Physicist Richard C. Lindzen. “Ice ages have occurred in a 100,000-year cycle for the last 7,000 years, and there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 levels being lower than they are now.”
Lindzen noted the medieval warm period and the little ice age. During the latter, alpine glaciers advanced to the chagrin of overrun villages.
“Since the beginning of the 19th Century, these glaciers have been retreating. Frankly, we don’t fully understand either the advance or the retreat,” said Lindzen.
In response to these comments Howard Lee, a columnist from Skeptical Science, wrote that “Life flourished in other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gasses were in balance with the carbon in the oceans and the weathering of rocks. Life, ocean chemistry and atmospheric gasses had millions of years to adjust to those levels.”
Lee argued that there have been several times in Earth’s past when Earth’s temperature jumped abruptly, in much the same way as they are doing today.
“Those times were caused by large and rapid greenhouse gas emissions, just like humans are causing today,” Lee wrote. “Those abrupt global warming events were almost always highly destructive for life, causing mass extinctions, such as at the end of the Permian, Triassic or even mid-Cambrian periods. The symptoms from those events (a big, rapid jump in global temperatures, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification) are all happening today with human-caused climate change.”
In regard to sea levels, there is considerable data that shows those levels are rising, slowly flooding coastal cities around the globe.
Eales offers a different perspective, which is that those cities are not flooding but sinking.
“New Orleans is sinking,” he said. “There are at least 5,000 more square miles of coastal area than 30 years ago. Coast lines have always changed. The lunacy is expecting they won’t. The New York tidal gauge has been rising approximately 2.85 mm a year for the past 150 years.”
The following observation was made by Christopher Monckton, a Scottish scientist that is often quoted by those who disagree with the state of a climate crisis as an authority on climate-related matters.
“Ocean acidification, as a notion, suffers from the same problem of scale as ‘global warming,’” said Monckton. “Just as the doubling of CO2 concentration expected this century will scarcely change global mean surface temperature because there is so little CO2 in the atmosphere in the first place, so it will scarcely change the acid-base balance of the ocean — because there is already 70 times as much CO2 in solution in the oceans as there is in the atmosphere.”
This sounds reasonable to many who support that side of the argument. However, the majority opinion is quite different. A recent study conducted by Oregon State University, undertaken with financial backing from the state to determine the reasons for declining oyster and mussel production on the Orgon Coast, found that a slight increase in the acidity of the ocean was responsible for the decline. Concrete proof was obtained when the acidity was mitigated and oyster production rebounded quickly.
This study was referred to as a success by State Senator Arnie Roblan at the recent Oregon Coastal Caucus Economic Summit.
These are just some examples of how a scientific opinion can be established from data that can be interpreted differently to support differing conclusions.
This of course assumes that the motivation for the analysis in these studies is unbiased, which is also an ongoing point of contention. Do they have a financial stake in the outcome of their study? Are they using up-to-date equipment for their work? Do they have the expertise and knowledge to properly analyze the data collected?
In the minds of many climate change dissenters, the main-stream scientific community — and those associated with efforts related to climate change — have something to gain financially from the drama of a “crisis.” Though this is unlikely considering most scientists would gain more financially by working for major oil and gas companies than in academia, the suspicion persists as activism escalates into what some see as liberal conservatism.
Some people are concerned about the future for the planet as related to human activities.
Some prefer to consider it as part of a cycle of change that is recurring and normal.
Ultimately, only time will tell.
(Editor’s Note: In Part III, we’ll explore how both sides could find some middle ground on the question of climate change.)