Thursday, September 27, 2012

Diminished Climate Alarm

For the past several years we have experienced an interesting “global cooling.” In this sense “cooling” is diminished alarm over the reality of anthropogenic global warming. Explanations abound for the reduced level of alarm. There is a more realistic appraisal from all sides concerning the science supporting or not supporting anthropogenic global warming. Our population may be more cognizant of the difference between good science and bad science. The blanket claim that science supports a particular view has been subject to a higher level of scrutiny. Instead of accepting such a statement as self-proving, the claim is invalidated as it becomes apparent that the quality of some scientific claims is superior to other claims. In addition, public awareness is increasing that there are serious economic and political agendas to be fulfilled along with altruistic motivation. Often these motivations hide behind the claim that we must accept the science which supports a certain view.

Most citizens, when questioned concerning their opinion on global warming, offer quick responses of distaste for the worst case scenario. They claim concern for the dire warnings posed by modern disciples preaching human induced global heating. In our instant answer culture driven by opinion polling, many respondents are flattered to be questioned on such a pressing issue. As I composed this post, I encountered an article in The Huffington Post: “Climate Change Deaths Could Total 100 Million By 2030 If The World Fails To Act.” The author combines poor science, unsupported alarmism, and agenda-driven journalism. The report relied less on science and more on the credibility of an unnamed report “prepared for 20 governments.”

My conversation with a new acquaintance at a recent social gathering was punctuated by his expressions of alarm about the threats to humanity if sea levels rise, world temperature increases, and food resources dry up as predicted. Joining my three way conversation, another new friend offered an account of his recent conversation with an octogenarian who had personally lived through the horrendous heat and drought of multiple years in the 1930s in the US, especially the summers of 1934 and 1936 during which blowing soil particles from the mid west reached the east coast. I pointed out that the depression era severity of that event made the drought of 2012 look relatively mild. In the 1930s, the culture was not held captive by global warming alarm as has gripped our contemporary culture in the past two or three decades and In particular, in the first decade of our new millennium. This modern phenomenon is unprecedented.

Another explanation of diminishing fervor for heroic climate initiatives may be an increased awareness of natural climate variations. The long term effects of natural climate fluctuation are easily discernable in the record of earth history. Climate variations sometimes occur on a scale of decades superimposed over timeframes of centuries. This fact is often stated as an afterthought or footnote when it should be paramount as we examine the big climate picture.

In addition, there may be increased understanding that severe or unusual weather events are distinct from climate change. For example, the 2012 heat wave and drought and even the record breaking cold wave of last winter which killed 650 residents in Eastern Europe must be understood from this perspective. Weather history reveals hundreds, if not thousands of severe weather events going back hundreds and thousands of years. In this light, last summer’s heat wave and drought in the US mid-section may be recognized as isolated severe weather events rather than a sign of long term global warming claimed by some alarmists. Media outlets, however, commonly blame global warming for severe episodes of weather. There has even been a tendency to blame last winter’s European cold snap and the very unusual lack of tornadoes last spring and summer in the mid west on a supposed global warming effect.

The famous US drought and heat wave of 1988 triggered the first wave of serious global warming warnings. Before and since then there have been many droughts, floods, heat waves, cold waves, blizzards and other remarkable weather phenomena. An examination of the frequently touted warnings that hurricane frequency and intensity has increased due to global warming has not materialized. Beginning in 2004 increased publicity about the chaotic nature of our climate system began to appear, along with several major books, a movie, art work, and attention from several major corporations. By 2007, nightly broadcast news coverage of climate change on the three major networks reached a peak of interest with Al Gore’s 2006 release of An Inconvenient Truth, followed by his Nobel Prize shared with the United Nations supported IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) for their well publicized work with global warming warnings. Network news coverage of global warming has returned to pre-1997 levels in the last several years.

Our climate system was designed and authored by our provident Creator. Its natural variation has provided for a vibrant, productive planet--a place to thrive. Science has demonstrated the presence of hundreds of interrelated global factors, including climate factors on which successful life depends. Carbon is the building block for all life on earth. CO2 is a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels which were divinely provided as a rich resource for the development of our modern culture. Atmospheric CO2 sustains plant life. The proposition that CO2 is a pollutant is beyond reason. The proposal that rising carbon dioxide levels contribute to a harmful rise in the greenhouse effect and thus to dangerous earth warming is not substantiated by the best science.

We join with scientists and theologians who see CO2, a miniscule fraction of our atmosphere but mighty in its importance, as the provision of a caring God. We welcome the diminished concern over carbon. We salute a return to a thankful understanding of manifold divine provisions for humanity.