Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Climate Certainty

Today’s national discussions of anthropogenic climate change are saturated with severe misinterpretation and rampant speculation. Armed with information from the exceedingly complex discipline of climatology, many analysts cite the following climatological realities. (1) There is little doubt that carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing as a result of human consumption of fossil fuels. (2) There is also little doubt that in general our climate is warming somewhat.

Second, among a large portion of scientists and government authorities, the perceived realities often connect to the belief that (3) man’s fossil fuel consumption contributes to a dangerous rise in global warming. The concomitant result includes the occurrence of dangerously increased intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, and other undesirable effects such as rise in sea level, not to mention short and long term temperature changes. Awareness of realities (1) and (2) are not in dispute, but in the past few decades we now confront well publicized suspicions that option (3) is occurring. Climate change activists state our country must join with other countries in a unified fashion to act on (4) reducing fossil fuel consumption by developing alternate energy sources and mitigate the generation of carbon dioxide from our present fuel sources. Many other actions have been proposed.

Even among laypeople, some study of the scholarly literature on historic climate change would be instructive. The ups and downs of historic long term climate oscillations are not widely discussed. The 2000 BC to 2000 AD period reveals climate fluctuations which may cause contemporary climate pessimists to reanalyze their stance. There have been significant warm and cool intervals of extended climate fluctuation in the past eight millennia. The era from 6000 BC to 2000 BC is termed the Holocene climate optimum. It occurred following the close of the last major Ice Age.

During the last four millennia, including the time the Old Testament was written, earth climate experienced four warm periods interspersed with four cool periods. In the 400-500 years prior to the history of Israel and the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, a modest cool period was followed by a warm period from 1500-500 BC. During the Grecian Empire, a cool period persisted prior to the warm Roman Climate Optimum up until 500 AD. Then cool conditions prevailed during the Early Middle Ages. From 900 AD to 1350 AD earth experienced the Medieval Warm Period, followed by another cool interval until 1850. Since 1850 the Earth has experienced a warming trend we still experience. During these alternating episodes the range of long term warming and cooling varied significantly up to 2˚Celsius. Presently we are not as warm as Earth temperatures during the two Holocene optimums 4500 and 7000 years ago.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have limited ability to affect weather. One source claimed the gas itself “does not have any effect on the weather.” (This statement needs some explanation beyond the scope of our post.) Carbon dioxide, a miniscule fraction of our atmosphere (almost 0.04%) is important for the health of green plants and other vital chemical reactions on our planet. While carbon dioxide is about 40% more plentiful now than the carbon dioxide level at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a different perspective may be helpful for us: About 1/3600 of the atmosphere was carbon dioxide several hundred years ago. Now about 1/2500 of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. The difference in the two concentrations is about 1/8700.

A Canadian organization, Friends of Science, has published large amounts of research on climate science. Here is a passage from their publication “Climate Change Science:”

The history of the earth tells us that climate is always changing; from warm periods when the dinosaurs flourished, to the many ice ages when glaciers covered the land. Climate has always changed due to natural cycles without any help from people.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a political organization promoting a theory that recent minor temperature increases may be caused by man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. C02 is an infrared gas, and increasing concentrations can potentially increase the average global temperature as the gas absorbs long-wave radiation from the earth and emits the absorbed energy. However, the warming ability of the C02 is limited because much of the absorption spectrum is near or fully saturated. When C02 concentrations were ten times greater than today the earth was in the grips of one of the coldest ice ages. The climate system is dominated by strong negative feedbacks from clouds and water vapor which offsets the warming effects of C02 emissions.

The history of climate and C02 concentration shows that temperature changes precede C02 changes and cannot be a significant driver of climate.

Our Creator made Planet Earth, its human inhabitants, and its climate system according to His own purpose. These purposes originated in the mind of God for the ultimate benefit of man. Climate changes ushered in eras of mobility, new conditions for the changing populations, and helped man adapt to new population patterns. Humans have been the recipients of God’s provision of spiritual blessings and redemption as well as provisions in the physical realm of our home on earth. For this we bow before Him in thankfulness.